The Sales Podcast: Don Wenner
"Building an Elite Organization"
Wes Schaeffer: [00:00:01] Don Wenner -- salesman, entrepreneur, author of "Building an Elite Organization: A Blueprint to Scaling a High Growth, High Profit business," currently in Asheville, North Carolina. Welcome to The Sales Podcast, man. How the heck are you?
Don Wenner: [00:00:19] I'm doing awesome. Thank you, Wes, so much for having me here today.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:00:22] So you're moving all around. Must be nice to have some options -- build a little business, make a little income, travel around, avoid the heat. It's good to be you, isn't it?
Don Wenner: [00:00:33] It is good and good to be me. Very, very blessed. Very blessed for sure.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:00:37] [chuckles] So you are relatively young and looking at your experience in real estate. You were killing it as an agent and then launched into your own business. Now you have multiple entities. What the heck's lighting your fire, man? Why don't you just, like, go in the basement, play some Fortnite, drink some Monsters? I mean, why are you so ambitious?
Don Wenner: [00:00:59] [chuckles] Yeah, relatively young is the keyword there. I like that.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:01:02] See this gray hair, man? You're a lot younger.
Don Wenner: [00:01:04] Exactly, exactly. Thirty-six and -- yeah, I started in real estate in the world of sales in my late teens and started my career at 20 in real estate. But that internal drive, right, I see you have seven kids. I only have a couple but --
Wes Schaeffer: [00:01:28] That's the gray hair. Have some more kids, you'll be gray.
Don Wenner: [00:01:32] [chuckles] And I think if we all -- if you and I both knew what the exact answer to where does the drive come from, we wouldn't be on The Sales Podcast; we'd be on The Parenting Podcast right now because some of it is just instilled. I had this entrepreneurial kind of drive at a young age, probably like yourself. I grew up lower middle class, I think is the nice terminology for it, and she needed to work to have anything I wanted. And my dad told it at my wedding, the story of how he knew I was an entrepreneur in kindergarten when I started selling donuts to my classmates, and that's kind of where where it began for me. I just had that kind of drive to kind of make things happen from a very young age and kind of self driver, and it's carried me through, especially in the early stages of my career.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:02:20] Where did you get the donuts?
Don Wenner: [00:02:22] I got the donuts from my parents. So a business where you have no cost of materials, it's a pretty profitable business. My parents would pack those little six-pack of Hostess donuts in my lunch bag and I started selling to my classmates for 50 cents apiece. And the school found out after a few weeks and my donut supply dried up. But that was kind of my first take of making some money and carried all the way through my childhood. I ran literally lawn care businesses in middle school and hired my friends and just had that desire from a pretty young age.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:03:00] A little Tom Sawyer, huh; get kids to pay you to do your chores?
Don Wenner: [00:03:05] My parents did not pay me to do my chores. So those weren't on --
Wes Schaeffer: [00:03:09] How'd you get your buddies to do --
Don Wenner: [00:03:09] It never went that far. I don't know if my parents would've allowed that. [chuckles]
Wes Schaeffer: [00:03:16] [chuckles] Come on, man. It's all good. That's awesome. So you got into real estate. So if I do some math, so 2008 was 13 years ago, so you would have been early 20. So you were already doing well in real estate when the Great Recession hit. Is that correct?
Don Wenner: [00:03:39] Yeah, that is correct. So I got started, a really quick kind of story there. In 2005 I was going to Drexel University as a college student studying finance. I thought from eighth grade on I was going to be a financial adviser because I knew I was good at math, and a financial adviser came in in a career day in eighth grade and said, hey, look, as a financial advisor, you to get to be your own boss. You know, you're in charge. Showed us a chart that financial advisors made more money than doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. So that's what I'm going to do. And I went to school, that was I was determined to do, but I'd wait tables on the weekends, support my way through high school. I moved out of my home in high school, my parents' home, and through college -- and this guy convinced me to come work for him. His name was Nathan Robinson, and Nathan was in the ADT Security business. And so he hired me. I didn't really know what the job was other than he told me I'd make $2,000 a week if I came to work for him. And so I did at 19 and my job was [knock] door to door [dog].
Wes Schaeffer: [00:04:36] [chuckles] My dogs do the same thing.
Don Wenner: [00:04:44] Sorry about that. So my job was door to door sales and my first paycheck was $5,280 -- I'm sorry.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:04:53] It's all good.
Don Wenner: [00:04:54] Girls, come on.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:04:56] Five thousand two hundred eighty --
Don Wenner: [00:04:58] We're at a condo right now in between -- we just got in here today -- between my Asheville house right now. So anyway, apologize; the dogs are in the room next to me.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:05:07] It's fine. So was that a two week paycheck or four week paycheck or one?
Don Wenner: [00:05:12] So yeah. I made $5,280 for my first two weeks and that was one of my worst paychecks. And the gentleman, Nathan --
Wes Schaeffer: [00:05:18] Selling alarm systems.
Don Wenner: [00:05:19] Yep. Door to door. So mainly going to new homeowners who just bought a home and knocking on the door and offering to sell them a home [alarm] and learned all the kind of old school door to door sales tactics and tricks, kind of just been knocking on a lot of doors. It was every 51 doors I knocked on, I made a sale, so I just knocked on a heck of a lot of doors. And that gentleman who owned the company, later I found out he had never had anybody make $1,000 a week, let alone $2,000 a week.
[00:05:46] But I think because he gave me that expectation and that was what was normal, that was what was expected, I went out there with that mindset. And that gentleman happened to also be a real estate agent. So this is 2005, 2006. Real estate market's on fire; convinced me that if I could sell alarm systems knocking on doors, I'd do great in real estate. So literally, I didn't sleep for a couple of weeks, took my classes online, got my real estate license, and I flew out to a marketing sales conference building the day after I got my real estate license and I learned the power of having a unique selling proposition.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:06:22] What was the conference?
Don Wenner: [00:06:24] It was actually a Dan Kennedy conference. So my marketing proposition, my unique selling proposition was "your home sold guaranteed or I'll buy it." And the month I got my real estate license was October 26, which happened to be the peak of the real estate market. That's when property values hit their top and the markets are slowing down. So the guarantee to sell people's homes when the market is slowing down was a good time for that message, and I put out that message anywhere and everywhere from traditional -- it was still the time when newspapers still were a thing and doing bandit kind of style ads and newspapers, to Craigslist was just coming out, to digital marketers coming out, to radio and television were -- and still, in my opinion -- are a thing and we do still use today, and just putting that message everywhere. And things took off really, really fast and grew that, as you said, through the downturn, which came a couple of years later.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:07:21] So how many homes did you have to buy?
Don Wenner: [00:07:24] So interesting. So that was the initial marketing message. It was actually "your home sold in 60 days guaranteed or I'll buy it," and it was about shifting and taking away the risk for people, the fear that came in a challenging market. And frankly, very seldom did I have to step in and buy their home there. But I started having some people who couldn't wait 60 days or didn't want to wait, and they had more of a stressful situation.
[00:07:47] So we developed soon after our immediate buyout program. We'll just buy your home, cash, as-is, no contingencies. And so we'd offer both options. Hey, we'll guarantee to sell your home through the market, get you the most for your home, or we'll just step in and buy it. And that led to us becoming a home flipper and buying homes. So through the downturn, basically what we did, we met with motivated home sales. I wasn't out buying -- most of what I bought wasn't from banks or foreclosures. I was meeting sellers who were in a state of need to sell in a recession environment and offering them solutions. So that not being able to sell their home happened maybe 20 times over a dozen-plus years of doing this. But we bought thousands of homes by choice by providing this cash offer to buy their home. And that's really how we built what became our investment business that we run today.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:08:41] So were you flipping them or were you picking them out?
Don Wenner: [00:08:46] Yeah. So in the beginning it was we'd step in, come meet with somebody, do a full valuation of what their home is worth and provide them with this range of options. And then if we bought the home, the way I looked at it from a kind of a simple standpoint is, look, property values are going down. In 2008, 2009, then there was no doubt property values were going down. So I wasn't going to own that property long-term. It was to model out the fact that, hey, it's going to probably be worth less. The repaired value of that home is going to be less in six months in the repaired value of that home today, and I'd step in and model that accordingly and I'd turn around and sell it to a generally first-time home buyer. So everything was buy-improve-sell until the market hits bottom. The market hits bottom around 2011 when we said, all right, now it's time to build a portfolio. Now is the time to start buying as much as we can. And now you want to hold because property values are going up. And that's really when we started growing much of what is DLP today and much of our investment platform today.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:09:43] How did you protect yourself, though? I mean, if markets, if they are going down, you've got this depreciating asset.
Don Wenner: [00:09:51] Yeah.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:09:52] You know, did you have buyers lined up or -- I mean, it got here -- I rented in California for six years and waiting for the bottom, and then I bought at the bottom. People were like, you're crazy. I mean, we were renting just a tract home, but it was huge -- 4700 square feet -- it was just a tract home; no HOA. You know, we moved into it December of '04. And people are like, oh, this thing, it's doubled in value in three years. This is it was $350,000; now it's $700,000. I'm like, well, this house ain't worth $700,000.
[00:10:35] I remember standing there in the cul de sac with my wife. I said, okay, look around. If this trend continues, then in three more years, the beginning of '08, this house will be worth $1.4 million. It's going to double again in three years. I'm like, no way. So somewhere between right now and three years, this thing is capped out. And in our neighbors, there were two models, our exact models in the cul de sac, and they were nicer, they were at the end, bigger yards, had pools and upgrades, but they sold for $850,000 in like early '07, late-late '06, somewhere in there.
[00:11:15] And the house we were renting got foreclosed. And I wanted to buy it -- I didn't particularly want to own it, but I knew it was a value. It sold for $258,000 at foreclosure. So frickin' crazy, right? So when you got this falling knife like that, how do you buy a 350-700-1.4-850,000-258? How would you step in and buy that? I'd be afraid to jump in and try to flip that thing. But we were literally at the epicenter of this fraud, right where we are in Riverside County. I mean, nurses were owning five homes, interest only. I mean, it was really bad. So maybe it was too crazy out here. I don't know.
Don Wenner: [00:12:09] Yeah. It's a great topic, you know? And we did it -- initially was in Pennsylvania. So I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is where I started the company, hour north of Philadelphia. We're doing this throughout that region. And then in and around 2012, we also did expand into Tampa, Florida, which at the time was arguably the worst market in the country. But so where we were, Pennsylvania didn't have the kind of decline that you experienced and property values from their peak to the bottom went down by about 25 percent.
[00:12:37] But what we were focused on doing is we weren't buying $700,000 homes, to your point, trying to flip them. We were buying $100,000 homes, $70,000 homes, $130-000 homes where not only, A, that -- that market has always been strong in all cycles comparatively; in today's market, probably better than, than ever in that you always have the alternative of renting it as well and being able to generate positive cash flows. That was an important point. We always realized if we got stuck and we couldn't sell this home, we could always rent it and cash flow. So that was, per se, a safety net.
[00:13:12] But the big thing is we had to really know the market. And so we invested heavily in the markets we knew where we were confident in what the value would be and we'd have to budget for a decline. I didn't assume that, hey, in six months when I'm done renovating this home, it's going to be worth what it is today. I'm going to model depending on the home, the market, the price range, et cetera, that is going to have declined by five or 10 percent. So I got to buy it at a price that I can factor in for a decline in values, because we were going through this environment where property values were going down at 1 percent a month.
[00:13:42] So that's how we would have modeled it, but we weren't buying $700-, $850,000 homes expecting we could flip them because that market was very soft and challenging, to your point. And then that's really what led to the beginning of our investment portfolio of building rental portfolios, understanding the great value of owning these types of assets and producing reoccurring cash flow versus selling them for ordinary income and flipping them.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:14:10] Nice. All right, man. So has the market peaked?
Don Wenner: [00:14:15] Has this peaked now? It's incredibly interesting and this is a conversation I know many, many are having, with the incredible inflation of building supplies and labor shortage and so forth. It's unbelievable. I mean, the compression in investment values of, say, multifamily, which is core to us, property values, have gone up 20-ish percent in the past year. Many parts of the country, the same thing is in the for sale home market. Property values, home values have gone up 15, 20, 25, 30 percent. But what is very different about the last cycle we were just talking about is in that cycle we had, A, this oversupply of housing. Today, we are facing the greatest undersupply of housing.
[00:15:02] In addition, banking in general has remained much more disciplined than it was back then. So there aren't nurses who own five homes, to your point. There's a lot more equity in the market. And so just the fundamentals of supply and demand are just so constrained. I really think the biggest variable that could lead to a decline in values is if interest rates were to go through some major spike. Nobody's expecting to see that coming that the Fed would make those decisions. But if for some reason they do and we see interest rates go up, that will certainly slow the incredible growth in prices. Don't know if it'll lead to any decline, but I think it'll dramatically slow property values climbing. And then if whenever building supplies come down and level back out and the cost of building aren't so high, that'll make a big impact as well.
[00:15:57] But it's interesting times. I think if we were sitting here in two years from now and having this conversation again, I think there's a greater probability in two years we're saying, hey, can you believe two years ago we could have bought something at this price and surprised at how much it's gone up in the next two years versus the other way around that we're looking back into years saying, hey, remember when when the home down the street was selling for $700,000 and now it's selling for less? I think that's a less likely conversation. But we're certainly planning on our end for volatility and risk, just like we were doing two years ago at this time, not knowing that it would be COVID. But we knew the market was really hot at that point and something had something would come and preparing accordingly. And that's a big part of what we're doing in our organization today, preparing for some form of volatility that's going to come in the near future.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:16:47] And I don't know, man. I look at this -- like our home, two years ago, it was probably $500,000. Now it's $700,000 and people are paying $100,000 cash on top of that, so $800,000. I don't understand it. I don't know who has that kind of cash just sitting around; why are they so desperate to buy something; I don't -- things -- my dad always says, if things don't make sense, there's something you don't know.
Don Wenner: [00:17:21] I like that. I mean, there's no doubt -- I mean, the government's infused a lot of cash into the market and is doing what it's supposed to do. The goal was to put the cash in the market to stimulate the economy and it's certainly doing that in many, many regards. So it is interesting for sure. It is hard to understand where, to your point, how people are coming up with the cash, because not 100 percent financing to the level it was back in the last cycle. So where are all these buyers coming from, where is all this cash coming from is hard to understand, a lot of markets for sure.
[00:17:57] And I've talked to some of the the smartest and most well-known economists at big organizations like Goldman Sachs just last week and they can't explain that piece to the puzzle. They can't explain where all this cash is coming from, how so many people can afford to own right now where home prices are. The payments side makes sense with today's low interest rates. You can look and say the average monthly payment today is in some cases less than it would have been two years ago or four years ago, five years ago, despite the incredible growth in values, because rates are so low. But still, where did you come up with the deposit? How are people coming up with so much cash and qualifying from an income standpoint, a debt service ratio? It's interesting for sure.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:18:39] So how do you build this elite organization?
Don Wenner: [00:18:43] Well, for me, as I mentioned earlier, I got into real estate in October 2006, and what I learned quickly as a salesperson is my time was best served doing the things that most salespeople know their time is best served doing, which was being in front of people or being on the phone to get in front of people. And I realized that those were the things that I had to be spending my time doing and very quickly realized that if I was doing those things well, I didn't have much time to do anything else.
[00:19:11] So literally about a month into the business, I hired my first assistant and I hired her part time. By the end of that first week, she was working more than full time. A couple of weeks later, I hired another full time assistant and two months after that, the third. So I had three full time assistant supporting me as a single salesperson within three months of being in real estate; two out of those three are still with me to this day. And started delegating -- I wasn't the best leader at the time, didn't have the best leadership methods. There's a lot of dump everything onto the great ladies and they'd handle it, but free myself out to be on appointments, to be on the phone. And as I did that things started taking off quick to the point I couldn't handle all the sales appointments, I couldn't handle all the all the leads.
[00:19:58] And so I started then bringing in junior salespeople and I was doing all the inside sales activity and setting them appointments with lower value opportunities. And then that quickly took off, and now all of a sudden, I was in a position of running an organization and having to lead a team and develop a process and structure. And how do I take myself out of being on appointments and automating and really building on a sales process and putting video into place to make sure everybody's delivering the same presentation and a lot of training on scripting and so forth. You had to start really running things more like a business.
[00:20:34] And as I was trying to figure out how to how to do all these things I'm always been an avid learner and reader and obviously all your listeners, you're listening to a podcast like this or the same and curious and wanting to learn. And so I'm reading a lot of books and studying and finding out how to be a better leader and improve as a marketer and as a salesperson, as a manager and all these things, and it was helping.
[00:20:59] And then all of a sudden, about 10 years ago we were about a 25-, 30-person company at the time, and I read a book called "Traction" at the time, which is on a system called EOS. And I was like, wow, this is great. Finally somebody who kind of put all these ideas together into an organized system that could be kind of plugged and played into an organization. So we kind of went implemented EOS into our organization. It's an entrepreneurial organizational system, and it helped put structure around things like running meetings and prioritizing and setting vision to your organization, etc. That was a big moment for us and that helped continue to accelerate our growth, and have never been afraid to hire, never been afraid to continue to invest into the organization.
[00:21:52] And we've now -- kind of look back now, we're 15 years in; we've grown 60 percent or more annually every year but last year, where we grew 48 percent by choice due to some of the volatility of COVID; grown 300 to 500 percent every three year period, any three years you pick in the last 15 years. And we've really put this discipline of growth into our organization. And after a little bit of time of running EOS, we realized we weren't really running EOS anymore because it was only a piece to the puzzle. And we ended up taking ideas from the greats like Jim Collins or Verne Harnish or John Maxwell or many other great thought leaders and implementing them and then building a lot of tools and so forth to actually be able run and put structure around something growing so quickly as we expanded into new business lines and so forth.
[00:22:45] And so a few years ago, we realized we had built kind of our own operating system and we've taken the last number of years to refine that, which we call the Elite Execution System. And that's what I just wrote a book on, called "Building An Elite Organization." But that operating system is not only what we run all of our businesses on; it's actually what we teach to the real estate operators and developers and builders and so forth that we invest in.
[00:23:11] Because at our core business today, we're an investment company and we actually lend money and invest equity with other businesses, mainly real estate operators. So it became really critical for us that they were running businesses that were disciplined and well-run so we can mitigate our risk of investing capital with them. And that's really been kind of the secret to our continued success and growth has been putting this discipline system in place in our organization and in the businesses that we invest in. And it's led to really consistent, repeatable results over these last many years.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:23:50] Very cool. So you're brand new in sales. How did you afford that first assistant? Did you just take a risk? You just knew you would figure it out?
Don Wenner: [00:24:03] Yeah, great question. So in the beginning what I did is -- and this is, I think, something that a lot of people have done and should do. You know, when I started in real estate, until I started having real estate sales -- and for me people can look at it and say, I was an overnight success because by the end of my first year in real estate sales, I was the top real estate agent in my office of 150; and within a few months later, I was the top salesperson in my market of 2,200. And so it looks like that just -- like I must have had immediate success.
[00:24:03] But it took me five months to have my first sale. I didn't have a closing to five months into the business, so I didn't make a dollar my first five months, and was spending money, to your point. So what I continued to do is I continue to sell alarm systems through the first many months until I had enough revenue coming in to stop. And I mean, literally in my beginning days, as crazy as it might sound, I would literally go knock on doors to sell alarm systems. And the most common reason people would tell me that they didn't want to buy an alarm system was, oh, we don't need one; we're selling the house. And then I'd flip on my realtor hat and I say, well, I can help you with that and I can actually guarantee your house to sell. So imagine hiring the guy trying to sell you an alarm system, knocking on your door, to then sell your house. But I was like, I just need to get in front of people and any which way I can do that. If I get in front of people, good things will happen.
[00:25:28] So I literally did the things that I know it's harder to do today, but picking up the phone book and calling people. And it didn't really matter. I mean, just get on the phone with people, get in front of people and good things will happen. So I was fortunate. I had saved up a little bit of money from selling a lot of alarm systems and I continued to do so a bit to be able to start. But the great thing is, it took a while to get going, five months, and I have my first sale. In that second month of -- six months, technically -- the second month of actual sales, I had five. And the next month it was 15.
[00:25:59] And by the end of that first year, I had sixty seven sales, made $250,000, and it was off and running, and doubled the next year and so forth. But you have to be able to find a way to invest and that doesn't mean in money. You know, I could have got people to work at no cost and given them a split of the commissions. There's a lot of ways you can do it to kind of bootstrap it in the beginning and do the hard work, that again, I think most people make excuses to why they don't do it, why most salespeople who know that getting in front of clients and prospects are the most valuable activities, but find every excuse under the sun not to do it. It's easy to come up with reasons why you can't and harder to do the work that's necessary.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:26:49] How many of those people went with you? So as you knock on their door for ADT -- hey, I'm also a realtor -- because I see all the time I see people online, hey, I'm a CBD salesman and realtor; I'm a massage therapist and realtor. I mean, come on, people. You know, I would be quite hesitant to entrust my home sale to an alarm salesman.
Don Wenner: [00:27:23] Yeah. That's a mental -- that's an easy excuse. And it's an easy excuse for me to say, hey, that's why I'm not going to talk about that I sell real estate, because people will already have discounted me because I showed up there to sell them an alarm system. You know, I was 20 years old. I mean, you mentioned I'm relatively young now. At the time, I was really young and I looked probably like I was sixteen. And so not only were knocking on doors, I look like I'm 16 years old and not much older than that, it's easy to discount.
[00:27:53] So what I would do is generally -- and this is what I would do to help grow my security sales as well, is I would take young salespeople out with me and they'd come door knocking. The only way -- because I kind of skipped the other story. In addition to selling alarm systems I built a sales team and started teaching other salespeople how to sell alarm systems. And the best way to get them to sell alarm system was to take them with me out knocking on doors. And so I would take four or five people out with me, and then I made it a little bit easier to position myself as, hey, I'm just out here helping these young sales guys who work in my sales organization. But my main business is real estate. Saying that, I might not have even sold a house yet, but I was positioning myself that that was my main business, this was just a sales team that I run, and kind of elevating myself, at least to my mind, in how I was positioning myself while I was out there knocking on doors, and being confident more than anything, being confident in myself, being confident I could bring value to this person and not getting myself hung up on and worrying about somebody discounting me over that.
[00:28:57] And then having a strong selling proposition. When I got in the door, I didn't sound like their friend, the realtor. I didn't just come in there and say, yeah, please list your home with me because I'll do it for five percent commission. I came in there with a strong value proposition, printed literature that I could hand in to look professional. Of course, nice card; I dressed professional. And I was there with a real presentation that back in 2006, people didn't have a real PowerPoint and a computer in my hand and an organized method of showing what value I could bring. How are we going to market their home better? Guarantee the sale -- how I could guarantee their sale? And it was such a differentiated offering that it wasn't even competing against anybody else, if I could just get the opportunity, just get the at-bat.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:29:49] Yeah, very cool. Yeah, I like the idea of changing that up and you're there to introduce a team and they see you in a different light. Because I tell people all the time, like, I hate selling. You know, I want to anticipate the objection and cut it off; address it before it even comes up, so I just become the easy and obvious choice. So you're going to put forth effort either before or after the sale you -- before or during, right? So I'd rather put in before and just ease into the sale.
Don Wenner: [00:30:32] Yeah. We spent tons of time on that, and learning the old school method of knocking on doors is a great way to kind of cut your teeth there. But yeah, same thing. I hated the selling. You want to make it such a logical decision -- it's always been my approach that it's a no-brainer to make. And so there are simple tactics to do that that have been proven again and again. It starts with generally genuinely being confident that you're going to bring value to this person, taking general interest, and listening. You know, it's been years and years training. We run multiple different sales teams now today across the organization and understanding the great saying "we have two ears and one mouth" and listening as the main way to sell; really understanding what their challenges, what their their goals, what their motivations are, and then providing a value proposition that anticipates those concerns and issues before they can them is the exact approach we've taken, and I think many, many really great salespeople have as well.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:31:35] So funny, I hear the dogs running around with their chain. We're housesitting or puppy-sitting and this is the coolest dog. He's a little Tiajuana rescue. And he's the biggest snuggler. But dude, literally this morning I'm laying in bed, about to get up, and this dog just climbs right up and licks me right in the mouth. Oh, I guess it's time to get up. [chuckles] Like, what the heck? Oh, man. But I digress.
[00:32:06] So the things you've learned in your new system, is it applicable to any type of business? Is it suited for ideally for real estate? Like, how does that work?
Don Wenner: [00:32:21] Yeah, definitely for any business that already generates a certain amount of success, meaning they they have a product or an offering or a service that the market's already deemed valuable, meaning they're already having some success. They've already running $1 million, $2 million or $5 million business but now looking to scale. And I think the challenge many face, it's not easy to scale a business and it's much harder to scale a business that's profitable at the same time. And you go out there and you say, hey, I want to get better at sales; I want to get better at marketing.
[00:32:59] You can go read 50 books about the power of content marketing and you can put all the energy in the world around generating great content. But if you don't have -- of course, people who are listening to your content brings value. But even if you could generate tons of people who want your service but you operationally can't handle them -- you can't handle calling them all back, you can't appropriately service and you can't provide your product to all of those people -- it doesn't do you any good. You go out there and read a book that tells you the key to growing a great business is all about leadership and you can become the greatest leader. But if you don't have clients to sell to or products that the market wants or ability to execute on them, again, you can be the greatest leader in the world and you're not going to run a great profitable business, especially over a long period of time.
[00:33:48] So the way we think about it is every organization has four quadrants which are strategy, people, operations and acceleration; and acceleration is sales and marketing integrated, which is really critical, I think, in today's organizations. And you need all of those quadrants working together, part of one plan that are growing at the same pace. You need operations to keep up with the pace of your sales and marketing growth, and you need the people in place to be able to keep up. You need each one to be part of a plan that's working together in order to grow consistently year over year and to do so profitably.
[00:34:29] And a lot of the big success stories we hear certainly in real estate, but all industries are these great organizations, largely tech companies that are growing by 5000 percent a year, but they're growing off venture capital and they're growing and they're losing money. And they've got a business model that works. If they succeed and they get the right market share and get acquired, it works. And there's been a number of companies who've hit home runs there, and I give them lots and lots of credit for accomplishing that. But for most of us, we need to be able to grow a business that can generate enough cash flow to continue to sustain itself and allow us to grow, and that's much harder to do in a lot of ways and certainly much harder do it over and over again year over year. We've been on the Inc. 5000 list now nine straight years. So making the list, of course, is a good accomplishment; it measures your growth over the last three years.
[00:35:20] And but what I'm most proud of is that we've done it nine straight years. Last year, we were the fourth-fastest growing company in America that had made the Inc. 5000 list five or more times ever. The reason for that is because so few companies can maintain the pace of growing year over year over year, because it's hard to grow all all the sides of the organization together consistently. Where you don't have to then grow a lot of sales and then you couldn't handle it operationally, now you have to recalibrate and slow down; where you can continue that that pace, regardless of the market conditions, regardless of where in the middle of COVID or where property values are going up 20 percent a year or they're declining, be able to continue that pace of growth and adjust to the volatility change around you is a hard thing to do. It's something that requires a lot of discipline.
[00:36:08] And that's what our our system at the core is -- disciplined thought, disciplined action and disciplined people -- having discipline run through your organization, which is often the opposite of what entrepreneurial people think that they want, is discipline. That's often the opposite of why they started their own businesses, because they wanted to have structure and discipline. But through structure and organization, how you run your meetings, how you hire, how you develop your talent, how you choose what's most important, how you communicate, that's actually it frees you up to innovate, to develop new ways of doing things and to really drive your organization forward.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:36:45] You're saying discipline equals freedom? Is that what you're saying?
Don Wenner: [00:36:47] It sure does. [chuckles]
Wes Schaeffer: [00:36:49] [chuckles] I think I've heard that somewhere before. [chuckles] Very cool. So so your book is out; we're linking to that. I've got a couple of links to your your other websites. So I mean, people that are listening, where do you want to send them? Where should they go first?
Don Wenner: [00:37:12] If you're interested in the book and also a lot of free resources and content, you can go to DLPElite.com, get access to the book, a lot of free resources and tools as well. The book will provide a lot of value. It's not theoretical. It's a blueprint. It's a very tactical full system to go about implementing and putting in place into your business and growing your organizations; one of those types of books where you're going to want to be taking notes and highlighting, referencing back again. And no doubt, even if you just listen to it on Audible, which I do lots of, you'll have some nuggets and some takeaways for sure.
[00:37:55] But it really is meant to help take organizations from $1 million, $5 million, $10 million, to wherever you want to be -- $50 million, $100 million, $500 million. And we've done in a number of businesses, we've helped many organizations grow through that kind of growth similar to ours, 300, 400, 500 percent kind of three-year growth year over year and pick up that pace of growth over over time.
[00:38:16] And then if you just want more information about the things that we do, DLP across our 12 business lines or just get more insight on us and use those in any way as a research and development department, as a lot of our operators, we help that uses their R&D department -- rip off and duplicate -- you're welcome to go to DLPCapital.com and take a look and you'll see if you read the book a lot of what we talk about in action, from how we go about hiring people and presenting ourselves to potential employees and creating great, attractive job ads and so forth and great things about our system.
[00:38:53] And the book is there's nothing in there that's theoretical. It's exactly what we do right here right now and are helping many other organizations do as well.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:39:03] Very nice. Well, I was going to get it, but you you didn't say I could grow to a trillion dollars, so I'm looking for the trillion dollar plan. I mean, you mentioned $500 million. [chuckles] Why so limiting, man? What's going on?
Don Wenner: [00:39:18] Well, we teach what we've been able to do so far. So we're at a few hundred million a year today, so we know we can get you there. And as we continue our growth we'll continue to develop and continue to take our game up to the next level and roll those learnings and research out to those who are on the journey with us.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:39:37] Sounds good. All right, Don, take care of those dogs. Enjoy the mountains, the cool breeze of Asheville. And thanks for coming on the show, man. It's been great.
Don Wenner: [00:39:47] Thanks, Wes. Really appreciate it.
Wes Schaeffer: [00:39:49] All right, dude. Have a great day.