Bio: Gene Hammett is a true entrepreneur. He ran a multi-million dollar business that struggled in the beginning, but his discovery of how to focus on the RIGHT aspects of business and STOP doing the other stuff resulted in massive profits and growth. Now he is fiercely committed to working with high-achieving business owners who want to lead with confidence and achieve true financial freedom (in months, not years). As the Managing Director of Core Elevation, Inc., he helps leaders transform from stagnate, stressed and struggling to thriving, growing, and loving their work.
Gene works with entrepreneurs who want to find the perfect match between their unique value and the people who will become their best clients and biggest fans. That perfect match is their “bullseye”, where they can add the most benefit and create the greatest wealth. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs never figure out how to find it. As a strategic business coach, Gene’s job is to help them hit it.
Zephan: Hello, everyone, this is Zephan Blaxberg, back again with another round of the Year of Purpose podcast. Having previously ran a multimillion dollar business that struggled in the beginning, Gene Hammett started focusing on the right parts of the business for extreme growth. Gene is the host of the Leaders in the Trenches podcast, where he has conversations with leaders for leaders. And Gene, it’s a great pleasure to have you hear today. I read a little bit of your story and I really want to talk about failure. Because I think that’s something that a lot of us can relate to, and so I’m excited to have you on here today.
Gene: Well, yeah, failure’s something that we all go through, and it depends on how you meet that failure, whether you come out the other side.
Zephan: Well, the hope is you’ll come out the other side, right?
Gene: Well—one way or the other, you’re gonna come out, but it depends on how well you come out, how quick you come out. And the things I went through would—would, I feel like, cripple most people.
Zephan: So let me ask you this, just to start off, because I know that many of the people listening in actually don’t have businesses but are interested in starting businesses. What does it take to get to a multimillion dollar business? What is the difference between the small business owners perhaps making, quote-unquote, a living—you know, maybe eighty/seventy thousand dollars a year that they can get by on, verses actually running a multimillion dollar business?
Gene: Alright, so—this’ll be interesting. because the first year that I ran that business—so I had a sports travel tour company that I started in 2001, but the first—it was toward the end of that—the first full year was 2002. You with me?
Gene: Alright, so, I had about two million in sales that first year. I think I had five employees, and I had some contractor employees as well, and when I did the taxes in 2003, I realized two million in sales is not a lot of money, because I was making out all this money of employees, I was paying out for advertising, and I was taking home about thirty thousand dollar. Which was a huge jump for me, because I came from a corporate job in sales where I was making about a hundred and fifty. And I share this with you because I want you to understand it wasn’t easy. It was something I had to go through to get a multimillion dollar business that was not only multimillion in sales, but also very profitable.
The journey that I did there was that I hired a coach. And that coach asked me the questions that needed to be asked that no one was asking me, and I focused my business on the right things, on the right customers, on the right events, and I got rid of a lot of the things that were costing me money and costing me headaches. And from that, that’s when I actually felt like I had made it my business. And it took me about four and a half years to get to that point.
Zephan: It’s great to hear that you mention bringing in a coach. Because when I first started my business, you know, I left just over two years ago my 9-to-5 job to start a business and I left exactly that. Thirty thousand dollars a year was about what I was making, and my big concern was how do I replace that? I mean, we’re talking much smaller numbers here, much smaller scale, but my big concern is how do I figure out how to make thirty thousand dollars a year? And one of the, I would say, irrational rational decisions that came up for me was do I pay eleven thousand dollars into a coaching program that, over the course of the next year, could take me to making a hundred thousand dollars for the year? And I didn’t even have the eleven thousand in my bank account, but I decided to do it, and I went from fifteen thousand the first year to actually sixteen thousand just a year later, actually quadrupling the amount of profit I had made in that first year.
So I definitely agree with you, getting a coach is really valuable, but at the same time, how do you find the right coach? Cause there’s so many coaches and so called experts out there now.
Gene: Well, the right coach—I’m gonna answer that, but I want to piggyback on something you said there. It’s really about, every time I’ve hired a coach, I didn’t think I had the money. Now, maybe I had the money in an account somewhere and I could do this, but when I was making thirty thousand dollars and I was paying bills, it was all gone. I had nothing extra. And the leap of faith to actually hire a coach, I think is—that’s the kind of moves that you have to take to be successful. That’s the kind of moves that scare the crap out of you—and I want to say something strong—but it really is meant to challenge your courage and are you meant for this? Because if not, go get a job. Go get—go hide away in some cubicle or some corner office somewhere and just go do that. But don’t try to be an entrepreneur, because if you don’t have the courage, you won’t be able to do it.
So I wanted to get that out of the way, because every time I invited ten, twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars into coaches, I didn’t have the money. But every time, I was determined to make it pay off. And the last time I actually hired a coach, about last year this time, I spend about twenty-five thousand total. Within six weeks, I had made that one back based on what I had learned in working with that coach, and the moves I made.
Zephan: So really, that feeling of being afraid or not knowing if you made the right decision actually goes away fairly quickly.
Gene: Well, if you’re willing to commit to it—like, if you’re still tiptoeing in, if you’re still not sure of yourself, if you’re still doing this for the wrong reasons, it’s really hard. But I was truly committed to making a change and showing up differently every time I got a coach. And I was there to learn, I was there to put it on the table, be honest, and say “This is what I’m afraid of, and this is what the problem is,” because when you hold back, you’re not gonna get what you want.
Now the question you asked earlier, I can go back to, but—
Gene: Go ahead.
Zephan: I was gonna say, so it sounds like you’ve had multiple coaches. So maybe going back to that question earlier, perhaps, what are some of the signs that maybe you look for in a coach, or somebody that you want to invest your time into that they invest their time into you?
Gene: Well, the question is really good, but most people don’t understand it. They typically get a referral from someone, they typically get a type of coach that they’re looking for, sometimes in an area of marketing or something in the area of sales. And sometimes its industry related. I’m real big on industry related coaches for most people, but sometimes people need a new perspective and you can’t do what everyone else is.
I had a client that came to me, he had a coach in the mortgage industry. And he was doing what the mortgage industry coach did, and that’s what they did for everybody, but it wasn’t working. And so when he came to me, he was like “I come to you because I want new things, new ideas, and a new challenge.” And that’s what we created for him. He’s got the most successful business he’s ever had in all of his life, because of the work we did nine months ago.
But as far as my journey to finding coaches and what I tell people to do is you’ve got to have your questions straight. You’ve got to have—know what you’re going to do and compare—you’re about to spend a lot of money. So typically, coaching at the higher levels, you’re gonna want to take in their content, you’re gonna see what they believe, you’re gonna see if you fit into that. I’m also looking at the clients that they have, and are the clients getting the results that I want. Are the clients the type of people that I am coming into this? And there’s a lot to it, but that’s a pretty good start when you’re actually looking at this. I would also say someone that’s actually ran a business before. Because there’s a lot of coaches that come from corporate, and they have never run a business. They’ve had money thrown at them, they don’t really know what they’re doing. I just know that having that experience that I had ten years ago and ran for nine years was monumental in me running my business and me coaching my clients now.
Zephan: And so, I want to rewind back just a little bit on the idea of failure. Because obviously, a coach is a great resource and tool to have to pull yourself up out of that hole that you might have dug yourself into. Do you think that, perhaps, you had any limiting beliefs of fears that led you to the point where you got stuck in your life?
Gene: Yes, yes, and yes. I had a lot of fears. I had a lot of limiting beliefs that were holding me back. My core speech that I give when I go to corporations or I go to stages is called The Trap of Success. So I was trapped in my own success of making a decent living. And when I say decent, I was making three to four hundred thousand dollars a year. So that’s really decent for most people. But I was trapped in that. I did not want to venture out, even though I was unhappy. My wife came to me and said “How long are you gonna do this? Because we both hate what you’re doing.” And we did both hate what I was doing, but it was paying the bills, it was putting money into the retirement accounts, it was putting money into the savings, and it was allowing us that lifestyle, and I was trapped.
And so my fear wouldn’t let me let go of that. Until something happened one day where I didn’t have a choice, and I had to let go of everything to really create a life on purpose.
Zephan: And so—it’s interesting you bring up having to let go over everything, because I found that some of the biggest transformations, both in my personal life and in my business life have been when you just kind of have to through caution to the wind and say “This is what I’m going to do” and stick with it. And so that’s definitely been kind of words of wisdom that ring true for me, just throughout the last two years. I mean, obviously, I haven’t gone through multiple coaches or spent twenty-five thousand dollar son a single coach, but I definitely foresee myself doing that in the future.
But let me ask you this. So, you know, pulling ourselves up out of that, I wonder is there one small change that we can make? So we’re heard of the Pereto principle, essentially the 80/20 principle. Is there one small almost 20% principal change that we can make in our businesses or in our lives that you think would have the biggest impact on getting us unstuck?
Gene: I’m gonna say this—I’m looking something up because I want to give you a resource that goes with this. It’s really about your own thinking. You’ve got to be willing to think differently, and I just noticed that over and over and over, when I wanted success, it was because of what I was thinking. It wasn’t because what I was doing, it’s about how I saw the world, how I saw myself. I was looking this up. On my homepage, I have something I created not too long ago called—it’s about the inner critic. And I’m gonna assume this show is not a cussing show, so I’ll paraphrase, but your inner critic is a jackass. I said something different. You’ll have to go to my website, leadersinthetrenches.com, to find out what I said. But it’s a free CD that I’ll ship to you that you can actually put into your car or you can download it, streaming, whatever your preference is, but it’s about identifying how you’re holding yourself back.
Because every time you decide you want to raise your prices, it’s not because of anything other than your inner confidence. And if you want to go out there and pick up the phone to sell something, it’s—the only thing stopping you is you. It’s not someone on the other line, it’s your thoughts. It’s about what you think. If you want to speak on some stage—I speak a lot for my business and I teach my clients how to speak, and the only thing holding them back, is just the inner critic that keeps them from taking the actions.
Zephan: [cut in] I love this episode so far, and I want to take a brief moment to talk about improving yourself each day. I know you’re a huge fan of living life on your own terms, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my journey, we need to constantly grow and look to others who have been in our shoes, which is why I’ve partnered up with Audible to give you one free download of your choice from over a hundred and eighty thousand books. Start your free thirty days trial but visiting yearofpurpose.com/audible. Now back to the show.
Zephan: And this is something that not only applies for business, but in personal life too, I’m sure. Like with making big life decisions.
Gene: Absolutely. I mean, I remember, I was twenty-four years old buying my first house. I was pretty successful coming out of college, and I was able to save of the money for a down payment because I didn’t spend any money, like most kids that age, and I was buying a house. And I was buying a house in a very nice neighborhood and it was very stressful. But I remember my boss turned to me and said “This is not a big deal, just go buy this house. It’ll be the best decision you ever made.” But I second guessed myself—“It is the right house? Am I prepared for this?” And it turned out to be a very good decision, because I bought a house for like a hundred and thirty thousand dollars in a great neighborhood. I could walk to the bars, which was fantastic, and I wish I had that house today, because I sold it. I made about seventy thousand dollars over about three years—but if I had it today, it’d probably be worth three times what I paid for it.
Zephan: And that’s one of the beauties of it. Is that people see this huge investment with a house, but you were able to sell it three years later?
Gene: Yeah, yeah.
Zephan: Yeah. So it doesn’t have to be necessarily a permanent change in your life, even though it’s a huge decision. Most people see these changes as permanent, but they don’t realize that there’s usually a way out, and it doesn’t have to be the poor man’s way out. Obviously, you made some great money off of that, so it was a great decision.
Gene: It was a great decision. But I stressed about it. I got in my own way for weeks. If I just would have had the confidence to move forward. But it was the first time I’d bought a house, so I’m playing through my head like what was I thinking about. “Am I ready for this?” My dad was like “I’m just so proud of you. I don’t have to co-sign on a house with you.” I started to shift and I got used to that decision.
Zephan: Very cool. And so I imagine you’ve had a lot more decisions since that time that have happened between then and now. And I’m just curious, what would you say is your biggest decision to date that you’ve had to make where you might have had those voices come up again and tell you “I don’t know if you should do this”?
Gene: Oh… You know, I guess, when I became a coach. Just to give you some context here, this was in 2010, I had been running a business from 2001 to 2010. On January 15th, 2010, I lost three million dollars in one day. So that’s the failure that really set me back. And I lost everything. I lost my house, I lost my savings, I lost my confidence—I lost everything. And I really needed, probably, therapy, because it was so hard. I was questioned by the Secret Service, I was questioned by other attorneys, I was questioned—I was spending money left and right. It was just insane.
And so, a couple of months after that, I was looking for what I was going to do next. I had no money, essentially, I had nothing else to do, and I said “I want to make a difference.” The decision before me was do I go back into the same career, which I didn’t want to do and I really didn’t want to go down that path, or do I go get a job, or do I start another business or something like that? What I ended up doing was kind of a hybrid. I ended up going and training as a coach—most coaches don’t have any training whatsoever, but I’m proud that I went through this process because it really helped me understand myself so that I can serve my clients better. And I needed that, or I needed therapy. I joke around and say investing in coaching was a much better ROI than therapy. Because it actually launched a business for me. It launched a way for me to be the person I am, and live my purpose. That decision was hard to make, though, I’ll be honestly with you.
Zephan: Oh, I’m sure. I mean, that’s one of those things where, becoming a coach, you’re not only running a business, but you are impacting other people’s lives. So when you have other people’s lives…not necessarily at stake, but when you are able to make an impact on them, you definitely have a lot more weight on your shoulders.
Gene: You know, I did, but what I was worried about, just being completely honest with you, is I was worried about would they accept me because of what I’d just gone through? I had just lost three million dollars, so who wants their coach to say “You know what, I just lost three million dollars. Let me help you run your company. Let me guide you, let me support you.” I was so worried about that, but then, I actually called my coach that I had a long time a ago, and I just had a real conversation with her, and I said “What do you think?” and she goes “Well, I’m gonna tell you, you’re used to making a lot of money—coaches don’t make a lot of money until they cross a certain barrier.” Which is totally true, most coaches make less than a hundred thousand dollars total, ever. But she said “If you’re willing to do this, people will accept you and your story, your experience will help you to bring so much to those conversations that you will be a successful coach if you’re willing to put in the work and build your business.”
Zephan: And it hasn’t been all that long. So this happened back in 2010, so we’re under five years here?
Gene: Five years, yeah. So I got a job too. I made some money, got in sales, sold a bunch of stuff for other people. And I helped a guy sell his company, and it’s not like I cashed out big on that at all, it was just the confidence I needed to help him get some key accounts, help him get some cash flow, and really just help really clarify that business. And I’m glad I did that, and I went out on my own about three years ago. And since then, I’ve been tracking really well with my own business, because I also thing about the most important thing is not my income, but it’s the impact I’m making for my clients. So that’s what I focus on.
Zephan: Yeah, and that’s something that I’ve been finding as well. Is that you get way more passionate about it when you realize you’re making a difference in other people’s lives, and not just your own. It’s one thing to become an entrepreneur and run this business and, oh, great, you’ve got all this freedom. You can vacation when you want, you can do everything that you want. But it’s a totally different ballgame when you have—just as an example, I had someone email me form as far away as Sweden just about a week ago. So to know that there’s someone on the other side of the planet whose life I might be impacting, it’s just extremely rewarding, and I think that it gets you more motivated throughout the whole process.
Gene: Absolutely. And, you know, I’ve got clients, not in Sweden, but really all across the US, all across North America that are sending me very detailed explanations of where they were before working with me, which I kinda knew, but some of the stuff I didn’t know, and then where they are now. And it’s just fantastic. It really does boost my day when I get those emails from clients thinking me for the work we did. And here’s the thing about it: I do a lot of work in the areas of sales and marketing and helping people get speaking gigs and things like that, but what they thank me for is the person that they’ve become because of working with me. They thank me because they now have a level of confidence, they thank me that they can now figure out some of these things on their own, and that’s what real coaching’s about.
A lot of coaches will tell you what to do. They will tell you “This is your next step. This is the plan for you. This is your business model. This is how you need to do it.” And that’s because they’re not trained in true coaching, they’re just accepting some title and really what they’re doing is consulting you. They’re looking at your business and they’re telling you how to run it. And the problem with that is most people are not transforming, and so they become very dependent on the decisions from that coach, and I think that’s really doing people a disservice.
Zephan: And I think you’re absolutely right with that. And they probably get stuck in their own ways, too, I feel like. Because they’re used to “Oh, I don’t know the answer to this. I’ll just go to so-and-so, just like I always do,” and then they never really think for themselves, so it’s much harder to grow from that.
Gene: So one of the tools I use with my clients, I say “When you get stuck, I don’t mind you reaching out to me, but just think about what I would ask you? What would be the question? You’re used to doing this, and can you get out of it your own way? Can you solve this problem? Can you address it with that as all you need?” And it’s such a great thrill to know that “Hey, I had this problem. This is what I did. I played you through my mind, and now my problem is this because this one I couldn’t figure out.” And I’m like “Okay, let’s talk about that.” So they’re growing.
Zephan: And that’s exactly what you want to see in the world, is seeing people growing on their own. I’m just curious to hear, how did you get started with the Leaders in the Trenches podcast? Where did the idea come from and where has it taken you since then?
Gene: Well, it came about a year and a half ago. I was talking to my wife about what it’s like to grow a business. What it’s like to run a business. Not the starting part—the starting’s so much fun. There’s a lot of hype and excitement about a new idea and there’s new business models and a lot of stuff to be done. But what happens when all of that excitement dies down and you actually get in there and start working it? You get in there and start making the phone calls and sending out emails and creating videos and creating podcasts—whatever it may be—and it doesn’t go your way? And we talked about this for a while, and she’s like, I need to support that segment of the market that is completely covered up with all the things they need to do and they can’t get it all done. They can’t get traction, they can’t move forward, but they’re working really hard, they’re trying to learn so much, and they’re not making it.
And I was having a conversation with a client, and I said “I want to work with business owners, the leaders of their companies.” And I said something else like “in the trenches,” and he goes “Oh, ‘Leaders in the Trenches!’” and I’m like “Oh, that’s pretty good.” I went on to Go Daddy and I reserved it right away, and then I stepped back and I said “Is that the right brand?” So I started testing it. One of the things I actually talked with my clients, I started talking about it. I went to an event and I was looking at two different options. One was need to niche, which is a really big part of what I do for my clients is helping them focus in on their market and their niche. And the other one is helping them grow their companies and lead their companies into a new market or into a deeper end of the same market, or leading their teams and all of those things. So that’s where that came from.
Zephan: Very nice. So it sounds like that’s been a really great tool on top of the business that you’ve built, to continue and expand your message and to get it out to so many more people. And I know that you mentioned earlier you had a good resource on your website—are there any resources that you recommend everybody listening in today should check out?
Gene: You know, there’s the Inner Critic one, which I’ll leave the name, but there’s also, on my website, I’ve got free stuff. So leadersinthetrenches.com/freestuff. I’ve got a list of resources that if you want to speak to serve your business, like to get clients, you can go to a training course right there. I’ve got the seven steps to get speaking gigs. And I’ve got the Inner Critic audio kind of program, and I got a couple other things that would help you increase your sales in your business. So…how about that?
Zephan: Great! And that URL one more time for everybody listening?
Gene: It is leadersinthetrenches.com/freestuff.
Zephan: Perfect. And I think that, you know, the best takeaway I’ve had from today is really that the life decisions that we make are not permanent. That there really is flexibility in our lives, you can go from working a corporate job to running and building a business that at one point was a failure and then was brought back up to greatness over years and years’ time and working in it. And I really appreciate you sharing a little bit of your story, and I congratulate you on the last five years after coming back from such a great—I would say it’s a great experience because it’s brought you to where you are now. And so, you know, thank you so much for spending some time with me and sharing your story.
Gene: Absolutely. It’s—it really was a gift. Because as hard as it was for me to go through that, my life—I’m happier now, I’m more content, I’m making an impact, I’m living with purpose. It’s not just about me putting money in my bank. And some people may not understand that because they just want to get paid, but it really is so much better to be where I am now than where I was.
Zephan: And if you could round this all off, in one sentence, what is the journey for purpose in life? What should we be doing with our lives?
Gene: Uhm—what should we be doing with our lives? I think we should have the courage to truly live our purpose. Go and figure out exactly who you are because most people are so unaware of how they see the world. They’re so closed in some box, they won’t limit themselves. I have clients all the time—I help a lot of people get speaking gigs. So they will come to me and just, they literally will get so wrapped up about “Well, I can’t speak for free!” or some people will go “I can’t speak at all!” “I can’t speak here!” “I can’t speak there!” and it’s all just some story that’s in their head. My wife is a professional speaker, because one day she decided “I’m going to be a professional speaker, and I’m going to make my way in this world.” And now she is. So now she’s liver her purpose. Even when I give her these ideas, “Hey, you could go into this market,” she goes “Nope! I’m right where I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m here to do, and I’m gonna do it.” And so I think that people should have the courage to go after what they really want, and they should have also the courage to let go of the things that are holding them back and not allowing them to live the life they want to live.
Zephan: So keyword being “courage.”
Gene: Yes. Yes!
Zephan: Thanks so much for spending some time with me here today. And for everyone listening, I highly encourage you check out the leaders in the trenches podcast.