Not Understanding His Customers’ Feelings: Kent Billingsley

Not Understanding His Customers’ Feelings: Kent Billingsley


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My guest for Episode #53 of “the My Favorite Mistake” podcast is Kent Billingsley, the author of the new book ENTREPRENEUR TO MILLIONAIRE: How to Build a Highly Profitable, Fast-Growth Company and Become Embarrassingly Rich Doing It. His friend Mark Cuban wrote the foreword.

Kent is the founder and president of the Revenue Growth® Company, LLC. He has become America’s Revenue Growth® Architect by helping thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses (representing hundreds of thousands of employees) generate billions in new sales and revenue. He has personally designed, built, transformed, or turbocharged over 1,000 organizations in 36 countries. Billingsley has served in executive and leadership positions in several billion-dollar firms. Over nearly three decades, he has developed thought-leading content and trademarked programs helping thousands of entrepreneurs and their employees become millionaires and multimillionaires from their businesses.

In today's episode, Kent shares his “favorite mistake” about not fully understanding the “psychographics” of his customers. He talks about the need to move beyond understanding customer demographics to really understanding his buyer's feelings. We also discuss topics and questions including:

  • Why is it a mistake to think a company is a democracy?
  • Why is it a mistake to assume we are going back to the old normal instead of creating a new normal?
  • What was it like working for H. Ross Perot at EDS? Why was he “the greatest leader” he's “ever seen”? See his blog post about his passing.

Scroll down to find:

  • Video player
  • Enter to win books from Kent and other guests
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page. Please subscribe, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser! You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode. This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.


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Kent Billingsley My Favorite Mistake Ross Perot"[H. Ross Perot] is the greatest leader I've ever known. I've ever heard, I've ever met. And he made it all about the people. He made it all about the client."

"I love how you frame it... Favorite mistake. It's one of those, gosh, I can't believe I did it, but why didn't I learn from that mistake?"

 "My learning, the mistake, was how the psychographic, their emotional construct, is more important than the demographic" [when selling]."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contain Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):

Episode 53 Kent Billingsley author of the book, Entrepreneur to Millionaire.

Kent Billingsley (7s):

Yeah. And I love how you framed it. Favorite mistake. It's one of those, gosh, I can't believe I did it, but why didn't I learn from a mistake?

Mark Graban (19s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In, this podcast you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at for links, show notes and a chance to win a signed copy of Kent's book. Go to, please subscribe, rate, and review, and now on with the show.

Mark Graban (1m 1s):

Hi everybody. Welcome to My Favorite Mistake. I'm Mark Graban. Our guest today is Kent Billingsley. He is the founder and president of the Revenue Growth Company, LLC. Kent's is known as America's revenue growth architect. He's an international expert who helps leaders around the world scale, their growth and profitability using the resources they already have. So I'd be curious to hear more about that. As we get into the episode, Kent has a book that was released in February called Entrepreneur to Millionaire: How to Build a Highly Profitable, Fast Growth Company and Become Embarrassingly Rich Doing It. So wow. That that's where, where where'd the subtitle come from Kent?.

Mark Graban (1m 43s):

And by the way, thank you for, for joining us here today. That's an interesting subject.

Kent Billingsley (1m 48s):

It, it, you know, it's so interesting today for book titles and naming your products and services. You have to use keywords, you have to use words that are going to be searchable and entrepreneur millionaire. Those are all searchable, but the word millionaire and billionaire, they've all been hijacked and they, they kind of have some awkward tonality around them and it's still culturally. It's like, hey, I'm a millionaire. And I, I'm not comfortable watching clients, you know, become gaudy from their success. I don't have a choice. They can do what they want.

Mark Graban (2m 20s):

One of the things I mentioned about the book, Mark Cuban, who's in the billionaire with a B category wrote the foreword. I don't know if he would have ever considered himself embarrassingly rich, but he's, he's done very well. Of course.

Kent Billingsley (2m 37s):

And he he's embarrassingly rich too. I think like early last year we flew on his, we did a guys trip on his new, I think it was a Bombardier 600. He has a Gulfstream 600 and I mean, it's a little embarrassing, a $60 million jet and you know, the people that are servicing that and the limo drivers and all that. So it's a little bit embarrassing. He is truly self-made multi-billionaire okay. And I've, I've actually known Mark for 40 years. And if you want, I'll share a little bit of background with the forward with him, if you like.

Mark Graban (3m 14s):

Sure, sure. Go ahead. Yeah.

Kent Billingsley (3m 15s):

So, so we've known each other for 40 years. We went to the same college. We didn't know each other in college. We met in Dallas and I, I known about his companies that he had started up, but I was kind of caught in the corporate world. I couldn't transition over. And then he asked me if I could come helping with, but I moved to Hong Kong to help run Asia for EDS. And when I came back from Hong Kong, I helped build out a software company. And then I was kind of retired in 2002. I'd really hit all my goals and, and hit the numbers. And we were enjoying some time up in his suite, watching his Dallas Mavericks played basketball was about around 2002 late. And he said, well, what are you doing now?

Kent Billingsley (3m 56s):

And I said, well, I, you know, I I'm, I'm kinda trying to give back. I'm, I'm trying to work with lots of companies. I've, I've learned a lot. I've had great mentors, all that. I've been very fortunate. I had a lot of success in it and I'm giving back and I'm working with a lot of companies now, entrepreneurs and CEOs, not just small companies or startups, but good size. And, And I went on to say that there's A pattern and a trend that I see marked it's really awkward out there. And this was 2002 kind of tech rec space. So there was a lot of companies wiped down, a lot of wealth wiped out. And I said, the companies that are around today are really good at what they do, but the people are passionate. The employees are driven. I mean, everybody is just killing it because, you know, we just had this tech wreck.

Kent Billingsley (4m 38s):

The problem that I'm seeing everywhere is the companies are great at what they do, but they're not great at making money at what they do that they're actually terrible. And most of them were really don't make any money at all. And, and I'm going into these companies to kind of teach him and show him, here's how you create wealth. Here's this is very different than just starting, running and growing a business. Creating wealth is how you make money without spending money. And I said, I just see this over and over in every kind of company and industry and Mark looked at me and he said, you know, I agree with you. And then I said, as I get more case stays, I don't know. I had 20, 50, a hundred. I don't remember how many case studies I was building. And I said, as I get more case studies and I can validate the principles, the concepts, and all that, I'd like to put it into a roadmap and kind of a book.

Kent Billingsley (5m 21s):

And Mark made the commitment back then. I mean, you know, what's it been 18 years now. He said, I totally agree with you when you write the book, let me read it. And if I like it, I'll write the forward for you. Well, the last three years, I truly committed to finishing the book. McGraw-Hill gave me a contract to write it. And I, and I got it packaged up and put it all together. And then several months back, I sent it to Mark and I said, Hey, do you want me to write the foreword? And you bless it? Or do you want me to craft it? The talking points? He goes, Oh, no, just send me the manuscript. I'll read it. You've read through the manuscript. And he wrote back goes, I love it. I agree with it. Here's your forward. A McGraw Hill saw the Ford touch, a period. Didn't change a word.

Kent Billingsley (6m 1s):

And it went right to the book. It's about a page and a half and nephews basically saying, gosh, this really is a roadmap. I wish I would have had this. When I started my business is because it's more about wealth. It's more about profitability than it is just fast growth. And then, then he said, it's a must read book and the forward. And, and, and so I think that's really important for your audience because you know, you, you wanna, you want to find a path or a solution or a recipe. That's been validated as many ways as possible. Th th there are a lot of speakers and books and stuff out there. And, and so you can get caught up in the experimenting and trying and testing. And we did this for a while.

Kent Billingsley (6m 40s):

Now we're doing this as opposed to find a path, find a recipe, find a roadmap, make, make sure it's proven it's been tested and then get on it and commit to it and stay on it and don't look back. So that's kind of the background, the story of, of how he was involved in all that.

Mark Graban (6m 58s):

Very cool. So it sounds like there are a lot of mistakes that entrepreneurs and business owners make, and we'll come back and touch on that and explore the book. And again, it's the main title is entrepreneur to millionaire. But Kent, as, as we normally do here in the podcast, looking back at the different things you've done, what would you say is your favorite mistake?

Kent Billingsley (7m 22s):

Yeah. And I love how you framed it. Favorite mistake. It's one of those, gosh, I can't believe I did it, but why didn't I learn from that mistake? And I actually write about this mistake in the book, because when I, when I decided to go true entrepreneur and leave the corporate world, I didn't accept any jobs, president or CEO. I said, you know, I've got to go start my own business. I want to start a firm helping other companies and applying all that I had known and all that I had learned. You know, I kind of had the roadmap in my mind and following the recipe I'm sharing in the book. I talk about the biggest mistake that I made.

Kent Billingsley (8m 3s):

It was very early on. It was in the first few months, and it's around the principle of what's called targeting. And the back you go back 20 years and even 40 years in my career targeting was predominantly centered around demographics and, and for a business in B2B B to C, B to G it doesn't matter that the whole targeting premises, who is your buyer and how do you segment, how do you sub segment and how do you stratify? I was a chief marketing officer of a billion dollar tech services firm. So I had teams that were doing this kind of work. So it wasn't like I was new to this concept.

Kent Billingsley (8m 45s):

And so I had, I started my business and I had targeted where I just knew there was an absolute fundamental marketplace problem, absolute pain point in every business. That's in the sales leadership piece at best at sales management. And that's just glorify dealmakers, or it's a, it's a redundant process, police person, that's sales leadership in most organizations. And sadly that's the Achilles heel because that's where the economic engine should be full force, but it's actually held back because the VPs of sales and sales management struggled, they don't understand systems thinking and the principal. So I, so I targeted, I said, wow, I can go into any tech company because I had just had 20 years in tech.

Kent Billingsley (9m 29s):

I could go into any tech company and I could, I could help a VP of sales, double triple their, their sales revenue, their profits, their bigger, better deals, higher margins faster because I had been doing that inside EDS. At one point in time, they had me working to provide the strategy on only mega deals. That was everything above 500 million, that was average billion dollar deal. So I was responsible. I would fly around the world. I would fly in and I would lead the teams through the strategy, work, the political strategy, competitive strategy, the wind strategy. I would provide a strategy work over a week or months for those particular deals. So, I mean, I've been trained and certified and tested.

Kent Billingsley (10m 10s):

I was actually certified the experts to go do this at one point in time. So my value proposition was so rock solid. I mean, it was just so compelling that, that I got a little cloud and I thought I'll just target large companies, tech VPs. It doesn't matter what tech it is, service product. And I, and I started calling and meeting with them and, you know, six months went by a lot of meetings, a lot of phone calls, and I just wasn't getting any traction. And I started to question everything and I think every entrepreneur or anybody running a business at some point starts to question everything, am I, you know, am I way off what's wrong? Is it me? Is it that, you know, they're not calling back and what's going on.

Kent Billingsley (10m 50s):

And, and I, I really was testing every principle and concept that I had learned and even more from less in the positive way, not the negative way. And so I called back a couple of the VPs of sales and started just asking them to say, you know what, forget the proposal, forget the engagement. Can, can you just share with me, how did our meeting go and what your thoughts and feelings were? And it took a few phone calls and some coffee sessions and all that. And it was interesting how my target audience, VPs of tech, VPs of sales for tech companies bifurcated into these two parts. And the first part were those VPs of sales that were killing it.

Kent Billingsley (11m 31s):

They were having amazing success. They were, they were on a rocket ship that the clients were coming to them. They didn't even make calls. They took orders, kind of like that was in the Cisco days. I've never heard of it. I'm going way back here. But the Cisco guys used to hang around the fax machine, watching the POS come through. They even have to go out and make calls that are fun, right, for them for a while. And then that went away. And then the other group of VPs of sales or my target audience were struggling. They were under pressure, especially in the public companies where you'd have to hit your number consistently. And you got that 20% compounded growth. And, and you've had competitors all over you.

Kent Billingsley (12m 14s):

They were experiencing a different set of emotions. Then the other half of my target group, those that were having success. And, and as I continue to dig and listen, what I uncovered and discovered was the first group that were doing really well, fairly arrogant in many cases, delusional about their competencies. They were more lucky than competent, but there were emotional context was, I don't need you go away. You know, I I'm I'm I'm good enough. I'm satisfied or satiated, or, Hey, I just can't keep up with all the business I've got. There was just that there was an arrogance level there and I'm just like, okay.

Kent Billingsley (12m 57s):

And then the second group though, was just the opposite, their emotional construct, those that were struggling, those were under the gun though. So it could be fired at any point in time, they were living in fear. They were living in complete desperation. They were scared of me. And they were like, well, coming in here to just get me fired faster. You're going to come in here and find all the mistakes I'm making. You're, you're gonna come in here. And you're going to be the hammer that the CEO brought in to replace me. Even. I heard that at one time, you're going to be my replacement. And I just found, I just found this set of conversations. So shocking, because it was so opposite of my value proposition. I think a lot of your clients will experience this, what they assume and believe in their heart of hearts is their value proposition is just the opposite of how it's perceived emotionally with the buyer.

Kent Billingsley (13m 45s):

That's why so many times I call it the pregnant pipeline. We have deals in the pipeline that just sit there forever. And we're like, wow. And I hear this, Oh, the prospect must be stupid. I'm saying, well, they're not stupid. There's a reason. And it might be their emotional context is out of alignment. And, and so talking with these VPs of sales that were scared of me, I said, you know, it's just the opposite. I'm gonna come in here to help you. I don't want your job. I don't, I don't want to be a VP of sales. I don't want to report to anyone. I I'm just here to help bringing my 30, 40 years of expertise. I've built to date. I've built over a thousand in sales and marketing organizations around the world from startups to some clients have thousands of salespeople.

Kent Billingsley (14m 28s):

I can bring you phenomenal. I mean, I can just transform your rule in a few meetings. And then we're like, well, yeah, that's all good and great, but I'm, you know, I'm just, I just got to get this. And if I get a few more good salespeople just to get here and all this world, and I'm like, wow. So, so I stepped back and I'm in my study at home and I'm drinking coffee and I'm going, Oh my gosh, my target audience, which is so perfect. The demographic couldn't be, I mean, sharper. I mean, it's just crystal clear. Is there the psychographic, the emotional construct is so far off.

Mark Graban (15m 3s):

And I, and I wonder, I was just going to ask you, w you can say, I'm not here to replace you. I'm here to help you, but if they don't know you and they're living in fear, they might not believe you, which is no bad reflection on, on you. Right.

Kent Billingsley (15m 19s):

Well that, and that's the point of all this. And, and my learning, the mistake was how the psychographic, their, their emotional construct is more important than the demographic. And that's the mistake I made. And that's the mistake. That is that. I mean, literally every company I walk into, I say, okay, tell me about your client. There's three components of that, of a perfect client profile. Tell me about them. They said, well, what do you mean? I said, share with me their demographic. How do you sort and stratify segment a particular prospect? And they're pretty good at that. And that's because you can go on the internet, you can gather data, you can make a phone call and you can buy those things. I used to buy those things from Nielsen and data quest and these kinds of companies.

Kent Billingsley (16m 1s):

And, you know, I'd spend a fortune, sometimes a million dollars on the demographic data, sorting trends and patterns in markets. And so that's not too hard that are buying, do it. The challenge is now the psychographics, when I say so, Mark, tell me about the emotional construct of your buyer and, and what are their feelings that actually are driving their decisions and actions or nomad actions. Because both of my groups, those targeted VPs of sales want to know action with me. The, the first group was like, Hey, leave me alone. My world is rocking.

Kent Billingsley (16m 41s):

The second group is they'll come in here and rock my world. I'm trying to survive. And it's that emotional construct, that what I call psychographic. And I talk about it in the book and explain it and how you do it. That's the most important thing you should look at as you're working in parallel with the demographic you want to do both. And that, that that's really the premise of my book is, well, just don't do this. And you're done. You've got to do these things in sequence, and you have to make them fit together. The synergy is what tells you what works. And, and I want to add one more word, one more point, because this is absolutely so critical to in clients you have, that are in the B2B space and they are in, what's considered a complex sale, multiple steps, multiple buyers, multiple decision-makers, multiple emotional constructs, meaning that they could be calling on the CEO.

Kent Billingsley (17m 31s):

That's saying, Oh my God, we got to do this. We're going to do this. I love this. And then you've got some influence or somewhere in the organization that goes, that's not going to happen here. And I don't feel we need to do that. Or here's all the pain and problems I see going through that to get there. And, and, and this is where so many salespeople and sales teams fumbled today is they don't understand the emotional construct or the emotional value proposition. They're so focused in the sales training programs are so focused on the logical value proposition and the ROI. What do I get to pay back the IRR internal rates of return and, and, and hurdles and things like that. They're so they're so focused on the financial side.

Kent Billingsley (18m 12s):

And I, and I help companies do that work at 3.6 0.9 point value propositions, but you almost, almost put in place the emotional construct that a psychographic, because it's the emotion I tell teams this all the time. I hope your audience takes this. As a note, there's a reason that the word emotion is an emotion or emotion is not in thinking it's in feeling and how do they feel. And if you want motion with your relationships and your prospects and your opportunities, and, and even transitioning your clients from a whatever level of relationship to a higher level of relationship, it's all about emotional construct.

Mark Graban (18m 51s):

So Ken, when you had that business and you, you had these discoveries here, you asked for feedback, you probed into what was getting in the way of deals. What adjustment were you able to make understanding those psychographics or those emotions? What do you do then? Based off of that

Kent Billingsley (19m 10s):

Great question. So I went back to my roadmap and I said, okay, so let's start all over. What's the starting process. And it's what I call a fundamental marketplace problem. And there I said, wow, what's well, then what's broken the organization. If the individual doesn't see it, or doesn't want it on their side, maybe they're the wrong individual. So then I started targeting the CEO to say, you know what? I can help you optimize your sales and marketing and your whole system, and actually develop your VPs of sales so that they can not just optimize or maximize for this quarter or the next quarter, but for years. And, and that's where I started to connect because there were many CEOs that were saying, you know, we're getting the fast growth and the sales is killing their numbers, but it's, but it's, but our operations is the victim of all this business because it's not all good business.

Kent Billingsley (20m 4s):

And, and what we're finding is sales is hitting their number and sub-optimizing operations support and delivery. And now suddenly I talk about this in speeches that operations are delivered, becomes the victim of sales success. If it's not quality success. And, and so what happens is many times operations or delivery has to come back and get involved ago. That's not a good deal, or that's a bad deal or stop this or whatever, but sales is over here saying, I don't care. I'm compensated. And I'm rewarded for, for new deals. If they have hair on them, they're bad. Or, you know, we miss set the client expectations that can never be met, then, you know, that's not our problem. We're off to the next deal.

Kent Billingsley (20m 45s):

And, and what I found is I, all of a sudden, instantly connected with the CEO, the business owner, even the entrepreneur that said, okay, we've got to get a more holistic view. We've got to get out of the silos of its sales and then its delivery. And then it's a support. And then it's marketing, we've got to get in more of a holistic where we're all working together to actually optimize because that, and I had to spend the time to educate that. I said, you know, even if your sales department is hitting all their numbers, that doesn't mean you're running an optimized organization. Then I would explain that and I would show that, and then you could see the lights go on. And I'm saying not only that, here's what you're leaving on the table. And then number two, and this is what the book backs up is.

Kent Billingsley (21m 27s):

Here's all the resources and money and time and energy. You're burning to get those numbers. So you're buying your growth and you're destroying, creating wealth inside your business. And all of a sudden my business, you know, what did I pick up 25 clients going into the second year? And then I just really never looked back because when the VPs of sales were told, we're bringing in this guy to make your world better and help the company. Then, then the walls came down. Then the emotional construct was okay. You know, he is here to help. And I, it was, it was so interesting. It really painful Mark because th and this is why it's such a, a mistake because in my heart of hearts, I so wanted to help these VPs of sales.

Kent Billingsley (22m 10s):

I was, I couldn't have been more pure in my intent. I couldn't have been more deeper with my value proposition and my tools, but it didn't connect at all. And there are a lot of companies out there, listeners that you have that they're experiencing this, they're saying, well, why, why aren't we connected? Why are, why are clients coming to that to us? Why aren't we attracting the perfect client profile? And so much of it's around this psychographic is, is not either even understood or it's not prioritized. And I'll unpack that a little bit more and stop me at any point. What I mean by prioritized is that there are emotional States that we all have as humans.

Kent Billingsley (22m 52s):

And, but they're not prioritized. I mean, you can have fear and excitement at the same time, but, but which one's the motivator w which one is the driver that's going to bring change or a decision and why. And then even more importantly is who's the most important influential person in the account. If it's a complex sale, what is their emotional construct and how would they prioritize it? And so when I talk to teams about psychographics, it's not that you can identify well, they're frustrated and angry, disappointed, upset, pissed off. I'm like, well, that's a great list, but what's number one. I don't know. Number one, what did you ask them? Yeah,

Mark Graban (23m 31s):

Yeah. It might depend on the day, even though which one is number one, I mean, like, you know, talking about complex sales, people are complex and, and you, you touched on a lot of points that I've had an opportunity to learn about. You know, my, my background is engineering, you know, an MBA, and you would think I would be really heavy on the client side, the logical, the math, the ROI, but looking at people, and I've had opportunities to learn working in healthcare about counseling and psychology, and the idea, the, the puzzling ideas that when change is logically a good thing, and part of our brain can say, well, logically, yes, I should do that. There are other parts of the brain that get in the way we have reasons to change.

Mark Graban (24m 15s):

We have reasons not to change. The parallel I hear from you is that people, people might say, well, I have reasons to buy. And I also have reasons not to buy where's that balance at any particular time, how do you help move them to feel safe or comfortable to say, well, I, okay. I am going to buy

Kent Billingsley (24m 32s):

So and well, we can spend a couple hours. And the topic is so important. The first one is you may never get everyone to agree with how they feel. And, and that's where a big mistake today. Companies leaders are trying to create democracies. Everybody gets a vote that can't happen. I can't work like that. You, you can't make decisions fast enough. And you may not make decisions that are best for the company individually, as individuals usually make decisions what's best for them. But so that's why you just can't have that. And I know people want it, but I'm saying that's how governments should work, but that's not how companies can work. The other problem you have is you don't have to make everybody happy. You have to make the right people. Have you have to add, I identify those individuals that really have the company first and the client first for that company and align with them and let them deal with the others.

Kent Billingsley (25m 23s):

And I want to make this point, because this is so critical in a complex sale, we can be naive and, and salespeople, a lot of them are just so naive just because they haven't seen it. They haven't been on the other side, I've been an executive in a large corporation where I manage procurement. I watched the a hundred million dollar decisions navigate through my company. I was, it was involved in them, or I watched him from the side. The, the, the challenge there is that these complex decisions that go down and have the emotional constructs there, there are groups involved. And like you say, they change.

Kent Billingsley (26m 4s):

And so when they're going through their processes and changing, some of these people are going to lose, and that's a very important point. And I just tell teams that sometimes just so it's on their radar. And almost every major decision there will be losers. There will be people inside the company that their world is not going to be better. Matter of fact, their world might go away. And, and I sold outsourcing services back in the early eighties, and which meant that we would come in and we would then take over. And I learned not to use that word after the second meeting, we would take over or assume control of all data processing network management in the bank. So it would be check processing ATM's we would now be a third-party responsible for all that.

Kent Billingsley (26m 48s):

You don't think there'd be some disruption, the MIS director or Theo. I mean, that, that was a freak out because they just lost their empire. There were people in there that had built their code and their programs, and they created their career protection environments that were going to get blown up. And so I, I was walking into sometimes a hornet's nest because what those people were doing were actually holding the company back, but it was great for them, but not for the company. And the CEO would have to come down and say, we're making a major strategic change. We are now going to outsource to a third party. All our 80 90% of all operations will now be assumed under control of this operation.

Kent Billingsley (27m 28s):

The data centers will run around the world though no longer be located on site or slightly remote site. So I learned early and often that there would always be people that would consider them victims or be losers, or they would not come out on the good side of this decision. And you have to learn how to manage that inside that, and, and deal with that emotional construct. Now are, are one of the things that EDS did really well. We were masters at the transition masters at finding people's homes, finding people, jobs, finding people, career paths, actually giving them better career paths, because they have more opportunities in larger companies than they did on a small ones.

Kent Billingsley (28m 8s):

But my point to the listeners is you have to understand. And, and I, I sometimes in a simple sales transaction sales that can happen too, but always in complex sales, there will be losers. There will be people that will be com victims, or there won't be better. And you need to factor that in. You need to look at that emotional state. So let me share with the audience. So how do you do that? Well, the way you do that is your internal folks, your coaches, and your sponsors. You talk through this with them, and it probably wasn't tell, I don't know how many major contracts I had put together to where I've made that part of my agenda was somewhere in the process. I'd say, Mark, we need to have a meeting about some people and their feelings and where they're going to be on the other side of this decision.

Kent Billingsley (28m 53s):

And I learned to discover that was one of the most important meetings I ever had because the, the, the marks of the world would say, thank you. You're, you're the first company or vendor that's really cared about our people and, and, and trying to work with us to make this as good as it can be for everybody. So even though I knew that back then, when I started my own company on the, we did it on the operations delivery site. I lost that on the sales and marketing. When I was starting my business, I didn't put the emotional construct in, in context of, of where it needed to be. And, and, and my first year in business was really, really ugly.

Kent Billingsley (29m 37s):

So I guess that'd be my

Mark Graban (29m 38s):

Favorite mistake, but Kent, what I hear you saying is, you know, from, from the different examples, kind of large and small, there's this repeated pattern of you learning from those mistakes, whether it was using the phrase takeover or the other things. I mean, and that's what this podcast is all about. It's embracing the learning that comes from these mistakes, or appreciate you sharing and, and, and, and telling us those stories.

Kent Billingsley (30m 2s):

You've touched on something, and it's a whole chapter of a book, and now it's called blueprinting optimization because I've got some corporate people that want to hear the corporate words, but in reality, what's it mean? Yeah. And straight languages, it's continuous transformation, continuous change, continuous adaption to what's out there and how things are different. And, and, you know, we're, I don't know we're pre COVID or in the eye of the storm. And it, depending on what news site or feed you read that day, all I can say is things are different and they're not going to go back and they're not going to, we're not going to re norm or whatever. Things are different in a lot of fundamental marketplace problems that companies we're solving are gone are changed, or must be satisfied in a completely different way today.

Kent Billingsley (30m 46s):

And so you bring up a great point. I call it accelerated learning feedback, learning that has to become a core competency inside your business. And I spend another chapter talking about how, when you start this roadmap, at some point in your roadmap, you've got to go back to the beginning again and retest it. And I recommend every year you go back and start with the FID and say, what is the fundamental marketplace problem? Does it still exist? Has it changed? Have the competitor satiated it, do we need to readjust our model? I've had to readjust my model. So do the event speaking business got totally wiped out. I can look at my calendar down.

Kent Billingsley (31m 27s):

I see live events coming up in the next month, even without Texas fully opening, but they are this week. We're having live events. I've done two or three now, and I've got several scheduled. That's that? That's so exciting, but they're different. They're limited. And people won't show because you're still nervous. The world changed. And, you know, we, we, we've got to adapt our models. I'm really fearful Mark that one of the great mistakes that companies are making, I'm seeing it dealing with clients is they're just waiting for things to go back to normal. They're just holding on and, and just knowing that, okay, well, business is coming back.

Kent Billingsley (32m 7s):

We can just go back to what we were doing and just doing it the same way. It's a little tougher, have to spend a little more money. I mean, I just hear this. And I'm like that, that you didn't learn. You got beaten up that you didn't learn from COVID. You've got to readjust, maybe completely transform your model. I'm getting a lot of feedback that a favorite chapter for people's. When I talk about multiple revenue streams, that you've got to have this Goldilocks of revenue streams today, because that one or two, that you had that one product or service, and we, the way you were making money off of you need to find other to make money off of it. What I'm saying is you need more products and services. What I'm saying is you need one more ways to make money off that same product and service and additional revenue streams to protect yourself.

Kent Billingsley (32m 53s):

I use a lot of examples about restaurants, just because we all lead them. Those that had one revenue stream walk-in traffic, either the traffic left or the, the, the government shut them down. I'll share with you another real quick story. One of my friends and a guy that we've almost worked together, a couple of times as business was so on fire, he owned a, quite a chain of these movie studios that where you would go in and eat and, and have drinks and all that. And his business was on fire. He was in the, I think it was worth a few hundred million COVID hits. He takes a double whammy.

Kent Billingsley (33m 33s):

There's just no audience and no product. And they had to declare bankruptcy. I mean, just, just overnight. I remember talking to him, you know, a year and a half ago, and he's like, can't, I got to get you in here. We gotta work on the corporate sales side where our venues are doing great, but we just struggle with the corporate B2B. So his B to C model is rocking. The B to B model was stocked because it's a complex sale versus a simple sale. And I remember talking to him and I'm like, at some point in time, we'll work it out. I'll get the bandwidth. We, we can work together. And then boom. He just absolutely got blown up. And because too, too dramatic as tsunamis, the, no, the no clients and no product, the movie studios couldn't make movies, so they couldn't send anything.

Kent Billingsley (34m 14s):

And, and, and so now, you know, you've got to go back and look at your model and say, okay, what, how do we do this differently? Well, they instantly stream, they do other things today to do that. And you can have a home watching parties. I mean, there's all kinds of ways. So I really hope in your listeners. I hope they don't just go back to the way things were and just accept less business or smaller business. I want them to go back and say, you know, what, how do we readdress the fundamental marketplace problem? If it is still the same, which it rarely is, how do we address it differently to start to create wealth and optimize the money we make?

Mark Graban (34m 52s):

So, final question, you know, Kent, you mentioned EDS and you, when you joined the company in a way, maybe it was, you know, at, at the peak of Ross Perot. And, you know, I really, you know, admired him. He was, he was one of a kind as an outside observer. And part of my perspective was growing up around Detroit when he was on the board of general motors and famously, but it has, and I think the company was far worse off for, for having cast him aside. I wanted to hear your perspectives on EDS and Ross Perot.

Kent Billingsley (35m 25s):

Yeah. So I had moved to Dallas in the eighties. That's when I had met Mark Cuban. And I was, I was brought to Dallas by a division of PepsiCo Frito-Lay and I was in their management training program. And I was working through the ranks and just a great company, tremendous product, I mean, who doesn't Doritos or lays or Fritos, I mean, come on. And I kept hearing these stories about this little squeaky guy who runs this company over on forest lane. And he really secretive what they do, but they do these government contracts. And I heard this concept of information processing services. And, and, and I couldn't swallow that in one goal, but I had to chew on that and ask my friends, what is that was, it did. And, and no one really knew.

Kent Billingsley (36m 6s):

And so I started researching the company and I'd listen to him speak, or he'd be on the news, Ross Perot. And I just got this feeling inside, and maybe this is a definition of leadership, but I said, I have,

Mark Graban (36m 17s):

You have to work for this guy. I have to be

Kent Billingsley (36m 21s):

Of his company. I called them. And I told him, basically, I got an HR department, or I don't remember where I landed, but I said, my name is Kent Billingsley. And I, I have to come work for you. And

Mark Graban (36m 35s):

What were their psychographics about that? No.

Kent Billingsley (36m 37s):

Tell me about my background. That you're not a fit and I go, well, I've heard you've got some kind of training program or something marketing developed ladder. I know you've got se development. I don't want to be an se, but you've got marketing development. I have a marketing degree and I, and I came in from every angle and I had to go through your series of interviews and team interviews. And I kept hearing no everywhere. I went and I finally, they let me in, Oh my gosh. And, and they're there. And I had to go through 13 months of development before I could make a sales call. Now I came over as a marketing sales director, and I still had to go through 13 months of the development program there, marketing sales, negotiating, dining, school, dressing, school, everything, to learn how to sell multi-med multimillion dollar agreements and, and, and, and, and services, agreements, not product.

Kent Billingsley (37m 27s):

And so I was so onboard and my first six months were a disaster. I couldn't spell DP. I didn't know what we did. And, and at the end of graduation, we had seven days of testing and role-playing scored role-play to fire you. It was, it was like an apprentice that every month, several people in the class got fired. I was in class a and I, I, I worked day and night and weekends, I read, I bought every book on information processing. And the eighth week, the seven days, I actually scored the highest number ever in all eight programs for that program. And it was just because I, I, I loved Ross. Perot's so much. And every meeting I could be in a meeting with Ross Perot, I could hear you speak to a group. I was the first one there.

Kent Billingsley (38m 9s):

I sat in the front row. <inaudible>, he's the greatest leader I've ever known. I've ever heard I've ever met. And he made it all about the people. He made it all about the client. There were contracts, they lost a fortunate on, but he said, it doesn't matter. It's if the client's happy will that, that's the way it will be. I mean, just things you wouldn't do, it's kind of like a Southwest airlines, same kind of thing. You just, you know, you make it right. You make it fun. And then you make money. And Ross Perot. I, I, when he died last year, I wrote a blog, my experience meeting him the first time. And I remember calling Mr. Perot. And he said, now, can you, I'm not Mr. Para, if you're going to call on CEOs and big companies, you call them by their first name.

Kent Billingsley (38m 51s):

I'm wrong. You got that camp. I said, yes, sir. He got shook his head. Not that I was in the military, but I was trying to show respect. He goes, call me Ross. And then he walked away and I just stood there in the hallway. And I was frozen like, okay, did I, did I just get everything? And he just gave me because I'm not sure I did yet. You know, I am 25 years old, six years old, just trying to absorb it. But what a great man, what a tremendous man, we could, all, we could all learn leadership concepts and principles from great men like that. You know?

Mark Graban (39m 25s):

So it sounds like it was not a mistake for you to, to find your way in the door and to do that. That's it?

Kent Billingsley (39m 31s):

Yeah. And in Sydney, it's funny because at that time, Mark Cuban, he was, he's like, man, you need to, you know, get a small company. You need to be an entrepreneur. You need to do all this. I said, I love all that Mark. But you know, I don't know how much money is on that. I want to get into bed counties where I can learn. I want to get into environments where, I mean, they, they paid for 13 months of development and Piper and PhD and sales and marketing. I mean, they paid for all that. And then they, and then the great thing about big companies and you know, your audiences in a big company or not, you can learn everywhere, but in the big County, you just keep raising your hand, find a problem and say, I'll find a way to solve them. You'll you'll just rise up to the top. And I talk about that in the book. And one of the blogs coming out is today, every on every employee must, you don't need to be an entrepreneur.

Kent Billingsley (40m 16s):

You don't need to go off and start a business. You can stay in your business, be entrepreneurial and rise as fast as you want, or have an amazing career because we all need everyone in business to be more entrepreneurial. And just one, I'll give you one definition or one characteristic, not passionate, driven, all that kind of stuff. That's, everybody's like that. And if you're a business, you've got to be a creative problem solver, not a problem solver, but a creative problem solver. What I mean by that is the ability to solve complex problems without spending money and without hiring or adding bodies to solve it.

Kent Billingsley (40m 56s):

Now wouldn't that make a darn good politician?

Mark Graban (40m 59s):

Well, Ross tried and yeah, he, he gave a good run at that Kent. Thank you so much. Our guest here today has been Kent Billingsley, his website. If you want to go find him in his company is revenue growth, the book again available now via McGraw Hill is Entrepreneur to Millionaire: how to build a highly profitable fast-growth company and become embarrassingly rich doing it. So Kent, thank you so much for sharing what this today. It's really great to hear your stories and your reflections, and I really appreciate it.

Kent Billingsley (41m 33s):

Oh, thank you, Mark. I hope that you get the book and learn the roadmap …

Mark Graban (41m 37s):

And get it in their business and create wealth and encourage people to check that out. I will link to all of this in the show notes, I'll link to the blog post that you wrote about Ross Perot. I mean, I'm going to add here at the end, Kent was very gracious to me, even in light of mistakes, I made along the way. So in one email, back and forth, I called him Ken, instead of Kent, that's a mistake that should never happen with somebody whose name I'm going to blame. Auto-correct because there's a, can I work with a lot? And then, you know, I was about five minutes late to our pre-call. So thanks for, thanks for your graciousness about that. Ken's not my favorite mistakes, but some of my most recent, and I appreciate you hanging in there.

Mark Graban (42m 24s):

Like I said, you were very gracious about it. So thank you. I'm going to learn from that and try to prevent those mistakes as a, as you've talked about and our listeners and to do so again, thank you. Thank you so much more than welcome Mark. I really enjoyed it again, like to really thank our guests, Kent Billingsley for being here today and sharing so much with us again, if you want to enter to win a signed copy of his book, you can do so. You can find links and show notes and more at Thanks for subscribing if you've already done. So please rate and review us if you have the chance on your favorite app. And I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes and how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work.

Mark Graban (43m 14s):

And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me at And again, our website is

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's upcoming book is The Mistakes That Make Us. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.