The Commodity of an Incentivized Workforce w/ John Matthews | Ep. 131

April 30, 2024 Big Pixel Season 1 Episode 131
The Commodity of an Incentivized Workforce w/ John Matthews | Ep. 131
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The Commodity of an Incentivized Workforce w/ John Matthews | Ep. 131
Apr 30, 2024 Season 1 Episode 131
Big Pixel

In this episode, David and Gary talk about where to find the best slice of pizza in the country. John Matthews, CEO and Founder of Gray Cat Enterprises, and former National President of Jimmy John’s, talks about taking charge of your workforce, moving them from commodity status to potential business owner.


LinkedIn: John Matthews


Submit Your Questions to:

OR comment on our YouTube videos! - Big Pixel, LLC - YouTube

Our Hosts

David Baxter - CEO of Big Pixel

Gary Voigt - Creative Director at Big Pixel

The Podcast

David Baxter has been designing, building, and advising startups and businesses for over ten years. His passion, knowledge, and brutal honesty have helped dozens of companies get their start.

In Biz/Dev, David and award-winning Creative Director Gary Voigt talk about current events and how they affect the world of startups, entrepreneurship, software development, and culture.

Contact Us


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Big Pixel

1772 Heritage Center Dr

Suite 201

Wake Forest, NC 27587

Music by: BLXRR

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, David and Gary talk about where to find the best slice of pizza in the country. John Matthews, CEO and Founder of Gray Cat Enterprises, and former National President of Jimmy John’s, talks about taking charge of your workforce, moving them from commodity status to potential business owner.


LinkedIn: John Matthews


Submit Your Questions to:

OR comment on our YouTube videos! - Big Pixel, LLC - YouTube

Our Hosts

David Baxter - CEO of Big Pixel

Gary Voigt - Creative Director at Big Pixel

The Podcast

David Baxter has been designing, building, and advising startups and businesses for over ten years. His passion, knowledge, and brutal honesty have helped dozens of companies get their start.

In Biz/Dev, David and award-winning Creative Director Gary Voigt talk about current events and how they affect the world of startups, entrepreneurship, software development, and culture.

Contact Us


FB | IG | LI | TW | TT : @bigpixelNC

Big Pixel

1772 Heritage Center Dr

Suite 201

Wake Forest, NC 27587

Music by: BLXRR

[00:00:00] David: I can just imagine like if I had hair, how much it would have fallen out in that three hour flight. The fact you still have hair, I don't understand. 

[00:00:12] David: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the biz dev podcast, the podcast about developing your business. I'm David Baxter, your host joined per usual by Gary Voigt. Hello, Gary. Once

[00:00:23] Gary: Hey, how you doing?

[00:00:23] David: You've joined me.

[00:00:25] Gary: fun of me for even doing this. So

[00:00:37] David: it's fair. It's fair. Yeah. This is low hanging fruit on the podcast scale. 

More importantly, we are joined by John Matthews, who's the president and CEO of great cat enterprises. Welcome John. How are you, sir?

[00:00:51] John: I am awesome. It's very warm today, but I'm awesome. 


[00:01:08] David: I'm not a fan. I'm going to hide inside my air conditioning. For at least the next 24 hours.

So you are a part of Grey Cat Enterprises. Tell me a little bit about that.

[00:01:18] John: I spent a good portion of my life in corporate America, and I've always wanted to start my own business. And so in 2004, I did. So I'm coming up on 20 years at gray cat. I'm a management consultant. I had some pretty big roles in corporate America, and I've learned a lot and. Compartmentalized a lot of those roles and now use that with clients that I have that are both big and small.

And with the big clients I can fit in as that adjunct VP for them on some big projects. And for the little guys, I can bring them a bunch of, big business experience and kind of distill it down to a smaller version if they're a franchisee or a small up and coming company.

[00:02:04] David: So you focus on retail specifically. Is that right?

[00:02:07] John: retail is just one part of it. Obviously I spent a lot of years in quick service restaurants at Little Caesars and Jimmy John's, and I also spent time in the convenience store world. But quite candidly, my, my largest and long running client right now is a B2B client, so There's a lot of things that I can bring to the table as far as I'm industry agnostic to put it a better way.

[00:02:31] David: So forgive my ignorance, but explain to me what a management consultant does.

[00:02:37] John: Specifically at Greycat, I do basically three things. I either do senior project management. So a company says, Hey, we've got a project. We just don't have a body. We don't have someone who can actually run it. Let's go find this Matthews guy, bring him in, he can hit the ground running, and he can add some additional bandwidth for us to be able to do a particular project.

So it might be that they're a retailer and we want to design new stores, we can just give it to this guy and he can help us design the stores because he's got, Colleagues in the industry that he can pull from. He understands the merchandising, understands facilities management because of his background, understands real estate, understands the marketing, understands operations.

And so he can bring one, one body to a complex project and we don't have to worry about it as much. The second thing I do is I do strategic planning, mostly with growth companies got 10 locations, or they're a 10 million company and they want to get to a hundred million. How do they scale?

How do they scale people? How do they scale resources? How do they manage vendors as they go forward? Everything along those lines again, my corporate experience. I had a tremendous amount of experience and the scalability of companies. And then the third and final area that I spend a lot of time on this quite candidly is happened in the last 10 years.

It's been the most fun for me as I'm an interim executive manager, meaning company goes out and buys a division. They don't have anyone to run it. Who can we put there? I go in, I have to learn the people, learn the product, learn their P& L, try to extract, expenses out of their P& L, try to improve process, try to improve revenue.

Could be three months, could be three years. I've run something as long as three years, and then I turn it over to them when they have a full time person that can do it. So that's exciting to me because you walk into situations you don't know You know, what the product is, how it's created, how they go to market, but you pull all these other experiences in and you put together a go forward plan for them.

[00:04:38] David: So you sound like Superman. And you look like Superman, which is not fair. But here's, I guess the big question I, again, I'm ignorant, but so this is interesting to me. I bring you in, I need someone to run a division using your terminology and you come in there and you kick butt and then you leave like you're now, I don't understand how that works.

You are a critical member of this team. I'm brand X and I'm opening a new. Thing of taco restaurants and I don't have a guy so I bring in john and john is amazing. But then you go away Do you train your successor? Like it seems like you're just leaving a massive hole in these companies that you are you're succeeding with but now they're stuck So what how does that

[00:05:20] John: No, it's actually quite the opposite. I'm very much a collaborative type of manager, and I try to teach people how to be able to manage the business after I'm gone. And so a lot of companies you go into and the you ask a simple question. What's our sales goal for the month? And they'll look at you like, I don't know.

We've never been told it never had access. So I'm like, you know what, I'm going to tell you what our sales goal is. And then we're going to figure out a way to get to that sales goal. Does anyone know whether we make money or not? And a lot of people don't raise their hand. All right, I'm going to share the P& L with you.

And I'm going to teach you that. Keeping the lights on after we go home is probably not a good way to add to profitability. So we're going to turn off the lights. We're going to try to improve our gross margin percentages. We're going to try to increase revenue. You guys are going to learn all this stuff.

And then once you have it and you don't need me anymore, I move on to the next project and people carry on. And I, I. Done, I think, I don't know, nine or 10 of these executive interim executive management roles. And I still get people calling me three, four years later saying, what would you do in this situation?

I'm not even working for that client anymore. And they just have built a rapport with me that they understand that I'm approachable, that I'm not going to take the credit for it. I'm just going to go in and do my job and hopefully train those people so they can carry on without me.

[00:06:41] Gary: yeah, you mentioned training. I'm sorry. You mentioned training, which that made me think of your explanation of that role is more of like a senior manager slash trainer position, because if you're leaving it in their hands, then yeah, obviously

[00:06:54] John: Yeah, if I can transition it that way, where they know that ultimately they own this and they are going to get a lot of rope and what they do with that rope is up to them. Can they handle that or not? And then you find out, do the people really want to manage the business going forward or do they just like to be told or kept in the dark about everything?

Most people. Find it refreshing that someone comes in and opens the book, so to speak, and says, this is what we need to do in order to be successful. Yeah,

[00:07:24] David: That is so interesting. Yeah, I was a waiter for a while. And the idea that someone's going to actually show how my restaurant works would be mind blowing. Like I can't even wrap my head around that. Cause that's not something I didn't even know what that meant, much less. How it all worked I'm just a cog in the machine and that's how most people at these chains are, especially, my, you're 18 years old or whatever.

And you're there to do a job and really probably you don't care about much else going home and playing with your friends or whatever, but to you to open that door would be really eye opening. And I think very inspiring. I'm thinking me at 18, 19 years old to be able to see P and L's and whatnot.

[00:08:06] John: It wasn't one particular case that when I went to this division had 35 people, it was in disarray, multimillion dollar division they were losing money. They all wanted raises, but they didn't understand that we were losing money. And so I created an incentive program that said, all right, we have to get to a certain profitability level.

I will run it up the flagpole with my client. And if we hit that number or exceed it. Everybody will get a percentage Christmas bonus. And I explained to them each and every month, did we make money or did we not make money? How far off are we on our goal? And I'll tell you, they got totally engaged. They were focused in on, we got to hit that number.

And I said, if you're a dollar short, no one gets anything. So just understand that there is a hard threshold here. And I'll be damned if they didn't hit it by $4,000 bucks and we gave out $20,000 worth of Of incentives at Christmas for the 35 people paid for their Christmas. Yeah,

[00:09:06] David: What I have a lot of, I shouldn't say a lot. I have several friends who run businesses that have that level of employee. They're down, the ditch digger level, right? The doer they're making hourly rates, et cetera, et cetera. And almost consistently, and this is several different guys, totally different industries.

So it's not like specifically one type of. Person they have found that motivating that level of employee that hourly wage non managerial employee is consistently really hard because They like I have a friend one of my friends. He pays his guys. I don't even know what it is I'll just say fifteen dollars an hour.

That's not right, but let's just go with that and but on top of that He's offering if you work enough hours, he's offering health care and he's offering this that and the other And which if you total that up, it probably would be 25 an hour, right? Again, fake numbers, but you get the idea. And the guy, one of his guys, or several of his guys will come up to him and say, I'm leaving because this guy's going to offer me 16 an hour. And you're like, dude, do the math. I am killing that. But they don't see that. Cause that's all Over there and it's not in my paycheck. My paycheck does is 15 says 15 and he loses guys And that's over and over depend doesn't matter the industry So the idea that you're able to say hey restaurant i'm assuming this is mostly in restaurants because your history Hey restaurant person, guy cleaning the sink the dishwasher the waiter the whatever This is a pnl and this is how you get a bonus and they're going to be motivated to do that Is very interesting because I haven't seen that.

So either you're amazing or

[00:10:43] John: it's not even just the P and L, but it's getting them to take a little bit more ownership and it removes them away from being a commodity. If all you're talking about is a 15 versus 16 an hour. You're just comparing the kind of a commodity there. Oh, I could go over there. There's no allegiance to it.

But if I'm making 15 an hour and I'm learning how to actually run a business, whether it's a restaurant or whether it's a B2B business or whether whatever it is, I'm actually learning some skills here that may make me an owner of a business. five years from now, or I could maybe go to a larger company and start working my way up a corporate ladder because now I've developed some of these skills, or I can just complain about my hourly rate and become a stay a commodity.

And that's to me, if I can get, and I've heard this from. The people that I've worked with, they said, you actually got me engaged in my job more than what the paycheck is. You actually taught me what business was about. And I wanted to come in and work with my teammates because I saw we were going for a common goal.

And I saw how my, I was appreciated. I saw how my efforts were a part of the entire program. And I, I think when you get people thinking that way, It becomes harder for them to go, I'm going to go across the street because I can get 2 more an hour, but he's going to treat me like a commodity here.

I actually, they listen to my advice. They listen to my ideas. I feel like I'm a part of a team. So I don't know. That's just the way I was brought up.

[00:12:18] David: That's it's pretty amazing because I know that is a struggle is getting those guys I have one friend who the guys weren't showing up to work, right? It was again low level ditch digger kind of level of stuff and they weren't coming to work And so the way he motivated his people, he's okay, he brought in, this is literally, he brings in a trash bag full of cash and he pours it out onto the ground and he says, this is, I think it was 3, 000, something like that.

And all it was small bills, but to be effective. Because this is what we are losing every single month because of attrition, right? We're losing people, training people, finding people, all that I'm losing 3, 000 a month. I would rather give this to you. And he's doing that. He's a pile, a big old pile of cash in front of him and said that was the first time and it, but the interesting part of it worked, so they got more motivated.

But what was interesting was it didn't last very long. Like it. It just

[00:13:21] John: that's the yeah.

[00:13:24] David: It was, he got them coming to work, but two months later, three months later,

[00:13:27] John: else threw another bag, a bag of cash at him, and then you became a commodity. And that's, I remember when I, my, one of my first jobs at Little Caesars, I started as a manager trainee in a store. And five years later, I was the national marketing director and I had 1600 stores. And I remember one of my first.

Promotions. I went from operations over to marketing. I was more excited about having my name in the Chicago Tribune as people on the move. John Matthews moves from, a general manager to a community marketing rep. I was more excited about that than any paycheck. It was just really cool.

There was a million people that subscribed to the trip back then. I felt like I was a rock star. My name actually made Jim Kirk's column and I was just like, wow, that's so cool. That meant more to me than the cash. I wasn't making much at Little Caesars. So it was

[00:14:19] Gary: That's funny. You brought up little Caesars. That was actually my second job. Little Caesars.

[00:14:24] John: No kidding.

[00:14:25] Gary: Yep. Slinging

[00:14:26] David: first job was CCS. It's interesting that I was looking at, cause I guess I'm a member of the triangle business journal, which is, the local business paper here. And they have that people on the move section. They sell it. It's not like when you're talking about some guy just found out about you or whatever, wrote an article at the TBJ.

I don't know if this is, this has got to be public knowledge. You can pay like 500 bucks to get an employee name in their paper as someone who's on the move and people do it every single month. So it's clearly a money item, but I was like that's defeats the purpose, right? I'm. Now, if your boss did that for you, maybe that's cool.

But if you did it for yourself, that's just

So how did you go for, I have so many questions. Cause you were the president of Jimmy John's, which is so interesting to me. How did you go from that to leaving that position? I assume that was just a cool time. It was time to move on to saying, I'm going to, obviously you have the experience, but how did you convince people when you're starting this business 20 years ago, that it wasn't just, look, I was the president of Jimmy John's.

Of course I know retail and that's enough. Or is it, did people start coming to you because they just wanted to work with you? How did that all get started?

[00:15:41] John: It's one of those things that I talked budding entrepreneurs all the time. They come to me and they say, what I want to get going. I want to be a consultant. I want to do what you do, whatever. And I go, make sure you got a huge network because those are the people that they may not hire you, but they know people that know people that May want to hire you, but you got to have a huge network. And when I was starting off, in my twenties, I always maintained a huge database of contacts that I would make you give me your phone number and you'd never leave my phone. I've got 8, 500 phone numbers in my iPhone over here. I've got.

Tens of thousands of LinkedIn followers and everything like that. And that's always been my. Way of, staying connected. And so when I announced that I was leaving Jimmy Johns and was launching Greycat or when I announced that I launched Greycat, I sent out a communication to all my contacts.

And within the first month I had three clients. And I was off to the races because of these people knew that I wasn't, some new guy that was just out there promoting. I had built relationships over decades with these people and now they know of me and when I go on LinkedIn, I post a lot of content on LinkedIn.

I get 95 percent of my business. And it's because people have read my stuff over the last 20 years. I've been on LinkedIn for almost 19 years and they've read it for that amount of time. They may not have a project for me on day one, but they know who I am. And when they, sure enough, right before this, I got a call from a guy that I've known for a half dozen years.

It says, I got a buddy who's looking for someone to help him with strategic planning. You're the first guy I thought of. That's all you want. You want to be top of mind. And so having that huge network made me feel like I could do this. And then I had a father that was saying he was a salesperson all the way up until his mid fifties.

And then he got fired from his job. And so he became a manufacturer's rep and he made more money doing that than he ever did as a sales rep. And I was his youngest kid. And he. Told me, he says, John, if you want to make it in this world, start your own company. And so I had a goal of doing it when I was around 45.

I started, I think at 40 41 or so with my company. And I've never looked back.

[00:17:57] David: Gary, don't listen to him. The, he doesn't know what he's talking about. You don't need their own company.

[00:18:01] Gary: I know it sounds very interesting to

[00:18:04] David: No, you ignore Gary's having technical issues. He's going to have to leave.

[00:18:08] Gary: You mentioned accruing this grand network. Ever since you were 20. Now that's foresight that most people that age don't have. Of course. Now it's a lot easier with social media tools and stuff like that. But have you really put an effort into marketing yourself through specific social media channels or is your networking and posting just been organic from day one?

And you haven't had to really try to reach out past that.

[00:18:33] John: I, everything, like I mentioned, I've tried Twitter, I've tried Facebook and things like that. It's LinkedIn for me because it's all about relationship building Um, and building up that network. I don't run ads or anything like that. I just promote. John Matthews and gray cat enterprises and content and most of.

I'd say 99. 9 percent of everything I post on LinkedIn is my original content. It's not a quote from Steve Jobs or whatever, that you just see people just regurgitating the same stuff. Mine is to at least provoke some thought and some people going didn't think about, approaching going to a convention this way.

The guy just laid out five things that I need to think about when I go to my next convention. And do I get any money from that? No, I don't. People go, this guy seems like he knows what he's talking about. Every post I get something out of it. And then lo and behold, I get, the call and someone's got a project and it's been that way for 20 years.

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[00:19:59] David: What's refreshing about this is whenever I turn on and I don't do a lot of social media, but whenever you turn on Instagram or I don't ever use Tik TOK, YouTube, whatever, all the people who are coming at you with business advice. Are like seven years old and they have no experience. The the old I'm from Texas and the old phrase is all hat, no cattle. The, and it's refreshing. You're like, I am creating a consulting business. I am. X years old, I've been a president of big chain things you've heard of, and now I'm going to do that same great. And I've done here's a litany of stuff I've done, and I'm going to do that for you.

That is so strangely refreshing. It should be normal, but it's refreshing because most of these people, all they've done is read a book,

[00:20:46] John: Right.

[00:20:46] David: right? Which is fine. Books are great. I'm currently reading the ideal team player. Amazing. Anyway. But it's so interesting how rare your side of the story is versus all these seven year olds who are coming at thinking like they know how to do business.

And I say, how would you even know? I have a similar story in that I was 23 years old. I saw a guy, I wanted to run a business. He was 33. I wanted to emulate that. I did not, I failed. I started at 35, but I got close, but it was having that inspiration, similar to what you're talking about. That's that takes time.

That takes cooking. That takes experience. And I think we've lost some of that with this generation. I know I'm now I'm like the old man, get off my lawn, but it's interesting because it's like people come to me, I mentor a lot around the areas. It's a passion of mine. And one of the number one thing I say is go get some experience.

You don't need your company at 24 years old. You don't need to go start your marketing firm at 24 when you barely know how to market gold, sit at someone's feet for a decade and be a sponge. And then start your business. And so I'm excited to hear, look, people still do this. This is how it really can work and how I think it should work.

Cause how do you do what you do without the experience? I'm sorry. I'm on a soapbox here, but there you go.

[00:22:06] John: No, I think that's, it actually dovetails very nicely into the reason why I just put together this leadership. Series or leadership course. I weave into this. It's online. It's on my website. If you go to the great cat learning series, you can actually get it online. But I also love doing this one live.

And I just did it live in three different sessions for a retailer here in North Carolina. And I've got a few more that are about ready to bring me on because I tell the good, the bad and the ugly of how I was a micromanager when I was young. How I got called to the mat on that, how I now changed, how I become more of that collaborator manager that I am today, or that leader that I am today.

And that what I do with these interim relationships just didn't happen overnight. It came from a lot of pain and angst that I had in my 20s and 30s and 40s where I made leadership and management mistakes. And I remember one in particular And Gary, you can appreciate this since you worked at Little Caesars, but I used to work for Chris Illich, who's the son of Mr.

Illich, who started the whole chain. I worked directly for him for three years. Chris is a little bit younger than I am. He's a couple years younger or so. And now Chris runs all of Illich Holdings, all 10 companies, the Red Wings, the Tigers, everything. So he's a multi billionaire, his family is. And I remember once I was in my office in Chicago and Chris was down in Indianapolis.

Talking with the marketing manager who reported to me. I was the regional marketing guy and he calls me, he says, John, what are you doing right now? And I said I'm just doing some work. He says, I need you to drive to Midway, jump on a plane, come down here, cause we have to talk. Okay. I said, do you want me to bring it?

He says, no just jump on a plane and come down here. I flew down there three hours later. I get

[00:23:59] David: That was scared me to death.

[00:24:00] John: he calls me to the mat for 45 minutes saying, this poor guy down here, it feels like he's being micromanaged by you. You're not, this was like my first big managerial role. I had three markets.

And he called me to the mat for 45 minutes. And then he said, now learn something and go back to Chicago. And I jumped on a plane and flew back. And so I share that experience with, the people that I'm talking to about leadership. If you think I'm a great leader, I wasn't a great leader in my twenties and I learned things in my thirties and you got to learn from all those mistakes.

And I've been called to the map by one of the biggest. And I loved it, cause I learned so much from that. And Chris and I are great friends today and, and it's I really appreciated the fact that he called me to the mat or I would have been a micromanager all my life, probably.

[00:24:48] Gary: And the way you reacted to that situation probably benefited you quite well too. Cause

[00:24:53] John: Absolutely. Absolutely. 

[00:24:54] David: I can just imagine like if I had hair, how much it would have fallen out in that three hour flight. Like The fact you still have 

hair, I don't understand. 

I'm the kind of guy I, here's just, this is too much inside baseball, but if anyone on Slack, and I know Gary's absolutely going to do this to me now, says, Hey.

Do you have a minute? We need to talk. I'm immediately in total freak out mode. And I'm like about what, or the worst is, Hey, do you have time this afternoon? We need to talk like now I have four hours ruminating on what you're about to tell me. Oh, that's the worst. That is very cool. Yeah. I just think.

Experience is underrated. Even now in our company, like I don't do what my guys can do. I am not a developer the way that they are anymore, but there are still times where the buck stops with me, where a guy will call me and he's I'm stuck. I've been stuck. I've asked everybody. Can you help?

And sure. I've never seen that code before. I don't even know that language, but we go old school and we take it back to the basics and we always find the problem, whatever the problem is. And I don't even know what I'm looking at, but sometimes it just takes the old man to come into the room and talk it out and you figure it out and that's just experience as doing this forever, day in, day out, knowing how to get through ugly stuff.

And I think that's just severely under appreciated. And I'm sure, especially in development world, you're an old man, if you're a 40 year old developer and I'm 45 man, I'm ancient. And it's just, Gary's 700 years old and developer learn. But

[00:26:34] Gary: and I'm a designer. So that turns me is this is like my third life cycle,

[00:26:38] David: that's why he wears a beanie because he can't show his gray hair.

Anyway. So it's just, it's, you don't see that. And I think it should be appreciated. Now, again, of course, the old guy says that, right? The 30 year old is dude, get off, get out of here. But whatever. So interesting. So good stuff.

[00:26:54] Gary: Oh, no, I said, but that 30 year old read a book and now they think they're the expert. So don't get on LinkedIn and say, yeah, expert advice.

[00:27:02] David: now. 

I can't let Gary ask you our final question without asking as the president of Jimmy John's, what was your favorite sandwich?

[00:27:12] John: Probably the Vito.

[00:27:13] David: Yeah,

[00:27:14] John: Yeah, I like that.

[00:27:15] David: All right. See you straight from the horse's mouth right there.

[00:27:18] John: Yeah. I'll tell you a little inside scoop on this. So it was so funny because, we were in a lot of college campuses. And so we had a we had a healthy. Kind of sandwich that was a bunch of cheese and some alfalfa sprouts and things like that.

And all the young ladies

[00:27:33] Gary: the vegetarian option?

[00:27:35] John: the vegetarian and think that they were, losing weight by eating this thing, but it was one of the highest caloric sandwiches we had. And you would just see them come in and they'd devour this because they'd been drinking or whatever thinking this is okay.

But they would. It was like a, I don't even know what the calorie count was, but it was one of the higher ones that we had and it was just like they were just surprised

[00:27:57] Gary: I want to know if you had anything to do with the freakish, freakishly fast ad campaign, the freaky

[00:28:02] John: that was there when I got there, they had already implemented that. So and I didn't have anything to do with pizza either. So

[00:28:09] Gary: Yeah, I figured that one. That one's old,

[00:28:11] David: That is old. That was, yeah, man, that was

[00:28:13] Gary: still square though, back then. And you would get to

[00:28:15] John: they were even before they were square they were they had pizza and the funny thing is I played baseball in Michigan. So I grew up in Michigan. I grew up with Little Caesars and Domino's and everything like that since they were both based there. But I played for the Little Caesars baseball team and when I was 16 the Mickey Mantle League and the Connie Mack League were we were called Little Caesars.

And so I always just love playing for Little Caesars. And, when the opportunity came, I just thought very fondly of the company because they were the sponsor of our team. I applied for a job there. 

[00:28:47] David: Man,

[00:28:47] John: so those local sponsorships can get you employees somewhere

[00:28:51] Gary: networking as

[00:28:52] John: Exactly.

[00:28:52] David: it's funny you say that I've always wondered why companies sponsor little league teams. Like I was like, what is the ROI on that? And that's a good one. I'd never even occurred to me that hiring, especially if you're hiring young

[00:29:06] Gary: future employees.

[00:29:07] David: would. Yeah, never occurred. I just thought it was

[00:29:09] John: All right. So let me give you a great example because as the marketing manager of Chicagoland, and then I became a regional guy and then national guy, we always would have, people would view Little Caesars as this big, rich company would just come and ask them for 500 a sponsor, our little league team.

And I would just get request after request. So I actually turned it around on the teams. I said, I'll tell you what, I've got these coupon books. I'm going to give you as many coupon books as you want. There's. Value in here up to 10. You go out and sell these. Keep 100 percent of the proceeds so you can go out and sell them for a dollar.

You can sell them for 5, whatever. And then I will give you a pizza party at the end of the year. I'll give every kid a little Caesar squeezer bottle and I get my logo on your jersey. So these teams would come in, I'd give them a stack of these coupon books. And I essentially created a labor force of eight year old and 10 year olds going out in the marketplace, selling these coupon books.

And instead of me sitting there cutting checks, two 50, 300, I had all these kids running around the field with their little squeezer bottles. I had all the parents of the kids come in to the the restaurant after the season, they have their pizza. So I get. People tasting our pizza and everything like that.

The logos on their Jersey and they're distributing these coupon books. So one year that we did this, we actually had 750, 000 coupon books out in Chicagoland, and

[00:30:37] David: Oh my goodness.

[00:30:38] John: of having a 300 check that I would write, my total cost was 30 bucks. It was, that was food costs. That was the cost of the squeezers, the cost of the coupon books and everything like that.

So I could sponsor 10 teams for the price of one. And then I had leagues coming to us saying do you want to sponsor a league? I'm like, sure. You guys need bats. Here's another 300. Go out and buy bats, just sell. And I had my, non payrolled labor force selling

[00:31:08] Gary: Might want to keep that hush though. 

[00:31:10] David: I am curious how often i'm curious how often that's being done I don't think i've ever heard that now my kids didn't play sports So I don't have no idea but

[00:31:19] Gary: my kids, I will tell you that when they're involved in high school activities, sports leagues, whatever you want to call it the fundraising situation is out of hand

[00:31:28] John: It is out of hand.

[00:31:30] David: I can believe that

[00:31:31] Gary: insane. And the asking for sponsorships everywhere is crazy too. So

[00:31:36] John: When I played high school baseball, we had to go out and sell plastic tumblers. And so Gary, I'd have to come to you and get you interested in these stupid plastic tumblers, which of course I didn't have. And then I would have to have you sign up. And then I'd have to bring these cups back to you a month later.

And they could never fit my car or my parents car. I'd have to remind you that you committed to this and now you've got to give me 40 and then you probably got them and threw them out. Cause they were just terrible. And I'd have to do that. And then I'd have to split 50 percent with the manufacturer.


[00:32:06] Gary: have changed now. I remember selling or my kids, when they were really young selling candles, like scented candles through some company or whatever. Now it's just, they just take every contact they have in their phone and you get spam texts and emails saying, go to this website and donate.

There's nothing it's just give us money. We're done. You're not going to get any tchotchkes.

[00:32:29] David: wrapping paper was ours. And we'd have to bring in these tens. Like you'd buy it and it's like these huge things you'd have to bring in full of wrapping paper and tens and stuff. And they were so ridiculously expensive.

[00:32:40] Gary: Taking the bus home from school with 50 pounds of wrapping paper to

[00:32:43] David: Yeah, it's just, it's not good. It's not good.

[00:32:47] Gary: All right.

[00:32:47] John: We just lost the 20 something audience on this. They don't

[00:32:51] David: That's okay.

[00:32:52] John: about.

[00:32:53] David: That's

[00:32:53] Gary: we have a 20 something audience, then they just got greatly informed. There we go.

[00:32:58] David: You learn something new children.

[00:33:00] Gary: So speaking about the last question that David brought up, John, what are your top three pieces of advice for any entrepreneurs, new business or startup?

[00:33:08] John: Be prepared to work pretty hard to if you think this is going to be great. I'm going to do this part time. No, you got to do this full time and. Be prepared to do that. You better have a network. You better be able to reach out, not to your close friends. Those people aren't going to hire you.

It's going to be their friends, friend who doesn't know you, but he's looking for someone and he doesn't want to vet anyone else and he's figuring, Hey, I know this guy who knows this guy must be okay. It's that connectivity. I can't tell you how many times I've been hired by people that are 3, 4, 5 degrees away from the original person that I knew that, that have hired me.

So it's having that big network, being prepared to to work, and be self, you gotta be self motivated. There isn't gonna be anyone there that says, hey, you gotta get in your office at 7 a.m Or you got to work the weekend or you've got to do whatever it takes. In my case, it's just me. So I not only do I have to do all the work for my clients, but I have to go out and get the business.

So I got to be good in business development. I have to manage my content. So I got to manage all, I got to write all those blogs and create these online courses and everything like that. And then do work for my clients, obviously. And, so it's a real balancing act. That I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of time management skills that you have to be able to pull all of this off, especially if you're a single sole proprietor.

[00:34:35] Gary: Excellent. Now you mentioned to us earlier that you had courses and books. If anybody wants to find those or reach out and learn more about your business, where can they get ahold of you?

[00:34:45] John: So if you go to my website, it's called greycatenterprises. com and it's g r a y cat enterprises. com. At the top, there's a tab that's for the Greycat Learning Series. There's also links to my books that you can buy directly on Amazon. There's three retail books that are up there. So if you want to learn about local marketing, there's a book for that.

If you want to, if you had a grand opening or an anniversary, there's a book for that. And then there's a general. I don't know, a retailer type of book. So if you want to learn about capital management or real estate or facilities management or merchandising, there's a book on that as well.

So everything's housed at the Greycat Enterprises website.

[00:35:29] OUTRO: Hi, I'm Christy Pronto, Content Marketing Director here at BigPixel. Thank you for listening to this episode of the BizDev Podcast. We'd love to hear from you. Shoot us an email, hello at thebigpixel. net. The BizDev Podcast is produced and presented by BigPixel. See you next week. Until then, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Threads, YouTube, and LinkedIn.