Eric Michael Collins provides entrepreneurs, sales people and corporate executives with practical expert advice to measurably increase profits, revenue and free time, while decreasing risk. He’s an entrepreneur, angel investor, marketer and educator. He has owned, partnered and joint ventured dozens of thriving businesses in multiple venues.
In This Episode
Whatever life has pushed at him, Eric Collins has persevered and come out stronger on the other side. Modern Ontrapreneur sat down with Eric to talk about some of these hardships, what naming his son meant to him, his Spiderman approach, and what it means to him to be an entrepreneur today.
1:11 Don’t Get Drunk on Your Own Success
Chasing shiny objects because they look cool isn’t sustainable or fulfilling.
2:28 Having Your Beliefs Shattered
Eric lost millions and lived out of his car but picked himself up again, one grain of hope at a time.
4:56 A Hybrid of Strategist, Tech Geek and Salesman
A multitude of industries and experiences have shaped his skill sets.
6:04 The Spiderman Approach
If you have an amazing idea and you don’t go out there and share it, you are doing the world a disservice.
9:38 All-in-one Software Is the Future
Having all stats in one spot allows you to track and measure results like never before.
Get your data in one spot with key metrics to know at a glance what’s working: Cash flow, Customer Lifetime Value, Promoter Score and more.
18:25 A Name Should Mean Something
Naming his son after himself pushes Eric to be a better person and live to a higher standard.
19:35 More and More Companies Are Failing
Even with modern conveniences, it’s harder to get the right attention.
LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. I’m Landon Ray and this is Eric Michael Collins. He provides entrepreneurs, sales people and corporate executives with practical expert advice to measurably increase profits, revenue and free time, while decreasing risk. He’s an entrepreneur, angel investor, marketer and educator. He has owned, partnered and joint ventured dozens of thriving businesses in multiple venues. Thank you so much for being here.
EC: Thank you for having me, Landon.
LR: Yeah. Appreciate it. How long have you been at it?
EC: I don’t know. Since four years old, no. Seriously, since I started computer programming, when I was 13, doing some consulting. Went to college at 16, moved out. Began working full-time with my own company since 18, marketing and tech consulting.
LR: Total prodigy?
EC: Do my best with what I got, you know?
LR: Awesome. If you could go back now, having done what you’ve been doing for a number of years and speak to your three year old self, what would you tell that person? Not really your three year old self but, as you really got serious about business, what tip, what bit of wisdom could you impart that would make … maybe have saved you some of the troubles you’ve had?
EC: It’s pretty easy. Don’t get drunk on your own success. The majority of entrepreneurs, including myself back in the day ‒ and still to this day somewhat ‒ they’re motivated by their need of significance. They do everything for … because they think other people should do it. They buy things they can’t afford. They make business decisions that are not smart. They chase shiny objects, cause they think it will look cool. Back in the day I did over a couple hundred million in real estate investments; by the age of 24 I’m in Southwest Florida. Everything was pleasure driven. Everything was, “Hey, look at what I have.” You just can’t build a business that way. You’ve got to build it on fulfilling your customers and putting your employees first and making them happy, way, way, first. Otherwise, there are consequences. Eventually they catch up, if you’re just chasing that next ego boost.
LR: Yeah. That’s a tough one. I’ve heard that actually a couple times in this series. It’s a tough one to recognize, right?
LR: It’s sometimes hard to recognize what the actually problem is. Something obviously happens. Was there a moment or a thing that you remember that made you realize, “Oh, shit. I’ve got this all backwards”? Or, did you get slapped so hard that you had to … What was that story?
EC: First you get the tap, then you get the feather, then the brick, then the truck. Unfortunately I got the truck multiple times.
LR: Did you?
EC: At the height of my success, back in the day, I ended up having a nervous breakdown. I lost absolutely everything that I owned. During that time I was using alcohol and drugs and again high on my ego. We had four hurricanes come rolling through in Southwest Florida, which devastated us. All of it just came to a head at once. If you can imagine, your brain is this fragile thing, where it’s kind of like spokes on a wheel. All your beliefs are spokes. I had so many of my beliefs shattered all at once, I just had a nervous breakdown. I lost millions. I ended up living out of my car.
EC: I didn’t have much of a choice at that point, because things just went without me. It was the best thing that could have absolutely ever happened to me. Slowly but surely I went to some seminars, and people are getting these huge breakthroughs. I’m getting like a grain of hope, slowly building on top of it. ‘Til I’m like, “Today, I’m going get out of the house.” Right? I’m going to go to Starbucks. I’m going to get a tea. It took a while. I had a lot of people who love me and really helped me and great mentors.
LR: Why was that the best thing that ever happened to you? That sounds devastating.
EC: Cause there was absolutely no way I would own the company’s I do now, work with the people I do, have the wife that I do, the son that I do, and be the person that I am today. I’d be a cocky, arrogant a-hole running around still thinking I’m God’s gift. Now, I get to really serve people on a much deeper level and get true fulfillment and really live the life I always hoped.
LR: It’s like really learning gratitude.
EC: Yep. Absolutely.
LR: Amazing. What do you think … you’ve got two serious career arcs of sort of success in very different industries. What is the unique skill or talent that you think you have that has enabled you to have caused that?
EC: That’s a good question. I seem to be this hybrid kind of freak…. people telling me where I’m great at the strategy. I can also take that and get it down to the nitty gritty on the system side. I also have the ability to sell. It’s kind of this weird hodgepodge, because I think I was kind of born a sales person, then my step dad was a computer programmer. I learned like the blacksmith’s son. It’s kind of this weird hybrid. Plus, I’ve been in a multitude of industries all over the world. It kind of gives you perspective. Like Bill Gates reads books about fertilizer. Why would you do that? How does that affect it? Some of my best strategies come from me doing business in West Africa and having to figure that out. In those kind of situations, death is your consequence for failure, not your Emails weren’t delivered correctly.
LR: Right. A lot of people that identify as salesman are that old view. That hard driving, I’m going to get this guy. Money, money, money. I’m going to make it. Right? Yeah, here you are on the other side of that and still saying … identifying as a sales guy. Tell me about your perspective on sales. I guess the thing is that many of us also that are purpose driven get pretty shy about selling. We don’t want to feel pushy. We want people to come to us. We don’t want to have to … feel like we shouldn’t have to do that kind of sale-y thing. How is it that you organize that in your brain? That you feel good about making the sale?
EC: For me, it’s kind of like the Spiderman approach. You know, with great power comes great responsibility. If you have something, like Ontraport that is as amazing as it is, and you don’t go out there and share it, then you are really doing the world a disservice. Same thing with things that I do. If I don’t share it with people, I’m robbing them of the opportunity to have that experience. That I feel should kill the, “Oh, should I or shouldn’t talk to people?”
EC: The flip side of that coin is…. the responsibility factor is can people afford it? Do they truly need it? Just because you have some techniques that you can close somebody, doesn’t mean you should. You should walk away. I was a long time ago, sitting with a homeowner with my construction company. I was training somebody. An older lady, she went to the phone to call somebody to see if this is a good idea or not, a solar system. I could hear it, where it’s saying “Doo, doo, doo, this number cannot be…” And she was talking to the operator recording.
LR: Oh, no. Oh, whoa.
EC: So, I just sat there and really thought of her like my grandma and said, “This just isn’t right. If anybody else comes to talk to you about this, don’t take appointments.” Easily she could have purchased. But, would you treat your grandma that way? Just treat people … Do they generally need it? Can they afford it? Treat them the way you want to be treated.
LR: Yeah. Right. Where do you spend most of your time right now? Which one of these businesses, endeavors, that you’re working on right now?
EC: My other companies are just trucking along. Really it’s honing my skills. My outcome, a couple of years ago that I set, was to start acquiring company’s outside of the state of California. Due to regulatory, labor, taxation, stuff like that, I said, “Okay, enough’s enough. I’m going to start acquiring in places that like employers.”
EC: You know? I took a real inventory of my skills. Systems Processes was one of them, called Traffic Marketing. So, before I buy a company, I can get my return on investment back faster. There’s this Navy SEAL saying “Two is one. One is none.” Every major thing I do, I do for at least two strong reasons, otherwise I don’t do it. This way I can build my library of standard operating procedures, best practices and I can also offer it to my higher end clients, seven, eight figures. I’m really killing two birds with one stone. And that’s my focus right now. Doing a bit of consulting and at the same time, keep my eyes out for companies to acquire.
LR: What’s working right now? For the company’s you consult with, what are you seeing is working right now the best to generate new business?
EC: One of my clients, I just referred to you. He signed up … He met with me. Bought three days, done another two. He did that five weeks ago. He’s with Tony Robbins right now in Fiji. Just sent me a message saying I reduced his ad spend by 52% and he’s a seven figure business. Reduced his ad spend by 52%. Increased his 30 day ROI by 380%. We did that by him understanding that within Ontraport, that should be the backbone, should be the spine of everything that you’re doing. You can use third party apps, but they need to integrate so that you can truly track cause and effect. You can figure out exactly where your ideal customer, if there’s 50 of them over here, came from 10,000 click on Facebook. And really have cause and effect associations along the way. As soon as he began to measure correctly, then you just turn off the stuff that doesn’t work. And amplify the stuff that does. Ontraport is the only solution I’ve been able to find. I found 17, I’ve deployed six of them actively in real company’s. Ontraport’s the only one that has it all, has the ability to be easy enough for a business owner to use, to delegate, to really has the functionality. It’s like the perfect little mix, which is why I was drawn to you guys and that’s working exceptionally well.
LR: Awesome. You guys got that on camera? But, seriously, sounds like what you’re saying is what’s working actually is knowing your numbers?
LR: Cause it’s actually not brain surgery to figure out what to do, once you’ve got the data in front of you.
LR: Yeah. Simple.
EC: Everybody’s very tactic driven. Normally company’s below 20 million are very tactics driven. They don’t look at the whole strategy. They see a big plus or minus symbol. Then they throw everything out, if suddenly it doesn’t work. When in reality there’s a thousand pluses and minuses. And it’s easy when you’re measuring the failures. Your key failure indicators. To sit there and go, “Hey, turn off these little guys, increase these and you’re golden.” So many people are so close to getting past that flicker of hope and things coming to life. They give up soon, but they don’t know really how to fix it.
LR: I hear you. You spoke to this a little bit before, but what do you feel like right now is your cutting edge? What are you struggling with? Trying to figure out? What are you learning about?
EC: I’ve invested the last year a lot with taking data sources from multiple different locations and integrating ’em into one scoreboard. The ability to use Ontraport with some Scoreboard apps and QuickBooks Online, Facebook. Getting that data into one place, because my outcome is to own businesses, not to be an entrepreneur. If I’m a shareholder and on the board of directors and I don’t have a job in my own business, I need to be able to look at a scoreboard and understand what’s succeeding and failing. You’re never going to be able to emancipate yourself from your own business if you can’t leave and know that Rome isn’t going to catch on fire. The ability to do that with Ontraport as the backbone and measure everything I can on that Ontraport and then bring the data in from different places has really been a big part of my focus for the past 18 months.
LR: If you look across your businesses, what are the key KPI’s, would you say that you focus on?
EC: Great question.
LR: Are they different for every business? Or, are there some that….
EC: Business is the same no matter what part of the world.
LR: Business is business.
EC: Certainly operating cash flow, free cash flow is critical. ‘Cause businesses breathe cash. They need cash, it’s oxygen. Owners income, where you’ve taken the net profits and then add it back in your chart of accounts for all the accounting people. When you’ve added back the owners expenses, and you add that into the net profits, that gives you your owners income. Now, you know if you’re winning or losing at the game. Also, of course customer lifetime value. I live and breathe that, promoter score, knowing how many promoters or detractors you have. How quickly you are releasing builds in your company. I took Scrum, broke it down. Scrum is a planning method for tech companies. Because I own a software company, took that and molded it for brick and mortars. Now, how quickly you can release parts of your company that you’re building for everybody to use and benefit. Does it take you a year to release something? Or, does it take you two weeks?
LR:Even outside of software, you’re talking about….
LR: Absolutely. Give me an example in one of your other businesses. What does a build look like?
EC: In my construction company, it got to a point where my team would get together every two weeks. They would have a meeting. They would figure out … They’d look at the back log. They’d be like, “Okay. What’s the most important thing?” Everything we do … I call it a “critical satisfaction path.” It’s if your ideal customer and your ideal employee were to have the perfect experience, what would we have to build? It has nothing to do with the millions I want to make or customers or my yacht. It has everything to do with their experience. We look at that backlog and we figure out, “Great. What’s going to have the biggest return on investment.” Right? What’s the biggest priority?
LR: Not return on investment, but return on getting that experience created?
LR: You talking about, right?
EC: Yeah exactly. Getting that piece rolled out. What’s going to have the biggest monetary ROI, happiness ROI? What’s going to move the needle. Then deliberately allowing them to execute and defining done. That’s a software thing. When you own or you’ve been in different industries, you can take things that are in silos over in the software world and say “How can I take that and apply that to construction or mining or anything else?” That’s been a huge thing. If you’re releasing small things and you have a build being released every two weeks. Right? You have 26 features that are significant to really move the needle.
LR: That makes perfect sense in software. Sorry if I missed it, but how does a construction company … I think of a construction company, they’re building a house. You got to actually build the foundation before the framing, then the framing before the electricity. How do you break that down into a two week build? How do you measure velocity? Or, how does that relate to this ideal customer experience you’re talking about.
EC: Every entrepreneur wants to grow their business. They all want more. They all want to build stuff. In order for them to grow, they have to build things. In a construction company, we had a showcase home thing, where it’s, “Hey, we would love to be able to showcase your home to your neighbors.” All right, that’s going to give us credibility and trust. What do we need to do? What do we need to build in order to make sure that happens with every sale? Right?
EC: We know we need to build something to alert the sales person to go back once the job is done, because they’re already with the next customer.
LR: Okay. Gotcha. You’re not talking necessarily about the doing of the business. You’re not talking about the building of the house. You’re talking about the building of the business. Right. So how often are you releasing builds around actually improving the systems and processes that are the business itself?
EC: Generally every two weeks.
LR: Two weeks?
EC: Yeah. If the velocity gets better, then we can get it down to a week, but I prefer two. Then that way you’re releasing something small consistently. And your customers are just over the moon. Your employees are like, “Hey, I don’t believe customers come first as a business owner. I believe my employees come first, because my employees have to deal with my customers.” I go to my employees, “What’s lighting your hair on fire? What’s driving you crazy? Where can we do better? What’s something that’s coming up again and again?” Then they tell me and then we go, “Cool.”
LR: Then that makes them feel…
EC: Super important. Super appreciated. They feel very significant. Their experience gets better and better.
LR: Yeah. There’s a future that’s exciting.
EC: Yeah. They feel a part of something. One of the most bittersweet…coming back to the ego thing. One of most bittersweet moments, I was scuba diving. I was late to our Scrum meeting. I ended up coming in. By the time I got there, they had done all of it. They had analyzed the backlog. They decided, you sit there and like “Ah.” You don’t need me. Lik, “No, we already decided.” I’m like, “Bye.” But, it’s tough, because the owner’s always the bobble neck, because they gain their significance from the business.
LR: You’ve been at this a while now. You’ve obviously got some career ahead of you. If you think about 10, 20 years from now, 30 years from now looking back on what you will have built, what would you like your legacy to be?
EC: That’s a great question. I actually named my son, Eric Michael Collins II for that very reason. I believe that names should mean something. I believe that my name should be something that’s an asset to him, not something that would hurt him. It forces me to live to an even higher standard. Really there’s some things I want to do. I want to build something called The Genesis Academy in West Africa. After going there, it absolutely transformed my life. Helping them to be more self serving and really grow the community. I have personal goals. Own X number of companies. Make Y number of money. Really it’s being there … This may sound corny. Being there for my son’s doctor appointment. Being able to matter in my wife and my son’s life.
LR: Yeah. Beautiful. Modern Ontrapreneur. We named it this to try to uncover what it means to be an entrepreneur in this unique time. Things are changing so fast and we’re having to learn so much and renew our knowledge at a rate that has never been required before. That presents us with all kinds of opportunities, also maybe some new responsibilities. What do you think the opportunities and responsibilities are for entrepreneurs today? What does it mean to be a modern entrepreneur?
EC: That’s an interesting question, because the tactics are always going to change. The overall strategies are largely always going to be the same. The ability to measure what’s going on. The ability to pivot on the tactics but yet stay true to the direction and the focus and stay true to the strategy is certainly important. Not getting stuck in the weeds on the minor details. I saw a statistic that company’s are going out of business at a faster rate than ever before. You think like, ‘Wait a second. If everything, all these conveniences are being created, why isn’t it easier?” I think it’s because it’s making people freak out. They’re sitting there, they’re going, “Well, I don’t have this and that and this and this and this. So, I’m not doing it right.” Then they get like frozen. Really it’s just nobody cares. Nobody cares that much about you. They care about themselves. People think like, “Oh, these people are going to think this or that.” In reality, it’s like they are not even thinking about you. So, go ahead and fail. They’re not even paying attention.
LR: Well, Eric, I appreciate your being here.
EC: Thank you.
LR: Thank you so much for your time.
EC: Landon. I really appreciate it.
LR: Would you sign our wall for us?
EC: Of course.
LR: That’s awesome. Thanks.
Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?
Check out the previous episode featuring Gene Hammett of Leaders in the Trenches.