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Geoff Chadwick: Insights From A Quarter Billion Dollar Marketer

We are talking to the $250 billion man, Geoff Chadwick. He is the Chief Marketing Officer at FortuneBuilders. I say the $250 billion man because he has managed over $250 billion in ad spend in his career so far and that number keeps growing every day.

In this episode, you're going to learn lessons from advertising, all of the experience that he has had in managing that large of an ad spend. You're going to learn some of the lessons that he picked up along the way. You'll also discover what and why you need to be a full-stack marketer. That was completely a brand-new term to me. If you know what that means in the development world or if you don't know, you're going to find out in this episode.

We also talk about the dot-com crash, the Wild Wild West and calling audibles in business and in life. In addition, we get into the power of being present for your family, for your business and for your team. Finally, how to get more out of your team and it's not what you're thinking. This episode is jam-packed with greatness. I can't wait for you to hear it.

Dustin
It's the late ‘90s, you're young. You're in tech. Geoff, you're riding high, valuations go nowhere but up in this timeframe and you've got stock options. It's like the Silicon Valley dream but it doesn't go down as it goes down in the movies. Take us back to that Wild Wild West time and what happened.
Geoff
I remember being at a party at BarnesAndNoble.com and I was part of the software development team that worked on that website. I remember a lot of people at BarnesAndNoble.com and they went public. I was looking out the door and looking at a lot of young people who are now becoming millionaires. I was there as a consultant. I was sitting there in the window, everyone was celebrating, and it was amazing to be there and witness it. I was sitting there, and I was jealous of a lot of the employees. I did a lot of consulting. I was doing Nabisco. I worked at BarnesAndNoble.com to launch that website. I did some consulting for Priceline when they were launching. There was a time in my life where I remember being a consultant and watching all these young entrepreneurs, young developers, right out of college and they were making tons and tons of money and there was a level where I was just jealous.
The consulting company that I worked for at the time, I was probably the 30th to 40th hire at that consulting company. I felt like I was missing out on a huge opportunity. Why was I not one of these dot-coms? Why was I not part of these parties where everyone was becoming a millionaire? What happened was we grew that consulting company from probably 30 or 40 when I got there to over 500 consultants and our company came in by the name of CMGI back in the day. I got my opportunity when they came in and they bought our company for $1.2 billion. Going from consulting jobs to consulting jobs and there was a lot of jealousy, I got my opportunity and I was excited. I was young. I was hungry. I was working my butt off. We were working probably from 8:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night helping Barnes & Noble, helping Priceline. I was happy to get that opportunity and it was a crazy time for us. It was insane the amount of money that these companies were pouring into software, pouring into their companies and a lot of it wasn't their money. A lot of the companies at the time weren't even profitable. It was just money that was being spent.
Dustin
You saw it not as a special time. You thought it was bubble. It seems like you had this recognition that it was overinflated. Am I right about that?
Geoff
I remember doing consulting for a company and it was all VC money and the CEO hired his wife to build out a call center and decorate the call center. I was sitting back and looking at the cubicles, the chairs, the pictures on the wall. I was thinking, “Why are they spending so much money on a call center for a non-profitable company?” I remember the waste. I don't know if that's the frugal part of me, but people were not taking care of investments and not taking care of the investors' money. It was gross time. They were spending money left and right. I'm a technical person and I was young. I was being very analytical and not understanding how they're going to get a return on these investments.
Dustin
I think back to when I was young, and you have leadership around you and you think they know what to do within. I could see myself in your situation saying, “This is how it is. This is the status quo.” Is this something that is inside of you to be mindful or to be frugal in all areas of your life? How did you recognize or is this something that you picked up now looking back at the situation?
Geoff
I don't know if it's ingrained in me. There were a couple of consulting companies that I worked with that were constantly raising money. It's not like they had money and were spending it. It was, “We built this huge call center. We spent a lot of money but we’re not opening the call center because we have to raise more money.” To me, it was pretty clear. I don't think I had some special intuition. When the executive team is not working on the business, when they're not talking about sales, when they're not talking about marketing and they're constantly only talking about the next round, that's what was a little strange to me.
Dustin
Did you know it was a special time? Obviously, you saw this valuation. At this point in your life, did you have this feeling in the back of your head like this is going to go away someday? Did you always think this is how it is and it's going to be this way forever?
Geoff
I didn't have at that time a mentor where I could bounce questions off. My mentor was my father. My father worked for the same company for 40 years so a lot of the advice that I got back then was just talking to my dad. My father would always tell me, “If you believe in the company, if you believe in the leaders, you stick with that company.” I never thought it would end. It was a great ride. I was living in New York City. I was in a corporate apartment. I had a per diem and at the time, I didn't have an apartment because I was never traveling back home. I was only working. I didn't need a car because I got a per diem for living in New York City. It was an interesting ride where I didn't have anything that I owned and I didn't need it.
I thought that was how it worked until after the purchase of our company. I started to see the decline quickly. I did have stock options in the consulting company and I remember week after week losing money and thinking to myself, “You have to stick with the company, don't sell your options.” There’s a long period where you couldn't anyway. What you do is if you love your job, if you love the leadership, and I love the leadership of our consulting company, you stick it out. I remember going from the top all the way down to the bottom and it didn't take long. It took six months to see the decline in the company that purchased our consulting company. A lot of people were going to leave including myself. What they did was they said, “If you stay for a year after this huge decline, you'll get a bonus for staying.” That's what they did to entice people not to walk away from the consulting company.
Dustin
What was the impetus or what was the thing that pushed you over the edge and you said, “The ship is gone? It sunk.” What was that thing?
Geoff
I was on one consulting job for a long time and at the end, I remember them raising more money and you felt it. There was a big call center there and it was half full. They were constantly talking about raising money. That was the same time where I was a year after staying, so I was able to get a bonus to take that money and start something. That's what I wanted to do. I was always an entrepreneur and always wanted to own my own thing and grow my own thing. I had the opportunity to do that after sticking in that one year out.
Dustin
You've got a little payday in it. I didn't know that. The next thing, if I'm not mistaken, is you start a mortgage company or are there a couple of things along the way before you get to that?
Geoff
I started a mortgage company right after that and what was happening was a lot of my friends from high school and college was in sales. A lot of them were doing well and they all worked for the same consulting company. My business partner at the time was managing that office and he was frustrated because the owner was not engaged. He was working a lot of hours and all my friends were in the office doing all the loans, so they said, “Why don't you come? You’ve got this payday. You could come, you could run all the technology and marketing and all of our friends will move from that old mortgage company to us.” From day one we started with almost 30 employees. They left that mortgage company and joined our mortgage company and we were writing loans within the first fourteen days. We were closing loans so it was like handed to me. One of my friends who was running that mortgage company said, “Why don't we partner up and start this?” Not too much thought went into it. I knew that I could still do technology, I could still do marketing and still do what I love but yet have a lot more ownership of my future.
Dustin
Did you have any fear? You were going from Corporate America essentially now into the entrepreneurship world. Walking into 30 people that you're responsible for and that you have to lead them in a way, did you recognize anything or the consulting world taught you a lot?
Geoff
The consulting company always teaches you a lot. Coming out of college, it's always good to do consulting. What consulting allows you to do is see different businesses, how they work, how they operate, how they make money, how they succeed, and how they fail. It's the same thing with your podcast. You interview people from different walks of life by listening to your podcast. You hear other people's stories, how they've succeeded, how they failed, and the consulting industry gives you the same exact experience. When I was starting up the mortgage company, my business partner was 100% sales. He didn't know how to market. He did not know anything about technology. All of our conversations were about how bad the industry is. How you're communicating with mortgage brokers, with realtors, or with the banks and how a lot of that stuff could be automated.
I felt like it was a place that I belong because it was in an industry that was a lot of pushing paper. I was excited because I could build a portal for realtors to log into to say, “I've given this mortgage broker ten loans. What's the status? Are they going to close on time or are they not going to close? Can a realtor help facilitate getting paperwork?” I was excited to do the tech and marketing side of the business. After running that company, we owned it for six years, I still know nothing about mortgages, but I know a lot about how the marketing makes the phone rings. I know a lot about technology and how technology could help grow a loan officer from one level to the next level.
Dustin
I definitely want to talk about tech and marketing but when you were doing the consulting thing, it was mainly tech and coding.
Geoff
It was all software development.
Dustin
Where does marketing come in? What made you get excited about marketing being a techie?
Geoff
I've always been interested in marketing. Even with a technology degree, you would sit in business meetings and it was all about marketing. You're building this tech but how is the end user going to interact with this tech? What's the psychology behind it? A lot of tech people need to understand both sides. If you're in a startup and you allow the developers to develop things without marketing elements in it, you're going to waste a lot of money. Software developers by nature don't understand consumer behavior. Where I see a lot of people fail is they invest in tech yet they're not hand-holding the developers of what needs to happen. Developers think it should happen one-way, business people entrepreneurs think it should happen exactly the other way. I always was intrigued by the integration of both of them. Even when I worked for the consulting company, I was very technical but I was probably the most vocal developer there because of my communications skills, my ability to talk to the business owners and stuff like that. I've always sat in that middle ground.
We had very technical people, very technical programmers. I give myself a C at that, but I was like an A at the ability to communicate with the business and then even help communicate back to the developer. The consulting company I worked at, they were very technical where I was intimidated the whole time. I remember the first day on the job. I tell the story. It's an interesting lesson. I showed up to the job and they give you a project to work on. At the time we're coding this language Java and I've never programmed Java. I was there, and I got caught up where I was coding and I couldn't get it to work. Everybody else that started the same week as me they were all home. These guys could code and I was the only one left behind and I had no clue with what I was doing. They left me in this training center and there are all these Java books and stuff like that. I remember staying there the whole night. I still couldn't figure out how to fix the problem.
You have to remember this isa consulting company. Most people are not in the office. They were always sent out to clients. There was this one Russian guy that I still keep in contact with. I asked him a question and he picked up a Java book and threw it at me and he said, “If I tell you the answer, you're never ever going to remember it, but I know the answer to your problem is in this book.” It was funny because he was the most technical person. They never sent him out to clients. They always kept him in the office to help with the tech on the infrastructure and that stuff.
Dustin
Do you manage that way?
Geoff
There's an element but not rough like that. There is a management style that I love where you have to allow your teams to make decisions and fail on their own and then being able to debrief after the failure. I think that's really important. If you're a manager and you're always making decisions for your employees, you're training them to not be decision-makers. If you want to become an entrepreneur, that is important or you're going to be an entrepreneur of one for the rest of your life. You have to come to the realization that not everyone will do it exactly the way you do it but allow your teams or the people that work for you to fail. That's truly important because then what happens is when they fail, this is when your management skills come into place. That's you saying, “This failed. It’s not a big deal. No skin off our back. Let's debrief and break down why it failed and what the learning lessons are from the failure.” If you stop that failure and you told them, “This is how it should be done,” and they implemented the right way and you didn't allow them to fail, the next time it was time for them to make a decision, they will not make a decision. You will train them to only allow you to make a decision and then you'll always be an entrepreneur of one. You will limit the growth of where you could go and the growth of your company.
Dustin
I definitely want to spend some time there. I want people to get a little bit more sense. You'd been through your share of adversity here. We're talking about the mortgage company. You have a seven-year run roughly right around then. One day, you've got loans to close and it's not one loan, but you've got multiple deals running, a big office and you get words back from your partner that the banks aren't sending the money. Everything else is up to close. Everything's normal like it normally is, the process, you've got everything, you optimized it and the banks aren't funding the accounts. They're not sending the money in.
Geoff
There's a term in the mortgage industry called clear to close, which means that money is going to be wired. I remember that specific day where our customers are calling the office. They're at the closing tables. They're ready to start their dream. First-time homeowners or a refinance and they were sitting. We’re in the state of Connecticut so they were sitting there with their attorneys and wires were not moving. Our phones were ringing and when you're the broker of it, it's not the bank's fault, it's your fault. You're sitting there, answering these phones. I remember that specific day. We had multiple closings and it was like a gridlock. The banks were not transferring money at the time. One of the things that we used to do was we would pay for the appraisal of the homeowner because that was like a boom at the mortgage industry. What would happen is we would say, “Come to us. We'll do your close and it's no cost out of pocket.”
We would fork over the money ahead of time for the appraisal just so people didn't have to pay for it up front. I remember that all the loans that we got cleared to close that were in the process, the programs that they were qualified for were no longer existent. All the banks went from loose programs to very strict right away. We had all these thousands of loans in the process where we forked over $300, $400, $500 for the appraisal. Now it's hard to say, “Dustin, we'll pay for your appraisal $500. We got you your loan.” Then have to call you back and say, “Sorry, there’s no loan for you but there's $500 that's owed.” You're not paying that money. Not only there was a strong restriction on the programs, but we also had a lot of money that was on the hook for because we prepaid for all these appraisals.
Dustin
This is like the canary in the coal mine. We're talking 2007 to 2008, the big crash. I can't imagine taking those calls and explaining like, “We've got to start all over again,” if you can even do that for some of these people. What was that like?
Geoff
It was definitely stressful. I and my business partner were going through a tough time there. He was going through a divorce. At the time, we had a lot of businesses and lines of credit. We are at the top of our game. We got a beautiful office. We had a long-term lease. You have a divorce going on, you have this new office with a long-term lease but, yet we felt the pressure of the products that we could offer decreased and our liability increased. It was 100% stressful. I'd be lying to say I wasn't stressed. One of the biggest lessons that I learned was let's say me and Dustin are 50/50 partners and we signed a personal guarantee on the LLC. Dustin files bankruptcy, which happened to me. My partner filed bankruptcy. They don't look at the personal guarantees the way that the entity is structured. They don't say, “Dustin owns 50%, Geoff owns 50%.” If one party files bankruptcy which happened to me, 100% of the debt gets thrown on you.
I remember all this debt and me doing the math and saying, “I have my half. I'm going to be okay.” When you do that calculation and a life event like a divorce or a bankruptcy happens, double that money very quickly. You have to always know how, not only you do have partners, but how do the guarantees work. Because if you don't understand that personal guarantees aren’t 50/50, that they become a 100% if one of the partners backed out, you have to make sure that you're ready for that experience being an entrepreneur.
Dustin
I know there’s more to this. What happens when your partner files bankruptcy? We’re not talking legal, but the impact on your business. Talk to us a little bit about how you got through that because I can't imagine that's easy.
Geoff
It's not easy. Obviously, the first thing I did was I went to an attorney and he looked at all the assets that I had. I had money. I'm not saying that I was broke at all. I had money for 50% of it. I went to an attorney with my business partner and we sat there. He went through all of our assets and liabilities and he looked at me and said, “You should file bankruptcy.” He told me that and I sat in that attorney's office and we filled out the bankruptcy papers. At the end of the meeting, I was like, “I still can't believe that I'm getting this advice to file bankruptcy even though I have a couple of $100,000 in the bank. It was crazy. I remember at the time going home and talking to my wife and she says, “Why don't you spend all that money on a good attorney?” It's like, “File bankruptcy if you're broke. Why are we filing bankruptcy? Find the best attorney to help negotiate all this debt for you.” I ended up not filing bankruptcy and taking the money I had going, “I could spend all my money on a good attorney to help negotiate myself out of this.” That was an interesting experience and I was able to get out of the situation for less than half. You remember the whole bubble explosion. I got a good attorney who was able to negotiate out of all this debt and allow me to still have funds to move on to my next adventure.
Dustin
You went through a crazy ride through this. How did it unravel? How did you leave the mortgage business? How did it come to a close?
Geoff
It was a stressful time of my life. I remember my wife calling me and my wife said, “There's a marshal at our house and is going to put a lien on our property.” I was taken aback, and I went home that day feeling like an absolute failure. I was being emotional and not being able to keep it together. I walked into the house and looking at my wife and apologizing. I was feeling like a failed entrepreneur, a failed business person. She had to accept these papers. I remember my wife looking at me and I don't think everyone would have this experience, but this is my experience, she looked at me and said, “They could take our house, they could take our cars, they could take our boat. The worst thing that could happen is we move in with my mom and dad and we'd probably have a nice steak dinner tonight.” Like, “What are you worried about? What are you crying about?” That eased me because I had so much guilt of failing my family but to realize that it was all self-induced. That my wife wasn't worried, and my wife knew this like, “We’re okay.”
As an entrepreneur sometimes, we get in our own heads about what bad is. What really is bad? It's like if we lose everything who do we have? We have friends, we have a family, and we have people who care about us. Sometimes you have to suck it up and ask for help. It puts things in perspective. My wife put my worries in a reality check. It wasn't, “We're not eating dinner.” It wasn't, “Our kids won't have clothes.” It was, “It’s not a big deal. My parents will take us in.” I remember being upset and being emotional and my father was like, “It’s not a big deal. Move in with us.” To them, it was black and white. It's like, “This is our family. We will take care of you. Stop your worrying. Your health is more important. The stress is not worth it. Take a step back. Breathe in and count your blessings,” is what my wife said.
Dustin
She's incredible. I'm definitely moved by that because whether you're the leader of the household the saying is, “Behind every great man is equally, if not a more powerful woman.” To have her in your corner that's incredibly powerful. Any partner, man or woman. Where do you think that came from? Did she grow up around entrepreneurship? Did she recognize at the moment this wasn’t going to help? I could see other people's spouses getting in fear like, “We’ve got to start over. Where are we going to get them?” You hear the mind trap and the chatter going on in people's heads because fear is driving it. How do you think she was able to detach from the situation?
Geoff
My wife and her family are absolutely amazing. Their vacations are jumping in a motorhome and going to a national park where there's no cell phone service and where there's no connection to the outside world. It's all about being present and spending time with the ones you love. My wife still has that now. Our goals are to see every national park. What I think happened with my wife was it stopped being about the things that surround us. It is all about the people that we’re with. My wife's family, they play board games. They love it and I love it too. Her family wasn't rich, but they were very present. Present with their kids, present with their relationships, and they were very in tune with one another. That's where my wife gets it from. She's very in tune with me, the stress that I put on myself, the stress that I bring into the household, and she has the ability to say, “This is not worth it.” Even now she'd be like, “You're super stressed. Don't do this.”
What we have and what we built now and we've been able to rebuild it again. I was able to rebuild it. If you looked at my story, I went up on the tech side and then I saw the crash on the tech side. Then I had this great rise on the mortgage side and then I had a crash on the mortgage side, and with my marketing skills and my technology skills, I've been able to build this back up. We're at the top and I feel like I'm at the top. My wife is still very present to the point like the house that we have, we don't need this house. We don't need a nice vacation. We could still be present in travel in a motorhome to national parks. We talk about our bucket list. My wife says her bucket list is to take the kids out of school for one year, get in an RV and travel. It has nothing to do with being at a nice resort and those things are nice and they're lovely. Believe me, I enjoy them as much as the next person. We have the ability to pull back and have a reality check of who we are and the most important which is being together and our children.
Dustin
I know you talk to a lot of entrepreneurs. I’m just curious because I have this with Missy, my wife, and she knew many years I should have left before my previous thing. It sounds like your wife has that ability. Do you think that's the case for a lot of people? Is it because we're hard-headed? What's your whole take on this spouses knowing before we know?
Geoff
We as entrepreneurs, we don't want to give up. Failure is not an option. Sometimes we take that too seriously. I watch Shark Tank. Mr. Wonderful says, "Put a timeframe on this." They do it a lot like, “I'm going to give you this money to be successful but put a timeframe.” It's important to know your goals, understand your goals, but put a timeframe on it. How much are you willing to lose? How much are you willing to risk? How much are you willing to sacrifice for it? Understand that maybe there should be a time frame on that. For me, I would take a step back and try to always measure my happiness. Everyone that listens to your podcast, no matter who you are, you have skills. Whatever that skill is you have skills but make sure you're happy with what you're doing. That's always good. That’s usually the indicator that you need to move on is if you're not happy. It's not worth the stress you put on your body, the stress you put on yourself. It's definitely not worth it.
Dustin
That's the biggest thing I learned in my previous thing was I was there too long. I didn't check in. That timeframe is incredibly a great advice. I'm a happy-go-lucky guy, I like to think. Looking back over the rough patches in my life, I got rose-tinted glasses but I was privy to a conversation that you had, and your partner essentially gave you 100% of the burden from the personal guarantees and the mortgage company. I imagine that was a pretty sticky situation. Probably at the time that it had happened, you may have had a different mindset. I almost get the sense like it's your moral obligation in your head. It's your duty to check in with him. You still talk to him. We've seen business partnerships fall apart and things like that and people will never talk to them again. Why is it so that you're in his life when the situation might not have been so pleasurable at the end?
Geoff
My business partner filled the gap where my self-confidence failed. I feel like a lot of people get business partners to fill the void of where what they think they're missing in their life. I understood marketing and technology and my business partner knew sales. That organization that we ran, if I, coming out of doing consulting, was a solo entrepreneur running that company, it would have failed. It would have failed very quickly. I was not the motivational guy. I was not the sales guy. I was an analytical brain that knew marketing and that was what I was. When we joined forces, he was the driving force of that company. I was a very good number two. If you look fast forward what happened, I remember after my business partner filed bankruptcy. There was a gap in him also as far as a gap in self-awareness. We were friends prior to that. What he did for me was I left that company more confident than I went into it because I was able to grow it and I was able to build it. It didn't end well but I sharpen the saw, I sharpen my chops, and he gave me skills that I never had, going into that company.
What happened when we part ways was I went my way because I love marketing and I love technology. I was able to step into something and do my passion very quickly. I was seeing self-doubt resonating with him and I was thinking to myself like, “It's my obligation to help fill that void that he filled in me.” Businesses break apart. Business is business. Money is money, but the truth of the matter is we're all human. During that whole process, I don't think anything was done intentionally. I truly don't believe it. I believe that decisions had to be made that were tough decisions for him, where he was going through a divorce, the business. It was all timing. I don't believe that there was an ill harm where he looked and said, “I'm going to screw this guy.” That, in my brain, never happened.
We made the decision to shut the company down. He's a very good salesperson. I'm very good at sales and marketing but once in a while, we all lose our way. To have a conversation with somebody once a year, once every six months, and say, “You should always be making money. You have this skill set. You have this to offer.” Sometimes people need to hear that, and they need to hear it from other people. I feel like that was the void that I helped fill. As entrepreneurs, we all fail and then the self-doubt goes in. It's always good. It's hard once in a while to go from self-doubt to building internal self-doubt and building yourself back up. What I would ask anyone that reads this is if you have friends or family members that are having self-doubt, you need to understand, what's the most powerful thing that they have to offer and reiterate that with them. Tell them how good they are with that because that goes a long way. You don't need to become business partners with them again. To have conversations with people, to reinforce how good they are, it all comes back to you.
Dustin
My question is do you feel you're self-aware? Do you have a pretty good sense of that?
Geoff
I do. I feel like I'm blessed now to work at FortuneBuilders and with leaders that are straight to the jugular. If you are not doing something, we've created an environment of being self-aware and understanding where you stand. I know my skills set and I'm not the most motivational guy. I'm not the rah-rah guy but what I am is I'm very organized and I allow my team to make decisions. I allow my team to fail and try to have these learning experiences with them.
Dustin
You perfectly lead into this. You're at the mortgage company and I always say the boys, which you're part of the boys when I say the boys at FortuneBuilders, the leaders, the executive team and owners. You met the boys at the mortgage company. You did some loans for them. You were helping them in their business essentially or helping them do deals. When it came time to shift or pivot out of it, what attracted you specifically to want to get behind this venture, to want to get behind Fortune Builders?
Geoff
When we closed down the consulting company, I was going to start crowdsourcing, meaning software as a service where you could crowdsource technology. I was very interested in that. I was either going to go to the software development way then Than called me and it was like, “Let's go out to lunch.” What attracted me to them the most was when I was running my mortgage company, Than, Paul, Konrad, JD, they would always show up to the mortgage company and they would walk the floor and they would ask a lot of questions. They didn't walk into any situation without trying to get something good out of it. They would walk in and say, “How do these phones ring? Who's making the phones ring? What direct mail piece are you using to make these phones ring? You're running ads on them. What type of ads? How much are you spending?” To the point where we spent a lot of money with our graphic designer to get folders printed up. “Do you have that Illustrator file that printed out, so we could throw our logo on it? Who is that graphic designer? Can you do an introduction to him?”
The curiosity is huge and that's what attracted me to them. The other thing that attracted me to working with that team was their level of wanting to educate and being able to learn from other people more successful than them and investing in themselves. I loved the element of that. When I started with FortuneBuilders, we were very small. It's close to eleven years now and we were very small, but I had a lot of this guilt from hiring my friends and then ultimately having to let go of my friends. I was living in the Northeast. Than, Paul and Konrad were up in the Northeast but there was a lot of guilt and responsibility that I felt I let these people down. Not only that my friends but their family, their kids and there was a lot of guilt there. Their passion, their excitement, them wanting to learn and say, “You could come work for us but you're not going to know everything. Find out who does it better than you and have that humility to identify that. Make an investment to get your skill set up to the next level of the people that do it better than you.”
Dustin
They moved to San Diego, you're in Connecticut. Everyone essentially moves from FortuneBuilders, most people moved. You're the holdout. What pushed you over the edge to move the family? Did you feel that guilt of being in the same town with people that you had to lay off or friends and family? Did you feel like you needed a fresh start? What prompts you to go cross country?
Geoff
This story is interesting. It was a risk-reward thing for me. When we were in Connecticut, my wife at the time was a teacher. She worked for a district where if you're a mom and you had a baby, they would keep your job the year you had the baby in the following year. You didn't get paid, but they kept your position. What that allowed us to do is when we found out my wife was pregnant with our third, I said, “Why don't we take this year and a half, pick up and move to California? If we don't like it there, if we didn't like working, you didn't like the community, if you didn't like the area, we could go back, and you'd have your job.” You have to remember my story. I had that big dot-com rise and it fell. Then I had the mortgage company rise and fall. I measure risk in everything I do. Unfortunately, it's ingrained in me based on my story. To be able to move from Connecticut out to California, knowing that we still had that anchor in the sand for my wife if things didn't work out, it was amazing.
It wasn't the story that you're looking for where I just said, “Let's go. Let’s pack up the car. Let’s pack up the kids and go.” I was measuring the risk. I do that a lot of times in my life now. I might not retire the richest guy in the world but what I do is I always measure risk and reward because of that journey that I've been on, the journey that I shared and the ups and downs. When I make money, I hold it a lot closer to me than I used to previously. I have to let it go with that a little bit now. It's harder. You're looking at the returns you get compared to other people, mine are at the time sometimes half. It's like you have to start jogging a little bit more and running a little bit more because of the experience that I had. There are a lot of people that are probably reading now who had journeys like that, who are scared to get back in the game because they had a huge rise and had a fall and they're rising again. Sometimes it blurs your vision of what you should be doing as an entrepreneur because of your history. We all have a history and sometimes it's a great asset that I've built. I've strengthened my muscle over time but sometimes it gets in the way too.
Dustin
I wasn't necessarily looking for a story. The big takeaway for me was I found through life, I've taken a lot of risks especially earlier on when I didn't have a family. The anchor comment that you said about telling your wife. I could have done that with Missy because she definitely thrives and wants that security and so even moving out here is a big thing for us. The anchor in the sand thing communicated to me. It's not about me and how I get my wife that sense of security because maybe I'm a little bit more of a risk taker. That's a big takeaway for people reading this is maybe you're the young gun. You can do risk as we did back in the day when we didn't have a family. I'm curious as well, do you think you're taking less risk now because you've got family, you've got dependents, you've got people or I should say not less risk? How has that changed? How has your mindset changed?
Geoff
It has changed. I have three children. A lot of my mindset is about making sure that they're secure. I always ask myself, “The decisions I make, how is this going to impact my family?” When I entered the mortgage company, my wife was pregnant with our first. A lot of the decisions now are how is that going to impact my children and their education? Then ultimately, how is that going to impact my health and my ability to be a good father? I could take more risk 100% but does that increase my stress level and my ability to be present with my kids? Sometimes you have to measure that stuff. We only live once. Having that experience with your kids, it's like when I'm looking at investments, will this investment allow me to spend more time with my kids? Will this investment allow me to spend more time with my family? That's how I measure it now. It's interesting being associated with some of the top real estate investors in the country because I went through that whole dot-com boom and I never made an investment in passive income.
I had the funds to do it but never had the intelligence or mentor to educate me on that. Then I went down and then I had the mortgage company and I was around real estate all the time. It was about serving others, it wasn't about serving myself. I ended that without having passive income to put me in a better spot. It's interesting who you surround yourself with and how you think about money. Now that I have kids and I'm around some of the top investors in the country, it's great because now I'm thinking, “I made this money. How does that money perform for me?” We all have personal goals but barely anyone has goals for the money that they have. I'm at the point in my life where I have personal goals, but I also have goals for the money that I have and how it is going to perform. To be able to take a look at that and say, “Did I hit my personal goals?” Yes, but then I hit the goals for my money.
People don't look at their money and having goals for their money. That's more important than having goals for yourself sometimes based on where you are in your life. If you have $500, what's that $500 going to make you at the end of the year? If you have $100,000, how is that going to perform? As an entrepreneur, we always try to put our employees out to work, but as an entrepreneur, you need to think about the money that you have and put that out to work. You should be dedicating time every single week to manage that. We hand over our money to investment advisers or people to help us with our money but how much time are you dedicating to that return? Not only should you have personal goals, but you should also have goals for the investments you currently have.
Dustin
That's why I'm fired up. That's my main mission here at WealthFit and the show is that I thought I was going to have that big Silicon Valley payday at that previous thing. It never happened, and I didn't place nearly enough investments. I invested a little bit, but I wasn't thinking goals for my money. It was like, “I'm going to get that magical payday one day and then I'll figure out how to manage money and place investments out there when I have big cash,” and it doesn't always happen. The odds are against a lot of entrepreneurs. I want to get us into marketing. You've done a $250 billion in ad spend management. I'm very curious, from when you start, you said eleven years and then obviously before then, how has the landscape changed? You are offline back in the day, direct mail, and all that but in the bigger sense, how has advertising, how you place your money, how you think about getting a return on that, how has that changed in your time?
Geoff
It's a lot more targeted. If I look back at all the marketing I did when I was doing consulting with my mortgage company versus where it is now, a lot of the marketing back in the day was you throw a fishnet out and you try to see who you could pull up in your fishnet. If you think about the mortgage, we're sending millions of direct mails a month. You do billboards and it was like throwing that net and seeing who you can pick up.
Dustin
Spray and pray, right?
Geoff
Exactly, but now it's targeted. As far as who you could target is very granular. That's where marketing is as far as understanding who is buying your product, who is buying your service and being able to create audiences that look exactly like your ideal customer. That's where it's changed and also the way that we browse now cross-platform like there was no cross-platform eleven years ago. If you're on your phone and now you're on your computer, how do you move advertising from one device over to another? The whole landscape has changed. It's totally different now. I'm more passionate than I've ever been because the integration between technology and marketing has never been greater. If you don't understand technology, it's hard to be a marketer. If you don't understand how a pixel work or retargeting works or how to go down to an IP address to look at somebody. It is all technology now.
I was at a seminar and they put this analogy up on the screen and I thought it's beautiful. If you want to become a marketer, you’ve got to be what they call full-stack marketer. That means you need to know graphic design, how humans work, how graphic design work. Then on top of it, you have to understand the technology behind it. You need to understand how to outsource and get what you need to be done by a software developer and how to talk to a software developer as a marketer. You need to understand the technology of how that works from pixels to retargeting to online to offline marketing. You need to be full-stack. It's not like, “I'm a marketer and let's run an ad now and see if it works.” You will get crushed. It's totally different and much more advanced now.
Dustin
When I had my hand in marketing doing it. I remember at points being overwhelmed because there are so many different channels. You don't seem overwhelmed, you seemed fired up. There are new media every day, AR, VR is coming out. How do you get so fired up when we keep getting more things to manage?
Geoff
The more things to manage, the better you become as a marketer. I'm going to tell you why. People don't hang out anymore in one spot. That means if you called in from a radio ad, there's a good chance it’s going to be on Facebook later in the day. There might be a chance it’s going to on Instagram. There's a chance you're going to be on Snapchat. As a marketer, the more you could go cross platforms, the more that you could have multiple touch points, the better off you're going to be. If you're a one-sided marketer, “I'm a Facebook marketer.” “Great.”The truth of the matter is you will lose to the people that understand multiple touch attribution across platforms. Most people don't respond to advertising when they only see it once. They don't and what happens is that repetition, that multiple touches are what gets you to the point of decision making from trying to convert a lead over to an actual buyer or a customer. You could talk about multiple channels and all these new platforms launching but the more that launch the more opportunity you have to touch your customers more than once. The wider that the network gets, the better you are as a marketer because you could target the people no matter where they go.
Dustin
I haven’t considered that. I'm curious how do you vet a new channel like Snapchat? It's in my head, maybe even VR or AR like this stuff is coming and maybe VR and AR were a little bit away from that. How do you look at a media and say, “We're going to place our dollars here," a new one?
Geoff
I do direct response marketing which means I need to get a return on my investment. I'm spending money, how do I get a return? It's very clear in black and white for the marketing I do. I don't do branding. I'm not working with Coke or Pepsi where I'm putting up billboards and I don't know the return on investment. For me, it's tracking the touch points being able to track the return on investment. If you go to Facebook and then you go to Instagram, then you go to Snapshot, and that's a new channel, then from that point, you sign up. How do you make sure that you track those touch points, being able to track where you're coming from and trying to get a return on that investment? Not every channel, you could get a return on investment. A great example is Pandora. Pandora, five years ago you could get a return on investment very quickly. Their costs for 1,000 views was very low. They've almost doubled it, which means as a marketer you’re cut in half.
It's hard, so you have to know all your channels. What they're charging you to get your advertising out there. The most important thing and this is where my tech side comes in, is the tracking of it. If you're advertising on multiple channels, you have to make sure that you're tracking where the leads are coming from. What is that ROI down to that channel? Because then you could see what audiences you are throttling up, which ones are you throttling down, and that's how you tune it up. This is something that I always talk about. If you're talking to a media buyer and if their goal is to get you cheap leads, that's not the goal. The goal is to get you profitable leads.
If I was to ask your audience, “What would you rather have your business, a lead for $1 or a lead for $5?” People are answering, “I want a lead for $1.” That's not the right answer, $5 is not the right answer too. It’s which one returns the money. I could give you a million lead at a $1 but if they only returned $0.75, I have bad news for you. You’re going out of business. If you're getting leads at $5 and they’re returning $25, now we have something that we can throttle up. It has nothing to do with the leads. It has to do with what's the investment on that lead and on that marketing channel. That's where that term full-stack marketer comes into place is the ability to track that. I think that's really important.
Dustin
I want you to get your crystal ball out. What are you thinking about VR and AR? Are we too far away? Is it too cost prohibitive for you to be looking at as viability? Where is your head at with that?
Geoff
I was at the Facebook conference, F8 which is an invite-only conference that I went to. We've played with Oculus, we've played with a lot of VR stuff. It is early as far as for us to get a return on that investment at this time, but it depends on what niche you’re in. If you're in a niche that's game related, there is a huge opportunity. Meaning inside of Oculus, they have their own apps and stuff like that. You could play VR games and stuff like that. For me specifically, right now is not the time but you should play with that technology and understand that technology. When I was at F8, it's crazy. You put on these goggles, your brain doesn't know the difference sometimes between VR and reality. It gives you the ability to train. You might not have ever changed a tire on a car. You could go to VR and practice. If you're a doctor and you've never done surgery, but you've potentially stood behind somebody had surgery, that's not practice, that's just watching.
What VR I believe will give people the ability to do is have real-life scenarios of being able to get experience. That's the same thing with paper trading accounts on the stock. That's why they created the paper trading accounts, so you could go in there and practice and get experience before you put a dollar at risk. It's the same thing with VR. You have to think of that as your training ground to be able to strengthen the muscle before you put something at risk or be able to do something. As of right now, for that channel, I don't see an ROI on that channel but that doesn't mean that there are not a lot of niches where they could invest in VR and get a return on it.
Dustin
I want to return back to management because that's a big thing I've learned from you and I think you have a lot of wisdom to share there. You’ve got a rather sizable team. How many folks?
Geoff
I have those that reports directly to me are close to eleven. That probably funnels down to 150 to 200 people, but I have some PR team that does a lot of article writing and SEO. My goal there is trying to get a return on investment. A lot of people don't get a return on investment in organic. I have a customer service that works for me. I have call centers that report to me where we have hundreds of seats. I don't include that in the number. They are outsourced call centers. I have software development. I have the CIO reporting to me, so I can still work on my chops in that. Then I have a lot of direct response people from copywriters to funnels to sales teams that I probably wouldn't have had if it wasn't for my old business partner. I have teams who are under me that do sales because of being able to sharpen that saw through my experiences along the way. Eleven direct reports but it filters down.
Dustin
Let's talk PR team. Is it one of the newest teams for you or no?
Geoff
No, it's been a team for a long time for me but trying to get a return on that investment is newer and the way that we're looking at it as far as writing articles, tracking those articles, tracking the lifetime value of those articles.
Dustin
When you decide to create a new team, how much time do you give them before there are KPIs in place? Are you coming out of the gate knowing, “I'm building this team with a specific purpose and here are the top three KPIs I need to know and then we'll develop more later?”
Geoff
That's me. I always go into situations with KPIs. If somebody wants to hire somebody on my team, it’s like what’s the return in investment to that person. I've put key performance indicators on everyone. That's a great benchmark. It also gives teams the ability to thrive for something. If you have five to six writers and whatever that is and let's say it's $500,000 in salaries, what's the return on that investment? How much traffic are they getting to the website? How many people are opting-in? What’s the cost per acquisition? What’s the lifetime value of those leads? People tend to be happier when they know they're having an impact. If you have team members who are role players, but they don't understand the piece of the bigger puzzle of how they're impacting it, if you have a customer service rep, their position is as important as my position. They talk to more customers. Meaning, if every customer doesn't have a great experience and with this day’s landscape, if they leave a review about a bad experience, they could have more good for the company and harm for the company.
No matter who you are, no matter what role people play, they need to understand how that role rolls up to the top. The position that they're in and the impact on the bottom line. Also, they should know how their performance is measured too because then they have something to rise for. They can walk in the office and say, “I want to do this because I want to move this needle.” If there's no needle to move, what do people do? They start thinking about, “Where can I go to help somebody else move a needle?” That's how you make your team members happy, by giving them the ability to move the needle and have ownership of that.
Dustin
You’ve got a lot of rockstars on your team, yourself included. How do you keep them? What's the key to keeping people around that bring massive value?
Geoff
The key is pulling different team members together with other skill sets and allowing them to learn more skills. Why do people leave companies? When you're interviewing people, “Why are you leaving?” “I'm in a stagnant position. There's no growth.” The point I'm trying to make is allowing people to grow. Invest in your people. Allow them to go to seminars, to get taught, to pick up courses or even like pick up of course on WealthFit. Let them sharpen their saw and then remember that you have other assets on your team. If you have a writer on a PR team, you also have teams that are sales at the organization. Have them teach. One of the things is a lot of times, you'll learn more when you have to teach it. I allow my team members to teach other team members, so they always feel like they're growing up. I take it very personal to make sure that I leave people better than when I got them.
People won't work for me forever. I understand that. The only thing I hope is that when they're done with me, that they're moving up. That they're going to be an entrepreneur or they're going to have the skill set where they can provide for their family or their kids forever. To me, that's important, making sure that I always allow them to learn, allow them to fail and ultimately, the ability to make their own decisions. You could throttle down your team by training them that you're the only one who makes decisions. Allow them to fail, allow them to grow, and make sure that you collaborate across multiple team members because everyone on your team has value and can teach somebody something.
Dustin
I've been privy to some of the meetings. Your team has a lot of flexibility. I enjoy it and I'm curious though when life is not humming along here, how do you know when to stiffen discipline? Is it KPI-driven? If the numbers are down, do you reign them in? Do you change your style? If you're feeling stressed, do you enroll the team? How do you manage through the downs?
Geoff
When there are downs and there are downs in every business, one of the things that I'll do isa cross-department collaboration. Let's say that one of our KPIs is down or we're in a slump. A lot of times you need different perspectives. If you're running a team and you're running a team of customer service, what's wrong with having the sales team or another team listening to phone calls and giving them advice or other perspectives on it? A male perspective, a female perspective, a young perspective or an older perspective? If I know this KPI or this part is in a slump, what I usually do is I'll pull them in a room and say, “What you're going to do is you're going to teach a course for 30 minutes to other team members on different teams,” which number one gives them the ability and accountability that they own the problem.
If I go in there and say, “Here's the problem. What does everyone think?” That's not anything. What it is like, “We have a problem. Take 30 minutes and do a presentation to these other team members on what the problem is and explain the problem.” It's ownership. They own it. It will allow other people to collaborate on their problem because sometimes when you're in departments or you have a small company, you get stuck with the people around you. That happens organically, it happens naturally. It's either, if you're coming from a bigger company, pull in from other departments, have the person that has the problem do the presentation. Give them ownership of the problem and the solution in fixing the problem. If you're in a small startup and there are only three of you, find a friend, find another entrepreneur, or find another person in your network who could come in and say, “We're going to have this lunch. I want to do a 40-minute, 30-minute presentation on this problem. I love to get your feedback. Do you mind if I buy you lunch and help us out?” Then pull people in.
It's important to get other people's advice in a different perspective because there are a lot of things that I've done, that I went into it saying, “I'm going to let them fail,” and it worked. We bought a radio and one of my radio buyers was like, “I would like to test doing SMS off of a radio ad.” I'm thinking to myself, “I will allow this idea to fail. I'll be nice and allow it to fail.” It kicked butt and that is the learning lesson for me. Not only is it a learning lesson for the team but I have to take a step back and say, “Why did this work? Why did I have that limited mindset? Why did I not think it was going to work?” Then you have that turn it and teach yourself. Having a team is beautiful because it allows you to think to yourself what's going to work and what's not going to work. If you allow your team to do it, allow your team to fail, you're proven wrong all the time. It allows you to become human really quick. Your team is going to teach you more than you could probably teach yourself.
Dustin
Geoff, I could speak to you all day and go further. I want to make sure we get in a mini WealthFit round and abbreviate this. I hope you are having as much fun as I am and everyone. WealthFit round, rapid fire. What's been your most worthwhile investment?
Geoff
I would say my most worthwhile investment is a lot of the passive income stuff that I've done investing in properties, investing in funds. A lot of times I see the stock market go up and down and people's emotions go up and down. I like those steady income opportunities. Those definitely have been my best investments altogether. A lot of people are like, “You’re afraid that real estate is going to go up and down.” The only thing I know is I know how much cash I have out, and I know how much my rental is and I know the return on investment. If the properties go up 10%, down 10%, sideways, it's all about the return on the money and I'm thinking about money differently. Those have by far been my best investments and that's because I was surrounded with the right people who educated me on that.
Dustin
What's that investment you don't want to talk about?
Geoff
The investment I don't want to talk about is when I had my mortgage company in Greenwich, Connecticut. It’s a very affluent area. I wanted to be in a real estate office in Greenwich, Connecticut so I bought my way in. I knew somebody that wanted to start a brokerage, so I funded the brokerage with the agreement that I could put a seat in the office. I thought that it was going to pay multiple times over because I was in an office in a real estate company that will be doing multimillion-dollar investments. Unfortunately, the real estate company did not pan out the way I thought it would and my return on investment did not pan out.
Dustin
When you're not making investments like that and life is good and cashflowing, what's your guilty spending splurge?
Geoff
My guilty pleasure splurge lately has been putting a pool at the house. The reason why is because I want to be the house where my kids’ friends want to hang out in just to have control of the situation. I don't want somebody to have a pool at their house and then my kids not want to hang out. One of our bucket lists is to go to as many national parks as I can. I want to see every national park before I die. That is our bucket list. Besides the pool, it's traveling around and seeing national parks.
Dustin
How many more, roughly?
Geoff
I have almost 25 more to go.
Dustin
How many have you done?
Geoff
We've done around fifteen.
Dustin
I'm curious as to your routine. To make you at the top of your game, you're obviously running big teams, you're managing big ad spends, you've got kids. What are your routines or rituals to get you performing at the highest levels?
Geoff
For me, one of the things is being present. I'm very one dimensional. I love to walk into my office. Clean the whiteboard every single morning and write down what I have to do. Running multiple teams, those things change all the time. What I would always ask myself is what has the biggest impact on the bottom line in working on that, in making that a priority? A lot of people get caught up in projects that have no impact. They spend a lot of time. We do a lot of coaching with real estate investors and I'll meet people at seminars or something like that and I’m like, “How's the business? What have you been doing the last three months?” “I've been working like crazy to get my website up and going.” It's like you make money in real estate when you're putting offers on real estate. It's making sure that there are reality checks to what makes money, what doesn't make money, what's the mover of the whole business.
Another ritual at night is every night I try to walk with one of my kids. I leave my phone behind and go for a walk. We take the same walking route every single night and being able to ask questions. I probably asked fewer questions when I was younger and the more I get older, I ask more questions. You'll see this with teenagers and people in college. They don't ask questions. What happens is then they start making mistakes, they wonder why they make mistakes. Being curious in my kid's life, asking questions to try to figure out how their brain works. I think that's what gets me motivated, doing the same thing and connecting.
Dustin
Geoff, it's been amazing. I could keep going and going and I appreciate you being on the show. For folks that want to keep tabs with your adventures or what you're up to in the world, how can they best do that?
Geoff
I would say that you should get into WealthFit. I did one of the things that we talked about was you remember the growth of my mortgage company and the guilt I felt from hiring people. When that happened, I spent a lot of time on outsourcing and it was my therapy per se not to hire a huge team. At first, I would start outsourcing because there was this emotional disconnect but I've gotten good at it. If you want to follow me, you should check out definitely the outsourcing course that I did inside of WealthFit and I look forward to adding more and more content there.
Dustin
Thanks, Geoff.
Geoff
I appreciate it.

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