Success Stories with Marshall Atkinson

Success Stories Ep 29 - "Happiness is Equal to Success"

September 22, 2021 Marshall Atkinson Season 2 Episode 29
Success Stories with Marshall Atkinson
Success Stories Ep 29 - "Happiness is Equal to Success"
Show Notes Transcript

As a business owner, how do you set up your company to work for you?  

That’s an interesting point, and one that we are going to get into in tremendous detail with Mike Chong with Merch Monster on today’s Success Stories podcast.  Mike operates his business out of Oakland, California but also spends a lot of the year traveling.  He has built his business to not only maximize profit but also get more out of life in general.

On this episode of Success Stories, we’ll learn the steps that Mike took to not only run his business better, but make himself happier simultaneously.

Marshall Atkinson  

Welcome to Success Stories brought to you by S&S Activewear. I'm your host, Marshall Atkinson. And this is the podcast that focuses on what's working so you can have success too. 

As a business owner, how do you set up your company to work for you? That's an interesting point and one that we're going to get into in tremendous detail with Mike Chong with Merch Monster on today's Success Stories podcast. Mike operates his business out of Oakland, California, but also spends a lot of the year traveling. He's built his business to not only maximize their profit but also to get more out of life in general. In this episode of Success Stories, we'll learn the steps that Mike took to not only run his business better but to make himself happier simultaneously. So Mike, welcome to the Success Stories podcast.

Mike Chong  

Hey, Marshall, thanks for having me.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah, you know, we've known each other for a while, and you've done some amazing things with your business. I think it's gonna be fun to kind of dig in and get into all that today, don't you think?

Mike Chong  

Thanks. I appreciate it. You're flattering me.

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, it's good, and you have done a good job. I think we're all on a quest to generally be happier people. But quite often, being a business owner or an entrepreneur sometimes is contradictory to that mission. So how have you built Mertz monster to thrive, while generating happiness in your life? So what's the secret, Mike?

Mike Chong  

What's the secret to happiness?

Marshall Atkinson  

Yes.

Mike Chong  

We're gonna get deep here. 

I don't know what the answer is. Bu,t I'm going to Hawaii on Wednesday, for a week, and my business won't fall apart when I'm in Hawaii. So that's maybe close. You know, I would say design your business to work for you. Right? Like, and that's a little general. But what makes you happy, what success is for you is different for me. But what I wanted out of it was autonomy over my work, right? Ability to experiment with different ideas, and then still have the time to enjoy life, but still delivering good work for the client. That's why it's important to me just based on my career experiences. So, you know, there's a lot of different ways to get to that same result, okay, the things that I want out of it. Now -- but how you do, it doesn't matter, as long as you meet those basic baseline expectations of on time done correctly, what I expected, right? So, that's what you have to abstract you how you do things from what you need to do over the customer. I think that's really important. 

Now, the other part of that is people get stuck in what society tells them they need to do or not do. And I've never operated that way at all. Let me give you a story about that, Marshall. When I was 15, I found out they had an independent High School, you could go one day a week, okay, everybody thinks you gotta go high school every day, I found out I forged my mom's signature, and then went to this high school one day a week, and I got the other four days to do whatever I wanted to do. Now, you know, like you can get to the after went to college and all that stuff actually went back to regular high school. So you can do, like, you don't have to go high school in one way, you know how to run your business, the way that people tell you, you have to do. You have to be open at a certain time. You don't have to take meetings, you have to do this, this, this, this, right? So if you think that you have to do things because society like society expects you to do that way, you're gonna make yourself unhappy, right? Because I don't know, maybe I'm going about this a roundabout way. But like, that's, that's sort of just my opinion on it. Like, if you do things the way that other people want you to do them, you'll never be happy, you have to do the way that you want to do it, right? And so I actually wrote down what makes me happy. It wasn't, I wrote down what makes me happy spending time with my kids traveling the world.

And then that actually led me to like, leave other things behind that I feel like people expected me to do, like, just, for example, public speaking. Like, I was doing it. And it didn't actually make me happy to travel all these places and prepare the presentations and things like that. I let it go. Because my goal said to spend time with your kids and travel. So that I said okay, how am I going to do that? I'll still do my work. Right? And still do everything and work with the customer. The other part of that is, how do you do it? Right? Like, I'm a person that always experiments, okay. So, when I decided that I wanted to travel, like, this is not a reason. Well, I just want to try like three or four years ago, I just went to France, and I went to Europe for like two weeks. Okay. And I just started seeing what, what didn't work when I was there. And then I was like, Okay, I got to fix these things to make it work. Well, I'm not present. And so I kept going to different places, and I would work remotely and I would see what falls down when I leave what works good, what doesn't work, fix those things and then just build myself towards the result that I want. Right? And that's, that's, I think how you do it. There's no like, set answer for it. There's not a set playbook. But just start testing, like start doing the thing you want to do. And then test it and see what works for you. And then fix the things that don't work when you do that. Right.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah, so Mike Michalowicz who wrote Profit First, also has a book called Clockwork, I'm not sure if you're familiar with it. But in that book, he was talking about designing your business. So you could take a whole month off at least once a year, and not have to be in your business at all, because you built your business to run itself. And you start with that just by trying to take the afternoon off, right? And not have to worry about it, and then find out what happened, right? And then solve that and then take a day off, and then two days off, and then so eventually, your business runs without you. Because if you have to be in your business, as a business owner, it's a job. You don't --  you're not owning a company, you just have a job that you're tied to, don't you think?

 Mike Chong  

Yeah, I mean, my mom, I don't know if she wants me to put this on your podcast. My mom has owned this. She owns a software company, she hasn't taken a vacation in 20 years, she got our first vacation in 20 years, next month. And maybe that's why I'm like the complete opposite. I'm like, I don't want to do that with my life. But, you know, that's where a lot of people get trapped. Like, I think I just saw a poll where people said, What's your work-life balance like you normally screen printing groups? And two-thirds of people said, not good. You know? And it's like, well, you control everything that's in your business, whether good or bad. You know what I mean? So I think it's unfortunate for some people to get stuck and sort of like not being able to design it the way they want to, I mean -- 

Marshall Atkinson  

Right. So let's talk about your customers to who does Merch Monster cater?

Mike Chong  

Right now if you got money, I'll make sure it's for you. It's the pandemic! Call me slow I'm making sure. In my ideal world, my ideal clients, right now I'm buying anything cuz there are no events, Marshall. So typically, I would like to sell to like, you know, somebody in a corporation who does events and things like that. But all the events have been punted to Q3, Q4, actually really Q4. And I really don't think it's gonna pick up until 2022. But I want to sell to people that know how to write an email, communicate clearly, don't BS around, you know, that sort of thing. Pay on time.

Marshall Atkinson  

So, your background is from a project manager. That's kind of how you started it, I guess, as a career, and then you kind of get into doing decorated apparel, right?

Mike Chong  

I'm a certified project manager. And for some reason, I decided why I leave my six-figure salary, a year job to print t-shirts, actually, that's a good segue back into making yourself happy. I was making six figures a year $125,000 plus stock options, plus benefits plus 401(k) Match a major company, and I hated my life. I hate it. I hated the work. I didn't, I only got two weeks of vacation a year now I travel for over half the time, right? People say why would you leave that for this? Is because money doesn't make you happy. For me, autonomy makes me happy freedom to choose what I want to do. You know, when you work in corporations like that, you can't necessarily make your own decisions, you got to ask your boss, right? Now, when I want to try a marketing program, I just say, Okay, I think this will work. Let's throw this out into the world. Maybe if it works -- it works. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, I'll do something else. So you know, for me, there's plenty of people that work at this company, thousands and thousands of people, that makes them happy, it didn't make me happy, and what my future is gonna be there didn't make me happy. 

Now, I use a lot of stuff that was in there, though, like, I'm really glad that I worked there. And I have the experience working, you know, to be a project manager. Like when you think about screen printing, you have like, you have jobs, every job is like a project, you know? And then I used to be a program manager, like a project manager and a program manager. So in your program is like your complete set of projects, like you have 10 jobs, that's your program. Now, project management is all about delivering work on time, and correctly, and it's harder than it sounds, especially when you're dealing with project teams that could have anywhere between three to playing people on it. at the most basic level Marshall? You do the exact same stuff in screen printing that you do in ad agencies, which is discovery, what does a customer want? And that's requirements gathering, then you have defined the project scope, right? Like, what am I going to deliver to you? That's usually written down in a quote, right? Because every project is different. We're gonna do 50 of these embroidered, 50 for screen printing or DTG or whatever. Then once you sell the project, right, you have to deliver the work on time, and you have to deliver the work to scope. Okay? Right. It's like project manager speak. So just at a high level, okay, like that, unfortunately, I don't want to say this cuz I was on the podcast, because somebody's gonna think I'm dissing them. So you have to have a very clear picture of what's going on with all your projects at a given time to manage your projects. So you deliver them. So like, just one thing I do is I have a VA, pull all my projects into a spreadsheet because it will be easier for me to manage, I track all my order goods inbound to where they're going, okay, especially now all the inventory is broken. You know, by the time this comes out of this stuff, your inventory has been broken for the last year and a half. So, you know, I want to know, it's coming from Texas is coming from New Jersey is coming from here, you know, I want to know what's gonna show up. So I can say on that date, did this thing arrive, it's good and knocked down. One of my risk management is an important part of project management, I need to know that this thing arrived on time correctly from the vendor. Could someone mess it up? When we ordered it? Where did they pick it wrong? Right? Yeah, that's a risk to delivering the project on time. So you got to eliminate those risks by managing the risk proactively. Now, the other thing you have to do is you have to manage all the people on the project, right? So you have to manage the people that are responsible for completing the task, even if it's yourself. I get assigned my own task, I have to proactively manage who's responsible for what, and then, you know, as a project manager, and I think in screenprinting, too like, you know, you're not always you always have direct control over the resources, they're going to do the work. Okay?

So you have to assert influence in different ways that could be following up documenting what's happening in email, definitely document an email, don't document and phone. Well, you can't document unless you're recording them, but you got to tell them you're recording them, especially in California, I don't know about the rest of the country. You know, make sure you document what's going on. Okay. I just had to do this actually, with a guy. Okay, so I've a customer in Philly, okay. I actually have a customer that does stuff in Philly in California. They called me up, he said, We need like 4000 shirts in Philly, by this date. But we got this other guy printing other some other shirts. So I said, Okay, totem, minimize my risk of the two green colors on the shirt not matching. Let me get the PMS code the other guys doing since he's already moving. So I can match it. Right? Cuz I don't want the shirts to show up and you're coming with the inventory. And you have one green here and you're wanting green there. It's gonna be bad, probably. So if I don't ask the guy then I won't know. So I called the guy, right? She gave me his number. I called the guy. The guy said it's PMS duhdahdahdahdah. I didn't check it. Okay, I didn't have a book with me at the time. So I didn't check it. I just said okay, I just took his word for it. I wrote it down. I sent it to production. Right? I sent it to the customer. They approved and we started production. Then the guy calls me on Tuesday, like two days after I talked to him. He says, "Oh, that's wrong PMS number. Here's a here's copy of the PMS number". I was like, I was like this guy. So then you know when something happens, you're like "Oh my God" Now I don't know if I trust this one or the other one. But anyways. So what I did was, you know, I don't like being a snitch or whatever. But I sent an email to my lady that place the order. And I just said, Look, I talked to this guy on Friday, he told me this. Then on Tuesday, he told me this. So I'm going with what he told me today, here's a phone log to show you that when telling you the correct, you know what I'm saying? And then I'm going to print the number you just told me. But it makes me a little uncomfortable that the guy didn't know what number he told me was correct or incorrect. And so I'm just telling you, just in case, there's some sort of question about why we printed whatever the PMS is, right? That's just covering my butt. And that's good project management is documenting these things, because, for example, she got the shirts, and she was like, why do you print this? And I never told her it might sound like I'm making up some, some hokey, but like, you know, I mean, I told her in the flow of things just to keep all my P's and Q's. And that's just about communicating with your customers and your stakeholders. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay, so, right now, who wants to know, where are you right or wrong with a green color?

Mike Chong  

The customer did not email me about it. And what my grandmother always told me is no news is good news. Because if it was a problem, she would have called me. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah. Okay, that's fair, right? 

Mike Chong

When you turn 70, when you turn 80, that means something else. It means, you know, when you get a phone call means you like your friend died or whatever.

Marshall Atkinson  

So plenty of people, I think, make the mistake of trying to do too much. 

Mike Chong  

Okay.

Marshall Atkinson  

And you have kind of eliminated things to make room for other things that you do, whether it's traveling or working with a certain client, or whatever. Right? So how have you excelled at making the non-obvious choices in your business structure?

Mike Chong  

Yeah, I mean, I think I told you a while ago that I just decided to take like half the stuff off my to-do list. Like I had put all these stuff all these things into Asana. I was like, yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do this. And then I was like, I'm not gonna do any of this stuff I just threw away. But that's maybe not the answer you're looking for. So how am I have I excelled in making a non-obvious choice in my business structure. This goes back to do things that you like to do or design your business around yourself, and then don't do the things you don't want to do. So like, I'll give you an example. I don't like answering the phone. So I hired a reception service to do it for me. They actually do it way better than I do. And they take notes, they send them an email, and then you get a text message.  Now, that also dovetails into something else I don't love doing. I don't really love training and managing employees, and they train to manage the service. So then I don't have to manage the person to answer the phone, I have to teach them how to go through the call screen. Right? That's actually somebody else's job. Now, I don't like doing pickups. Pickups are a giant waste of time. Okay?

Marshall Atkinson  

Do you mean a customer picking up their order?

Mike Chong  

Correct. Pickups are a complete waste of time. One, the customers are never on time. So they're like, I'll be there at this time. Two, they come by BS for a little bit. And then eventually, 10 minutes later, you give them the thing, right? And then three is like then you have to actually have a process for documenting that they received the goods, right? Because if you just have a box, and you'll have like a sign thing, then that's no good too. So like for me, I'd rather just ship it. And then now I have ups record that it showed up. Right? And I know Marshall's big thing is waiting. So, you know, in-person meetings can be a waste of time, right? Like a lot of people want to meet in person. I moved all my stuff to Zoom. Other things that people don't are obvious choices, things out. Like I want to talk about stuff I like to do. I actually like designing, okay? Now I was talking with someone who runs a big shop out of Chicago, he said, I'll design live with my clients. And that's like a big no, no, in a lot of circles. Okay? Like we come from an agency world. They're like, never put the designer in touch with the customer. Do you know and this guy was like, we never do that. I'm like, I love doing it.

Marshall Atkinson  

I don't like doing that either.

Mike Chong  

I actually don't mind. Okay, like it's a little annoying for them to like, move it up three pixels or whatever. Oh, but --

Marshall Atkinson  

I'll tell you why Mike is because chances are the designer is going to suggest something that cost the company money that never shows up on the invoice. And sometimes that becomes a big source of pain.

Mike Chong  

Yes, I mean, sometimes, and then what happens is the client, if you put the client directly in touch with the designer, a lot of times they won't, they won't go through you anymore. Like you being me being the project manager account person. And then they'll run all over the designer and that's bad, right? Yeah, designers like stressed out, they're like, Oh, my God, this guy's going crazy. But I like doing it because I can control the scope while I'm doing it. And but it gives me like a creative outlet. I'm not just sitting here making phone calls and emails all day. Like I actually get to do something kind of fun. Like, you know, because I have the skills. So I, that's also like a non-obvious choice that I actually like to do, right? We don't take customers quite well. A lot of people take us in spite of this. It's there are just so many problems with customer supply goods, and then you wreck their one $70 dollar sweatshirt. You know, they paid retail for it. So they're like we pay for our $70 sweatshirt. No. Right? And then like, it's just a problem, and then it comes to you in a messed up way. Like, you know, they can bring you the stuff in trash bags, Marshall.

Marshall Atkinson  

I got, I've gotten those before.

Mike Chong  

Yeah, so it's like just a complete trainwreck from beginning to end, like it shows up in a trash bag without a job number on it doesn't go into your normal process. Somebody else go answer the person at the dock to get their trash bags, then you have to like counting all these wrinkled shirts that aren't sorted in any fashion, then you have to do it. And then you have to and then you wreck one of these $70 sweatshirts or whatever they paid retail for that would cost you five bucks. And then they want you to pay them $70 or whatever, right? It's just, or, oh, I remember at one time I got I got this trash bag full of stuff from this guy who got it from LA fashion district or whatever. And like it was poly, and we put a gray blocker on it's still bled. Right? Do you know what I mean? Like, it was like purple or something like pink. And like it bled through the gray blocker. It was so aggressive. So, you know, it's just like, just stuff you don't stuff I don't do because it just doesn't make me happy right? In the process, right? Like it is just it breaks all the process. You know, there's this plenty of things like that, like, I'm a big believer in continuous improvement. And so anytime you run into a challenge, run into something you don't like doing finally doesn't make me happy. If I can eliminate it, I will. Right? Or I can change the process to make it work better. I will. So I'm constantly like okay, I didn't like we did this, but it kind of wasn't that great. So then we'll not do that. And then as you get more customers, you can kind of like get rid of certain things too. Or you can you know, as you get a little bigger you can like modify the way that you work to be more.

Marshall Atkinson  

So instead of getting rid of it. Another tip that you're doing is you're delegating it to someone else though.

Mike Chong  

Yeah, get rid of it, modify it or delegate it to somebody. You know, make it work for you. I mean like when I did. We did do customer goods. I would I had a big checklist on like what they had to do like you have to send you to have to can't just drop out you have to ship it and you have to put a number on it. And if you don't do that, then your boxes, your boxes just gonna sit here until I figure out where it came from. Right? But then like it was too much trouble managing it. So that's why I got rid of it. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Right. 

Mike Chong  

Like, had to remember to send them the email for a job that was like, not that great.

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, I know how to run that type of program, but we're not going to get into that right now. So, but I think the thing, just getting back to the main premise of the question is one of the things that I've done for a while with some of my coaching clients, is just have them create a pad of paper log on their desk, and as do a journal for a week or two, and write down the tasks that you're working on a phone call, you've got to do some accounting, I do that design work or whatever, and just write down exactly what you're doing all day. And then at the end of the week, go back and rate it to see, are you good at that? And like doing it? Well, you're keeping that one, right? Oh, you're good at it, but don't like doing it? Maybe you'll outsource that. And if you're not good at it, and you don't like doing it, you're definitely jettisoning that one. Right. That's kind of what you're talking about here.

Mike Chong  

Yeah, I mean, yes. And I do the exact same thing, except, you know, you're a little more old school to me, you like the pen-paper, like the computer thing. So I have an Asana board, I have like all these Asana boards, and one of them is just process improvement. Okay. And every time I have an idea for something that, whatever, I'll write it down in there, and then eventually I'll get to it right? I don't intend to do it right away, but I just put it there so I have a reminder. And then at some point, when I have free time, whenever that is, we go through and do it for of them. The other thing I do is, I have an issue tracker, okay. And anytime there's an issue, log issue, what happened, what job, you know, who was responsible, why it happened, and how we resolved it, right? And if you don't track it, you can't fix it. So big on the issue tracker, but put stuff in the issue tracker, figure out what you want to fix.

Marshall Atkinson  

I like that. I like that. And, you know, a pad of paper Asana. As long as there's one source of truth, it doesn't matter, right? You can't keep two logs, you can only do one, keeping two, it never works. Just do one, whatever works for you.

Mike Chong  

 The problem with a pad of paper is you always lose it.

Marshall Atkinson  

True. But what I do is I solve the problem. I don't have to, I don't have to track it anymore. I also like whiteboards. I'm a big fan of whiteboards.

Mike Chong  

I like whiteboards okay. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Getting things done is the secret to success. And you come from that project management background that we talked about before. So, how have the ideas and methodology from that aspect transformed how you think about your current business model?

Mike Chong  

The most important part of your job is doing good discovery work, okay? Cuz, like somebody, comes and says, I want a T-shirt. Well, there are 100,000 types of t-shirts I could sell you. There are heavy shirts, there are thin shirts, there are fashion cut shirts, there are guys for cornfed shirts for cornfed guys, and Midwest, there's a different shirt for everybody. But not every shirt is for everybody. You know what I'm saying? And so, and then like, how are you using the shirt? Like, is it for an event? Is it for this for that? And so your job is to ask the right questions to figure out what to sell. And then if they're like a fashion guy, like, maybe you don't want plastisol? Maybe you want waterbase or something right? Or like, you know, or asking, asking good questions about their previous experience with previous printers, whether they like it or not, like, you know, there are a lot of things you have to do in the discovery aspect of the project to ensure that you do the work. That's the discovery is actually the most important part. Because I could sell you anything, but I want to sell you the right thing, right? And not even just I want to sell you the right thing. You know, and we just talked about teachers, we could talk about promo too, I don't want to sell you just anything to sell you something. I want to sell you the thing that helps you achieve your goals for whatever it is that you're using it for. Okay? So if I'm not doing that I'm not doing my job. Okay. And that's all back to requirement gathering strategy, understanding what the customer really needs.

Marshall Atkinson  

I like that. I like the fact that you're about discovering what really works and what they really want. And you're not transactional, you're about building a long-term relationship. And that's driving your business because these people are going to come back because you solve their problem.

Mike Chong  

Yeah, so like, I'll give you an example. I don't want to name the company. It's a big company. So they said we have a like training program for these business executives, and we want to do a gift to celebrate their graduation from the program. Okay, cool. So, like I started asking questions about what these people were like how old they, you know? They attend a lot of conferences, actually, they don't want the general stuff you get in every conference: water bottle, pen, notebook, right? Okay. So I have to my head in this person's life maybe a little bit, right getting their head a little bit. Their business executive, they're this age, they travel, they go to conferences I actually fit into that. So I'm like, I need all my tech stuff, right? So I started just going through all the promotional products, like what's good tech stuff for these people. Because I have all the devices being a business being an executive I need when I'm on the go, I need my portable battery. Oh, I need my power cables. Oh, I need actually like the little cable organizer that I have like a zillion cables, because we got all the accessories, right, you got the headset, you got this, you got that? You need a little case to like, put it all in this mess right here. And then like, I came up with 5, 6, 8, 7 things that would go in that. And then I did like one that was like a little bit more giftie. But I wanted to really think about like, Who is this person? What do they do in their daily life? And then what would they use and find valuable versus like, just another mug in here?

Marshall Atkinson  

And that went over big.

Mike Chong  

I just sent it. They didn't say they hated it. But I haven't bought anything yet. So I'm still waiting. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay.

Mike Chong  

They said they didn't say send me more options. So this is just a recent experience. So I apologize. I don't have like a, you know...

Marshall Atkinson  

 No, I like it. You know, I'm that guy too. I travel all the time. And I have cases and cords and things and little tips and tricks that I do. Because I'm either in a hotel room or an airplane trying to work.

Mike Chong  

So right. I mean, like, you know, like, especially with promo, like, you don't want to give them something to just kind of throw away. It helps a little bit when a customer has more money. Their budget was higher as like 25 bucks. I was like, Okay, give a power bank. Powerbanks not gonna get thrown away. Like I would always have a use for a power bank unifier you have one? Oh, you know...

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah, I have power banks, but always forget to charge them and bring them.

Mike Chong 

That part I can't help you with.

Marshall Atkinson  

Like what you hear so far, be sure to subscribe so you can get the latest from Success Stories.

Marshall Atkinson  

And now here's Jason Peters with the S&S spotlight. 

Jason Peters  

Hey, today, I want to talk to you about something that was brought today, and that is doing good discovery work. I had a client that had come to me and they were looking for 500 t-shirts, they were fashion tees. And they really didn't have too much information, it would have been an order that they had year over year for maybe about three years didn't really even know was for it was a corporate gift that they were giving away to some vendors and some staff. That come to find out after we started asking some questions. What was the purpose of the event? What was the budget? Is there an opportunity here for the brand that we can offer and some shared mission or shared values of the company? Well, it turned out that the company was a renewable energy company. And they were giving out this gift and they didn't need it for 500 people, they only needed it for 100 people. So a quick solution is that we offer, we offered the typical shirt that we did as a fashion tee with a quote because they were looking for price because finally, the customer had started to shop them because they had pretty much done the same thing year over year. So they didn't really offer anything unique. And then we came in with a solution that was unique. We offer in Adidas gym sack the A312 and the Adidas front logo cap the A632. They are both recycled products. And Adidas has the same shared message as this renewable energy company meaning they want to reduce fossil fuel completely in a production process, the line is going to go completely 100% recyclable and these two items are 100% recyclable, so it was a win. So they offered two options, the package of the hat and the bag, the A312 gym sack, and the A632 cap against the T-shirt quote. And of course, they ended up choosing Adidas because it turned out to be the better option for the customer. But again, by asking and discovering and working on these discovery questions, it really, it made my customer become a solution and not just a transaction. So I hope that story helps you in digging a little bit deeper and doing good discovery work. Thanks for listening today.

Marshall Atkinson  

One of the things that I really like about you, Mike, is that you're really adamant about working with only people that you want to work with. Talk about how that works and the choices you've made along those lines, and how you've kind of developed that.

Mike Chong  

Well back to like everything in your business is your fault, whether it's good or bad, right? You get to choose who you work with. So that's one of the cool things about being a business owner. 

I'll give you a story about my story ad agency. We had this client at a very big company that makes these cards that you swipe and pay people with. And my customers. My client was such a complete a-hole. She would like to call us up and yell at us and like it's not really a fair conversation because as an agency person, I can't really say anything back to you, I have to be really polite. Yeah, I mean, but she would beat us up, she'd be really nasty. And actually, I left that agency, I worked at the next place because I didn't want to deal with it anymore, right? Because like, either you have to kind of suck it up or you do it. So like, that was like when I was 25, or 27. Now, my rule is that I work with people that want to work with, and I don't really like working with you, I'll let you go insofar as it won't take my business. But I have a lot of diversification in my business where like, nobody's higher than 10% my business I can basically any my customers go if I want to. I don't fire them, any customers, I probably fired like three or five customers a lifetime of my business. 

But I did, I did let one person go. Because there was a lot of friction in our relationship. You know, like, every time I would send the quote, I would get the quote, she'd be like, it's too expensive, it'd be too expensive. But mind you we're doing 2-day rushes, 3-day rushes with no up charge to the person, you know, and the art was bad. So like, we'd have to vector it to before we get into production is just like, it just got to me, by the second or third year that I was dealing with the person I was like, I don't want to deal with it anymore. Because it just, it's too stressful. Like, it's money, but it's stressful. And then I have to drop everything else I want to do to deliver this job. And then like, it's, it's not even like, you know, it's just unpleasant to deal with, because it's gets bounced back every time. So I told her like, I don't really want to do anymore, you know, but and that doesn't think goes, I think it's the same thing like with your employees or like, partners, vendors, whoever, right. There's a lot of people that print shirts. Less so for employees. But there's a lot of people that print shirts, and, and you know, everybody works a little different. And you just have to find people that you like working with now for me, you know? 

Like, for me, I want to deal with, I want to deal with the guy. Okay? I have a question about my screenprint job. I don't want to talk to some CSR at some mega shop that doesn't know what's going on. And then they will never let you talk to the production manager, whatever you got to talk to the CSR doesn't know what's going on. Right? And then like you send the stuff over, and then they send back something that's not correct. And then you do it again and again and again. You know, whereas like, I don't know, just, for example, there are small, like mid-size shops where the guy who started the business, who knows everything about how to run it is the guy that you're doing like you're interfacing with still. So then I have a question about my same process. I was like, okay, we can solve that. or this or that, you know, I'm saying, I personally think is better. So that's where I, that's the types of people I like to work with. I like to work with people that are good at what they do. You know, it's just, you know, it's less frustrating for me, and I want to remove the frustration from my life. So I try and find people that are good at what they do. I don't want to mention somebody because somebody else gonna be like, why didn't you mention me?

Marshall Atkinson  

That's okay, so last kind of question here. So Mike, so if anybody out there that's listening, and you could give them kind of one tip, to really kind of do what you do to run your life. So you or your business, so you're making yourself happier? What would you say to them?

Mike Chong  

I'm gonna go back to like, Don't get caught up on what you think you're supposed to do, or what somebody else thinks you're supposed to do, do what makes you happy. Figure out like one, figure out what you want to be doing. Two, figure out what you need to do to be doing that all the time. Okay. So just as a bad example, like if you want to drink every night, okay, and you want to get wasted, just set your business hours from one, just one to nine. You know what I mean? You could be hung over in the morning and go to work at one. Right? That's okay. That's it's your business. As long as you get it done, you pay the bills it's fine. Right? 

Marshall Atkinson  

Your liver might not like it but you know? 

Mike Chong  

I mean, that's one of the reasons I like work on East Coast time is because I can go out and have fun, like, I wake up and it's like 11 I'm ready to go at 11. But it's really eight. So I don't have any trepidation about like, oh, I can't stay out till tomorrow. No, I can't. I just, I'm on time. You know. So, yeah, start figuring out what you want to do, and then figuring out what steps you need to take to make that. Yeah. And there's like, a lot of little different ways to different things. You know, just example, this not me, the guy grant from one of the groups in Shirtport. He doesn't like answering the phone. He only does email that works for him. His business runs fine. Right? There's, there's tons and tons of examples. What do you like?

Marshall Atkinson  

Are you a goal setter, Mike? Do you like to, set a goal and then track it? You know, to completion.

Mike Chong  

I definitely am a goal setter. I write everything down in Asana. And it may not get done right away. But it gets done eventually. Or I decided not to do it. You know, like, eventually sometimes you write stuff down. You're like, oh, I wrote that down. I thought it was important, but it really isn't. So you can get rid of it. But the stuff that I write down that's important gets done, and usually gets done on time.

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, yeah. So are you tracking KPIs and stuff for your company?

Mike Chong  

Right now my biggest KPI is revenue, and I do track that on a monthly basis. I know what my expenses are per month baseline, I know how much money I have to make per week, per day, per month in order to pay my bills, pay myself and make a profit. And I know that number, basically to the number. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah. So are you tracking? If you know that, you know, what that what day of the month? Are you trying to hit where everything is covered? And as you know, the contribution method, right. So, as you know, on day 8 of the month, all my bills are paid and everything else is profit.

Mike Chong  

Are we talking like a normal life? Are we talking pandemic life?

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, for a lot of people, they're out of the pandemic life. They're in the new normal. 

Mike Chong  

I mean, California masks come off tomorrow. I mean, it's coming out of September, but masks come off tomorrow. So a normal life isn't really normal for us yet. You know, I had like a really killer 2020 and my 2021 I'm like back in reality now, where I'm like, just breaking even like now I'm just happy to survive every month and breakeven. I'm like, Okay, great. Like I broke even in a normal month. I don't know, like, my, my thing is a little bit different than everybody else. And Marshall, like, and like, I did not like back to design your life. I designed my life, my expenses are really low. So like, I could hit my like, in a normal year, normal month. Like I should hit my goal in a week. Okay. But that's just me, like, but then now like, it's just, it's, there's no event is nothing, nothing's going on. And, you know, people are still a little bit tight with their money. And so, you know, I'm, I'm just happy to survive, and I'm trying to survive till 2022. Right, because I think in 2022 it will come back, but I'm right now I'm just treading water. Right? Right. You know...

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay. Well, great. Well, hey, thank you so much for sharing your story of success with us today, Mike, as someone wants to learn more about what you do, or maybe how you can help them. What is the best way to contact you?

Mike Chong  

Sorry, I stopped consulting and doing public speaking so don't contact me. Contact Marshall.

Marshall Atkinson  

You're public speaker speaking now.

Mike Chong  

You can send me a message on Facebook.

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay, so send my questions or comments on Facebook.

Mike Chong  

All right. Don't send them after me. I don't want them stalking me and

Marshall Atkinson  

Nobody's stalking you. 

Mike Chong  

Oh, no, dude, I get emails into the like, into my info thing and all that people be like, "Can you explain how to do search marketing and to me?" Like hell, no time for that.

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay, well, how about this: if you don't have a job for Mike leave him alone.

Mike Chong  

People were like, "Hey, can you can you like take the time to give me a call about blah, blah, blah". And I'm like, "No, I have a business to run".

Marshall Atkinson  

All right. Well, thanks a lot, Mike. I appreciate you. 

Mike Chong  

I appreciate you too, Marshall. 

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, that's our show today. Thanks for listening. And don't forget to subscribe so you can stay up to date on the latest Success Stories episodes. Have any suggestions for future guests or topics? Send them my way and [email protected] and we'll see you next time.