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A veteran entrepreneur offers tips on making more money with less work
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How to Make More Money and Work Less
Susan Solovic: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Susan Wilson Solovic and you're watching part of SBTV.com’s featured advisor series. I’d like to introduce you to our new featured advisor Sam Carpenter. Sam is a widely successful entrepreneur but he’s also the author of “Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Working Less and Making More. Sam, what a great title? Who wouldn’t want to pick that up and read it?
Sam Carpenter: Thank you, Susan.
Susan Solovic: And thanks so much for joining us and being part of the featured advisor team.
Sam Carpenter: It’s my pleasure.
Susan Solovic: Now Sam, first of all, tell me what prompted you to write this book?
Sam Carpenter: Well, it’s a long story but I’ll put it in a nutshell. I had the typical dysfunctional childhood family situation and it went on into high school and I got out of high school and I was at Woodstock and I was a part of all that and my life from the very beginning with the family situation and afterwards was never enough money. There’s always too much confusion, never really finding peace and freedom.
So, things will go on and I was married and two kids. We had never enough. We moved from New York to Oregon. Things were pretty good but then they fell apart. The marriage fell apart and at least the typical confusion that you hear about in life. And I got ultimately custody in my two children so it was the three of us and then I was working as a project engineer for an electric utility of all things still working to find enough money and finding the freedom and couldn’t seem to get anywhere.
And then at the age of 35 I bought a business the telephone answering service and that business is essentially a 911 call center, emergency call center which in itself was a cauldron of cash, a 24/7 operation of taking emergency messages and delivering all at time, one after the other like machine gun fire.
I had seven employees. Well, long story short, we went 15 years and the company grew because the town I was in Bend, Oregon was growing. I was riding the wave. No great feat.
I was doing everything. I was hiring people. I was taking money to the bank. I was getting loans at the bank. I do every little thing. I was rocking those malls.
Susan Solovic: I mean that’s a typical entrepreneur for you, isn’t it?
Sam Carpenter: Well, it is and I was very proud of my work because I could do everything and I could do it quite well. If I couldn’t it well I knew enough to ask somebody.
The company grew but I was working in the 60 and 80 hours a week and my kids at one point we lost our house. The house was repossessed. At the same time, we lost our car. We were living in the office. The kids were on a bunk bed, 12 and 14 years of age. It was pretty bad.
But I hang on and we were paying the bills more or less and ultimately they went to college.
Susan Solovic: Well, that’s good. I mean you were able to send your children to college. That’s a good move.
Sam Carpenter: But for Sam it was very tough and they went to college and that allowed me to go up 80 and 100 hours a week and more than a hundred hours a week and for one long stretch of seven months, I did. I worked 100 and 110 hours a week and I got very sick and coincidentally, the IRS had come in and wiped out bank account and I had bounced paychecks before but we were going to look bounce them all this next payroll five days away at the same time I was very sick.
My doctor had me on Prozac and I was going through all this handy depressants and even Ritalin to try to find out I was depressed. I said, “Yeah, I'm depressed.”
Susan Solovic: Who wouldn’t be in that situation?
Sam Carpenter: Exactly. It came all to a head one night. I knew I was going to miss the payroll and when I miss the payroll, my 14 people, I had 14 people by now would walk if they weren’t going to get paid. They were there to earn money.
Susan Solovic: Right. They were in the same situation you had been all along.
Sam Carpenter: So there I was 50 years old. My kids are in college. I'm all alone. No relationships. No friends, very sick and I lay in bed one night looking at the ceiling running the numbers through my head and I'm sure none of viewers have done that before.
Susan Solovic: Oh, not me. I always sleep soundly. No problem.
Sam Carpenter: But I gave up. I literally just can’t do this anymore. There is no more rabbits and no more hats. I've done up until now. I can’t do it anymore and I don’t know what I'm going to do. I would not be a good employee for somebody by this time. I was very independent.
Susan Solovic: You know what I call that Sam as I say I'm very unemployable at this point in my life.
Sam Carpenter: Exactly. You’d be the same probably. You got to be kind of be in charge of your thing but it was funny. I asked myself some questions and the first third of my book talks about beginning this epiphany. I call it the visceral epiphany.
Susan Solovic: I love that phrase. I wrote that down. As you can see, I've made a lot of notes here.
Sam Carpenter: I'm flattered. Thank you. So what I asked myself is what I have been doing wrong? I mean really, it’s not that I just hire a manager or if I’d said this I would have got you another bank loan. It wasn’t that kind of a question. It was one over all what am I doing wrong. And the other thing I realized was that my business a machine. It wasn’t this big, enormous, massive sight, sounds and events. I actually could break it into little systems.
This system is working well. We need a system over here. This is some waste of time. And so what I realized was that 99% of the systems work pretty well. I realized that I had been fundamental error in how I was looking at things and I realized that with systems. In my head, I thought if I can make this payroll why not take this worse system that I have. This one is causing me the most problems which of all things was our deposit procedure.
Susan Solovic: That’s not good, no.
Sam Carpenter: I would take the money in the front door and allocated to the appropriate accounts. It had been three hundred accounts separate answering service accounts and they’re getting the money into the bank. We were allocating the money to the wrong accounts.
This is great story as one of our managers was her way to the bank with a deposit and lost it on the car seat as she was in a hurry to pick up her child at day care. She forgot to make the deposit and the deposit forgotten at the car seat to be found three weeks later.
Susan Solovic: Oh, no. That is a nightmare.
Sam Carpenter: Well, that’s a perfect illustration of all the systems in my business day where I'm disappointed in out of control systems. So I went down to the office. I said we’re going to make the payroll and I borrowed some money. I got an account ten year in advance and I did put the payroll together and with my two managers we decided we would fix this system. And we would fix it so everybody is good as it possibly could be because each one of the three managers, I was one of the three people who was making the deposits. So we put our heads together and we found a very best way to do it.
There were 53 staffs. We wrote them down, 53 staffs to take the money in the front door. They’ll ultimately go to the bank and get the deposit slip back in the office with these 53 staffs.
Susan Solovic: Amazing, wow!
Sam Carpenter: We made it perfect. It was a long drawn out thing but the interesting thing when I was done with it with them and took two or three days to put it together maybe eight hours of time total. I realized I don’t have to do this anymore and I was using maybe two hours of my time every week to help do the deposit. I actually handed it to a third person. I mean physically. I said you do this now because we wrote in a way that anybody what we call off the street could do it.
Susan Solovic: And it’s like a step-by-step handbook then.
Sam Carpenter: It is. This is exactly how we do it and by the way employee, if you have a better way to do it in step 32 a stupid, let me know.
Susan Solovic: Right.
Sam Carpenter: Because we’ll fix it right now. So it’s in concrete but we’ll change it immediately. So long story short is that my 100 hour work week was now 98 hours. So you could see where this is going.
Susan Solovic: Sure. You just whittle away at that amount of time you're working.
Sam Carpenter: Exactly. A little piece by piece and anybody can do that. Anybody can take their life, their business, their relationships and you can break it down in separate systems and fix each system at a time. Just focus on this one and fix it and focus that one right on down the line and we had hundred of systems and we had to document them.
So at any rate, in the middle of the night I had this epiphany that this was just a machine. I could take it apart. I didn’t need any manager. I didn’t need another bank loan. I needed to fix the systems that underlay the bad results we were getting. And as we fix the systems, the results got better.
Susan Solovic: Now, it’s interesting that you say that because a lot of books talk about the importance of passion. Oh, if you have passion you're going to succeed and clearly you communicate that the simple mechanics are the first steps, the most important steps to building a really sound solid organization.
Sam Carpenter: You know I think we all want control and freedom and the question has to be asked which comes first. I think so many of us want the freedom. We get the freedom then we’ll control but is the mechanical control in my mind that comes first and when you control that what Steven Covey calls as the circle of influence. When you can control the things that affect you personally then you can determine the outcome and then you can economize on time. You make more money. The mechanics have to be there no matter the passion, the education, the charming personality.
Susan Solovic: Right.
Sam Carpenter: Those are all important.
Susan Solovic: Sure.
Sam Carpenter: But so many of those attributes are dissipated away by sharing efficiency. And so with my book I talked about the mechanics. I say this isn’t about doing affirmation and this isn’t about kind of sorting yourself out in education wise or developing your personality or networking. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about what’s underneath so those attributes can really effective.
Susan Solovic: Sure.
Sam Carpenter: Because they dissipate a way to within efficiency.
Susan Solovic: And I think so many times entrepreneurs or the business owner and the founder they have a lot of information here on their head but we joked about it here at SBTV. We say what if one of us got hit by a bus. You know, what are you going to do when all that information is in your head? So writing it down the documentation is incredible but you also, in your book, I mean you're cleared. You're not going to give somebody the cookie cutter approach sans ten steps to making a great business.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you for bringing that up. I like to say it is I believed sludge in the belly rather than something learned in the head. There is plenty of learning in the head out there and as finders’ one through ten steps in the back of the book. But once I say “get it” and get this that the world is made up of systems and look at the systems in the studio right now. Look at the systems these bodies we didn’t have it or billions of sales.
Billion of sales all wanting to be sold out day after day after day, right and the cardiovascular and the muscular system and the circulatory system are incredible. And then the cameras are around in the building and most systems worked very, very well but it has to be a system. There has to be a system in place and so with that you can build on those other attributes of passion and education and so forth.
Susan Solovic: Now, I have to say when I first saw the title of book “Work the System” and I kind of like, “Whoa, what is this guy going to tell me to do now.” But you're right. I mean every little thing, every piece that’s together and when they all fit well at the organization close the most forward.
Sam Carpenter: Exactly. And so the book is about—you know I got some negatives about the title at first, of course. And I want to have a title. I want a title and the more I've gone on doing interviews and so forth and living with the book and talking to people I realized the title was perfect because at CenturyTel, the telephone answering service that I own. We worked on the systems. We worked the systems. That’s what we do and the results take of themselves over the shoulder. They just come out well but every time there’s a problem or an opportunity we go check out the system. What I like to say, what’s underneath the table? What’s producing the results that appear on the top of the table and things progressed well from there.
Susan Solovic: Now, if anyone in our audience other than watching some more segments on your featured advisor page here SBTV, but if they’d like more information about this “Work the System”, is there a website or something that you have to provide?
Sam Carpenter: The website is WorkTheSystem.com and that’s the only place to get the book at this point. It will be in the bookstores by the end of the year but and there is a good download that covers essentially what I'm talking to you about today, Susan. Free download for anybody who goes to the website.
Susan Solovic: Wonderful! Well Sam, thanks. I love it. I'm reading it cover to cover and probably again. So thank you so much for being here. And thanks as I've said, for being one of featured advisors. We got a lot of knowledge to share.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you. It’s a privilege.
Susan Solovic: And thanks to all of you for watching our featured advisor series with Sam Carpenter. Be sure to watch other segments with Sam Carpenter about “Working the System: The Simple Mechanics of how you can Work Less and Earn More.” So stay with us and remember at SBTV.com small business is our only business.