Gary Nealon got his start selling kitchen cabinets. RTA Cabinets distributed kitchen cabinets all over North America, and even before 90 Day Year, were growing rapidly. However, even rapid growth can be a problem when a company doesn’t have the staff or the framework to handle their own expansion.
Drowning in work and feeling constantly stressed.
Gary admits to spending time on tasks that could have been handled by others which left him no time to focus on his strengths. He was in a constant space of stress and says his life balance was entirely out of whack. Gary felt like he wouldn’t ever get caught up to where he wanted to be.
“I was working at least 80 hours a week playing more catch up than I was actually being productive. I was spending a lot of time of tasks that as a business owner I shouldn’t have been doing. I was super stressed out because even though we were growing really fast we didn’t have the manpower to be able to handle that.”
From the outside looking in, everything was great. Sales numbers were growing at 40% to 50% per year, but sales don’t tell the whole story. Rapid growth at the level RTA experienced can cause issues with cash flow, especially with physical products in the mix.
At one point, Gary shares that even though they were selling at a high volume, RTA was still importing more product than they were selling. A shift in business model from drop shopping to bringing in their own containers had put them in a position they were not prepared to handle. Despite all appearances, RTA was strapped for cash.
The myth of successful business
There is a long-standing and potentially dangerous myth that perpetuates in the business community. Even entrepreneurs can fall into the trap of believing that a business making a lot of money is a healthy business and that the person running that business is a successful entrepreneur. In reality, the definition of success in entrepreneurship is much more nuanced.
For Gary, money was coming in and customers were plentiful, but nothing felt healthy or sustainable. While his company was succeeding on paper, Gary wasn’t feeling any of the benefits.
What was he experiencing? Lots and lots of sleepless nights, feeling overworked and overstressed. Gary had never run a successful company, moving through that growth curve and knowing how to focus his hours at work wasn’t a skill he had yet developed.
Time for a change
Around this time, Gary belonged to a business group and noticed how Todd, a fellow member, always jumped in with focused and helpful advice to questions from other members. There was one particular moment where Todd offered suggestions on outsourcing and down-tasking that made Gary sit up and take notice, the message immediately resonated and Gary invited Todd in to assess RTA operations.
“I realized at that point I really needed the help. Rather than constantly keep struggling with it I decided, you know what? It’s time for me to give Todd a call. He helped me streamline, take the tasks of my plate that I shouldn’t be doing, and allowed me to down source so that I could focus on the high-level tasks like business growth and expanding sales.”
Having Todd’s input at such a critical juncture gave Gary a clear prescription for where he should focus his attention for maximum results. In Gary’s own words, this was a lifesaver, taking a great deal of stress off his plate and allowing him to focus on the right high-level activities.
Under Todd’s guidance, RTA went from understaffed to adequately staffed and into a solid AND sustainable growth spurt.
90 Day Year
Then Todd launched 90 Day Year, and Gary was first in line to become a member.
When asked what was most eye-opening about the program, Gary notes Todd’s teaching on the importance of assigning a monetary value to each task in your business. The ability to step back and look at everything he was doing on a day to day basis made Gary further realize how much time he was wasting on lower level tasks. He immediately implemented this system for the entire RTA management team.
Before working with Todd, RTA was bringing in just under 10 million dollars in sales per year and hit a healthy growth curve in the years that followed. Last year, Gary says the company did just under 40 Million dollars in sales. Gary realized this was a healthy exit point, and sold RTA in order to focus on his next venture.
“90 Day Year was the launching pad to get me into that position where I could shift out and focus on growing the business exponentially.”
Gary’s Advice: Don’t try to do it all
Without Todd and 90 Day Year, Gary believes he would have continued to struggle with the day to day tasks and operations.
“As an entrepreneur, you think you can do it all. I was trying to do tasks that I’m just not skilled at. Once I focused on the tasks that I was really good at, I was able to apply 100% of my effort towards the thing that I was made to do and outsource the rest.”
This shift was a game changer not just within RTA, but with other companies that Gary owns. Now he focuses strictly on strategy and marketing and leaves operations and other draining activities to those most qualified to do them, keeping himself free for the work he does best.
No more “yes man”
Gary is grateful for the gift of structure that Todd and 90 Day Year provided that enabled him to break free from the chains of his rapidly growing business, and for the ways he keeps his community in check. Entrepreneurs are often surrounded by people who tell them that everything is great. Todd provides a valuable reality check based on his expertise in running and working with multiple businesses.
That honesty is rare and invaluable and for Gary, it changed everything.
The biggest lesson of them all.
When asked about the wisdom he’d impart to someone considering enrolling in 90 Day Year, Gary is quick to refer to some of the traps that entrepreneurs often fall into.
“As an entrepreneur, you don’t know everything about your business, even though you think you do. It’s always better to bring in an expert who is very good at structuring things, and putting things in place, and help you get over those humps that usually hold people back.”
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