Brad Costanzo is a unique entrepreneur in that rather than starting new businesses…he prefers to help existing businesses be better than they are.
Along the way, Brad, host of the Bacon Wrapped Business podcast, has taken his role as a consultant to a whole new level - something that his clients appreciate and has helped him personally leverage some lucrative deals.
It all starts with being curious and asking questions. He recommends every professional service provider and consultant do that with a new client.
Check out the conversation to discover…
- Why mistakes are not failures
- What you can tell yourself to get over fear and anxiety
- The first question you should ask every client
- How to recognize opportunity in your day-to-day
- The Getting Your Hooks in Technique for landing more business
- And more
Listen to Steve Gordon and Brad Costanzo now…
Brad Costanzo | Spotting Lucrative Opportunities All Around You
In this episode we're talking with Brad Costanzo. Brad is an entrepreneur, an investor, and a strategic advisor to businesses who are looking to expand using proven and unique marketing campaigns. He has built and sold multiple businesses and has been acquiring eCommerce businesses and helping them turn around. He's also the host of the podcast Bacon-Wrapped Business where he discusses the best of what's working now and talks with some of the industry's most brilliant thought leaders. I’m excited to have you here, Brad. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Thanks for having me. It's fun. I'm glad. I'm glad you like the podcast name. It's funny, when I came up with that I was like, “This is either going to be a hit or this is going to go over like a flop.”
People have heard a little bit about your background, but I'd love for you to give them a little bit of context so that they understand how you got to this point in your career.
My career has been one of a few different routes like probably most entrepreneurs. Most of my life, I was in sales in one form or another. I was in financial services sales for a long time as a financial advisor and then as a consultant to the financial advisor industry, and then I started a business where I was selling a service called cost segregation analysis to commercial real estate owners. I knew nothing about this service or this strategy of what it was, but I knew I could sell it so I found an opportunity and I went out and found a company that could fulfill. In essence, I created an independent sales person role for myself and I just went out and sold a high-tech service to commercial real estate owners.
You can see the background has always been sales of some form or another. The thing about sales is that I was good at closing business when you sat me down in front of the prospect, but I was terrible at marketing and lead generation because I knew nothing about it. It was in 2007 when I had gotten laid off a job that I had in the financial services business and at the same time I read Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek and I remember it was the same month that it happened. I was like, “Maybe he's onto something, and more than anything if I figured this out, it means I don't have to go give my resume to somebody,” which I was not looking forward to at all.
I started a small information product to figure it out and cut my teeth and figure out what was this all about, and I used that as a marketing laboratory to start new ones and to create a real publishing business teaching in multiple different niches and markets. Sometimes I would be the teacher, sometimes I would publish other people. After about five years, I sold that business to a group of investors out in New Zealand who wanted to buy something that is existing and buy the assets and run with it. At that time, I was, “Do I start another business? What do I do?” I realized how difficult starting a new business can be. Creating an e-book or a membership course and launching it out there and then all your dreams can come true is a little misleading. It's the way it works on sales pages only.
However, I realized that I didn't have another idea or something I wanted to run with. I have made a lot of friends and colleagues in the world of online digital marketing and I started to reach out and use my skill sets to see if I can help them grow their business. One consulting client led to another, led to another, and in the course of the past five to six years that I’ve been consulting, I built a nice lucrative but boutique consulting company where I work with a small group of clients that I go deep with. At the same time, sometimes these clients turn into partners or acquisition targets. I've had a couple where I started to consult them and I said, “Let me buy your business. You want out. I can do it better.” I've started to pursue the acquisition model a little bit more so along the way. In the meantime, I’ve got clients, I’ve got partners, and I’ve got assets that I own, so it’s diversified. I call myself an opportineur more than an entrepreneur. “There's an opportunity, let me see if I can seize it.”
Through all of that, you've been doing this for awhile, you know that it isn't a straight path to success. Not for anybody, at least that I’ve ever met. What are some of the things that have kept you going when the times are a little bit tough, pressure's on, and something didn't quite work out the way you wanted? How do you push through? What do you draw on?
It probably goes back to the thing that got me into it. Fear of ever putting together a resume. Quite literally, I'm more motivated by fear of loss and I am from the potential for gain. I don't have these enormous aspirations to be a billionaire necessarily, but I sure as heck don't want to have to go backwards. That motivates me for one. I try to do things that I enjoy. We've all made mistakes. We think of failures or mistakes and I started businesses and bought businesses and got new clients that looking back were huge mistakes that I’ve made, and some of them have cost me a lot of money.
Interesting thing about mistakes, I was thinking about this and this is why I bring it up now, it’s not necessarily the root of the word, but when you think about it now, it's a miss-take. In acting or in Hollywood, if an actor flubs a line or screw something up or totally screws up the scene, I guess you would call it a miss-take, but that doesn't ruin the movie. That doesn't ruin the actor's life. It's, “Let's do a retake. Let's do it again until we get it right.” It so happens that sometimes the funniest or the most enjoyable part is the bloopers. I try to view it like that. Like, “That was a miss-take, it wasn't a failure, it was feedback.” These are the ways that I get over the losses and the fear and the anxiety of what am I going to do next, and I remind myself that ultimately it's a game. We're all playing a big game.
That's interesting that you frame it that way. That is powerful for two reasons. It's great once the mistake has happened, because now you've got to a way to look at it, but it's actually even more powerful before you take action. Some people can get so frozen by the thought that something may not work the way that they are hoping that it's going to work that they get stuck there until they can dot every I and cross every T and make sure it's going to happen, which is impossible anyway. Having that attitude of, “If it doesn't work, it's just a miss-take and I’ll do a retake,” it’s so much easier to take action.
I don’t jump in and have it all figured out. I try to get one thing in the beginning, which is momentum. Get a little bit of momentum, get it moving, because once I’ve got momentum, it's a lot easier to do the things you don't want to do because you've got momentum. The car is moving. You got to steer this thing, you have to do some stuff, otherwise it's easy to think about some big great ideas and then get frozen like, “I don't know what has to happen.” I've got some planning strategies and things that have worked for me over the course of the years that helped me get over that as well.
That idea of motion is so important, being in motion. I remember hearing a speech by General Norman Schwarzkopf years and years ago, right after the Gulf War. He said, “The hardest part of that was going from a stop.” They were stopped there and had to get moving. He said, “I'd much rather have an army that's going in the wrong direction but moving, because I can turn them around, they've got momentum, than just being stopped like that.” I think that's key.
It makes me think of something that a lot of people do. I know I do this when I'm driving. If I'm on a highway and it's bumper to bumper traffic but it's moving, and I know that if I could jump off on an exit, I can take this roundabout way through the side streets. It might take me twice as long to get there, but I'm moving, it's infinitely better. I'll do that every single time rather than sit there and sit in the car and go crazy. There are probably some parallels.
We did that in Atlanta coming back from vacation. This idea is really important. We had another guest on, Steve Sims, and his whole point of how he accomplishes these crazy big things, he gets people married in the Vatican and all this stuff. He said, “If I think about that, I'm stuck, but if all I do is think about what's the first phone call I need to make, I go do that because I can make a phone call. Now I'm moving.” By breaking it down like you suggest, get it down to where I can take an action and then get moving, it’s such great advice. I’d love to hear what is going on in your world right now, what projects you've got going, and what you're excited about.
The problem is it's almost too much, and I'm starting to feel like I’ve dipped my hands into so many things and it's overwhelming, but it's all good stuff. I have got multiple clients that I help to get them unstuck and help them find ways to add revenue to their business. Sometimes it's not even revenue, sometimes it's finding ways that profit, where cutting out certain expenses and doing things a little bit better just dramatically increases their profit. I've gotten a handful of new clients I'm excited about working with.
I acquired an e-commerce business that I'm in the process of flipping, doing a rehab and flip. There was some good low-hanging fruit there that I was able to acquire it. I’ve started to put the pieces in place so that I'm not in there doing all of the work myself day to day. It's in a market that I don't know that much about, so it's been a fun challenge to figure it out. I've been working with one guy who is like a mentor. He’s a very successful serial entrepreneur, billionaire family that has got an amazing brand and some cool projects. I've been working with him for the past year and helping him grow not only his personal brand but advising on the marketing of some of their companies, projects, and products as well.
I started working with a former undefeated, four-time UFC champion to help build not only his personal messaging platform in a much bigger way, but also to partner in a way that helps with some new initiatives that he's working that don't have anything to do with his personal brand. In a couple ways, this other guy is a semi-celebrity as well, and through these clients I’ve started to get some cool access to some celebrity entrepreneurs and other celebrities. It’s been an interesting way to figure out how to take the original influencers, actual celebrities, and different avenues to create business adventures with them. I'm always looking for companies that I can either invest in, whether it's time, whether it's money, whether it's fully acquire them or buy them out or do something else like that. I don't take a lot of clients on, I try to look more for some strategic partners, but that's what I got my eyes out open for this year.
You've moved from consulting and now looking through the consulting and all these opportunities to grow other businesses. Where's the commonality? Is there an overlap there where you're looking at these different opportunities and these all build on either a skill set or in an area where you feel like you've got a lot of confidence and a lot of expertise?
Typically, the areas that I look for the most are companies that have under-utilized assets channels. For instance, one of the companies that I'm working with on a strategic partnership deal, I didn't fully acquire the business. They have started off, I was about to acquire it, and I did a different strategic partnership. Instead of consulting, I did a true joint venture partnership where it's an e-commerce business that's been around for about five to seven years and they've got a couple of hundred thousand customers that have never received an email ever. He's not doing any email marketing, he has not done any conversion optimization, nothing like that.
I saw the opportunity to come in and manage the entire email database and customer list as well as come in and create some new channel opportunities for a big percentage of the revenue. I’ve got a degree of ownership there without equity. I've got ownership in the results and the ability to leverage these assets. That's one example of some of the characteristics that I look for. If a company is not exploiting all of the opportunities that are available, or if they're under exploiting the ones that they're currently working on, if it's something that I want to continue to work with and I can add value on a going forward basis as well as have some degree of an exit strategy that makes sense, then I’ll look to either partner or acquire. For other clients that I help out with as far as client work goes, a lot of it has to do with this strategy of building an optimized sales process.
It’s a unique approach to a consulting business. You've used a consulting business as the platform to either get involved in other businesses or to create some non-traditional compensation for the consulting type of work that you would do.
Assuming that you might have any consulting listeners and viewers in your podcast, it is one of the biggest mistakes that I see in service providers. Any kind of a business service, if you're a marketing agency, if you're a consultant, if you run Facebook Ads for companies or Google Ads or whatever, if you're not asking questions of your clients such as, “What are your plans for this business? Have you ever thought about an exit? Have you ever thought about selling? Would you sell? What would you sell your company for? What do you want out of this?” and ask the bigger questions that are beyond the scope of the services you provide, then you're missing out on a potential fortune because you don't know unless you ask. If you ask the right questions, you also might uncover the real things that the client wants.
Let's say you run a little marketing agency and you're doing lead gen through Facebook Ads for customers and you set up their process. If you think they're just hiring you for that, behind the scenes they're trying to shore up the revenue so they can get out of the business or that they can do something else, if you don't know that, you're going to stick in your little myopic service. If you know that this client wants to potentially sell, now you have a whole bunch of resources or opportunities at your fingertips. Whether you want to buy them or whether you want to call somebody, maybe that you saw on the podcast, “Brad, I’ve got a client. I don't know anything about this, but they said they'd be interested in selling. Would you be the least bit interested in speaking with them?”
It's one of the things that I do naturally. I ask a lot of questions and maybe that's one of the reasons I’ve had a successful podcast is I like to ask questions, but those are the things that opened up the biggest opportunities for me. For instance, my billionaire client, I hooked him up with a speaking event and after his speech he was sitting in the audience and I saw him taking notes on a presenter who was talking about web-selling with webinars. This was totally brand new to him, this was not his world, but he was taking notes. He was interested. Afterwards I said, “It looked like you were interested in selling via webinars. What gives?” He said, “I’ve got a few projects and things. That seemed interesting to me. Why? Do you know something about that?” I was like, “Yes, I do know quite a lot about that.” For the past year, we've been working together very in depth. You never know where you're going to get with the right questions.
Using that in the right way, in my first business we used to call it getting our hooks in. We did stuff with clients that were so outside of what they hired us for, but by continuing to ask questions like that, you learn more and more about what they want because they often won't tell you right upfront. It's like hiring a plumber. They need something fixed, they need the toilet fixed, then you learn you’re rebuilding the whole house. To the extent that you can get in there and do that, that's a brilliant strategy. We do have a lot of service providers that listen, a lot of consultants that listen to this, and I’ve interviewed a lot. You're the first that I’ve interviewed that is taking that to the next level. I know a lot of consultants who will do that to get the next engagement, but I don't know of very many who will do it to go by the company.
The best part is you never have to buy the company, but you should know if that's an option, because it doesn't have to be an option for you, it could be an option for any of your other clients. You may be talking to a company who sells supplements and then you've got another client over here who has got personal training and they do all this other stuff, but they don't have each other. Number one, there are always abilities to create joint ventures in between the two of them, but if you know that the supplement company says, “We've got X, Y, and Z, but we would be willing to sell for the right price and for the right whatever. Why do you ask?” “I may know some people.” You can stop at that. “I may know some people; I’ll get back to you.” Go over to your client who is in a complimentary vertical and see if they'd be interested in buying a supplement company that does X, Y and Z revenues.
In your discovery process with the client as an advisor, you should already know where they're at. It puts you in a powerful position to where even if you don't want to purchase the business, you can broker the deal, you can slip it off for a generous referral fee, but all of these questions can be done in the discovery process. It’s funny that I'm the only one who's going to mention that because to me it's the most elementary, the top of my mind. I'm looking for opportunities to ask people those deeper questions. I also understand people get into their business, they get myopic, they get focused, but the opportunity of a lifetime can sometime be one question away.
It's been a fantastic conversation. I've enjoyed the time we've invested together. Brad, thanks so much for being here. If people want to find out more about what you're doing, where can they best go out and find you?
I’ve got a podcast, Bacon-Wrapped Business, Sizzling Hot Business Advice Guaranteed to Make You Fat Profits. They can do that. If any of these insights triggered any questions or comments or ideas for anybody, they can always email me and AskBrad@BaconWrappedBusiness.com. On the website, you can find information of other businesses and more about me and my contact information.
Thanks so much for being here. Great to spend a little time with you.