What motivates you? What do you really want out of your business… and life? And how are you going to get it? You might think you’ve answered those questions long ago. But Tony Grebmeier knows you can dig deeper and find the real truth.
Everybody has trials and tribulations in their career… and at home. Tony, a partner in ShipOffers, an eight-figure supplement business, certainly had his share. But you’ll be inspired by how he dealt with his issues to find your own truth. When Tony found him, he was able to take on anything that came at him.
You’ll find out how he did it in this interview. We also get into…
- The role of “play” in building a thriving business
- How to take goals from fantasy to reality
- The Curse of Me Too
- Implementing the G.R.O.W.T.H. Mindset at work… and at home
- Two dangerous words entrepreneurs should avoid
- And so much more...
Listen to Steve Gordon and Tony Grebmeier now…
Tony Grebmeier | Secrets of Building an 8-Figure Business
We're talking with Tony Grebmeier. Tony launched this first online business in Silicon Valley. It was a web traffic and marketing company which eventually turned into his first supplement company. In 2001, he went on to build a second supplement company, ShipOffers, with two of his childhood best friends: Doug Roberts and Gil Gerstein. Sixteen years later, ShipOffers is an eight-figure business that has been an Inc. 5000 company for the past four years in a row. Tony, if you've been in it this long, you've been on the rollercoaster. You’ve been up and down. You've been through probably everything you can go through as an entrepreneur. If you stay in long enough, it seems like you get to see it all. I want to welcome you to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast and I'm excited to speak with you.
What an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Steve. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm excited to talk to your audience and hopefully leave them inspired and go make a change in their life because we all have a change we could be making.
You’ve been in this current business a long time and been in the overall game for awhile. Why don't you give everybody just a little bit of context so they understand your background and what got you to this point?
I'd love to. If I back up to how I got started in life and business, it’s pretty straightforward. I grew up in a small town in Santa Cruz, California and I lived in a neighborhood called Rolling Woods. On my street were some crazy kids just like me, or maybe I was the crazy one and they were just kids. When you're playing as a child with your friends, you never want to stop playing. You just want to have fun. You hear your parents calling in the background, “Come home,” and you're like, "No, one more shot." Fast forward in 1996, one of those friends was in college and he called me and he says, "I've got a great idea." His name was Gil Gerstein and he goes, "Would you like to go to Vegas and take a look at a business opportunity?" I'm like, "I'm a radio DJ. I make $35,000 a year. I'm pretty good." We go to Vegas and we started talking and he's like, "The internet." I'm like, "What's the internet?" He's like, "It's that thing that's coming out that everybody should be on." I'm like, "I have an address at CompuServe." He's like, "There's so much more."
We started talking and he got me interested and before you know it, we were building websites. We were making money building websites. We learned how to drive traffic. We ended up starting to sell traffic to Yahoo and Google through various ways. I was truly inspired. Fast forward to 2001, I had already been in a health supplement business with Gil, I saw our other friend from childhood just getting his MBA from Pepperdine. Gil and I said, "We don't have anybody who knows how to manage finances. We always make it and we seem to spend it." Doug said, "I would love to partner with you." We launched EyeFive, which is the parent company, and then ShipOffers. In 2001, we were three crazy kids who grew up together from Santa Cruz living in Southern California figuring out how to make money. It was fun but I had been burned a couple times in the supplement game. Vendors didn't send product when they said they were going to send it, banks got charged back notices. We were always finding traffic to be hard problems to come by. The next thing I know, I'm like, "Why don't we look at the other side of the industry? Why don't we take everything that we had learned in four and five years and apply it to helping marketers become successful?" That's how EyeFive became what it is now, which is the company that pushed ShipOffers. We just changed our name midway.
Since 2001, we've been helping online marketers in the health and wellness industry. We help people in survival. We help people to take the money concept or the money component and move it to the side. We help people to launch products faster without having to come up with so much capital, and then we send you an invoice after it ships to your customer. That's our business, essentially. Along the way, as you talked about the rollercoaster, I've figured out I'd probably fallen off a dozen or so times. Somehow I get crazy enough to get back in the line, get back on the rollercoaster, and do it all over again. I got to work with those childhood friends, those people every single day. You probably have heard this, “Don't go into business with your friends. It's a bad idea.” I'm so glad that I didn't listen to everybody who told me it was a bad idea. It's been the best experience. We have the greatest conversations, watch their kids grow up, my kids grow up and we learned to have fun. At the end of the day, just like I started, it's all about play. I want to have fun when I come to the job that I love. We have 33 employees that make up our team and we want to come here and have fun. That's myself and my business, and I love what I get to do.
I love the way you pivoted partway through. We all get faced with those moments and sometimes it's hard to make the decision to do that. I've been through that decision point. To leave behind what you've built up to that point to go do something different is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Congratulations for having made that decision. It sounds like it's worked out well. I know things probably didn't work perfectly through all of those years. There were probably some bumps along the road. What are some of the ways that you have persevered, maybe the mindsets that you've drawn on or the practices that you've found valuable that helped you push through when things got difficult?
It comes down to the honesty component, which I ignored for a long time in my early working career as an entrepreneur. I'm not trying to be dishonest to people, I was lying to myself and I wasn't happy. It wasn't that anybody was doing something to me. I just thought like I had it all figured out. I got married really young. My wife was 20and I was 25. We had a kid by 26, she was 20. The next thing I know, I'm now a parent. I hadn't grown up enough and my friends are out still having fun playing and going to parties. I was like, "Am I missing out?" I have FOMO, the fear of missing out like, "What's going on?" I started having the ‘me toos.’ I just started saying to myself like, "I wonder if that's me too." That progressed and I had my second child. In my early thirties, I started thinking to myself like, "Do I even want to live anymore? Do I want to come to work every day?” I love my friends, I love my family, I’m great friends with everybody but I was sad inside. I'd never dealt with some stuff that happened in my childhood. That's what I began to say to myself, "What opportunities do I have?" I said, "I could give up," which I tried. Luckily somebody knocked on my door and saved my life.
I don't want to make this all sad and depressing, but it's stuff that I don't think entrepreneurs and business owners talk about. We spend a lot of our time in isolation. We spend a lot of our time alone. We spend a lot of our time working. You come home from a busy day at the office and your spouse may say, "How has work?" and you're like, "It was good," but we never really talk. We don't have those deep conversations. I wasn't having those deep conversations. I wasn't being stimulated in that way. It wasn't anything that anybody was doing. It was just me not being honest, me being real, me being open. On October 9, 2008, I attempted suicide and I got a knock on the door and a friend of mine came rushing and he gave me a big hug and he said, "Tony, your life has meaning and purpose for what you're doing right now.” “Does it?" I wasn't proud. I was separated from my wife. My family was a mess. My work was a mess. This business that I started with my best friends was a mess. Nobody did it. It was all me.
I started on 10-24 of ‘08. I got clean off of drugs. I decided right then and there to make some life-changing decisions, but I couldn't change one component. I still needed a substance every day in my life to get me through and that was alcohol. I eventually got broke and got the gift on December 15, 2008 and I haven't had a drink since. I finally got the idea that the life I wanted needed to change one thing and that was everything. If I change that one thing, everything changed. What I've seen is a business that was just teetering on a couple of million dollars to then break into eight figures. We had our biggest year at year seventeen in the business. How's that possible? Our friendships with my business partners, watching them and their kids grow up, it's better than ever. My wife and I are going to celebrate twenty years this year. My oldest is in college, excelling and thriving. We've dealt with death, we've dealt with life and everything that's come at it. The one thing that hasn't changed is my desire to pick up. You have to find out what that looks like for you. I had to go through what I went through to get to the point where I realized, "My life is more than my excuses in my past. My life is what's presently going on." No one had ever sat down with me and asked me, "What did I want?" The vision of an entrepreneur is we see somebody on TV and say, "Me too, I want to go play that role. I want to go be like that guy. That guy's got a nice car. If I do some work, maybe I'll have a nice car." That's where I started running into all these false things that I started proving true and vice versa. I started seeing all these things that were true and proving them wrong.
This whole notion of want is interesting. This has come up a couple of times in all the interviews we've done. It's a really powerful word that we sweep under the rug way too often. We're taught not to be honest about what we want as if we're being greedy if we want things. It's very easy, particularly in our culture, to attach ourselves to what somebody else has as the picture of, “This is what I should want.” Should is another dangerous word that we don't pay close enough attention to. Talk a little bit about how you got to that point. Before you do, I just want to share one quick little story. I was walking with a friend of mine in Winter Park, Florida which is an upscale strip of shops that had been there for probably close to 100 years. He was debating about whether or not he should buy something. I stopped and I looked at him and I said, "The only reason to ever get that is because you want it," because he was going through all these reasons of justifying. I said, "The only reason to do that is because you want it and the only justification for it is because you want it. If you want it, then just stop there and get it. Let's end this conversation." This was about day three of him going back and forth debating with me whether or not he should buy this thing. It became clear to me at that point the power of the word want, the control it puts over us.
My grandfather had a simple way of putting it. He said, "If you want something bad enough, wait a week and if you still want it, go get it." Usually what happen is at about day four or five, if that want isn't big enough, you'll forget about it and you'll move on to something else. I learned that. Some of the things that I've learned that I think are the most important lessons in life is that you have to learn by getting your knees scraped. You have to learn by falling down. I just love to get up faster after I failed. I'm still one of those people willing to fail. I'll fail ten times, but I'll get up eleven times. The day that I don't get up, I'm no longer on planet earth. That's what I realized. I'm just determined. I watched the great little Tom Brady and Time video. It’s about twelve and a half minutes long about his dedication even doing what he's been doing for the past eighteen years and how he gets up every single day and pushes himself. When everybody else isn't pushing himself, his motivation comes from watching videos he sees in the back when he's working out in the gym, getting hit on the side of Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning or Eli or whoever it was, still getting up and he's just sitting there getting hit side-by-side. He’s going, "I'm going to be better than I was yesterday."
Some of the lessons that I learned is I had to change my mindset. My mindset was I was a quitter. I was a quitter growing up, but my mom was always there to remind me, "Son, don't quit. Today is not a good day." Then I heard it as I got older, "Never quit on a bad day." Those were some good reminders. I got into this pattern and that's the thing that changed. I changed the habits and the patterns and the things that I was doing because someone sat down with me and laid out a roadmap. He said, "If you want what you want, are you willing to do certain things to get it?" I said, "Yes." Right in that very moment, the pattern was laid out on how I could achieve everything I ever dreamed of. I literally have reworked it so it's easier and it's applicable to more people. I could understand how I could help teach this. A gift given to me is no good if I can't give it to somebody else because someone took time out of their life to help me. I have made service the number one component in my life. By helping others get what they want, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar all say you'll get everything you need.
It's clear from our conversation that that's true. Tony, you were talking about this roadmap that you were shown that laid out how to get what you wanted and get clear about how to move your life forward. Can you talk a little bit about that roadmap?
It’s just great. Fantasy to reality, everybody's got a bunch of fantasies. We got all these things that we think we really want. We put them down on a piece of paper or we throw them up on a wall, and we're like, "That's what I want out of life. I want to travel to that country. I want to marry that person. I want to drive that car." I call those a bunch of fantasies. I'm not saying what you put on your wall is wrong, I'm just saying you’ve never built a roadmap to get it. It's a bunch of pictures up on a wall. I said, "What does that mean?" Fantasy. We all have fantasies. Tell them to a friend, tell them to somebody, they become possibilities. You take what's on the wall and you share it with a friend. You're like, "This is what I'm working on. This is what I want to achieve. This is the thing that I'm after. They are goals, they are things, whatever you want to call them.” I said, "Everybody then begins to see. You've heard the old saying, anything's possible." I'm starting to tell you my possibilities on the show. I'm going to share the roadmap. The reality though is there is a certain amount of things that have to happen for that to become a reality. I go from fantasy mindset to the possibility of sharing with you. To get to the reality side, there is this gap. I got to remind myself, “I'm a quitter and I played the game Chutes and Ladders enough to know that along the path I'm going to fail. I'm going to fall down.” Help people to see that you just have to bridge the gap. You have to make the gap steps. You have to say, "If you do this, you'll get to that." "I don't know how." That's the key component, ask.
When we were little kids going to school, we were good at asking to go to the bathroom. We were good at asking our parents, “Can we go to Bob's house and play?” We were good at asking for things. Somehow in high school and even in college, we stopped asking and we started assuming. That's where I believe we failed. What it is, it isn't like I don't need your permission but I need your help because I've only gotten to so far in life by knowing what I know, but I've never gotten to the next level. Who can I ask in my network? Maybe my neighbors, maybe my mom, my dad, my friends, and my family. "Do you know a carpenter? Do you know an electrician? Do you know somebody that's wrote a book? Do you know somebody who's traveled to Italy? Do you know somebody who's driven this car? Could you introduce them to me?" What I've realized from possibility to reality is a bunch of asks. Here's what happens though. We forget to ask enough and we fall down. That's when we begin to want to quit. We say, "Screw it. This is not going to work for me. I'm going to fail anyways. I've already failed. I might as well give up. I'm going to go back to what I had before.” It’s so much easier because it was like putting on your underwear. It was just old routine. Along the way, what I've learned is that the possibility is in all of us. The greatness is in all of us.
You need a good coach. You need a good mentor. You need somebody to spend about an hour and sit down and build some stuff. To make it really simple to help you bridge the gap, I'm going to put in the middle right there the GROWTH Mindset. G stands for grateful. If I can help somebody to be grateful and be in gratitude, then I've got a chance to help them. The second letter is R. I need them to be real with themselves and I need them to be real with others. If they are real and they're okay with, "I failed. I made some mistakes. I'm humbling myself," that goes with the gratitude piece. The next piece is open-minded. If you can get somebody to be open-minded about what I'm sharing, about what they're going on in their life, maybe it's not working and you can show them some blind spots, you have a chance of helping them. The W stands for wise. Be wise. What I say may or may not be applicable to you, but be wise enough about you spend some time. Go look into the word and go spend some time in the books. Go ask some friends like, "I heard this guy talking about this. What do you think?" The T is to be teachable. Be teachable, download podcasts, read books, journal, spend time learning. Never stop learning. Education is the key. It may have not been for me when I was in high school, but the essential ingredient that has gotten me to where I'm at is that I've never stopped learning. If you can get to the end, the H stands for happy. You can be happy. You can be happy that life works. What I love is playing it backwards. I'm happy. I'm teachable, so I'm open-minded. What are all the other things that I am? I'm real. I'm totally finding myself in there. I've been wise and I've been grateful. My life works. It gets to the gap a little closer.
What you're going to see in a short period of time is your relationships are much more authentic. Instead of being on the surface which so many people talk about, you're going to be talking about the stuff that really hurts. Then you're saying to your friend, "You know why I want to do that? My family had never achieved anything. My mom and my dad, they had to work three jobs to put food on the table. I would love nothing more than to take my mom on a trip and just tell her thank you. I've never done a trip anywhere in the world, but you know what? My mom, since I was very little, said she always wanted to go to X and I'm going to do that. I'm going to put something in front of me that is inspiring, something that is going to make me happy." If you do that, that gap starts to get so small, they’ll become little steps and you realize it's not that hard. It's just the formula we've been using has been wrong.
I love working that backwards. I'm a big believer that you choose your own happiness. Many of us wake up and we look around at our circumstance, and we decide at the beginning of the day it's going to be a bad day. I went through a period where I had a lot of bad days in a row. I finally woke up and said, "Enough of this. We're going to be happy." It's funny things began to improve almost immediately, at least my experience of them. One of the wonderful things about what you laid out is that's a formula for changing your experience in the world. You control how you experience the things around you. Most of us can't completely control our circumstance, but we can certainly control how we choose to experience it, starting with gratitude and ending with happiness. You get that power back.
It's the essential ingredient that I was missing. We can all experience joy. I still remember that scene in Forrest Gump. When Forrest is just out running and he's got mud all over his face, someone hands him a yellow shirt and then he puts the yellow shirt on his face and the guy opens it up and it's like a big smiley face. The guy is happy. The next thing you know, he prints tons of t-shirts and we have Happy. I know it's not real, but it's the idea. In us is the ability at any time to choose to be happy. It's not something that everybody can do, but if we choose to we can say, "I'm happy.” Today is a good day. I've got a chance to be on your podcast. I've got a chance to go to lunch with a fellow entrepreneur. I've got a chance to see my friends, work with my teammates. I've got a chance to be up at 6:45 this morning and sit down and do some work with a fellow entrepreneur at a coffee shop. I got a chance to take care of my two dogs and see my son." That's how I started my day. It's been a good day. It's all by choice though because I could say, "My alarm didn't go off when it was supposed to. I was late for my meeting and I allowed all these circumstances to take me out of the day." I won't allow myself to tap out. I won't. I have to be real, I have to be open, and I have to be wise that I'm growing. If you can take the GROWTH Mindset and implement it into your life, I promise you in a short period of time, all the gaps that you have, things won't seem so far anymore. They'll seem really close. It'll just seem like you're steps away, you're things away, you're days away, you're moments away, you're hours away. Before you know it, the seconds do matter, but you know you're going to be doing and spending it on the things that you really love.
I first got into business in the mid-‘90s. Back at that point, I was an employee for a company. These conversations weren't conversations that went on. I don't recall ever having these conversations. I can tell you now all the interviews that we've done with folks on this podcast, this type of conversation comes up more than you'd ever imagine. What do you think has changed between the ‘90s when it was, “Suck it up buttercup,” and now? It's a great change because we're starting to take control over our not just as entrepreneurs but as human beings in a way that we maybe didn't twenty years ago?
You just hit the head perfectly. It's take control. You wrestle back the loop, the monster, which is the rollercoaster. You've got to get people back into the line of life. We’re so good at getting out of the rollercoaster and saying like, "I've got to get to the next thing." We all walk around with fast passes. We don't spend any time anymore in the line. When you're having these types of conversations, guess where that is? That's in the line while you're waiting, the anticipation. You're talking about what's coming up or, "What did you do this weekend? What are you going to do tomorrow? Can I help you? What book are you reading? If we're spending all our time on the rollercoaster, we’re like, "Ahhh," the whole time and we'd get off and we run to the next ride to get onto the next one because we have FOMO once again. We have the fear of missing out. We think we're going to miss out on something. If you can get people back into the line, that's what's changing. People are spending more time back in the line. They're talking about life again. They're breaking bread. They're having conversations. If you said the average of your entrepreneurs coming on your show are talking deeper, you're doing something right. You're seeking the right people to have on your show. What they're finding out is probably something that changed for them, which is they don't want to do it like everybody else.
I saw my father, I saw my mom come home from working three jobs coming home just to be exhausted, to absolutely collapse into bed at night. I don't want to do that. I'm so grateful that my mom did what she did to put food on the table for my sister and myself, but that doesn't look fun. If you ask my mom, she loved her job. She loved what she did because she knew she was providing. I want to be real with people. So many people are missing connection and community, and we're starving for it. When you can get into it, that's why it stops you. You're like, "I have a lot of conversations with entrepreneurs now." It's because of that. People are looking for that. I don't watch the news. I don't care what's going on. I control what I can control, which is me and how I want the world to see me and also how I show up for my wife. My wife will still tell me like, "You're being an a-hole. You need to change your mindset." I'm like, "You're right.” She's like, "Let's talk about it." Those are the reasons why I think I'm not successful. What I am is mindful of where I've been. I'm aware of what I want and I'm willing to give up certain things to get it. That’s it.
That sums it up perfectly. I know you've got two projects. You've got ShipOffers.com which is your company. I'd love for you to just share a little bit about that for those who may be a fit for it. Then I'd like for you to talk about Drainers and Drivers. To me, that sounds absolutely intriguing and fits with the rest of our conversation.
ShipOffers is what I love to do every single day. Get out of bed, come to work, and hang out with my best friends. We help marketers in health and wellness space and survival space. The fulfillment arena gets ship done and take products, if it's an insert, if it's a book, whatever it may be, and ship it to their customer. We do that every single day. We did 1.5 million shipments last year. We spend a lot of our time putting on your label onto our products. We work with a whole bunch of labs all across the United States. We've been in business seventeen years, an Inc. 5000 company four years in a row. It's about having conversations and how to help marketers get more time with their friends and their family and less time having to do stuff that is a drainer, which is a great transition as you ask about what is Drainers and Drivers? Drainers and Drivers is an awareness exercise to figure out what you were created to do or what you should be spending your time doing versus the stuff that you probably are stuck doing.
A good buddy of mine, Kevin Cohen, several years ago, who happens to be our consultant, took us through a drainers and drivers activity and said, "Tony, Gil, Doug, why don't you list everything that you're doing in your day that drains you and everything that drives you." I said, "Drains me?" I said, "About 90% of what I'm doing in my day is a total drainer and about 10% drives me." He goes, "What happens if we can flop that?" I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "We're all on the same bus, just maybe in the wrong seat. Why don't we see if we could do that, but first do the exercise," so we did it. I realized that I could outsource or I could hand off. Gil is like, "That's a total driver for me." I'm like, "That's a drainer." He gave me some stuff and I also give some stuff to Doug. It was a dialogue or conversation.
Drainers and Drivers is a five-day free mini-course. There are no up-sells. I'm giving you some information that will help you. If you use it, let me know what you found useful. We'll ask you for a little survey at the end. It's for you to just print out a piece of paper, walk through a day-to-day video that I'm going to give you, about two to three minutes, and it's to stimulate conversation with yourself. Let me be the guide, your Sherpa, to take you over a five-day course. At the very end, you'll have clarity, you'll have freedom and you'll have a better understanding of what you were built to do. You'll figure out how to do it a lot faster. Then you may come to the conclusion that you need to outsource some things, maybe hire somebody to come on and help you do some things. At the end of it, you're just going to have clarity. That's an essential component that so many people don't have. They're not clear of what they want so they're stuck doing what they've been doing and they don't know if they'll ever get out. DrainersAndDrivers.com is maybe the first step to figuring out what you were created and built to do.
Tony, this has been absolutely fantastic. Thank you. You've made my day. This has been a lot of fun and I appreciate you investing some time with me.
Thank you very much. It’s an absolute honor and I thank you for your time.
About Tony Grebmeier
While most well-known for building a multi-million dollar business with his childhood friends, it is Tony’s mission in life is to create a community where entrepreneurs know they can achieve anything they want despite their past.
Tony has always known how to make money. He started his first business selling baseball cards out of his mom's at the age of 14. By the time he was 18, he had held 16 jobs and was only fired once for giving his brother an ice cream cone. (another story, another day.)
In 1996, Tony launched his first online business in Silicon Valley, a Web traffic, and marketing company, which eventually turned into his first supplement company. In 2001, he went on to build his second supplement company, ShipOffers, with two of his childhood best friends, Doug Roberts and Gil Gerstein. Sixteen years later, ShipOffers is an eight-figure business that has been an INC 5000 Company for the past four years in a row.
I decided to launch the BE FULFILLED SHOW with Tony Grebmeier as a way to help others that, no matter how complicated your business obstacles, you can bounce back.
Part of going on a journey means that sometimes you’ll feel like success is simply unattainable. Sometimes you’ll lose the map (like I did!) entirely. And sometimes, you’ll set yourself on autopilot for a smooth cruise.
Thriving in life is not about how much money you make, or crossing off arbitrary goals on a bucket list. It is a focus on how we can help others and what we have learned from those who have overcome challenges in their life as well. You almost always find your passion/message when you look at the mess you have created.
My mantra in business has become that if I cannot help you, I will find you someone who can. Simply, it is this focus on serving each other as a community of business owners and ambitious entrepreneurs that will help us all continue to be strong no matter what life happens to throw into the mix.