Entrepreneur Addiction #13 — 'Turn Setbacks Into Greenbacks'

10+ min read • Nov 21, 2011 • Dan Bischoff

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If there’s one person who personifies hope in this economy, it’s Willie Jolley. He’s been named the “Comeback King” by Success Magazine, is one of the people credited with saving the Ford Motor Company from bankruptcy, and believes now is the best time to start a business.

We sit down with him and talk about his new book, “Turn Setbacks Into Greenbacks,” and how people can turn their lives and businesses around.

Willie has been voted the “Motivational Speaker of the Year,” is a “Speaker Hall of Fame” recipient, and a best-selling author. It really is an interview you don’t want to miss.

Willie Jolley

So grab your coffee, soda, protein shake, bowl of cereal, bagel, donuts, or what have you, and come on in.

In this episode of the Entrepreneur Addiction Podcast, we discuss:

  • Turning setbacks to greenbacks
  • Being replaced by a karaoke machine
  • Attitude determines altitude
  • Turning Ford around
  • Willie Jolley the CMS – Chief Motivational Speaker
  • Going from 4,000 to 38,000 in weeks
  • Everyone has a recession in their life
  • Don’t panic, remain calm
  • Stay away from the gloom and doom
  • Don’t let pride get in the way
  • Look at the power of tomorrow
  • Be proactive, hustle –- swim to the ship
  • Creativity is untapped dollars
  • Stretch yourself

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Go here to download on iTunes. Click to download the mp3

If you can’t listen, here’s the text:

Fueling your business success, this is the entrepreneur addiction podcast, breaking the small business loan news you need if you obsess about your company. Heard on Lendio.com, ABC4.com and patrickwiscombe.com. And now here are our your hosts: Brock Blake, Dan Bischoff and Patrick Wiscombe.

Patrick: This podcast is sponsored by Lendio.com, the online source you need to find the right business financing to grow your company. So, check them out: Lendio.com, to get your business growing right now. It’s the entrepreneur addiction podcast episode number thirteen, lucky number thirteen, Dan Bischoff.

Dan: Yeah. We have a great guest for number thirteen, too.

Patrick: Now, if this is episode number thirteen, this morning has not been super lucky. The way it’s started, we’ve had traffic. We’ve had massive accidents on the freeway just to get to the studio, and then we couldn’t get the computer to work. Then the radio station here in Salt Lake that I work for…

Dan: It got shut down. Died.

Patrick: It wasn’t going so well this morning.

Dan: But we’re going good now.

Patrick: Yeah, we are good. You know what’s funny about this, is I was thinking, “Man, this is episode thirteen. What could possibly go wrong?”

Dan: Yeah.

Patrick: I guess we know. Hey, I’m excited to chat with a gentlemen by the name of Willie Jolley. He’s the author of “Turn Setbacks into Greenbacks”. And Willie’s coming to us live from Washington D.C.. Not only is he the author, but he’s the speaker hall of fame recipient. I wanted to know more about that, but he’s also, as I’ve mentioned already, a bestselling author and, one of my favorite programs, or one of my favorite ways to receive radio, is via Sirius XM. Is that right, Willie?

Willie: Sirius XM. That’s right.

Patrick: Alright, Sirius XM. Tell us a little bit about your radio show, and give us a little background about Willie Jolley.

Willie: Well first, I wanted to say thank you for letting me be on with you. I’m grateful for the opportunity. And I start every interview and every speech and every program that I do, and have been doing for the last twenty years, with the same message:

I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
But it’s up to me to use it.
Must suffer if I lose it,
Give account if I abuse it.
It is just a tiny little minute,
But an eternity is in it.

Greetings to everybody who’s listening whether it’s by podcast, whether it’s by the Internet, whether it’s over the radio, or whichever way you’re getting it. Greetings.

Dan: That’s a great way to start it.

Patrick: Man, I can’t even top that one.

Willie: (laughter) Well, let me tell you a little bit about who Willie Jolley is. For those who don’t know, I am a professional speaker. I help organizations transform their people, their performance, and their productivity, as well as people, transform their lives by changing their attitudes to life. And your attitude to life impacts your altitude in life. My story is a simple story. I was a nightclub singer, who made my living for many years in the music industry. I was a jazz singer. I had an R&B record deal. I sang jingles. I did a lot of music, and my music took me through undergrad as well as graduate school. And then I became a full time jazz singer, and performed in Washington D.C. and Atlantic City, and built a very, what we’d call, a very successful jazz ensemble. We won the award for best jazz performers, best entertainers, best jazz recording. We just had, in the Washington, won a lot of rewards. And we’d settled into a night spot that became the number one jazz club in the area. We were the featured act every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We would be featured at the 8:00 show, the 10:00 show Thursday and Friday, and then on Friday night/Saturday night eight, ten, and twelve. So, things were going great. Standing room only. People would line up at 8:00 for the 9:00 show, 9:00 for the 10:00 show. And things started going. Things started moving. Well, one night I came to the club. Club manager said, “I want to talk to you after the show.” I told the guys in the show: We’ve been selling out for months. We’ve got standing room only audiences. We’ve won all the awards. We’re finally going to get our raise.” So I walked into his office. He said, “You were great. Fantastic. People love you.” I said, “I’m excited about that.” He said, “We’ve made a lot of money since you guys.” I said, “Yes.” He said, “That’s the problem. The owners of the club have decided they need to get a better return on their investment, and now that the club is full and they are maxed out as far as their income potential, the only way to do that now is to lower cost. And the only way to lower cost most effectively is to get something cheaper to do the entertainment. And so we found something cheaper going around the country, filling up nightclubs, and it’s cheaper than a band. It’s nothing personal. It’s just what it is.”

Patrick: Oh, no, it’s nothing personal!

Willie: It was nothing personal. It was a business decision. They didn’t come and bring a new band in. They went to a new form of entertainment. They bought a karaoke machine.

Patrick: Oh, dear.

Dan: Man!

Willie: And I said, “Well, but, but, but, but what about my bills?” And I learned that nobody really cares about your bills except you and the people you owe. (laughter)

Patrick: Well, that’s…

Willie: And I said, “Okay, well, I’ve got to do something different.” I took a job with the D.C. public school system as a drug prevention coordinator. They were looking for someone who had a background in music and the arts and who also had some education. I had a masters in theology in an emphasis in counseling. I just enjoyed jazz music. So they were looking for someone, and someone gave them my resume. And they said, “You’d be perfect. You have this counseling background. You understand that. We’re trying to use drama and arts as a drug prevention vehicle for kids in Washington D.C. So I told them I’d only do it for three months. Three months expanded to a year. That year I started giving little speeches to kids about staying away from drugs. I had no idea that was what I was going to be doing. It just happened. Some of the schools were saying, “Hey, we needed somebody to come over and talk to us about these kids and about drugs.” And then someone would say, “Well, hey. Willie, why don’t you go do it?” I said, “I guess I… Well, alright. I don’t know if I can do it but I’ll try.” I went over, and because I had been an entertainer, I wasn’t afraid of getting in front of a big audience. And because I was an entertainer, I also had some entertainment skills and abilities and chops that could get me through when the crowd wasn’t receptive. And I could win them over. And before long, I started getting more and more invitations. Before long I started getting invitations from other school systems. Then I had to start taking days off, and eventually, after a year of working with the school system, I left and started a full time speaking business. That was nineteen years ago, and those nineteen years since then, I’ve been on radio and television. I started doing radio and then television. What happened was, I was speaking somewhere, and Les Brown, a great motivational speaker, heard me speak and heard me sing, and said, “We’re doing a national tour that features music and motivation, and you’d be the perfect opening act.” And I said, “Great.” And a few months later we kicked off the Les Brown dream team, music and motivation tool with Les Brown, Gladys Knight, Billy Preston, and a little guy from Washington D.C. And because of Les and Gladys, I got introduced to radio people. Got a little radio show. A one minute daily motivational message on a small AM station. It caught on. Got pushed up to the next station in the city, which was the big FM. Then it got syndicated, and then that lead to Sirius XM. Then that led to CBS television, where I’m in a number of markets everyday with “Live Better with Willie Jolley” segment. All the media led, one day to a book publisher calling and saying, “Have you ever thought about writing a book?” I said, “No. I’ve never thought about writing a book.” They said, “We love the ideas you give on the radio. We’d like you to think about it.” They made me an offer. I said, “I just thought about.” (laughter) And I wrote my first book called “It Only Takes a Minute” to change your life. The book became a best seller all over America. It just blew up around America, and I’m on television and radio doing interviews. My second book came out soon thereafter called “A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback”.

Patrick: Okay, yeah. That’s one book I am familiar with.

Willie: That’s right. That one talked about people who have setbacks, including me, who turned those setbacks into great comebacks. Then my third book was “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul Number Two”. My fourth book is “Turn Setback into Greenbacks”, how to get throw these tough economic times, which we’re going to talk about today. Then my fifth book is one that’s not out yet, but it’s selling like crazy on my website because it’s not even in stores yet. But Racion?, Mountain Marietta, Hyatt, Marriott, Norton Healthcare, are buying them in groups of the thousands, Proctor & Gamble: two thousand five hundred. For your workers. How to grow you people and grow your performance. It’s called an attitude of excellence. So that’s my story, and last but not least, you said, in two thousand I got a call one day from Toast Masters International, and they said, “You’ve been named one of the top five speakers in the world for this years.” I said, “What?” The said, “Former winners include Coleman Powell, Norman S…?, Nelson Mandela, Margret Thatcher.” I said, “But those are big stars. They’re famous. I’m not famous. I’m not a household name.” Then they said, “Well, we’ve heard about you.” And that led to 2005 being inducted into the speaker hall of fame. So I’m very grateful. Out of being fired and replaced by a karaoke machine, I’ve been able to create a little comeback story that now takes me, not only around America, but literally around the world doing programs and messages to people to let them know that, “Whatever you’re going through, whatever challenges you’re experiencing, don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Get a new mindset. And if you get a new mindset, you can literally change your future.”

Patrick: You know, there’s a lot of people out there going through hard times. I know you know that.

Willie: Absolutely.

Patrick: But you really believe that attitude gets you more altitude. Tell us that turning point where you kind of had that moment, “You know what, I can make this as miserable as I want, or I can make this…” Well, I’m just going to steal the title from your book, “Turn your setback into greenbacks” because you’ve literally done that.

Willie: Absolutely. The book is really written on the success of my biggest client in life. My biggest client to date is a little company you might have heard of called Ford Motor Company. (laughter).

Patrick: Okay, now. We wanted to talk about Ford because I used to hammer Ford. Now, I had a radio show here in Salt Lake City when Ford was just hemorrhaging money left and right. I mean, every, it seemed like every ninety days, it was a billion dollar loss. And I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was huge losses.

Willie: Right, right.

Patrick: Let’s talk about your involvement in Ford because I used to hammer on them….

Willie: Most people used to hammer Ford because Ford, for many years, everybody knew Ford. Ford was the biggest car manufacturer in the world. Fifty percent market share. Over time, though, they were mismanaged. They were hemorrhaging money. They were always growing from the inside. They wouldn’t bring anybody else. The only way that you could run Ford was to be a Ford, born a Ford. And over time they were on their way to going out of business. Finally, in 2006, Bill Ford was wise enough to say, “You know, okay. Just because I was born a Ford doesn’t mean I have to run this company. So, I’m bringing in somebody else because it’s getting a bad reputation. We’re losing money. We’re getting poor quality.” So they brought in a guy named Alan Mulally from Bowing, and they said, “You’re going to be the CEO, and you’ve got to transform this company or we’re going to be out of business.” First thing he said was, “We’ve got to get this workforce that had been bloated.” It was just ineffective. He said, “We’ve got to get this workforce back down. So what we’re going to do is be very aggressive. We want twenty-five thousand people off the roles immediately. And what we’re going to do to get them off the roles is give them $100,000 cash if they’ll take a buyout, and four years college and four years health benefit.” Unfortunately, they started in January and by September, only about four thousand people had taken the buyout.

Patrick: You’re kidding?

Willie: Because imagine this. You wouldn’t believe. Why wouldn’t people take a buy. Well, imagine this: You work for Ford. You only have a high school education Your daddy worked for Ford. He had a high school education. Your granddaddy worked a Ford. He might not have had a high school education, or any education. But each one of them have made more money over the years, and good years, you work for Ford, no high school education, and you got a three, third generation, and good years you can make six figures because you’re making double shifts and things like that. And you’re married to somebody in Ford. You’re making about $300,000. A house in Detriot. A house up on the peninsula or an RV. You’re doing good. But then things started going bad. They went from three shifts down to two shifts. They went from two shifts down to no overtime, and things were getting worse and worse, and so people were still sure. They said, “Oh, it’s going to come back. It’s going to come back.” If you’ve ever read the book Who Moved My Cheese, the book says, “Who moved my cheese?” Well, let me tell you. It’s the cheese that moved. It was gone. But these people were still holding on. Well, they wouldn’t take the buyout. So September of 2006 I got a call from Ford. Somebody said, “We’ve read your book Setback is a Setup for a Comeback. You know, you have an impact on people. You have a gift of inspiring people. We want to help people to take this buyout. We need your help.” I said, “Well, I’d be happy to do it. My challenge is that I don’t know these people’s personalities. I don’t know their family situations. I don’t know their background. But I do know one thing. I know that America is a place where you can live your dreams if you’re willing to have big dreams and go after them. I can tell you my story. If you let me tell you my story, then I’ll come and speak.” And so they said, “Fine.” And for six weeks, I was speaking for Ford everyday across the country, two plants a day, everyday for six weeks. Finally the date was done. They took the buyout. The tabulations were the next day, and the third day I got a call from Detroit Free Press. They said, “What did you say to these Ford folks? 38,000 people took the buyout.”

Patrick: Holy! So in a matter of a just a few weeks, you went from four thousand to…

Willie: 38,000.

Patrick: That’s incredible.

Willie: Incredible. What I told them, though, was that this is the time to live your dreams. This is the time and the possibility. I said, “I can’t tell you to take the buyout, but I can tell you that America is a place where you can live a dream.” And one guy, he stays in touch with me, he came up and said, “You know what, I was a third generation Ford worker. I only had a high school education. I’ve been working for Ford for over thirty years. I’m only fifty years old. I started when I was a teenager. Let me tell you something. I’ve never heard of having a dream. I’ve never heard about the possibilities until today. I’m taking the buyout.” He took the buyout, took the hundred thousand dollars, bought a Subway sandwich shop, and gave it his all. He loved what he was doing. He built it to a massive success. He now has twelve subway shops around the country, and he’s doing great. So, what’s possible is incredible. Now, let me tell you the rest of the story. That was 2006. 2007 I did the television spots for Ford in their plants about excellence. In 2008 I did another tour around their plants about creating world-class vehicles and not being anything but excellent. 2009, as you remember, Ford was one of the only ones that didn’t take a government bailout. 2010, since 2010, Ford has had billion dollar profits every quarter. Comeback, baby. Comeback.


Dan Bischoff