Laura Steward is a sought after speaker, business adviser, radio host and author. After building and selling her highly successful technology services company, she started Wisdom Learned LLC, a company dedicated to educating leaders based on experience and wisdom learned in the trenches.
NOTE: Complete transcript available at the bottom of the page.
Screw The Commute Podcast Show Notes Episode 212
How To Automate Your Business – https://screwthecommute.com/automatefree/
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Higher Education Webinar – https://screwthecommute.com/webinars[03:23] Tom's introduction to Laura Steward [08:53] How to prepare a business for sale [18:46] Really busy as an entrepreneurial little girl [20:48] A woman can do anything a man can do [23:49] She had the dreaded J O B [26:14] Sponsor message [28:57] A typical day for Laura and how she stays motivated
Higher Education Webinar – https://screwthecommute.com/webinars
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Screw The Commute Podcast App – https://screwthecommute.com/app/
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How To Automate Your Business – https://screwthecommute.com/automatefree/
Internet Marketing Retreat and Joint Venture Program – https://greatinternetmarketingtraining.com/
Laura's website – https://www.laurasteward.com/
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
How To Be A Great Podcast Guest – https://screwthecommute.com/211/
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Episode 212 – Laura Steward
[00:00:09] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.
[00:00:24] Hey, everybody, it's Tom here with episode 212 of Screw the Commute podcast. We've got Laura Steward here today and I've known her for a long time. I have no idea where I met her, but know she's a great lady and she's going to take us to the trenches to show us how to improve our business today. And hope you didn't miss Episode 211. That was my Monday training on how to be a great podcast guest. And so I know a lot of my past guests are going to listen to that and say, oh, my God, he probably doesn't think I was a great guest. Too late. Let's see, hey, if you're listening to this in November 2019, around the twenty seventh, you still have two days left to join my giant giveaway. So I suggest after you get done listening to this go directly to the show notes as soon as humanly possible and join my super sweepstakes giveaway over $32000 in prizes and everybody wins just for joining. And it's also a good example of a viral technique. Now, I covered viral marketing in episode 46 and of course, anything on the podcast. When you want to go to a past episode, you go screwthecommute.com slash the episode number. So it would be screwthecommute.com/46. When you join, you immediately get my twenty seven dollar e-book, the kickstart guide to viral marketing and plus if you tell your friends about it through the unique link I gave you, you get 20 more chances to win for each person. You get to sign up, plus you get five more chances to win just for sharing it on social media, whether anyone joins or not. It costs nothing to join and you could win the grand prize which is worth nineteen thousand one hundred dollars and one of forty eight other prizes. So get over to screwthecommute.com/212 and join. All right. Our podcast app is in the App Store. You can also do lots of cool stuff with it. If you don't know how to use podcast apps, well, we got complete instructions for you at ScrewtheCommute.com/app. Our sponsor's the Internet Marketing Training Center of Virginia Distance Learning School, which teaches legitimate techniques to make a great living, either working for someone else or starting your own online business or both. I've been living this lifestyle since the commercial internet started in 1994 and it is the best business I've ever been in. So check it out at IMTCVA.org. Of course that'll be in the show notes. And if your military put a slash military because we give big discounts for military, law enforcement and first responders our big scholarships.
[00:03:26] All right, let's see. Here we go, our main event, Laura Steward, is a sought after speaker, business adviser, radio host and author after building and selling her highly successful technology services company. She started Wisdom Learned LLC, a company dedicated to educating leaders based on experience and wisdom learned in the trenches. Laura, are you ready to screw. The commute.
[00:03:53] No matter how many times I listen to your podcast hearing you say that phrase still. It's even funnier when you when you're like live. But I'm saying that to you.
[00:04:08] I am so ready to screw.
[00:04:12] All right. Good for you. Good for you. So what we're going to do is we're going to tell everybody what you're doing now and then we'll take you back and see how you came up through the ranks. But tell everybody about this. This wisdom company you've got.
[00:04:25] Well, you know, I started out as a geek. I always wanted to be an astronaut. And so I went the technology route.
[00:04:31] You know, if you started out as a geek, you're perpetually a geek. I don't know if you know that or not, but.
[00:04:38] Well, I consider myself, you know, instead of geek, I prefer intellectual badass.
[00:04:42] Okay. All right. We'll take that.
[00:04:47] And yeah, once a geek, always geek can't get away from it. Love my geekiness. Embrace it 100 percent wholeheartedly.
[00:04:54] I mean, I gotta sign in there. Some lady gave it to me. I saw a magnet on her car and it said geeks make better boyfriends. And so I said, where'd you get that? And she said, here you can have it. You can have. I said, no. And I came back from the store and she had stuck it on my car. You know, geeks make better boyfriends and girlfriends, I guess.
[00:05:15] I would imagine so because there's plenty of female geeks out there like I can attest to.
[00:05:20] Yeah, there didn't used to be, but there sure is now. So. So tell me about this wisdom company.
[00:05:26] So I started the company after I sold my my tech services company at a multi-state company, helping businesses in all their tech together and get their businesses going to the next level. And after I sold it and ended my contract with a company that bought my company, I was like, you know, what do I want to do next? Do I want to create another tech company? Do I want to go to work for the hundreds of tech companies that asked me to come work for them afterwards? And I realized that what I really wanted to do was help other business owners and other entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level, whether they were starting out or they had been around for a while. And throughout my entire career, my life, really, I've had the pleasure of meeting amazing people who shared their wisdom with me. And I decided to start wisdom learned to help businesses learn from real life experts, people who are really been doing the work, using the experiences that we've learned over the years to help businesses grow, not froufrou out there. Nobody's ever tried this before, but like real stuff, Tom, like what you teach, you know? Yeah, like cutting edge. What you've always taught like this is really how you do it.
[00:06:50] Yeah. Yeah. And now and I have to take exception with that. I teach dull edge technology because the cutting edge is always the most expensive, the most glitches. So I usually wait till they get all the glitches out and then come swoop in and make the money. So that's my philosophy.
[00:07:09] Ok. But I would say I've known you for 200 years. We'll take that. And I remember the first time I heard you speak on stage and you were talking about Internet marketing, you were talking about social media. You were talking about new ways to me of marketing, branding. Growing a business, getting your messaging out. It might have been stuff that had been done before. But to me, it was the first time I'd ever heard it explained in a way, then went, oh, my gosh. So to me, it was very cutting edge.
[00:07:49] Yeah. Yeah, I agree. You know, a lot of people don't know because I do this every day. At that time, I had been doing it for fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years already. By the time you heard me. So and so I just stay a little bit back on. You know, I don't like jump on every bandwagon because that can cost you a lot of money. Waste a lot of time when stuff comes and goes. So I kind of hold back a little bit to make sure it's solid. Before I teach it or use it myself.
[00:08:18] So you are very much what I try to do with wisdom learned. It's the real stuff. You know, you've tried it. You've used it, you've seen where it doesn't work. You've seen where it worked. So instead of somebody else having to learn from the ground floor how to do something, you've seen what what's working and you can help them apply it to their business. And that's what it's really all about for me, Tom. It's about helping people move forward without them having to go through all of the bleeding that I had to go through. Or other people I know had to go through. You get their businesses growing.
[00:08:56] Absolutely. Now, not a lot of the people we've had on have sold businesses. So you have kind of a unique perspective. Could you tell us a little bit about how you prepare a business for sale, how that went, what you have to watch out for since you've been through it? And it sounded like you were obligated to stay on for a while afterwards and all that.
[00:09:16] Sure. I'm happy to share that because it was a really, really interesting experience selling a business. And there is it there's a Forbes article that John WARRILOW wrote about me and selling my company. It's a fascinating experience, Tom. When the first time somebody approached me that wanted to buy my company, I was so excited. And they're like, how much you want for your company? And I want a million dollars. And they're like, OK, well, can you give us your last five years of financials and your projected numbers for this coming year and contracts and different things that you have so we can do our due diligence. So we all signed NDAs and everything and they started going through it.
[00:10:05] That's Non Disclosure Agreement for everybody out there.
[00:10:10] Thank you for that. And they come back to me about a week later and they said, well, we'll make you an offer for your company. It's not worth a million dollars. It's worth about one hundred thousand dollars. And I went, excuse me. And I got a big education on real value of a business vs. what I thought my business was worth. As somebody who is in it and what I learned was that it's not just your sales that determine the value of your business. It is your recurring revenue that you get from your business that people are locked in under contracts. How viable your business would become if you as the owner are no longer in the picture. And then also. The projected value of the relationships with your clients. So I started looking at it and I said to myself, well, you know, I really don't have a lot of recurring revenue, meaning revenue that comes in. And Tom, you are like the man at this. I mean, you are one of the most brilliant people I've ever seen at getting money to just come in while you're sleeping
[00:11:24] Sleeping and eating.
[00:11:30] Taking a walk with the dogs. In the technical services business. It's a little bit different because you're not selling a product. You're selling the services. So you somehow need to get people tied up in. They're going to pay you monthly whether you do things or not.
[00:11:48] Right. And then like served like everybody wants to sell me a service agreement on my air conditioner, things like that.
[00:11:55] Right. So I figured out a way and it became very well-known in the industry, known as managed service providers, where every month we would charge for the desktops, for the servers, for all the devices that were being used, a monthly fee to maintain them and maintenance it. And over the course of several years, I built the business up so that we had a significant amount of recurring revenue coming in. And I had three year contracts with my clients. And in and one of the things I also learned was in your contracts, you need to have phrasing. And this was something that I was blown away by and never thought about before. And so glad I had it in place. You put some verbiage in your contracts that says. If the company sells the contract, converts to the new company. So that whoever is buying your company, those contracts are still in force for the length of the contract that they signed.
[00:13:03] Did you get anybody resisting that? Because I would be skeptical of that, because if the new people come in suck, I'm stuck with them instead of you.
[00:13:13] I had no pushback because I also had a clause in the contract that gave everybody a 30 day written. Get out of the contract. But that what that does is it gives the new person 30 days to talk to your current customers and show what they can do.
[00:13:35] Right. Prove themselves.
[00:13:37] But if you don't have that clause in there that says it immediately transfers over, then the moment of transfer, the contract is null and void.
[00:13:48] Right. And a smart purchaser would not go along with it. Exactly. And they would say you're only one hundred thousand instead of a million.
[00:13:56] And that's what started happening, so I changed all of my contracts and had more recurring revenue coming in. And then this was another big thing. Tom, if somebody is thinking about selling a company is to no longer be the face of the company. Because if I was the only one interacting with my clients, the one that they felt could only answer the questions, could only give them what they need. Then. The potential when I left the company, if they didn't want to hire me to stay on for a transition period. It meant that the clients may not feel that the company was anything without me and they could just leave.
[00:14:41] I'm more of the butt of my company. Just terminology.
[00:14:48] Face, butt, arm, leg. You know, whatever way works.
[00:14:54] All that makes great sense. So. So you took a couple years to get that build up then, right?
[00:15:03] Right. Because, you know, I hadn't planned on selling when the first offer came in. It was just like, oh, let me see what it does.
[00:15:10] It's good that it did because it taught you what you needed to do in the future.
[00:15:18] Right. And then the other thing I did, even though they had given me their estimate of the valuation, I went to somebody in my industry several years later that values my kind of business. So it was a technology services company and that I had and I went to somebody that all they do is value those kind of businesses and had them deep dive. And then they told me what my business be worth. At that point in time. And then they also give you pointers on how to improve your numbers as well. So I think it's a worthwhile exercise. You do have to pay for that kind of analysis. But that also helped me. And they looked at my contracts again. We shifted my contracts again. I looked at my business again, I looked at my marketing and I started shifting some more things which increased the value again.
[00:16:08] Great. And then how long did it eventually take before you sold?
[00:16:12] Well, had the company for 15 years by the time I sold it.
[00:16:15] I mean, from the time you got that first offer.
[00:16:20] It was probably that seven years.
[00:16:21] Seven more years before you sold it. But but because of those things you put into place, what percentage increase do you think you made?
[00:16:31] Oh, about. Five times that.
[00:16:35] Right. Great. Great. And you were making money all along the way, too.
[00:16:39] Right. I was making money all along and I didn't want to sell until one day I woke up And went I'm done.
[00:16:46] From that point how long did it take to sell? And how did you market it? How did you let people know?
[00:16:56] I called a friend of mine in the business who had always wanted to buy my company, and I vented because I was very frustrated with something that was going on internally in my company. And he goes, I want to buy your business. Let's talk it over. Six months later, I closed the deal.
[00:17:11] They had you stay on or not?
[00:17:13] They had me stay on for about a year and a quarter.
[00:17:17] Was a salary involved or that was part of the sale price?
[00:17:21] No, I got a salary, which was wonderful salary and benefits.
[00:17:25] Did you have to really show up as much as a regular employee?
[00:17:29] I did. I was helping them build a different kind of practice than what they had around health care technology. So, yeah, I worked there. But here's the interesting part. When they brought me on board. There was only a couple of months of transition kind of work. They purposely only brought me in if they felt there was a hiccup with an existing client. So there were only a couple of times that they needed me to talk to existing clients after the initial turnover. They were hiring me on board to help them. Improve their business in a way that they hadn't been in the past. But that's not always the way it works. A lot of times they don't want you at all.
[00:18:16] Right. They want complete, you know, switch over.
[00:18:20] And I'll tell you, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Tom was to be working for them without any control over what was happening to my business that they bought or being involved with management decisions at their company. As an entrepreneur, I'm used to having say. And then all of a sudden I had zero say in anything. And I realized, I don't like this.
[00:18:50] Let's take you back where your entrepreneurial little girl.
[00:18:52] I was. I would constantly go to my parents. What can I do around the house to make an addition to my allowance? When it snowed, I lived up in Yonkers, New York. I would go round with my snow shovel and shovel driveways. I would rake leaves. I would sell lemonade. Anything.
[00:19:13] Parents entrepreneurial?
[00:19:15] They were they were my dad actually had his own construction company. And he would let me come with him all the time to the job sites. And it was a lot of fun once the model houses were built.
[00:19:27] What age were you?
[00:19:28] Oh, gosh. I was 7 years old when I first started doing stuff. Probably even younger than that, because he used to have all of the politicians and business leaders over house, you know, to schmooze them, because that's what you came on, you were in construction and stuff. And he would let me serve them hors d'oeuvres and learn to talk to mayors in all these different people that were important. And then when the model homes opened, he used to let me take people on tours when I was like seven and eight.
[00:20:06] That is very cool.
[00:20:09] It's such a useful skill, right? You know how to speak to anybody.
[00:20:14] Yeah. Yeah. Because a lot of the people I did a lot when I was coming up through the ranks in the speaking industry, I was doing research on the stage fright. And a lot of the people that have stage fright were told to shut up and sit down and, you know, not to talk to adults, you know. You know, zip it up, you know, just quiet. Wipe that smile off your face. And they have lots of performance anxiety in stage fright as adults. But, you didn't right?
[00:20:45] No, my parents always said I was born with a microphone in my hand.
[00:20:51] All right. So you went through school. What? What happened? As you came up older than that.
[00:21:00] My dad always felt that it didn't matter that as a woman I could do anything that a man can do or anybody could do. So he'd taught me how to change tires he taught me how to fix things around the house when I would take electronics apart, even if I couldn't put him back together. He didn't yell at me was a good thing because I used to take apart like remotes and different things like that. What he said to me was, OK. Let's get you trained on how to properly fix this because there is a cost involved. And throughout school, one of the biggest things I think that I learned Tom that led me to the path through college is a computer science major and getting my master's degree and all that other stuff was how important questions are. And my mom and dad were really big on asking questions to get the answers that you need versus asking questions to get the answers that you want. And I would ask questions all the time. And my parents wouldn't really want to give me answers. They'd make me research to find the answers or they tell me to go ask somebody else. In order to teach me how to ask people I didn't know for their perspective on things.
[00:22:22] They were brilliant parents.
[00:22:25] They they sure were. And they're in heaven now. And you know, they taught me a lot time. They taught me not to be afraid of who I am. They taught me that. Answers can come from the least expected places in your life. It could be from a book you read, it could be from you asking me a question on this interview. It could be I'm standing in line at a grocery store and I overhear somebody say something and it transforms my way of thinking because I never thought of something going on in my life from that perspective before. And I think that's really the greatest lesson I learned from my parents is to be open to answers from everywhere and questions that shake you up, shake you to the very core of your foundation.
[00:23:29] I agree with all of that, except for the part in the grocery store line, because if you ever hear of a homicide at a grocery store in Virginia Beach, I killed somebody that had a big pile of coupons in front of me. You'll have to bail me out. So. All right. So. You went to go masters degree, then you start your own business right away. How did you get to where you are now?
[00:24:01] I went corporate right out of college. Oh, yeah. I had a J-O-B. As a technical writer for Technicon Instruments, they make the chemistry blood analyzers. That when you go get. Your blood drawn and they tell you what, your cholesterol and so this company made all those and I wrote all the engineering manuals for the products and it was really fascinating. But back then it was like, OK, let me just go start a corporate thing and figure out what I want to do with my life. And it was great because it paid for my master's degree. And of course, I didn't want to have to pay for college because I had scholarships to get my bachelors degree, so that was really great. My parents really appreciated that. And then I went from there to Pitney Bowes doing not only technical writing, but network support and facilitation for work teams. And they offered a package, Tom. They were doing voluntary downsizing in anticipation of an involuntary downsizing. And I looked at it and I just spent six weeks for them in England converting a bunch of packaged software over and hardware over for them, and I went, you know, I don't really feel fully appreciated. Which is pretty common in corporate life, especially as a woman in a highly male dominated business. And it was six months pay and a year's benefits. And I thought there is no better time than now for me to start my own business because I've got this nice buffer and it was in the middle of the whole tech boom and the skills I had were highly in demand. So I figured I could probably find another job tomorrow, which starting for my business on my own, failed. And 15 years later I sold the business I started that day.
[00:26:09] Nice. Thanks Pitney Bowes.
[00:26:12] Exactly. One of the best things that ever happens to me.
[00:26:17] Well, we got to take a brief sponsor break. When we come back, we're going to ask Laura, what's a typical day look like for her and how she stays motivated.
[00:26:27] So, folks, I'm kind of down on my hands and knees begging you to check out a particular webinar or pass it on to someone who could use it. I mean, it has to do with higher education. Things have changed a little bit since Laura got her master's degree and everything was paid for and she was actually use the skills that she got. But I'll tell you what, if you're considering getting retrained because you hate what you're doing or you want a better life for yourself or your family, or maybe you've got kids or nephews, nieces or even neighbors who are wondering if they should burn up hundreds of thousands of dollars and then end up broke mountains of debt and no marketable skills. I mean, you know, there's MBAs now competing for jobs at Starbucks. Well, you got to watch this webinar, but be prepared to be mad because some of the things colleges are doing now since Laura and I were in school is they're inflating grade point averages artificially to make it look like they're doing a better job of teaching to justify their unjustifiable raises in tuition and fees. And you're gonna be mad when you see this. I don't know if I'd want to mortgage my house to pay for that kind of stuff, especially when the other studies, very significant studies are showing that the average college student is spending eight hours total per week preparing for school and going to class. The rest is partying, shopping and eating. Like I said, I don't think I'd want to mortgage my house to pay for that. So so check it out at screwthecommute.com and you can click on free webinars where you can either download the audio. But if you want to see all the visuals, you can watch the webinar right there at screwthecommute.com/webinars or screwthecommute.com. Just click on webinars and check it out if we can help you at IMTCVA.org. Give me a call and I'll talk about your future in online marketing, which we had a girl. Within a month of starting the school started making eleven hundred dollars a month. Two months. She was making $3000 a month, and last month she told me she made thirty four hundred dollars a month and her dad had spent $80000 on her education where she was in some menial job. So so this can be very, very lucrative very quickly and keep you out of the mess of the kind of brainwashed, necessary college education.
[00:29:02] All right. Let's get back to our main event. Laura Steward's here. She knows how to make it in the trenches. And Laura, what's a typical day look like for you?
[00:29:12] Well, it's really interesting lately because I'm having a bunch of house renovations done.
[00:29:19] Oh, that's not typical. That's not every day, right?
[00:29:21] Yeah, that's it's not my typical day. Like my typical day starts out with some meditation. I'm just thinking about what I want to happen for my day, for my week, for my year.
[00:29:36] Do you get up early.
[00:29:38] No, I'm a night owl. I can stay up till 2 o'clock in the morning and then get up at the crack of noon. Nine, 10 o'clock. There's my typical kind of start. And because I control my day, I try not to set an alarm on my body to wake up when it wants to. I think that's critical. But not everybody can do that. When I had my tech company, I needed to be up earlier because we had lots of clients that required us to be at that hour. But with my current clients, I have most of time I talk to them at night because they're migrating from jobs, J-O-B-s to entrepreneurship. So that's when we can work with them the best. And then I go out with my day and I I look through my schedule that I've planned. Here's the things that I want to work on this day, that I want to get accomplished. And I look at email to see what new information might have come in. I check in my news feeds to find out what's going on in the world so I can prepare for my weekly radio show. It's all about the questions because what I like to do is tie my guests that are on the show to current events to relate how what they're doing can actually. Be applied to what my listeners are doing. And then I take a break, I go visit friends and their pups are a little bit with my neighbors, I may take a walk outside. Some days I just may turn on the TV and watch some of my favorite shows to sort of let my brain disconnect. I always have three or four books that I'm reading and prep for my show. A lot of nonfiction, personal development. Business books. And then, of course, always at least one fiction book where I can just escape into another world, which allows my mind to just go in lots of different directions.
[00:31:46] So how do you stay motivated?
[00:31:49] I think about how I want to make a difference in the world. And I think about my clients. People have read my book. What would a wise woman do? That email out to me and tell and think about how they've said to me their lives were changed because of something I said or did, and my parents always taught me. It's about serving others and also serving yourself. So by helping others, it really lifts me up. Tom.
[00:32:19] I mean, you started out as serving hors d'oeuvres and now you're serving business people.
[00:32:23] Exactly. Never thought of it that way. So my dad's favorite hors d'oeuvres, by the way, were pigs in the blanket.
[00:32:32] Oh, yeah, yeah, of course. You made me hungry. What's up with that? So how do people find out about your wisdom program and your book and all that stuff, how they work?
[00:32:46] You can go to my website, nice and simple. LauraSteward.com and if they sign up they can get free chapters of the book and a free workbook on how to ask better questions.
[00:33:09] Beautiful. Beautiful. And have a listen to your show that there too.
[00:33:13] It's live on iHeart Radio. But if you go up to LauraSteward.com and click on show, you can see all the upcoming shows. Listen to past shows and a link to the live show.
[00:33:24] Sounds good. So thanks so much for taking the time. I know it's been a while we've been trying to connect, but that information on preparing a business to sell was just gold. So that's great. And so everybody, check out Laura's stuff in the show notes. Also, you got only two days to get it on the big giveaway. So check the show notes is episode 212. So screwthecommute.com/212 where you'll find all Laura's stuff and you'll be able to sign up for the giant giveaway and if you refer your friends real quick to get more chances to win. So thanks a lot, Laura.
[00:34:06] Thanks for having me, Tom.
[00:34:07] All right. We'll catch you next time. See you later.
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