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Staying Aligned & Leading While Running Multiple Businesses w/Ryan Kugler Ep#154

By Anthony Taylor - February 24, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.



Untitled design - 2021-12-27T131748.040  Anthony: Welcome to this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor. My guest today is Ryan Kugler. Ryan, what's happening?

Untitled design - 2022-02-18T151138.242  Ryan: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I'm based in Southern California, it's sunny out.

Anthony: Fantastic. I don't know what it is, but life could be crappy but when the sun is out it makes it that much more bearable.
And Southern California is probably a pretty good place for that.

Ryan: Yeah, the weather's a little nice, but you get your Vitamin D from the sun, so that's good. That'll help with sicknesses.

Anthony: Exactly. Well we won't go there.

Ryan: No, no, we're not gonna - just turn on any TV channel. It's all over.

Anthony: Absolutely. I am curious as to what keeps you busy. So you're the President of multiple companies, Ideal Content, The Plan B, and probably at least one or two others. So tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, what keeps you busy, and what keeps you engaged in the day-to-day.

Ryan: Well, thank you. First, where are you located right now?

Anthony: Vancouver, Canada. Actually, I'm in Trail, BC today.

Ryan: Okay, good. Good for you. Welcome. Okay, so my name is Ryan. And I appreciate the intro - that's very nice, thank you. I'm here in Los Angeles, California. I've been here for about 20 years, and I run three different companies at the same time. I call it a layered company, which really means that the employees we have do work for all three companies. So if you're marketing, you're not just marketing for one company, you're doing the marketing for three different companies. If you're operations, the same thing, finance the same thing.

I feel that kind of changes the playing field for anyone who wants to work for us, because it's like, you're not doing the same job of just stamping a widget on a conveyor belt, you actually have some variety and some diversity in what you're doing. And every day, you could be doing something totally different in a totally different industry.

Because I own three different companies in three different industries. One is called The Plan B, which is in the wholesale retail trade. So we're buying and selling products and selling it to retail stores. The other one is a marketing business where we're working with clients who need high end marketing. We do these specialized brochures that play a video when you open it, it's called a video brochure. And then we have an event company, and the event company basically does a lot of charity, nonprofit, corporate events, we don't do any weddings - it's not personal. So if you're a nonprofit, and you want to put on a team building or a charity run/walk to raise funds, we are the event company that people would call.

Being that COVID is hopefully slowing down, we're back in business and have about 25 books so far for this year of events. And these are mainly for nonprofits, for ailments, just to help with their camaraderie of bringing people together and raising funds and awareness for whatever cause they represent. So that's how I stay busy, I have been busy. The event business actually is doing the best right now, ironically, it is a little strange. But a lot of people are booking events as people want to get back out and go see people and see things again. And as the restrictions are coming down, that's kind of nice.

Anthony: Awesome. Well, our listeners know that if they're gonna plan a cool event, whether it's in Southern California or not, they know how to reach out to you.

Ryan: Nationwide!

Anthony: Okay, perfect. What I find cool is how you have like - there's a lot of people who use a shared services model. They say marketing for this, but it's all internal. What are some of the benefits you've seen, of putting your people in that model? And what are some of the challenges that you've seen incorporating that with your team?

Ryan: So the benefits are someone I think is happy and excited to come to work as we're doing something different. Work can become very mundane in today's times, you can hear me okay, by the way, right? Okay, just wanna make sure because I hear. But the benefit is that when you hire an employee, you're not just working at one company, you're doing all three.

And actually, when I do interviews and bring in new people, and I do the listing - that they're going to work for this company, and then they do their research, which, by the way, I love if someone's looking for a job. And they come and say, "Hey, so you own these other two companies?" I say yeah, guess what, you're gonna do that, too. They're like, "Oh my God, that's so great. I always wanted to help out on an event." So that's good.

The downside of it is, it's gonna sound funny to your listeners and to you, if you're dealing with a guy named John at Target stores, and the other company is dealing with Target stores under a different angle, who are we doing business with and which part of the company is doing this? So that's what I find actually funny, because the three companies have done business with the same company.

So sometimes we have to just kind of sort that out and figure it out. What are we talking about? We need to step back for a minute, or if I get a phone call, and it's a guy named John, and he just calls like "hey, it's John, let's talk about this." And I'm like, Okay, what are we talking about again? Help me out here.

Anthony: Yeah, so you have to spend that additional time contextualizing both the internal work, supplier relationships, and I'm sure various things. But on the flip side, I hear that your employees don't get bored, which is key. And then you as a business owner, you know, you don't have to grow too big from a headcount piece, because you just kind of keep a lean, for lack of a better word, headcount on all of the various businesses.

Ryan: You are correct. And that's correct. I mean, the only downside is when the guy calls and says, "hey, it's John." And I gotta say, what's this about? He gets mad. He goes, "How come you don't know me?" I know 10 John's in my address book, I apologize. So that that part kind of makes me look bad if I have to question who it is. If you called and said "hey, it's Anthony." I go, okay. Is it Anthony from XYZ company or Anthony from this? I gotta "Anthony who" sometimes.

Anthony: So as a President of all of these companies, how do you keep yourself organized? Because, we've got a lot of clients that run multiple businesses that are involved in different ventures. They wear different hats, whether that's being a board member, or what have you. What two or three things that keep you focused, keep you aligned and help you progress in the work that you do?

Ryan: Well you want to write your goals, and you want to write your to-do list, your targets, that is really key. And I recommend that to anyone. And any motivational speaker will say that if you really want to, before you go home or in the morning, write down what you're going to try to achieve that day. What is your goal? If you're a salesman or a business owner, you're going to want to get the sale or deal or whatever. And that would be a goal.

If you're just XYZ worker, and your job is to go to work and stamp this or do that, then just write down what you have to do if there's any other tasks. Because it's gonna make you look good for your boss, and he's gonna want to promote you. So that's one way that I stay organized is I have a to-do list, I have a goal list, I have targets that I have to achieve. I have my CRM software open, which is really an address book, as we all know, and email. And that's what I'm really doing.

And I do keep meetings very limited with anyone I talk to, on a Zoom call or whatever. I even had this - two days ago, someone said, "Hey, let's have a two hour Zoom." And I said no, one hour max. Because I also lose attention on it. And I guess, because I'm able to juggle a lot of balls, just like in the event business, you're able to do a lot dealing with 1000s of people coming to you with different problems, I guess it's just installed. It's a talent of mine. I can't play basketball like Lebron James, but I can put on an event and deal with everybody's problem.

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Anthony: I got that. When we chatted in the intro you said "I just want to be able to give back to other people and share how I got here". How did you get involved with all of these businesses? Did you just say like, here's a cool thing I could do, and you ran with it? And then like, repeated that a bunch of times. And that's how you got to here because obviously, you've had a lot of success, and you do some cool things. So what drives you personally?

Ryan: So that is a good question. I remember when I was working, out of high school, I worked for the family business, which was a distribution business, which I guess I was born into. That's one of the businesses I still own. And I just wanted to work and make money and have something to do. I lived in an ocean city at the time in Florida, I didn't really care about going to the beach or anything like that, hanging out or surfing or whatever, I just wanted to work. That's just how I was raised. And that's how I was born. And that's how my mind thought. And I mean, everyone has their pattern in life that they follow - that was mine. And so I got into the family business, which is a wholesale business. I pivoted and changed it and moved it around a little bit, and now created my own wholesale business, not with the family anymore. Totally fine.

Then basically at the same time was doing a hobby on the side - events. So I would go help out events on the weekend with a non-profit organization. I was the Executive Director, and it just started getting out, people wanted to hire me to do their event. And you know, when 2008 happened, I didn't like that my pay was going to get cut in the wholesale business. So I said, "Hey, why don't I just start doing events to make money?" And it's a weekend gig. So I did that. So that there was my second business that I started, and it's really a weekend gig. So I don't play golf on the weekend, I go help out events. And the events I do are usually early in the morning because it's like a 5k run, charity runs. I'm back at my house at 10am, which is great. So I'm there to play with the kids.

Then I did create a third business, a marketing business, which makes these high end brochures for customers. And I just decided to do that at the same time. And I just felt you know, if you have three businesses or if you have a business and two side hustles, which I know a lot of people do. Now everybody has some type of side hustle that they're doing, whether they're selling a product on Amazon, or a coach, a consultant or something, I guess you can say it's my side hustles. And I just continue to juggle them all because I just look at it like okay, I stay busy.

I'm happy. I'm in three different industries, so I'm never relying on one thing. So if the job I have goes south, like it did in the recession, I wouldn't be screwed. So I decided to have other businesses just in case that happens again, and I'm actually looking for a fourth, but I don't want to be active, want to be silent.

Anthony: I think it's a cool way of turning what you like doing, the passion, into real opportunity. It sounds like the work that you do - you genuinely enjoy it. It's part of your life and you get to contribute to it. And you've gotten to a place where the systems, structure and processes that you had in place help you maintain that on a personal level while also maintaining balance. Balance to be able to hang out with your kids, sleep in Saturday morning or support a group doing a 10k run - freakin awesome.

Ryan: Yeah, I'm doing God's work and helping out these nonprofits, which is very rewarding to go out and do that. And that's how it started. I was working for free just helping out events. And then people just started inquiring and asking "would you help manage my event?" I'm like, Okay, I guess I'll charge you something. So I started doing something fun that I like.

So I'm acknowledging what you said, and I agree with you. And yes, doing all these businesses helps. That's why I like to do these podcasts too. Because there is a part of life that is a little different now, which maybe you and your listeners have seen. As people are coming out of high school, there's certain things that they don't know how to do or what to do. And I like to do these podcasts to tell people, Hey, here's what's been done successfully. You can call me an old timer or a young timer or whatever. But if someone calls you or emails, you return their call, reply to their email type thing. I found that some people in today's age are not taught that in school.

Anthony: So for the young leaders, the younger people who listen to our podcast, what are some of those life lessons that that really shaped how you got to where you are right now?

Ryan: That's a good question. So for those younger listeners, I found my successes in business came from being persistent. And I don't mean aggressive, because I know the word aggressive means something else today. But being persistent, which means just follow up, follow through, don't give up so easily. If the person doesn't answer the phone, don't just be done and never make the call again.

Two is to follow your dreams and write down your goals. That is something that everyone should do, whatever business they're going to get into. Because most people may go work at McDonald's, or a plant or a business being a CPA - that's great. But you do want to have some guidance on where to go. And if you write it down and go, Hey, I'd like to own a business. And I want to be the number one horse trainer. Write it down, and then write down the steps to do it.

The last thing is, whether you're going into sales or owning a business or working for someone else, you want to always be improving yourself. There are sections in bookstores, if there's still books around your neighborhood, that are motivational, which will help teach you these things. And anyone who's listening to this podcast is reaching for help, meaning that they're listening to you, they're getting advice, which is great.

So well done to you the listener and well done to you hosting this. Those are some good starts, but really just simple, common sense things. Be logical and see what other business people have done. it might work for you.

Anthony: Yeah, I hear an undertone of intentionality to everything that you talked about. While it might occur as happenstance that everything that you did was with intention, and you intentionally built the life that you have, it was by design. Then you keep working towards it, which is both a personal satisfying thing, but also professionally, leading you to continued in greater success.

Ryan: I do agree, and I liked that you brought up the word intention. That is actually one of my favorite words. Someone once asked me when I was lower down the rank, and I was a salesperson, you know, the the other salespeople would ask why my sales were so high. How come? What is it? What is what is the one thing you do, like the movie City Slickers. It's intention. I decide that I'm going to do it. I say here's my goal, I'm going to go close that sale at Target stores tomorrow, and it's gonna be a million dollar sale or invoice. And then I just decide, then I go after it.

So yes, you need to have intention. And sometimes intention is hard to find. And it's hard to get to that point where you can decide, but technically, people have intention every day. They don't know it, they're hungry, they want to go eat, they have the intention to go to the grocery store or the restaurant to get food. So they are and unbeknownst to them. They have to drop their XYZ off at the airport, and there's traffic. Well, they have intention to get to the airport to drop the person off to get to the plane. So it is there, they just need to apply it to business. So if you have a blue collar listener working, and he wants to get a raise or whatever. He just needs to decide. State what you want to do, decide that you're going to do it. That's the key - decide, and then go after it. So do the extra mile for the extra work.

Check in early, leave late, ask to take on other tasks, and it might not come right away. Anyone who writes a goal, it doesn't happen tomorrow. It might not happen in a year, might not happen in five years. But you just have to keep going after it and not give up.

Anthony: Yeah, there's the wishing, there's the goal setting, and then there's the action that falls behind it. And I find as a serial entrepreneur myself, yes I'm very fortunate. But I put myself in a position to be ready for those opportunities and like you said, you don't know when it's going to happen, but it's going to come. Life rewards hard work, I believe, and I'm super bias. But you know, there's people who are unlucky. And that's a whole other story. But I think that putting yourself in a position, to be able to take advantage of those things is great. And, yeah, which applies in life, in business, and all of the things not withstanding general life challenges.

Ryan: I totally agree. And you're correct. And you and I are on the same page. And we could probably go and have a coffee or a beer and talk about this for hours. One thing I've noticed is if you have the intention to do this, or you're going after this one goal, you might not get that goal, but another opportunity might present itself from a different direction that's just as good or similar.

So if you want to be the best horse trainer, and you're working towards it, you're working towards it. But then all of a sudden, SeaWorld calls and says we want you to handle the dolphins. There you go, it's along the same line, it's just different.

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. Just putting yourself in a place to do that. Especially in this career change. So the Great Resignation, which we talk a lot about - people loving their job, or hating their jobs. A lot of people I think, got put in their jobs by accident. They just got the job by accident, you know, crafting that and shaping that and putting yourself in a place to succeed. Whether that's in career, personal life, professional life, romantic life - not gonna talk about dating today. That's our next episode.

But I believe that there's a lot of opportunity for anybody, especially in this kind of internet world where you can become Tik Tok famous, or create a drop shipping business pretty fast. The barriers to entry are so low. And so yeah, it's a great time.

Ryan: So that's right. All three businesses I have were accidental. I actually did not intend on getting in each one. It just happened to happen. In the first business, I got into the family business, which is the wholesale business. You know, I actually I left home - God, I ran away. Then I came back with my tail between my legs and said, "Hey, can I get a job?" My dad said, great, you can work here and you can do this, and you're not even getting paid. You get full commission. Now 30 years later, and pretty much still doing the same thing and making X amount. That's awesome.

Anthony: My first job I delivered newspapers at nine years old, just because I wanted some money. Last question, Ryan. As you look forward to what's happening in life, what are you challenged with? What is something that you're like, Whew, I haven't been able to solve this. The next peak of your personal and professional development.

Ryan: That's a good question. Well, the changing of technology every day is always challenging. From Microsoft doing an update, and now Outlook, it's different. And I got to figure out where the freeze panes problem is, you know, that's challenging. So technology changing and communicating.

When I started, right out of high school, and I was a salesman on the phone, you pick up the phone and make a call. Well, sure you can still do that. But today, people don't answer phones today, you get voicemails. Some companies don't even have phones at desks. I was in a conversation with someone who worked at a very prominent company, one of the top media companies in the world and they said they don't use phones at desks anymore. Well, how does someone get a hold of you? My cell phone. Well, how do we get the cell phone number? He goes, "I don't know, best of luck." So there are challenges now. There's so many different ways to communicate. Back when I started, you make a phone call, you write a letter, send a fax, and now it's everything from LinkedIn, to social media, to WhatsApp, texting, emailing. All these different ways to communicate with someone.

So that's challenging, because each person does have their way of being communicated to, and some people coming out of high school don't use email or Facebook. I would love to get a better grasp on that or learn it more. I've posted ads on social media, whatever. But I'd love to be a pro at it, even though I don't think there's much of a return in my business, because I don't sell to a consumer on social media. Because I think social media is used more for b2c, which is business to consumer sales.

Anthony: Got that. To the point of of communication and selling. It has both gotten easier, because you can use all the many ways, but also harder, because it's harder to get a hold of people. So what to take away from our conversation today is life never stops its challenges. But the flip side of that is it never stops its opportunities and I look forward to hearing about your fourth or fifth businesses because I think it'll be really, really cool. So how can our listeners get a hold of you? How can they learn more about the various companies that you engage in?

Ryan: Yeah, so I own a marketing business and the website is idealcontent.com. If someone's looking for specialized marketing, thank you for letting me promote that.

I own an event business. Yes, we do events all over the country, not just here in California. We have some already scheduled in Atlanta, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. The name of the company is A5 Events.

And then I own a wholesale business. So what we do is basically help people with distribution of their products, whether it's inventory they can't move, liquidation, close outs, they're looking for a new home or just trying to get into a certain retailer marketplace. That's called aplanb.com. Or just go to ryankugler.com.

Anthony: Awesome. I appreciate that. Ryan, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. And it's been a blast, like getting to know you. So thank you.

Ryan: Thank you for the time.

Anthony: Fantastic. Folks, thank you for listening and watching and participating wherever you are. I appreciate you being here. This has been another episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. Thanks for watching. Thanks for subscribing. Thanks for being you. And we'll see you next time.



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