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Happiness is Profitable

Happiness Is Profitable

Happiness Is Profitable with Craig Handley

Is Happiness really Profitable?  Can you measure and prove it?  Chris Handley did.  Listen in to see how it’s done.

Craig Handley is an author of a bestselling book called Hired To Quit, he is a musician who expects to write music for artists all over the world, a bit of a comedian who has done Stand Up on Broadway, and he moonlights as CEO of his company ListenTrust, which was named #1 in Business Products and Service (#27 overall) on Inc. Magazines 500/5000 list. He has cage dived with great white sharks and rappelled down Table Mountain in South Africa, driven the Baja 500 trail in Mexico, hiked through the jungles of Malaysia, and in Iceland he snowmobiled across a live volcano, swam in the Blue Lagoon, and dove in the famed Silfra Fissure which is the only dive site in the world where your dive is in the crack between two continental plates. He is also the 85th civilian in the world ever to jump out of a plane from over 32,000 feet.

After running a call center and employing close to 1,000 people, he has learned a thing or two about effective communication on customer support and sales calls.

Website: https://www.listentrust.com/

Twitter: @CraigAHandley

LinkedIn: Craig Handley

Amazon: “Hired to Quit”

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Craig Discuss How Happiness is Profitable

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalyst podcast, Craig Handley.

Craig Handley:  How are you? Thanks for having me on. I’m super excited.

Karla Nelson:  We are super excited to have you, Craig. You have such a unique journey, this entrepreneurial journey. Your bio says it all. Share with us, what is your story? How did this start out with, and how did you end up building a company of more than 1,000 people now?

Craig Handley:  Yeah, I think a lot of it started when I was young. I’ve always looked for ways throughout my life to find alternative ways of thinking, so to speak. When I was a kid, I had a paper route. I was always getting the most new customers. I was bullied in junior high, and I think part of going out door to door and getting people to buy my newspaper, it was something that made me feel good. Every year, I’d win the trip to Florida, or I’d win the trip to the Red Sox game to meet Wade Boggs, who never showed up, so we met Paul Stanley instead. Bummer.

Karla Nelson:  Bummer. I was just going to add I love Wade Boggs. I might still have one of his baseball cards.

Craig Handley:  He stood us up. He was a rookie that year. He was supposed to meet us, and he never showed up. So, Paul Stanley came up, the Palm Ball pitcher there, and came out and met us as well. So, we had a picture with Paul Stanley, whatever. It’s one of those things where when you’re looking for ways to feel good, that was obviously it. Men. Even throughout high school and college, I was always instead of getting a job I would do a Sunday paper route which paid just as much as the weekly. That was a little bit of a life hack there.

Then I would disc jockeying. I would DJ. I would pay some money, which I ended up getting into weddings. Weddings paid more. You only have to work one day a week. I had time to do a lot of things. I picked up Umpire & Baseball, a baseball game. I used make $70.00 for every game. This was back a few years. Then I said, “Well if baseball’s good, soccer’s an hour.” That’s fixed, because baseball could go an hour and a half, or two hours, but not soccer.

Then I started just loading up on soccer games. $70.00 a game, I could make more as a high school kid working two hours a day than most people were making working 80 hours a week. I continued through college doing all these crazy things. I think I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit. I used to do door to door selling of insurance while I was going to music school. I’m a music major. Never graduated. But of course, that’s my whole business experience is going to music school.

As I was doing the insurance thing, after two and a half years being the top in my field, I realized they had probably capped my income. So, I ended up in a call center taking phone calls. Then I became really good at sales on the phone. People would listen to me on the phones. They’d actually record my phone conversations and write scripts from my phone conversations. Then they just started asking me to write scripts. And then if I would train them the way that I spoke in my scripts, then the agents would end up closing more.

So, people would ask me to write scripts and become a trainer. Other people left the call center I was in. They were like, “We got to get Craig Handley to come over and write our scripts and train our agents.” Next thing you know, I was going all across the country building call centers, writing phone scripts. I think I was probably the highest paid copywriter in the country for a phone script. Before the days of the Internet, I was the man, which nobody cares anymore.

That was what I was really good at. Then over time, I said “We might as well build our own call center, because I have all the tools and we know all the customers, so let’s give it a shot.” From there, we built the call center, and I built a few other businesses since then too. That’s my entrepreneurial journey into building the call center. As you mentioned, we grew three years to over 1,000 people, 7,000% growth year over year, mating 500.

We went from zero to over $15 million in client billing, and over $150 million a year in sales. We do do a lot of revenue.

Karla Nelson:  I love the name. Listen Trust, you got to share the background on that, because I think when you listen and you really understand where somebody’s coming from, especially the call actual center if you’re just… Right now, we can see each other. We can see each other and how we respond and all, but really that just being verbal on the phone, being able to listen to what somebody’s saying, and then build that trust by responding to what they’re saying, share with us a story behind that.

Craig Handley:  We were originally Listen Up Espanol, because it was Listen Up, same kind of concept around we’re going to listen and try to close sales. Then it was we’re primarily taking US/Hispanic phone calls. Over the years as the Spanish audience aged, the demographic changed. Because of Google and the Internet, a lot of young Hispanics would look at the English content over the Spanish, and if the numbers were… Even if somebody didn’t speak English, they’d end up calling the English 800 number just to go to the Spanish 800 number. Over time, our mix of business had to change. We went from 15, to 14, to 13, to 12. Then I’m like, “Well, this is a trend. We’ve got to fix this.”

So, we started adding English services. Even people that knew and loved us wouldn’t send us English business because we’re listed up Espanol. I said, “I think we need to do a name rebranding.” So, we contacted three or four companies and we got some proposals. We ended up working with a guy named Reed Perez from Branding is the People, who he really knew how to fit with a diverse bunch of personalities, kind of a comedic type. “My business partner’s a little bit stoic.” We have all these different personality types and we wanted somebody that could communicate with all of us. He went through a process of looking a lot of different factors, and we came up with Listen & Trust, because we not only want to listen to people, but we want to gain their trust.

Our format is different for most call centers. We actually personalized and disarmed the greeting of the post, just asking for a credit card. We’ve got a little bit of a different approach to our phone calls, but as a revenue generator, we make six times per seat than most average call centers because we do a great job with learning how to communicate with our customers. What that means is that our clients are making more per seat. A lot of times you might think if they pay a little extra, that it’s costing them more. Well, when they pay a little extra and when you perform as well as you perform, it saves them money. We typically are a profit center for companies and their customer service, their lead gen, whatever it is because our performance typically allows us to do things they’ve never seen before.

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative), I love that Craig. It seems like you approach it definitely from a team approach. What are some of the things that you do with your team, and the training to then be able to go that extra mile with the customer?

Craig Handley:  We didn’t do this right away, but we started… What I started to figure out is that most people growing up didn’t want to be a phone rep. I don’t want them to just go through the process of answering calls and reading a script. I wanted them to be excited and proud of what they were doing. So over time, I developed a program within the center called Dream Trust. We have six pillars of happiness that we train people one. We do one pillar in January and June, one in February and July, one in… So, six pillars, and we focus on them twice a year. January is health, and June is health. Then February, Valentine’s Day, and July relationships. We have different things that we do there.

Then we have wealth, and time off, and happiness. We have all these different pillars where we’re trying to teach people how to be happy. We actually spend a couple days in training talking about happiness, and then we talk about what their dreams are. We have a dream board. We have everybody write down what their dreams are. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician. Most people don’t want to be a call center operator. They want to travel the world. They want to go Disney. They want to swim with Great White Sharks. So, I put this program together so people could learn how to dream. That’s where I wrote the book called Hired to Quit, because I literally spent two days training people to quit.

We have some amazing stories. A lawyer works with us for four months, and did a podcast. I showed him how to create his own podcast. He interviewed all the lawyers in town. What he did was he found out where the holes in the law are, and then he opened up a shingle and everybody he interviewed on his podcast referred him that business. He had a thriving practice within six months. I’ve got all these stories. This one guy, we taught him how to do a Kickstarter. We taught him how to find sponsors in the middle of town through some Facebook stuff and some programmatic media which is geo fencing. He built a gym for kids to teach them how to box. But he couldn’t have done any of that without all the tools that we provided.

So what we said is, “Anything that you want to do in your life is possible. The harder you work here at Listen Trust, the quicker you’re going to be able quit. Learn our sales process. Learn our core values and our culture. Learn everything that you can here, and then go do what you dreamed of doing all your life.” The reality is, that our turnover went down because most people dreamed to be treated like a human being, which is what we did. The easy thing is, they want a car, they want a house, they want to take a vacation once a year. Well, with our happiness training, we were able to talk to them about saving their wealth and making sure that we put a savings fund away from them so they could go on vacation.

We also went and negotiated properties: level one, level two, level three, level four, with a company that did some sort of contribution so they could go on a vacation each year. We went to the banks. We worked out deals with the banks that once you’re an employee for six months, automatic car loan. A year, automatic house loan.

Karla Nelson:  Wow. I love that. Can I come work for you, Craig?

Craig Handley:  That’s why most people don’t want play it, because they’re happy. But then the unicorns, they should quit. They should go after their dream. They should go out and do art. They should go out and learn how to dance. I don’t want anybody there that doesn’t want to be there. I want everybody to go start their own thing and to do what they dreamed of as a kid.

Karla Nelson:  Love that.

Craig Handley:  My COO quit and bought a golf course, and I’m like… I was kind of a hypocrite because here I am teaching everybody to follow their dreams, and I’m running operations on a call center. I was like one day it hit me, and I put the business up for sale. We’re now looking at potential mergers, acquisitions, whatever. I’d hired an operations team and I am on two Board calls a week as a call center. That’s my only involvement now because I’m going after my dreams.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

Craig Handley:  I’m writing a lot of music because I’m a musician. I’ve got a song with The Chainsmokers right now. I’m like one of 30 probably.

Karla Nelson:  I just love that because when you invest in your people, there’s so many… I think talks towards, oh talent management, and it’s so critical and important. We fall pretty short in corporate America really engaging and supporting the individuals that are making things happen within the organization. Gallup has a study they’ve done for the last 30 years, and within a couple of points, this is just a horrific number, 70% of people hate their job in the United States. If you go internationally, it’s 89%. So, just think of what that does to all those other things: their health, their finances, their relationships, all those other things. If you can just… Something as little as helping them be happy, my gosh, I mean how simple is that when we over-complicate that?

Where did you pull this from? Was it something that you just created or thought about? Or-

Craig Handley:  A combination. John Butcher has the Life Book out of Chicago. He’s in Bali now, but John Butcher created Life Book, which has 12 places of happiness. I thought 12 was a little complicated for presenting it to a workforce, so I wanted to simply it to six. If someone wants to go down deeper down the rabbit hole, you could look up Life Book and do that. Then I read Matthew Kelly’s book, Dream Manager, and Matthew Kelly’s got an amazing book about how he has a janitorial company, and how do you motivate people in a janitorial company. Mary… I met her now three or four times, she’s the one who’s the Mary in the book. She was like, “Why don’t we do this?”

They put this dream program together, and people started enjoying their dreams. I kind of put a combination of those things together because I know happiness. We did a study with Forrester Research, and when we paid people more money the performances improved. But they weren’t happier. When we gave money to charity, we gave it dollar per sale away to Build On, which is a children’s charity to build a school in Haiti. When we did that, the agents’ performance went up. It didn’t go up as much. It was for an upsell position, and it didn’t go up as much as the extra cash. It was like 15% increase instead of 17, so it was a little bit lower.

Then we did a 45 question survey alongside of it. Lo and behold, everybody was happier when we gave money to charity. When we went back and looked at the original closing rates, absenteeism, other factors, what we were able to determine is that because people were happier, instead of closing the primary sale at 55%, we closed it at 62. So, even though the upsell revenue only went up 15%, and with cash it was 17, because we had gained 12 points or seven points on the front end, we were able to prove that happiness is profitable.

Karla Nelson:  Wow, that’s a great story. That’s a great title for a book, too.

Craig Handley:  Happiness is Profitable.

Karla Nelson:  Happiness is Profitable. It’s so true, and it’s so… It’s such a basic human desire, and I think having strategies around being happy, it’s like an oxymoron almost in our minds I think. What are some of the tools? You named a dream board, and a two day training that you had put them through. How daily did that show up, because oftentimes you go in for a training for two days, and the adoption rate a lot of times, depending on what you’re training on, really slips off. How did you consistently keep that in front of their mind to continue that journey in their day to day work?

Craig Handley:  It’s marketing. It’s because the pillars that we have, the six pillars. When they walked onto the floor, if they were out there in February, we had relationship counselors coming in talking about how men should react to relationships versus women. We had separate trainers for men and women, so that the male trainer would come in and tell the men the six ways to stay in a longterm committed relationship. They’d come in and tell the women different things that they probably didn’t want to hear, but they probably need to know. They have things in the US, like the Men’s Weekend or the Women’s Weekend. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, John Gray. There’s all these things and it happens to be true. I think sometimes this stuff should be taught in classes.

When I went to some of these classes it was shocking as to how obvious they were. You’re like, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” or like-

Karla Nelson:  You know what, Craig? I think sometimes we miss the obvious so frequently. For me, even most recently with all of us being stuck indoors and doing way more video conferencing, and things like that, that I have done for well over a decade, I’ve been trying to pull others with me saying, “Hey, we don’t have to be face to face 100% of the time.” Then all of a sudden, it happened. Even learning the little things like how do you interact digitally on video? How do you mute yourself if you’re eating your bowl of cereal? We don’t want to look up your nose. These weird, weird little things, to me because I’ve been communicating this way, it was obvious. But our customers starting asking us, “Hey, can you put together a training on etiquette for video conferencing,” which to me I’d be like, “What?” Because it’s obvious.

Sometimes I think it’s the obvious that’s really critical to communicate, because you never know what the person on the other side knows or doesn’t know based off of their own circumstances and where they’ve been.

Craig Handley:  I love interesting conversations. I was doing a lot of my work by the pool. It was hot, so I’d jump in the pool. Then I’d come over to a Zoom call. The number of times people said, “Are you naked? They’re like, “You know, you should put a shirt on.” I’m like, “Is that the etiquette? Because I’m by my pool so I’m not wearing a shirt. Whatever.” You know?

Karla Nelson:  That’s hilarious. It depends, right? Who are you meeting with? Are you having an event? All of a sudden I realized how something that seems so simple could actually be quite complex depending on the context.

Craig Handley:  That’s right, you could be wearing sweatpants right now and nobody would ever know.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Did you see the video of the guy that was being interviewed, and he accidentally moved and you could tell he had boxer shorts on? I was like, “That’s awesome.” That doesn’t bother me. It’s interesting that-

Craig Handley:  Well the number of stories where people actually brought their Zoom conference into the bathroom with them –

Karla Nelson:  Yes, the gal. Oh my gosh, she uses the bathroom… Because Zoom on your phone, not so much… I’m on a desktop now so it just stays kind of static, but on your phone what happens is it just goes to the person that’s talking. So, you think if you’re not talking that other people can’t see you. But the people that have the desktop can absolutely see you because it shows everybody. Yeah, she took her phone and was using the bathroom on a video conference call. I would have died. I mean, that thing went viral.

Craig Handley:  Yeah, I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the funny stories of people with Zoom.

Karla Nelson:  That’s awesome. Share with us a little bit more about Hired to Quit, and kind of how you put that together, and promoted it, and ended up kind of launching another company right alongside it.

Craig Handley:  Yeah, a couple of companies. That started to work. It lowered our turnover, and we did have the right people that were quitting. I ended up writing the book. I really wanted to… Oh, and by the way, in another part of the training, we actually have really extensive sales training. That was where I was brought up, I was going door to door selling. We spent another couple of days teaching people on up tones, down tones, voice inflection, hesitation, modulation, emphasis, you know, where do you emphasize, reading through punctuation and stopping and pausing in the middle of sentences to control calls, asking questions with a down tone so a customer feels like their part of the conversation, but really you’re basically allowing them to say, “Yes,” or “Okay”, and that makes sense, right?

Yeah, you just keep going but they feel like they’re included in the conversation even though they’re not. You’re basically dictating when they’re allowed to speak and when they’re not. So, we train people on all these amazing techniques on how to present benefits, whether it’s a feature function or primary benefit, what the differences are between the three, and how to close sales, and how to use rebuttals. A lot of real life scenario rebuttals around the Socratic method of getting a yes, which is having somebody say yes to three minor questions, which I’ve used many times in my life to meet women. Then of course there’s-

Karla Nelson:  Well, hey, sales right? I mean, marketing is marketing.

Craig Handley:  That’s right. Of course, there’s feel, felt, found, and all these common ways to talk to somebody about why they’re interest is there, but not to the point where they want to buy or whatever. So, all of the agents are trained really well in those things. Like I was saying, when I had my COO quit to buy a golf course, I was thinking I was being a hypocrite so I brought in an operations team, and I’m on two Board calls a week. I said, “What am I going to do next now that I’m going to grow up?” What I really want to do is write music. I do write a lot of music today. I started writing a lot of jingles for a lot of my friends who have offers and products, and it turns out I’m really good at it. So, they were able to lower their… I started making… A lot of people in the music world make money. I make $100,000.00 a year in music, but I want to win a Grammy.

So, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m making money,” which is most musicians dream about is making a living writing music. I’m like, “Well that’s the easy part. For me though, I want to win a Grammy.” That’s my goal. I’ve been writing a lot of music, and then I kind of stumbled into this other business where in the last 60 days it grew from zero to 40 people and over a half a million in billing. I started needing someone to manage my own social media as an author as a musician, and I do some comedy, and as a business entrepreneur who does coaching. I wanted someone to manage all my social media, so I started looking for solutions. To repurpose old content was a big expense up front, and then $5,000.00-$7,500.00 a month. Then to manage my LinkedIn was five. Then do my community management was five. Then to do my… The company that booked me on podcasts was expensive. And, somebody to do one-on-one marketing through LinkedIn which has worked through Instagram. That was another expense.

It just was really expensive, so I just built it myself. I didn’t know it was a business until other friends asked me what I was doing in my own world, and I explained. They’re like, “Would you do that for me?” I had a friend post on Facebook, and there were 20 people that were following, so I turned it into a business and just offered it to a few people. Six people said yes within 24 hours, and they all referred three people each like this. Next thing I know, I had 40 people and trying to keep up, but 23 employees from zero, and a half a million in billing. I’m like, “I don’t know what the hell just happened,” but it shows no signs of slowing down. We’re doing some amazing things. We’re building up the content, and then we’re using one-on-one messaging to drive traffic back to the content to create engagement.

We’re using the marketing skills that we all have in the business, my marketing brain, to find unique ways to create conversion and sale through traffic. So Dave Asprey is a good friend of mine from Bulletproof Coffee. I did kind of a cartoon video for Dave drinking his Bulletproof, and Dave posted it. He got hundreds of thousands of people who viewed it, laughed about it, liked it. We did just one-on-one engagement, “Hey, go to Bulletproof.com and save some money on your order with this coupon code.” Those are the types of things we think about.

What’s funny about that is I told him how to do it, and then his sales team was too busy going into Costco and trying to get into other Targets and all these other retail stores, but they didn’t set it up that way. He got hundreds of thousands of views, and I was like, “Dave, why didn’t you just drive them to your store and save some money?” We’re going to do that in the next month, because I.

Karla Nelson:  Well, I can’t wait.

Craig Handley:  with that type of idea, you’re going to generate a million dollars in sales. Easy.

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig Handley:  There’s all these different marketing ideas that my brand kind of dives into that starts with good social media and then goes into great marketing.

Karla Nelson:  I love it. I love it. How can our viewers and listeners get ahold of you, Craig?

Craig Handley:  If they Google “Craig Handley” I’m pretty all over the… I mean, I don’t do anything with search, but I kind of come up everywhere. I’m always Facebook.com/CraigHandley, Instagram.com/CraigHandley.

Karla Nelson:  And we’ll make sure your social media handles are posted as well.

Craig Handley:  I’m easy. I’m easy to find. You know, I don’t hide from anybody. I pick up my calls. I answer my Facebook messages. Even if someone’s not connected, I check the junk folders. Usually once a day I’ll kind of rifle through all the odd spots that someone might be trying to reach me, and I like to think I’m really grounded and humble. I like to help people.

Karla Nelson:  Fantastic. Well, Craig-

Craig Handley:  I mirror myself after Branson or Tony Shay. If you’ve ever met those guys-

Karla Nelson:  Down to earth, like the person next door.

Craig Handley:  Elon Musk, all these guys, they’re just down to earth. Paul Diorio, you could sit next to him. Jason Mraz, I actually hung out with Jason Mraz for two hours and didn’t know it was him. That’s something. That’s how humble that guy is. I’m sitting at a bar with him, and we’re talking about all these other crazy personalities.

Karla Nelson:  You know what, Craig? He probably appreciated the fact that you didn’t know and you’re just hanging out, right?

Craig Handley:  Oh, he’s such an amazing writer. I would have loved to have known it was him to talk about topics, about his music. That guy, just the way he writes is just genius.

Karla Nelson:  That’s awesome. Well Craig, thank you so much for your time here today and being on the show. We really appreciate it.

Craig Handley:  Yeah, I feel like we just got started. We could probably talk for another hour.

Karla Nelson:  I think so. We will continue the conversation for sure.

Craig Handley:  Okay.

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