#26: Marco Robert


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Marco Robert is an international business consultant and an inspirational speaker. Whether he’s shining on stage in front of thousands of people in Florida, advising members of a board of directors in South Africa, or coaching the CEO of a company in Malaysia, he can be described as a result-driven-disrupter. Equipped with the BOSS, his proprietary business framework, he challenges the status quo and finds solutions to the toughest business challenges.

His entrepreneurial spirit was seeded at a young age as an apprentice in his family’s business. Later it sprouted on the benches of academia and finally blossomed through nearly three decades of business experiences.

Find out more about Marco Robert at:
www.marcorobert.com

Stefan Aarnio: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show, “Respect The Grind” with Stefan Aarnio. This is the show were we interview people who have achieved mastery and freedom through discipline. We interview entrepreneurs, athletes, authors, artists, real estate investors, anybody who’s achieved mastery, and examine what it took to get there. And today on this show, I have my good friend, Marco Robert.
He is well-known to me as a turnaround guy. He has owned so many businesses over the years. He coaches hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs, He’s even got a book in the works. I love talking to Marco.
Now, me and him met way down in Florida, some years ago. I think the JW Marriott. And funny story, I had my very beautiful assistant with me Vanessa LaRose, he came over to the table. All the guys at this conference came over because we had some beautiful girls with us, and that’s how I met Marco Roberts.
So Marco, welcome to the show, “Respect The Grind.” Thanks for joining me.

Marco Robert: Hey, buddy. How’s it going? How’s it going?

Stefan Aarnio: It’s going great, man. Thanks [crosstalk 00:01:16]

Marco Robert: You know, it’s starting well. Already, you positioned me as a playboy, and that’s a good positioning to start with. Oh my God, I hope my girlfriend doesn’t see this podcast.

Stefan Aarnio: Well, it was … What was it, dude? 2014, it’s 2018 now. Come on.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: We were at a business conference, and business conferences are usually predominantly male, so there’s lot of men there, and I think I had Vanessa with me. She was this blonde. Big blonde hair. Of course, everybody wants to talk to the girl rather than the 99 men in the room. So we had … I think you sat down with us. My coach at the time, Jason Gilbert, sat down with us and just everybody congregated around this table with this one woman at it.

Marco Robert: I remember.

Stefan Aarnio: Yeah, exactly. Then, we started talking about you did some restaurant turnarounds and restaurant business a little bit. So for the people at home, Marco, tell us a bit about yourself, what you achieved over the years because they might not know you so well.

Marco Robert: Yeah. So I mean I don’t even know where to start, but the truth is if I start way, way back, growing up in Quebec, my parents owned businesses. And at a very young age, I was very, very interested by the idea of business, owning businesses. So to the point when I was 12 years old, my parents actually put me in charge. They opened another restaurant, and I was a restaurant manager at the age of 12. So that means I was responsible for scheduling employees. I think I had six or seven waitresses that I was scheduling. I was responsible for bank deposits. I was responsible for inventory management. I was 12 years old, right?

Stefan Aarnio: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marco Robert: And so, it changed my life. It really changed my life. That summer, I end up being able to … With the money that I made, I bought myself the BMX that I’d been looking at in the Sears catalog. You’re probably too young to remember that. But back in the 1980s, we used to receive the Sears catalog and it was the wishlist of all the kids. We could basically check all the items that we wanted in the catalog, and there was this one BMX bike that I wanted for myself. My parents said it’s completely out of reach. I think it was $174 or something like that. Well, by mid July, I had amassed the little fortune and I was able to buy myself the bike.
The idea of creating success in business at such a young age, really, really impacted me. So of course, I studied business. I ended up with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. I worked in that industry for a little while, just long enough to prepare myself to start my first business at the age of 27, and then I never looked back. I’ve been in business ever since, and it’s been an amazing, amazing right.

Stefan Aarnio: So do you still ride the BMX?

Marco Robert: No, I don’t. [crosstalk 00:03:54]

Stefan Aarnio: Maybe a [crosstalk 00:03:55]

Marco Robert: I think by the time I was 16, I had a moped and I’ve never had that … I don’t think I’ve ever had anything again that required physical movement to move my rides.

Stefan Aarnio: Well, that’s good. You upgrade.
So Marco, everybody that we talk to on the show, they have a point usually. There’s like the before success, there’s the after success. Being an entrepreneur, it’s a tough game. What was life like for you, before you started to succeed in business or pre-business? What was life like before success?
Marco Robert: It was really … So here is what happened to me. In 1992, I just graduated. I was 22 years old, and I started to ask myself this question. Why is it that so many businesses fail? All my life, I wanted to become an entrepreneur, but I never thought about the fact that so many businesses fail. And at 22, it kinda freaked me out.
So I started to ask myself this question, and then I got into the self-help, self-development world. I started to study everything I could study. I read books upon books upon books. I took some speed reading classes. And some days, I would read three books. I was probably averaging three to four books a week. I was reading like crazy.

Stefan Aarnio: Wow.

Marco Robert: And I remember, maybe a year into that, I was sitting down and I thought, “Man, I think I figured it out. I think I understand what’s the difference between success and failure.” And at the time, the theory in my head was that success was based on a business ability to systemize itself. The concept was very simple, right?
Franchises by definition are a system of systems, and they tend to succeed much better than independently-owned businesses, which by definition don’t have any systems. So it was a theory and I started to theorize, and I went back to the hotel where I worked. I implemented systems and it worked, and then I implemented systems at another place and it worked. So at 27, I’m like wow, I think I figured it out, so that now it is time for me to go back to work.
So I started a restaurant from scratch and it was all about working crazy hours. Like honestly, I was pretty much sleeping in my own business. I was probably working 100 hours a week, but not working in a vacuum. Just not working for working, but working hard with that idea to not having to work again. So I implemented some processes, some systems. I hired some fast-trained staff. Got rid of staff. Rehired staff. Eventually, I found a really good manager. I trained him, and then together we were able to really take my business to the next level. A long story short, within about nine months, I didn’t have to work anymore. I was probably working about 10 hours a week. I had at that point probably 40 employees in my restaurant, and the whole thing was on rails.
I love that you are talking about the grind because I think at the inception of building a business, that is what has to happen. You have to be willing to work really hard, but not work just to work hard. Work hard with a purpose, and my purpose was to systemize.

Stefan Aarnio: Wow. I love that, and a business is just really people and systems. You’ve got people and you’ve got systems. Now, what are some of these systems that a lot of people are just missing out on? What are they forgetting? Where do you think some of these holes are?

Marco Robert: Yeah. You know every business is different. What I did is probably 15 years ago, I sat down and I said okay, what is the job of a business owner? What is the real job of a business owner? And in one day, I was doing a workshop and I asked my clients, what is the job of a business owner? And I went to the whiteboard, and I had a whiteboard that was probably three meters by two meters, one of those big whiteboards. And I said, “What’s your job? What are you going to do tomorrow morning when you go back to work?” And this guy said, “Well, I have to take care of paying some taxes. I have to pay my bills. I have to run a marketing campaign.”
I said, “What does it mean to run a marketing campaign? What do you have to do?” “Well, I am going to have to buy a list. I am going to have to write some copy. I am going to have to test my -.” And I listed all the things that business owners have to do, and I stopped when my board was filled with activities and tasks that business owners have to do. And then, I counted them quickly. There were about 200 different things. So if you own a business, you probably have 200-300 phase activities, actions that you have to take at any given time, right?

Stefan Aarnio: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marco Robert: So from there, I created the statement, I said, “Business owners have two things in common.” It doesn’t matter where. I have clients in Africa, in Asia, in Europe, and Australia. I have clients all over the world, and I can tell you that business owners have two things in common. They are always overwhelmed and confused. It’s too much to do, it’s just too much.
So 15 years ago, I said how can I help them? How can I organize this into some sort of a system for thinking? And I devised what I call today the four segments of business, right? Number one, you have employee. You have a team. You have the legal term in management consulting is business organization. With all the HR procedures, it’s all the legal procedures in the business, but all of that segment needs to be systemized. How do we hire employees? Which employees do we hire? How do we fire an employee? What’s the legal structure that we operate under? All that stuff needs to be systemized if you want to achieve the kind of results that you want to achieve.
Then, the second segment is your operations. So you manufacture shoes, how do you manufacture shoes efficiently so you make money? If you’re an accountant, how do you deliver your services efficiently, so you make money, right? So it’s all about distributions, it’s about products. It’s about the creation of product. It’s about maintenance. It’s about equipment. Everything that has to do with operations, including accounting, budgeting, all that stuff. All the administrative business, administration of the business. So that’s the second segment.
The third segment is customer service. We have to take care of customers. If too many businesses forget about their customers, and then they just operate in a vacuum thinking that they know what their customers need but they don’t, and then the customers actually walk away. So it’s all the idea of creating value. So we have to know what the market does. We have to understand what the competition does to be able to create value. So all of that needs to be systemized.
And then, the last segment is sales and marketing. We have to iterate. In other words, we have to try and fail and find out exactly what’s the best way to generate customers. And once we find it, we have to systemize it. So to me, to answer your question, systematization is not as complicated as most people think. It’s as simple as carving time in an entrepreneurs schedule to sit down, look back at his business through that lens. I have four segments, and how am I going to be able to streamline my team, my operations, my interaction with my customers, and my sales and marketing? How do I streamline that? That is the first step of systematization.

Stefan Aarnio: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). I love that.
Now, Robert, with that, I went and watched that movie, “The Founder”, some time ago. Did you see “The Founder” with Ray Kroc?

Marco Robert: I did, of course.

Stefan Aarnio: And they’re walking into that restaurant, and the McDonald’s brothers used to have a barbecue restaurant. There was like 40 or 50 items on the menu, some ridiculous amount of items. And then, they cut it down to hamburgers because all they were making money on was hamburgers. So they had hamburger, cheeseburger, french fries, milkshake, Coke, coffee. I think that was the whole menu.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: And you’re watching that show and you’re watching the guys systemize the choreography. You’re watching them set up the machines and these little custom ketchup squirters and all these things. Out of all the industries that you coulda chose to really dig your teeth into, why did you choose a crazy industry like the restaurant industry? We talk to a lot of real estate people on this show. We talk to technology people. Why did you choose restaurants of all things?

Marco Robert: Probably because I didn’t know any better. No, honestly today, I wouldn’t go back. I mean there are a few segments of the restaurant industry that I might be interested in, but in general, I am not interested in that. In fact, over the years, I’ve become an expert in understanding restaurants. Not from a culinary perspective, but really from a business perspective. So a lot of people, when I speak at conferences around the world, people come to me and they say, “Hey, Marco. You’re the restaurant expert. I’m thinking about starting a restaurant.” I say, “Okay -, just why don’t we sit down?” So we sit down for about 20 minutes. Then, they leave crying and they never start a restaurant again. It’s the worst industry to start for a million reasons.
So why did I start that? Because I grew up in that environment. My parents actually owned restaurants when I was a kid, so I didn’t know any better. I never advise people to start restaurants.
First of all, I have to give you the whole story, right? I did not start my restaurants in Canada. I didn’t start my restaurants in the United States. I started my restaurants in Guatemala in Central America. Why? Because first of all, one of the first reasons is I didn’t have enough money to start a restaurant in Canada. I probably had $25,000-30,000 to my name when I was 27 years old, but I figured in Guatemala, I could probably start something. And also, what I understood is that it was pretty cool to be able to buy my costs. In other words, my direct costs, my labor, my food. I was buying it locally at the local price, but I was selling to tourists. So you know, bacon and eggs in Guatemala is pretty much the same as bacon and eggs in Calgary or in Vancouver. You sell it for about the same price, but your cost of producing those bacon and eggs is a fraction of it.
So that’s why I started in Guatemala, and that’s why it was pretty easy for me to make a lot of money because my margins were through the roof.

Stefan Aarnio: I love that. The arbitrage. That’s the true entrepreneur’s story, right there.

Marco Robert: That’s right-

Stefan Aarnio: The arbitrage of getting those bacon and eggs for a fraction, and selling it here. That’s where the money is at in the arbitrage.
Now, you say to people, don’t start a restaurant. You always have passionate people who like to cook, and they’re like, “I like to cook. I like to bake. I want to open a bakery. I want to open a restaurant.” What are some of the pitfalls of these people aren’t thinking about? Is it that all the staff are on drugs, and they’re all crazy and drinking all the time, or they’re stealing? What is it about restaurants that you’d say don’t do it right now?

Marco Robert: Well, here’s the biggest pitfall. The biggest pitfall is that the average person who wants to start a restaurant, and I want to emphasize on that, the average person. Not the guy who has three culinary degrees and used to work in the kitchen of the Bellagio. I mean guy, he wants to start a restaurant. He probably stands a good chance of making it successful with the right partners, with the right marketing partners. But the average person who wants to start a restaurant is what I refer to as a passionate, romantic fool. It’s like imagine this, where the guy is Italian and he came across … Are you Italian, by the way? Is your family Italian?

Stefan Aarnio: Aarnio is a Finnish name, but it looks and sounds Italian, so-

Marco Robert: And you look Italian.

Stefan Aarnio: And I’ve got my American sweater here. I’m Canadian, Swedish, like what is this guy? I’m sort of mutt over here.

Marco Robert: You’re confusing people. That’s what you’re doing, buddy.

Stefan Aarnio: Yeah.

Marco Robert: It’s like me, right? Marco and I have this weird accent. People always think I’m Italian. I kinda look Italian. My camera has been in Canada since the 1600s, so we [crosstalk 00:16:23]

Stefan Aarnio: And where did they come from? From France?
Marco Robert: From France on both my mom’s side and my dad’s side, they both came from France.

Stefan Aarnio: So were they the king’s daughters? The filles du roi or the-

Marco Robert: The filles du roi. The filles du roi. filles du roi.

Stefan Aarnio: The prostitutes they sent over to help the fur trappers.

Marco Robert: Most likely.

Stefan Aarnio: Yeah.

Marco Robert: Most likely.

Stefan Aarnio: Canada’s got an interesting history.

Marco Robert: It does, it does. Yeah.
So what was I saying?

Stefan Aarnio: We were talking about the Bellagio, this guy-

Marco Robert: Yeah. So what I said is the average person is completely delusional, okay? I mean the average person who wants to start a restaurant is delusional. Imagine Antonio. He flew from Italy and he, “Remembers eh, el meatballs from a my village in Italy. It is very good, the meatballs. It’s the best meatballs over the world, ah?” And he starts a restaurant with one idea, “The best meatballs in Italy, ah?” Well, that never works because it’s romanticism. Business has nothing to do with being romantic. It’s about numbers. It’s about traffic.
Well, this guy is delusionally … He is completely delusional. He starts a restaurant. Obviously, he doesn’t know how to attract customers. He doesn’t know how to do any sales and marketing. He doesn’t know how to train employees. He doesn’t know how to increase sales. He doesn’t know how to control the quality. He doesn’t know how to control the costs, so his business is going down because if you go on Thursday, when Antonio makes the meatballs, meatballs are this big. But if you go on Monday, when his business partners makes the meatballs, the meatballs are this big, right?

Stefan Aarnio: Right.

Marco Robert: There is no control. There is no business. It’s a romantic endeavor, and those never, never work.
So the first thing that needs to happen in any business is that we have to have what I call an entrepreneur. See, Antonio is not an entrepreneur. Antonio is a normal average ordinary person. A good person, but he is not yet an entrepreneur. Opening a business does not make you an entrepreneur. It makes you a business owner. You have a few thousand bucks, you can be a business owner, but that’s probably the number one reason why so many businesses fail because they’re not run by entrepreneurs. They’re run by delusional, normal, average, ordinary people.
So over the years, I’ve created a process that allows me to take one of these people and turn them into an entrepreneur because until I have that, we’re not going to have a successful business. Make sense?

Stefan Aarnio: I love it. I love it. I mean it reminds me a lot of Michael Gerber’s, “The E-Myth”. I’m going to ask you later on the call about the top three books that changed your life. Some people on the call here say that “E-Myth” is a book that changed their life. I love we’re talking about the systems, the entrepreneur, the technician.
Now, do you think, Marco, that success in and what we’re talking about, is it more about talent, or is it more about hard work, do you think?

Marco Robert: I think it’s more about hard work. I think you need both, and to me, this is how I explain it. They’re both ingredients. It’s like asking me, “Marco, is chocolate cake more about butter or about sugar, you know?”

Stefan Aarnio: It’s butter, man.

Marco Robert: Right.

Stefan Aarnio: It’s got to be butter.

Marco Robert: Right, but here’s the thing, right? Let’s say you say it’s butter, and I don’t disagree, right? So let’s say you say it’s butter. Well, awesome, it’s butter but are you going to fall in love with butter and say, “Oh my God, it’s butter, butter, butter, butter?” That’s what people do sometimes. They just fall in love with the one ingredient, thinking that’s what it is.
To me, it’s more like a process. This is how … Imagine this, right? When we take the space shuttle to space, we’re sending space shuttles. I mean Tesla just sent a car in space. Is it like the first 20 miles, we spend probably 98% of the fuel, but it’s a different type of energy. It’s kinetic. It’s potential energy, right? The first energy is that the fuel energy and that’s like the course hard work that you need to get a business going.

Stefan Aarnio: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marco Robert: But once you go above the stratosphere, hard work is not going to serve you anymore. At that point, you need to transmute your energy into a different form of energy, but that’s what most business people don’t understand. They fall in love with the butter. The butter is just one form of an ingredient. It’s just one ingredient that’s going to make you successful.
Once you move to the next level, you have to switch if you want to have a good cake. See, we may use … I don’t know how many. Let’s say a thousand gallons of fuel for the first 20 miles to get this thing into space. And then, for the next 3 million miles, we may use one gallon of fuel, and I’m exaggerating but that’s kind of how it works, but it’s a different kind of fuel. It’s a different kind of effort. That’s what most people don’t understand, and that’s why most business people fail.
Because see, you and I grew up in Canada. People watching this grew up in America. There is this idea of working hard to be successful, right? A lot of our ancestors were blue collar workers and they worked in mines, and they worked in fields. And I know in my family, I had settlers, people who actually took the big trunks and the big trees, and they cut the trees and pulled the roots out of the ground in order to be able to just work the land. I mean those people worked really hard, so what do you think they indoctrinated us with? The idea of working hard. And then, kids graduate from great schools with a great knowledge, they think the only way to succeed is to work hard. And then, you find out in their 30s or 40s or 50s, and they still think that it’s about working hard. It’s not true.
By the time you are in your 40s, if you think the ingredients to success is still hard work, you’re completely misguided. You should’ve transmuted yourself. You should’ve transformed yourself into someone who doesn’t have to “Work hard.” What does that mean, work hard? I mean I still work hard. I just came back from five weeks in Europe. I think I had one day off in five weeks, and I’m working 12-15 hours a day. And every night, at the end of my … I meet with the client, and then let’s say I meet with the client in Amsterdam. The next day, I’m with a client in Stockholm. I have to fly three hours. Crazy. I work really hard, but I don’t work hard with a pick and a shovel like I did when I was in my 20s. [crosstalk 00:23:25] it’s a different way of looking at things, I think.

Stefan Aarnio: I love what you’re saying, Marco, because there is this … It’s almost like a yin and a yang. You know when you see a yin and a yang, there’s the white and there’s the black, and these things are balancing. And the show we have here is called “Respect The Grind”. It’s about respecting that process of hard work and this show is kind of geared towards young people because young people, a lot of them don’t understand hard work these days. I am a young people. I’m 31. I’m the youngest of the old, and the oldest of the young, right now.

Marco Robert: Yeah, yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: And it’s interesting because I agree with you, hard work only goes so far.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: I went to Costa Rica over the winter, and I was fasting in the jungle, 18 days just on water. And it’s a spiritual experience when you get down in that jungle and your mind is clear, and you don’t have any food in your body. You don’t have any … Food is drugs. You don’t have any drugs in your body, you don’t have any supports, and you’re just there. There is nothing, and it’s you and your mind. Some people would say the voice of God talks to you when you clear everything out. When you clear all the crap out of your life, that’s when the voice of God talks to you.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: And the voice said to me, “Do less.”

Marco Robert: Hm.

Stefan Aarnio: And so to me, there’s these two ideas. One is respect the grind and you’ve got to go in there and grind it out, and you’ve got to work. But then, you’ve got to sit back and think and say, “Do less. How can I do less?” And doing less is where you say, “Well, how can I transform this and do it differently?”
You wrote a book called, “Business Intervention”. I want to talk about it a bit. I was excited for it. You wrote it. You made it. Tell me a little bit about the business intervention, and perhaps some of the ways that an entrepreneur can do less and do more-

Marco Robert: You know what? I was just telling you that I decided not to release the book just yet, and that’s the reason why.

Stefan Aarnio: Weird.

Marco Robert: Honestly, I think I was probably a little bit confused as to what to put in the book, and I ended up putting too much. Because just like you, I understand that there is this idea of the grind. This idea of what you have to do, and how it has to be done, but there is also this idea of becoming the right person, right? I wrote the book kind of trying to cover the entire spectrum, and there is way too much in there. I think it is probably two books, and it might even be three books by the time I release it.

Stefan Aarnio: It’s the Star Wars Trilogy, man. You’ve got all three movies-

Marco Robert: It’s the Star Wars Trilogy, that’s right. That’s right. So you see, and I don’t know if I want to go into it very … And this is something I teach. I don’t know if I want to go into a long explanation of this, but so many people come to me, and they say, “Marco, how do I do XYZ? How do I do this? How do I do this?” And most business coaches would simply answer. They say … And by the way, why are they going to answer? They are going to answer out of ego. Sometimes they don’t even have the answer.
I speak at conferences. I hear people ask us questions like, “What color should my logo be?” And then, you have people in front of the room that are experts in accounting, in operations, and they start answering questions about logo colors. What the hell do you know about the colors of a logo? Just because you are an authority, doesn’t mean you are an authority in everything. Okay, so that’s the first concept. What I mean is people always, when they see an authority, they always want to ask. It’s almost like they want to be blessed by an authority.

Stefan Aarnio: Blessed by the priest.

Marco Robert: Blessed by the priest, exactly. We grew up in an industrial era, where the only way to survive was to be blessed by the authority, whether it was the priest, whether it was the government, whether it was the boss. The big industry, the mill where you worked for, you had to have the authority. You had to have the permission in order to actually do whatever you wanted to do. So we’ve been trained not to think, but to ask for permission. So people who ask for permissions don’t make good entrepreneurs. Let me give you the example.
If I asked you, “How do I make $1 million?” Well, you’re going to tell me. You’re going to tell me, “Marco, this is how I made my first $1 million.” If I asked Donald Trump, “How do I make $1 million?” He’s gonna tell me. If I ask Oprah Winfrey, she is going to tell me. Do you think your model, Donald Trump’s model, Oprah’s model is the same? No freaking way. No way. Even if you’re in the same industry that Trump was when he started, your model is very different. How do I make $1 million? I don’t know.
The clients, they say, “Marco, how do I make $1 million?” I don’t know. Figure it out, buddy. – you have strengths and weaknesses. You have strengths and weaknesses that are different from my strengths and weaknesses, so the first step is let’s identify who you are. Let’s understand who are, and let’s figure out the best way for you to do it. Because if you think that you are going to learn in a book how to make millions of dollars, you’re delusional. Just like you can’t learn how to write a book or how to play piano, or how to swim from a book, you can’t learn how to make money from a book. There’s skills. There’s methods, but the first thing, this is where I put emphasis. The person who keeps on asking, “How do I do this? How do I do this?” The reality, they don’t want to kn how. That’s why they ask because if they wanted to know how, they could’ve Googled it an hour ago. They could’ve researched it a month ago. They could’ve read a book on it, last year.
When a person comes to you and they ask, “How do I do this?” Typically, they don’t want to know. So when a coach answers that question, the coach becomes the enabler, and I’ve been guilty of that. The first three or four years, I started in 2001, coaching and consulting businesses. And the first two or three years, man, I was full of ego and I’m successful. I’m going to tell you how to do this. People were asking me how, and I would answer how, and then they wouldn’t do it. Then, they come back to me and they say, “Well, how do I do that?” And then, I teach them. How do I that? They’re stuck in that paradigm of feeling like they need to ask permission all the time. So that’s the first book. That’s my first book. That’s the first, the business intervention. And then, the other part is all the methods and stuff like that, but I confused it, I think. So I think that’s why I am going to have to release it in two different steps or something.

Stefan Aarnio: So I love what you’re saying there, Marco, because I think that the concept you’re touching right now is really high level about the coach being an enabler. If the person asking the how question, “How do I do this?” Like I’m in real estate, people say, “How do I flip houses? How do I raise money? How, how, how, how, how?” And from a marketing perspective, I’m always marketing how to do this, how to do that. People love the how. It’s like a trap that’s a bait tool.

Marco Robert: Absolutely.

Stefan Aarnio: What’s the real question then? Is it why? Why should I do this? Why do I want this? Is the why stronger than the how, like Simon Sinek says?

Marco Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That’s good point. Right.
What you just said is probably the reason why you’ve been so successful, and I am sure 99% of people who are listening to this, missed what you just said, so I’m going to repeat it. You said, “When I market myself, I tell people, ‘When you come to me, I will teach you how,’ but I also understand that the how is not that important.” So this is magic, and this is something I teach as well.
There is a difference between what people want to know and what they need to know. So when we market, I do the same thing. I market you come to me, I’m going to teach you how to explode your business. I am going to teach you how to systemize your business so you don’t have to work anymore. I’m going to teach you how to train your employees so that you increase the productivity of your business. I’m going to teach you how to make millions, of course. But then, when they come to me, I do teach them how, but it’s not how they thought it was gonna be. That make sense? So that’s a huge secret.

Stefan Aarnio: Well, it’s massive because I’m a marketer, and I identify now as a marketer. I did it a year ago. I did it two years ago. I’m just Stefan Aarnio is a brand and a marketer. I have multiple businesses. It’s not about flipping houses. It’s not about coaching. It’s not about books. It’s not about information. It’s not about storage facilities. It’s about the brand and just the marketing. I’m a marketer.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: People … Like when I put out a how-to, it’s almost like a trap. It’s a trap you’re laying to catch this fox, or catch this deer because those deers and those foxes, they can’t figure the trap out. It’s like in the old movies, they have a box and a stick, and the squirrel comes and eats the peanut, and the box falls on the squirrel. It’s a trap and people get stuck in that how-to trap. How to? How to? Can I have another nugget? Can I have another nugget? Now, to get out of that, and I’ve been stuck in the how-to trap myself.

Marco Robert: Of course, of course.

Stefan Aarnio: I think we all get in. Then, we go how to? Maybe there is one more thing. If I give the priest more money, maybe he is going to fix me. Is this where we’ve pulled back and we say, “Hey, this is like a Duess moment.” Like for me, last year, I was flying and flying, and speaking, and flying, and speaking, and I was killing myself. And this year, I said no more flying. We’re gonna figure it out.

Marco Robert: Yeah.

Stefan Aarnio: And that was like a why moment, where it was like why are we flying? Why are we doing this? Why? Why? Why? Why? Instead of how? How? How? How? How? Because the how’s were just … It’s linear. It’s a linear thing, whereas why is like an exponential transformational thing. So how do you get someone, Marco, to that why moment, where they ask themselves, “Why the heck am I opening a restaurant? Or why the heck am I flying very day like a psychopath? Or why the heck am I never home? Or why am I so tired?” How do you get them away from the how and to the why?

Marco Robert: Yeah, yeah. So it’s not easy, by the way, right? A lot of people are stuck in there. They are so conditioned that they think … So first of all, what I explain to people is that this transformation, transformation is visceral. Transformation happens in your guts. Visceral, viscera. It’s Latin for guts, so transformation happens in your gut. So it’s not by simply telling them because when you tell someone something, it appears in their head and you create this intellectual opening, right? That’s not enough. And even if you reinforce what you just tell them, maybe you’re going to create an emotional opening. You open them in their heart. But what you really want to do is you want to be honest with them and allow them to be honest with themselves so that it migrates to their gut. When they feel it in their gut, when they feel it in their nervous system, then the potential of change is possible.
I tend to walk away from the how versus why. I used to talk about it a lot before Sinek, but he’s made it so popular, it’s almost become trite. Everybody talks about the how versus the why. [crosstalk 00:35:44]

Stefan Aarnio: It’s cliché.

Marco Robert: It’s what?

Stefan Aarnio: People come up to you at seminars, it’s cliché. They go, “What’s your why? What’s your why? Tell me your why, ooh.” And like we had a call with a lady there, and she goes, “Is this part where you’re going to ask me what my why is?” It’s just so cliché. So sorry, I interrupted you. Continue.

Marco Robert: No, but you’re 100% right. There’s a migration of ideas in society, what’s popular. Like for example, one of my clients started a company in France about 18 months ago and his value proposition was I’m going to 10X your business. I’m going to 10X your business.

Stefan Aarnio: Is that Grant Cardone?

Marco Robert: Well, exactly. Right. Well, 18 months ago, it was awesome, especially in France. Nobody had heard of 10X. But about eight months ago, Grant Cardone comes out with a book called 10X, and now he had the 10X conference. So now, if you talk about 10X, you’re just trite. You’re cliché.
So I told him, I was just with him at another conference, and I said, “You’re going to have to stop talking about 10X because now you’re cliché.” And what we agreed is that in France, Cardone is not huge in France, so they haven’t heard too much. I said, “Maybe you have a year, but we’re going to have to change your value proposition.”

Stefan Aarnio: The raiders are at the gates when Cardone comes and invades the beaches of France and those boats come down, and the guys come with the rifles. It’s over for him, man.

Marco Robert: When the Americans come and invade over France, that’s it. It’s over, man.

Stefan Aarnio: Yeah. Well, that’s what happened in World War II. It’s coming again.

Marco Robert: That’s right. That’s right.
So I stay away from the why and the how ama I can. Instead, I compare it to the do and the be, you know?

Stefan Aarnio: Ooh.

Marco Robert: What’s the how? The how is really the do. What do you do? How do I do it? I want to do, do, do, and it’s really not about doing that much. It’s about being. It’s about transforming who you are. It’s the difference between generalization and specialization. You know how a lot of people are confused about that? business, should I generalize, should I specialize? Everybody is confused about that. This is what I always tell people. Your business should be very specialized. Your business should be very focused. You should have a very clear focus as to what you do, how you do it, and you should be doing one thing, and doing it really well.
Your investments should be diversified, should be generalized. I don’t want all my money is in one thing. I just added … By the way, I just added the portion that I have in gold, for example. I used to keep a little bit, a small percentage of gold. I see the markets are shifting right now, so I increased my position in gold but my gold position is still probably only maybe 6%, 7% of my portfolio. Why? Because I’m diversified. My investments are diversified but my work is very specialized, number one, and my life is extremely diversified or generalized.
When I read, I read about philosophies. I read about history. I read about science. My life is extremely, extremely diversified. I’m a guy who is interested in everything. That makes me become a better entrepreneur. So my be, my being is greater, and that’s what allows me to do more. I don’t more by simply …
At this point in my life, I am not about sharpening my ax anymore. I’m about trying to figure out how I can have 75,000 lumberjacks cutting trees for me. And the only way that is going to happen is through my leadership skills, my ability to influence, and the only way that’s going to happen is by me developing myself by growing, by becoming a different person, by moving from being just an entrepreneur to becoming a leader. And I talk about this in my book, and I talk about this in my conferences where you have to move.
At the onset of a business, the average ordinary person that you are, and by the way, we are all normal, average, ordinary people when we start a business. Very few of us were trained to have the mindset, the risk tolerance, the diligence and the character, and the hardworking attitude that you need to start a business. Very few of us have that. We’re just normal, average, ordinary people, so we have to become entrepreneurs, first transition, but an entrepreneur is not going to become massively successful. The entrepreneur needs to migrate and become a leader at some point. And even the leader … Why? Because at some point, we’re going to have to have troops. We’re going to have to have people. We’re going to have to influence people if we want to massively grow, and even that leader will not become massively successful. At some point, he needs to become an investor. You need to become …
What I mean by investor is the first level of investments is business investment, where your business is an investment. Where you understand the idea of growing the equity, and then you become what I call the private wealth investor, which is probably one of the last steps in the personal growth of human beings, where now you understand that you don’t even have to be involved in the business itself. You own portfolios in businesses, but it’s all about being. It’s now about how-ing, it’s not about doing, it’s about being. You have to become more, and more, and more.
And by the way, I should charge you for what I just told you because this is pure gold. This is what I teach people. People come to my seminars, and some of them pay 15,000, $25,000 to attend. This is what I tell them. I tell them stop trying to figure out how, try to become more. You have to embark. It’s a different ladder, you know? It’s not even that it’s leaning against a different building, it’s a completely different ladder. Tear down the ladder, and then move into becoming, developing yourself. Start studying philosophy. Start studying religion. Start understanding the world. Start understanding psychology, movements in economics, understanding wars, understand influence. Those things will make you a better human being, and that will allow you to move forward.

Stefan Aarnio: What you said there, Marco, I just typed something in the computer, an email to myself while I was listening to that. And one thing came to mind, and something I say to people all the time. You can’t caterpillar your way to be the butterfly. You can’t Blockbuster your way to be a Netflix. No matter how much Blockbuster is Blockbustering, and no matter how much Walmart is Walmarting, they can’t become Amazon.

Marco Robert: That’s right.

Stefan Aarnio: And that’s that transformation that we’ve been talking about. It’s elusive, and I guess another word you said there was leadership. So what does a person have to do, who do they have to become to become that leader and transform from the caterpillar to the butterfly?

Marco Robert: Well, Sinek. I mean again he just wrote a book on leadership testing, and it’s a different character. It’s a different human being. It’s understanding … First of all, I think probably the most important trait of character of a leader is courage, right? It’s probably the first, most … Because if you see the biggest battles, the biggest battles, the biggest wars, the leaders of those wars, the generals who won those wars, it was not about the size of the army, it was about the courage. It was about the courage to take decisions and to take actions when nobody expected it.
I’m French Canadian, right? The French, and I don’t know if you know that, but to be a Canadian in Canada until the late 1700s meant to be French-speaking. The Canadians were the French-speaking people of Canada, and what happened is in the late 1700s, the Brits came back and they took over. How did they do this? Well, in Quebec City, there’s a cliff. It’s a massive cliff. It’s such a big cliff that the French were not even protecting that cliff. They were like there’s no way, there’s no way that anybody is ever going to try to climb that cliff. Well, the Brits, I think it was they were lead by General Wolfe, they actually in the middle of the night, they climbed the cliff. And within 20 minutes, it was over. They just completely won against the army of [inaudible 00:44:40] and they decimated the trips. I think it took 20 minutes, and they won back Canada. And the reason why today we have the face of the Queen on the Canadian money is because somebody didn’t take back the cliff. That’s as simple as that. They didn’t think, or actually to put it differently is somebody had the courage to do what was completely unexpected, impossible.
There’s a Canadian who wrote a book, “How To Do The Impossible”. It’s a guy from Montreal. It’s a great book if you haven’t read the book. It’s a tiny book. “How To Do The Impossible”, a great book. So that’s probably one of the first ideas of leadership is that courage.
Number two is the ability to suppress your ego. You have to learn to master your own emotions. We live in the world where so many people, those normal, average, ordinary people, they’re satisfied with … If somebody comes to them and says, “You know, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it anymore.” You’re like, “If you can’t take it, just quit. If you can’t take it, just divorce them. If you can’t take it, just close the door.” “I just can’t take it, man.” You know?
I had something happen close to me. This person just quit on something that was very important to them, and I’m like, “Why did they quit?” And I asked this other person, and she said, “Well, you know she was thinking about suicide?” Why? Why do you take yourself to the [inaudible 00:46:19] Why are you willing to take yourself to the point where you’re willing to kill yourself for something that six years ago, you wanted to do? You understand what I’m saying? And I’m not putting down mental health or anything like that, but is it that a person who was committing to doing something, who had made it their life endeavor, now six years later is considering killing themselves? Because we live in the world where quitting is acceptable, where the whims, the fantasies of your mind become the guiding principles of your life. That’s fucking bullshit. It’s bullshit.
If you want to become successful in life, one of the first things you need to understand is this. You set a target and you do whatever it takes to get there, period. You set a target in the future, and you say, “How am I going to get there?” And you get your ass there. “Yeah, but I’m tired. Yeah, but I don’t like it anymore”, right? Well, those people never become successful, so that’s the second thing of leadership. It’s that control of ego, that control of emotions.
And the third thing of leadership is to also be able to understand other human beings. Not only to understand your own emotions and control your emotions, but you have to understand other human beings. You have to study psychology. You have to understand how individuals think. You have to understand the movements of philosophy. You have to understand the movements of sociology. How do people think inside of a group? Because people, there is this herd mentality. We operate and think very differently in groups than we do individually.
So you have to understand, I mean I could talk about this for hours and hours, as you can tell. But you need to have that transition from being a simple entrepreneur to becoming a leader, and that’s going to help you move your business the next level. And then, there’s more. There’s more transformations. Later on, you need to become somebody who is not only guided by leadership, but you need to be guided by the understanding of what I call “Business investors”. You focus on equity instead of just being focused on operations. That’s how you grow.

Stefan Aarnio: I love this conversation, Marco. I’ve got to say this is probably one of the most exciting and interesting conversations I’ve had on this show. I’ve interviewed about 10 very successful people so far, and I really appreciate it.
Now, you’re almost like a renaissance man in what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Hey, man. You’ve got to know sociology, psychology, history. You’ve got to know operations, branding, all these different things.” What are the top three books that you recommend to people, right now?
Now, there’s two ways that you can take this question. You can go with top three classics, or you can go top three right now. It’s up to you.

Marco Robert: Yeah. I mean there’s so many good books out there. I think when I was in my 20s, that’s probably what woke me up. When I realized that the knowledge of the world was actually hidden in books, I couldn’t stop reading. I lean towards the classics a lot. I think once the book has been around for 50 years, there’s a reason for that. So I love the classics, but there’s also some more recent books that I think are very important and I think it depends.
First, you have to understand who you are. You have to understand what’s the next thing for you? I don’t think there is a book that everybody should read. If there is a book that everybody in business should read, it’s probably “Think and Grow Rich”. I think if you own a business or you pretend to want to become successful but you don’t read “Think and Grow Rich”, I think you’re missing the point completely because the book addresses who you need to be to become a successful person.
There’s an author that I like a lot. His name is Roger Hamilton. He wrote a book. His book, it’s called “Your Life, Your Legacy”. It’s not the most impressive books, but what he did is he created a method to help you understand who you are as a wealth generator, what kind of a wealth generator you are. So what he did is this guy grew up in the Western world, but he’s half Scottish, half Chinese, I think. So his mom, I think, is Chinese. So he grew up kind of on the fence of the Western world and Eastern world and he studied the I Ching and all this ancient, the yin and yang philosophies, and things like that.
So he created this thing called “Wealth Dynamics” and I’m not affiliated with this at all, but if you’re interested or the viewers are interested, they should go to WealthDynamicsCentral.com, where they can actually take a test. And the test will help them reveal who they are as a wealth generator, and I did that in 2008, and it was life-changing. To understand that as a business person, I did not have to be everything, in fact it was a bad idea to be everything. I needed to really understand who I was, hone into that, and really focus on who I really was. There’s probably very few things in my life that have had more impact on my business than that. So the whole idea of understanding yourself, and Roger Hamilton is only one. I mean all of this is based on Carl Jung. I don’t know if you’ve studied Jung, but Jung is the person who actually translated the I Ching into the English language and it changed his life. His entire body of work is based on this idea of specialization and understanding exactly who you are and focusing on that, so that’s pretty fascinating.
So this entire philosophy of focusing and understanding who you are, to me, it’s very, very important. “Think and Grow Rich”. Another great book is “Mastery” by Robert Greene because basically what “Mastery” says is that life … This is how I say it, life unfolds on a gradient scale.
So many people see the future. They financial advisor in love with that idea, “Oh my God, I want a yacht, or I want a new refrigerator,” whatever they want, right? “I want a new house, or I want to make $1 million,” but they don’t understand that you’re not going to go from here to there. There’s the tomorrow, there’s a next step, and you have to be willing to do whatever it needs to be done tomorrow. And by the way, when you do it tomorrow, you probably won’t move much and you won’t feel like you’ve moved forward much in your life. That’s the entire concept of “Mastery” and Robert Greene depicts this so well by actually using stories of taskmasters and how they’ve become masters. A beautiful, beautiful book. I think anyone who will become successful in life should read “Mastery”.
And I’m going to add a fourth book, which I think one of the most important things in life at some point in the life of an entrepreneur is to become an expert at communication. There’s a bunch of guys, I think they’re from Utah, and they got together and they wrote a book called “Crucial Conversations”. “Crucial Conversations” is not just about those tough conversations that you might have sometimes in business or in life, but there’s the very important distinction and I’m going to say it because sometimes people read the book, and they don’t understand. Actually, I read the book and I didn’t understand. One of my coaches helped me understand this.
There’s seven difficult or crucial conversations that you can have in life and it’s almost like those conversations are ripples. So imagine this, right? If I throw a rock here, it’s going to ripple out. Well, as we grow, we ripple out. If there’s one conversation that you are not willing to have, at some point, that conversation will stop your growth.
Let’s say it’s about your integrity. Some people, they feel like their ego is strong. They at the moment that their integrity, they checked out. Well, at some point in any business, your integrity is going to be questioned. It’s going to happen, so that’s where you stop yourself. And what we find is a lot of entrepreneurs have what I call this glass ceiling syndrome, right? They grow. They feel like there is more. They know there is more, and they can see that there is more, but they keep on bumping their head on that glass ceiling. Why? Most of the time, it is as simple as their communication patterns. They are not willing to take themselves beyond a certain point, and that point becomes the outer limit of their successful. That book is completely transformational.

Stefan Aarnio: What’s the name of that one?

Marco Robert: “Crucial Conversations”.

Stefan Aarnio: “Crucial Conversations”. Wow, so we asked for three, we got five. Marco is over-delivering the value on this call. Love it, man. Those are some big, big books, big concepts.

Stefan Aarnio: So three more questions before we go, we’ve got to wrap up here. What’s the one thing that young people need to succeed nowadays? We’ve got the millennials. We’ve got all these young people. The old people are always banging on the young people, no matter what generation it is. What do young people need to succeed these days?

Marco Robert: I love the millennials, by the way. I am a big fan. You know sometimes I say I was the first millennial because millennials are romantic. They love the idea, they want to change the world. I was born in 1970s, but I feel like I was the first millennial [crosstalk 00:57:02] because I’ve always wanted to change the world. I was always disgusted by the idea of simply going to work and just for the drudgery of working there. I never liked that, and I feel this entire generation who wants to change the world, but this is probably one of the biggest lessons that millennials have to understand. It’s about …
You see, when you’re in your early 20s, when you work, you should not be working for money. You shouldn’t be working for money. You should not be working for status. You should be working for experience. You should develop yourself. So it doesn’t matter how much money you make, but if there is an opportunity for you to lead, step into that opportunity. If there is an opportunity for you to manage, step into that opportunity. You should develop yourself. If there is an opportunity for you to learn to sell, step into that opportunity. Develop the skillsets of understanding the numbers in business, of understanding sales, of understanding people. It’s not about money.
So what I always tell the kids who just graduated, I say, “You know what? Don’t go out there and buy a big car.” You see, you spent the last four years of your life, eating noodle ramens and mac and cheese, and living with the three guys in an apartment or three women in an apartment, right? Well, why don’t you just keep on doing that for the next few years? And then, take the money you make, put it aside. Don’t force yourself into a place where you have a big payment each month. Don’t force yourself into that place where you become stuck and you’re struggling to actually make ends meet at the end of the month. Focus on growing yourself. Don’t impregnate your girlfriend. Don’t buy a big car. Don’t buy a big house. Don’t put on any burden on you. Instead, focus on growing yourself. I think that’s probably the best piece of advice I can give millennials, who either they’re teenagers and they’re thinking about, “What am I gonna do next?” Or just recently graduated and they’re just embarking on the … They’re just joining the workforce. I think that’s probably the best piece of advice I can give to them.

Stefan Aarnio: I love it. I think it’s fantastic. 20s are about learning, 30s about earning.
Are there any resources besides the ones you already mentioned, Robert, that you could mention for young people starting out right now?

Marco Robert: Here is the truth. There is so much information out there. There is so much information. If you are willing to, it’s just the willingness to commit to finding the information. There is literally no limit.
I remember when I was 20 years old, when I was 22, just graduating, and I was fortunate because there was a big tall guy on TV every night in the 1990s. His name was Tony Robbins, and Tony Robbins was selling a dream. He said, “You know what? It is possible.” And I took I think it was $375 US dollars. I was netting about $325 Canadian dollars at the time per week, and I took $375 US dollars, which was a little fortune for me and I bought some tapes, like cassette tapes, four-tracks, and then I learned that there was a world out there, that there was possibilities. And from that, I said, “Okay, well, there’s books,” and I started to go to the library, and I would read books and I bought some books. Today, all of that is free. It’s free you don’t even need to have any money. You can go on YouTube. You Google it. There is so much information out there.
I think it’s about setting a target. It’s about having this ambition [inaudible 01:01:13] And I think most of the people who are watching you, they are watching you because they are already ambitious. So I understand that it’s awesome to have this beautiful target, and now be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Are you willing to respect the grind, right? I love that, man. I love that about you. Be willing to work hard. Be willing to learn. Be willing to improve by this much tomorrow, and this much the day after, and this much because all those incremental steps will take you there as long as you don’t stop. As long as you’re 100% committed, you will succeed.

Stefan Aarnio: I love it, man. I think it’s the little piece, the little piece, the little piece. It’s the tortoise beats the hare over time. That’s what respecting the grind is about.
Now, one final question, Marco. This is shameless self-promotion. Is there any programs, causes that’ll benefit you that you’d like to promote?

Marco Robert: You’re breaking up here. Can you repeat the question?

Stefan Aarnio: Sorry. I said do you have any programs or causes that you want to promote? Your website, your stuff. How can people get in touch with you?

Marco Robert: I always say … I mean I’m an international speaker. I’m always looking for opportunities to actually speak at events, so if you know someone who organizes events and they are looking for speakers, that’s obviously what I’m always looking for. People can find out more about me at MarcoRobert.com. So M-A-R-C-O-R-O-B-E-R-T dot com, or actually MarcoRobert.ca for Canadian.
I am also on LinkedIn. Probably my profile on LinkedIn is very complete. So it’s linkedin.com/in/marcorobert. I am here to serve, man. That’s what I do. My life is devoted to my personal pursuit of happiness, and the pursuit of happiness of my clients. Left-brained people call me the nerd of business, and then the right-brained people just love to hang out with me because I have a lot of energy and I love to have fun. For me, if I’m not having fun, I’m not serious enough, so that’s what it is. People can find out a lot about me. I’m all over the place on the internet. I’m everywhere.

Stefan Aarnio: Awesome. Well, thank you for being on this show, Marco, “Respect The Grind”. It’s been a real pleasure having you, man. One of the best conversations we’ve had so far. Thank you so much.

Marco Robert: You are very welcome, buddy. Thank you so much for your time, and can’t wait to run into you soon somewhere at some event, or maybe next time I’m in Canada.

Stefan Aarnio: All right. We’ll do it. See you soon.
Hey, it’s Stefan Aarnio here. Thank you so much for listening to another episode of “Respect The Grind”. Now, if you love what you heard today, I want you to check out my brand new Wealth Potentials Test. If you’ve ever wondered what the next step is in your game, your entrepreneurial game, your wealth-building game, if you want to know where you’re at and where to go next, Wealth Potentials measures your habits, your talents, and your leadership to show you where you are today in your wealth-building and where you need to go tomorrow.
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