You can’t control everything, so control what you can. In business as in life, there are more factors at work than you could ever account for. Sometimes things turn out the way you expect, but just as often something unpredictable happens and your plans go out the window. I’ve learned to accept this variability and view it as a challenge. I work hard to control what I can while remaining flexible enough to alter course if the need presents itself. There are limitations in every system, and entrepreneurship requires you to recognize them so that you can plan ahead.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Elmore. Rick is former college and professional football player who is now a successful entrepreneur and sales and marketing expert. As Founder and CEO of Simply Noted, Rick developed a proprietary technology that puts real pen and ink to paper to scale handwritten communication, helping businesses of all industries stand out from their competition and build meaningful relationships with clients, customers, and employees. Founded in 2018, Simply Noted has grown into a thriving company with clients of various sizes across the country including in hospitality, real estate, insurance, nonprofit, franchise, B2B, and others.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
When I was younger, I grew up in Simi Valley, CA, and spent most of my time outside playing sports, riding my bike, skateboarding or camping at the beach. I do not think there was a single day in my life I was not doing something active or outside. I remember from a young age having a big competitive spirit and liked to do things that were challenging. If it was easy, it really did not interest me, or I lost interest in it really fast.
I knew when I was young, I wanted to do something big with my life. I had aspirations to be a professional athlete from a young age. In my mind, no matter what, I was going to make it happen. I dedicated most of middle school and high school days to working out and learning everything about football so I could increase the chances of making my dream a reality. I genuinely loved every minute of it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a few favorite quotes. #1. “How you do some things is how you do all things” — My first manager at Stryker Aaron Hurlburt told this to me and it hit me hard. I never wanted to be known as a guy who cut corners. #2. “Loyalty is royalty” — This was taught to me from Jason Mitchell who runs the most successful real estate brokerage in the United States. I met him in my early days of being an entrepreneur, and he treated me the same then as he does now 3 years later. #3. What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying” — This was in our team meeting room in college, I saw it every day for 5 years. I thought it was a great reminder that excuses do not matter, only results do.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Dedication — Picking something you love and sticking to it.
- Perseverance — Sticking to something when it gets hard.
- Passion — Without it people will not buy into your vision.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Before my business career I was a college and professional athlete. I was convinced I was going to play until I was 30. After making it all the way to the NFL, my professional football career ended at age 25 and I was not sure what to do. I started speaking with mentors and those who have gone through a similar transition. My mentors told me to get into sales because my background was a perfect for it.
My first professional business job was with Stryker where I spent 2 years learning the ins and outs of selling. I was then presented with an opportunity to build a dollar territory for a company called Straumann which excited me.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I kept searching for what that next chapter was going to be. I went to networking meetings after work, I went back and pursued my MBA in 2017 (where the idea for my company Simply Noted began), I stayed in touch with colleagues and friends, joined new clubs, etc. Connecting with people and building relationships is a major key in everyone’s journey.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
Most businesses are born out of solving problems. While I was in sales, the problem I experienced was that it was hard to get in front of my clients. Back in 2017, I was pursuing my MBA and I was in a marketing class. My professor was going over marketing success rates and everything was marginal, from email to direct mail it was single-digit success rates. The professor then ended the lecture and, half-heartedly joking, he said that hand-written envelopes had a 99% open rate. I thought that this obvious statistic meant I would have more success by reaching clients with handwritten notes, but who had the time to sit down and do that.
I had 400 clients when I was doing medical sales, one year I did holiday cards and it took me over two weeks to get them written and mailed. To make this process more efficient, we developed a robotic technology that holds a pen and produces genuine pen-written notes. I used it and I sent out 500 letters to clients and the response rate was astounding. It was so good that I just literally went all-in and started pursuing this to help other companies because it worked so well.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I would say discovering the power of software and handwritten notes led me to my second chapter. I was unaware of the technologies that were out there that could help you automate a lot of the “busy work” in our lives. Once I started learning about this, it allowed me to scale my productivity by 10x. When I was in sales, I was always looking for anything that would give me a competitive edge. One day I found the integration tool Zapier, and it changed my life. I think if you work within a CRM or do anything in marketing Zapier should be your best friend.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Over the past 3 years we have averaged 300% growth and have outgrown our office space 3 times. We are about to move into about 6,000 square feet of office space which is amazing since year one started in a home office.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for my wife and family, anyone who is an entrepreneur knows how hard starting a business is and how that affects those around you. Without her and the support I have from my family this would not be possible.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I would say the opportunity to work with Fortune 100 companies has been the most interesting experience for me. Last November, I was asked to present to the executive team of a company whose annual revenue is over 1 billion dollars. This was an amazing opportunity and experience that if it weren’t for being an entrepreneur or owner of a business that I would never had been able to be part of. This opportunity opened the door and paved the way to great new relationships!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
In the early days it is easy to get caught up in how hard the journey is going to be. I like to think of it as like hiking a mountain, with every step you are one step closer to summiting the peak. There have been days where it would have made sense to give up, but I am too stubborn when it comes to reaching the goals that I set for myself. When those difficult times come, I just get to work. Hard work creates opportunity. If I ever fail, it won’t be because I didn’t work hard enough.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I really feel like one of the major purposes of life is to build relationships and impact those who are around you in a positive way. After I got done with playing professional football, this became more apparent to me than ever. In my 5 years of life after sports, I really tried to surround myself with friends and colleagues that were positive influences in my life. I would say this is one of the most important things we all can do because when times get hard, you will have a group of people around you that you can lean on when you need them most.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I am naturally an introvert. It wasn’t until I started my career in sales and entrepreneurship that I really started to get outside my comfort zone. I was never the person to walk around the room and shake everyone’s hand and start up a conversation until it was my job to do that. After a couple of years of doing this, I learned that I actually loved meeting new people and talking to them. I think it is inevitable if you want to grow professionally and personally that you must get outside your comfort zone. If you don’t, it is almost impossible to reach your full potential.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t control everything, so control what you can. In business as in life, there are more factors at work than you could ever account for. Sometimes things turn out the way you expect, but just as often something unpredictable happens and your plans go out the window. I’ve learned to accept this variability and view it as a challenge. I work hard to control what I can while remaining flexible enough to alter course if the need presents itself. There are limitations in every system, and entrepreneurship requires you to recognize them so that you can plan ahead.
- Don’t turn down opportunities lightly. I like to think about opportunities I’ve had that seemed small but blossomed into a large account with a boatload of ongoing work. There’s a chance I might have considered turning one or two of them down, either because I was too busy, the customer seemed hard to work with, or the size of the job wasn’t worth my time. If I had, I would never have known how much future work I was actually turning away. You never know where your next big opportunity might come from, and you never know where new business ideas might be hiding. That’s why I think long and hard before turning someone away. I might think I know what I’m rejecting, but I really have no idea what it might turn into.
- Always follow up. In the same way that you never know which opportunities could grow into something bigger, you never know when someone might say “yes”. I tend to treat a “no” as a “not right now”. My service might not be relevant to a prospect at the moment, but a month, six months, or a year from now their situation could change. I follow up with prospects regularly and often, keeping the conversation going. I find this keeps me at the front of their minds, and when things change, and they often do, I’m there, ready to help.
- Don’t Expect Perfection. Winston Churchill famously said that “perfection is the enemy of progress.” I’ve learned to take that lesson to heart. You can’t expect perfection from yourself or other people. If you do, you’ll waste valuable time trying to hit an unrealistic benchmark and miss out on opportunities. If I’m writing a proposal, I shoot for good…maybe great. But once I have something I’m happy with, I just move forward, trusting that the work my team has done will be enough. Remember what we learned earlier. There’s more at work than you could ever account for. Even if you achieve “perfection” it might not be right or enough. So do your best and then let it go.
- Think of challenges as gifts. Challenges are opportunities for growth. They can be painful in the moment, but if you persevere, you and your business can wind up stronger, more resilient, and better positioned to take advantage of future entrepreneurship opportunities. In this way, obstacles and difficulties are a gift. They force you to rethink assumptions that could be holding you back and create new ways of looking at your situation. Plus, framing challenges as gifts removes negative connotations that can shut you down, preventing action.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You can do anything you set your mind to. I think this is completely true and can be so inspiring if you sit back and really think about it. I usually like to try and reverse engineer my goals by looking at the end goal and mapping out a plan of attack to get there.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
@GaryV has so much influence, I would love to have breakfast with him and experience that energy in person. I love positive energy!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find out more information about our services at simplynoted.com. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SimplyNoted1 and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/simplynoted/.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!