Roy Barker was recently a featured guest talking about small business marketing on the Sink or Swim Podcast, produced by Will Hanke and Amber Hanke at Red Canoe Media.
Episode 10: Business & Senior Living Operations Advisor Roy Barker
Speaker 1: It’s time for another episode of Sink Or Swim. The podcast that helps you keep afloat in a sea of business marketing options. Learn what other business owners are doing to keep their businesses thriving and growing, and what almost sunk their ship. Join the voyage, as Red Canoe Media Owner Will Hanke, and his daughter Amber wade through the waters to get you the booty you deserve. Wow, that was a lot of nautical references in three sentences.
Will Hanke: Well hey [00:00:30] everybody, welcome to another episode of Sink Or Swim. My name’s Will Hanke. On today’s broadcast, we’ve got a terrific guest. But first, Ms. Amber, how are you doing?
Amber Hanke: I’m doing amazing, how are you?
Will Hanke: Oh wow, amazing. That’s terrific. So, wow, you caught me by surprise there. What’s so amazing?
Amber Hanke: Life.
Will Hanke: Life in general.
Amber Hanke: Yep.
Will Hanke: So, not only are you getting ready to finish up college, you’re on your last semester. But, you’re also doing something else, what’s that?
Amber Hanke: [00:01:00] I am buying a house.
Will Hanke: Oh, you are buying a house. That’s awesome.
Amber Hanke: Yep.
Will Hanke: Except I’m going to miss you. Why can’t you just live here forever?
Amber Hanke: Yeah.
Will Hanke: That would be terrific. Well congratulations, that’s great.
Amber Hanke: Thank you.
Will Hanke: When are you closing?
Amber Hanke: On the 22nd.
Will Hanke: Okay, so in a couple weeks.
Amber Hanke: Yep.
Will Hanke: Very good. Well on today’s show we’ve got Roy Barker, Former rodeo star Roy Barker. And, he’s an Advisor/Consultant for Turnover Analysis, amongst some other things. Roy, thanks for being on the show.
Roy Barker: [00:01:30] Oh, thanks Will and Amber. Wow, that rodeo star takes me way back in time, a few days ago. Well thank y’all so much, thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it.
Will Hanke: Yeah, no problem. So why don’t you go ahead and tell us about your, give us the two minute elevator speech about your business.
Roy Barker: You bet, you bet. Well what I do is I’m a Consultant and Advisor for … And, my focus has been on the senior living industry for the last 18 years. I do some work with just businesses [00:02:00] of all types. But what I do is help clients improve their financial positions through both revenue and expense optimization, looking at the sales process and activity. And then, my major focus is on employee retention. I don’t think a lot of, a lot of businesses don’t understand that it is not only a cash drain, but it can discourage business, and it can discourage the employees that are left behind. So I feel like that, when [00:02:30] you can get your employee turnover under control, you will add value to, not only to the company and to the bottom line, but also to your clients, and to your employees that are left behind.
Will Hanke: Yeah. We have a client right now who’s gone through three or four employees, it’s a retail store, but they also sell online. And, it’s a big deal when they lose one. They have to figure out how to get another one.
Roy Barker: Right, right. And I don’t think a lot of businesses understand, the clients pick up on that when you come in, and you have [00:03:00] somebody new each and every time that you come in, they don’t know you as good as they could. It can be very discouraging. And then, they’re also perceptive enough to think, “Well maybe there’s something going on with this business.”
Will Hanke: Yeah, definitely.
Amber Hanke: Roy, how many employees do you have right now?
Roy Barker: Right now I am a solopreneur. I have one young lady who is also in a marketing program in college that, she works a few hours a week for me. Then I have some other contract type people for editing. And, [00:03:30] beings I’m from Texas, English is a second language. So I need a good editor to make sure the, “Y’all’s,” and the, “Fixin to’s,” come out of my writing.
Amber Hanke: So I’m guessing though, you are doing this full-time?
Roy Barker: Yes, yes I am.
Amber Hanke: And how long have you been in this business?
Roy Barker: Well I’ve been in this business for, like I said, for the last 18 years. The last year, I have transitioned, it was a small family company, and it was actually my family that, we were making some changes in. So the last year I have transitioned over [00:04:00] to working for myself.
Will Hanke: So, what got you into the profession in the first place?
Roy Barker: Well it was an accident. Like most good things that happen to you, I was kind of a late bloomer. I just, all I ever wanted to be growing up was a cowboy. And, once you get to a certain age, and get banged up a little bit, you realize you can’t do that all your life. And so, I got lucky, went to work for AT&T, back in the 80’s, pre-divestiture. And, while I was there, I got lucky [00:04:30] enough to get into a college program, so I went to night school for about 10 years. Once I graduated with my finance degree, my step-father, who was doing some real estate consulting, was in the process of writing a couple books geared toward the senior living industry. And, I consulted with him on some financial and technical issues. And, just started at that point, started doing some more operation reviews, and benchmarking.
And then, after I’d been in the business a few years, I went back [00:05:00] to grad school and got my master’s in gerontology. And, as I’m sitting in this class reading through a book, they were talking about, “Yes, you can expect to see in some instances, three to 500% turnover with the employees.” It really didn’t compute with me at the moment, because working for AT&T we moved within departments, and within jobs. But, I was probably one of the very few people that ever left before retirement. And so, started doing some research and found out, [00:05:30] it is a problem, especially in the long term care senior living industry.
And then, started looking at the astronomical costs that can be associated with even a $10 an hour employee. The estimates are usually between five to $7,500 to turn one over. And then, I’ve seen estimates as high as $10,000. And then when you start talking about tech workers, programmers, you can talk about 400% of their salary in some cases.
Will Hanke: [00:06:00] Wow, that’s crazy.
Roy Barker: Yeah. So there really is a true bottom line expense.
Will Hanke: Yeah, yeah. So, how long have you been out on your own?
Roy Barker: Oh, going on my third month. Like I said, we knew we were transitioning, and so I had been started doing some marketing for myself under my name last year, and kind of getting ready for the transition.
Will Hanke: Okay, very good.
Roy Barker: Yeah, yes.
Will Hanke: So as you know, this is a podcast all about marketing.
Roy Barker: Right.
Will Hanke: So when [00:06:30] you started, it sounds like you kind of sort of had some sort of a marketing plan in place.
Roy Barker: Yes I did. I sat down and drew out a little bit more detailed marketing than what we were doing. The company I was with had been around for many years in the industry. And so, we had a lot of name recognition. So for me, it was trying to get that name recognition to some of the newer people. Our industry has exploded over the last few years. So, there’s a lot of new people in the industry, and then also trying [00:07:00] to get out to the, some of my old contacts, and old companies that I have worked for in the past, that I am now out on my own.
Amber Hanke: So, can you tell us what your first marketing win has been, and did you do it on purpose, or did it just happen?
Roy Barker: Yeah, sure. I’m going to tell you two of them, because one of ’em is so unrealistic. It’s just not feasible to even think about it again. One of my very first ones was, I reached out to a guy that I had met through LinkedIn, and just did the [00:07:30] connection request. He just sent me back an email that said, “Oh my gosh, so glad you connected with me today. We’re in a pinch, we need to look at this operational process.” So anyway, that was probably one of the most-
Will Hanke: Wow.
Roy Barker: Yeah, that was one that just, somebody lobbed up a big old grapefruit and was able to knock it out of the park. That’s just not my reality. My reality seems to be just the old fashioned, grinding them out. I think the biggest true success is a guy that [00:08:00] I had met at the beginning of last year at a conference. And what I try to do on my conferences is get an attendee list, send out emails to the people who I would like to meet with, and just say, “Look. I’m not here to pitch you, or I’m not going to take up an hour of your time. I just want five minutes of your time to meet you, put a name with the face, and we can move on.”
So, I had met him at the beginning of this year. And then at another conference we went to in the middle of the year, he was talking to another [00:08:30] young lady that I knew. So when I went up to talk to her, he’s like, “Oh, I’m glad to see you. I’ve been needing to talk to you about this job.” So we finally got together and hammered out an engagement that was well over a year long.
Will Hanke: Wow, that’s really nice.
Roy Barker: Yes, yes it was.
Will Hanke: Very cool.
Roy Barker: Yeah.
Will Hanke: So, what kind of things are working for you right now? If you’re young in the business world, what kind of things are you doing that seems to be working pretty well for ya?
Roy Barker: Well, pretty much the standards. I think [00:09:00] I tried a lot of different things. That’s kind of a challenge, starting out. But, I think the best things for me is going to the conferences, those live one on one meetings. A lot of the consulting that I do is, it’s very personal, even for a business. If you have to open up your financials to me, or we have to talk about the problems that you’re having with your employees, or kind of digging into some places that not everybody wants you to go, so, trying [00:09:30] to develop that personal relationship has been the biggest thing for me.
I also am big on LinkedIn, publishing, not only publishing long form, but also just republishing articles of interest. And then, just little daily motivators as we go through the day. And then the other thing that I’ve really focused on is direct email. And when I say that, it’s not like, “Hurry, hurry, hurry, we’re having a crazy [00:10:00] sale for the next 10 minutes.” It’s more of, sharing thoughtful articles that people … That may be of need to somebody. And what I try to do is, if it’s my stuff, or even if I find another article out there that’s good. What I will do with it is just repackage it and say, “Hey, I saw this great article that may interest you. Here are my five takeaways from it, and then here’s the full article for you to read.”
And so, try to be thoughtful with the message, and [00:10:30] not just spamming people with emails three or four times a day.
Will Hanke: Right. That’s a pretty smart strategy, taking somebody else’s content and just kind of repurposing, or putting your spin on it.
Roy Barker: Yeah, right. And I like to think that I’ve got a lot of knowledge. But to be honest, there are a lot of people out there that are a lot smarter than me. And so, that’s the great thing about not only the business, but the marketing side of it too. Is, if you pay attention and listen to it, you can really learn something every day.
Will Hanke: Yeah. And you know, there’s something to [00:11:00] be said about, like you said, the conferences, and the one on one. There’s a reason why there’s so many networking groups out there. Because, if you get to the right ones, you can get in front of the right people.
Roy Barker: Exactly, exactly. And that’s mainly what this is all about. It’s like, everybody has pain throughout the year. But, it’s being top of mind, or being in front of them whenever they’re feeling that pain so you can be there to help.
Amber Hanke: So Roy, besides LinkedIn, are you doing any other online marketing?
Roy Barker: No, not really. I [00:11:30] do a little bit of Instagram, more just kind of fun. I’ve got a cup with my company logo on it. So, what I’ll do is I’ll carry that cup around with me, and take pictures of it in different situations, or maybe if I’m reading a book, I’ll take a picture of that cup and put it on the book. But, mostly my audience that I market to would be C Suite individuals, and I just … In the beginning I tried Facebook, and I just didn’t feel like I had [00:12:00] much luck over there. So that’s why I’ve tried to focus on the LinkedIn, and then some YouTube, trying to put up some videos and some webinars in the past.
Will Hanke: Oh, nice.
Roy Barker: And trying to work on getting some more of those out there now, yes.
Will Hanke: That’s good. The webinars can double duty because they can also build your email list too.
Roy Barker: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, and that’s the other thing is trying to make sure that you’re putting out checklists, and other content that people find interesting, where you can [00:12:30] gather some email addresses off that as well.
Will Hanke: Yep, yep. Do you see any marketing trends or tactics that other businesses are doing that you’d like to attempt?
Roy Barker: You know, I do. I think it’s hard being a solopreneur because I not only do my own writing, and marketing, and sales, and then servicing the customer as well. But, with a little bit of growth, I would like to be able to spend more time at these conferences to be able to do sponsorships, and [00:13:00] just have much more, have more dollars, and then more time to invest in those. I think that’s really where it’s at.
Amber Hanke: What marketing do you see you competitors doing that you think is cool or uncool?
Roy Barker: Well, I think the coolest thing is the sponsorships, and the panels, putting the panels together for the conferences. Like I said, that’s kind of where I would like to evolve to as I’m able to invest more time and money in that. The what I don’t like are the [00:13:30] spammy come on’s, “Hey, we’ve got something for you.” And then going through three or four different landing pages, and really to find nothing of value. So I just feel that honesty and transparency is the best route. If you don’t really have anything to share this week, then I don’t send anything out. I wait till there’s something I feel like can have an impact on people.
Will Hanke: Yeah, I think that’s a good strategy than just being forced into dumping out junk content.
Roy Barker: Exactly, exactly. And I [00:14:00] think people get so hung up on, “Oh, I’ve got to send something out every three days,” that sometimes the quality of that content is very suspect. And I feel like that can do more damage than it can do good.
Will Hanke: Yeah. So with being the man with all the hats on, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to landing new customers, or getting new leads?
Roy Barker: Well I think being in front of that person when they need you. ‘Cause, sometimes [00:14:30] I can talk to people about these issues, but until they realize that they need help, they are very reluctant to engage. And so, I think it’s trying to stay top of mind. And sometimes, like I said, and this is not a recent development. It’s been something that I’ve seen over the years is, sometimes these relationships can take months to develop. Months and even years before people are ready to engage you to address these issues, or before something [00:15:00] comes up.
It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, or don’t like what you’re saying. I think that’s one thing we have to remember is that, businesses that we’re marketing to, they’re out running their business, and they’ve got their own problems, and their own fires that they put out. And so, just because I send you an email today telling you how this great program I’ve got, and you don’t respond. It doesn’t mean that you may not be interested. I think it just means that you could be busy, and so that’s why I feel like that the [00:15:30] thoughtful followup is really the best thing, is not to hit the panic button, but just to keep sending out information till your prospect is ready.
Will Hanke: Yeah, I think that’s good. I had two people last year that contacted me, that I had previously spoken to about eight or nine years before that. So, that was a long nurture period but-
Roy Barker: Right, exactly, exactly.
Will Hanke: They came around.
Roy Barker: Yeah, followup is the key, and that’s the thing I, whenever I’m engaged [00:16:00] on the sales side is, that’s one thing that I talk about, is the followup. All the statistics out there say it can take eight to 12 touches. The consumer is much more smarter because of the internet, and the research that they’re able to do. And so, I think that we just … And when I say followup, I want to clarify that, that is not the, “Hey, I’m circling back with you today,” Or, “Are you ready yet?” Or, “What’s up, it’s …” [00:16:30] That’s why that initial contact is so important, you ask the question so then I can call you by, I can say, “Hey, I know you’re a big gardener. How’s your garden looking?” And have that thoughtful followup.
Will Hanke: Yep. We had another podcast guest on that always sent out birthday and anniversary, just like a little postcard or something. But it was a great way to just stay in front of people.
Roy Barker: Right. And that’s one thing I do whenever I go to conferences, and collect all the business cards. I make sure that not only do I [00:17:00] send them an electronic thank you, “Glad to meet you, thanks for your time.” But I also take the time to sit down and send them a hand written note as well.
Will Hanke: That’s terrific.
Amber Hanke: What was your worst idea, the one that almost sunk your ship?
Roy Barker: Well, luckily I haven’t had one of those yet, knock on wood. I think that the … It’s kind of the struggle for the solopreneur type, is there’s limited time, [00:17:30] and there’s limited funds. And so, it’s trying to go through some of these processes, looking at tools. And, I listen to a lot of podcasts, like you guys, and there are so many tools out there that I kind of get sucked into trying ’em, and then so … It can be a real time drain, and a resource drain, signing up for these things and then finding out that they don’t work the way they were supposed to, or that they really don’t work for you.
Will Hanke: Yeah.
Roy Barker: So, it’s kind of trying to [00:18:00] find the best value of them. Not only the dollar, but of the time. It’s like I said, there’s just so many hours in a day.
Will Hanke: Yeah, so let’s take that and flip it on its head. If money were no object, what kind of crazy marketing student, or PR thing would you do?
Roy Barker: Oh, you know. I am so, I may be too boring for that question, because like I said, my biggest thing is like the conferences, and then sponsorship. Maybe running some ads in [00:18:30] some publications. But I’ll tell you one kind of a crazy stunt that I think it would be good is that, I don’t feel like … It’s, the larger the companies get, and the further the C Suite gets away from the direct front line employees. I don’t think they understand the impact of turnover, not only on their business, but on their customer. So I was thinking about that question and, I thought, “Well it would be kind of interesting to be in a restaurant setting with [00:19:00] some high level executives sitting around a big banquet table, and every time you send a waiter over there, you send somebody different, or they have to be fresh, what they just told them,” and see how that feels as a customer. That, it can make you want to go somewhere else.
Will Hanke: Yeah.
Roy Barker: Yeah.
Will Hanke: That’d be kind of cool.
Amber Hanke: Yeah.
Will Hanke: That would be a great way to get the point across.
Roy Barker: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, sometimes I don’t think that we, as we get further away from the front [00:19:30] lines, I don’t think we feel the pain of the struggles that the employees have to go through. And then also, sometimes it’s the struggle of the customer trying to do business with you. There are a few companies that I’ve dealt with before that I’ve accused of having a sales prevention team, because it seems like they just try to make it hard for you to send them your money.
Will Hanke: Yeah, yeah. Well thank you. If people want to know more about your business, I’d like you to tell us a little bit [00:20:00] about that. And also, tell us who is your perfect client?
Roy Barker: Oh, my perfect client would be probably anybody with over two to five employees. Somebody that’s either, it can be a growing business, or a mature business that wants to kind of do a tuneup, come in, and we can measure the employee turnover, try to find any hotspots, and then implement some plans in which to fix that. [00:20:30] And, the best way to contact me is at RoyBarker.Com. That’s R-O-Y, B-A-R-K-E-R dot com. And my email is Roy@RoyBarker.Com.
Will Hanke: That’s pretty easy.
Roy Barker: Yes, yes it is.
Will Hanke: Well Roy, thank you for being on the show today, I really appreciate it. I know we had a little technical difficulties there at the beginning, but I think it worked out great.
Roy Barker: You Bet Will, I appreciate you and Amber having me on. It’s been a pleasure.
Will Hanke: Yeah, so we will put everything about [00:21:00] your business into the show notes, along with anything that we referenced. If you enjoyed today’s show, of course we’d love you to go out and leave us a review, five stars are recommended. But, we really appreciate it. Amber, thank you for joining me today.
Amber Hanke: Thanks for having me.
Will Hanke: And we will talk to y’all later. See ya.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the Sink Or Swim Podcast, where business owners share their marketing successes and failures. Please leave us a review on iTunes, and get all [00:21:30] of our show notes at RedCanoeMedia.Com/SOS.