Like one of the performers on the stages he builds, Bob Daniel tossed this line out like an epic Mic-Drop. For him it was just another fact in an already impressive life. For me, I needed a minute to process that statement.
Bob heard a market need and filled it with Southeast Staging Inc back in the 90’s when the Olympics were coming to town and staging companies in Atlanta were non-existent.
He has since built his company to where it is the largest provider of stages in the US, and along the way it seems he has run into some impressive people.
From Taylor Hicks to the Fast and Furious franchise Bob Daniel has provided quality stage solutions for a wide variety of people and industries and continues to innovate and improve the staging industry.
Which brings me back to his statement. What’s really impressive to me isn’t that he shook some important people’s hands. It’s that Bob hand built and innovated a company that has taken him from obscurity to having enough clout to meet world leaders.
Is there a purer example of the American Dream than that?
Let’s find out what makes Bob Daniel the man he is in this week’s #Business #Success Interview:
What motivates you to succeed?
Being able to create and produce new technologies that other companies aren’t doing. I enjoy getting out, moving forward, and doing things other people don’t do. Being creatively unique sets us apart.
Clients hire you for your reputation and abilities.
What habits help keep you successful?
Persistence, consistency, being the best you can be and doing it right the first time, you don’t get a second chance. Clients hire you for your reputation and abilities. It about service over product; you can buy the product anywhere.
How have you developed key partnerships?
Through social meetings and events. You need to meet someone face to face to get a good judge of character. I am old fashioned in that regard. To maintain it you must look at your partnerships as long term instead of short term.
How did you make your first sale happen?
It was a combination of go get it attitude and lucking into a connection. I ran into someone I had known in the past while looking for work with the Olympic committee and got into a long-term deal for installing staging for the Olympics.
There is no one major turning point.
What was the major turning point for your company where it became profitable?
There is no one major turning point. It was a series of fortunate events that happened at the right time driven by a lot of hard work. What made it profitable was the fact that I had experienced loss in the past and did not want a repeat, so I built this company to be a debt free company. Being upfront and honest with the companies we had dealings with. We proved our worth and went from there.
How do you overcome the moments of doubt that stop most entrepreneurs from becoming successful?
I can relate that to my father; he said you are not going to win every battle you have to win the bigger percentage of them. If you get knocked down you get back up and go again. You can’t just give up on them. You have to move forward.
How do you identify business opportunities and decide which ones to take?
Gut instinct. I try to read the trends to see what the next big thing is going to be.
How do you define success in business?
Surrounding myself with people who know what they are doing and are good at it. Doing something you enjoy. Success is being fortunate enough to do things I enjoy and like in life and get paid for it.
How have you achieved it with your company?
I like to travel I don’t like being in the office every day. I get to go to a lot of cool places and do a lot of cool things that most people will never ever get to do and get to share it with the people around me.
To what do you most attribute your company’s success?
Hard work, dedication and consistency.
Employees, they make or break you.
What would you say are 3-5 key elements to running a successful business?
Employees, they make or break you. They are your greatest investment. Being able to accomplish what you say and in a timely fashion. You must be ready. Be competitive. You need good financing, be informed and want to do what you are doing.
How important have your employees been to your success?
They are most of it. You have to have people who want to be here. Employees are very important to me in this industry.
How do you find people to bring on as employees that care for the organization the way you do?
In this industry, it’s very hard. You have to be out in the field and meet the people. You can’t just be young at heart you have to be determined and work at it. It’s by chance to find the right ones.
How do you motivate employees to stay with your company?
I won’t ask anyone to do something I won’t. It’s a leadership thing you must be willing to work and believe in them then reward them for doing a good job.
How do you go about marketing your company?
Some social media, some print and knock on doors. Mostly its word of mouth.
What is your most effective form of marketing?
Direct contact to potential clients. Referrals and references word of mouth.
Tell me about a time when your marketing failed to meet your expectations.
When I tried radio, it didn’t do anything and a lot of the magazines don’t do it either.
What has your company growth been like for the past year?
We are still growing but this last year I can say its been about 20% growth. I think the economy is bouncing back.
What do you think is responsible for this rate of growth?
Several things. American never stays down for too long. The economy coming back plays a big part in it. Politics works for everyone and that plays a part in how well big companies do. You don’t have to like politics but you have to respect what it can do for business.
What has been your most effect method of acquiring new clients?
Internet. You get more people that are interested; it’s also word of mouth.
I had two major mistakes.
What has been your biggest business mistake?
I had two major mistakes. First making major money investments using bad investors. I didn’t set the business up to catch it right away and lost a great deal of money. The second one was going into an event under budget and under financed. At the same time, I did not take out rain insurance; that year we had 12 inches of rain.
How did you handle it and what did you learn?
The first one where I lost so much, I pulled myself together and went in a different direction. The second one where I was under financed and didn’t have the insurance, I knew I could have written it off and filled but I didn’t. Reputation is everything in business and I made commitments. My word is worth everything. It took a while but I promised I would cover everyone, and I did. Do what you say you are going to do. I paid off everything, it was just a matter of time. But you don’t win them all; its how you handle it that matters.
What has been your biggest success, and how did you contribute to it?
We are open after all this time, that is a success. Let your clients know they are not just a number. Do what you say you are going to do. Make sure you can work with the clients you have and can be flexible with them. It is so easy to lose a client and so hard to gain one.
We are one of the largest staging rental houses in the country.
What is something you want people to know about your company that they don’t already and cannot find out from your website?
We are one of the largest staging rental houses in the country. We have never found any project to be too large or too small. We work behind the scenes in so many major events and though it is a small piece of the total, we are critical. Janet Jackson said it best when she got on the stage. She said I want to take a minute to thank the guys who unload the trucks, bring the cases in, set this up and break it down. You will never see them, you will never meet them, they were here long before we got here and will be here long after we are gone, but I am nothing without them.
If you could travel back to the first day of this company and have 15 minutes with your younger self, what advice would you want to give?
Don’t believe everything you hear. When someone comes asking for something for nothing there is usually a reason, beware. And as you start to become profitable take the time to do some of the things you enjoy.
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
I have met all kinds of people all over the place from the Pope to the President of the United States. We have been involved with more businesses in the Atlanta area than people know about. There is just so many people I have met over the years I have learn to treat all people equally from the guy digging the ditch to the running the country.
I want to thank Bob Daniel for taking the time to tell me his amazing story. I have left out a lot of this story and if you want to ever have a chance to hear more, contact Bob Daniel at 770-506-0323. To discover more about Southeast Staging Inc and the services they provide you can visit their website: SoutheastStage.com.