46. John Ruhlin, The Ruhlin Group Giftology & Business Relationship Management

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John Ruhlin has turned giving gifts into an art form. From humble beginnings as a Cutco knife salesman, he launched The Ruhlin Group – an elite business relationship building program disguised as a gifting service. Now a globally renowned speaker with his best-selling book, Giftology, John Ruhlin wants to teach the world not only how and when to give gifts, but why.

Today, John shares his inspiring story that took from Ohio farm boy to hugely successful founder. Plus, we get to the bottom of why slapping your logo on a coffee mug is just about the worst gift John can think of!

Whats in This Episode:
Who is John Ruhlin?
How John become the best seller in Cutco’s history
Which company made a mistake when giving out Rolexes?
The ROR: what is return on relationship?
Giftology for attorneys: which clients you should really nurture
Reminders on relationship building for 2020 and beyond
Double your success: gifting around the recipient
What should you NEVER give your employees

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

When was the last time you truly got an amazing gift, you know, that one that totally bowled you over with the thoughtfulness and generosity – not the socks and the stocking! Even if it was years ago, I bet you’re smiling right now just thinking about it. Those great gifts don’t come around often, though, right? According to finder.com – in the US we waste around $9.5 billion a year on unwanted gifts! Today’s guest John Ruhlin is here to make it clear- the days of bad gifts are over. John made his name selling the biggest deals in history for Cutco knives… and then he flipped the game. John’s path to business relationship and gifting greatness started with a spark- his natural gift for sales.

John Ruhlin

I was a farm boy. I grew up in Ohio, milking goats every morning, and I wanted to pay for med school – I was going to get out of dodge, I hated bailing hay and heating our house with wood! And a buddy of mine who was a seminary student, went and started selling these crazy knives. And I’m like, if Steve Wiggers who couldn’t sell a cup of water to somebody in the middle of the desert can sell knives, I can at least try!

Chris Dreyer

Today, we hear how John Ruhlin went from Cutco knives salesman to masterful relationship builder, how gratitude and generosity add up to a crazy return on investment, and why you should cancel your order of branded coffee cups you’re planning on giving your clients for the holidays. That’s coming up on The Rankings Podcast, the show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, stay with us.
John learned to make deals while selling knives for Cutco, but he was always destined to be more than a salesperson. Early on, a passing conversation with an attorney named Paul – who just happened to be his girlfriend’s father- led to a light bulb moment that would change his career forever.

John Ruhlin

He was the guy that would, like, find a deal on noodles and buy everybody at church the next Sunday, like, you know, a year’s supply, and it was like 200 people. I’d be like, “Paul, that was 40 grand, are you nuts?”. And he’s like, “John, this is just who I am”. He just showed up radically generous for people. So I pitched him the idea of giving away Cutco pocket knives to all of his clients, because they’re men, they own, uh, insurance companies and lumberyards and financial advisory firms, that kind of stuff. Then Paul would change my life forever. He’s like – and these are a hundred dollars pocket knives, not like crappy 50 cent ones, these are like not promotional product knives, they’re handmade in New York. He’s like, “John, I want to order a hundred of those $200 pairing knives”. I’m like, “You want to give a bunch of grown men, dudes that are CEOs and influencers of million and billion dollar companies like a kitchen tool? That’s weird, why?” And it’s 20 years ago, literally. I remember sitting at the kitchen table before church and he’s like “John, in thirty-five years in business, the reason I have more referrals, deal flow access, you know, you name it is if you take care of the family and business, everything else takes care of itself”.
So it was this mind-blowing moment where I understood it wasn’t about the knives, although to this day we still sell millions of dollars of the stupid knives, the knives were a delivery vehicle for an emotion. And while most people would check the box and send crappy stuff at Christmas, Paul was loving on these people year-round. So, I started to pitch insurance companies and whatever else, I would send them like a $300 Cutco carving set on my own dime. I wasn’t buying beer, I was buying knives. And I’d bring the CEO’s name, spouse’s name, and I put a little handwritten note inside and said, “Carve out five minutes for me. I promise it’ll be worth your time”, because if I called him and said, “Hey, I want to sell you knives”. No, it’d be “click”. But because I used this as a tool as kind of like a process, I get the meeting with these like 60-year-old dudes running million and billion-dollar companies, and they take the meeting and I wear my one suit I have on into these boardrooms and the guys are like “Are you here to sell me knives?” And I’m like, “No, I’m here to help you and your thousand sales reps do exactly what I did to you to your top 10,000 relationships or referral sources, centers of influence your employees”. And their jaws would hit the ground and be like, you’re good.

Chris Dreyer

All of these individuals became your sales force, essentially, because they all had customers so everything compounded, so anybody that was trying to go one to one, you just blew them out of the water. I love that. The other thing that you mentioned was getting your foot in the door, so you totally stood out. You know, you weren’t just picking up the phone begging to get an appointment…

John Ruhlin

No, no. Most people, they’ll send like a shoe to get their foot in the door, they’ll send some candies. Yeah, it’s one thing to do something nice for the decision-maker – whether that’s the employee, the client, the center of influence – but every industry is like a good old boys club. Hey, let’s go hunting. Hey, let’s go for golf. Hey, let’s go for bourbon. Here’s your case of wine. You start including somebody who’s assistant what I call the inner circle. Now I learned that from Paul, he treated the receptionist or the janitor, oftentimes the receptionist as a woman, he treated her with this, not as a tactic, not as a sleazy, he treated her with the same amount of respect that he treated the CEO. Um, and so I, we call it the inner circle that I take care of, a lot of the reasons we still do knives or home-related things versus bourbon and wine and golf is I want to include the spouse, I want to include the family. And I tell people, people are like “John, your gifts seem kind of like cheesy” and I’m like that’s how I can help somebody spend a hundred thousand dollars, and if somebody else spent a million dollars, and we helped the client that spent a hundred grand win against their bigger competitors, because we were more thoughtful and strategic with the dollars that we are investing, whether it’s a thousand bucks, 10,000 bucks, a hundred thousand, doesn’t matter. Most people, they follow the same stupid playbook that everybody does and they’re not memorable. They’re just checking a box at the holidays where they’re just doing this same thing they’ve been doing for the last 30 years.

Chris Dreyer

John knew he was on something! Within just three weeks of selling knives, he started the Ruhlin Group, which today is part of his Giftology empire. John knew that it wasn’t about the knives themselves, it was about the relationship. He figured that if he could get close enough to the business owner, to sell them a knife set personally, then he’d have his foot in the door to make something more than just a sale.

John Ruhlin

If you like me, then I can come back around six months later and pitch them on the idea of giving us to their 75 employees or their 150 centers of influence or their referral sources. So it was like I was double-dipping. So I realized really early on, I could actually graduate college, pay for a private Christian school – Malone University, have no debt and have money banked to go pay for med school, but about a year into it, you know, a lot of the other Cutco reps made fun of me that they’re like, dude, just go follow the program, you can just follow the program. And I’m like, “I am following the program, but I’m adding this addition thing”. Everybody thought it was stupid. So about 18 months in things started to click. We’d had this national sales contest, there’s like 60,000 other reps, and we fricking crushed everybody by like, you know, they had all done like a hundred appointments – I did 30 and I did 10 times the amount of business. Then I was like, you know what, like, there’s no gifting agency. Like, yeah, you can buy it from Amazon gift cards, those are not gifts, those are like promotional products. There was really no agency teaching people how to do this and think about this and there definitely was nobody that was like a done-for-you service where, you know, we’d handwrite, you know, like to this day we still handwrite all the notes for everybody. So I realized by the time I was a junior in college, I was like med school and half a million dollars in debt is getting put on hold permanently and really started to say, like, this could be a real business. And then when I graduated college, I’m like, I’m just gonna roll with it and see if it continues to work. And of course, there’s been evolutions to that, but the root things cause a lot of it’s based in wisdom that’s existed for thousands of years, people have just forgotten about it. So I would say it’s been an evolution. Early on I was like, I’m not going to call myself the Cutco knife company, I’m going to call myself the Ruhlin Group as an agency because nobody cares about knives. Nobody really even cared about gifts, but they all cared about referrals and access and deal flow and retention and all of that stuff. And those were things that business owners want to pay a lot of money for a hundred percent.

Chris Dreyer

And let’s dig right into there to your big philosophy, the gifting around the recipient. And I’m not trying to, I’m not trying to hate because I appreciate this gift, but I just happened to have in arms reach I wanted to just kind of show something and, and tell me what, what you see here.

John Ruhlin

A little water bottle with somebody’s logo on it.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. Yeah. So tell me why it would be better. Let’s talk about the gifting for the recipient

John Ruhlin

The amount of people that are like, their spouses are like “If you come home with another fricking coffee mug or water bottle, I’m going to shove it someplace that you don’t want it”, because your cupboards are just cluttered. Like during the pandemic, the amount of people that have gone to goodwill in they’ve stood in, like literally drove in, like a mile-long line because in America we don’t need more stuff. We don’t need more promotional, more chotchkie. And that’s what most people do is they’re like, “Oh, you know, cuffs are a good idea. Let’s go order a thousand of them slap our logo on them, and give them out to everybody”. And you’re giving them out to oftentimes, like, people that are making five, six, seven figures. Did they really want a cheap Chinese piece of crap with their logo on it? No, they want one really amazing one with their name on it. Like we don’t allow our clients, you know, we work with the pro sports teams, but a lot of our clients are small and mid-sized companies. Do they really want, you know, XYZ accounting firm on their Yeti mug? No. And they’d rather have their family name, their last name, maybe their favorite quote, if they’re into faith or scripture. Um, so the amount of people that just like look around and say, what’s hot, cool, and sexy and give Apple devices or give Amazon gift cards and the amount of people that will email me or be like “John you’re so mean, it’s the thought that counts”. And I’m like, “Tell your wife that when you buy her something for Christmas like it’s the thought that counts”. No! It’s the thoughtful thought that counts – that’s an excuse to give a lame, crappy gift. It’s not the thought that counts. Like relationships, you know, determine whether somebody’s successful business or not and if you show up at a mediocre level to show appreciation to the relationships that matter, in business or personal, then you’re going to have a sucky life because relationships don’t thrive when you kind of mail it in and kind of go halfway. So, your mug or your coffee cup, or even the knives, people put their stupid logo on handmade 5,000 or knife sets – nobody wants your logo on it, that seems like the cheesiest tackiest thing in the world. Like I’ve seen people give Rolex’s out and they’re like, how could you give a $10,000 watch wrong? Well, Domino’s did it! On the white face of the Air-King they put the Domino’s logo on it. Even if you worked for Domino’s and make millions of dollars, do you really want a Rolex staring you in the face every day? The reason people put their crappy logo on stuff is that they’re like, “Well, John, every marketing and branding book says I better get mileage out of this”. And I’m like, you’re actually going to spend money to piss off, annoy, or frustrate people. Is that a good equation? Give a world-class gift, make it all about them and they will never forget where it came from if you follow the recipe. Most people don’t know what the recipe is, they want to cut the corners, they want to think they’re doing Giftology and they’re actually spending money to have a negative consequence. So they’re not doing Giftology at all. It’s like baking bread and deciding you’re going to leave out yeast. Guess what you don’t fricking get… you don’t get bread. Like, I don’t care how many times you do it, I don’t know how much money you spend on it, if you leave out that one ingredient, you don’t get bread. And if you don’t follow the recipe when it comes to Giftology, then don’t expect relationships that are going to thrive and refer you business and open doors for you and run through walls for you as employees, because you miss some of the secret sauce that allows for somebody to say, “Wow, this person knows me, thought of me and actually cares about me” versus, “Oh, they just wanted to automate this and send me some crap and stuff in the mail”. Not the same, not even close, not even on the same planet.

Chris Dreyer

I love the passion. It’s a hundred percent true though. We want something that means something to us. It’s about the recipient and, you know, so I received some Cutco knives and I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and it had, you know, may the force be with you on it. So, they obviously did their homework, you know, and every time, even though it doesn’t even have my logo on it or, or anything, you know, I know who sent it to me. And every single time we use them…

John Ruhlin

Of course! I mean, if it’s a crappy cheap gift, then put your logo on it. But if you’re going to try to deepen a relationship and inspire somebody, whether it’s a personal relationship or business relationship, go all in and give something that’s unique and amazing and practical and useful. And you know, like if you do that decades later, they’ll still be thinking about that. You know? And if it’s used daily, you know, over the course of a decade, like that’s 3,600 times. Like everybody wants to be like trusted and top of mind. If you give a really thoughtful gift, like a Rolex, like I have a buddy who sends out Rolexes a lot and we do all the execution and fulfillment for that. And you know, like, people’ll be like, yeah, that’s a lot of money. I’m like 10 grand to influence somebody that could be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars? Like, that’s the best equation on the planet! I’ll spend 10 grand to make a million all day long, that’s the best ATM machine – put in a dollar and get a hundred dollars back. So people don’t… they’ve never been challenged to think that way to say like, “Hey, this person’s into Star Wars. Let’s make sure that we engraved some really cool things into the pieces or into the product or into the, whatever to make that person smile and light up and get excited and go seek out and find that piece that, that it connects to them at this visceral level”. Like we’re all just humans. Like we forget in 2020, even during the pandemic, like we’ve realized our humanity even more, like, we’re just human beings. We like things, we have hobbies, we have people we care about, there are things we like to do, we break bread and eat together. Like, there’s some things that are just so simple. But I think like in this like, digital world of Facebook ads and Tik Tok and all this other stuff, like a lot of the old school stuff that our great grandfathers would have done naturally, it becomes even more important, because people have lost sight of how to really build relationships.

Chris Dreyer

It’s certainly true that we all want to build new relationships and strengthen our existing ones. And now more than ever, I think we would all benefit from a little generosity. But what about personal injury attorneys? Your practice takes you straight to the consumer, so how are you supposed to approach gifting when you don’t know who your next client could be? I asked John Ruhlin to break it down for us.
Most people

John Ruhlin

People come to us with their dream 100 or dream 1000 or their prospect list. Whether they’re doing a million in revenue or whether they’re doing a billion in revenue, everybody’s like everybody wants to fill the boat with new blood. Like they want to go whale hunting, that’s just instinctually, especially as type A leaders, it’s like, “Hey, we got to go get more stuff”. But what we found is our clients that get the best results spend 80% of their marketing biz-dev overall relationship building budget on their warm market. People that there’s already a fire there. And the reason is, is like, well, you know, Cameron Herold’s a great example of somebody that I’ve met, you know, through EO. I wanted him as a client, a mentor, and advisor, referral source. And, I was going to take him to a basketball game and a dinner and his response was the most underwhelming response ever. So I found out he was coming to town and he loved Brooks Brothers. So I ended up outfitting his hotel room with $7,000 in Brooks Brothers. I already had the relationship, but it wasn’t deep, it was like one inch deep. So, I do the Brooks Brothers, melt his face off, he’s like almost in tears, um, he’s like, “Whatever you want to talk about for as long as you wanna talk about it”. After that for a decade, every quarter, I sent them a gift. I built them a 5,000 dollar knife set. I did custom leather goods. He’s into wine, so we did this crazy $700 wine tool with his autograph. And people were like, “John, you already had them after the Brooks Brothers experience, why did you continue to send gifts?” And I’m like, because I wanted to, not because I had to. And when you do things cause you want to and pour gasoline on the fire, that’s already burning… Cameron, I did the math. I invest 20 grand, he’s referred over seven figures. All of his clients get referred to us. They get a book- the Giftology book is one of the few books he sends out. He’s mentioned to me from stages. We’ve spoken on some of the biggest stages in the world – before I had a book or anybody knew who I was and I was begging to speak for free. Cameron would get double booked and say, “You got to book John Ruhlin”. And he’d give me a $15,000 speaking gig when I had no book! Like, I could not hire Cameron for $2 million a year just to be my sales rep. For 20 grand over a decade, I got him to sell on my behalf. 20 grand. You can’t even hire an assistant for 20 grand. I get one of the top business coaches in the world selling on my behalf for a decade and it’s produced a 50X ROI – I call it return on relationship, ROR. You can’t get a 50X in any other part of your business, other than through human beings. So my recommendation is to take, you know, for a, for a lawyer, for a professional service firm for a financial advisor, take all of your centers of influence that early, like you, or love you and pour gasoline on the fire there. And then take the people that you’ve already worked with that already have paid you money and you should be loving those people. Why? Well, we all have a circle of influence of, uh, you know, dozen people, a couple hundred people oftentimes. So that person is probably not going to get another car wreck again, but they know people there at the country club, and do you want somebody who’s possibly loyal, who sits on their hands and doesn’t do anything for you that was your client or your center of influence, or do you want an actively loyal person who’s actually looking for opportunities to talk about you. That’s Cameron. I’ll take one Cameron, over a thousand people that are passively loyal. I don’t care the industry – lawyers are the same, it’s just like, where’s their business come from. It comes from other humans. It’s a human to human thing. And so my recommendation would be yeah, you could take care of your centers of influence and doing things because you want to not because you had to. Everybody says they’re in the relationship business and only times they give gifts are transactional. They give a gift after a deal’s done. They give a gift after a referral’s given. I’m like, you just turned that relationship into a transactional tab. You give me a million-dollar referral, here’s your $500 bottle of wine. Does that feel good? No, it feels unequal. It feels icky, it feels gross. It feels very tit for tat. Whereas, if you started sending out sucky gifts to people, just because you were thinking of them, they’d be like, “Wow, I didn’t do anything for this person. Like, why are they sending me this?”. Internally as human beings, whether you believe in a God or not like, like we’re wired, our DNA is wired to want to reciprocate, that’s just how we’ve been built as humans. And so if you start taking care of the people that already like, or love you, and consistently, in our system, we do once a quarter, so it doesn’t feel like, you know, Chevy Chase’s is Jelly of the Month Club. As well, most people are like “John, let’s put this on autopilot and send Harry and David Pears every month”. And I’m like, dude, relationships, even if you want to automate something, it can’t feel automated. If it feels automated, then it doesn’t have a thought to it. And if it doesn’t have a thought to it, then you might as well go light hundred dollars bills on fire cause it doesn’t feel like a relationship. So, for lawyers, the same advice I’d give to lawyers is the same advice I give to the Chicago cop. It’s: have a plan, reinvest in the people that are already spending money with you, or could spend money with you or have spent money with you in the past, versus always like looking over. It’s like being married and looking at the check across the table. Like, the grass is greener on their side. No, take care of the people that are in front of you and work on those relationships. And if you do that, you won’t have to prospect very much because those people are going to go sell on your behalf.

Chris Dreyer

That’s incredible, and I was immediately thinking of your very first story of the competition so you had 40 appointments and you blew them out of the water. And the other people were just 10 X, not contextualizing, just, you know, a smile and dial-in, right.

John Ruhlin

Yeah, and there’s a place for that if you’re just getting off the ground. But at the end of the day, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk has made it very popular to say, I play the long game. He actually does. Most people’s long game is days, not decades. But if you’re going to be in business for decades, you should be building relationships like as such, like it’s a marathon, like you should be showing up for people, you know? And oftentimes when you show up for people in year three and year seven, it’s like a marriage. Like I can attest, I got four daughters. Like, if I don’t keep dating my wife and showing up for her, then I’m not going to have a wife. And you see it all the time. Like people take people for granted. We tend to take our current clients and our current centers of influence were like, “Oh, John, I don’t have to do it, they already like me”. And I’m like, it’s not doing it cause you had to do it’s doing it because you wanted to do it because you appreciate them. It’s doing it because you would like them to continue to be loyal to you, actively loyal on your behalf. And, and I’m not perfect. It’s not like I, they’re not times where I don’t take somebody for granted. Or my wife, my wife would be the first to tell you, “John, sometimes you suck at gifting me”. There’s also times where, you know, we knock it out of the ballpark. And I think that most people have marketing plans and operations plans and financial plans. If you asked most business owners, what’s your relationship plan? How are you laying out for the next five years? Not just your business plan. What are you going to do to, for your relationships and how are you making it a math equation where you’re reinvesting a percentage of your profits back into your relationships to keep them growing and turn them into sales reps? Most companies one out of a thousand will say, yeah, we have a relationship plan. Here’s what it is. The other, you know, 999. They have the zero. They’re like, “Well, we do Christmas gifts. We do anniversary gifts” and I’m like, that’s table stakes, man. Like, if you only do things for your wife on anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas, that’s just to keep you at zero versus going into negatives, and in business, it’s the exact same way. Like if you don’t have a plan on how you’re going to show up and not like, “Hey, here’s a koozie, here’s a thing, a peanut brittle”, but, like, real stuff, then somebody else who does have a plan on how they’re going to love on those relationships are going to take them away from me. That’s just the bottom line.

Chris Dreyer

All right. So now you’ve got your philosophy of gifting down. You probably got the same burning question in your head that I did: how on earth am I supposed to choose the right gift? The good news is you can go to John’s website and he shares a downloadable of what not to give. Which gift is the absolute worst, I hear you ask? Yup. You guessed it.

John Ruhlin

Gift cards are the worst. Why? It’s basically saying, I don’t know you, here’s a piece of plastic, go buy your own gift. It doesn’t connect to your spouse, it’s definitely not going to connect your clients. It’s easy, but what’s thoughtful is not typically easy. It takes energy and effort and resources. So you have gift cards worst. I hate consumables. You hear them like “John everybody loves to eat” and I’m like, well, first off, most people give consumables to people at Thanksgiving, Christmas when people are already eating and drinking themselves to death. So it’s one of 47 things sitting on the conference table or the kitchen table, uh, with peanut brittle brownies and bottles of bourbon and scotch and wine. Like lawyers are the worst- they give alcohol like it’s going out of style. A, you know, you send somebody red wine and they like white, or you send somebody white wine and their wife likes red, or you send wine to somebody and their dad’s an alcoholic, or maybe they’re on keto or paleo, or they’re trying to lose the weight. You’re basically sending them gift guilt. You know, they’re off sugar, their kid’s gluten-free, they’re like, there’s so many ways you can piss off and annoy somebody with food or drink. But even if they love it, like, in other any other part of marketing, you measure cost per impression, whether it’s a Facebook ad, whatever else, how many eyeballs are seeing it, how many eyeballs are seeing the billboard. If you give a gift and he’s like, “Oh, John, I spent $50 on the bottle of wine. It’s so much cheaper than your $500 knife set in the short term”, but I’m playing the long game and so are you, whether you realize it or not. They drank that $50 or $500 bottle of wine. How many impressions did you get? One. They drank it. They pissed it down the drain. It’s gone, forgotten about. You thought you saved money. I send them, you know, one of our clients sends them something they use it once a day for the next year. That’s 365 impressions in one year, who’s going to get the referrals and the deal flow? The person who’s most liked, trusted, and optimized. Oftentimes the reason you don’t get the referrals that you want is you’re not top of mind. The average human is getting 30,000 messages at them a day between Facebook ads, Tik TOK, messages, emails, Facebook messages, we all have digital overload. So we can only process so many things. So unless you’re the first person that somebody thinks of when they wake up and go to bed at night, like, then you’re not going to get the deal. You’re not going to get the referral. And so, I want to make sure, as I’m thinking strategically, I’m not giving them something that they’re going to sit on a shelf somewhere and forget about and collect dust. I’m not going to give them something that they’re going to use once a year. I want something that they’re using once a day or maybe three times a day. That’s why to this day, the stupid knives have played so well is because most people, especially right now with COVID, they’re cooking 30000% more, they’re cooking for their kids, for their spouse. Like for me, anything that goes into the kitchen is like, is, is like this crazy special, like secret sauce. People still eat in 2020. People still break bread. So, I think anything that basically communicates either unthoughtfulness, that’s consumed and forgotten about, has the potential to, uh, piss off or offend, uh, or anything really that has a logo on it. I don’t like apparel because what if somebody loses weight? Or what if like most of the time you’re putting a logo, the size of a softball on it. Like nobody wants your logo, whatever, even Lulu Lemon. I’m not wearing it if it has your logo on it. Most affluent people who can, go buy their own LuLu Lemon or Roan or Underarmour or whatever you think the cool brand is. And so I want to do something for them that they didn’t even know existed or that they wouldn’t necessarily go buy for themselves. And I almost always, 80% of our budget is taking care of that inner circle, and avoid the typical, like people will say, “John, I want to do Apple”. And I’m like, you’re going to give them, you know, spend a thousand dollars on an iPad or an iWhatever. Those things are gonna get re-gifted or at best-case scenario, they’re going to be outdated in six months. I want something that, you know, 16 years later is still marketing for me, that’s still like deepening that relationship. That to me is how you can spend less money than your big publicly traded competitors and destroy people as being more thoughtful and creative than they are versus just filing the same stupid list that everybody follows.

Chris Dreyer

Totally. And I wanted to ask you this because you are the gifting king and among your friends and family, your circle of influence. When you are gifting someone, are you held to this much bigger standard?

John Ruhlin

So, Oh, well imagine my, my, my wife knows every hack, secret sauce trick. She knows everything. I’m the vision relationship guy. I’m the marketing sales guy, my business partners, the operations finance people guy. My wife is the same way. She’s type A, driven, but she’s very like very dialed in on the details. She’s the hardest person for me to get. I have to bring my A-game. But even with other people, it’s like, yeah, I mean, when you’re the gifting guy and you’re playing Santa Claus all year round for, you know, whether it’s small businesses or fortune one hundred brands, the expectations are through the roof. And so it’s one thing when the expectations… when you’re a sucky gifter, your expectations are a two out of 10. But if your expectations are a 10 and you’ve got to consistently deliver 11s and 12s. Oh, dude! Even for my kids, you know, like I’m buying, like my daughter just turned five and she loved Frozen and so I went out and bought like the seven-foot-tall life-size professional Olaf costume to show up as a surprise. Last year, I like dressed up as Maui with a painted chest to show up at the party. I liked the shock and awe the surprise. But there’s no mailing it in. People call me out on it. Whether it’s, you know, in business or personally. Like I used to make fun of coffee cups, I give a thousand dollar coffee cup that takes four weeks to make! It’s called an artifact mug. I’ve given that to all my employees, all my clients, mentors I’ve given out about 110 of them. Carved into it is somebody’s whole life story, their faith, their family members, their tragedies they’ve overcome. It’s like the lifetime achievement award, it’s a usable piece of art. So when I get a coffee cup, it’s not that it’s the one from Walmart for seven bucks from China. It’s the thousand-dollar one that comes in a custom wood case with a video screen, um, from the artist telling a story. So the expectations for me and also our clients, like we set the bar high and then you exceed it. Like that’s just in any, in any business, the bar keeps raising and you got to find creative ways on how to exceed it. But if you do, there’s a reward to that.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I was thinking that coffee mug, like a lot of times people get coffee mugs because it makes them feel good. It’s a, you know, like whether they’re cat person and like I’m a big Star Wars nerd, you know, and I’m holding the Star Wars coffee mug because I grabbed it out. It makes me feel good that nostalgia and so I love that idea. That’s just incredible. And as we close up, we have this new segment it’s called a three for three. So what is your favorite search engine optimization tip?

John Ruhlin

My favorite search engine optimization tip, uh, it’s to outsource that to companies like, uh, like I have a company that specializes in that who’s like one of my best friends, they own a company. And so when you search John Ruhlin, um, they’ve made sure that there’s great articles in INC, Forbes, Fast Company, and that we show up on all the listicles. Um, so that the small farm boy from Ohio can play at a global level.

Chris Dreyer

Nice. And, which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

John Ruhlin

The person who comes to mind is Elon Musk. And it just because of the kahunas that dude has to put it all on the line consistently in all areas of his life. Uh, I’m sure he’s not a fun person necessarily to work for, but from an outside perspective, a guy who says one thing and then follows through on it, it’s hard to not respect that.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, just incredible. And what is the next thing on your bucket list?

John Ruhlin

I love the book The Five Love Languages. Gary Chapman’s a mentor. You know, he sold 22 million of that book for 30 years as a Christian marriage book, which is crazy. It’s like just being published in Saudi Arabia, crazy places that shouldn’t be. I want to write the Five Love Languages with him for business. So the hope is that that’ll be the next book.

Chris Dreyer

If John’s first book Giftology is anything to go by that will be an absolute treat. I personally love the message of Giftology and I’m super keen to try some more of those philosophies on my relationships, both personal and business-wise. So if you’re on my holiday gift list, you can rest assured – you definitely won’t be getting a gift card. You’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thanks to today’s guest, John Ruhlin for joining us. You can find all the links from today’s conversations in the show notes. And we want to hear from you! What’s the best or worst gift you’ve ever received? Leave us a review and let us know. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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