Welcome to The Accelerated Investor Podcast with Josh Cantwell, if you love entrepreneurship and investing in real estate then you are in the right place. Josh is the CEO of Freeland Ventures Real Estate Private Equity and has personally invested in well over 500 properties all across the country. He’s also made hundreds of private lender loans and owns over 1,000 units of apartments. Josh is an expert at raising private money for deals and he prides himself on never having had a boss in his entire adult life. Josh and his team also mentor investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world. He doesn’t dream about doing deals, he actually does them and so do his listeners and students. Now sit back, listen, learn, and accelerate your business, your life, and your investing with The Accelerated Investor Podcast.
Josh: So, hey, welcome back to Accelerated Investor. Hey, Josh here. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m always so honored and grateful and feel so privileged to share with you through this podcast. Today, I am interviewing a good friend of mine named John Ruhlin. I actually went to the home run derby when the home run derby was in Cleveland in twenty nineteen and Cleveland hosted the All Star game. John and I went to the Home Run Derby with Ryan Morand, another friend of mine who owns capitalism.com and John and I were talking about gifting. His business is gifting and you might think that’s a little bit strange. But here we are at the holidays. People are thinking about giving gifts. And John is the founder of the Ruhlin group.
Josh: He is, check this out, the number one seller of Cutco knives and Cutco cutlery of all time. And what he does is he is a purposeful gifter. He is an expert gifter, is a strategy consultant, works with companies like check this out, the Chicago Cubs, Morgan Stanley, Keller, Williams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Shell Oil Company, Caesars Palace. And he works with them to do exotic luxury gifting. That’s going to make a difference. Think about what is life? What is business?
Josh: It’s relationships. It’s relationships. And so in this interview, I interviewed John and we talk about he actually interviews me and my wife about some things that are important to us about relationships and deepening relationships with clients, with vendors. So think about your real estate business for a minute. Think about your investing. Think about your private lenders, think about your brokers. Think about the people, your employees, your staff. And John is going to completely flip the script on how to take care of those people and drive deeper relationships through what we call randomized planned gifting you’re going to love this interview with John. Take a listen.
Josh: So, hey, guys, welcome back to Accelerated Investor, I am with John. John, thanks so much for joining us today on Accelerated Investor. We have a special guest, not only John Ruhlin from Geology Group, but my wife, Lisa Marie is here because she is championing our efforts to take care of our staff, our employees and our investors. And what does gifting mean? So John is an amazing entrepreneur. You’ve already heard that in the introduction that we’ve done so. John, let me ask you, first of all, welcome to Accelerated Investor, John. Tell me, what is your definition of gifting when you think of gifting with all the amazing clients and all the gifts that you’ve done and help them do? What is your definition of gifting?
John: Yeah, well, I had the opportunity recently to speak to a group of mid-market CFOs. The guy who gave me the introduction was like a 15-minute-long introduction. And you could tell, like every CFO in the audience, like this guy really going to talk for 60 Minutes about gifting. Like does he not realize what budget I cut first? Like at every company, like nobody wakes up at four a.m. and says, man, I do my miracle morning. I got to go buy some gifts and then my business will like 100x. But every business, whether you’re investor, like real estate related or you’re the Chicago Cubs, every business rises and falls on relationships. Could be relationships with investors, could be relationships with subcontractor’s mentors, advisors, banks, you name it. It’s every business. It’s a relationship business. And yet most people, if they’re honest with themselves, like they think there are seven out of 10 on gifting and gratitude, but really they’re negative three.
John: Nobody’s ever really challenged them and said, you sent me a bottle of wine. And I actually my dad was an alcoholic or you sent me a gift card to Amazon and I invested a quarter million dollars with you last year. Like that’s how you show gratitude and appreciation for my big investment. And so most people don’t understand that nobody cares about gifting, but they care about the way they make somebody feel. And so when somebody hires us like I want to order like five thousand both headset’s I’m like, no, you don’t like you want to deepen these five thousand relationships or maybe not even five thousand. Let’s pare back. Maybe it’s only five hundred that really matter. So the core of our business is really understanding. If you have a business plan or an operations plan, a marketing plan, what’s your relationship plan? And if you don’t have one, then somebody else is going to take that investor away or somebody else is going to take that employee away. So the core of our business is really walking people step by step through what we call the gift system.
John: And I’d love to walk you guys through that because I think that most people have done leadership training, sales training, but most people have never really segmented their relationships and said, what’s the value of this relationship currently and what could it be time? And then with the math equation, what should I reinvest back into that relationship to make sure that I keep them, that I grow with them, and maybe I get that investor or that employee to go talk to somebody else and recruit somebody else into the family. That’s the secret sauce. So if you guys are cool with that, I’ll ask you guys a few questions just to kind of provide a little bit of framework. And then we can do like a little fireside chat and just talk through how you guys in twenty, twenty-one and beyond can pour into your relationships to start to continue to grow.
Josh: Yeah, let’s do it. We’re looking forward to that for sure, because I think like you said, John, our concept of gifting is birthdays, maybe work anniversaries and Christmastime. The holidays. I think that’s what most people think. And when I was talking to Lisa about getting ready for this podcast, I’m like, you know, I went to the home run derby with Jon last year and with Brian Moran. And we talked about gifting. And John does not believe in just giving people gifts at Christmas. And we’re both kind of thinking, like what? Everybody does that. So, yeah, what are we gonna do different? So, yeah, let’s jump into it now. What do you what are some of the questions we should be asking ourselves? Help us walk through the plan.
John: Yeah. Let’s talk about timing first, because whether you outsource it to an agency like ours or whether you do it in your own, most people are doing what I call ABC gifting. They do anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas. And, you know, whether it’s for your spouse or whether it’s for your best client, it’s fine to do those. But like, you don’t earn brownie points for doing something for Lisa on Valentine’s Day, like that’s kind of expected. Like you don’t like. Those are table stakes. And yet most people in business that like, hey, you just invested 50 grand or a million dollars, hey, here’s your gift. Like, if you’re in the relationship business, you give a gift after a referral after deal is done.
John: That’s a tit for tat. You just turn that relationship into a transactional relationship. So the goal for us is I call it planned randomness. We lay out for our relationships or our clients, hey, here’s one hundred or a thousand that matter. But let’s lay out four times a year where we can surprise risk made it really popular to surprise and delight. But most people do their gifting in appreciation at expected obligatory times. Hey, we’re having a conference. A summit. Here’s your gift. Does it feel very special when a thousand other people are all getting their trinket with? The other thing is, is most people don’t make to get personal. They put their logo on it. They’re like, John, I want to get branding out of this. I’m like. You really think you’re affluent, like a million- or billion-dollar investor wants to wear your logo on some polo, the size of a softball like this, the last thing then maybe the car with it, 90 percent of those things end up at Goodwill and people will it like being green? I’m like, if you want to be green, stop giving stuff that’s from China with a logo on it that ends up at the landfill or goodwill.
John: And so I tell people, you would never go to somebody like your best friend’s wedding and take this Tiffany’s vase. Compliments of the Cantwell family like that would be the cheesiest thing in the world. But we did that a business. We call it branding and marketing. And you’re really spending money to offend or annoy or frustrate the other person who has you know, they want to say thank you because it’s the right thing to do. But really, they’re thinking I’ll never wear this all at one time of year when I golf with Josh, they are out of obligation, but nobody’s like you’re not moving somebody’s heart. And we all know that, like, we have this gut feeling when we meet with an investor, we meet with a client, we meet with an employee like, do I like this person? I trust them. And they don’t realize when you give a gift that people will say with John, it’s the thought that counts. And I’m like that they tell your wife that, like, hey, it’s the thought that counts and you go buy your own gift. Like that would never work.
John: But we do that in business. We don’t realize that we’re communicating that other person doesn’t matter. So all of these little details as you’re walking through, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and say, what? I really want to wear some X like the accounting firms logo on my Lululemon jacket. Probably not. I’d wear my own I wear my own initials, but I’m never going to put, like, where somebody else is and feel good about that. That’s not a gift. That’s a really it’s a manipulation here. You gave me a million dollars here. Go be an advertisement for me to your friends like it feels gross. So those are some of the like as you’re thinking through, like the thought processes that we want people through. And they’re like, oh my gosh, don’t you mean gift cards are bad? A gift. You mean consumables are bad? Yeah, but that’s what we’ve been doing for the last thirty years. Like what is what is a good gift?
John: What I’ll say and I’ll transition into this is year in 2020, we realized our humanity because of covid and whatever else like all of a sudden things have slowed down and people are traveling out of state, not necessarily like just on vacation, they’re moving to another part of the country or they’re taking their family on an adventure for a month or two like we are in Austin. And we’ve realized, like what really matters. And so the one thing that we do every single time, no matter who we’re giving it to, whether it’s a billionaire or whether it’s an employee, Janet or see, I don’t care, is we always personalize something with somebody’s name. In 2020 with everything digital and all these other things, we think, well, John, that doesn’t matter. And I’m here to tell you, like Stephen Ross is a client of ours, the Miami Dolphins, he’s worth like 12 billion dollars invested in Vanyerchuck’s company, and he gave a quarter of a billion dollars away to the University of Michigan, which being an Ohio boy, like, pissed me off.
John: Right now I’m like, I’m like, why would somebody who lives in Florida, in New York most of the time give a quarter of a billion dollars away? And I’m like, duh, there’s going to be one hundred buildings at the University of Michigan. It’s going to be like that, Steven. It was cafeteria and library and MBA program and you name it his name is that important for somebody. This was 12 million dollars to go and have it on the side of a wall. Imagine how much more important it is for somebody that’s worth maybe two million dollars or twenty million dollars. We will not allow a single gift to go out unless it’s personalized with that person’s name. The other thing that’s super important. Ninety percent of the gifting that we do is family centric. People like John. This guy likes bourbon. This guy likes golf. I’m like, I don’t care what he likes. Is he married? Almost all the time it’s a yes. And I’m like, what’s his inner circles names? And they’re like, what are you talking about, Mike?
John: What’s his wife’s name? What’s his assistant name? What’s this kid’s name? What’s his pet’s names? When we walk out a plan. Ninety percent of the budget marketing business relationship building budget is targeted at the inner circle. And the reason is, is that if you spend a thousand dollars on somebody that gets to stay at the Ritz or flies private or whatever else, they get treated like a king, whether it’s a guy or gal, I want to take care of the people around them. So for you guys, what I would say is, you know, let’s say you have a few hundred investors. Some of the homework, if we were to engage, would be like, hey, go make sure that, you know, their assistance name document that get the spelling right. Make sure that we know spouses’ names when we engrave our most popular gift this year in the last twenty years has been Cutco knives. People are like really? Stupid knives.
John: I’m like everybody in 2020, but even before, like, whether you have a fifty-thousand-dollar kitchen or a five million dollar kitchen, everybody has a kitchen and breaking bread with family and friends. That’s why you take people out to dinner all the time. But if you can do something that includes that person’s family and spouse with something that’s great like we did, one is over the top. One of our clients hired us to gift Tony Robbins. And they’re like, what did you get, Tony Robbins, that he doesn’t already have a thousand of? And I said I said we’re going to give them a nice set and he’s like, seriously knives?I said, yeah, but this is not going to be like a normal knife. And I said, this going to be a six thousand knife set. And I said, you know, Handmade. Thirty-two knives. Every night. All thirty-two is going to have sixty four quotes of Tony’s wisdom that he’s spoken over the last 40 years.
John: And then it’s going to go inside a wooden box. It’s like a two-thousand-dollar wood box as a custom video screen and he opens it, it’ll start playing. And after this landed, I call it a love bomb. So that was like a seven thousand, eight-thousand-hour package, Sage, Tony’s wife said. This is one of the most thoughtful gifts anybody’s ever give us. It wasn’t about the knives. It was about what’s engraved into it. Now it’s an instant heirloom. She used those words. Instant heirloom. His kids and future grandkids are going to fight over this knife set because of what it represents.
John: We’re going to use this at every family, gathering them like every Christmas. Everything centers around food and family, like go back to the, you know, the Last Supper. Like, we’ve been doing the same thing for thousands of years, which is break bread with our inner circle, with the people that matter most to us. And so oftentimes when we’re laying out a plan, people like John, I have these investors, they can’t afford anything they want. I’m like, that’s true. But if you hit them at the heart level, at the artifact, at the legacy level, at the heirloom level, and make them look good to their spouse and their assistant and their kids, like, that’s something that we all, I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. We all want our legacy and our kids and our families, like there are certain things that are common among humanity. But if you don’t have the spelling of somebody’s spouse’s name, you can’t tie them in that way.
John: And so people are like, oh, John, it’s too much work. And I’m like, I won’t allow you to work with us unless you’re willing to do some of those little data points. Those little details, because that’s what takes it from being in place when we don’t need more crap, more stuff showing up. But we all have a room for an artifact. We all have room for something that makes, you know, that ties to us as a human being, that ties to our family, that ties to our legacy. So as we would normally we’d walk through, we’d say, hey, list off all these relationships, list off all of their spouses lists, off all their assistance lists, off all their home addresses. And if you don’t have that info, then you have some homework to do. And then, like once you start doing that, we start saying, hey, we’re going to start laying out four times a year or twice a year, whatever, whatever the frequency is, we’re going to send things that are never going to know what’s coming when.
John: But you do. You could plan out for the next five years. Here’s the love bomb we’re going to send. So all of these investors and what I would say for you guys specifically is if somebody is not as valuable to you from a monetary perspective, it doesn’t mean you give them a cheaper gift. It just means you might not hit them as frequently. That’s why I see people like you in pro sports teams doing this. They’ll dictate and of like, oh, this this person’s like a JV level. And I’m like, they still gave you a half million dollars. You can send them some junior varsity trinkets. So I’m going to stop right there and say, like, what thoughts are going through his mind as I’ve shared some of these different parts of the recipe.
Lisa: I think it’s awesome. I just want to know how your Pink Panthering these people to find out the information.
Josh: She’s got, she’s the Pink Panther, John. So she’s got even on the back of her phone. She’s got a picture of the Pink Panther, if you want to find out anything about anyone. So she’s worried we’re going to gift to the spouse, the wife, the kids, the assistant. How do you do that without just infiltrating them? Or maybe you just do call them. Maybe that’s part of the advice you’ll give us is just to ask them. But, yeah, that’s where we’re probably the first thing to figure outhow do you rope in the family?
Lisa: And yeah. A lot of people are private.
John: Well, I would say the higher up the food chain you go, the more public somebody is finding their spouse on public records or on social or they go to Gallow’s or whatever. And so there is a little bit of professional stalking involved or Pink Panthering as you like to call it. I like that. I’m a if I’m if it’s OK, I’m going to I’m going to use that phrase. Pink Panther. I love that. And I’m a Pink Panther fan myself, but we call it professional stalking, which is but I would also say is that one of the reasons that we recommend doing something for somebody as assistant is they’re treated like the gatekeeper. They’re like treated like a second-class citizen. And they have all the inside information on the company of the individual, the family. And when you honor that person and respect them and you don’t send them, like when I did the Orlando Magic, the CEO was cutting the checks of the Orlando Magic. Every time I sent a gift to Alex, the CEO, I sent the same gift to Cheyenne, the assistant for two years, never asking for anything.
John: When I wanted to get five minutes without guess what? She made it happen. She got five minutes with Alex. What I didn’t realize is she went and advocated to every other department in division inside the Orlando Magic, the reason we landed a six-figure deal with the NBA was because of Cheyenne, not because of Alex. So the reason that you honor the assistant and it’s pretty easy usually for people to get somebody’s assistant’s name, you start gifting that person, then you can go to them and say, hey, I want to honor Jim, I want to honor Steve, I wanna honor Susie. Can you get I just need a couple of data points. What’s the dog’s name? What kind of what are the kids names. What’s the spouse’s name. And so it’s kind of a 1.0 as you get as much data as you can, but it’s way more of a delight when you didn’t have to ask them directly because will reach out and say, hey, I want to send you a gift. I’m like, you just ruined half the gifts. Yeah. If you show up at the Ritz and they know that you like a certain kind of bourbon and it’s waiting in your room and they didn’t even have to ask you, you’re like your mind’s blown like why they did their homework that it details.
John: It just shows an attention to detail and an intentionality and then a thoughtfulness that any time we have to ask for somebody address, I’ll say, hey, I want to send you a book. Well, you know, I recently sent you something. Like I didn’t go to you directly. I went to the people around you that I knew would have your home address. I build relationships with the inner circle and triangulate if necessary in order to get that, because I want to surprise and delight somebody just like anybody else does. So but if you get somebody’s assistant to be on your side, they’ll tell you shoe sizes. They’ll give you all kinds of them for information.
John: And you don’t want to use that in a manipulative way. But at the end of the day, like to me, the event planner, the assistant, the people behind the people are oftentimes neglected and are oftentimes doing a lot of the heavy lifting. That’s why I see all the gifting that we do, like my personal gifting budget this year, about 600 grand. Over four hundred fifty thousand of it was inclusive of assistants and spouses because you can invest a dollar and get a thousand dollars of impact.
John: You can’t outspend your competitors. You’re publicly traded competitors or some of those kinds of people. But you can be more thoughtful than they can be. You can build deeper relationships. And that’s really that where people like John. What’s the ahli on this? I’m like, you know, the return on relationships is pretty oftentimes can be 20 x fifty-six hundred sixty eight thousand X. It’s better than Facebook ads, better than being there anything, because at the end of the day, like, you want that person to stick out their neck to have that conversation on the golf course or at the dinner table or at the meeting and say, you know what, you need to meet my friend Josh. Yeah. Those three words are worth millions of dollars.
Josh: For us, what sticks out to me is there’s two ways to raise capital. So I spend most of my time raising money for our real estate syndications, apartments, our fund, etc. And yeah, legally, there’s two ways to do it. There’s what’s called 506B, which is relationship driven. You have to have a prior existing relationship with that investor before you can pitch them an offer on a deal to invest, let’s say, an apartment, or you have the 506C, which is it’s just a general solicitation. You can have people come in, they can opt in through a funnel, you can nurture them through videos, and then they become an investor. I prefer the five or six B route because when I get favorable introductions, people invest more, they invest more often and they will refer us. Versus if somebody comes in through a funnel, let’s say from a Facebook ad, they see that we’re recruiting capital for a deal.
Josh: They often start with much less money. Right. And so it’s maybe a fifty thousand dollar investment versus two fifty or a ten thousand dollar investment versus two hundred because they don’t trust us yet. They’re like, I like the deal, but I don’t know you. And it might take us two or three years to get to the same point versus if I like. I met you through Ryan Moran and we’ve built that relationship and we’re having a good time. There’s already this level of sort of trust and honor and enjoying being around each other. So we’ve got some guys who now refer us on a regular basis and they’re bringing in investors who invest very quickly and very big with us.
Josh: Yeah, I’m thinking like this polo, this little coat just isn’t going to cut it based off of everything you just told me. And if we want to get more capital, it’s not really about maybe, this is what it’s boiled down to do we run more Facebook ads or do we do more gifting right now? That’s becoming the thought in my head right now.
John: I mean, I think that there’s still obviously room for other marketing channels. What I would say is that when you have because oftentimes people want to use gifting or giftology as a way to go after prospects, I’m like, if you have a fire that’s already burning and you pour gasoline on the fire, what happened? It goes really big, really fast. But to take somebody from cold, the speed of trust, that’s difficult to be able to accelerate that. Now, gifting can help with that. But I think that once you already have, you know, people that you’re doing things because you want to, not because you have to. That’s a big difference. With a spouse, if you show up on anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas at table six, you show up just because on random Tuesdays with spa package or whatever her love languages.
Josh: It’s service, her love language is service. I’ve gotta do stuff. She loves gifts, but she likes her dad. Eighty-two-year-old Italian worked six days a week, was a barber, did everything.
Lisa: He washed the floors.
Josh: It was in his nature to serve. Right. The family, his wife, his kids. So that’s where it comes from. And Lisa for sure. Service-Related So if I do things randomly or just help around with everything that she’s working on, she loves that more so than individual gifts. A love language is hugely important. So we have to have a separate podcast about you, honey. But these investors. So let me give you some frameworks around this. We have over three hundred investors. Yeah.
Josh: We probably have a hundred I would say that have invested big money with us in our world. Big money is at least two hundred fifty thousand dollars or more. We’ve got multiple people over a half million, million or more and then we’ve got plenty of people in that ten thousand to two hundred thousand range. I would like to take care of them all because it’s not just about the money that they invested with us, but it’s about the relationship. It’s about nurturing that relationship. And it’s also about the referrals, the introductions, like you talked about earlier, that they may have. I believe, in real estate. You want to network with people who can either buy a property from you, sell a property to you, who can invest with you or cheerlead. For you, right, sometimes the cheerleader who’s the loudest cheerleader with the biggest megaphone but hasn’t invested a nickel, is often worth more just economically than somebody that’s ambassador half a million dollars. But who doesn’t tell anyone?
John: Yep. Yeah, yeah. The sales champion or advocate. That’s where sometimes we feel like we have a number of financial advisors that are their clients that are like, oh, this person is a small client. I’m like, are they hanging with other big clients? Are they could you inspire them to go be an advocate on your behalf? What’s with the referral lifetime value worth? You know, like, well, we get to two million dollars assets under management, we make one percent. That’s 20 grand a year for the next 10 years. That’s a that’s a two hundred-thousand-dollar relationship off of one referral. Most people haven’t done the math to understand what’s your point? And they haven’t done the 360-degree view of saying who are all the relationships that are currently important to me or could be important to me? And how can I inspire them to go advocate on my behalf?
John: That could be selling you a deal or opening their mouth or referring or, you know, to me, like we have a number of suppliers, like I said, nice gifts to Cutco. And they’re like, you buy millions of dollars of product. Why would you send them a gift? I don’t have a business without them. And I think it’s oftentimes the circles that people run in. They’re like, oh, you know, I spend money with them and I’m like, would you like them going out of their way when the chips are down or when you’re backed into a corner, when you like that subcontractor to drop another project and pick up your project. That doesn’t happen on accident. That happens because of a relationship. Because if you do things because that’s who you are and you’re generous and you’re a giver, and when you show up that way for people, they’re looking for opportunities to reciprocate. And that reciprocation looks differently at different times.
John: But oftentimes we were in out a relationship plan. I start going into directions. People are like, well, they don’t spend money with us. I’m like, they could influence a deal or they could help you finish your project faster. Or they’re like, oh, yeah, you’re right. Now, like, we probably should add them to the list. I’m like, yeah, you probably should. But sometimes the people you said that are megaphones, they may never stroke a check, but they may have the influence on the back end over the next ten years could be seven or eight figures. That’s pretty powerful to start including them on the list. And oftentimes when you do that, they’re like, I didn’t write you a check. I didn’t do any like, how are you doing this? Just because and it short circuits. They’re like there was no referral given, no deal done. Like you’re just loving on the relationship. You care about me as a person? Just out of the blue on a random Tuesday in March.
John: And you could take ten thousand people and do that to them and every single person would get it because it wasn’t tied to a transaction or a deal. They’re like, wow, like I’ve seen it happen where people are like all of a sudden the relationship, there’s a there’s a tipping point from it was like, yeah, we’re kind of acquaintances. Do you know Josh is my boy make. And that happens for a number of reasons, not just because of gifting. My gift is just one of those vehicles, those delivery vehicles. But we all know when people start taking our car a little faster or respond to our text a little quicker or a little bit more thoughtfully. And that happens because the relationship is shifting. And that’s really what we’re going for, is the help accelerate those relationships with those sorts of things.
Josh:So if we wanted to get started with something like this, what are some things we should consider or what are some questions maybe that you need to ask us for us to be able to give you some feedback? Like, let’s say we wanted to take care of these three hundred people. Maybe there’s a hundred or so that maybe have invested more economically and you had already indicated maybe you just don’t gift as often to some of the others. Well, maybe you’re going to champion this for us, what would you want to do?
Lisa: You sent us a gift, which was very generous and very thoughtful. Where did you come up with the idea? Because I probably would have never thought of that. You know, most people send flowers, you know, close friends send a meal maybe, or a gift card to a restaurant. Yeah. Or gift. And one other stood out, like, very different. So, one, thank you. And how do you come up with the idea?
John: Yeah. Yeah. So what I would say is that we’re always learning to I mean, I’ve been doing this for twenty years, so like somebody sent that to me and actually was the owner of the company said, hey, you know, something such happened and I got it. My wife was like very discerning. She’s like, wow, this is really thoughtful and powerful. And it’s not like, yeah, just quality. And then all the things that, like a lot of people are just checking the box.
Lisa: Just the box was super thoughtful. Not what was in it, but the box. And what it said.
John: Yeah, yeah, it’s you know, it’s like getting Tiffany or Apple like the presentation. People do judge a book by its cover. They do judge a gift by box. They judge it by the handwritten note or the note that comes with it. Like all of those things, people think they can cut corners. So they’ll be like, we did gift out, it didn’t work and I’m like, did you follow the recipe? I kind of giftology-ish. Imagine if you bake bread and you just decide the next thousand times we’re not going to put yeast it. I don’t care if you do it ten thousand times, you’re never going to get bread like that. One little ingredient changes how it’s perceived. It changes how it feels. And so a lot of times we’re like we’re constantly trying things out on ourselves, on our relationships, on our clients. And that would be a great example of where we broke our rule. Typically, we don’t do consumables, but there are anomalies where it does make sense to do food.
John: But if you are going to do food, you need to break the rule in a big way and do something really thoughtful and really nice, not just check the box. So the knives, for instance, like that, we’ve done that knife set either as a full Cutco. Nice stuff. Like 12 grand. Most people are dropping 12 grand on one relationship. But what we realized was like we could drip on somebody and build them a full set sitting on their counter over the course of three or five or ten years. People love that because it was actually practical and useful. They love seeing their name engraved into it. Or if they’re a person of faith, we engrave scripture verses. We’d make really the item itself was just the kind of blank canvas, but there was a practical nature to it. And so we have over 20 years perfected and we kind of know what works in the recipe. Now, if I give out a thousand gifts, even if I give out a thousand varieties, there still would be three people that would complain it was a yellow Ferrari instead of a red Ferrari.
John: There would still be people that would complain no matter what. And oftentimes when you’re spending money on things like I spent money and whatever, and I’m like, you don’t focus on the three, you focus on the nine hundred ninety-seven that were like, wow, that’s thoughtful. My wife my husband thought it was amazing. If they’re texting you pictures five years later using the product and, you know, you nailed it and start to see that over time when you when people everybody says thank you, but do they continue to bring it up 12 months later? And that’s really like in almost all marketing, you’re trying to figure out, like with a Facebook ad or billboard, like what’s your cost per impression? And people like John, a bottle of wine is cheaper than your stupid knife. And I’m like, yeah, but you only got one impression with that bottle of wine, whereas the knife, it gets used once a day for the next ten years. That’s thirty-six hundred times subconsciously and consciously that that affluent person. That person you care about is thinking about you.
John: You get referrals when you’re top of mind, liked and trusted. Most people haven’t done a good job at the top-of-mind element. And so most of the things that we do tend to be family centric, kitchen centric, tend to be best in class in the category they normally wouldn’t buy, like most people would never drop six grand on a knife set or they’d never drop the wine tools that we do aren’t like twenty five dollar ones. They’re like four hundred- and fifty-dollar ones that are handmade in Australia, which sounds like a lot of money until you realize most of your clients bring our bottles of wine. That’s four bottles of wine. Right. And now your your, your client, your investor is opening your competitors wine with your pool, which is kind of fun to think that you’re top of mind even as they’re consuming somebody else’s, their accountant, their lawyer or whatever. And so those are the like. I’m trying to find those little areas where somebody would never go buy it for themselves, that they use it with their family, that it’s very common to humanity, but that I could send it out to a thousand addresses in one day and have everybody received and be like, wow, I didn’t even know this existed. I never would have bought this for myself. But I’m really glad somebody thought to buy it and personalize it with my family’s names and was an artifact.
Josh: That’s fantastic. So what do you think we should do for our investors?
Lisa:So what does it cost? I think is more of the question right now I have for personalizing. It would be fine if you’re sending it randomly like I like this idea. But for now, for us talking about Christmas, that’s why we decided not to. The shipping to send to three hundred people is a lot if you’re personalizing it all, because it’s going to be separate to each person. You can’t bulk ship, you know, so you have to do it randomly.
John: Yeah, so, I mean, that’s one of the reasons. I mean, that’s like a softball question. That’s why we exist. So somebody will hire us, whether it’s to send to 50 people or five thousand people. We partner with our vendors and we have people on site that handwrite the notes so I can ship to dropship to five hundred different addresses in one day with a handwritten note, with a personalized engraving or a piece or whatever. So it allows for people to scale their thoughtfulness. It allows for people to hit a lot of homes or a lot of business addresses or a lot of either employees or clients or referral sources and still have every single person that receives it and not have to do double shipping and not have to ship things to the office and write a note. Once we determine what’s going to go out, it might be the same. Nice that going out to everybody, but every engravings different, every handwritten note can be different. So those sorts of things. So it’s kind of the scale thoughtfulness. It’s not. We’re selecting five hundred different gifts, but if you follow the methodology in the filters, you’re able to send. Like what?
John: Like the spoonful of comfort you can send out to anybody that had a passing or was sick. We send it to all the people that we know that have gotten covid and they’re like, oh, my Gary Vaynerchuk, president of Social Group. I send that to him. And I included Gary and Dirac, a couple of guys, and he texted me immediately. He’s like, this is incredible. Like, so thoughtful. So, you know, it’s like so so we’re looking for the scalability and the thoughtfulness. There’s there’s a hybrid there. There’s a sweet spot. And just you guys understand, like budgeting wise, our rule of thumb is you should be reinvesting five to 15 percent of net profit back into relationships to keep them to grow them and up some cross-sell. The secret sauce is when you get them to go out and want to sell for you, to want to have conversations. And one of the guys I did this for, Cameron Harold, who wrote Double Double. He’s got some of the top. You may have heard him speak. He’s written like five or six books. He speaks all over the world.
John: When I met him, I did a seven thousand Brooks Brothers experience for him of all of his clothes in the Ritz Carlton, like a shopping experience that he’d had no idea all in his size. We continue to send him gifts for once a quarter for ten years. People like, why did you send gifts after you already had him as a client? And I’m like, because he then went and sold. Like, I couldn’t hire Cameron as a sales rep for two million dollars. He’s referred me multi-seven figures in deal flow and doesn’t ask for a dime in return. Why? Because he’s bought into who I am and our mission and he wants to go out and advocate. And so when you can get to that third level of relationship where people are selling on your own on their behalf because they just love who you are and what you’re about, that’s where you get the hundred x. The thousand X ROR, return on relationships.
John: And so most of the things, though, I don’t care if you have a billionaire, most of the things that we recommend from a gifting perspective, whatever you spend on a dinner out round of golf or ballgame tickets is what you should invest on each or per dress. So it’s not forty seven dollars Polo’s, but it’s also not twenty thousand are Louis Vuitton bags. It’s two hundred dollars to two thousand dollars now and that adds up to three hundred. But if you would take somebody out to a nice dinner with one hundred bucks easy.
John: Right. And we gladly do that and say hey bring your friend or bring your whoever. Like we’ll drop a thousand dollars on a bar tab and think nothing of it. But all of a sudden, when it comes time to do gifting, it’s like our budget is fourteen dollars and fifty cents for brownies or peanut brittle. It makes no logical sense when you’re dealing with these people that can buy whatever they want. They’re on different diets and gluten free and sugar and all this other stuff. So thinking through and saying, hey, we’re going to make this a math equation, we profited. I don’t care what your revenue is, what’s your profit? And then reinvesting a small sliver of that 10 percent. I kind of call it a reverse tide. They’re really buying their own gifts. But if you do it thoughtfully, they’re like, wow, they didn’t have my money. They’re getting a great return. I didn’t have to do this.
John: They did this because they chose to that intentionality and doing it thoughtfully in world class. And if you buy too nice of a gift, in my opinion, you the twenty thousand Louis Vuitton bag that communicates, you’re making too much money due to cheap and then you’re like you’re kind of a cheap SOB. The sweet spot is thoughtful and at the same time being responsible as a steward of whatever the resources are or if you need to, instead of doing twice a year, do it four times a year. But don’t I think people do either too small or too big all at once and then it’s crickets the rest of the time is to just have this consistent drip.
Josh:So let’s say. But let me use Lisa and I as an example. Let’s say Lisa and I, we’re not the owners of our company. We were an investor and we invested somewhere between two hundred fifty thousand to a half a million dollars in with our company within one of our apartment syndications are our fonder one of our investment opportunities. And there were somebody who was a regular investor, really liked what we were doing was maybe, you know, referring us a few people here and there, but not really. The relationship was good, but it was mostly about the return. Right. About what kind of what kind of return can listen. I get on our money, tit for tat. Yeah, not necessarily like I love doing business with Josh and Lisa Cantwell and Freeland Ventures because they really take care of me. I got an example.
Josh: I got a guy right now who just asked me to refer him out of one of our deals so he could take some of the money and invest with another company in town. Dagger in the heart right now. I get it because of its financial investments like so he’s got a bunch of money with us. He’s not leaving us. He’s trying to diversify is what he tells me. I need to diversify. I got to have some money in the stock market, some money, Josh, in your real estate investments, some others. But of course, we want these guys to feel like they’re just loved by us, that they’re super important to us and they really don’t want to take any money and take it somewhere else. So let’s just say that’s the client two hundred thousand five hundred thousand in some sort of real estate apartment syndication or something like that. You know, it’s a fifty-five- to seventy-five-year-old, typically a male. And there they have a spouse, kids, grandkids. Yeah. Where do we start? What do you think?
John: Yeah, well, I mean, I think that’s our sweet spot. I mean, when you’re dealing then those people are all seven figure or about net worth eight figure, nine figure or whatever. And so I think that I would lay out a plan with the cutlery. Sounds crazy, but all of those people are entertaining at home or hosting or whatever else they’re all married. I would drip on them four times a year and don’t get me wrong, like you can’t have a crappy return and then give great gifts and look like I know you guys do a great return. And then the cherry on top, the sun is I like Josh, I trust Josh. He gives a great return. And then on top of that, he still makes me look like a hero to my family and to my wife and whatever else like that. So it’s like the little people will brag about the sprinkles on the sundae, but you still have to have the sundae. Like it’s the little things that people will talk about.
John: And so I’d say for you guys, somebody like that, that would be a four times a year. I’m just thinking about you, just appreciate the relationship. The goal would be to take care of the people that do love working with you already and do appreciate who you are and, in the relationship, and then convert some of the people over here that invest a lot of money. But maybe they’re not as tied into you as a person yet. And they’re just looking at the numbers because you want all things being equal for them to choose you. That’s I mean, if somebody is getting like if you’re producing seventeen-point four percent, somebody else is producing thirty two point five, you’re probably not going to win that necessarily unless they don’t like the person or don’t trust the person or some major black eye. But you’re like at the end of the day, like, there’s a lot of options where people can invest money and you want to be one of the first ones that comes to mind for their own money.
John: And any time they’re having a financial conversation with anybody else, that’s in their network. If you do that well, you won’t have a need for the Facebook ads as much because those other people will. You have three hundred people that just prefer one person a year. That’s a lot of referrals. Now, they’re not all going to invest. But if you can just start to compound that. So that for me would be like your top tier would be four times a year. Your mid-tier would be like three times a year. And in that two hundred, our sweet spot is like the two to fifty to five hundred range. So it’s not like crazy, but it’s also not cheap. And then your entry level will be one to two, one or two times a year. It would be all at the same level of gift, just one would be more frequent. And so anybody that even receives one gift to hear from you, the goal is for them to be like, wow, I’ve been investing a long time and been in business a long time. Nobody’s ever thought about me and specifically my wife this way and actually included her name.
John: I’ve had the spouses of eight, nine figure CEOs come up to me and say in tears at galas saying this is the first time I’ve ever had somebody in business treated me with respect as a peer and included my name on something. I’m usually treated like arm candy. And I actually felt respected by what I received. I felt included. So I still get goose bumps thinking about because I know my wife feels that way oftentimes like, oh, must be great to be married to John. You got it so easy taking care of four kids and it is not easy to be married to an entrepreneur. And so when somebody treats my wife with respect and realizes she’s the rock that’s allowed me to do what I do, that relationship changes forever.
John: And so that’s really what we’re trying to do, is scale that thoughtfulness. In that communication of like, hey, this is from one family or one business leader to another business leader, just want to honor your family and provide some tools for you to be able to to celebrate with your family or maybe do these crazy thousand-dollar mugs, which sounds insane, but carved into this mug is somebody’s whole life story, faith, core values, legacy. I just gave one to a billionaire on a wide stage in Orange County and he cried like a baby. And half the audience was standing, crying. Why? Because it was he felt seen and acknowledged. And I tied it in his dad and who had just passed away, ninety-six who had actually redid the whole Air Force at the Pentagon. And I will all of that into this one piece. So now, like he’s reminded of his family legacy. It’s stuff you can’t buy. It’s like you just you feel known.
Lisa: Yeah. So what did that mug look like? Because we did talk about glasses. Why did you choose knives over a glass or so?
John: It’s like a watch. If you give somebody a gold watch in there, a person like there’s certain things that get into fashion where you’re like, I like this Rolex, but I like a different type. Anything that has to do with size or fashion, you’re taking a risk by giving it. And glassware is one of those things where people are about and they have a certain preference knives. For whatever reason. Most people have the knife set that they got when they got married from Nordstrom or Bed, Bath and Beyond know they’ll have a twelve-thousand-dollar Viking stove and a fifteen-thousand-dollar subzero fridge, but their knives are just kind of like whatever was left and when they got married. And so if you take that item, that’s very utilitarian, very practical, and you don’t go one or two percent higher, you give them like the handmade Rolex version of cutlery and then, oh, by the way, you engrave all the pieces and make it an heirloom. It’s one of those things where, like, most people aren’t like trying to match their knife set to their decor. Glassware might be a little bit different.
John: The reason the mug works is because it’s so personal. It’s carved one at a time. It takes a few weeks to make. And really the mug itself, if you looked at somebody else’s mug, you’d be like, oh, that doesn’t look like much. But if you look at the mug and see your own stuff, your own family and the tragedies you’ve overcome and whatever else, and then it comes in this crazy wood box that you open up. And it’s a video from the artist talking about why it was made the way that it was for you. And so as you drink your coffee or tea every morning, you’re reminded of your core values and your legacy that applies. You don’t care if the mug is ugly because it’s the story and the meaningfulness of the piece that that communicates. Wow. And there’s that subconscious like you’ll never drink out of another mug again. So we’re keeping that artist pretty busy on those pieces.
John: The reason I found out about that one was the artist reached out to me, called and said, John, I read the book four times. I’ve listened to seventy-five of your interviews. I want to give you a gift at no cost to bless your wife. And it was cold email, and I looked him up and is like he looked like he was 16 and I’m like, he wants to use my book against me, I’ll play. So I answer these questions. He drives nine and a half hours to hand deliver these two-thousand-dollar mugs. Makes me cry. When I brought them home to my wife, she cried. So, John, nobody’s ever made a gift like this. This is unbelievable. Where’s he at?
John: And I’m like, I’m getting a motel. He drove nine 1/2 hours. She’s like, no, he has to stay with us. My wife lets nobody stay with us. Yeah. This artist has made like these vases and jars. They’re like twenty-five hundred bucks. They tell somebody’s whole life story as a family together. That’s what he did for us as well. These but these artifact mugs literally I’d given one to, I probably sent out one hundred and thirty-five of them in the last year. All my employees, all my mentors, people were in my wedding a decade ago. You name the person. If I can find a reason to give them a mug and I know them well enough, or I can get access to their assistant or their spouse or their sibling to get the info to make it, it’s almost one hundred percent that they’re going to cry when they get it. It’s like their life story. It’s like a lifetime achievement award as a practical piece of art.
Lisa: What does that cost?
John: It’s a thousand bucks. It’s the best. It’s not cheap. But I’ve had mentors that said John my fifty-thousand-hour watch if it burns in the house, I can replace it. Your mug made me cry. I can’t replace this because of what, what it means.
Lisa: Do you use it daily?
John: Every single day.
Lisa: Yeah. It’s interesting.
Josh: Where would we go from here?So you know, I actually got a marketing meeting, I gotta jump on so I hate to cut it short. This content, this podcast, the whole thing. But this is obviously spin the whole concept of gifting as opposed to the mugs and trinkets like the logo glassware, which was everything we were thinking about a week ago. Yeah, we’re not doing that. So what happens next?
John: Yeah. So what I would say is whether somebody wants to outsource and hire us to do it for them or whether they want to do it on their own, they need the relationship plan. If you do the relationship plan on your own, you can go to giftologysystem.com and you literally get twenty years’ worth of our blueprint of who you should be sending gifts to and when and how much and why. And basically we give away our blueprint for free because we know to your point about like how do you send out like the shipping on three hundred items is a lot and three hundred handwritten notes or even fifty handwritten notes is a lot. But most people, once they do the blueprint, they trying to do it on their own. It’s a lot to play Santa Claus even once out of the year, let alone year-round.
John:So but starting with that foundation of saying, hey, here’s how much we’re going to invest, here’s how much these relationships are worth. Here’s who matters. Once you have all that segmented, then you can either do it yourself or outsource it to somebody like us. So go to Giftology system, download the spreadsheet, get your list together and then internalize and say, hey, do we want to invest as much in our relationships or what would a 1.0 version look like? Maybe it’s not doing a thousand dollar mugs for three hundred people. Maybe it’s starting out with some solid base hits. And then like year two, year three, year four, you start to add in and start to redirect dollars from other marketing sources and other things that you’re doing towards something like this. That way, at the end of the day, the goal is long term. For it to be budget neutral is things to pay for themselves.
Lisa: Nice meeting you.
John: Thank you. Great questions I can tell you’re into it. In general women, emotional intelligence across the board. They’re way better gift givers, even without giftology like you understand packaging and handwritten note and details and timing. And the guys are like, can I just check a box once a year and like send bourbon or scotch and call it a day? And they realize that what they’re communicating, somebody doesn’t matter. They don’t realize that they’re not getting the Y that they want. And so any time I can have somebody, you know, significant other and whatever else involved in these conversations, I like when I speak to YPO, most of the wives are elbowing their husbands saying, I told you should be doing this sort of thing like four years ago because they did it intuitively. They just know, like, women are way better relationship builders than guys are.
Josh: Yeah, awesome man.
Josh: So, hey, guys, I hope you enjoyed that interview with John, myself and my wife Lisa. Regarding gifting. You know, I never thought of gifting that way when I thought about gifting. You think about Christmas, about the holidays, Easter. You think about giving people gifts. And a lot of times people expect gifts and then when they don’t get a gift, they get mad. Well, what about this concept that John talked about, about gifting at random times, gifting when nobody’s expecting it, gifting gifts that really have a lot of heart, felt like a lot of thought behind them. It’s really an amazing strategy. And so my wife and I are completely rethinking how do we gift for our employees, our staff, our friends and family, our private investors. You know, everybody that comes in touch, all of our vendors, it comes in touch with my companies. It’s hundreds, thousands of people.
Josh: In this interview with John really made me rethink what we’re going to do this year to drive relationships, to really support the clients that we have, the employees, the prospects that we’re working with, and how can we do a better job of surprising them and then driving that relationship even deeper, strengthening that relationship by doing something for them that they never saw coming. So if you enjoyed this interview, please go in to wherever you get your podcasts, iTunes, YouTube, leave us a five star rating, leave us a review, leave us questions. It would mean the world to me. I’m so grateful if you would do that and share this all over social media. Thank you so much for being a subscriber to the Accelerated Investment Podcast. We’ll see you next time.
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Every business rises and falls on relationships. Every single one. For over 20 years, John Ruhlin’s company Giftology has helped businesses develop stronger bonds with their business partners and clients by giving personalized gifts using a carefully thought out plan.
Everyone thinks they’re a 7 out of 10 on the gifting scale, but let’s get real for a minute. Most people are really a -3. Giving a bottle of scotch to your clients without finding out that one of them abstains from alcohol is a wasted opportunity to show that you really know them.
You may not be able to outspend your competitors when you give gifts, but you can be more thoughtful than them. John’s strategy relies on digging a little to find out about a recipient’s family and interests so that the gift he sends them becomes a treasured part of their home. Gifting hand carved mugs that are not only a work of art, but show the family’s story is one of John’s favorite ways to tell clients, “I see the real you”.
Giftology has gift giving down to an art. Most people might expect a gift on an anniversary, on a birthday, or at Christmas time, but John’s company is careful to include in their gift giving packages what they call “random planned” gift giving. Surprising a client with a gift on a random Thursday is a perfect way to be a more memorable part of their life.
Real estate is all about relationships, and gift giving is a powerful way to build better relationships. John’s company measures what it calls ROR, or return on relationships as a way of evaluating how just how committed giving can build a company’s reputation.
- My wife Lisa Marie joins me to talk about how John’s company was able to send us such an incredibly personal and thoughtful gift without really knowing us.
- You have a business plan and a marketing plan, but do you have a relationship plan?
- Why “planned yet random” gift giving can earn you more brownie points than sticking to the traditional ABCs of gift giving.