David St. Germain is the Founder and CEO of Cactus Credit which helps people improve their credit profiles. He is also the author of Zero To Hero: 7 Simple Strategies for Creating the Life You’ve Always Wanted. We talk about upselling best practices, the drawbacks of too much innovation, and the role of environment in business success.
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Turn a Customer into Two with David St. Germain
I’m talking with David St. Germain, the founder and CEO of Cactus Credit that helps people improve their credit profiles and Elite Entrepreneur, a business coaching program. David, welcome to the show.
Thanks so much for having me, Steve. I really appreciate it.
Great to have you. So, David, let’s start with your entrepreneurial journey. How did you get to the point where you started the Cactus Credit and now the Elite Entrepreneur Program? What road led you to this point?
So, I started off quite young, having an entrepreneurial mindset. My mother was an entrepreneur as well. So I kind of knew that I wanted to do something, run my own business, run my own show, so to speak. And early on in my early 20s, I just started bumbling into things and not having much success at all, as entrepreneurs sometimes do, and just trying different things over and over and over again. And it was really through a lot of study. So at the same time, I was 23 years old when I started really getting into it. I just started reading lots of books and then trying lots of different things and had some sales jobs along the way and that kind of helped accelerate stuff because I had money to throw into businesses that weren’t working.
So that was kind of my journey to start and then that kind of evolved over a long period of time. And then I founded a marketing consulting company, just a very small type of niche marketing consulting company. Then went on to found a lead generation company and grew that business really from nothing, less than nothing because I owed a lot of money, from zero to about 14 million in annual sales over a five-year period. And then from that business came Cactus Credit, which is a credit rebuilding and sort of a debt settlement type of business. It sort of burst that business because in the lead gen business, I was dealing with subprime customers for auto dealerships.
So at the peak, I had almost 700 car dealerships as clients. And a lot of the people that were applying on our websites were subprime, they didn’t have great credit, they had a lot of debt. So I already had the customer, and so I was creating a company to do something else with that same customer. So that’s kind of how it started. It built that business off the back of the other one.
So that’s a great segue because what I wanted you to talk about is this concept, this that you developed called turning a customer into two.
And maybe that’s different from what you described because you have one customer and maybe you double the business for that in two different companies.
At the same thing. So can you share this concept?
This is one of my favorite concepts, Steve. And I love this concept because it can really double a company’s revenue in a very short period of time, literally double it. You are absolutely right on that concept being what I did with the lead generation business and then creating another business because I already had the customer. So my customer acquisition cost was, at that time it was zero. Now we do a lot of other things. We do paid ads and things. But when it started, my customer acquisition cost was zero.
So I had a great time for a lot of years with big profit margins. But so the idea with turning one customer into two is that as business owners, getting a customer, getting that first customer is kind of one of the hardest things in business, to get that customer. So once you have the customer, you wanna maximize the revenue that you get from that customer. And so many businesses just fail to understand the concept or maybe just don’t even think about it, it’s never occurred. But some businesses do do this very well and some businesses don’t. And I’ll give you a couple of stories to illustrate that. So, from someone that didn’t do it well.
So last Sunday, I went to the barber shop and I’m sitting in the barber shop chair and I’m unshaven and I’m running errands. It’s a Sunday afternoon. And so I’m sitting there and I’m getting my hair cut from the barber, but he could have noticed that I’m unshaven and said, hey, congratulations. You came on a great day today, David. We have $5 off the hot shave and hot towel service. And we can go ahead with that real quick before your haircut.” And at that time, I would have said yes, because I was not doing anything. It was Sunday.
Exactly. I’m not in a rush. I’m just running errands. I’m just going here, going there. So at that time, he could have turned me from a haircut customer into a haircut customer and a hot shave customer. And he could have turned that $30 sale from the haircut into a $60 sale. And then he could have walked me to the counter and said, also, we have $5 off the men’s hair products over here and just start walking over there. And I would have sort of just followed him. And then he could have got me to pick out something, right? And then he would have had me as three customers. So now I was a haircut customer, I was a pot shave customer and a men’s haircare product customer. And so every business has something like this that they can do an immediate upsell to increase revenue.
So what is the process for discovering this immediate upsell? Is there a process for that to think about in a structured way?
Or maybe to have a checklist of different types of situations that you can verify against your business to say, okay, here is how I do it.
Yes. So, you want to look for what is the problem that you’ve created for your customer because of what you just sold them. So what’s the problem was I had a great haircut, but I was unshaven, so that doesn’t look good. So the problem he created by giving me a great haircut was that I looked great here, but I wasn’t looking good here.
There’s a contrast. Now the beard was the bottleneck, basically.
Yes, that’s right. So he could have immediately solved that problem for me. And added value. So it’s like another value add based on what just happened. I’ll give you another example of someone, a business that does do this. So last weekend also in my running errands, I walk into the Apple store and I’m buying a new iPhone for my girlfriend. And so we get in there and we’re being helped and she’s picking out the iPhone that she wants. And so she gets it and the guy comes over with the thing.
And then right away he says, okay, and we’ll just get you on the AppleCare for that. And I tell him no, I used to say yes all the time, but I know what the deal is with it. It doesn’t do anything, in my opinion. It’s a hundred percent profit for Apple, a hundred percent. But everybody in the Apple store is trained to upsell the AppleCare. And no matter what happens, they’re always tacking on that extra service. Now, they position it well. I mean, if something happens to your phone, if you lose it, if it goes down the toilet, you can come back and we’ll give you a new one. But, you know, nobody ever comes back and gets a new one.
Or even if you go back, if you don’t buy it, because I didn’t buy it, and then I could still get them on the phone and they still help me.
They walk in to the Genius Bar and they still help me. It was just I had to dig, I think, one minute more for the phone number. That was the difference. Right, right. Exactly. Yeah. So they do it well. So I got this. I love this concept of, okay, what is the position you put this customer into which now allows them to take advantage of another offer. Maybe that’s another way to frame this.
Okay, so that’s a great one to mull over. So let’s switch some gears here. So I read your book, which I highly recommend by the way, Zero to Hero, which came out a couple of months ago. And there was some really interesting concept that I wanted to ask you about. So one of the things that you talk about is that business owners should stop thinking about what’s possible and should shift their focus on what is probable. So what is it all about? Because I always thought that, you know, when you’re an entrepreneur, everything is possible and be a visionary and think big. And so we are prone to going after this possible thing and the new, new, big new thing, kind of on the edge of what’s available. And your concept is kind of twisted, twisted around. So, what do you mean by focusing on the probables?
So, focus on the probable. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it, and I’ll give you some examples of that. But I like all the stuff about, you know, thinking big and dreaming and all this stuff as well. So there’s a place for that for sure. But there’s also a place where as entrepreneurs, we want to make money and we want to be smart about the risk that we take. And so if there is a path for something that has worked in the past, has worked over here, has worked for years and years and years. I’d rather do that than try to invent something that, is it going to work? I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s gonna work or not.
But if there’s a proven path, if there’s a beaten path before me, I’d rather take that path than try to wander off into the woods and discover a new oasis somewhere. The chances of success go way up if you are following proven principles and concepts and ideas and strategies that you can follow rather than try to invent your own. And then when you’ve got a few hundred million in the bank, then go invent something. I mean, then you can afford to to spend the money on that.If there's a proven path, if there's a beaten path before me, I'd rather take that path than try to wander off into the woods and discover a new oasis somewhere. Click To Tweet
So, the way I look at this, the way I frame this is you want to innovate, but you don’t want to innovate too much.
I like to think of it as if I only take one step from where I am, I’m on the right path. If I have to take two steps, I’m going to be two steps removed from the business. I know that I’ve experienced with, the customers I know, that I’m taking an undue risk.
That’s how I frame it. So for example, when I moved here, moved to America, I had an investment banking business. And the first step for me was to create a subsidiary of my investment banking here. So in my mind, I was just doing the same business, just in a different geographic environment. And now, obviously that was much more different than I thought, but at least I could mentally manage the transition.
Then from there, I took another step towards business coaching. I was in the same environment at that point, maybe the same customers, but I could do something else. So that’s how I frame it, but definitely good advice. Now, the other thing which is a good segment here is, what you talk about is how important the environment is. So what does it mean? Let’s say if I’m a startup company, does it mean I have to move to the Valley to be in the right kind of environment? Or what do you mean by the environment? And how does a business owner create the right environment?
Environment is extremely important. So you can create the environment, but you need to assess where you’re at at the stage of the entrepreneurial journey that you’re at. So for example, if you are, let’s say 20 years ago, I’m 23, I wanna start a technology company. Should I stay in Wyoming or should I move to Silicon Valley? I should definitely move to Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas or somewhere where there’s a tech hub, 100%, 100%.
Why is it important?
Because the people that you’re gonna meet, the mentors that you’re gonna meet, the mindset of the people around you. So if you were talking about building a $1 billion technology company based off this one idea in Silicon Valley, people are going to listen. Their minds are open to that because they’ve seen it. They’ve been a part of it. They’ve experienced it. But if you’re in a small town in Idaho, people have not seen that. They have not done it. They have not experienced.
So the advice that you’re going to get is going to be not as great and probably counterproductive to the advice that you’re gonna get if you’re hanging out in coffee shops and restaurants in San Jose, California, with people that work at Google and Facebook and all these other companies, that the talk is gonna be different, the reference experience that you get from understanding how it works. So when people wanna be a movie star, they should move to Hollywood, right? Because you’re going to run into producers, directors, you’re going to run into other actors, you’re going to gain experience from talking with them. So the environment plays a huge part of it. Now for today, we have more advantages today, frankly, than we did many years ago, but depending on what business you’re in, there are definite moves that you should consider.
It’s so amazing how the environment impacts people. When I moved to the US, I had this experience, I moved from Budapest, Hungary, and my experience was that the business meeting in Budapest took one hour. If I went down to Transylvania, which is the Hungarian-speaking part of Romania, a business meeting there was three hours. In Bucharest, it was two hours, same content. I moved to Richmond, it was in Virginia, it would take half an hour to conduct the same business meeting. If I went up to New York, 15 minutes. It was the same business meeting, the other thing three hours. That was just the environment.
So, let’s move on. So, you have a really interesting couple of concepts around goal setting, which I like. And one of the things that really resonated with me is when you say that you, okay, you pick a goal, but then you have to match the effort to the goal. So give me an example and what does it mean and how do I know how much effort really do I have to generate in order to achieve that goal?
I’ll give you a couple of quick examples. So I like martial arts and I take jujitsu classes, but I’m a hobbyist for jujitsu. So I don’t want, I don’t care about winning a world championship. I don’t care about being the best in the world. I just want a little bit of exercise. And I like it. I like watching it and I like doing it. But my goal is not to be to make money from it or to be world champion. So I go two or three times a week consistently, but that’s good enough for the effort based on my goal of just wanting to get a bit of exercise. Now, if I was trying to be world champion, I would have to be there twice a day, every day, seven days a week.
There is no way that you can get to the highest level in that sport without that type of effort. And I know that because I watch interviews of people that aren’t the highest level of that. And it’s the same thing with anything else that you want to do. So when I was just getting out of high school, I was a professional musician. And so at that time I was becoming a pretty good guitar player, but I was spending about four hours a day practicing. And that type of level is what it takes to become a great guitar player. Now, I didn’t continue down that path, but how I got to that number is because my private guitar teacher said that that’s what he was practicing.
And that’s what it took to get up to the highest level. So if you’re trying, it depends on how high you want to rise in the discipline that you’re pursuing. And it should be based on, now, that’s why I recommend to people to really be honest with what you want to pursue, right? Because I wouldn’t say, oh, I wanna be world jujitsu champion and then just try to go an hour a week and be delusional with myself. I wanna say, this is the purpose that I’m doing X. And if I know the purpose that I’m doing X, I can match my effort. And if I miss a couple of Jiu-Jitsu classes, that’s okay because my main pursuit is business. So that needs to be what’s most important in my life and the most amount of effort in my life.Success is not just about setting goals, but also aligning your effort with the level of your ambition. Like in martial arts or music, the path to greatness demands matching your dedication to your aspirations. Click To Tweet
Yeah, and you probably cannot focus on two major things at the same time. My dad always used to say that you cannot ride two horses with one ass.
That’s right. I like that one. I like that, Steve.
So, continuing on the topic of goals, you talk about building a goal achieving system. Yes. So let’s say you want to become that world champion martial arts fighter.
Then what’s gonna be your system to achieve that goal? Give me an example.
So creating a system around the goal is mapping out your daily and weekly activity. So you know what you’re doing and that system then takes you towards your goal. So you don’t have to focus on the goal. You focus on the system. What am I doing daily? What am I doing weekly that will lead me to where I want to go to? So if I’m trying to be a martial arts world champion, what does that look like in my daily activity? Well, it’s probably going to the gym, doing some cardiovascular training.
It’s instruction from group classes, probably private instruction. It’s a lot of sleep, it’s a lot of nutrition, it’s a lot of, you know, other things that I can build into that system. And so I wherever I want to go, what needs to happen? Who do I need to become in order to achieve that goal? And then I build a system down to the day because the routine, the habits, they build us, as you know. And so I’m creating that system to take me wherever it is that I want to go.
You definitely came a long way based on what I read in the book, but I’m not going to spill the beans because listeners should be going out and reading that book. It’s Zero to Hero, available on Amazon, and it’s a really great book. It just came out, so it doesn’t have an awful lot of reviews yet, but it will in a few months, and definitely check it out. Where else can listeners connect with you, David?
They can connect with me on my website. It’s davidsgt.com. And also I’m on Instagram. I’m pretty active on Instagram and on Facebook. So I’m around.
Okay, so David St. Germain, the founder and CEO of the Elite Entrepreneur Business Coaching Program. So definitely check him out, davidstg.com and read his book as well on Amazon. Thank you, David, for coming on the show.
Thank you so much, Steve, I appreciate it.