Growth Hacking Interview Series #91: Maxwell Ivey
Maxwell Ivey is a 49-year-old blind gentleman who grew up in a family of carnival owners. All he ever wanted to do was to continue in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and be part of the family business.
He did help in the business over the years, but couldn’t sustain it after the early death of his father (who had lung cancer). He then turned to helping people sell their amusement equipment. (from About)
“Hi Floyd; First, let me take the time to thank you for asking me to contribute to your interview series. I'm honored to be included in the long list of top bloggers, podcasters, and online business owners that you have featured here.
I'm not sure which is better reading the names of the other people who you have featured here or getting to the place where I know I belong on the list.
I hope that your readers will get something good out of our exchange. I hope if nothing else they will feel inspired and motivated to take action.
And before I begin I want to mention something just so I don't confuse the readers. I have two businesses online. One is called the midway marketplace. It is an online brokerage site for the sale of new and used amusement, concessions, and confections equipment.
It was my first site, and it will be ten years old this September. My other business is as the blind blogger where I offer coaching, public speaking, ebooks, online courses, and merchandise.
I will be moving back and forth between the two businesses depending on which I think gives the best answer or offers the best example of the questions being asked. I hope this is okay with everyone.”
How did you start out as a marketer?
I guess my first experiences in marketing would have been while helping my dad book events for our traveling carnival. This was before the internet and email.
It meant making endless numbers of cold calls. I like to tell people that this prepared me for running my own business and for going after opportunities because I was told no just about every way a person can say it.
And I learned that no matter how many times you get told no, the next person you ask could be the one to say yes.
Looking back, what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
When I started my amusement equipment brokerage company called the midway marketplace I was the new kid in a field with several established companies and websites.
My business model was different than the others. Instead of free classifieds with income coming from ad revenue, mine was a straight commission sales site.
So beyond finding my first clients I had trouble just getting people to return my calls or emails. I finally solved this by offering free text links in exchange for email subscriptions.
As the list has grown its been a source of new clients and listings. People see the other items I have for sale and remember me when they have a similar need.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
My first several clients were all friends or family members. They were people who knew me or my dad and who were willing to take a chance on me.
Now, I stand out from my competitors by encouraging if not insisting that people submit long detailed equipment descriptions, multiple full sized photos, and quality videos.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
It's being able to help others.
Whether it's helping someone sell a used ride so they can replace it with something newer or just different or helping a family sell a business so they can retire, or inspiring people to take action in their lives, or showing people how to use guest posts and radio interviews to promote their businesses; it's all about helping others.
We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?
There are so many different services people can offer online, so freelancing is really only limited by the imagination of the individual.
In addition to things like writing and being a virtual assistant you could offer online courses, publish ebooks, release dvds or cds.
You can also sell banner ads, promote affiliate products, and hire yourself out as a coach in any field you are experienced in. More and more degrees and certifications aren't needed.
And in many cases, people online are far more interested in past life or work experience than in what formal education you have or don't have.
So, figure out what areas you are knowledgeable in and start looking around to see what the market is for your experience, talents, and skills.
And here I encourage you to be generous when listing what you have to offer. I say that because most people are hesitant to say they are qualified in an area when they probably are.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again, what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
I would have accepted that my life in the carnival business as a show owner was over sooner. By trying to hang on to a business that was failing I postponed the start of my own business.
No one likes to accept failure, but sometimes we have to acknowledge that one door is closed so we can move on to something even better.
And as the blind blogger I wish I hadn't fought so hard against the idea that I am an inspiration.
I would even go so far as to say that my path might have been better if I had bypassed college and went straight to work in the family business.
I can also see how my life would be different if I had allowed my family to get me tested for sleep apnea in my 20's or had gastric surgery years sooner.
But sometimes we just have to wait until we are ready before we can make changes that we should have known were needed all along.
How is your typical work day structured?
With two businesses my day is not what I would ever call typical. About the only thing that is consistent is that I start my day by checking my email.
I have clients in the amusement industry all over the world. So, I get up thinking there will be something good in my inbox that happened while I was asleep.
It doesn't always happen that way, but I believe in being optimistic.
Some of the other things I do every day are recruit new clients and new listings, send out pitch emails to owners of blogs podcasts and radio shows, write new posts or record new podcasts for my sites, and take care of my physical health.
To maintain my weight I exercise at least 30 minutes every day and continue to follow a healthy diet. This means having to plan meals in advance and think about what I will have throughout the day.
My biggest problem area here is having to get 80 to 90 grams of protein every day.
Gastric surgery makes your body less able to process certain foods. So, you have to eat more of certain kinds of foods. And I have to drink lots of water and take vitamin supplements every day.
But to me this isn't really a problem because I'm a firm believer that successful business people take care of their bodies.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
It seems like I wait a long time for just about everything. Some of that is the time it takes for things to happen. And some of that is just the impatience that most people in business are familiar with.
I think one of the most dangerous myths in business is that success happens quickly. I know there are people who are better at getting results faster than others, but most of us have to do the same things every day for a while before we start to see results.
I have had rides sell in 30 minutes and I have had others that took more than a year. I have had two examples with my coaching business.
It took the better part of a year to organize an online presentation with the student blog society at Kent University. And it took over a year I think for a magazine article that featured me in New York Magazine.
I like to say that patience isn't the lack of wanting things, it's the ability to wait with peace.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
I don't know that I would be much help with this. Both of my brand names Mr. Midway and The Blind Blogger were given to me by friends and fans of my work.
But I guess the place to start is with what question you will answer or what problem you will solve. Put the focus on your customers or potential ones and you will never go wrong.
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
I find that as I continue to grow as a person many new opportunities are presenting themselves.
Right now, I am finishing a book on weight loss, working on a compilation of my radio interviews; and still having to promote equipment sales for the people who depend on me to find them buyers.
Often a new equipment listing will require me to stop work on other projects as I usually don't have an exclusive listing on rides, games, inflatables, generators, concessions machines, etc.
Where as the deadlines for books, products, and other projects are generally my own doing.
There is only so much time available, so sometimes you just have to accept that you aren't going to get it all done and do your best to focus on the work that is most important to you and that will do the most to move you forward to accomplishing your goals.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I'm impressed by all the live streaming options. In addition to google hangouts on air and the various online meeting systems we now have Blab and Periscope.
I have participated in Blab and find it so much more interactive than most other formats. I'm also excited by the explosion in online radio shows such as those hosted on BlogTalk, iheart, and other networks.
These all give people the opportunity to reach large audiences in real time and have a conversation with people who may be able to help them grow their businesses.
I myself am going to be co-hosting a radio call in a show on BlogTalk. It will be once a month on the first Monday and it's called Get It Moving Mondays.
It may grow to a weekly deal, but my plan is to keep it to once a month as my plate is already pretty full.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
I follow quite a few other bloggers. When there is some new trend or technology one or more of them is usually right there to do a post or a podcast episode about it.
I also have friends who are just more tuned in than I am when it comes to new technology.
And being a blind computer user I often like to follow these new developments for a while before I try adopting them for myself.
This is because quite often new website systems and new software applications are not initially accessible for people using a screen reader.
So, surround yourself with people who you know will let you know when there is something new that you just have to be a part of.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
A few years ago a mall management company in Georgia listed a carousel with me. They had been trying to sell it through another company for over a year.
I won't mention the other company's name because they are so big they don't need any publicity. They have offices in Italy, Nashville Tennessee Australia, etc.
I had been hearing about the power of video, so I asked them if they could send me a video of the ride in operation.
They did, and I turned it and their photos into a solid blog post. I sold their ride a couple of months later. I was really proud to have beaten this company with more resources, a bigger name, and a longer history in the business.
But what makes it even sweeter is since then that mall management company contacts me any time they need to sell amusement type equipment from malls that they take over operations for.
Just this week I heard that they will be listing their forth major piece of equipment with me.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken by Mike Robbins.
I think too often people try to do things the way they think they are supposed to instead of just going with who they are and what they know.
Even now I refer back to things my dad taught me or that I learned while traveling with the carnival. I have been able to come to the attention of others, partly because my background makes me memorable. So, just be yourself.
What advice would you share with other Marketer's who want to become more productive?
You don't have to know everything to start a business. I think people would make a lot more progress if they realized that there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
I like to say that by refusing to ask for help, you are robbing the other person of the joy that comes from helping another human being who can do nothing for them but say thank you.
And my dad always used to tell me Max if you don't ask they can't say yes. So don't try to do it all by yourself. Let some other people help you chase that dream.
If there's one Marketing Guru you'd recommend who and why.
I don't know if my friend Adrienne Smith would call herself a guru or not, but she taught me everything I know about relationship marketing.
She showed me how you can use blog commenting and sharing other people's content to come to the attention of more well known bloggers.
As you gain experience some of these people will offer to help you along. By becoming friends you may be offered a guest post or mentioned in a roundup post.
You may be offered an affiliate program. You could be asked to be a guest on a podcast or radio show. If they need a speaker or are in need of services you offer; they will more than likely try to use someone who has become their friends.
It's been said often that people first have to get to know you before they can like you then trust you. And once they have that trust in you you can do business with them.
So, I try to be the best online neighbor I can. And Adrienne continues to put out posts and products that show bloggers the right way to run an online business.
“Thanks again for inviting me to be interviewed on your site. I'm always happy to share my experiences with others.
I may not be telling people anything new, but it seems to have a little more weight when coming from a guy who is blind and running an online business.
I am happy to inspire others and do what I can to take away their excuses. The bottom line is it's all about taking action.
No matter how great your idea is, it's meaningless if no one ever hears it. So, my last bit of advice would be have the courage to press send or publish. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes.
I just happen to believe that making mistakes isn't the worst thing that can happen. I think being afraid to make them is. I hope you will join me in taking some sort of concrete action every day.
Floyd, I have enjoyed getting to know you and exchanging emails. I wish you and your readers all the best.
Take care, Max”