Today we have a real gem of an interview. For the last three years, Neal Lappe has been at the top of the leaderboard in revenue earnings amongst the entire WSI network of consultants. In this interview, we learn the secrets of how to build a solid, sustainable digital marketing business. So Neal ...
Tell me a little about yourself, and where you are located?
I’m a husband to the same woman for 42 years, the father of two grown daughters, and the grandfather to four little ones. I’m in the twilight of my working career, and now own two companies - a marketing agency and a sales consulting firm. Even though I had no real prior sales experience, it appears I have natural sales skills and they have helped me become successful. Prior to WSI, I was a human resources professional for more than 10 years and then moved into general/operational management, becoming a senior leader and Officer for the now defunct Circuit City Stores, which was at one time a $10+ billion dollar leader in consumer electronics retailing. I’m originally from St. Louis, lived in Ohio for about 3 years, and for the last 33 years have called Richmond, Virginia my home.
During a period of downsizing at Circuit City, my role was consolidated and I was left to find the next phase in my life. I was interested in getting involved with the internet, and when I came across WSI, I was intrigued by the business consulting aspect. It appeared the business model had some flexibility and the cost of entry wasn’t overwhelming. I decided to give WSI a shot and the experience over the last 15 years has far exceeded my expectations.
Tell me a little bit more about your previous job, before you started your WSI business?
I led and had full P/L responsibility for a $200 million operating division at Circuit City - 41 locations nationwide and nearly 3,000 employees in my group. The division I led has all aftermarket responsibilities such as customer service, logistics, distribution, product service.
Who has helped influence you into starting your own business?
I had never been around entrepreneurs prior to becoming one myself, so I can’t think of a role model or example of someone who influenced me to become one. When I was downsized from Circuit City, it became a point of survival. I felt it was the best time to try something on my own, and that’s why I pursued business ownership.
How long have you been with WSI?
It has been 15 years this January (2019).
Describe your typical work week?
My situation is a bit unique from most as I have one of my people running my WSI marketing business. Having said that, my week is consumed by working directly with customers on their sales and marketing strategies and plans. I often meet with potential customers to learn about their vision and determine if I can help them achieve the dreams they have for their businesses. I spend most of my time leading my sales consulting firm, while providing strategic planning and coaching to my WSI business.
What highlights have you had since joining WSI?
I don’t like to brag, but that’s what you’re asking, so here goes. First, I have achieved things from my WSI business that I would have never imagined. In addition to a tremendous amount of flexibility by being my own boss, I have earned more than I ever would have, had I stayed in the corporate world. I have created more wealth for my family than I ever imagined. I’ve been able to give my family things I never imagined. In addition to these personal things, we’ve been recognized by others in a few ways over the years. This includes the following:
4 Web Marketing Association Awards
Google Analytics Certified Partner distinction (one of about 75 in North America)
Top WSI Consultant in the World last 3 years
Top Growth Award in 2018
WSI Lifetime Achievement Award 2018
Best Places to Work in Virginia last two years
One of the top 25 growth companies in Virginia in 2018
What are the biggest obstacles that you have faced in running your business and how have handled them?
Developing a sales & marketing machine to achieve constant, year-over-year growth
Deciding what to outsource and what to keep internal
Ensuring we hire the right people and lead them the right way to nurture a culture of excellence, customer service and growth.
What do you think are the best skills that you bring to your business?
First, I admit to having just as many, or more, faults and shortcomings as most people. Having said that, I believe the following skills have contributed to my success; selling and communication skills, leadership abilities, insatiable desire to grow and get better, recognition that we need to invest in ourselves and our people, remaining paranoid about the future in a way that challenges us to evolve, hiring the right people, giving to others, and remaining committed to helping others become the best versions of themselves.
What goals do you have for yourself that you want to accomplish in the next year?
I want to find the right balance between business growth and personal growth. I’ve been driving very hard for the past 15 years, and now I want to find a balance of work life and family life that fulfills me.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Working 3 days a week, spending more time with my grandchildren, travelling the world with my wife to see and experience things we’ve never done before.
What advice would you give a new WSI Internet Consultant?
I would say the following:
Maximize your selling time because little good can happen if money is not coming in the “front door”
Invest in your people and building a team for growth, and help people reach their full potential
Become a trusted advisor to your people, your clients, your prospects, and your community
Develop strong communications and sales skills. If that means taking classes and reading books, invest the time.
What is your personal motto?
“Only the paranoid survive.”
If we went to happy hour, what would you order?
That’s easy, Jack and diet Coke
If you could be anywhere other than here talking to me - right this minute, where would you be?
I’d be sitting next to the love of my life, my wife Peggy, doing something fun we both enjoy.