Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A. Norman Farrar lives in a small town two hours north of Toronto, Canada. His team is truly international, hailing from all around the world, including Toronto, Montreal, Andorra, Poland, India and the Philippines. Our audience is global from all corners of the world.
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Entrepreneur and businessman Norman “The Beard Guy” Farrar stands at the forefront of the economic mega-machine known as Amazon Marketplace. As a leading expert with over 25 years of product sourcing, development and branding expertise, Norm is an advisor to many and an inspiration to all.
Throughout his career, he has worked with big brands, including Mercedes, COKE, Dell, Microsoft, Target, Hershey, 20th Century Fox, Molson’s, Cadbury and a wide variety of emerging businesses that are celebrating sudden escalation in profitability and sales as a result of taking action on his advice and proven methods.
A. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
The “Lunch With Norm” podcast was inspired by Norm’s sons Kelsey, Hayden and Quintyn during the COVID lockdown in 2020. We were outside chatting and listening to some people talking about Amazon FBA, and the information was wrong. We listened to another trainer’s course, and that information was wrong. My son turned to me and said, “Why don’t you do a podcast.”
I said, “Are you crazy?”
The decision to make the podcast was to provide free content from current vetted Amazon, e-commerce and digital marketing experts. Our inspiration was to build a community that people could trust.
Having my son, Kelsey, was also another dream come true. I always wanted to work with my kids, and now COVID helped make this happen.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. The three pieces of advice I would give are:
1. Be resilient. There will be highs and lows – make sure you get back up and make the best of the positive times. The lows will happen – not if, but when.
2. Do not micro-manage. Remember, training is everything, and people will make mistakes.
3. Do not lose sleep over stress. I wish I understood this 30 years ago. Nothing is as bad as it seems. It will work itself out. It’s easy to say, but it is very true.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. The top three skills of a successful entrepreneur are:
1. You have to be a leader and have leadership skills. People are depending on you. If you act like a leader and treat people with respect, you will earn their respect as a leader. However, there are a lot of entrepreneurs that demand respect, which makes them a boss, not a leader.
2. Hiring people smarter than yourselves. As your company grows, you can work more hours or find a person to take on some responsibility. Finding the right person will provide you the confidence to grow your business.
3. Knowing when to take advantage of an opportunity. The best boxer sees the signs that they’ve hurt their opponent. A good entrepreneur knows a great opportunity when they see it and makes a decision to move forward or not. The biggest advantage we have as entrepreneurs is the ability to move on a dime and go any direction they want before a large corporation can ever even begin to think about it.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
A. I wish I could say I only work 4 hours a day; however, I work about 10 – 12 hours a day. When I go on vacation or take a day off, I have systems where I can relax. My team takes care of everything, so I can enjoy any time I take off.
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
A. I attribute my success to the street MBA I’ve earned over the last 30 years. Every failure has been an incredible learning opportunity. Resilience is the key to my success.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A. Our podcasts’ most successful marketing is word of mouth. My son has done a great job making everyone feel part of a large community. We know a lot of our listeners and make them part of the podcast. We find that generating high-quality content and publishing it regularly helps make us the authority in the niche. Authority equals trust. Once you have trust, people want to be part of a community.
Part of our community-building marketing comes with a consistent brand. You can see the consistency across our website, social media, podcasts and any content we publish. Our listeners also help us grow the community through a contest we run every quarter for a premium prize.
We work with influencers in our niche and also find that earn media gets us lots of exposure.
One of the other successful ways we have marketed the “Lunch With Norm” podcast is being a guest speaker at events, writing guest blog articles and being featured on hundreds of podcasts and virtual events.
Q. Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from, and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. I’ve owned many different companies. Each company has been funded differently. Proper capitalization is the key to success for any business. Every model I work with now is pretty much self-funded. I can start a company with little to no cash, and I receive payment upfront that pays for everything. If the company experiences hypergrowth, I will look for a line of credit, or if need be, I will try to bootstrap it with disposable funds. I’ve learned the hard way. I used my retirement savings to help fund a larger project, and it did not work out. Since I cannot look into a crystal ball, I need to limit my risk. I am happy to say my business model has worked with every one of my current businesses, and it is working out quite well.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A. I believe the best way to achieve long-term success is based on the following:
1. The ability to scale and automate.
2. Working from the exit strategy backward.
3. Hiring and properly training incredible people.
4. Build a performance-based culture.
5. Know your numbers.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. In 5 to 10 years, I will have successfully sold my current businesses. I know that I am not one to sit around, but I’m sure I will be developing or partnering with some new extraordinary company and not just eating bon-bons on the beach.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A. The companies I admire the most are Zappos, Cirque De Soleil, Helium10, and Thrasio. I could mention lots of other companies, but these are the four that first come to mind.
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
A. A good employee is everything. The problem most entrepreneurs face is properly training their employees. If you can take the time and build quality SOPs, then you can build a company that can survive when you are concentrating on building the business. Employees should be responsible for creating SOPs for their departments and training their teams on them.
It is also important that you work as a team. Screaming at a team member or talking down to them will only get you employees that keep everything within.
I believe that all employees should be paid for continuous learning. We want our team to be experts, and we will pay for the training.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A. I believe in cutting bait quickly. Sometimes you have to rethink your original business plan and relaunch. I always like to test anything I am doing. I never want to stay still. I would rather be an innovator than a follower; however, this thought process could lead to many problems. Sometimes the product or service is before its time. In other cases, tweaking the sales channel or distribution can make or break your idea. Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced testing a good product and made it do a 180, which surprised us all, but that’s why we test.
If you cannot turn it around or don’t have the capital to test the product, it is best to stop wasting time and money. Your decision cannot be emotional. If you cannot be decisive, it may cost you a lot more time and money. Take the hit and move on.
Q. What motivates you?
A. I get excited about projects that I’m involved with. I’m a self-motivated person. If I see an idea coming together, it makes me work harder. If I see my team accomplish a major task or provide an awesome suggestion, I get motivated. The trick is to keep everyone around me motivated, especially on long-term projects. Having a great guest on the podcast that I gel with gets me going, or a new guest, and we hit it off. I know I look forward to the monthly podcasts when Kevin King or Cassandra Craven come on. We usually beat the record views set from the last appearance. I think it’s because of the energy. We have a blast.
Q. What are your ideals?
A. My ideals are pretty simple.
• Give to get
• Paying it forward
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
A. There is no single way I generate ideas. I usually find an opportunity in a product or service that I purchase or search for and try to figure out how to do it better. Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy and Pinterest are just a few of the websites that I search.
I generate other ideas on the fly. For example, launching the “Lunch With Norm” podcast was a learning experience for Kelsey, Hayden and myself. As the podcast grew in popularity, we started coming up with ideas for marketing, branding, content, and building our community. This was all new to us, but now we offer these services to other people trying to launch a podcast.
The opportunities are all around us. We just need to spot them and take action.
Q. How do you define success?
A. I define personal success having a remarkable family. I was never the dad who was home at 5 p.m.; however, I did my best to be at their sporting events or if something was going on at school. My wife and I agreed that we trusted each other that I would bring home the money, and her job was raising the kids. I think it paid off. I’m 25+ years married with three incredible boys. That is my main success. Everything else is just gravy.
Strangely enough, I don’t think of money as success. Money has come and gone too many times in my life. Success is learning from my mistakes, providing security for my employees, seeing how the business affects our staff, watching an entity grow from nothing and taking on a life of its own. That’s success.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
A. The best way to build a successful/loyal customer base is to have impeccable customer service. Make it easy for people to contact you regardless of the reason. It is so important that customers don’t feel abandoned after buying your product, especially if there is an issue. Provide contact information on your website and a variety of options: e-mail, online chat, chatbot, phone number…you could also create an FAQ section, which could help decrease the calls.
Another simple way to provide great service is to have your contact information on the package or provide an insert with a QR code or link to instructions, warranty page, recipes, or even to tag you on Instagram using the product.
We like to send out an e-mail asking for feedback. We include the link, and we usually include a simple question: How did we do? Rate us from 1 to 10.
If there are returns or complaints, we deal directly with the issue courteously and professionally.
Even with the podcast, some people have different opinions, and they express them on social media. We try to reach out to hear what they have to say, and if we are doing a live Amazon podcast, we might ask the person to comment or come on with us. I’ve learned so much just by asking people how or why.
If you have a list, you can create a newsletter and keep people informed. Don’t sell anything; just provide value. Build a FB group to help people in your niche.
It takes time, but you can easily build a group of raving fans just by treating them nicely and providing value.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A. My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is freedom. Freedom is awesome!
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A. The most satisfying moment in business is knowing that my two sons are working with me full-time. It is the most satisfying part of business, but it can be challenging. They have a life outside of work, and we had to have a discussion that established boundaries. It really is cool working with your kids.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A. Being an entrepreneur and working for someone else has some advantages and disadvantages:
• Freedom to be your own boss
• Build your vision
• Create a performance-based culture
• Make a profit when you exit
• Everything comes back to you
• Family and work balance
• High risk
• Legal and accounting issues
• Building a culture and being the leader
• High stress • Chance of failure
• No benefits
Advantages of Working for Someone Else
• Steady paycheck
• Less stress
• 9 to 5
• Not responsible for reporting to the government
• Less risk/responsibility
Disadvantages of Working for Someone Else
• Less control over your future
• Job security
• Limited freedom
• Salary cap
• Less opportunity to network
• The position might hold you back
• Risk of complacency
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone, and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A. The “Lunch With Norm” podcast has a performance-based culture. Our staff are well-trained and have all learned to write SOPs and train new staff. We encourage our team to take advantage of free training and suggest how it can improve the operation.
It is important that people know their responsibilities but can also cover for others on the team. We encourage people to take time off without calling in. We will contact them only if there is an emergency.
All staff takes part in a weekly sales call, and we discuss the strengths, the weaknesses from the prior week, what is happening in the following week and any suggestions.
We try to provide an open forum so that everyone can express their opinions and suggestions.
We also try to pay higher and provide random bonuses. We check the person’s cell phone, Internet speed and computer. We will provide equipment to help our team succeed. Poor Internet or old computers will just slow down performance, and you pay for it one way or another.
Above all, we do not tolerate gossip of any kind. Pretty much anything else goes.
In a word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
A. Yes, I would not stress over the unknown. I did not do my due diligence on some partners. I would understand the importance of cash flow, learn the importance of long-term relationships, and try not to burn any bridges. Other than that, not a thing.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A. Being an entrepreneur affects your family. It’s hard to leave everything at the front door whether you had a good day or bad day, or sold your company or failed.
Entrepreneurship has its rewards, but the financial risk is always there. I try not to have it affect my family life, but I know it does.
The “Lunch With Norm” podcast is not just selling an Amazon FBA product or improving your online business. We try to bring experts to help with mental health. Having a successful business is awesome, but if depression and/or anxiety sets in, how do you deal with it. We have a bunch of experts that talk about it, including suicide.
I’ve been depressed for months at a time. It has been tough on me, and more importantly, my family. I can speak from experience — not as a doctor, but as the person who experienced depression more than once since becoming an entrepreneur.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A. Spiders – yep, spiders – forget a business failing. I can pretty much deal with anything except spiders. The best way to manage that fear is to have my wife kill them or put them outside.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
A. I absolutely love where I live. I set up the podcast booth in my house and can broadcast looking out over a beautiful park and lake. It’s gorgeous, peaceful and quiet except for the birds.
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
A. There is no formula except determination, resilience, education, finding a mentor, and trying not to make the same mistakes.
The only formula I tell young entrepreneurs is that you should try and spend one hour a day learning about your business or ways to improve your business/skills, and you will be an expert in a year.
Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
A. W. Edwards Deming – he worked with the Japanese in the ’50s and helped rebuild their economy. He changed the country’s mindset to turn Japan, a defeated country, into an economic power.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A. Easy — my dad has been my greatest inspiration. He is a true serial entrepreneur. I worked with him for a while and learned a lot about business, work ethic, and how to work with people from all walks of life.
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
A. The book that inspired me the most and made the biggest difference in my life is “The E-Myth.” It taught me how to build and run a hyper-growth business using systems and automation.
My favorite fiction author is James Clavell. His Asian saga consisted of 6 novels.
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
1. I need not know how to negotiate. I entered into deals that went against me over time. It’s a skill you learn very quickly and where I bring in the experts to help.
2. Sounds cliché, but a leopard never changes their spots. There are lots of crazy events that have happened because I put trust in certain people. I thought they changed, and they did not. My fault. Unfortunately, it puts up a red flag when you see or hear something from the past, but it also protects you from falling into the same mistakes. I might have walked away from certain deals only because I saw those red flags.
3. Not spending more time with my family. When we went on vacation, we did it right. Vacations don’t make up for lost time. I always said it was the quality of time that counts, but I wish I were around more.
4. It took me years to understand proper bookkeeping and accounting. Once I started to understand the numbers, I wish I didn’t. I started to catch many old mistakes and found out that one of our bookkeepers stole over $85,000. I can’t stress it enough: know your numbers.
5. Not every partner is a good partner. Before jumping into a partnership, go out and have a few meals, meet their family. See how they are under stress. Did they ever work with other partners? How did it end? The longer you hold off signing the deal, the more information you will gather. How do they handle themselves under stress? How do they treat their employees, family or restaurant staff? I’ve had many partnerships. Many were good, but some of my biggest mistakes have been bad partners.
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A. There are a few ways to minimize your mistakes. The first way is to become an expert in your niche. Know the ins and outs. Hire experts to create agreements, file trademarks, prepare your YE. There is a lot of time and money saved in the long run by hiring professionals. The other way of minimizing mistakes or damage control is to develop a risk evaluation plan. If a certain mistake happens, there is a plan on how to handle it. You will miss mistakes, but it will save you and your team a lot of time and stress if you already have a system in place.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. Our listeners know that I love my cigars and that I love to travel. I’m not a big resort person. I want to see how people live and discover the history of the countries I visit.
I also enjoy photography and watching good movies. When I have time, I like watching shows on the History Channel, Discovery, Smithsonian, National Geographic, and the riveting TV series, “90 Day Fiance.”
Q. What makes you happy?
A. Being around my family makes me happy. Playing with my golden retriever. Recording an awesome podcast. Hearing an incredible suggestion from my staff. Having a morning coffee looking over the lake.
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur has come with many sacrifices. I have spent too many hours away from my family. I traveled almost 50% of the time, and when I came home, I was in catch-up mode. It has cost me different aspects of my health. I suffer from reactionary depression, which comes with the territory. I’ve lost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of money, that could have been tucked away for our retirement. I have to admit there is still the fear of the unknown. Who could have predicted COVID? If you are an entrepreneur, you have to put it aside, be resilient and figure your next move.
Q. What are you doing differently than other podcasts in your niche?
A. We are treating it as a business. We have a team of experts who help with production, video editing, social media, outreach, blog writing, earned media, and a unique diversified marketing approach.
We have prepared a full competitive analysis on all the podcasts in our niche.
Our podcast is about providing value, 100% free, but a community wants more information. People need exceptional value to pay a podcast each week. We are offering about 10x to 15x the value of the monthly membership. There is no obligation. People don’t leave. It’s affordable, and they love the community as a whole.