John Ruhlin's Giftology Tool

Download Guide to Gifting

John Ruhlin (@ruhlin), founder of The Ruhlin Group, a professional gift giving service that’s worked with the likes of:

  • Financial Institutions: Morgan Stanley & Wells Fargo
  • Professional Sports Franchises: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bears, & Miami Dolphins
  • Casinos & Resorts: Caesars Palace, Atlantis, & MGM
  • Thought leaders: Darren Hardy, John Maxwell, & Jeffrey Gitomer

When organizations like these need to WOW their clients or prospects with an incredible gift or experience, they turn to John and his company.

In fact the gift giving methodology that John drops during this interview is so ground breaking, his recently released book Giftology skyrocketed to #1 on Amazon in the customer service category.

After relistening to the audio to grab some highlights for you guys, I’m convinced this show may make the biggest impact on your business to date of any we’ve ever done. I know that’s a bold statement, but here are just a few of the highlights from John and I’s conversation:

  • We begin with John’s journey and how it started with some incredible advice from a mentor that led him to become CutCo Knives #1 selling distributor EVER… and oh yeah, this was by the time he was a senior in college
  • John reveals how 99% of all financial advisor gifts break the #1 most important rule of gift giving… and how to fix it!
  • A few of the other concepts John covers to become a black belt in gift giving include…
    • One thing that every great gift should include
    • Best and worst times of year to give gifts
    • Most forgotten person when gifting happens in business
    • Biggest gift giving mistake people make when thanking others for a referral
    • Secret spot in the home to an incredibly meaningful gift (the secret to referrals!)
    • Word John uses to replace “gift” that will change the way you choose your gifts and how you give them

One last thing… John made an incredibly generous offer to share a free tool from his new book Giftology, “10 Gifts to Avoid Giving Key Clients”. Also an added bonus, because gifting can get especially tricky with gift limitations in the financial services space, our team over at Advisors Excel put in some extra work and created our “Guide to Gifting”.

Thanks for listening, you’re going to love the conversation with John!

Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!



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Scroll below for links and show notes… Enjoy!



  • How did you come up with the concept of strategic gifting? [6:05]
  • John shares general insight on what does and does not make a good gift [13:45]
  • Why putting your logo on your gift ruins it [17:45]
  • Crucial details on good gift giving: kitchen, time, family, etc. [19:00]
  • Gift giving and technology [20:20] Do you have a process for giving a great gift? [26:40]
  • John’s description and understanding of the word “artifact” in gift giving [30:00]
  • Can you share some of the cool things you’ve done? [33:30]
  • The importance of the spouse and personal thank you notes [41:00]
  • The timing can make or break the gift [45:05]
  • How do you keep this gift giving going at home? [48:00]
  • What is the coolest, least expensive gift you’ve given? [49:00]
  • The naming of Giftology [55:05]
  • Creating and maintaining your connections [1:00:10]
  • Any cool gifts or stories along the sports front? [1:06:00]
  • Rapid fire questions [1:10:00]


[read more=”Click Here to Read the Transcript” less=”Read Less”] 




[00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the Elite Adviser Blueprint Podcast. With your host, Brad Johnson. Brad’s the VP of Advisor Development and Advisors Excel. The largest independent insurance brokerage company in the US. He’s also a regular contributor to Investment News, the Wall Street Journal, and other industry publications.”


[00:00:22] Brad: Thanks for joining. My name is Brad Johnson, and I’m the VP of Advisor Development and Advisors Excel. In each episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast it’s my goal to distill the best ideas and advice from top thought leaders and apply it to the world of independent financial advising.


In this episode you’re about to learn why every gift you’ve ever given for business has probably fallen short at the personal impact it could have made on your clients and prospects. I have the privilege of chatting with John Ruhlin. He’s the founder of the Ruhlin Group. A professional gift giving service that works with the likes of financial institutions like Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. Professional franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins. High-end resorts and casinos, like Caesars Palace, Atlantis, MGM. And thought leaders like Darren Hardy, John Maxwell, and Jeffrey Gitomer.  When organizations like these, need to wow their clients or prospects with an incredible gift or experience, they turn to John and his company. In fact, the gift giving methodology that John drops during this interview is so ground breaking, his recently released book, Giftology, skyrocketed to number one on Amazon in the Customer Service category. After re-listening to the audio to grab some highlights for you guys, I’m convinced this show may make the biggest impact on your business of any we’ve done to date. I know that’s a bold statement but here’s just a few of the highlights from John and I’s conversation. We begin with John’s journey and how it started with some incredible advice from a mentor that led him to become Cutco knives number one selling distributor ever. And oh yeah this was by the time he was a senior in college.


[00:01:53] Next I know this is something you as a financial advisor will identify with. Just picture your closet and the dozens of golf shirts from various wholesalers, insurance carriers and other  business relationships you’ve had over the years. Something I got to admit myself I’ve been guilty of. John uncovers how all of these gifts break the number one most important rule of gift giving. He also talks, to how to fix these. And where in the home is the secret weapon to an incredible and meaningful gift that unlocks the gateway to referrals and long lasting business relationships. Here are a few of the other concepts John covers to become a black belt in gift giving. The one thing that every great gift should include. The best and worst time of the year to give gifts. The most forgotten person when gifting happens in business. The biggest gift giving mistake people make when thanking others for a referral. And of the word John uses to replace gift that will completely change the way you choose gifts and how you give them. Once last thing, during our conversation, John made an incredibly generous offer for all of you blueprint listeners, it comes from his new book Giftology, and it’s called “Ten Gifts to Avoid Giving Key Clients”. Also, an added bonus, because gifting can be especially tricky with gift limitations in the financial services space, our team over at Advisors Excel, put in some extra work and created our “Guide to Gifting”. Both of these tools are available to download at As always show notes that include links to all the resources, books and everything else we cover are available there as well. Thanks for listening, and without further delay my conversation with John Ruhlin.




[00:03:31] Brad: Welcome John, to the Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast. I’m so excited to have you buddy.”


[00:03:36] John: It’s awesome to be here, I’m really excited too.


[00:03:40] Brad: It’s always cool when past guest like Joey Coleman make the introduction and actually what’s crazy is, I guess without even knowing it we were connected to some different people we’ve done some work with our clients with Darren Hardy, and I know, I think you’ve been involved with him some. So, huge fan of Darren’s’ and all the cool work that he does. A lot of multiple connections going on here.


[00:04:02] John: Yeah, there’s at least a half a dozen. That Darren’s a great friend and client and Stu McLaren and yeah there’s plenty of crossover. It’s funny that we didn’t connect sooner actually.


[00:04:12] Brad: Well here we are today. So, let’s take advantage of it right?


[00:04:15] John: I would agree.


[00:04:17] Brad: For those of you that aren’t familiar with John, so John is the founder of the Ruhlin group. And just so I don’t mess this up, a company that specializes in helping companies develop and execute year round strategic gifting and appreciation programs for prospects. Prospects actually, employees, clients, investors. Basically whoever they want to give the gift to.


[00:04:37] John: Simply relationship, anybody that’s valuable in their world.


[00:04:40] Brad: So this is going to be a lot of fun today, because I know when I look at our clients, the advisers we serve and Advisors Excel is the same way. When you want to be that company that people just get that good feeling about? A lot of the things that I’ve heard and a lot of the concepts that you’ve helped your clients with. I mean that’s just going right down now, that wow type of experience. So I’m going to name a couple of clients just so people can get a feel for some of the other groups that you’ve worked with. And then we’ll just dive right in if that’s cool with you, John?


[00:05:14] John: Absolutely.


[00:05:15] Brad: So John has, since all of our guys are financial advisors on here, you’ll recognize these names. He’s worked with Morgan Stanley, Raymond James, UBS, Wells Fargo, for you sports fans out there, the Chicago Bears, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Dolphins. For you guys that like to gamble, Caesar’s palace, Atlantis, MGM. So, a lot of very cool…


[00:05:36] John: All the vice is there.


[00:05:15] Brad: Yes.


[00:05:36] John: All the vice I’ve covered. We’ve helped appreciate pretty much anything. Any vice in North America.


[00:05:46] Brad: And then also some really big people in the thought leader side, so we mentioned Darren, John Maxwell, Jeffrey Gitomer. So just first class organizations, and people all the way around. So I’m curious because this is a very niche thing to go after John. So can you share with everybody, how did you come up with the concept of strategic gifting? I know you’re writing a book, Giftology, that it just dropped you in 20th. So can you tell us the story of about how this all came about?


[00:06:18] John: Yeah, well it wasn’t part of the master plan. I didn’t grow up near Harvard or hanging out in the country club, rowing crew for Yale or something, I grew up in a farm on Ohio, I’m a farm boy. You know that poor farm boy like you don’t have shoes, but poor like, your Mom takes five dollars in that outfits all six kids at the garage sale or the thrift store. So I grew up being motivated, wanting to go do something other than milk goats every morning and hoe gardens and chop wood to heat our house every day. So I was pretty motivated to go do something. I got good grades and was going to be a doctor. My Mom was really into health and wellness and says “I’m gonna make Momma proud”. So I started a business to put myself through college, unfortunately or fortunately, I fell off the ladder that I was working on twice. It’s like this, I’m never going to make it to Med School. I’m going to end up like the permanent patient not the doctor. Like this isn’t working like part of the plan. So I interned with a company that has worked for about a million and a half college kids, internships, and they’re really well known for their training, some of the biggest companies in the world recruit from their pool of people and its Cutco knives. And I had a buddy that did it, another buddy who’s in seminary and most anti salesperson you’d ever met was doing well with it.  So I’m  like, “If Steve Wiggers can do it, I can at least try.” I wore my glasses to look smarter, were the ones I had. Was scared to death. I would then really considered myself a salesperson. And I didn’t know what the word ‘entrepreneur’ was, 16 years ago. So I went in, got hired and fortunately I was dating a girl at that time, her dad was an attorney and he’s the kind of guy that, like he’s always calm, can take time for two hour lunch but every deal seem to flow his way. Like referrals just seem to like come all over the place to him and I also noticed, when you’re poor and you’re in college, he was always giving things away, so he’d find a deal on, like something like noodles and buy like a semi loaded noodles and everybody the next Sunday at church would end up like this, the boxes and boxes of noodles and I am like, “That was thousands of dollars of noodles, like that’s crazy.” he’s like, “I know but did you see the smiles on their faces?”


[00:08:28] He wasn’t asking for anything as a result, he wasn’t using that as a ploy. He was just, what I now call “radically generous”. He was always handwriting notes, and because of that he owned oil wells, gas stations, he owned banks, he owned all these other things, cause he’s always just, he was most top of mind. So when I pitched him the idea of giving away, I thought, all these clients were men. I thought “He’d give away pocket knives that Cutco made, to his clients”. And he leaned back in his chair, he had this silver hair, and he said, “John what about paring knives, can I give away paring knives?” I tried this glazed over, like deer on the headlights look, because he’s like, “John, you’re wondering why?” I’m like, “Yeah that’s weird, paring knives to grown men?” He said, “I found that if you take care of the entire family, the inner circle, everything else seems to take care of itself.” And so I realized, I was like, that lightning bolt moment. Where you’re like, this could check, it really was a game changer for me because I realized, Paul understood relationships and referrals, becoming more referable, at a level that most people never get in fifty years of business. And it was about how to leverage, what I now call ‘artifacts’ and how to love on people well and by doing so, no strings attached, he understood the psychology of reciprocity in relationship building at such a level that he never had asked for referrals, people were coming out of their… The woodwork, wanting to reciprocate and wanting to love on back on him, and he was always top of mind when a business deal or idea came up. So I started to teach these concepts, and I realized, nobody in business, most people chuck a box once a year at the holidays, or they send a birthday card. They follow the same playbook, everybody does. Send a bottle of wine, or some chocolate and nuts, or something at Christmas. And Paul was doing things year round, he was doing things that were odd and out of the norm, like who sends thousands of dollars of noodles?


[00:10:21] So when he started to give away the knives, I started to get access to CEO’s of insurance companies, and I would find out the CEO of an executive at the sports team. His wife’s name and I’d engrave a carving set. I’d say, carve out for five minutes for me, I promise it’ll be worth your time and I get the meeting, and they’re expecting somebody 50 years old to walk in and then walks a 22 year old. And by the time I was a senior in college, I was Cutco’s largest international distributor out of 1.5 million in the history of the company. Not because I’m the best salesperson in the world, because if you saw me back then, I literally like, I was a little nerdy. The idea of public speaking and writing a best-selling book and speaking to, we just spoke for Google last summer. Things I never could have put on… They weren’t even on a bucket list or a wish list because they weren’t even in the realm of possibilities. Doors started to open because I started to practice this radical generosity and because of it we now have 25 sports teams as clients and worked with some of the biggest guys in the world. I’m an Ohio farm boy, we don’t have a massive firm but we’re experts at what we do, because what we teach is the opposite of what everybody else does on a regular basis.


[00:11:36] Brad: Well John, I can relate to the farm boy. Grew up in a town of 2,000 people middle of Kansas. But I’ve got some insight for you. Advisor Excel, middle of Kansas, Topeka, people are like “What is an insurance brokerage firm doing here, right?” Those Midwest values translate very well to business, which I guarantee part of what led you to where you are today.


[00:12:02] John: No question. Just being down to earth, and being able to relate with people and not forgetting where you came from. For me, from a faith perspective, realizing that I’m not, it’s fun to get Forbes articles and whatever else but realizing we’re not as cool as we think we are. That there’s a bigger picture. And at the end of the day, I want to have a legacy that goes beyond knives and gifts and books, and whatever else. I got three daughters under five that they keep me grounded and humble and my wife is very strong, it does the same but yeah. There’s no question. I’m glad looking back now, I’m really glad I grew up in a farm working my butt off in summers, bale and hay, and all that kind of stuff. But at the time those were like you see your city friends hanging out playing basketball or like playing video games. That would be the life. I’m very grateful now though. There’s no question.


[00:12:58] Brad: We talked before we went live here. Both of us have that in common. We’ve both thrown hay bales in the summertime in a shed with absolutely no ventilation where the hay dust is sticking all over you. It’s just, everybody should experience that once, right?


[00:13:11] John: “Yeah, the hay mile. The 121 degree hay mile, you almost can’t breathe, but you’re expected to throw bales over your head. I would go back and do it for an hour just for kicks and giggles. It’s when you go test something and it’s for fun, not every day, all day. But I don’t miss that. I don’t miss it.


[00:13:32] Brad: I think that we just came up with an idea for a boot camp for kids that can’t behave maybe? So maybe a future shark tank idea there.


[00:13:41] John: I think it’s possible.


[00:13:42] Brad: Alright we’ll stay focused here. So, along the gift giving and I prior to you sending over this piece of paper that you’ve made available to everyone on the call here, we’ve so we got a PDF. “Ten Gifts to Avoid Giving Key Clients.” I thought I was a pretty good gift giver, and then you sent me this and it that just ruined my day.


[00:14:03] John: It’s not meant to be mean or critical. But it is meant to be, helpfully candid. Because most people, guys in particular… I don’t know if your wife’s this way, but even my wife when we go to a wedding or a whatever else. She’s very thoughtful when it comes to gifts. Guys, go get your MBA’s or a gifting class. When’s the last time you saw a book on gifting. Nobody talks about it. It’s like a “nice to” not a “have to” and so everybody models what everybody else does. And nobody else has been taught so it’s the blind leading the blind. And nobody will ever write a note and say “your gift was horrible” like that’s not nice. Especially in our western culture being politically correct. That’ll be rude.  And so, we feel like our job is to be that loving truth of from our perspective, in talking to clients and giving that honest feedback. This is what works and this is what doesn’t. And then here’s why psychologically and business strategy, here’s why that actually works not. It’s not just a gut feeling. It’s based on research. It’s based on data. It’s based on raw feedback. Up until to this point I don’t know anybody that’s, they call themselves gifting experts. It’s another thing that most guys don’t feel comfortable with, so they just avoid it, or delegate it.


[00:15:20] Brad: I think your term, I think this is an exact quote, if I mess this up, just set me straight here , but I think your term was, nobody says that you gave a bad gift and a thank you card, because it’s kind of telling someone , their baby’s ugly. Right?


[00:15:33] John: Yeah


[00:15:34] Brad: It’s pretty much on the same page there.


[00:15:36] John: That’s just rude. Yeah. You watched the video presentation I gave. And I did, I shared that and half the audience laughed and half the audience thought it was mean. But it’s true. Everybody thinks their gift is the greatest thing in the world. But at the end of the day, it matters what the recipient thinks. And because gifts are recipient-focused. Most gifts in business, especially financial advising. The pro sports teams are even worse. They make it all about themselves. They make it all about the brand, it’s all about what they like, it’s all about their colors, it has their logo on it. That’s not a gift, that’s a promotional item. And most of the time, especially in the financial world, when you’re dealing with affluent people, did you ever see most of your affluent clients wearing like, the free T-shirt that they got at the ball game with the logos the size of a softball? Yeah know, maybe while they’re washing their car, maybe. But in general, most people want things subtle, they want their own name on things, their own cuffs. But for whatever reason, we think marketing 101, teaches us wealth, we’re going to do something spend all that money, we better put our logo on it. And meanwhile they’re actually a devaluing the relationship with their client. That’s not exactly what you want to do for your top 100 relationships whether you’re an insurance or financial advising or pro sports. And so, most of the time when we ask people like when you get a logoed shirt, do you wear it yourself? They’re like “no my wife won’t even let it in the house. It goes to goodwill.” I’m like “why are you sending out your logo on anything to your clients? Do you think that they care about their name or your brand? Most people would say they care about their own name. Statistically, and logically, our own name is the most important thing. Why would you ever give anything up that’s not personalized to them? So, I can go on and on and jump up my soap box a few more times here pretty easily but yeah, that’s kind of our role. That’s what I feel like our calling is.


[00:17:34] Brad: So, Joey Coleman, who actually made the introduction here between us, in a speech he gave for Advisor Excel, he shared a concept that I think is huge that financial advisers mess up a lot. It was actually, I think a concept directly attributable to you. And it was the logo, if you put that on anything you send out, like you said, it’s a gift, for your company, not for them. I was just thinking about this because I’ve some killer gifts. Think of like a wine decanter, and think about, if I send that to you, I put advisers excels logo front and center, it’s going to be a really nice decanter but you’re not busting that out when friends come over.


[00:18:16] John: Which are all they refer, like you want to be conversation piece with the people’s inner circle and you want to become more referable? You want to be top of mind during those conversations, but they’ll never use it. They’ll never pull it out, and if they would, their spouse, who oftentimes is a woman, like they’re not going to pull it out, so you spend all that money to have a negative thought in their mind. Like “gosh, what a beautiful thing, it will never get used, it will stay in closet.” Or it gets re-gifted. Or give them to goodwill. So you spend money to have negative consequences just a double negative. It’s better to do nothing at all, in our opinion than to do it wrong.


[00:18:55] Brad: So can we take that example and let’s say, you do have a wine lover? What would be the way to gift something like that properly?


[00:19:06] John: First of, a lot of our gifts do center around the home and the kitchen because people entertain, they like food, family. When you think about like, even in biblical times, like Last Supper was a supper, there’s food. Even in 2016 when you want to deepen a relationship you want to invite people into your inner circle. It’s in the home and eating. So doing things for the kitchen is really smart. So a wine decanter like that? Number 1, send it at a time when they’re not expecting it. Don’t send it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even if it’s a cool gift, their conference table is ready to collapse from all the stuff that they’re receiving, chocolates, nuts, wine, fruit baskets, you name it. So give it at a time when it’s unexpected. I sent out a quarter million dollars year with the gifts every year to our clients and prospects. I don’t spend one dime, not one dime. I’m a gifting company, we’ve been called “The Grinch” there’s been articles in New York Observer about us killing Christmas. A gifting company that doesn’t send gifts at Christmas. And you want to talk about heresy? Like anybody, most companies make all of their money in that four weeks. And won’t spend any money with us. Because if you sent that same gift in the middle of March, or in the middle of July, or in the middle of September, now that’s the one thing that they’ll received, and they’ll cherish it. It’s a handwritten note, a must. If you are going to engrave something on it, maybe the last letter or the first letter of their last name? Joey talked about it. I don’t know if he mentioned it from the stage or not but he had a client that literally, when he was an attorney, had three kids fought over 5 million dollars worth of inheritance, they fought over one thing. People were like, “was it a piece of art? Like what was it?” They blew through the entire 5 million dollars, he’ll tell you, when he was an attorney. And it was one item that cost $20. It was a harmonica. That the Dad, for forty years after dinner, played every night. It was the artifact that the kids associated with their father. And they fought over that harmonica because it was not in the will, it wasn’t delegated say this is who gets the harmonica. And they fought over that one item.


[00:21:13] So when you can give something that people use, in their most intimate setting, in the kitchen, that’s one of the most, and it becomes a part of the heirloom and the fabric of who they are. Now let’s say you take something that has maybe the family initial on it and it gets passed down to the kids or grandkids because every celebration that involved wine, used that decanter. Or used that opener. Or used that set of knives. Or whatever the item is. All the clients can afford what they want. So you have to make it unique and putting somebody’s initial whether their initials or their family name, everything that we do, I try to engrave the spouse’s name on theirs as well, so they’ll included. Because a lot of things that are given, especially in financial services is guys selling the guys, so what the guys like to do? Oh I like smoke cigars, I’ll take the guys up smoking cigars. I like to golf, so we go golfing. It doesn’t include who? It doesn’t include the spouse or the kids. When in fact, the spouse and kids are probably in the back of their mind. They’re thinking, “Really another weekend away? Another night away for dinner, or steak or whatever else”, they actually kind of bitter towards the advisor. Because the advisor is taking their dad away, for yet another boon dog over trip or a weekend, not that there’s anything wrong with experiences. But in general when you can give a gift that includes the family that includes the spouse? You know, 80% of advisers lose the widow when patriarch passes away. And the reason is, because the advisor has no relationship with the family. And so, you must start thinking about the next generation of wealth, which is like 10 times more than what the baby boomers inherited. You better start developing a relationship with the wife and the kids because they’re inheriting all that money and they’re going to move it to somebody else if you don’t have the relationship. So a lot of our gifts are directed to what like Joey talked about where they include the whole family, there personal lives, there are time when they’re not expecting it, there is the handwritten note.


[00:23:08] What’s funny is you noticed I didn’t tell you what kind of decanter you have to get. Most people say, they’ll pick the item first and then everything else around it is kind of ancillary. I talked about everything else that’s around it and then we’ll talk about what the gift is gonna be, because if you give the right product the wrong way you completely cancels out everything that you’re doing. All the good that you’re hoping for actually gets canceled out if you put your logo on it, you give at wrong time. All of those details are actually what makes the gift either like, “Oh my gosh they’re the most thoughtful person in the world”, or, “wow! They’re just like anybody else”.


[00:23:49] Brad: Let’s go down the path of technology. Speaking of the right gift to give, you shared an example a few years ago, it was the iPad and how that was kind of a go-to really cool trendy gift. Can you speak to your thoughts on gifting technology? The do’s and don’ts there?


[00:24:05] John: Yeah, well a couple of things. One is everybody thinks that Apple is like you know one of the reasons apple has 200 billion dollars of cash is because they have a lifestyle brand that people love. There is no question Apple, I have an iPhone it’s right here, I mean I love Apple. Do I ever gift Apple? Next to never and the reason is because I already have an iPhone and when the next one comes out in six months I’ll get the next one, but if you give something that people already have they can go buy at Target, Amazon or Walmart, so you spend $500 to 1,000 on something that’s gone and they’re onto the next version within six months. They already have multiples of it, everybody else even a car dealership has given away, come test drive a Ford Ranger and in your Ford F-150 you get a free iPhone or a free iPad. When the car dealerships are handing them out for free test drives, probably not a unique wow gift anymore. So is it a practical gift? Yeah, it’s useful but if somebody already has one it expires in six months. It’s only for that one particular person not their spouse and kids you’re spending a lot of money to have…. I look at cost per expression when I give a gift. I want somebody to have something for 20 or 30 or 40 years that way even if I spend, no matter what I spend on it, it’s the value over time, it actually costs me very little because everytime they use it there is an impression. They remember where it came from if you do it right and so I avoid… We do some cool headphones and a few different things I think will last 5 or 10 years. But we don’t carry Bose because you can get Bose anywhere. So that even the brands that we carry are more unique. So if somebody wants to do technology, I try to talk them out of it and tell them that if they can’t buy into that philosophy, they’re probably not a good fit for us. But I think most guys are into technology, they love it, it’s sexy and so they shop with their own eyes. And they say, “Well, Apple is a cool brand, let’s give out Apple, let’s give out Bose”. Not really thinking through the implications of whether that’s really a good ROI for their firm. And in most cases it just becomes noise.


[00:26:22] Brad: “So a theme that I’m starting to hear through this conversation so far is: A great gift should not be convenient because when you think about Apple, I can go buy 50 iPads and just blast them out around the world. So do you have a process? Maybe it’s in your book, Giftology? Is there a, “I’m going to give a great gift here’s the two or three steps that I think through to get there and make as sure it’s the right fit”.


[00:26:54] John: Yeah, there’s actually 10 steps but yes. Our entire playbook of how we’ve landed the Darren Hardy’s of the world and the Jerry Coleman’s and the Jeffrey Gitomer’s and you know, our first pro sports team was NASCAR’s Roush Fenway. The we-eat-our-own dog food like I’m a small company I’m trying to play and compete with these multi-million dollar and billion dollar heavy weights and so I’ve had to stand out on a low budget. Relatively speaking, I don’t have 5 million dollars to get a trade show booth at the International Builders Show, but I landed the largest builder in the country DR Horton because for seven years I practiced what I preach in this book. It’s our play book, every secret, every plan, every question, how much to invest, when not to do a gift and when instead to do a handwritten note. Giftology, really, after people say, “John, why don’t you put this in a book? I can’t afford you”.  Which is ironic because we have clients on financial realm, our minimum is 20 people. If you have 20 key relationships then you’re fit for us. Now some people have 2,000, that’s great, I love a few extra zeros on the end but in general if you have 20 relationships twice a year then you’re a fit for our model and our plan but even if you want to do it on your own, like nothing that we do is rocket science, it’s all in the book. And so all of those questions, all of those little details are covered in Giftology and so our hope is that people will you know, only one percent are going to reach out to us and want to do it directly with us and outsource it to us. The other 99%, if I get people being more generous with their employees and more generous with their clients, as my daughter says, “My dad helps people love on people”, whether that’s inspiring them they go do it their own or coming to us either way is fine with us.


[00:28:49] Brad: I can think of worst causes in the world to be a part of, that’s for sure. So, one of our clients, a guy named Rob he’s actually out of Ohio. So maybe this whole gift giving thing centers in Ohio, that’s where it started I don’t know but he’s got a quote that I love he says, ”A lot of times you can’t outspend your competition but you can out-experience them”, and he’s a huge Disney fan and you know Disney and how well they’re done so much about is about the experience the little things that they do right.


[00:28:49] John: So no question, I love Disney and I’ve done some cool experiences for people when they’re at Disney. So yeah, I think there’s no question, that the gift should be an experience, it should feel like, and it’s not that you don’t do, ever do experiences, like just strictly golf, but it’s how can you marry like in our perfect world it’s doing amazing experiences with an artifact so every time you use the artifact they remember the relationship and the experience, that’s the perfect world.


[00:29:53] Brad: So I love that you’ve renamed the gift an artifact? Obviously, purposefully, going back to the harmonica story that you shared. What makes it an artifact?


[00:29:56] John: First off, I had to come up with a word, that I hate… I don’t use the word hate very often. With our daughters, I say “Really do you hate that?” We don’t use hate in the Ruhlin household. But I can say, I despise the word ‘token’. Like most people when they put in a note, “This is just a token of our appreciation”. When would you ever say that a relationship is a token relationship? Never. You’d say this is a valuable, like the word ‘token’, I don’t know who invented that, or what… how that caught on. But everybody use that, it makes me want to gag. I get this visceral  feeling of like, when you give something, you know you think about like biblical times, or even a hundred years ago, a king would give another king a gift, based upon the value of the relationship. If I want to do, if I want to build a collaboration with you, I’m going to give you a thousand head of cattle, or whatever, based upon the value. So I think of artifact, I think of something that signifies and represents something, for the long haul I think of something that becomes a part of the identity of that family. And something that you’re going to pass down. You could replace artifact, that’s maybe not as sexy, but heirloom.


When you think of giving something, like when you go into a, let’s say unfortunately you have a house fire, what are the five things you’re going to grab before you leave the house? You can grab pictures, you can grab like maybe if your dad served or your mom served in the war, you can grab the flag, you’re going to grab artifacts. Things that are important to your family identity. And so, I use the word artifact, because when I gift something to somebody I want it to become a part of fabric of what they, who they are, their everyday life. And so a lot of our things, the knives, the wine decanter, or whatever else, they’re everyday items, they’re not like ,“Oh my gosh I’ve never heard of that before”, but most people in business give business related gifts, and they don’t recognize that they’re a person before they are a business person. And they spend a lot time, their most valuable relationships are at home not in business, typically. And so, I want something in the home, I don’t care something’s in somebody’s, you know amongst the hundred pictures on their wall in their office, I care, do they take it home? Is it a part of their home fabric and identity? Because to me that’s a deeper level, and so I use the word artifacts, to describe what we do gifting lives.


Brad: I think you just simplified the whole concept, it’s, ‘what do you grab if your house is on fire?’, I’ve heard the “You’re on a deserted island, what are the three things you’re taking with you?” I think that nails it right there. Just meaningful, real stuff. Touchkeys is the word I think. Opposite of that, right?


John: Yeah the exact opposite. One of the things that got me really excited, I saw a picture of Gandhi, and he is the guy that I really looked up to by  a lot of different people , like he has his priorities maybe in order at least in some people’s minds. And he has six things to his name, and like a wrap. You know this guy has like, his tunic, his clothing, he’s got like a knife, a cup, a book. Like really, like you boil things down, you drag me down, essentialism. Like, we don’t need more stuff. So if you are going to do stuff, you better make it, be really thoughtful with it and world class, or else it just becomes something that’s going to end up in the garage sale, six months later. I don’t think, I think most people are looking for more things there, but they are looking for more meaningful artifacts in our life.


Brad: So you’ve had the opportunity to work with a ton of awesome, as we stated before, businesses, organizations, people. Can you share some of your favorite… Maybe is was their campaigns, maybe it’s just a one time gift with a really cool note. I would love to, and I know the listeners and watchers would love to just get a taste of some of the cool things you’ve done.


John: Yeah, so one of my favorite stories to share… Now, I don’t know if Joey shared this on stage or not, but early in my business days, I didn’t have a ton of money. Yeah I was sending a gifts every week, but it wasn’t, fast forward nine years later, we’re in the different position to do gifting than we were nine years ago. But one of the guys I went… I was qualified to EO, Entrepreneurs Organization, which is similar to YPO. I know that some of your guys are members of one or two of those organizations, great organizations, and one of them EO has about twelve thousand CEO’s. So I got to Vegas, in this particular event had twelve hundred, I’m green, I don’t feel like I belong. I’m like “My gosh, how did I even get into this?” And I go to a break out, it was a standing room only, and the guy had grown the company from two million to a hundred twenty million dollars, got five thousand articles written about him, and he was the COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Are you familiar with the company?


One of the best companies in all of Canada. I think number two to work for in Canada. And so my, I’m sure people, your audience, everybody has a like the time when you’re like, “If I can win that community leader or that one client or that one mentor advocate, it could change my life forever.” It could change my business, that was how I felt when I heard Cameron speak. So I waited an hour to get in line afterwards and found out that he was going to be coming to Cleveland to our chapter to speak three months later. And so I’m like “My gosh, how am I going to stand out with this guy?” I don’t want to be a groupie, I want to be peers. And so he said “Hey, I hear you’re coming to town, great message. What are you doing here in town, what’s your plan.” He’s like ‘Well the dollars really weak, I’m from Canada, I’m going to do a kind of shopping.’ At the back of my head , I’m thinking maybe this is the end goal. I said ‘Where at?’ he said ‘Brooks Brothers’. And so on the spot, I’m like, “I’m a Jose bank guy, what’s your shirt size, I want to send you a shirt.” He looks at me kind of weird. Like, “is this guy got a man crush on me?” Asking a shirt size is little bit of a forward question within two minutes of having a conversation. But he answered just polite. I said “what else you going to do?” He said “nothing” and I said “Well I have Cavs tickets and it’s opening night, Lebron, it’s going to be amazing, go out to dinner, what do you think?” And you could tell, like a lot of advisors, most people’s clients are going to go to a hundred dinners a year. Steaks, sushi, wine, whatever else. It wasn’t even like, he was saying yes because he had nothing else to do that night. Not because it was the coolest thing in the world. It didn’t cost a lot of money. And he said “yeah”, I said “okay, great, let’s connect” So, that morning, I didn’t have the Kahunas to do it. Until the morning of, morning of comes, he starts texting me, “Jonathan, I think my flights going to get delayed, I’m almost going to miss my next flight. Do you want to cancel?” I said “no, no, no, take your time, whenever you get in is fine, even if we miss half the game.” So at that point I’d sold half my business about six months prior, and I told my CFO and partner, I said, “I know you think I’m crazy but we need to do this.” And he said, “if it doesn’t work, it’s coming out of your draw not mine.” I’m like, “okay, fair.” So I drive up to Brooks Brothers five hours before he lands, I put the Amex down, and I’m sweating, I’m nervous. And I said, “Here’s the guys sizes, I want one of everything in the new fall collection, all the shirts, jackets, sweaters, pants, everything.” And the junior sales associate says, “you’re kidding right?” I said, “I wish I was, but no I’m not.” And so they started lining it up and they run the charge. And I handed over, seven thousand dollars, with the clothes. I’m like “Oh my gosh, this better work?” so I drive over to the Ritz, I ask for the GM and I say “there’s a VIP of all VIP’s coming to town, he coaches some of the biggest CO’s in the world, I want to do something special, are you in?” and they said, “Of course. It’s the Ritz.”


And so they merchandized the entire room to look like a Brooks Brothers stores. Sweaters here, jackets there, pants there. And so he comes in, you can tell, he’s had one of those days of travel like, horrible, “why did I agree to this dinner?” I’m downstairs having a drink with my business partner, scared to death. And he goes upstairs to take a shower. And he comes back down about twenty-five minutes later and there’s a vibrance to him, his eyes are the size of silver dollars. He says’ “John, a lot of cool people have done really amazing things for me. I thought the Four Seasons was amazing because they remembered my name, I had a bottle of water waiting for me when I went for on a jog.” He said, “I’ve texted the authors, whatever you want to talk about for as long as you want to talk about it, I’m all in. I’ve never had anybody treat me this way.” Now fast forward nine years, I’ve been invited to his 50th birthday party, his wedding, he’s mentioned me from stages all over the world. He’s opened up doors with the president at Starbucks, and some of the biggest companies in the world. He’s done things for me that I could’ve done with ten million dollars with advertising. All because I personalized that experience.


And the kicker, that I’ll share, because people are like, “John, the [inaudible] at SCC would never allow me to spend seven thousand dollars on clothes.” And the answer is, you’re right, they wouldn’t. But the experience didn’t cost me seven thousand dollars, because Cameron came back to me and said, “John, I either going to write you a check for thirty percent more  than what I think the clothes cost or you’re going to tell me and I’m going to write a check for that.” Because the rest of the clothes, I mean he’s travelling, he can only pick out many two thousand dollars for the clothes. The rest of the clothes went back on my Amex, he wrote me a check. He’s like “I can’t let you pay for the gift as well as the experience. What you did for me was the gift.” To this day, we speak on the same stage together, he’s become the biggest advocate. So the entire experience cost me nothing. There rewards and referrals that have come out of that. It’s priceless.


Brad: That’s a cool story right there.


John: At the time, it was you know, is he going to think I’m a stalker?


Brad: You’re a stalker, that put a lot of thought into it though. You’re a thoughtful stalker. I need to register that domain. Thoughtful stalker dot com. Okay, so tell me more about that experience. I’m curious. There was a handwritten note sitting there on the bed. How did you personalize that?


John: Yeah. There’s a little note that just said “Cameron, you probably wouldn’t have time to shop with your flight delay. And so pick up what you want, and I’ll see you downstairs.” It was pretty simple and to the point. Wasn’t eloquent. But then you walk in and you see all the clothes, you see all the tags and see that it’s your size. I mean, you wouldn’t even really have to put a note. Smart people connect the dots, like “Hey, he asked me about my shirt size, all of a sudden all these clothes are here.” But yeah it was pretty simple and to the point, the note. The act itself and the way the room was laid out spoke volumes.


Brad: So going to the, the verbiage. Going back to Joey Coleman. By the way, Joey if you’ve heard this, he crushed at the World Series. And he shared a concept from you that I think you actually used with Darren Hardy, to personalize a gift to Darren Hardy’s wife. Yes, the verbiage and the note was stellar. So do you have some tips with the do’s and don’ts when you’re gifting something really cool, what should you do in the note? What’s going to make it stand out? It even speaks to the spouse, because I know that’s what Joey did with Darren.


John: Yeah. I think the reason we target the spouses, I mean, you and I, and a lot of people that are in the business, we get nice dinners, nice hotels, nice golf, nice everything. So the spouse oftentimes gets the worst of being in the business, and Joey understands and appreciates that, and so I know there’s somebody does nice for my wife, I look like the hero. We’re way more likely to do business, to go to dinner, go vacation, and you know, she’s my witness test. If she likes you, then you’re in, if she doesn’t like you then it’s going to be very difficult to do business together. It’s just the bottom line. And women are more thoughtful typically when it comes to gift giving. They notice the attention to detail, the packaging, the personalization, the note. The notes are typically tied in to just appreciating the fact that, they’re acknowledged as a peer and as somebody as that’s oftentimes the rock behind the scenes holding down the fort and allowing for their spouse to go out and conquer the world, and speak, and travel and run a business, and whatever. So a lot of the notes are just acknowledging was already true. You can’t be a great guy oftentimes without a great gal or great gal without having a husband who’s supportive. So the gift is really just an acknowledgement. And the note is just an acknowledgement of, and sometimes we’ll tie in the theme of ‘Hey, I know that you’re one of Darren’s special secret weapon in his bag of tools and most people don’t appreciate how much value you bring to the table and the equation of Darren Hardy’s business.” So it’s an acknowledgement of you’re half the equation, if not more.


A lot of times the note is, it’s not five pages long but it is a very direct thank you, an acknowledgement to that effect. I’m happy to share, with permission from some of our clients, some of the notes that we’ve helped them craft. We do often help the clients craft those notes. And sometimes they’re thematically tied in, like we are doing a bunch of gifts right now for financial advisers that are tied around financial freedom, and the gifts are going out at the fourth of July, around the country’s birthday, freedom, and so there’s a tie in there, and it’s an American made gift. Might be a BBQ setter or might be American McNage or might be something else that’s American made. But so being our country’s birthday, and American freedom and most people’s goal was working without an advisor, is that they want to have financial freedom. And so, we do try to tie in thematically when we can. We try not to force it, if it’s too over the top and cheesy, it doesn’t work. So there is a line. We try to go close to that line but not past it. Because people, especially the wives, I mean you look at McDonalds who spends a billion dollars on advertising every year. They always tie in thematically, like some play on words or something, because it’s more memorable and it’s kind of fun. You know we don’t take ourselves too seriously with the gifts. It’s not like we’re sending out Louis Vuitton bags for ten grand. The goal is to be cool, fun, playful and engaging but not cheesy. That’s a fine line.


Brad: And one other thing that Joey’s mentioned, I think in the one for Darren was, he also thanked the spouse for sacrificing their time with their spouse with you. So in that, in those instances where they’re travelling, or they’re maybe out for a business meeting to meet you John to see if you want to engage. You’re thanking the spouse for the sacrifice of their time away, as well.


John: Yeah, people’s time. I think most people want to appreciate somebody for their business, for their referral. I think giving a gift for a referral is the worst time to give a gift, I bet eighty percent of your advisors… Like most industries ,accountants, lawyers, “hey I got a referral, I want to send a gift.” It devalues it. It makes it a transaction then. It’s like, “Hey, you sent me a million dollars in business, and here’s a hundred dollars Starbucks gift card.” So your million dollars was worth a hundred bucks. In a person’s mind, I’ve gotten referral gifts from like the gift card to my favorite restaurant, but I just sent you a half million dollar referral. In your mind you do the math. So a lot of the gifts that we recommend doing, are just because. I think a gifts  as a result of a referral, you should send a handwritten thank you note, acknowledge and thank somebody, for the referral. But a lot of times, the timing of the gifts matters. Including the spouse obviously matters. But I don’t know why that came to mind but giving a gift for a referral is just a horrible time to send any sort of gift.


Brad: So strategically, if you wanted to acknowledge a referral?  You would send just a personal thank you note that says, “Hey, I really appreciate you thinking of me and sending so and so my way.” Couldn’t ask for a higher compliment. Something like that.


John: Yeah. And then do a gift three months later. Our goal, the reason I think we get more referrals than we can handle, is I send gifts just because. It oftentimes inspire the referral, attract the referral, versus reward the referral. Most people have this idea, you know, tit for tat, you did this for me, now I do this for you. And I think the book give and take talks about Adam Grant, like the reason givers are at the top of their game in every industry, is because they are giving without any strings attached, and they’re giving, not because they got something, they’re giving because that’s a core part of who they are. When somebody gets a gift and there’s no ask and it was out of nowhere, It wasn’t tied to a referral, it means ten times more because it wasn’t necessary. Like, giving a gift when it’s not necessary is when it means the most. When you give a gift out of obligations or expectation…


I mean I don’t know how long you have been married but when I show up to my wife, and it’s like, I’m not asking to go on a business trip, I’m not trying to get myself out of the dog house, but I just show up because I was just thinking of my wife, not because it’s Valentine’s day, not because it’s her birthday, just because, that’s when it means the most. And in relationships, I don’t care if it’s your spouse or whether it’s your best clients, the just because, means way more than the obligatory type gift.


Brad: So you’ve kind of got yourself into a dangerous situation there John. Because you run a company about gift-giving, and doing these amazing gifts, how do you even keep that going with your spouse? That’s got to be a ton of pressure.


John: There is some pressure there, there is no question. And I think that, well the book talks about it, I was a sucky gifter at home. I had nothing left in the gas tank the first five or three years of marriage. And I would not recommend being a gifting expert in business, and then suck in at gifting at home. Not a real good playbook. I didn’t follow my own playbook at home. But I’d say if you ask my wife, in the last three years. One, it’s made me more aware, and I have to put effort at home the same way I had to put effort in business. It definitely raises the bar when you’re the ‘Gifting Guy’. But I would say that some of my best gifts now are not in business, but they’re at home.  And I’ve gotten way better then  so I think… my wife, she’s a strong woman. I don’t know if she would say, “I’ve arrived.” But she would say, I’m definitely way better, you know, I’m in the ballpark. I’m in the ballpark…


Brad: Heading in the right direction.


John: Heading in the right direction, yeah.


[00:49:10] Brad: Alright so here’s a fun one. What is the coolest, least expensive gift you’ve ever been a part of creating? For you or one of your clients?


[00:49:27] John: The coolest, least expensive. This wasn’t for a client, this was for my wife. So somebody that she follows, is a gal that’s who’s kind of like an outdoors, her name’s Georgette Pellegrini. And she’s written a number of books, she’s was in Austin, she was kind of this hunter, she’d also like stilettos. She’s like my wife, like, she wears camo one day, and then be in like a black dress, stilettos going to like the Oscars the next day. Like that’s… what I love about my wife is that diversity, so there’s this gal who’s written books, she’s from New York, she lives in Austin, and my wife’s been following her for a long time. And so I found out that one of my speaking engagements done in Texas was going to be at the same time that  she was going to do a book signing for one of her new books. So I took my wife’s book, of hers, without her knowing. And I took it with me on the business trip. And then I went to the book signing, and got her, not only to sign the book. But to make a Happy Mother’s Day video, with me. To give to my wife for Mother’s day that I get back the day before Mother’s day. So she got a signed book from her favorite author, which cost me nothing because it was a book that was already paid for, and she did a video. I ended buying a book anyway because I can’t go to a book signing and not buy somebody’s book.


Georgia was so floored by the video. She said, “Yeah. For your wife? You came down here to get a book signed for your wife? I’ll do it. Tell me what you want me to say, no problem.” So the entire experience cost me the time, the forethought, the planning, and maybe the fifteen dollar or twenty dollar book that I bought for it. But it was really the forethought and energy. And I actually talked to my wife this week. She’s like, “What do you think was the best gift you’ve ever given me?” and I listed a couple of them. She’s like, “What about Georgia Pellegrini?” and I’m like, “I completely forgot about that one.” She’s like, “Yes, that one really caught me off-guard in a good way, it was over the top.” And it cost me nothing, absolutely zero. Jewelry, I’ve spent a lot of money on jewelry, another thing that she loves, but out of all of the things, that was the one that she remembered. So, that’s the one that comes to mind. When you asked that question, the least expensive, most impactful.


Brad: It’s interesting, you bring that up. Because as you were thinking through it, I actually started to think. I was like, “Man, what’s some of the best gifts that I’ve given?” And going back, referencing Darren Hardy left and right here. But in his book The Compound Effect he had an idea of… He told the story about a buddy that was always cracking about his wife. And he’s like, “Dude, your wife is awesome. You’re lucky she’s even with you.” And so he’s like, “Just do this, once a day, when you wake up, just write down something awesome about your spouse or something you appreciate.” And so the gift was, this guy did this, I think it was a year, it might have been shorter than that. And then he gifted that to his spouse.


John: He gave a jar of his notes?


Brad: A journal, a journal of years and years’ worth of every single day, I’ve wrote something down I love or appreciate about you. And of course, there’s just tears streaming down.


John: Waterworks galore. Yeah.


Brad: And you know, I have tested this. Some of my buddies that I have shared this with have tested it. Hands down, spouses are blown away. Nothing, except for the time you’ve put into it. And the thought. Right?


John: People say it’s the thought that counts. And I say no, it’s the thoughtful thought that counts. Most people use this, it’s the thought that counts when they’re doing something lame and they want to chuck a box, and guys are notorious for this. Like, “What? I thought of you babe.” “What? You thought of me for like half a second, and really, you’re thinking of yourself.” When you do the thoughtful thoughts like the notes, the journals, whatever else you’re talking about, you know, in some ways, what we teach is very simple but executing on it and actually being thoughtful with it is difficult. I mean our pace of life is fast and we get distracted with social media and whatever else. A lot of it is the simple things that really do impact people. No question.


[00:53:37] Brad: Well this whole concept, what’s intriguing about it to me is because of the pace of life. Because of constant distractions of cell phones, social media, all of this. You’re actually going down the path with your company that swims upstream. So when you do these things they stand out, two hundred times more than they would’ve probably twenty years ago.


[54:00] John: Yeah, I’d say what we do teach is what our great grandfathers would have done naturally. Handwritten note, you know, face to face, like doing the extra steps. You talked about like a great gift is inconvenient. Our firm tries to make it as convenient as possible. But yeah, there is like, you know when you go through the effort of doing something for a full year and that’s the gift of, every day for a year I wrote on a journal for you of what I appreciate. That’s inconvenient. It’s the old school stuff now becomes new school. It’s like, I didn’t invent it, I just put it, taking it all together, and aggregated it in this little like… here’s the selfish, yeah know shameless plug.


Brad: There it is.


John: It’s a, you read the Bible, the Proverbs 18:16 ‘A gift ushers you into the presence of the great.’ It’s, I didn’t invent that, that’s Solomon. It’s very simple, it’s not rocket science.


[00:54:55] Brad: I like the title by the way. Had you already been calling it Giftology before the book.


[00:55:08] John: No, that was actually one of the biggest, I don’t want to say flights. But it was one of the biggest struggles. We called it appreciative leadership. People were like, ‘What does that mean?” We called it strategic appreciation. We used all these words that sounded cool to us, but other people had no idea what it was. And at the end of the day, we’re like, “We’re gifting experts and we understand gifting logistics really well.” That’s what we are, we are a gift strategy and logistics company.


But you know from a faith perspective and core values, radical generosity was the title of the book for good probably three months. It’s going to be radical generosity. But then people were like “Is it a book about charity?” There’s a book called Radical Honesty that is very divisive for people. “Is it in that line?” I’m like, “No.” And so I listed off like forty titles and I sent it to the guys that helped us publish it. And they immediately responded back, “Giftology, hands down no questions asked.” I’m like, “Really? That’s kind of cheesy?” They were like “nope, we’re already using the term giftology principles or giftology strategy in our company about how we are going to wow on our people and treat our people. Giftology.”


So I started to survey people and some people love Radical Generosity, some people love Giftology and then another company that helps people write books who I really respect, the round tables companies of Chicago. And the founder there, I don’t know super well but I just respect what I heard about them, they helped Tony Shea write Zappos and some other things. And he said, he responded to a Facebook internal facebook post, “Hands down Giftology, I’m really picky about titles and I think this has legs. You got to use Giftology.” I’m like, “Seriously? Giftology?” But I’m so grateful, now. Now that it’s out there and people are like using it almost in the vernacular, it’s like, “Yeah, you’ve gotta practice Giftology.”


It’s just become… I think it has the opportunity to kind of become a word that people use on a regular basis. Whereas, Radical Generosity is cool, but I don’t think it will roll off the tongue and become a part of the people’s strategy the same way. It can describe itself. It became Giftology now, and then the subtitle, Joey actually helped me out. He’s like, “Dude, what you teach is not just art, it’s science. It needs to be the art and science of using gifts to cut through the noise and developer referrals, and deepen relationships.” I’m like, “Really? Art and science?” he’s like “You have research in there right?” I’m like “yeah we hired a PhD from Wharton to do all this research about why gifting works and the psychology.” He’s like, “Everybody thinks gifting is a spoofy, soft no hour lie.” He’s like, “you’ve brought science to the table to back up your strategies. It needs to be the arts and science.” I’m like, “That’s a long…” then I’m like “Fine.” And so Joey pushed me into them. I’m glad that we put art and science in there too. Because really it’s not… it is art but it is science. So it’s really the blend of the two that makes it work. The title was actually one of the most difficult parts of the whole book process. Surprisingly. I would have never guessed it.


Brad: Well I think you nailed it man. When we were talking previously and you were like “Giftology”, I was like ‘that is such a cool term and the stylization that you put on the title or on the cover there. Man, that speaks to a circle of having a great peer group to bounce ideas off of too.  


John: No question. Joey actually looked at things and was like, “one of your letters is a pixel off”. I’m like, “Hey can we have a professional designer put the book together?” I’m like, “Seriously?” He’s like, “Yeah, tell him (I forget what’s even called) he’s like tell them that this letter was off this way by this much.” Sure enough, they zoomed in, it was off by a pixel. I’m like “Joey how did you see that?” He’s like, “That’s how my eyes work, I can see when things aren’t symmetrical.” We only spent like three hundred percent more to make our books because we didn’t want like… I told you when we were talking earlier, like for Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk, these guys that are influencers or friends of ours, I want to create a book that was the nicest book anybody’s ever received. And I think we’ve accomplished that. With the help of guys like Joey, they can be like so nitpicky on a pixel, like, if anybody has any critique, I’m just going to direct them to Joey or some of the other guys. I thought it was picky but they’re at a whole other level. So it is great to have an inner circle, no question.


Brad: Alright, so this has been fun. So, let’s go a few different directions here. What would you say the secrets… As we talk, it’s like all of these collisions that you’ve had, people that are really good at what they do. Thought leaders, well respected business leaders. Besides gifting, what has allowed you to create these connections, maintain them. What are the secrets that allowed you to do that John?


[01:00:17] John: Well, I would say that gifting is our superpower but I think that we’re really good at understanding everybody, even the most generous people, still in the back of their mind, have the question of “what’s in it for me?” in the back of their head. I think that if I had a sub superpower or something else that we kind of naturally gravitate towards is seeing the angle. That allows for it to be a win across our board, their board and maybe somebody else. So, we kind of triangulate and say like “Everybody can win here.” This is, like even for our book, there were some people that have poured so much into us that we’re offering the book for free. We’re literally like, if they mailed at to their list, they send me the receipt I’ll count the book. No questions asked. And they’re like “Really?” like yeah, you poured enough into me. Number one, more people are going to get the book now, which is a win for them, they look like the hero. We get people reading our stuff. And we even put a money back guarantee in our book that somebody buys it, within three months they read it, and they love it, they just want their money back, they can email me, I’ll send them the money back. If they hated it, I’ll actually gift them their next book for free. That’s how confident I am in the principles of the book.


Brad: Hold up there. So if they love the book, but want their money back, here’s your money back. Basically, my book Giftology was a gift to you.


John: That’s the thought is it becomes a gift for them and I hope that they’ll use that money and would donate to charity. The goal is not for it to be a stack of books with Gary Vaynerchuk and Michael Hyatt, and all the other books that are out there, that are amazing. I want them to read it and do something with it. That’s what will get me excited. When the people come to me and say I had somebody I told an idea to in Starbucks, who’s an info marketer. I shared a couple of things, and he came out the woodworks and said “I want to promote your book.” Honestly, I didn’t even remember him. And he said, “I applied some of the principles you taught me that it’s worked so well. I’ve landed clients as a result of it, that I just want to promote the book for you.” I never would have thought to even reach out to him. I couldn’t even remember who he was. And so I feel like if I can get people to take this action, there’s a ripple effect. You know, they love on somebody and model it, and then they model it. And I really feel like there’s an opportunity to create kind of a movement with it. Our core business of gifting is doing really well. Like, if we don’t make any money in the book, I’m fine. And so, the book wasn’t written for money. The book was written for impact. And we’ll get some clients from it. It’s not like we’re like Mother Teresa and profits a bad word. I think we’ll sell a lot of books and make a lot of money, and I mean we sold thousands already. But the impact is what I’m excited about.


So if somebody reads, wants their money back, they email me, and they can prove that they read it. They have to prove that they actually read it. Then they’ll get their money back. And if they hated it I’ll buy them their next book and give them their money. I’ll gift them the next book. Cause in my opinion if I wasted somebody’s time, a few hours of their time is probably worth hundreds of dollars, or maybe even thousands of dollars. I feel guilty that if you read the book and you think it sucks, I want to know why, prove that you’ve read it and I’ll buy you your next book. I don’t think we’ll get anybody though say that because I’m pretty damn confident in what other people that I respect or thinking about the book. But everybody does that and says the book sucks then Amazon gets their cut, I’m going to lose money on the deal, I’m okay with that. If you go to you can see our money back guarantee and that’s laid out there. And I don’t know of any other author that’s ever offered that before.


[01:04:10] Brad: It’s first, on my side. I love the concept though. I think you’re safe though buddy. The type of people that are going to be buying and reading this book. They’re not the type of people that are going to take you up on that offer. They’re probably going to call you up and say, “Send me a box more of these.”


John: I don’t think Giftology attracts a lot of takers. But, somebody wants to take advantage of that I would much rather, you know Jay Baer talks about hugging your haters, he’s one of the top customer experience guys. We’re talking to him about becoming a client, we got introduced to him through some friends and he talked about, the one star people out there that give you one star on Amazon. Like here’s some ideas on how to hug them. I’m like, I don’t want to wait until they can give me the one star? I’m going to offer it right up front. You hate the book? I’m going to buy you your next book. Period.


[01:05:08] Brad: So least they have to put it in their bad comment. I hated the book, but the guy gave me my money back and sent me money for a new book to buy so…


[01:05:15] John: Yeah, I’m not even just sending them money back. Just tell me what you want on Amazon and I’ll send you the books. You don’t have to worry about ordering it just say I want Gary V’s new book, I want Seth Godin’s new book.


[01:05:24]Brad: Solved. That easy.


[01:05:26]John: That easy.


[01:05:28] Brad: We have about fifteen minutes here. Here’s where I want to go first and then we’ll end this with some rapid fire questions, it’ll be fun.


[01:05:43] John: Yeah. Put me on the hot seat.


[01:05:45] Brad: Perfect. So you had some really cool clients from a sports standpoint, and were talking before you are a huge Cleveland sports fan which I’m cheering for you buddy. So we’ll hope that turns out alright. Any cool gifts along the sports front, the Bears, the Spurs, Dolphins or just maybe some cool stories, just as you were working with these organizations on the way they thought. Now were these gifts for season ticket holders, what, who were they, who was their market?


[01:06:18] John: Yeah, people were like The Miami Dolphins gave it to their players.


[01:06:24] Oh really!?


[01:06:26] No. I said “No, that’s not it.” Number one, it’s too finicky, sometimes we get called, “Hey we’re recruiting this person can we get some help.” Ninety nine percent of the time what makes the business go in pro sports is sponsors and premium seating. Like eighty percent of the revenue that comes in isn’t like Cardinal Stadium the majority of the seats. It’s the suites and the sponsors, that’s where all the money comes from. So these are all corporate sponsors. People that are making six or seven figures, people that are affluent. And they’ve already got every jersey on the planet, they’ve already got every… like they can go buy what they want so it’s difficult to appreciate than when they’re spending six or seven figures with the team.


[01:07:04] John: So one of our favourite stories it actually took seven years to land was with the Cubs and being in St. Louis, people were like “Really, you work with the Cubs before you work with the Cardinals?” I’m like, ‘Well, I sat down with the duets. Presented them with some ideas but they’re first class and everything rather than gifting unfortunately. I’ve told them that. You guys are amazing. I can’t believe you’re letting gifting go this direction, but we’ll work with the blues and some of the other St. Louis teams or the Rams before they ditched us and headed to L.A. But the Cubs came to us and said we have this really strong challenge. We’re re-doing Wrigley field and it’s an iconic structure. People come from all over the world to watch a game at Wrigley. We’re remodelling it and we’re remodelling the locker room. There’s this wood, the historic wood that we want to make the gift out of because we want to be like a artifact. They love the artifact idea. I said, “What if we would get like a speaker out of the wood?” They’re like,

“Yeah, that would be amazing.” So like something that would last and be a speaker. We went to the speaker company, this boutique speaker company and said, “Hey, we have this wood that we want to use.” And they’re like, “We can’t make it, the wood is beaten up. It’s damaged.” So we went to our own supplier. We actually own our own manufacturing company now and went to the guys there and said, “Here’s the wood. Can you make speakers out of it?” and they said, “We’ll figure it out.” We had to re-glue this wood together to create molds and we created it. If you go you can see the Bluetooth speakers, there’s 400 of them that we created that were all individually number that are made out of Wrigley field locker room wood. And all of their 400 most important relationships got one of these speakers. The funny part is they came back and said, “John, the response is so amazing. What the heck are we going to do next year?” I said, “If you send me material from whatever else you’re working on, we’ll figure something out but give me more than a few months notice and we’ll create something else.” It was one of those kind of projects that came together in less than two months. To be a part of that kind of project was just a dream come true. It was awesome.


[01:09:10] Brad: So now they have to constantly remodel every year just so they can provide material for your gifting program that you’ve started.


[01:09:18] John: Hey, it creates continuity for us. I’m game. I’m totally game.


[01:09:22] Brad: I see where you’re going on with this. You started it. Sorry guys you’re locked into this deal.


[01:09:26] John: Yeah, they hook, line and sinker. I mean, it’s an honour to be able to work with iconic sports. You know,  guy who loves sports and it’s just kind of a dream come true to have your fingerprints on things that are going out to millionaire and billionaire type of guys, it’s pretty fun and just ridiculous.


[01:09:50] Brad: Alright buddy, you ready for the hot seat?


[01:09:54] John: Absolutely.


[01:09:55] Brad: We have 10 minutes. This is the most fun I have. I’ve gotten some of the most profound answers from guests during these sections so I’ll start with this one, when you hear the words successful, who’s the first person you think of and why?


[01:10:14] John: I think of my mentor Paul, who taught me a lot of the Radical Generosity principles. He’s got a great family. Well respected in the community. Lived a great life and I think the people that are closest to him respect him and love him the most. And I think that a lot of time successful people the opposite like they’re respective at people from afar but people that are closest to them hate them, don’t like them, don’t have close relationship with them. When I think about building success, I want my wife, my kids, my neighbour, people who are not my employees, the people who are spending the most time with me, love and respect me the most. Yes, I want to sell a lot of books. Yes, I want to grow a company that has international impact but not to sacrifice of having that inner circle, have had that impact on the inner circle.


[01:11:14] Brad: That’s strong because a lot of times you see successful business people, it’s that whole balance thing, right? And they’ve just poured all their energy into the business side where the tanks empty when they get home and those relationships that should truly matter the most. It’s cool that you bring that up because that’s what it’s all about in the end. Do you want a business that you serve or a business that serves you so you can actually go do all these stuff that really matters in life.


[01:11:40] John: Yeah, it’s easy you get caught up. I struggle the same thing like another speaking engagement and another Forbes article, another whatever. When you are on your deathbed you’re not going to say, “I wish I sold another 500 books”. You’re not going to say, “I wish I closed another deal”. Not that we shouldn’t work hard and pour a lot into our work and really believe in it but the end of the day. But my goal and I’ve continued to travel less and make those decisions of traveling less. Somebody commented the other day the wisdom that they got and they said you only have 18  summers with your kids,18 summers and then they’re out, they’re gone, they’re college, families, whatever else. Like 18 summers goes by really quick and how are you going to spend those 18 summers. One of my oldest is five like I only  got 13 summers with her left. My middle is three, 15 summers. Tonight I was going to go hang out with some guys to watch a game and I’m like, “You know what, I’m going to go hang out at home and watch the game from home.” Even though it would be great, when I look back, who would I rather spend another evening with, my family and my kids. Yeah, that’s what I want to wish have done. I always make that choice. I wish I could I say, “I’m perfect that…


[01:13:09] Brad: You made good the good choice tonight. It’s going to be tough again.


[01:13:13] John: Yeah. That’s why you go to challenge yourself with good people.


[01:13:17] Brad: That’s so true. So one of my personal friends, Michael Hyatt, I know we’ve got some mutual friends there. I’m just going to share this because it goes right along with that concept. When he was building, he was C.E.O. at Thomas Nelson and the whole corporate world and as he was building his business that he now owns and runs. He challenge himself and this was a few years back but he wanted to take a one month sabbatical with his wife Gail. He was like, “A year from now it’s on the calendar. I’m taking a one month unplugged sabbatical.” For you, this might be with your whole family and he said one thing that was cool about it was it challenged him to build his business in a way that he was able to do that. Going back to that 18 summers that was, “Okay. Now, next year it might be two months.” So he was basically then pushing himself to create a business that served him. I just thought that was a really cool way that he did that where, “Hey, it’s blocked on the calendar. Now figure out how to do it.”  


[01:14:20] John: Yeah, reverse engineer it and if you give yourself some runway to figure it out. We put the book launch at a certain date. We would love to have change that date. Amazing when you draw that line in the sand. Everybody’s promoting it. All the people are writing articles about it. You now have the book out and there’s articles being written about it. That’s not going to look really good.


[01:14:45] Brad: That’s a no-no.


[01:14:46] John: That’s a no-no. But giving yourself enough runways so it’s realistic. It’s amazing how your brain starts on creating those systems and solutions when you fully commit.


[01:15:00] Brad: Alright, here’s another one for you. I see a lot of books in the background there. I’m going to assume that you’ve read one or two of them. If you could pick a favorite book or a most gifted book, prior to your book that’s coming out. What would it be?


[01:15:19] John: I know already people buying a hundred Giftology and giving them as gifts. I think the book I’ve probably bought the most of or given the most of Matthew Kelly, a book called “The Rhythm of Life.” That’s really strong. I mentioned Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”. I’ve been recommending in gifting that book quite a bit lately.


[01:15:51] Brad: Why?


[01:15:54] John: I focus just on gifting but he focuses on how to not be taken advantage of when you’re a giver and understanding that people tend to lean either as givers, takers or matchers. Everybody kind of has their bent in how to work with those people. I think it’s really valuable if you’re a giver but I think it’s really valuable in general just to understand relationships. He basically shows statistically the best performers in the world and every industry are givers in the lowest performers in the world in any industry are also givers. It depends upon on how you give and how you protect yourself and how you operate whether not you’re a giver that thrives or a giver that struggles. So I think it’s a really powerful book. It’s researched based. And “Rhythm of Life” it’s kind of like the Matthew Kelly who’s a friend and mentor and client of ours now. He’s in his 40’s, got four kids. He just writes with the depth and wisdom of somebody that’s like in there 90’s and he’s spent an entire six months or a year at a monastery and solitude. He’s speaking over the world and he’s like 18 and had this almost kind of like doctor said you’re going to die like you’ve pushed yourself to the limit. So he went the opposite direction and spend time and in silence. He talks about how he can learn more from an hour of silence than you can from a year’s worth of reading books. He just has that kind of like sensei. He comes out from a faith perspective but I think he can appreciate what he shares in the Rhythm of Life and he’s written other books since then but that’s really deep book. I think it’s practical and applicable.


[01:17:53] Brad: Last one. You’re doing good, man. You’re a pro. What is one piece of advice you can share that’s led to your success?


[01:18:08] John: So, I saw this modeled. I kind of created the quote but I think I witnessed it so I didn’t create it myself but it was “give more than is reasonable.” I think most people have a natural bent to say what’s the least I can get away with and they hold back in personal relationships. They hold back five or ten percent because they’re worried about getting taking advantage of or looking silly. I mean the reason people don’t do the Cameron Harold type Brooks Brothers stories is for those reasons. Wouldn’t just sending a guy a shirt be enough? I think when you ask yourself what’s the most I can do and take off all the limits and all these other things. Okay, we’re not playing by the rules, well let’s just dream. If I was catering to Oprah and to Richard Branson, were my clients, what would I think about and do? How would I act? How would I treat people? What would my letterhead look like? Our business cards and our letterhead are made out of steel. I spent three dollars. It’s our business card made out of steel. It cost three dollars and our letterhead is nine dollars. Most people would say, “Has anybody spent three dollars on coffee before? People were like, “Yeah. Everybody does Starbucks or whatever”. How many people have ever spent three dollars on a business card? Most people’s hands go down. Nobody has ever done it. Same three dollars but most people looked at a business card and say it doesn’t matter. I think that things that most people go cheap in I say, “What’s the most I can do on those areas, because that’s the area I can really stand out and be different.” We did it with our business cards and people freaked out. Some people will mimic us and do it but most people they just can’t rock their head around spending three thousand percent more for a business card.


So I think in a lot of areas of life you can ask yourself, take the training wheels off. Take the boundaries away and just say, “What’s the most I can do in this situation?” That’s pretty powerful. Even if you can’t do it, you got to dial it back for whatever reason it’s still fun exercise and to your point about Hyatt taking off a month, most people, that’s not something they’re even dreaming about so it will never be a reality for them because they’re not even considering that could be possible. And I think in a lot of areas of life that’s the biggest step, it’s saying, “What if it is? What would it look like? What if I commit to it? What would happen?” Some really amazing things have happened in our life is a result of that and I also crash and burn on some things and fail. That’s the result of dreaming too big but it’s why I’ve succeeded too.



[01:20:57] Brad: John, it’s been awesome, man. This has been a blast for me. That’s so fun about this is I’m just here just having fun. I’m getting all this profound wisdom all of the same time. Thank you so much for carving out some time in your very busy schedule to join us and share the knowledge with all the advisors out there that either are listening or watching us.


[01:21:23] John: Thanks for having me, Brad. Thanks for the great questions. It has been amazing.


[01:21:27] Brad: Alright, John. Take care.


[01:21:30] John: Thanks, man.





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The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Advisors Excel. The guest speaker is not affiliated with or sponsored by Advisors Excel. Results from the use of these concepts are no guarantee of your future success.

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