116: From Rock Bottom to Rockstar Agency, with Todd Collins
Todd was bankrupt. His car dealership was taken from him. His business partner was embezzling money. He was getting a divorce. He was being sued. Todd had hit absolute rock bottom.
Listen to how Todd Collins, COO of Platinum Reputations, climbed his way out of the toughest struggles of entrepreneurship and stepped on to the top of the Agency game. For all that and tons more motivation, tune in to this Conquer Local episode with George Leith.
Platinum Reputations is a boutique consulting firm, dedicated to helping individuals and businesses improve their online reputations and build their brands.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.
George: Well, I know one thing, you are going to love the interview this week. I sat down with a good buddy of mine, Todd Collins, the chief operating officer of Platinum Reputations. Platinum Reputations is an agency based out of Maryland. Todd actually and Nick, his partner, are customers of ours at Vendasta. I met him after we had a business relationship for about a year, and we’d only talked over the phone. But we met face-to-face about two years ago. And it was friends on from that moment on because Todd is a fantastic guy. He’s a hard worker, and he’s not afraid to talk about the challenges that he’s had in life. In fact, I really admire Todd because he is baring his soul in this upcoming episode. The latest “Conquer Local” podcast with the one and only Todd Collins is next.
I’m pumped to get a microphone in your hand and get you on the podcast, Mr. Todd Collins.
George: Todd, you know, it’s always a pleasure to speak to you. And you and I text a lot and I’m inspired by what you’re doing. I’ve always admired your work ethic and what you’re doing in your business. You’re helping a lot of people. You told me earlier today you have 400 customers that are trusting you with helping their businesses and helping them feed their kids, you know, with that. And you get that. And I’ve always admired that about you. But Todd, let’s talk about your business. Tell everybody about your business. Tell them how you started and then we’ll dig into…I’ve got some questions I wanna ask you. Let’s dig into this.
Todd: Yeah. It started off as something, you know, quite small. So just kind of the story behind it is we started off as a defamation removal company. And that’s kind of how, you know, we got connected, you and I got connected was through reputation management but more on the personal side for people.
And that kind of evolved from the standpoint is, I had a friend of mine who owned a restaurant. This was, you know, early 2000s. Yelp was just kind of making its presence known in the restaurant industry. And he had some negative reviews that were on there that contained some information that I would say in my personal opinion was considered slanderous or unsubstantiated. And it seemed like it was against their terms and conditions. And the reason obviously Yelp was important to him at that point in time was that that was the go-to review platform for what customers were thinking, “Hey, this is where I wanna check this next place out.”
So we took a look at a couple of other reviews and we noticed that that information was inside some of those reviews, and we showed him how to flag those. And lo and behold, three to five days later, a couple of those reviews came down and the light bulb happened to go off again, and then we started looking for a partner that could help us from a software standpoint, and you appeared.
Looking up salesperson in the dictionary
George: So you and I met in a coffee shop in Baltimore. And that’s where your agency is based out of is that market, and your business has grown like crazy since that time. And, you know, you’re servicing customers and, you know, I think on stage at one point in time I said, “If you look up salesperson in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Todd Collins and George Leith.” Let’s talk about your career as a salesperson and some of the trials and tribulations of that.
Todd: Yeah, I mean, you know, originally, I was a terrible student in school, admittedly, just very bad. And I actually just wrote about this on LinkedIn. It’s pretty funny. I was a great athlete but terrible student, very difficult to stay focused on things that I had zero interest in. And that kind of started evolving. And as I got older, as I got out of high school and things of that nature, I was not finding a career easily. I didn’t know what to do at that point. And it just so happened I had come across an ad in the newspaper for a car salesman, and I went, I interviewed. I think I barely skated by the interview, and then I started selling cars.
And believe it or not, my first year in the car business was pretty bad. Like, I don’t think I was that great. I was probably still not focused. However, another opportunity arose. I went and moved to another dealership at that point and then was actually trained. And that’s one of the things that I do notice. I think that what will help a beginning salesperson is that there has to be some sort of platform in the very beginning to base it all up from. And it’s definitely training. There’s no question about it.
George: What type of car? What was the car organization that trained you?
Todd: So it’s funny you say that. So originally, it was a used car department, which I felt comfortable with, but it was Honda and BMW. And in the 2000s, selling a Honda or BMW, certified pre-owned was fairly easy. This was not something that could be difficult. But believe it or not, APB was the training course that I took. And APB is a very old school sales training process but can be utilized very well I think in any vertical. And that’s where I started. That’s how it started for me. And from there I blossomed.
George: You know, when I was in the radio business early in my career, I went to work for a radio station, and this crazy guy sat down next to me one day, and he was our new sales guy. I’d only been there about four or five months, and his name was Rick. And he had come from the local car dealership. And this guy was unbelievable car salesman. And he gave me my first sales training pieces, which were cassette tapes that he had…you know, that maybe he’d been given them or whatever, but they were from an automotive training course. And that was where I got some of my first training as well. It seems the automotive industry does a great job of training.
Becoming good at sales
And the other thing that I find really interesting and that’s why I asked what the car make was is that the manufacturers are great at product training because they recognize that you need to know a lot about the product in order to get buy-in from the prospect.
Todd: Yeah. And knowing that was great, however, I think what ended up happening is actually during that training, I was given a book called “Think and Grow Rich.” And if you haven’t read that book then I 100% recommend that you read that book.
George: It’s a great book.
Todd: It’s one of the oldest books in the world. It’s probably just as old as the Bible. Napoleon Hill I think was the author of that book if I’m not mistaken, but it just resonated with me. And it honestly was an awakening. I finally had a purpose and I was extremely interested. And I was not as interested about selling cars as I was understanding the psychology and almost the warfare of trying to win the battle of negotiation. And that is what I became obsessed with, and trying to be the winner, and trying to be the champ. And then at that point, I just became extremely competitive. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to have my name on the plaque. I wanted to be the guy. And that’s all it took.
Can a salesperson be successful without being competitive?
George: Well, thanks for bringing that up because, you know, you are one of the most competitive people that I’ve ever met. And it’s interesting when I look at elite salespeople and people that I admire with their drive and their tenacity, that competitive thing is so important. Does that mean that if somebody listening to this podcast isn’t competitive they can’t be a salesperson?
Todd: I think it’s just something that you have to accept the fact that you are, like, literally the best salesperson out there. You have to believe that. And until you actually believe that you are the best at what you do, that you’re never gonna reach that pinnacle. And a lot of people…you know, I used to hear that old adage of, “There’s always someone better than you.” I don’t believe that. Like, you can’t believe that. Like, why would you even walk into a room knowing and thinking that someone is better than you? And it’s funny that Dennis was just talking with you because I look up to Dennis so much from that standpoint. And I look up to Dennis from a standpoint of what he understands. From a sales perspective, I still think I’m a better sales guy than Dennis Yu, you know, but I love Dennis.
But I think from a level of social…from understanding social media and how Facebook works, I don’t think there’s a guy better than that. And I think, you know, he’s got that conviction that he will tell you and stand up and say that, “You know, I am the best at what I do.” And it’s true. And so if you believe it then other people will believe it too, especially if you have the actions behind it.
Finding rock bottom
George: I find that fiercely competitive people that are always in it to win it have lost before.
George: And can we talk about a couple of those?
Todd: Yeah. So, you know, that car business adage, eventually, you know, I started looking at the dealer principles and, you know, how they were living. You know, I was like, “I wanna live like that. I want the nice cars and I want the big mansion and I wanna roll in it 1:00 in the afternoon and sit in one meeting and then drive away and do something.” I wanted to be a dealer. That was it. I had to do it. And so I just literally started writing everything. These are all things that I started doing myself, right? I started writing down my goals in that book. And I still have the book. I wrote it down. I said, “By the time I’m 30 years old, I wanna own my own car dealership.” The opportunity arose. I took all the cash that I had saved, I went into business with someone, and we launched the dealership. It was a very scary thing. I was married at the time. I had just had a son. And we were off to the races.
And then four years later, I find out that partner was embezzling money and he had a drug issue and things of that nature. And there were things that happened outside of my control and we lost the dealership. And it was terrible because at that point I was like, “This is it.” Like, I blew it. I blew my opportunity. I took the risk. I knew I shouldn’t have been an entrepreneur. I knew this was a bad decision. I shouldn’t have done it. I really got down on myself. And through all…during that time, I was being sued. I was having claimed bankruptcy. I was going through a divorce. If you can imagine kind of all those things culminating at one time, it is extremely defeating. And at that point, you know, there’s certain things that go through your mind where you’re like, “Yeah, there’s a lot of other easier ways out of this.” And I’m not gonna sit here and say that I didn’t think about some of those things.
And so I just got back on the horse, man and actually went back into the car business right after that and was still making very good money. I mean, I’m talking…you know, what I consider a very good amount, I consider $300,000 a year like pretty good money. Like, you should be able to be happy. And it just wasn’t. Like, it didn’t matter. Like, there was no amount of money that could make the problems go away. And slowly I just wrote another list down and said, “I’m gonna scratch each one of these off one by one. Let’s get over this hump. Let’s get over this hump. Let’s get over this hump.” You know, and years later, Nick, who was my best friend of 32 years, is now my business partner, of 32 years. This guy has been around.
This is the funny thing about this George. Nick has been around for this entire thing, right? My best friend, who’s now my business partner, has been around for this entire thing. He waited until I went through all of this stuff to then come to me and say, “Oh, yeah, by the way, I have this really good idea I really want you to get involved with me.” Waited until I went through all of it, right?
Todd: Finally he said, you know, “This is the time, man. This is the time to take an opportunity and get out and just try something else. I really think you can do it.” And if your best friend tells you that and has that belief in you and he’s always had that belief in you, that is something that could carry you through a lot of stuff. And I just scratched each one off the list. And, you know, fast-forward five years later. You know, again, we were in the basement. I was in the basement of my house. No paycheck, owing money on mortgage, no car. I didn’t have a car five or six years ago. I mean, this is how crazy it is. I lost my car. My car was repossessed in front of a client. I mean, this is how bad these things got, you know.
George: Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah.
Todd: And I worked my way out of all of that. And your software had a lot to do with that because we were able to build so much value and bring so much value to the table, not only with what we were doing from a fulfillment standpoint, but the power of the software to be able to keep these customers in the know. And it’s just, those are the stories that I think sometimes you don’t hear, and how these ideas that you and Brendan had, you know, before all of this happened and the results that have come from it. It’s pretty interesting.
George: Well, and, you know, everybody has challenges. The one thing that I hope to get out to listeners as time goes on, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been down. We’ve all been beat. We’ve all been in that, you know, it’s almost like a depression thing that kicks in and you’ve gotta jump out of the rut. You know, you said earlier, you’re gonna dust yourself off, pick yourself up and get back in there.
“My dad was just a really great car salesman.”
But, you know, the interesting thing, $300,000, yeah, good money selling cars…
Todd: Yeah, it was awesome.
George: …still weren’t happy.
Todd: No, I was miserable. I’ll never forget, I missed my daughter’s birthday party, her second birthday party or third birthday party. It’s sad I can’t even remember it. But I thought, because of the way that I was brought up from a work ethic standpoint that whoever I was working for, that you stayed until they left. You always did what they needed. You worked for them, they were paying you, so you gave them…you know, obviously, I still do that.
But at the end of the day, and I always think back to this, at 92 years old or 93 years old or, my God, 85 years old when I’m lying on my deathbed and, you know, my kids are gathered around me, I don’t want them to say, “Wow, my dad was just a really great car salesman.” That is the last thing that I want them to remember about me. What I want them to remember is, “Man, my dad flew to Canada. He was jet-lagged on Saturday morning, and he got up and he was coaching my baseball team on Saturday morning.” And that’s exactly what’s gonna happen this week. “So he was always there for me and things of that nature. And he provided me with a good work ethic and how to live my life.” That’s the legacy that you wanna leave behind, not how great of a car sales guy you were.
It’s not a straight line
George: Yeah. You know, when people looked at this podcast and looked at this episode, I want you to give them the learnings that you have. Not of, you know, the software and how you’ve deployed it for the customers, but the struggle of being an entrepreneur and the tenacity that you’ve had to build this amazing business that you and your business partner have built. And it’s not a straight line. It’s like we just arrived over here and we’ve got this business.
Todd: Not at all. Yeah. And, I mean, it’s always gonna be like this. Just kinda like this EKG that is gonna go up and down and up and you’re gonna have these great times and you’re gonna have these bad times. There’s great times and there’s bad times. And it’s always gonna happen like that. But the thing is is that I don’t think I would be as good as I am if those other things would not have happened to me. Because what drives me is the fact that I don’t want to go back there again.
And I was just having a conversation with actually somebody who saw me on the panel today and they came out and they said to me, and this is just amazing when somebody says something like this to me. They were like, “Out of everything that I saw, listening to you and just the few words that you said, I had to talk to you afterwards and I had to learn more.” And it was the best thing about it. And I was like, “Wow, this is really interesting.” And I said to him, I said, “Everybody should realize that…everybody should realize those lows and those failures because that’s what really makes you a much better business person.”
I don’t think from an entrepreneurial standpoint it’s for everyone. You have to take those risks, but you have to be willing to go, “Okay, there’s a possibility that I have to claim bankruptcy here. There’s a possibility that I’m gonna go broke and I could be homeless. There’s a possibility that I may not have a car.” Like, there’s all these possibilities that could happen. And that is not for everyone. And you just have to take the…you have to take that risk. And not everybody is a risk taker, and that’s okay. Like, we’ve talked about before being a sales guy, man, some people might go like, “Yeah, I really don’t like that guy. Boy, he’s like super cocky and, you know, he thinks his…doesn’t stink,” or whatever it is. And, you know, like, honestly, at 39 years old, I just don’t give a…if they think that.
George: I can pretty much see it coming a mile away when somebody is super driven and then you dig into it with him, they’ll tell you, “Well, this is what happened and I’m gonna do everything in my power to run as far away from that.” So, well, good for you.
It’s time to fix the body
Now, let’s talk about one more thing. You and I have a number of things in common. We’ve got another thing in common is Todd Collins is wasting away. But you’ve never looked healthier and you’ve never looked happier. And, you know, it’s an amazing transformation in eight months.
Todd: Eight months. This was all part of the plan. Like, just my original plan. My original plan was to fix all of these specific things, and then it came time to fix the body. Because I was like, “Okay, I’ve fixed the mind, now it’s time to fix the body. Like, how do I wanna appear in the physical world? What do I wanna look like? What do I want to…will I feel better about myself and hold myself better if I look this specific way?” And I just made the decision to do it.
And then it’s just like anything else. It’s just like work, right? You know this. Like there’s some days you wake up and you’re just like, “No, I don’t wanna go to the gym today.” Or even in the afternoon, you’re like, “I don’t have time to go to the gym.” And the one thing that I’ve learned from that is that that is complete bull. You know it is. You just don’t make the excuses. And everything that you can translate into working out, getting yourself in shape, making sure that you’re watching what you eat and putting into your body, it can all translate back to your work ethic and the ability to take care of yourself. And you can be a great salesperson, but eventually, you’re gonna wear yourself out. And if you’re not in, you know, top physical peak condition then it’s gonna end up catching up with you anyway. So it was just the next logical step, right?
Waking up motivated
George: Is the long hours and the work ethic and all those things easier than it was eight months ago because of what’s sitting across from here?
Todd: Yeah, 100%. And I think you can resonate to that too, right? Like, I mean, I get up and like I’m ready to go. You know, and before it was very difficult for me to wake up in the mornings. I was like, you know, slugging myself out of bed. I was like, “I can’t make it through another day.” And like now it’s like I can’t wait to get to the gym, man.
So I think with people like us and my attention deficit disorder might have something to do with it, I don’t know, but when I find something that I find interesting, I become obsessed with it, and then I want to be the best at it and then I wanna reach a specific goal. So that’s exactly what I did. I said, “All right, I’m giving myself…” And I actually gave myself 10 months. I said, “I’m giving myself 10 months, I wanna weigh this much. I wanna look like this. I wanna take my shirt off and see a freaking six-pack. I want big pecs and I want big arms.”
Writing down your goals
George: Well, I haven’t seen you with your shirt off and that’s fine. Don’t do it. It’s all good. But let’s talk about this goal-setting thing. You brought up a number of times, “This was all part of the plan. I set these goals.” It’s so bloody important to set those goals. And most people just don’t get it. Tony Robbins has this comment about, “You’re another year older and you’re no close to the goals you don’t have.” And, you know, some people say, “Oh you’re a bloody Tony Robbins disciple.” I went to Tony Robbins two years ago and my life has never been going better.
Todd: Go to Tony Robbins and then come out of there and tell me you’re not a disciple of Tony Robbins. I’m gonna be eating lunch with him and Gary Vaynerchuk next month on the 3rd of May, May 2nd, so look me up on Facebook and LinkedIn and you’ll see me with those guys and hanging out with them.
And, I mean, that’s the other thing is that the minute that you start kind of…you know, listen to what these guys say. Take the little bits and pieces from them. I think Gary said like, you know, “Get rid of the people that are weighing you down.” Just get rid of them out. You just get them completely out of your circle. Just do it. Like, they’re not even worth having. So just like only hang around the people that you feel as if you deserve to be…you want to almost model yourself after from that standpoint. And, you know, I’m not gonna sit here and say like, “Hey, look, I haven’t…” You’re a part of that. Dennis is a part of that. Gary is a part of that. You know, Russell Brunson, again, that’s another guy part of it.
Like we talked about ClickFunnels today. I mean, I had two or three people walk out of the conference and say, “I can’t believe these guys didn’t know what ClickFunnels were. Like, some of the people that were in the con.” And I’m like, you know, “This is the education part where you need to self-educate and you need to teach yourself.” But writing those things down, my God, come on, man.
People you surround yourself with
George: You said something about surrounding yourselves with people that get you towards those goals, people that…it’s a positive influence in your life. We don’t like to hear the truth, but the truth is the thing that’s going to help you get to that goal.
Todd: I think the funny thing is we don’t like to hear from other people. You know, the one thing about this world right now is that we really hate seeing people succeed. It’s like almost like it irks us because what ends up happening is you look at it and you’re like, “Well, why can’t I be there? Like, I can do that. Like, that guy is a…like, look how he acts up there,” and, like, things like that.
And it’s like, “Are you really pissed at me, man? Are you really mad at me? Are you mad at yourself because you didn’t put the work in to get there or be asked to do that?” And, like, I think that’s really what it comes down to is that’s really…you’re pissed at yourself, man. You’re not pissed at me or you’re not pissed at George. You’re not pissed at Dennis or Gary or Tony Robbins. Like, everybody is gonna have these like haters out there, right? If you go back and you look at the haters, you start dissecting the haters and what they’re doing, really what they are is they’re just not working hard enough.
George: Now listen, if you don’t have haters, you’re not doing anything cool.
Todd: I’m good with having haters, man. Like, you can hate on me all you want.
George: Of everybody that I know, you’re the one person who’s like, “Yeah, give me some haters.”
Todd: Yeah, man.
Philosophy for motivation
George: Todd, you are one of the most motivated people that I’ve ever met. Tell me what the philosophy is. What’s underneath the hood? What’s the philosophy?
Todd: So it’s funny you say that because so Dennis and I were actually talking earlier, and I looked at him and I said, you know, “I’ll walk into that room here in a few minutes, and I will not be the smartest guy in that room. In my opinion, you might be, but I believe that I’m the hardest worker in the room.” And you might believe that you’re the hardest worker in the room and Dennis might believe that he’s the hardest worker in the room and this guy might also believe that, I don’t have that mindset. I believe 100% on any room that I walk into that I will outwork the…out of you. And I will just bury you because… That’s why I post on LinkedIn and Facebook all the time. And when you guys were on Easter and you guys were ~ with your families, I was in the gym working out at 7 in the morning, then I got back up and went right back to my office and started working. I work on the days that you’re not working because that’s how I stay ahead of you.
And you can either accept that lifestyle or you can run from that lifestyle. And that’s okay. That’s a personal decision that you’ve gotta make. And it may not fit your life. And that’s okay, but it fits mine. And so do I believe that I’m gonna burn out? No, I don’t.
George: And what about stress?
Todd: I just choose what I get stressed about and then I find a solution. Like, I’m not gonna sit there and like cry about it, right? Like, if one of my clients has a problem, just find the solution. Make them happy and move on to the next one. Because you’re gonna have another fire that’s gonna follow up. So you’ve just got to accept the fact that when you wanna be the man, that you’re gonna have things that you’re gonna have to deal with on a daily basis, and you’ve just gotta figure out a solution to it and make it happen. There’s always a solution to a problem and you’ve gotta figure it out. So people can try to burn me out, it’s just not gonna happen.
George: These other changes that you’re making, this is a better Todd Collins sitting across the table from me than a year ago. So congratulations.
Todd: I think that’s like the next steps. I think the next step here is like now, you know, Nick and I are gonna be trying to help other people understand that they can build a business using a software like Vendasta to rebuild their lives and change their lives and really put them on the track where they can be free and enjoy their life, because as far as we know we get one, right? So we’ve gotta enjoy it and we really have to make sure that we’re taking advantage of it. And being in a place like Banff, I’m walking outside and sitting in a hot tub pool and looking up this gigantic mountain, I would have never thought that five years ago sitting in a basement, you know, broke off my… So.
George: Yeah. You know, there also is another lesson in it is there were some times when things were good in my life and there were some times where things were total dog****.
George: So when something good is happening, I enjoy every minute of it. It’s so important to enjoy the good times because they may not come around again or you may be heading…something might happen. So you better enjoy those good times. I admire the fact you’re gonna get jet-lagged and you’re gonna be at your son’s baseball game on Saturday.
Todd: Right man.
George: And thanks for joining us on the podcast.
Todd: Thanks, George. I appreciate it.
George: Well, listen, when we recorded that interview at VendastaCon, it was emotional. Todd got emotional, I got emotional because he believes something that has been proven over and over again throughout history and I really believe it to be true, and that is, with the right mindset, you can work yourself out of any problem. And the other thing about writing down your goals and putting everything you have into achieving those goals and staying laser-focused on them, it’s a great motivating podcast. We really hope that you appreciate it. I’m really looking for feedback on it. And so is Todd. I’m gonna share the feedback that we get from this podcast with Todd. And you can look him up on Twitter. He’s on Facebook. He is an active Instagrammer. And remember this name, Todd Collins because I think you’re gonna see some amazing things from him.
Connect with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for coming out this week. It is “Conquer Local,” the podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.