Discover how to apply the successful strategies of the top franchise businesses to your business with guest Scott Greenberg, author of The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar.
05:45 – Three factors that determine how successful we will be: circumstances, operations and everything human.
08:17 – How successful businesses pivoted during the pandemic.
10:38 – Why some companies died on the vine during the pandemic.
12:36 – Three big problems for business owners.
15:32 – How to get back to better decision making.
20:37 – The deep emotional need to gather.
21:45 – How to treat the pandemic like the wakeup call it is.
This is The WealthAbility® Show with Tom Wheelwright. Way more money, way less taxes.
Welcome to The WealthAbility Show, where we’re always discovering how to make way more money and pay way less tax.
This is Tom Wheelwright, your host, founder, and CEO of WealthAbility.
So during this pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of businesses do really well, and a lot of businesses do really badly. A lot of businesses are just plain out of business. So what’s the difference? What is it that successful businesses have done, either in preparation for a potential pandemic, if that was even possible, or during the pandemic. And then what do we see for the future? We’re going to have changes coming on, the vaccine gets out. What changes are we going to see, and how do we pivot that direction? So we want to look at all of these because I know you’re business owners, your entrepreneurs, your investors. And how do we actually make this change? And we’re going to look at very successful franchises and franchises they haven’t done so well.
And we have a world-renowned franchise expert on our show today. And I just want to make sure I get his book right. Scott Greenberg is the author of The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar. I like that. Thriving franchise superstar. And Scott, it is so great to have you on The WealthAbility Show. Thanks so much for being here today.
It’s my pleasure.
So tell us a little bit about yourself, Scott. Where you came from, your franchise experience, and what you’re doing now.
Sure. Well, nobody sets out to get into the franchise space. Everyone ends up there. They usually enter through a back door, having done something else. The typical franchise owner is a person who has a job somewhere, and then one day wakes up and realizes that he or she hates their boss or hates their job. They’ve always wanted to have their own business. And a franchise is very tempting because you can easily transition to something new without having to be particularly innovative or creative. You pay the franchise fee, you sign the documents, and then they very quickly show you how to get the business open and up and running. And before you know what you’re doing it.
And so that was the case for me. I had actually been a professional motivational speaker for many years prior to doing it. And then two things happened. My wife and I were starting a family, and I didn’t want to travel quite as much. So I didn’t want to give up speaking, but I wanted to speak less so I could be home more. The other thing was, here I was this guy who was talking about leadership, having not actually done too much leadership since I was in high school. And I didn’t want to be one of these people’s all about theory. I wanted to actually get some real experience in the weeds and have a business that could be a laboratory for me, as well as a source of revenue.
So when I had that thought, my father happened to show me a airline magazine with an ad for a new company called Edible Arrangements. And there’s this picture of this big floral arrangement made out of fruit. And I thought, “That’s cool.” And I live in LA. We hadn’t had anything like that. There’s a lot of gift giving here, and people like health. And so before I knew it, I was on a plane and signing contracts and looking for locations. And so I built the first, what would be two, Edible Arrangements. I built one. It did very well. It became sort of the flagship Edible Arrangements in California. And then a few years later, I took over a struggling one, and we turned it around.
So because of that experience, I started getting invitations to speak at franchise conferences for many other brands. And whenever I’m brought in to speak, I always do a lot of interviews with the organizations bringing me in, and then people who are in the audience. So in this case, I started interviewing franchisees from many brands all over the world, including their top franchisees. The number one ranked franchisees. And when you interview enough of these people in enough places, enough brands, you start to see the trends. What they all have in common. And that’s what I have found interesting.
So the work that I do today… I sold my businesses five years ago. So now I work full time traveling around helping businesses, and especially franchise businesses, understand the tactics and the mindset and the habits of these top franchise owners. So all the work I do is really about helping people understand what those tactics and mindsets are, and then replicating them so they can get the same results.
Thinking about trends… Okay? And you look at what… Let’s look at some trends this year. Okay? In the franchise business. There are some obvious big winners this year in the franchise business. McDonald’s has been a big winner. Of course, they redid all of their drive-throughs a year ago. So it was like they were prescient about this. It was almost like they knew it was coming. Then we have a Chick-fil-A that has long lines out, and it managed those lines.
So we’ve seen those successful ones. What’s really the difference? When you look at the trends, what’s the difference between the successful franchisee, really, not just the successful franchise, but the successful franchisee during this time period versus the unsuccessful franchisee? What are some of the trends that you’ve seen?
Okay. It’s such an important question because we want to know what the best people are doing, so we can replicate that. But what a lot of people don’t understand is they see the results, and then they start to make assumptions about why they got those results. So it’s easy to look at individual franchisees or brands and see who’s thriving and say, “Well, they were smart because they did X, Y, or Z.” Well, maybe they anticipated it and predicted it. In some cases, they got lucky, and it worked out.
In fact, what I tell people is we have three factors that determine how successful we’re going to be. There’s our circumstances, which is the weather, the competition, the economy. And of course the pandemic. We don’t control these things. And sometimes circumstances work to our favor. And sometimes not so much. I wanted to get my bike fixed during the pandemic. I took it to a bike shop. And they said it was going to be four weeks before they could get to my bike because so many people are biking now that they’re that busy. Now, are they particularly smart? That they had foresight? Circumstances just worked out for them. So I’m very happy for them, but am I going to give them credit? I don’t know. So anyway, so there’s circumstances.
Second thing is what most of us focus on, it’s everything operational. So that is our tactics. That is the decisions that brands like McDonald’s are making. It’s their sales and their marketing and their tactics and all the stuff that we pay attention to. Right? The work, the stuff, that keeps us busy. But there’s a lot of people, even within brands, who embrace those tactics, those operations, but they’re still not getting the same results as other great locations.
And it’s because of this third factor, which is everything human. The fact that each of us bring. It’s our individual mindset and, collectively, our culture. And so I think that for a lot of individual franchise businesses, the difference between those people, even within McDonald’s, between the thriving McDonald’s franchisee and the struggling one, it’s easy to assume, “Well, it’s their specific location or something tactical.” But very often it is their emotional state. The way they relate to emotionally to the pandemic. “AM I embracing change and leaning into it? Am I resisting it? Am I taking that PP money and using it to survive? Or my reinvesting it to hire more employees for capital improvements?” Based on my emotions. And so that human factor, I think, makes an enormous difference.
So really getting to your question about what is the difference, I think for some brands, it really is simple as circumstances just suddenly lined up for them. That they have the kind of business that in a situation where people are at home and they want to get things delivered, if they were set up for delivery, then they were ready to go. If they’re a business that focuses on improving people’s home lives… Well, you know what? Everyone’s at home more, and so that worked out. If you’re a business that relies on people leaving their homes and having an in-person experience at your establishment, well, in a different set of circumstances, that might’ve been a really great, smart business model. Who would have anticipated that the government would tell us to stay home? So there’s the circumstantial piece.
Then of course there was this operational piece. And so what I’m observing is there are a lot of brands and a lot of individual franchisees who are very quick to change their tactics. So for example, one of my clients is PrideStaff, which is a staffing franchise based in Fresno, California. So they had definitely had to pivot. Not just because what they do is they help workers physically go into work environments and work, but their marketing involves walking into businesses and shaking hands with people and dropping off materials. So they have changed their tactics to market more on the phone and do things more electronically and all kinds of small things within their system. They were very quick to do it, and now that businesses are starting to hire employees again, that’s what they’re telling me, their tactics are really working. That’s what their franchisees are telling me. For those franchisees who are willing to do it.
And one franchisee I interviewed just last week, because I’m speaking to them again tomorrow virtually, he admitted that his franchise owner has given him all kinds of ideas, but he hasn’t embraced them yet. And-
So why is that why? So that’s fascinating to me, too, because of course I see… I have lots of different clients. They’re all business owners. Some franchises, but a lot of them not franchises. And what I see is that those who actually embrace this as an opportunity are really all doing well. I mean, they’re having… I have clients that are having their best years, I mean their record years, this year. And they’re not in a business that you would think would lend itself to that. Okay? Whether it’s as somebody who teaches stock trading or somebody who does… And I mean, really, any kind of business. Service businesses. Right? I mean, there are certain service businesses that are just booming.
But what I’m finding, and I’d like your feedback on this, is that those who actually embraced it and said, “Okay, this is great. What can I do now?” Because a lot of my clients said, “Well, this is really just accelerating something that was coming anyway. We’re going to have to go to online. People were going to get away from going into the office all the time. This is a natural trend. The pandemic just accelerated it.” And they embraced it. Those people have all done well.
Those people who’ve fought it have just died on the vine. Absolutely died on the vine. When it goes to that… Because to me, that’s the third one you’re talking about. Right? That’s that third issue: the people, the emotional side. Are you finding that that’s the case, with the example of your franchisee, some franchisees just aren’t embracing? Are they just resisting because of their own preconceived notions?
Yes. And getting back to what you’re saying and think about the people who… Your audience for this podcast. You think about the stock market. What drives the stock market more than anything? It’s profit and cost and that kind of thing. It’s consumer confidence. It’s the emotions of the marketplace. Right? If the marketplace were just made up of computers, just doing the trading, and they were just looking at dollars and cents and having some algorithm, the market would fluctuate very differently compared to… The head of the fed sneezes, and suddenly people are panicking and they’re selling. Or the president makes some kind of comment, and suddenly everyone’s buying shares of this or selling shares of that. We see how the emotions of the market are reflected in pricing and the value of a number of items.
Well, I think that’s true for people who are running businesses. That they don’t appreciate how much their emotions impact their decisions. And it really comes down to their brain. Are they making decisions from their amygdala, which is all about the fight or flight response? Or from their prefrontal cortex, which is logic, reason, and problem solving. When our amygdala is activated, meaning when we’re freaking out, it blocks the neural pathways to the prefrontal cortex. So what does that mean? You get that email from your franchisor that because of the pandemic we have to shut down or change these policies. Well, for a lot of franchisees, the amygdala kicks in. It is all emotion, and it’s fear, and it’s catastrophizing.
And I think there’s three problems with this pandemic. There’s the health problem, which is the worst. There’s the economic one. But the third one that no one’s talking about are all the bad business decisions that people are making because they’re giving into the emotion. And when this is done, and once Pfizer has saved us and it’s gone, what won’t be gone are all these bad decisions and people selling their businesses way too early. There’s going to be a lot of sweeping up because of people gave into their emotion and their amygdala and not their prefrontal cortex. And so within franchise systems, that is what I’m seeing. People are resistant to change. They give into fear.
What do people do about that? I mean, is this just a natural state? We all know there’s the optimist and there’s the pessimists. There’s the people who embrace change normally. Some of us just are always looking for change. One of our corporate values is break it. So if it’s not ready to be changed, we want to break it and change it anyway. That’s who we are. But a lot of people, that’s not what they grew up with.
And especially, I would think, a franchisee. Because you get into franchise because, “Yeah, you’d like to be in business, but you want it to be safe.” Right? And I mean, if you weren’t worried about safety, you might start your own business or go out and buy a small business and then build it into a franchise, as opposed to going and buy a franchise. Franchises certainly an easier way, a quicker way, to get started.
So how do you deal with those emotions? Okay, so you lead this off with you started out as a motivational speaker. So what are the things you’re telling your clients as to how to change their emotional intelligence? How do they correct that?
Okay. So you’re right. There are some people who are just born naturally resilient and naturally adaptable. And then there’s people like me. Then there’s the rest of us where it doesn’t come naturally, in spite of that job title motivational speaker. But in the same way, there’s some people who just naturally have big muscles. The rest of us have to go to the gym. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t build the muscles up. When it comes to that mental strength… Or I love the phrase, “Emotional intelligence.” It’s something that we’ve all heard by now. Some people have it naturally, the rest of us can replicate it.
So as far as what you do and how you do it, let me first say what I don’t tell people. It’s not about positivity. I don’t preach positivity. I don’t preach optimism. You know from being in business that no one is going to make more money or solve problems or cut their costs through hope, or through faith. In fact, a lot of people make some really bad, irresponsible, impulsive decisions based just on positive attitude. So I don’t preach positivity. I definitely don’t preach negativity.
What I preach is clarity. Being able to clear your mind of all the emotions, all the subjectivity, and look at things objectively. And so that requires reflection. It doesn’t mean stop feeling your emotions. It just means that you catch yourself being emotional, take a deep breath, go for a walk, talk to… Whatever you got to do. Wait till you’re calm. That’s when you’re going to be able to evaluate your circumstances much more productively. So being able to get back to what I call that point of clarity and making decisions there, just as a computer would, I think is going to lead to much better decisions.
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So accountants, we’re known for not having any emotion. Right? They say that an outgoing accountant is one who looks at your shoes instead of his own shoes. Right? That’s kind of who we are. Well, we rely on numbers. Right? We look at numbers. And I’m curious what you think about this. But it seems to me that when you break it down to the numbers, the numbers can take the emotion out of it. If you say, “Well, look, here’s what the numbers are. Let’s just look at the numbers. Don’t worry about the business for right now. Let’s take a minute and just break this down, and analyze what the numbers are telling us.” As a franchise consultant, you’ve got to be working with the numbers on a regular basis.
Absolutely. And that’s, again, where the best decisions are made. There is a franchisee from GNC, General Nutrition Centers, who freaked out when their corporate office opened a mini GNC inside a Rite Aid drug store, not far from his retail store. When that happened, sales went down. So he called his corporate office and freaked out. And so his corporate office looked at the data.
And what they found is yes, sales dropped right around the time when they started selling products in a nearby Rite Aid. But what the data also showed is that while his gross sales dropped, his number of transactions increased. In fact, one could argue… It’s hard to prove. But one could argue that the increased brand awareness in the Rite Aid caused more people to walk into his business. The problem is his average ticket went down. He and his team weren’t engaging their customers. They weren’t selling. So they had more opportunities, but they weren’t taking advantage. Well, once his franchise owner was able to give him that data, then he’s able to calm down and say, “Yeah, I just saw less money in the bank. And I started freaking out.”
I hear stories like this all the time. Now here’s the thing. It’s not that there isn’t a place for emotion in business. In fact, I would say to the accountants who are listening here, there’s two levels at which you serve your clients. In terms of preparing your taxes, it’s all about the numbers. But whether or not your clients come to you, it’s not just based on what you give them, it’s also in how you make them feel. They’re coming to you for a tax return. But they’re also coming to you to relieve stress. They’re coming… Well, you know better than I do what the emotional need is there. They’re not saying that, they’re not thinking it, but there’s an emotional need. And it’s that emotion more than anything else that will determine if they’re going to come back to you next year, and if they’re going to recommend a friend.
So we use emotions in order to have influence on other people, to serve them at a higher level. But then when the time comes for us to make business decisions for ourselves or behalf of clients, that’s what we need to come from more objective place. Especially when they can’t.
Okay. So we know that… When we were… Before we started this morning, I was telling you… We were talking about the pandemic and so forth. And I said, “I find the energy in the air to be very heavy.” Right? So it’s just a tougher energy. So as things free up, and that energy starts to get a little better, what are you telling your clients on how to prepare for the future? How to prepare, for example, is everybody going to come back into the restaurants? Is everybody going to come back to their offices? What are you telling people, and how are you telling them how to prepare for what’s next?
Well, I happen to have a fantastic crystal ball. So I’m going to tell you exactly what’s going to happen. And the truth is, I’m obviously being a little sarcastic there, but certainly based anecdotally on myself and everyone I know, I think people are dying to get back to movie theaters, to parties, to handshakes and hugs, to all the irresponsible things we were doing before. We don’t want to live in bubbles. We really don’t. And the fact that there are so many people who are doing those things anyway, defying what science recommends, it’s because there’s such a deep, emotional need to gather.
And so I think the idea of eating out, of going to bowling alleys… I don’t know why I’m thinking of bowling alleys. This isn’t the 1950s. Wherever people go to have fun. I think people are ready to do that. I think many of them are ready to do it now. And many of them are. So I don’t doubt that. So certainly for restaurants, you pivot the best you can. And if the laws are preventing people from having an in-dining experience, that’s not something you can control. So you do the best you can to offer delivery, to offer takeout. But if you can just hang in there, somehow financially make it happen, I believe that business is going to come roaring back.
I can tell you in my neighborhood, I can tell you that there’s one family that will eat out every day for six months once the opportunity comes. And I don’t think that we’re alone there. So I think for right now, it is about how long can you hold your breath. I think things will come back. Most of my income is from live presentations. I’m doing a lot of virtual now, but it’s live presentations. Well, I did one yesterday. And people were so pleased to be able to get back together. That’s going to come back. I’m certain it is. So part of it is surviving in the short term, because in the long-term, I think people are definitely going to want that experience.
However, this pandemic has served as a huge wake-up call that we just can’t rely on circumstances ever again being exactly what they were. We need to operate as if there’s going to be another pandemic or another reason why we’re going to have to stay home. So the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty. And what gets people through uncertainty? Actually having a lot of working capital. And having a backup plan, financially. But then emotionally, always being willing to adapt and change and be flexible. You don’t want to have a business that relies on one set of circumstances. You need to be able to pivot in any… And that means just brainstorming and anticipating. Getting the most cynical person you can find and have them just predict every bad possible thing that can happen. And before it does, before you’re feeling the emotion, think about it objectively, come up with contingency plans so if and when some of those things happen, you’re ready to go. So there’s actually a place for negativity and pessimism: when you’re trying to prepare for catastrophe before catastrophe happens.
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And one things that I’ve found over the years is that those who do well in hard times do that much better. And in fact, they do better in the succeeding good times than they would have done, had it not been for the hard times at all. Because when money is tight, then you tend to tighten your belt. One of the questions I have for you is what do you think has been the effect of government assistance? Is this a good thing, or has this actually hurt some businesses because it made it too easy for them?
I’m really curious about that because this is a big discussion in Congress. Right? Are people staying home because they get… Were they staying home because they got $600 a week in unemployment? Are businesses not worried because they got the PPP loans that are all going to be forgiven? What’s your take on government assistance in its role in either keeping businesses alive or actually keeping businesses from having to do what they should’ve been doing in the first place?
Yeah. I’m not an economist, and so I wouldn’t say that I have an expert perspective on this. I can only speak to the clients I’ve interacted with in my own personal experience. What I can say is that… I mentioned before about one of my clients is PrideStaff, that staffing agency. Well, part of what they need to do are find workers. And so many of the franchisees who I interviewed said, “Well, we’re having a harder time finding workers because a lot of people would rather stay home and collect unemployment than work.” And I asked the corporate office. I said, “Hey, some of your franchisees reported this. Is it true?” And they said, “Yes.” But then I know that Yale did a study that suggested no, that actually was not the case. So do we trust the academics who did this wide study, or do we trust the people who are in the staffing business, trying to find workers and hearing what the issues are?
But what was interesting is, again, among PrideStaff, some people use the PPP money to keep the doors open, try to survive. But when I talked to one franchisee, she went ahead and she hired another salesperson. She really invested that money, and now they’re doing better than they were last year because they’re being so much more aggressive, whereas their competition has slowed down. So I think it depends on how the PPP money is being used. And so once again, those who are freaking out and using it for fear, it’s buying them a little time, but not much. But those who are using it for what it’s for, which is mainly for workers, but who are really investing in their business and doubling down, they’re the ones who are reaping the benefits.
No, I like that approach. I mean, we’ve actually used it that way. Okay? Where we had some struggles because we… Nobody wanted to spend money. Right? I mean, there was a time in March where literally nobody wanted to spend money. March and April. So every business had struggle, unless you were Amazon. Every business was struggling because people were holding on tight to their money. And so what we found is… We’ve done the same thing. We are actually hired several more people. We have much, much more, many more people, than we had before. But what the PPP loan did was give us a little bit of comfort to go, “Okay, we can handle this. And so it’ll work that way.”
So it sounds like it just depends on… Again, it comes back to emotional intelligence. And it comes back to sitting down and looking at your numbers, and what is it you need to do in order to survive and thrive. And is this the last pandemic? I mean, a lot of the scientists are saying, “No. This is going to be a more common phenomenon as… Just the way people behave these days. It’s just going to get more and more common with all the travel back and forth between the countries and so forth.”
So what are a couple of things… If you could give people a couple of practical thoughts of what could they be doing over the next few months? And what should they be doing so that they’re prepared for whatever comes?
There are three timeless universal truths that help us in all business situations. Pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, post-pandemic, regardless of the industry you’re in or what you do. I mentioned there’s those three factors. Right? There’s the circumstances, there are operations, there’s the human side. When I look at top performers in any industry, on top of favorable circumstances and operational expertise, which are just the prerequisites for success, what high-level people have in common is mastery over this human element. And there’s three parts to that, which is really the answer to your question.
It’s being very mindful of how you think, how you lead, and how you serve. So what does that look like? The way you think is this. You keep a clear head, so you’re coming from an objective place. Always return to your point of clarity, and then always commit to continuous improvement. Being flexible, being adaptable. Always thinking in those terms. It’s not about being the best, it’s about being better. Better than yourself. So continuously improving and keeping a clear head, so you’re making good objective decisions based on data.
Then there is how we lead, which is about leading the systems that we have around us and embracing those systems and improving them. But also in how we lead other people. So to bring out the best in other people, especially when they’re freaking out because of the pandemic, we can’t just focus on their skillset. We also must focus on their mindset. How they feel, their emotions. And right now, in the pandemic, a lot of workers and other people are freaking out. So if we can help them emotionally and build their confidence, build their tolerance to risk, that kind of thing, we’re going to get better performance. So we have to lead more effectively by focusing on skillset as well as on mindset.
And then finally, there’s how we serve. And these are competitive, disruptive times. Pandemic aside. Well, I believe the companies that provide the best emotional experience for customers are the brands that win. I would say the same thing about accountants. The accountants that win aren’t just the ones who are saving people the most money, but who mentally, emotionally, are elevating their clients. That when I leave my accountant’s office, when I hang up the phone or I finish an email, I feel better having talked to this person. So it’s not just about what the customer or client gets. Equally important is how the customer feels. And during times like a pandemic where people are raw, we have to look to those ways to connect with them, human to human. To recognize the emotional state they’re in.
And I’ll give you an example from your world. Several years ago, through various reasons, we went through a perceived economic crisis in my household. I was having a month where suddenly sales dropped, and financially it suddenly seems really dark. Everyone’s freaking out. And I called my financial planner, and I said, “So what can I do here?” And he says, “Well, can you just make a budget?” He didn’t recognize what I really needed was my hand held. I needed the emotion.
Well, a friend of mine has a great financial planner and said, “Hey, he’ll talk to you and give some advice.” And the guy immediately started talking to my emotions. He said, “First of all, I think you’re in a better position than you think you are. And here’s why.” And he first focused on building my confidence on… He was very deliberate about elevating my emotional state without asking for my business. That’s an opportunity for us to serve them at a higher level, not just by solving their problem, but by finding a way to connect them, human to human, and elevating their emotional state. You do that, you’re going to win their business.
I love it. So Scott Greenberg. The book is The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar. Scott, I love your focus on looking internally, on personal development. That’s been my experience, too, is that those who are successful in business are not just focused on the operational side, but they’re focused on the personal side. And in fact, they probably focused on the personal side first, and then they can do the operational side a lot easier, because like you say, they have clarity. And that clarity is so much more important than even the optimism. So I appreciate that, Scott.
Hopefully, we’ll be doing we’ll be doing these things together. We’ll be able to do live presentations again. And we’ll be going back to restaurants, movie theaters, which I personally am like you, I personally crave just going to a movie theater and enjoying that. But I love the ideas that you presented, Scott. How could somebody get in touch with you or where should they go besides your book?
You can find me on all the social media platforms. Again, my name is Scott Greenberg. My website is scottgreenberg.com. B-E-R-G. And all the information about me is there.
Awesome. Thank you so much. And thanks everyone for listening. Just remember that, when you work on your emotional intelligence, which has really been the theme today, then you’re able to pivot. You’re able to change. You’re able to grow. And you’re able to handle difficult circumstances. And when you do that, you’re always going to be making way more money and paying way less tax. Thanks. We’ll see you next time.
You’ve been listening to the WealthAbility Show with Tom Wheelwright. Way more money, way less taxes. To learn more, go to wealthability.com.