Episode 146: How To Achieve Entrepreneurship Growth Through Human Connection With Shawn Finnegan
A successful entrepreneurship career is not only about having a unique business idea or amassing a huge capital. Above anything else, it relies on genuine human connection. Brett Gilliland sits down with Shawn Finnegan, a Partner at Tax Hive, to share how building lasting relationships saved their business after losing a huge chunk of their funds. Shawn emphasizes why entrepreneurs should spend a lot of time and effort on creating deep connections with the people around them, which could save them from many troubles in the long run.
> What the podcast will teach you:
- The importance of building genuine relationships with good salespeople
- The impact of creating joint ventures and affiliate deals
- How to prioritize human connection in your business tasks and goals
- How to find new partnerships from your existing contacts
- The best way to maximize business referrals
- The right approach to developing relationships during live events
- Website: https://taxhive.com/
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Listen to the podcast here
Our guest for this episode is no exception to all of the exceptional guests that we have. His name is Shawn Finnegan. Shawn is a partner at Tax Hive. His business is located in Utah. He’s made a name for himself as somebody who has innovative strategies and exceptional networking skills. We’ll get to talking about that a little bit more. I want to tell you a little bit more about Shawn before I welcome him to speak.
Being in the trenches of both massive and small businesses, Shawn has discovered that any company’s success hinges on its ability to nurture genuine connections. He focuses on building professional relationships that mutually benefit all involved emphasizing the importance of being authentic and transparent in all business interactions. Let me go ahead and officially welcome you, Shawn. Thank you for joining us on the show.
Thank you so much, Brett. It’s great to be here.
I’m fascinated by the idea that all business only happens through genuine human connection. Tell us more about your thinking about that, your approach to that, and how it’s benefited Tax Hive and other businesses that you’ve worked with.
Years ago, I had a business that I was operating. I didn’t have anything. I started from scratch. I was like, “I’m going to build this business.” I had me and a couple of other partners at the time. We went down to a Hogi Yogi place. It was a sandwich place. We did these meetings and developed this idea that we’re going to start a business and make an impact. We then decided to go out and raise funds. I had this incredible plan. On the plan, on the spreadsheet, it showed me that I’d be a millionaire.
Spreadsheets are amazing. It’s magical. It’s going to create $1 million for me. I was excited about it. We had a plan and then we brought on some people. We had people, the plan done, and then it was time for me to raise capital. This was in 2009. I raised $1.5 million. It took me about 4 or 5 months to raise the money. Raising funds is not an easy thing. You have to sit down in front of investors. I was pre-revenue and I had a plan. It showed me I was going to be a millionaire in my plan. I had to sit down with people and raise $1.5 million. That was a whole new experience. We brought on multiple investors and raised $1.5 million.
You raised some money and got a perfect plan. It sounds like you had some people to help you make this happen. Then what?
If you were to get a time machine and go back to 2009 and get out of the time machine, at that point, I felt like I was on top of the world because I came from nothing. My dad worked at a bookstore for 40 years. I had some savings but not a lot of money to start this business. Now, I raised $1.5 million and I had a group of people that were incredible people and this incredible plan.
I’m a business partner with Kevin O’Leary, the Shark Tank guy. One of his quotes is, “In business, poo-poo happens.” For me, poo-poo happened in the next twelve months. You name it. It happened. I had problems with operations and marketing. This was in 2009. We all know the history of 2009. My sales weren’t nearly what they were supposed to be, according to my spreadsheet because 2009 going through a recession was a difficult time. I had blown through the $1.5 million in 12 months. It was gone. I’m trying to figure it out.
Let’s talk about the emotional weight of that. You go to investors with a great plan and they buy into your plan. You have their money and their money’s gone twelve months later. Things aren’t going to plan. What was that like?
You’ve gone to these investors and you’re like, “Have faith and confidence in me because I’m going to go build a business and these are my projections.” When you’re way off on your projections, it’s embarrassing. You feel defeated. They have that side of the money that people felt confident giving you money to get a return on and you’ve lost the return. There’s that side.
You have your friends and family side that you have to face knowing, “I’ve failed miserably in this business that I set out to make an impact on. The business is destroyed.” You have these multiple fronts of this pressure that is building upon your shoulders knowing that you had failed in a business that you attempted to create.
Some of the people who are reading this know personally what that is like. I’m right there with you.
There’s a big difference between problems and pain. The problem was I had a failing business but it created much deeper pain, like real physical pain. For me, rock bottom was on a Thursday night when payroll was due the next day on Friday. I was $1,000 short and I didn’t have $1,000 to my name to make payroll. I had about $1,500 in the bank and I payroll the next day, it was $2,500. What that meant is I had to wake up the next day and go meet with someone saying, “Here’s an IOU. I can’t pay you this week.” That is a horrific thing. It’s horrible. That night, I had so much anxiety. I sat in my bed and I remember all night staring at the ceiling like, “What am I going to do tomorrow?”
I had a direct deposit payroll company. I told them, “Don’t run the checks.” I’m hoping for a miracle in the morning on some deposit. There is no deposit. It goes on at about noon. It’s this sick feeling of you having to tell, “You had faith and confidence in me and jumping on the team that we’re going to do well and we sucked. I can’t even pay you,” which affects their family. What happened is I went to lunch and I’m sitting down with my business partner at the time. We were like, “What have we tapped? Is there anything we can do?” We’re talking about $1,000 and I had $1.5 million in the time machine, not too much prior time before that. We couldn’t come up with it.
I’m at lunch and I get a phone call from my controller. She said, “Shawn, I want to let you know that I was opening up the petty cash safe. I found $3,000 in petty cash. What would you like me to do with it in cash?” I was like, “Hang on to that cash. I’ll be right there.” I drove to the office, picked up the cash, drove straight to the bank, and put the cash in. It clears immediately. I went into the bank teller and I had physical checks cut for each individual on the team. That’s how close we made it by $1,000 or so. I remember presenting the checks to these employees and going, “This was so much blood, sweat, and tears giving you this check.” I was able to make payroll by that much on that day.
You felt so much emotional energy to handing those checks out because you knew what they represented. The receiving end of that is like, “I worked for you. I’m making good on my agreement. You’re making good on your agreement to pay me.” It’s not a big deal to them but to you, that was monumental. I assume there’s a happy ending to this. You crawl out of this house.
There’s a much better ending. Life is what we signed up for. As entrepreneurs, we know this is what we’re facing. That’s why I love what you do on your channel. I love following your show because you talk about the issue of what it takes to build a business. We all love the reward, potential, and excitement but there are some of those times that are filled with pain. We can all associate times that are not just bad days at the office but real physical pain we experience.Entrepreneurs love the reward and the excitement. But there are some times filled with pain that they associate not just with bad days in the office but real physical pain in their personal lives. Click To Tweet
From there, I knew that I had to change a couple of things so I did two things. 1) I need to bring on salespeople who can sell products. I love good salespeople. Your audiences are in sales. They get a bad rap but salespeople are amazing. I made phone calls on Friday afternoon and say, “Can you come over and sell my stuff?” They’re like, “I can help you. When do you want me to start?” I was like, “Can you start on Monday?” They’re like, “I already have a gig.” I convinced a few people to come sell for me on Monday. On Wednesday, we did a $4,000 sale. It was like the manna from heaven. It was like angels came down and presented me with $4,000, which means I made payroll again.
2) I started saying, “I know that I need help. I needed to get out of my lane.” I was in the grind of every day. I was like, “I need to figure people out there and make relationships that I can scale a business with.” I went out immediately and got uncomfortable. I went up to people I had relationships in the past. I said, “I want to go to lunch with you and find out what you’re doing in marketing. This is my problem.” I then started building these relationships.
Those relationships were the biggest reason why we went on a run. We were able to pay off the $1.5 plus interest to all of them and go on this run. It was only because of the relationships that I had built. I made a vow then and there that I would focus a big percentage of my time on only building relationships with entrepreneurs. That is the one thing that has transformed what I’ve done in my career.
You’ve given us the before and after. It’s enough for us to go, “Shawn has something to share. We know it’s around relationships and the value in those relationships.” If nothing else, we’re practical around here because we deal with a lot of practical founder entrepreneurs. What are some practical tips that you would give for how people can increase the value of their business by either growing or deepening relationships that they have?
I have three rules. It’s important that entrepreneurs, especially those who follow your channel, understand that there are so many people out there that have an incredible following and influence. You have your customers. They have an influence on your potential customers, a lot of them. If I go out there and say, “This person on Instagram has this kind of following,” what if I did a joint venture with that person and I could sell my product to them and create a joint venture and an affiliate arrangement? This could be a great way to scale a business.
It’s like we’re going through this correction in the market. I highly recommend entrepreneurs consider doing more partnerships, joint ventures, and affiliate deals. Go out and do those joint ventures. My common question is what you asked, which is, “Where do you start? How do I get into this? Where do I even begin?” The first rule is you got to want it. You have to want it. It’s not easy. I’m still waiting for an easy business. I haven’t figured that one out yet. If you want to build relationships, you have to prioritize it and it’s not easy with your busy schedules.
I’ll give you an example. I have someone who reached out to me. He’s got a fitness program for entrepreneurs. He said, “I’d like to go to all of the lunches you do and all your things. Invite me to everything. I want to go to all of them.” I invited this person. On the first one, he didn’t show. On the second one, he didn’t show. On the third one, didn’t show. I’m like, “If anything you should be at this lunch, I have 50 entrepreneurs in this room and you can get up and talk about how you can do fitness forum, you should be there.” If you don’t prioritize it, rule number one, then it won’t happen. Prioritizing connecting with people is the first principle or first rule.
You hit on something that’s one of the biggest obstacles of nearly every business owner that we work with. That is mastering their selves enough to put into their calendar things that matter more than other things. Our calendars get filled up almost immediately. Every Monday morning, we do this as a team. We go through the calendar for the week. My calendar is full of stuff. If you gave me the best opportunity on the planet, I would have a hard time fitting it in this week. That happens to most of us. We do this. How do we keep our word around making time for this stuff? We get like, “Yes, that would be so good,” and then we get pulled by the current right back into our business.
There’s so much gravel. What I see with entrepreneurs is they get out their calendars maybe the day before. They’re like, “How do I plan my day for tomorrow?” You do what probably very few do. You have this vision to go out a little bit further and start planning what’s important. It’s such a critical piece. You have to plan first what’s the most important thing for you. Plan that very first in your calendar so the noise and all the gravel doesn’t get in the way.
I’ll give you an example. For me, I read this book called Never Eat Alone. I learned it from my business partner, Kevin O’Leary. Kevin O’Leary is the kind of person that if you’re with him, you feel like a slacker. Are you ever around someone like that? “This guy’s so efficient with his time. It’s amazing.” He is scheduled down to the second. It’s like Stephen R. Covey, which is not urgent but important meetings. He is crushing.
Last January 2022, I said, “Kevin, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” He said, “I want to be 10% more efficient with my time.” That was his target. I’m like, “How are you going to do that?” He said, “I figure that I have to eat lunch and dinner.” When I go into a city like San Diego, his right-hand person will call up the top business owners in San Diego. “Do you want to do lunch with Kevin?” He does lunch with some of the highest-end people. They film it for content so then he found 10% in his schedule.
For me, lunches are extremely important. All my lunches are booked out for two weeks because I get to spend an hour with an entrepreneur. That’s the very first thing I book. I’m like, “Let’s do lunch on Tuesday.” August 1st, 2023 is what I booked because I get an hour and a half with someone. Start with the most important things first and then put in the other stuff.
Somehow, we can’t slow down enough to do it but I want to be a second witness on that. We’ve got to make the time for building the future of what’s most important to do now that enables a future that’s better than now. Otherwise, we keep doing the same stuff again and again. What’s your second?
As part of that, it’s like an elephant. A lot of people are like, “Where do I start?” I believe you’ve already made contact so take your phone out and start with your cell phone. The average entrepreneur has hundreds, if not thousands of contacts they’ve already made in their cell phone. 1) Do you think a percentage of those people would buy your product or service? 2) Do you think a percentage of those have a following that has your customers in their following you might want to talk to? Those are the two buckets. 3) You get a fresh perspective that you come in like, “Brett, this is a challenge. I have my business. Can you help me?”
Reach out to those people that you have. We’re good at making a connection. We’re bad at nurturing that connection. Start with five contacts a day. I like old school. I have a spreadsheet old school. I make a list of all of my important contacts, and then daily contacts, monthly contacts, and quarterly. I reach out like, “Brett, how’s it going? Tell me how’s your business going? How’s the show? Give me updates.” You’ll be as shocked making that quick little thing. Take a few minutes a day. Make 5 to 10 contacts a day in the existing network that you’ve built. It’s already sitting there for you. That’s rule number one.
Out of curiosity, are you scheduling appointment times to have those five contacts or do you have a block of time in your day, calling cold, and saying, “I’m thinking of you. What’s up?”
That’s another thing I schedule in my schedule, doing outreach. How many people put in their schedule outreach to connect with people? I have a certain time that I go pull up my phone, look at the spreadsheet, and make sure I’ve contacted certain people. You’ll be shocked. For your audience, they should all do five a day, Monday through Friday, reach out, and prioritize. I made a list of my top priorities where I felt like I could do the best joint venture or connections in my network and start reaching out to them.
It doesn’t have to be planned on their end. They don’t have to have an appointment with you. You’re just reaching out.
I have a set time. It forces me to do that every day, to sit down and do it. I never go the gravel days without doing it.
You’re not going to leave that to chance. This is the core of what you do. I like that. The third thing would be?
The second for me is referrals. Let’s say I built a relationship with someone for years and I’ve cultivated the relationship. I feel so good about you that I say, “I want to introduce you to my friend so-and-so. There’s a good business alignment here. You guys should chat.” That happens. We all get those. I see business owners, for the most part, bumble that one. It’s the best compliment you can get.Being referred to another business is the best compliment you can get. Click To Tweet
Someone’s going to refer one of their friends. They’ve had relationships for years and they have an awesome ongoing thing. They see, “Brett’s got this show that is amazing for our entrepreneurs. This is an incredible entrepreneur with a credible story. I’m going to make this connection.” I’ve seen most entrepreneur business owners won’t respond sometimes. I’m like, “Wrong.”
Are you kidding? Somebody’s handing you a gift.
“It’s great to meet you.” The formula for success is, “I want to thank you for the introduction. I appreciate your relationship.” I edify you. I go to the person and say, “It’s so great to connect with you. I would love to jump on a Zoom this week. How’s your schedule look?” In-person, if you can, would be even better if you’re local. There’s a follow-through. I leave every one of those. I’m probably high 90% or 100% where I have a follow-up with you because I got an incredible intro or a referral. Referral is number two for me.
Coincidentally, I can tell everybody that you practice what you preach. This was a referral. Somebody introduced us and said, “You need to talk to Shawn. Shawn is great.” Here we are talking.
It’s all about the follow-through. We wouldn’t be on having this conversation and I know we’ll do a lot more things where I’m going to refer more people to you and you’re going to refer more people to me because we’ve had this connection. They’re so important. I love doing that. I would challenge all of your audience to make sure that if anyone sends you a text, think in your mind, “I got to follow through with this person.” It will pay you bigger dividends than you’ve ever seen. Any kind of lead that you created or any kind of thing is referrals.
I like to review sometimes. The first thing you shared was, we got to make time for this stuff.
We got to prioritize it.
The second thing you shared is we have the starting point right in our pocket. It’s right on our phone. We already have people that we know. Let’s talk to them. Let’s connect with five people every day. Let’s make time for it. It’s related to the first one but we’ve got to make time for it. We don’t have to look very far. We can start with the people on our phones. The third one was?
The third one is live events. I love live events. I’ve seen a right way to do live events and a wrong way to do live events. Most business owners that tune in to your channel will think, “If I can go to live events, I can network with a lot of people. I can maybe do some business together and joint ventures.” That’s kind of the mindset of why you do it. The greatest way to scale, in my opinion, is to scale relationships and business. I’m going to go do these live events. I’m going to go to Masterminds and lunches. I’m going to go connect with people.
People enjoy the interaction but what I’ve seen most is they’ll go and make that initial contact. If I were to meet you at an event and I want to connect with you, for the most part, it’s a rarity but if I do get your number, then I don’t have a follow-up with you. If I get home, they’re like, “I wanted to connect with Brett. It’s such a great business.” I then felt awkward when I get home sending you a text like, “I met you.”
In my interaction, there are two things. I find whoever seems to be a magnet in the room. There are certain magnets of people we all know. You look out and everyone seems to be going to them. One of mine is David Meltzer. He has an incredible brand. I went to the Super Bowl with David Meltzer. David Meltzer has people coming to him. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every 30 minutes, he has groups coming to him. I’d stay around David and I’m like, “David, would you mind?” He introduces me to all these people coming in. I get introduced by someone whom they love and respect. It gives me so much firepower to get a follow-up appointment.
Go to someone who’s a magnet in the room, ask them if they wouldn’t mind introducing you, and then when you get introduced to someone, say, “I would love to learn more about your business. What’s your schedule look like this week? Let’s do a Zoom. Would you mind coming by the office or I can come by your office?” I have an actual appointment. It’s not awkward. I’m knowing that I’m going to see you on Thursday at 2:00 and we have a follow-up. I can come away with 15 to 20 appointments that are actual follow-through. That’s the right way to do it, versus, “I met a lot of people and I never planted the seed.”
I was mixing up part A and part B of your first recommendation. Your recommendation number one was to prioritize it and you can start with making five contacts a day out of your phone. The second one is to not mess up these precious referral opportunities that we get. The third one was the live events. It’s not just being there and being around people but taking steps to connect after that event. Get around those magnets but let’s meet with people and then schedule a time to connect. Let’s develop relationships from there.
People have a couple of fears. It’s like, “What do I say to someone? Especially somebody who has a bigger brand than mine or a big following, what do I say?” My favorite quote by Stephen R. Covey of all time is, “First seek to understand and then to be understood.” There are so many people. I’ve been with Kevin. I went to the mall with Kevin. He was getting his laptop fixed. He’s walking through the mall wearing his Shark Tank outfit. Someone’s like, “Kevin, I got to pitch. I can pitch.” He got pitched fifteen times from his car to get his laptop fixed. He’s just walking. He’s used to it.
I’m like, “It’s better to be rich than famous, Kevin, for sure.” He’s like, “Yeah.” The thing is, if you went up to Kevin and say, “Kevin, tell me about your brand. What are you trying to accomplish? Where do you see your brand going in the next years down the road?” They have their ecosystem. Seek to understand that first. You could show them how you fit into that world of theirs, versus, “Let me tell you about my stuff. It’s transactional. I’m going to do transactions with you,” versus trying to seek to understand.
Go up to someone at a live event and say, “Tell me more about your business. I’d love to learn more.” I’m like, “Okay.” That turns into a conversation. That conversation turns into, “I have a business that might be a good fit we can work together on reciprocity. Why don’t we do a call on Thursday? What’s your schedule look like?” You’ll have a 100% close rate on getting appointments. That’s the idea.
To find $3,000 in petty cash, that was amazing. You went from almost not making payroll to a situation where you’re not scrambling to make payroll every time. How big is your team? What does that look like?
In Tax Hive, we have 70 people. This building is 30,000 feet. We do live events in this building. We have a live event space at our building. We came up with the tax side concept because we are business owners and we know entrepreneurs want to solve problems. One of our personal problems was we experienced having to get stuck with a big tax bill, which is a miserable thing.
I have a good friend who went from not having to pay taxes very much to, all of a sudden, he has to pay $86,000. He had to write a check out for it. He had zero tax planning. Writing out an $86,000 check that he wasn’t planning on is not a good strategy. We had this idea so that’s where we created Tax Hive. Tax Hive does three things. 1) We do tax planning for business owners. 2) We do tax filing for business owners. 3) We do bookkeeping. We love the small business owners.
Those were the three things we came up with. We launched Tax Hive, our business. What we came up with is that we’re like, “Who’s got a great brand out there that we could go get their face and their brand on Tax Hive, and then we’ll sell a lot more products?” That was where Tax Hive’s seed was planted with that business. That’s the business that we’re operating.
It’s been great to spend this time with you. Thank you for sharing your insights into how to build business through relationships. Those are very clear and practical steps that you gave us. I believe all of us can do every single one of those three things that you said. That’s a matter of, “Do we want it?” It’s back to where you started.
I’ll tell you how we pitched Kevin quickly.
You didn’t just run up to him at a mall with fifteen other people?
That would’ve been a zero-close success rate. We had a relationship with Kevin so we weren’t on the show but I reached out to his right hand. He had no idea we were going to pitch him on but I said, “We have a business we want to present you with.” It happened to be in Arizona. Right down there, he was doing an event. His right hand set up a dinner. You watch the show. He says, “You’re dead to me if you don’t know the numbers.” I was not going to be caught not knowing my numbers.
I had prepared a lot of writing on this because we know we’re going to get a massive lift if Kevin can jump on board and be equity. I memorized every line graph and bar chart. I was ready for him to say, “What are your numbers on this?” We’re sitting around a dinner. He’s sitting at one end. I go launch into the presentation what the business is, where we have these free areas, and where we’re going to go.
3 or 4 minutes in, he gives me the Simon Cowell stop. I remember my heart sank and I looked over. I remember the guys I was with were looking at me like, “It took you three minutes to mess this up.” I was like, “I messed this up in three minutes.” He said, “I’m in. Whatever it’s going to take, this has been a business I’ve been looking for.” He talks to small business owners all the time and he has a bunch of small businesses that he buys.
He’s like, “This is a massive need. I’ve been looking for this. Let’s do it.” It took a lot longer to finally get it done but then the deal came on and we started marketing his brand. That’s where we go out. We spend a lot of money on his brand every month creating about 1,000 business owners a week in our marketing efforts and selling them those packages. That’s the story of Tax Hive. Kevin has been an incredible partner ever since.
You didn’t mess it up in three minutes. It turns out you hit a home run in three minutes. That’s pretty good. Thank you for taking the time, Shawn. It’s been awesome to spend this time with you. I know people will be interested in hearing about Tax Hive and connecting with you since you are a super-connector. How do they learn more about Tax Hive? How do they connect with you?
We put tons of great information on TaxHive.com. Even if you don’t buy from us a tax package, we pack the website full of incredible tax information. There are lots of videos from Kevin on there, all for free. Go to TaxHive.com. I’m on social media. Search Shawn Finnegan and you’re going to find me. I’m probably one of the Shawn Finnegans out there. I love to connect with you. DM me. I would love to make contact. I’d also love to get referrals.
Surprise. We like those referrals. Thanks again, Shawn. For all of you reading, please share, like, comment, and do all those things so that more seven-figure business owners can hear these wonderful interviews with amazing guests like Shawn. Thanks again for being here, Shawn.
Thank you, Brett. I appreciate it.
We’ll catch you all next time on the show.
About Shawn Finnegan
Shawn Finnegan is a successful entrepreneur and business connection expert based in Utah, USA. He has made a name for himself through his innovative strategies and exceptional networking skills. Being in the trenches of both massive and small businesses, Shawn has discovered that any companys success hinges on its ability to nurture genuine connections. He focuses on building professional relationships that mutually benefit all involved, emphasizing the importance of being authentic and transparent in all business interactions. Shawn is business partner with Kevin OLeary from Shark Tank. He’s one of the founders of Tax Hive.
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