Neil Dudley: The Cowboy Perspective, well, it might be hard to define, but I can guarantee if you’ll think about it, you’ve got one in mind. Whether you’re building a legacy, an empire, or a fan base, I bet when your friends look at you, they see some cowboy in your face. Y’all come along, let’s talk about this or that. Maybe when we’re done, you’ll go away with a different perspective to put under your hat.
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Cowboy Perspective. Shucks, I just want to say, I appreciate you so much for listening. I understand your attention is a highly sought-after commodity, and the fact that you’re listening to this podcast, giving me and my guests an opportunity to impart our perspective, anyways, on different topics and give that a, I guess, just a chance to be a part of your consideration in what you do in your life, to me, it’s really humbling and such a great opportunity. So, I appreciate you listening. I hope you find something useful here. I am taking a ride around the pasture on this podcast with a guy named Luke Abbott. And I want to just kind of real quickly read his bio and introduce you before we get into the podcast. So, Luke Abbott started his first business at 11 years old, Radio Diego, a company that refurbished and sold old radios. It introduced me to a world of business, and I’ve been a serial entrepreneur ever since. I joined Monterrey Provisions Company, a retail grocery, fresh parameter product distributor. In their accounting department while earning my BS accounting degree in 1997. Through my career at Monterrey, I served as Financial Controller, General Manager, and President. I negotiated a leveraged buy-out with a hundred percent company ownership in 2008. We then experienced phenomenal growth – 800% growth from 2008 to 2017 with expansion from 4 to 22 states. I also founded three new startup ventures as president of Monterrey to address industry resource, pricing and service capability gaps, Specialty Cut & Wrap, Direct Demos and Merchandise, and THA Logistics. In 2016, my team and I were managing a 250 million P&L and 250 plus nationwide staff with a reputation as industry innovator. I sold KeHE Distributors and stayed on as president of Monterrey Divisions to ensure a successful post acquisition integration. While at KeHE, I earned my MBA with a focus in finance, at Kenan-Flagler at UNC Chapel Hill. I currently serve as president of VDriven Consulting, where we focus on supporting emerging companies in the retail food supply chain.
Well, now maybe you can understand why I don’t like to read, because I stumbled through that pretty badly, but it gives you an idea and a glimpse into who Luke Abbott is, and I want to get into that conversation because I think it’s got a lot of fun stuff in there. We talk about life, business, parenting, and I hope you find value in it. Here we go.
Okay. Hey, everybody. We’re here again on the Cowboy Perspective. I’ve got a guy visiting today from way out in San Diego. His name is Luke Abbott. Luke, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Luke Abbott: Honored to be here.
Neil Dudley: It wasn’t just, well you always say this, coming to be on the Cowboy Perspective podcast is a trip. I mean, it’s not like, oh yeah, just come across town and we’ll get on here, especially if you’re going to that person. But you made it all the way from San Diego to Comanche, Texas, and I appreciate it.
Luke Abbott: Honored to be here.
Neil Dudley: Well, so we’ve been talking just a little bit. Maybe in your own words, tell us who you are or what you have done or something that you’re kind of really into right now. I know you’re doing some consulting and that kind of thing; we’ll get to that. Just on a personal level a little bit, tell us who you are.
Luke Abbott: Absolutely. What matters to me most right now is spending a lot of time with my family. I worked really hard for many years, and the last two years have been fantastic. Just getting reacquainted with my wife and not being on the road so much. I have four children – I have three boys, 3, 9, and 23, and one daughter, 19. And just enjoying being with them, being more, I guess, more domesticated compared to being on the road four or five nights a week. So, that’s been huge. We recently moved from inland San Diego to the coast, and I’ve never lived near the water. So, we’re constantly at the beach and there’s hiking trails in our backyard and just really connecting back with nature and family and having some fun.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, that’s, to me, one of the really things that get lost a little bit in our lives as we’re building businesses or taking a career path that really demands a lot of our attention and time is that family will suffer. And it’s really cool to me. I’m glad you’re getting that opportunity to, you said, kind of reconnect with your wife. Well, it’s crazy – you can just get completely disconnect.
Luke Abbott: Absolutely. Actually, it was hard for the first probably year of having me around more. I think my wife had gotten very used to her way of doing things, and I wasn’t there. So, the routines of the house didn’t involve me and all of a sudden there’s this guy who is back home again and wants to be like super involved and I’m super energetic. So, it’s like, let’s go here; let’s go do that. And it’s like, no, we have to get these other things done for the house. So, it’s been interesting. And anyway, I don’t know if it’s age or whatever it is, but now being in my forties, I definitely just love just being at home and playing and playing cars with my three-year-old is just one of the most fun things that I could do during the day now. And probably 10, 15 years ago, I would not have thought that.
Neil Dudley: What I always kind of try to bring all discussions back to how it relates to me and the cowboys I grew up around and my dad being my personal hero. And I think back to all the time he would have to just do crazy things middle of the night because the cattle got out, the fences got out, just different things. But I also remember so much – and I want to do this for my daughters if I can, I think it’s a challenge to be present and think about these opportunities when they’re there – but they used to film us playing football in the backyard and, “Hey, kids run up here, introduce yourself, tell us what team you’re playing for,” and that kind of stuff. Those times were just real. And now I know, like as a kid, I didn’t know what it took for them to do that, to stop all things and kind of just spend that time. Now, I understand a lot better what it took for them to do that. And I’m so appreciative. I’m like, wow, they were just up in everything, and there was stuff coming at them from all kinds of directions and they would just stop and be there with us and do that thing. And it was nice to not have social media and that kind of thing. So, we were talking about how I have this tendency to pick my phone up and look at it in the middle of conversations with people, and that’s so rude and it’s just unfair to that person. And I think this brings me, or I think it’s a decent segue into let’s talk a little bit about your favorite book, how that might parallel to leading a team and that distraction really being a major failure as the leader.
Luke Abbott: Correct. The book, my favorite book is the Five Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni. And I’ll just share a little bit about how I got to the book. I had taken over a company that was about 30 million in revenue. We ended up growing that company to about a quarter billion in revenue. And I didn’t have a mentor or anybody to help me, and I was desperate for how to be a better leader, because what I was doing wasn’t working. And I started reading some books by Patrick Lencioni. There’s like five different books I read. And the one that really grabbed me the most was the Five Dysfunctions of Teams, and the core idea, the base of the triangle, if you will, is this idea of trust. And when I really started to get my arms around this idea, that trust is the most important thing that I can have with my team, and that from trust, everything else could work, it was a really fundamental shift for me. I didn’t really get that. And I thought I was one of those leaders that probably wanted people to all be always happy, and everything’s good, and just follow what I’m telling you to do. At the time I was probably the smartest guy in the room, or I thought it was. Well, I wasn’t. And just follow me and everyone just kind of shake their heads yes. And the reality was that that wasn’t working and that I needed to build a situation where my team members felt enough trust in me and me in them where we could actually kind of hash things out; we could have issues-based debates. So that anyway, so I picked up the book and started reading it. I love the fact that it was like in a story format, kind of a narrative,
Neil Dudley: Like a fable.
Luke Abbott: Like a fable, Exactly. And it was very easy to digest. So, I’m reading the book. I can’t put the book down because the story is so exciting. And it’s this woman who comes from outside the tech industry, goes into the tech industry, now she’s a CEO, and she’s got this team of really amazing people, they’re in their own right, each one of them are awesome. They’re the best in class. And yet the team and the company, the company is not performing up to, I guess, its potential, and her job was to get it to achieve it. And she takes the team offsite, and the team’s like, “Why are we offsite? We’re wasting time. We got to march faster.” And her point is, no, we got to get this right first. This team has to become our first team, and we have to trust each other, because if we can’t trust each other, we can’t hold each other accountable, and we won’t get things done. And she goes through this process of working with the team, and eventually, certain people need to leave the team. But this trust-based management approach eventually creates a situation where the team can finally really achieve the potential and move forward. So that’s what I ended up having to do with my company.
Neil Dudley: So, did you see that become a reality at Monterrey?
Luke Abbott: Yeah. So, at Monterrey Provision, we did. It’s never perfect. But I’d say that once I understood it was okay to have arguments – because I think I wanted everything to be all peaceful and happy all the time – that an argument was okay, and then to actually foster arguments, like it actually try to create them with the team, that’s when things, the magic started to happen. And when I also started being comfortable being surrounded by people that were smart enough to argue, to pushback, as opposed to just people that I was telling, go do this, go do that. And so, there’s a shift, I think there’s a general shift that happens at a company as it goes from being smaller to mid-size to being maybe mid-size/larger, maybe I could do everything myself when it was smaller. And I could be the “smartest guy in the room.” But at some point, you need to depend on other people and have smart people, but then you got to have a situation where you actually listen to them and hear them, and they can be heard. So that worked; that worked for us.
Neil Dudley: Did you actually do things offsite with that core team? And how big did you-, did you have a number of individuals you like to try to keep on the first team? How big did it get? How small did it get?
Luke Abbott: Yes. And you mentioned the first team – I may want to touch on that for a second. The first team idea is pretty revolutionary. Oftentimes when we think about we’ve got a staff meeting and who’s there, the functional leaders of these areas of your company, and they often comment that they think of that team that they represent, whether it is IT or accounting, as being their first team, fundamental ideas and the Five Dysfunction of Teams is that the first team has to be that executive leadership team, your senior leaders. And there’s this idea that we can’t cross the finish line individually. So, accounting can’t finish because they hit their goals, but not have IT or not have sales get across the finish line. No, the deal is we all get across the finish line together, or we don’t get across the finish line at all. Therefore, we all need to be in this together. And someone’s fallen down; how do I help? How do we pick them up? Because we’re teammates. And the other side of that too is the confidentiality, or confidentiality of what happens to that group. So, I may disagree, but when I come out of that room, and we know our direction, it is as if it was my idea.
Neil Dudley: And everybody buying into that, I want to say culture or way of acting.
Luke Abbott: Correct. Absolutely. So that says, it’s first team. It’s everybody’s heard. But at the end, oftentimes the leader will lead to make a decision, but you will have been heard and there will have been discussion. With that, you have this cohesive leadership team that actually becomes much, much more effective. And I apologize, I forgot your original question.
Neil Dudley: How big did your first team get or how small-? The number I think has to be watched because it can be potentially easy to get too many people on the first team.
Luke Abbott: Correct. And I think I used to think that when I was younger as a leader, that get everybody possible in there, everybody in that room, 10, 12 people aligned, and I quickly learned that that probably seven, eight, would be the max I’d want to have on that team. You want to keep it somewhat intimate and very focused, if I could. And that’s where I found it to be most effective. And then with regard to, I think you mentioned offsite retreats, that was a hallmark of my leadership approach was we did have a retreat every three months.
Neil Dudley: So, listen to this – listeners, people, coming straight from Luke Abbott – you need to take your executive teams offsite and meet and spend some time together so you can have those heated arguments and get over them and come back together and have the vulnerability. You built a company from 30 million to a quarter of a million-
Luke Abbott: A quarter of a billion.
Neil Dudley: A quarter of a billion.
Luke Abbott: My team did, yes.
Neil Dudley: Yes, that’s right. That’s the other thing that I think personally is learning how to realize sometimes it’s your idea that doesn’t get done. It’s has to be the, let’s say, vote getter, the leader is going to need to at times understand, look, the collective group is smarter than me in this equation.
Luke Abbott: That is so true. I think that’s where the magic comes, when I didn’t need to be the smartest guy in the room. And when I got to be the guy who got to select the best idea, that’s when it became a much better leader. I became a much better leader when I became the leader was really just saying, “Hey, that’s a great idea; let’s talk about that.”
Neil Dudley: And everybody was so comfortable to throw out their crazy ideas. They weren’t going to feel like, oh, they’re just going to make fun of me. Cause sometimes somebody is sitting over here thinking something pretty off the wall and just general knowledge or the way business may be ran, but it could be the next really great idea.
Luke Abbott: Yes, I think, I’ve learned this, I think that the humility is one of the most important aspects of a strong leader. And that getting to the point for me, I was not humble when I was a younger leader and maybe I thought I needed to be everything. And then realizing that it wasn’t, that I didn’t know everything and that I needed other people. And that in that hiring super smart people to surround myself with was the way to succeed. And that every one of the leaders individually, especially from the areas that they led, were much, much smarter than me. And that my magic was really to synergize that together. That was really- that was the conductor of the symphony or something like that. And realizing that that was my role, and embracing that, that’s where the magic started to happen. I just needed to shut up.
Neil Dudley: Listening is a really undervalued ability. Another book I’ve been into just recently – which I, actually, do you read books? Because I don’t read at all. I’m listening to audibles, podcasts. I don’t know, I never did get into reading. I just, my mind wanders way too much if I’m reading. So, I got on audibles or just listening to books, and I’ve just been consuming. And I guess what, I didn’t do this until a year ago in my life. 40 years, I could have been consuming so much stuff and I just didn’t like reading, so I didn’t do it. Then I got into podcasts and audibles, and now I feel that the last year I’ve increased my number of perspectives or number of ways of thinking about things. I don’t know that anyone is perfect for me, for sure, but I can put them all together and come up with this thing that this works for Neil Dudley.
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Luke Abbott: No, I totally agree. I tried to, audible, I have the, I think, the three credit a month, the three books a month and I end up having to buy a book. So, I actually end up going through about four books a month right now.
Neil Dudley: When do you catch time to listen?
Luke Abbott: When I’m driving.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, me too.
Luke Abbott: I actually enjoy setting up meetings in Los Angeles or in Empire in Southern California or even Phoenix and just getting that time in the car to listen. And a lot of biographies actually, I’m listening to lately.
Neil Dudley: Do you do any fiction?
Luke Abbott: Never, except for the fiction that Patrick Lencioni writes in his fables.
Neil Dudley: See, I’m not in the fiction either. I like the- I’ve listened to this book called Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. I got into this little stint where I was listening to a lot of kind of military authors, and those were really cool books. And one of the reasons that I get up and do the pushups and this kind of thing now is because I’ll listen to that book. I said, some of the stories, the things these people have lived through, I had a major awakening that I don’t know what other people went through in their life and to just pick anything, racism, sexual orientation, religious orientation, all these things, I used to have a pretty kind of hardline stance on, and I’ve got so much softer on that stuff. It’s just like, man, I got no clue what people live through. And I am a white male, fairly middle-class family, no major trials or tribulations in my life other than a stumped toe or something – I mean, just like real pain has never happened to me. I have to try to take in, and I hope people can understand, even I try and I still can’t get it.
Luke Abbott: I totally agree two biographies, and I’d recommend them to you, recently I read one on Winston Churchill, and it blew my mind – this man and what he went through and how many times he failed and how he was in the political darkness during the thirties, and no one’s listening to him when he’s talking about Hitler, and yet he had this intestinal fortitude where he just stayed-. I mean, he believed what he believed, and he just stayed on that track. He didn’t, he was not political in any way. He just knew what he knew, and he went down this road and whatever happened happened, and eventually obviously validated and then led his country. I mean, valiantly during World War II. And right now, coming down here yesterday, it was a four-hour trip, and I was listening to Ulysses S. Grant, another man who had failed. I mean, he was an alcoholic. He had to leave the army back in the 1840s and spent the 1850s just trying to make it. And he was selling wood on street corners, trying to survive. Eventually he becomes the general that wins the Civil War, becomes president of the United States. And yet into his forties, he was an absolute failure. Winston Churchill into his fifties, sixties. It’s so inspirational to me, to read these stories of these men and women – I read both – that just-. Looking at it in retrospect, I think it all seems preordained and easy.
Neil Dudley: That’s part of our culture that is so messed up in my mind. So, you were talking a little bit earlier, circle back, on your perception of how you needed to lead early on as a young leader and a company owner, I feel like a lot of that perception comes from the pedestal we’ll put people like Steve Jobs on, or even Trump, and some of these people. So, you start thinking, oh, well that must be how you are supposed to be. And it’s just so not right. There’s another book I’ve been into, it is called Quiet: Being an Introvert in a World that Never Stops Talking and it does a bit of a study on all these big names that actually had- So, Steve Jobs, Wozniak, Walt Disney and his brother, Roy. They all, these kinds of boisterous people, have a really close introverted type that they would have never, we would never have heard of Walt Disney if his brother wasn’t there. I’d never heard of Steve Jobs if Wazniak – was it Jobs and Wazniak? Is that right for Apple or was Wozniak Microsoft? I can’t remember for sure. But I wish we would take a little different look at least the amount of press those real tyrannical type leaders get, because it sets people back. It set you back a bit and set me back a bit, or at least made me kind of doubt myself as a leader a little bit. It’s like, I’m not like that. I don’t function like that, and so am I really going to be able to achieve whatever it was I thought I wanted to? Yeah, you can; you got to just be yourself and try to take in some things that can help your perspective. Or it’s like the cowboys that I grew up around, they were very much about that. Pay attention, watch your surroundings. If we rode through a pasture gathering cattle, we would get back to the pens and they would ask me, “Hey, what do you think about that thing down on the creek?” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I’m just riding along, a kid, looking at the butterflies. They were teaching me these little things, this pay attention in life, watch. And then next time I might come to the pen and I saw whatever they asked me about, and they would be like, “Hey, now you’re-” that kind of made me feel good. So, I started thinking, oh, I’m going to pay attention.
Luke Abbott: The details matter.
Neil Dudley: Because I looked up to them, people I thought were just really cool. And they trained me in really cool ways that were just subtle. And I think a lot of what people think in training is, well, we got to make this a big event – we are training you. Not so much in my mind. I think you can bring people along if you just think about how can I set this up as a learning opportunity for them?
Luke Abbott: Yeah, no, I agree. And if I may relate it back and I developed a philosophy when I was onboarding senior leaders toward the end of my time at Monterrey the last few years there, where if I hired a senior leader, I was going to be with them every day for 30, 40 days. We would be side by side everywhere we went. I think what you’re talking about, like I can try to train you. I can talk to you. I can create a job description. But literally you being with me every day, whether we were traveling or I was responding emails, and you are sitting next to me in watching me respond to emails, but you’re learning. You’re learning the culture. You’re learning what matters. You’re learning priorities. I found that approach to be super effective, because otherwise, I’d hire these great people and I think they’re a panacea. They’re so smart. They’re brilliant. And then here, you go run this division of the company, or this aspect of the company. And then I come back around and it’s like, oh, but you went down this different road and that wasn’t aligned, and it was culturally like not the right way to do it. But the expectation that someone who comes is super smart and can just immediately go into organizations and just know what to do I realized was wrong. So, like the cowboys that you’re riding with, you’re with them and just by being with them, you were picking up what mattered.
Neil Dudley: That’s so true. So true. Let’s see, what else? Oh, we talked about that Tim Ferriss podcast with – I don’t know – I’ll have to look it up, but his favorite author, I forget the guy’s name, but part of the, they talked about this Bill Campbell. Is this right? Or am I getting it wrong? Do you remember this? The guy that was kind of the coach for all the Silicon Valleys, they wrote the book, the Trillion-Dollar Coach or something. Does this ring a bell? Maybe I’m off on something else. Cause I could be on the wrong podcast or maybe it was a book. Anyways, okay. So, let’s see. We talked about Five Dysfunctions of a Team, that’s good. Tell us, or tell the listeners a little bit about, so now you’re doing consulting and you kind of have a wide gamut of experience that’s really valuable to the people you work with. I’m curious what you felt like you gleaned from your stint in the retail side of things, since you and I have always been on the opposite side of that table. Let’s talk about that a little bit.
Luke Abbott: Sure, sure. So, the company I was with for 20 years, Monterrey Provision and I was distribution, and then sold that company to KeHE distributors in 2016.
Neil Dudley: Oh, well, let’s just touch on that. So how did that happen? Did KeHE just kind of come, like how does that conversation ever even get started?
Luke Abbott: For selling the company?
Neil Dudley: Yes. Had that always been a goal of yours?
Luke Abbott: No, no. I think my goal was to, in fact, my vision really was, we actually had detailed it out as the leadership team, was really to be coast to coast and to be truly national distribution centers all over the place. And while we got to about 30 states that we serviced, covered most of the United States, there was a change in the market that was happening, where there really wasn’t room for the inefficiency of a distributor that only focused on deli, cheese, bakery in the retail store setting, and that you needed to figure out a way to either have Monterrey also do center store grocery to get the volume. So instead of having a truck delivering six stores, have a truck delivering one store. There’s tremendous efficiency in that, that just probably was not going to be something that we could do or wanted to do. So just because the market had changed and the need was for efficiency, I needed to identify a different path forward. And KeHE Distributors was recommended by my largest customer as like, these are the real deal. There are B Corp, there are [Aesop]. They really care about people, and they want to make it a little better place. And that’s what Monterrey was. So, a great fit. And we did talk to one other possible suitor that’s a competitor to KeHE, and KeHE to me just won hands down because of the people and what they stand for. So, I started the conversation with them. It took about a year to get the deal done. And we became the fresh arm of KeHE. And my team is still there making that happen.
Neil Dudley: So, that’s kind of cool because that market’s shift really had KeHE needing a fresh solution.
Luke Abbott: Yeah, it was perfect. And we both had the same largest customer, so it was super synergistic to put us together. So then, sorry, there was another part of the question.
Neil Dudley: The other part of the question was Jimbos; let’s talk about that other side of the table a little bit.
Luke Abbott: Yeah, Jimbos is awesome. I learned a lot going from distribution into retail, and especially at Jimbos. Jimbos, so the audience knows, is a five store what I call supernatural chain, really one of the leaders in organic foods. In fact, Jimbo, the founder, was one of the founders of INFRA, if you’re familiar with them. They’re really, I think, the nation’s largest, I guess, group of natural independent retailers who band together and try to buy efficiently and share ideas. So, Jimbos, from the mid-eighties/early eighties started this company and built it and to what I had talked about, maybe trying to take that company forward and make it even larger. And when I got there, it was just amazing to be with a group of people that really, for the most part, 20 years, many of them had worked there together. So, a really strong team. I didn’t necessarily know where that path would lead when I got there. I think Jimbo and I had an idea of expanding and having more stores. And I think through the process of me being there, we tried to become more of what Jimbo’s did from the beginning. So, if you think about what’s happening in retail today, we have all the conventional stores are becoming much more organic focused. And if you’re Jimbo’s, you once were so far ahead of your competitors, and now that gap is closing. And so, when I got there, the idea was what do we do? And it’s like, okay, we need to be more Jimbos. And so that meant to me, instead of having mainly organic produce and having some conventional, let’s get rid of all the conventional and have only organic. And that was a big deal because it’s like organic grapes traditionally haven’t been available year-round. So, you’d have to tell a consumer you don’t always have grapes. So, there were some big changes we led while I was there, that really were about- maybe were somewhat controversial, but were just about being more who we were and creating more distance between us than our competition. And I think those ideas are very successful. And on the retail side, it was just fun to be close to the customers. I loved walking on the floor of the store. I was one of those leaders that was constantly on the floor of all those different stores, and just talking to people, getting feedback, talking to our associates, and just realizing how at retail, that the levers you can pull to make things happen, it’s immediate. I can go and do a new merchandising display, and it’s going to drive sales immediately. Where in the distribution world, the levers I would pull, there would be a lag. In retail, what you do has an immediate effect on your consumers, and good or bad on sales and margins. So, I learned a lot during that process. And so, I was there for eight months, and it kind of, I think Jim and I both realized that maybe the original idea was that he wanted us to go to a hundred stores, and I think he was very comfortable with five, six, seven stores. And so, I was like you know what, I think it’s probably time for me to go do something else. And anyway, it was an amazing experience to be there. And Jimbo is just one of the best people in our industry. So, I just really loved being with him and his team. And now I’m on my next journey with consulting.
Neil Dudley: And what’s the name of your company now?
Luke Abbott: VDriven.
Neil Dudley: If anybody’s looking for somebody to help, I’d highly recommend checking out VDriven and the, really, resources you guys have available, even internationally.
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Let’s cover Monterrey Provisions a little bit, and then also VDriven, and let the listeners get a glimpse into those parts of your career.
Luke Abbott: Sure, that sounds great. So, Monterrey, started working there when I was 23 years old, I was an AP clerk making $9 an hour. And I always remember getting the job, by the way. They asked me what I wanted to make. And I said, let me work for free for a month, and then you figure out what I’m worth.
Neil Dudley: That is such a great way to do it.
Luke Abbott: They were blown away. They were like, “Okay!”
Neil Dudley: So just a side note, my wife was a song plugger in Nashville, which is they take songs that songwriters have written, and they take them and show them to, I think they’re called AR executives at the labels. And the way she got the job was she went to the-, the guy’s name was Don Light and said, let me take your trash out. And so, she did that, and next thing you know, he kind of called her into his office and said, “I’ve got to a meeting with four of the top AR men in town. When you come back, I’ll let you know if you have a job here any longer.” And it actually went really well. And he just-. So, I always tell anybody I get a chance to, if you want to do something, just go work for these people for free, and do an awesome job, and they will be begging you to come to work for them and begging. Anyways, go ahead and tell your story. A little rabbit trail there.
Luke Abbott: So, I started at Monterrey and just was all in, I think, because I had kind of owned my business, I had kind of an ownership mentality as I never did watch the clock. Just whatever you guys need, I’m here to help. So gosh, took it on IT, within maybe two months, took on, became controller of the company within maybe a year. And so, by 2000, became general manager, at that time, maybe about a $20 million food distributor. And we grew slowly up until about 2008 when the company was about $32 million. And so really focused in the deli, bakery, cheese space in San Diego, Orange County, Riverside County, and the founder was about ready to exit. And he was going to sell it to a company called Tony’s Fine Foods, which is now owned by United Natural Foods. And somehow, he chose to sell me the business for almost no money and carried the paper back, so basically, loaned me the money so I could buy a hundred percent of the business.
Neil Dudley: That’s the part I think is like you have the kind of imagination to figure out how to, I think a lot of people could probably pull that off, but they don’t have the imagination to believe, yeah, I could, and maybe he’ll loan me the money. I was even just talking to a guy last night, you mentioned Ball of the Bash, and he wants to do his own thing, but he’s like, “I just don’t have the money.” And I said, “Dude, you just have to get imaginative and ask.” Ask if somebody will give you the money. As I always say, the worst thing anybody can tell you is no. And just go to the next ask.
Luke Abbott: Oh yeah, absolutely. And just not to get overly philosophical, but I’ve been reading a book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne at that time. And I kind of overlaid some of the ideas and connected it back to my Christian faith. And I was like, here’s the deal, to really believe that God can do amazing things, to really believe he wants that, and that that actually will happen is the direction I went down, and sort of just really prayerfully, like make this happen, Lord. And it was a miracle, because there was no reason for it to happen the way it did. And it was just a tremendous blessing on my family, totally changed the direction of my life. So unfortunately, it was ‘08 and then ‘09 hits, and the banks didn’t like me. I basically got the company in a leveraged buyout and owed a lot of money. And the bank was pretty frustrated, and we were to the point where we were about ready to go out of business. And in 2009, there was this entity called Sedley in California, where they did like sub equity loans and it’d be so they would look at it as if there was more equity in the business so they could lend me money. And I ended up, our company got the last loan this entity made before they went bankrupt, like the next day. And without that money, we would’ve been out of business.
Neil Dudley: See, that’s crazy the way that works.
Luke Abbott: And this happened to me over and over and over again, where-
Neil Dudley: Holding it together by a little spider thread.
Luke Abbott: Yes, correct, that was it. And then we had partnered with a company called Sprouts Farmer’s Market. At the time when we started with them, they had six stores, and we just committed, wherever they would go, we would go with them. And so, we’re a little San Diego company, went in Phoenix, that was far. And then they went to Dallas and then eventually to Atlanta. So, we had built a distribution center in Oklahoma. So meanwhile we were growing from 30 million when we acquired the business to this journey of hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, that was again, we get back to the book – the Five Dysfunctions of Teams –growing this company and how to lead it. And the fact that the company was different every year because it was growing 30, 40% on a huge base, and you got a new distribution center, and now we started at a national trucking company. We started a national demo company as part of this company, and it’s just becoming unwieldy. And so, I had to learn a lot quickly, and he talked about coaching, too. That’s one of the, I wish I would’ve had a coach, because I just, I didn’t know what I was doing and made so many mistakes, and I would have been so much more successful if I would’ve surrounded myself earlier with smarter people to who could have helped guide me.
Neil Dudley: Well, as you’re battling this financial tide, and the best dollar you could have spent was on a coach. But you can’t convince yourself of that when you are wondering how am I going to make payroll?
Luke Abbott: That was truly it. I mean, I really didn’t pay myself a lot while working, while having that business, because I was just trying to keep every penny in this company, but then the company was growing so fast that I couldn’t outrun it. So, I was being out run in a way. So, I was being pushed, financially, managerially, personally, constantly as I would say, brought to my knees and just trying to, God, help me, because I can’t do this alone and I don’t know what to do. And no matter what, it always worked out, is what I learned. That no matter how scared I was about anything bad in the company, it always worked out, and I realized-
Neil Dudley: Well, and I found this – and I wonder if it was true for you or is true for you – a lot of the times, the stuff that I feel just, oh man, we really needed that to happen, I get a year down the road and I’m saying, wow, I’m so glad that didn’t happen.
Luke Abbott: Yeah. In the moment, what you think you need isn’t always what you need in the end. And yes, I firmly agree with that. That was the case in our journey many times. I remember we were working on a, I was trying to diversify our business, and we were working on a military contract in Guam. I remember I actually flew to Guam with the military folks over there and then realizing that would have been a distraction. If we had gotten Guam and making that logistics work, and the many of the areas that didn’t work out, or I suppose I was upset, that was actually fine. And I ultimately realized that what I needed to focus on always was what we call the golden goose, which was the core of Monterrey’s business, which was our retailers, the retailers in that fresh space in grocery and in the United States. Not in Guam. So, and then the more we focused on that, the more successful we were. And then I’ll just say one other part toward the end was when I started to surround myself with an amazing team, it became a lot more fun. And there’s one leader in particular, Matthew Sanders, who became our COO I think the last three years, and having him with me and running together with him was the most amazing experience. Having this guy to- we spent that month together, where literally we were together every minute of almost every day. Even though his job wasn’t in sales, I was doing a lot of sales calls at the time and we were traveling all around the country together, and we had so much fun. We bonded. And I copied him on every single email that I was doing even though it didn’t necessarily relate to what he was doing. But he got a sense for the company, where we were headed. And a trust grew between us that at 30 days, I cut him loose. And it was a crazy time of the company story. Our Oklahoma distribution center was really struggling, and we needed to really kind of divide and conquer. And it was just awesome to be able to have somebody to divide and conquer with and to share that load with. And I don’t know, we would not have survived had it not been for that COO coming in and our ability to have trust between us.
Neil Dudley: How did you come across Chris, was it?
Luke Abbott: Mathew Sanders. Yeah, he was an amazing guy. I brought in an investor the last few years, so I had the Hammonds, and Jeff Hammond, an amazing, amazing guy to have as a partner. When he put the money in the company, he just told me that God had told him to put this money in the company. So, it’s a risky thing to do, but God has put it on my heart to do this, so I’m going to do it. And we meet for coffee every Friday morning at Starbucks. And again, I was just really struggling. Our Oklahoma distribution center was a mess, and he said, “I have this,” let’s see, “the brother of my son-in-law works for censure and I think maybe he’s in Thailand right now on a project, but let me call him because I think he’d be really good for you.” And I remember coming in the office and Jeff Hammond was meeting me early in the mornings, it was like 6:00 AM. And I walk in and I see this disheveled looking guy sitting at the other side of his desk. And I thought maybe he was the gardener or something. Turns out this is Matthew Sanders. He has this long hair, his scruffy face. And we spent a couple hours together, all together in the conference room, and I realized this is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. Like, he is brilliant in so many ways. And he has worked with Dell and the world’s biggest companies, and he brought so many solutions to them and helped them to succeed. And I’m like, man, if you’re willing to come and join our company, I would be so grateful. Because I need your help; I can’t do this myself. And thank God he did, he decided to come join us. He left, I think he took a pay cut to do it. And I think he wanted to be maybe in something that he could really make a difference at, and he made a difference. So together we fixed the Oklahoma distribution center. We got back to best in class service. We took what was, I think, a million-dollar hit to our bottom line from this warehouse not working to turning that around. And it was just fun to win together and make that happen. So, it was an amazing journey.
Neil Dudley: I want to ask, you started out in AP, and you seem to me as a guy that likes numbers. Is that true?
Luke Abbott: Yes, that is so true.
Neil Dudley: But I know you do a lot of sales.
Luke Abbott: I love sales.
Neil Dudley: So, you kind of like them both. But which one would you lean towards the most out of the two?
Luke Abbott: In terms of the success I had at Monterrey, the numbers were very, very important. I don’t think I ever would have been able to buy the business and carry it forward and be able to raise the capital and move forward without it. Although my personality is much more of the sales side, and I love spending time with my customers, I love doing life with my customers and anybody, the suppliers, too, like you. To me, that’s what I love the most. So, what I love the most are the people and the sales aspect. And then what is most important for my success though was understanding the numbers. And yes, so about Monterrey, I got an accounting degree. I passed the CPA exam and then I went back to college and got my MBA. I finished last year at UNC Chapel Hill with a focus in finance. So, I kind of balanced myself out between the sales and finance.
Neil Dudley: That’s just such a wild ride that you went on with that company, from buying it, and how you pulled that off, to exiting and how that whole negotiation went together, and the team you got to do. It’d be almost sad if you didn’t have Matthew to do it with, right?
Luke Abbott: Yes, Band of brothers.
Neil Dudley: So, I think people, a lot of times feel like they have to, or want to do it themselves, and they just would miss so much rich life lived with somebody else.
Luke Abbott: Yes, and I didn’t get that until the last few years. So, I spent 20 years at the company and the last three were the most fun.
Neil Dudley: So, tell us a little bit about VDriven and what your day looks like.
Luke Abbott: Sure, happy to. VDriven I think matches my personality. It is involved in a number of different things. So, I’ve taken an investment in one of my clients where we helped them raise venture capital. And we just finished our first raise last week. So that was a huge success. It took a number of months.
Neil Dudley: I’ve never raised money like that. I mean, I do some fund raising for charity and that kind of thing, but I’ve never done like a venture capital raise. And that’s a piece of the business that is very important and very, I think has lots of pitfalls and stuff that I’m kind of scared of because I don’t understand, I’ve never been through it.
Luke Abbott: There’s a lot to be scared about. I mean, when you’re thinking about venture capital, it’s intense. I mean, venture capital, generally, I think it’s reasonable to expect that 80% of what they invest in will fail; 20% succeed. So, if you think about how you need to behave to try to maximize your chance of success, it creates a very intense situation. And if you’re in a spot where you need to scale or you will get run over and never have a chance to claim the market, then like maybe in the plant-based space today, you probably need to look at venture capital or you won’t be relevant. And if you’re in a place that’s not quite as, I would say, sexy and intense in terms of possible growth or growth right now, then private equity or traditional financing can be a much better option. It just really depends on where you are. Because venture capital wants to be in the sexiest places in the market. But it’s definitely a learning experience. I’ve been working in this area, beyond working at Monterrey now, helping others to raise capital. I also coach CEOs and that’s probably what I love the most is being one-on-one with the CEO. And I think doing for others what I never got time for myself. It’s like, hey, what are the blind spots? How do we do this better? What are the best practices to managing a company, to leading a team, to really getting clarity on your goals and where you want to go and then working backwards on how to get there, that’s what I love doing the most. Also helping clients with kind of CMO type situations. Like how do we market? How do we brand? Anything needed. So, being the distributor, I got to see all sides of the business. Having worked at KeHE, got to see it on a larger scale, absolutely. And now I think with the eight or ten companies I’ve been working with over the last six months, I’ve really been seeing a lot of the opportunity that there is for manufacturers today to grow, even though there’s so many entrepreneurs. That if you do it right, that if you know where you’re headed, you know who you are, and you use best practices in terms of management or promotion, marketing, that you can really do it. And that’s my job is to help my clients make that happen.
Neil Dudley: So how does that look? I mean, do you just go sit with their first team? Or how do you normally integrate into that role?
Luke Abbott: It can vary. And it’s like meeting children where they’re at. It’s meeting that company where they’re at. Like where is the hole? Where’s the need? With a larger company right now, I’m working with them on a new line that’s in an area that they’ve never been in before. So, it’s working with a part of the team, but the company we just finished the capital raise, I am with the CEO one to two days, literally eight hours a day, every week. And there’s so much going on with this company because it’s such fast growth that we sort of sitting around, we have a whiteboard and we’re just diagramming out and talking through strategies.
Neil Dudley: Does that have to do with CBD?
Luke Abbott: No, no.
Neil Dudley: Because that’s the buzz and the markets these days.
Luke Abbott: It is a plant-based company. And it’s just amazing. And so, there’s so much happening that we literally can spend one to two days just ideating and talking. And then, I am also making introductions, so I know a lot of the retailers across the country. So, another company does these coconut balls, Zuma Valley, and they’re an amazing product, non-GMO, the amazing founding story of Julie for that company. And they have, they just want to grow. So it’s like, okay, how do we grow? So, we spend our time either thinking about clients to go after or retailers to go after, how to approach them, actually reaching out to them, meeting with them. And then also doing meetings where we just sit down for four hours and say, okay, what is it we want to get to? How do we get there? What’s our strategy to do it? Who’s going to do what? What’s most important right now?
Neil Dudley: It’s almost like you’re a lever that can be pulled to distract them from the work so they can think about their company. I think at Peterson’s we fall into that fairly often is we’re so demanded by just the job of answer this customer’s question, what are we going to do about this issue that popped up, putting out the fires, constantly, there’s a fire – there never is a forest without a fire. And we will look up and it’s been two years and we’ve never got distracted on just where are we going? What are we doing? Why are we doing it? And you’ll end up getting flogged by the competition if you don’t spend the right amount of time.
Luke Abbott: Working on the company versus working in the company. And working in the company is super important. So don’t ever stop that. And it’s also important we spend part of our time working on it. And to your point, that’s a great way to describe it. That I help leaders to work on the company and it creates a structured approach the time for that.
Neil Dudley: Like, you’re not going to come in, you don’t want to be in there pulling the analytical data together for them. It’s more like let’s take a look at what you came up with, or I’m telling you, you need some analysis to be done. I’m not going to do it for you.
Luke Abbott: And I do the analysis sometimes. We actually have an offshore team as well that is part of VDriven that can help crunch the data if needed. And it can get every, every customer, every one of my clients is in a different place. And if you’re in plant-based and you just started out a year ago and you have no infrastructure, you may need some more support. Whereas if you’re much further along, you already have an analytics department, great, then we can work with them. But this, let’s create a dashboard? What’s going to be on that dashboard? What do we want to measure? So, it’s really, at this point, it is very situational.
Neil Dudley: Really awesome insight and just time spent thinking about what am I doing? What can I do better? What should I think about? And how do I then take it back to my team and challenge them with it in a way? But it is like, I think it’s really impressive how you come integrate into so many different teams. And like we’ve had people kind of come sit with our executive team, and it didn’t really work very well because I think the personality in that scenario was more of, well, you’re not profitable. Y’all are idiots; get profitable. We know we’re not profitable. We’re not looking for somebody to tell us the stuff that we can see obviously. We want, how can we facilitate our thinking and discussion in ways that we’re not currently doing because we can’t see it.
Luke Abbott: Right, agreed.
Neil Dudley: Hey folks, I want to take a quick break in the action to tell you a little bit about one of the sponsors of the podcast. It’s thesimplegrocer.com. I highly recommend you go Google that. Check out all the scrumptious bacon, sausage, hams, and many other things they have to shop. And if you choose to place an order, be sure and use TCP in the discount code for a special the Cowboy Perspective discount. Love you guys. Now back to the action.
So, where does your perspective and entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Luke Abbott: Good, that’s I think easy. From a young age, I was raised out at Kobey’s Swap meet in San Diego. So, my mom and my stepdad had a toy stand out there. I think I was like maybe 9, 10 years old and I’d be out there working on weekends with them and learning how to handle cash, learning how to barter, and got the bug myself. My mom, very supportive of me, I wanted to start a little company where we’d clean up old radios and buy at Kobey’s Swap Meet, and then resell them, the old Hallicrafters shortwave radios and then just Hi-Fi systems. And my mom was very supportive. I remember her buying me a ledger book, so I could keep track of what I was buying, what I was selling, and do a rudimentary income statement with it. And even to this day, I remember that. And just getting me started.
Neil Dudley: Do you do any of that still?
Luke Abbott: The ledger book, no.
Neil Dudley: No, not the ledger book, but do you have a tendency or a calling to go to, let’s say, yard sales or stuff and find something that you feel like you can flip?
Luke Abbott: Yeah, I had to stop. So, at the time I was maybe 18, 19, I ended up buying these two propane, large fiberglass panel vans, and I would go to auctions and I would buy up box lots. And it really was not very profitable, but I’d go to two different swap meets in San Diego and had employees at each, and we’d sell junk on tables. And I just remember, it just became bad because there’s tons and tons of junk that I had to go through and sort.
Neil Dudley: You’d take every gamble on each box hoping that a little nugget was in there.
Luke Abbott: Yes. Yeah. I think perhaps it was a sort of an addiction, and I’ve just never gone back. So, at 19 I sold the panel vans, sold everything, and I really went a different direction, which was good.
Neil Dudley: So, from what I, basically, what I hear is it kind of stems from your mom and growing up in that kind of swap meet culture.
Luke Abbott: Absolutely. The swap meet culture, it totally is a whole subculture.
Neil Dudley: You’ll find a lot of entrepreneurs- Are you familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk? He’s another guy kind of listen to, and he is a big, he came from Belarus and he helped his dad build this wine company, started this company called Wine Library. They sold wine, they took his company from like $2 million to 60 million or something like that. But he started trading baseball cards. That’s kind of where he started building this idea of how to be an entrepreneur, how to turn money into more money and that kind of thing. So, he had a huge baseball card business. And even now, he will go on weekends occasionally to yard sales and stuff and try to buy, he’ll flip something – buy it for five bucks, flip it for twelve, and he says, “I feel as good about that as I do about the million dollar deal I just inked with Coke” or something.
Luke Abbott: I feel that tug sometimes, and I just have to resist it.
Neil Dudley: I just think that’s interesting. I think that kind of subculture does foster that entrepreneurial kind of- Which I think cowboy, even just ranching fosters that in a way, too.
Luke Abbott: Totally. Yeah, I think swap meets in particular, very low barriers to entry, can be in business super inexpensively.
Neil Dudley: So next question is, talk to me a little bit in your mind about what the value of a dollar and/or Bitcoin is.
Luke Abbott: The value of a dollar or a Bitcoin. So, I really don’t think about Bitcoin ever. So, I don’t have any thoughts relative to that. But the value of a dollar, I would say, I think about it a lot relative to my children and teaching them that value. And to me, it’s my kids will tell you, and probably a little kid upset, is I don’t just like give them dollars. More than not, we’re really working with the children on earning it and really teaching them that there’s often some struggle in that process of getting to that dollar. But that struggle is what makes us stronger and how we grow. And I think my 23-year-old is a great example. I mean, I am so proud of that young man. He graduated from UCLA with a microbiology degree. He paid for his own college. And he now has started-
Neil Dudley: I think that sets him up for success in life.
Luke Abbott: I think so too, and he’ll tell you the same thing. He told me once, “Dad, I really was much more all in and learned so much more and got much more from the experience because it was my money.” And he was so sensitive to the debt that he was racking up and he’d go, how do I manage that debt? And now he’s obviously graduated and started his own business and is very successful. But also knows that he can do it. He’s not dependent on me. He is his own man, stands on his own two feet and will be able to provide for his family on his own.
Neil Dudley: Do you ever have this, or I feel like, which I’ve still just got a lot of young kids, so I don’t have them kind of getting out on their own two feet so much yet, which I’m interested, do you have much of a tug to want to help, like you kind of may have the means to make it a little easier for them, do you find much-?
Luke Abbott: I do. I do. And it is very hard to be intentional about helping your kids develop this intrinsic locust of control of motivation. And I just have to think about, it’s actually becoming be easier. Now seeing Tommy, my 23-year-old, and how well he’s turned out, it really validates that this road of having them earn it works. I mean, at least for him, but I’m hoping, and every child is different. So, I think we need to meet our children where they’re at and then try to, where possible, have them do a struggle that they’re capable of doing at that moment. They may not be able to see that they’re capable of it, but you see it, but not pushing them in a situation where there’s abject failure. It’s really managing that line. So, I’d say for Tommy, it is different than how I work with my 19-year-old daughter, and my nine-year-old son. Cause they’re just all different.
Neil Dudley: To me, the parenting thing is just, I always just really love talking about parenting, because it’s so, well, it parallels all kinds of things. And you can learn so much, like, you have these many different personalities in your kids and conflict. But that in a family, at least mine – it is probably not true for all families – but there’s this trust and vulnerability because they’re naturally, it’s almost like, man, I’m in the hive right here of how I can learn and be better at work. If you’ll listen and learn from your kids a little bit and allow them to argue and try to take their points without, I have a tendency to just say, “I’m Dad, this is how it works.”
Luke Abbott: It’s easier. And there’s nothing more humbling than being a parent is what I have learned. And, my daughter, who’s now a fantastic young woman, as a younger teenager, we couldn’t get it right. And it was a mess for everybody. And we, so many days where I was just crushed. I’m like, what do I do? I’m failing. And this whole thing with social media, I didn’t understand it. And just for parents out there, please manage that. I didn’t fully manage it enough. And my daughter, I found out later, was being exposed to bullying and these things affected her, and it affected our home life. And I didn’t even know what was going on. And so, I just am grateful. I think the redemption aspect is pretty amazing. So, at any given moment, you may feel like it’s over and it’s awful and I failed, and then to get to a point now where my daughter is 19 and she’s come out the other side and she’s a loving, caring, kind person. And all we did is really try to stay the course, staying the course of I love you, I’m here for you. There are some boundaries that we had to be aware of and just keep on that. And it turns out okay. That’s been hugely validating at the end.
Neil Dudley: That’s encouraging. It’s because as humans, we are inclined or built in a way that we’re going to be hard on ourselves, think we’re failures. It seems like I’ve yet to meet any person that can honestly say I’ve just always known I’m awesome in life; it’s just me. I have never met once. The most successful people have insecurities and are running through their head this tape player of your something not right. So, and I think we put that in our kids. At least I do, unintentionally, I would never intentionally want them-. I want my daughters to have all the self-confidence in the world because it will protect them from the bullying, the mean men, the just strife in life that I think women have to deal with more than men, even with other girls.
Luke Abbott: It’s intense, especially with teenagers.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. I want them to just know, but I can’t plug it into them. They have to build it.
Luke Abbott: And that’s where that struggle aspect comes in. If you remove all struggle from your children’s lives, they will not be able to stand up in this world. And we set them up, we do set them up for some form of failure. So, and I can tell with you too, we’re looking at ways to raise children that eventually become these highly functioning adults. And we’re going to blow it a lot of the time.
Neil Dudley: And just have tools in their toolbox to deal with different things, this, that, or other, failure, success. You need to know how to deal with success because that can put you under.
Luke Abbott: Correct. Which means you have to experience success. You have to experience failure, experience profound sadness and realize that you get through it.
Neil Dudley: And it parallels in business. Just the same thing. Markets change, the world changes; it’s going to happen to our kids. The social media thing is so scary. And I have friends that are like, “My kids are never getting a phone,” and I’ll say, well, I mean, I kind of wish that could be true.
Luke Abbott: But they’re going to get access.
Neil Dudley: That’s true. They need to know how to navigate that, police themselves. All these kinds of things that I had to learn in a different way, but it was gathering cattle, riding horses, all this. I had to learn how to police and okay, there’s likely to be a rattlesnake out here in this pasture, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go in the pasture. I just need to be aware there’s a rattle snake out here and it can kill me. So, the same thing, you don’t have to stay out of the social media metaphorical pasture because of the rattlesnakes out there, but you just need to be like, oh, this is where bullying can take place, and I recognize that and that doesn’t really need to be my reality. It may just be theirs. I think that’s so hard.
Luke Abbott: I agree. I think there is, if you think about like as a parent, we can be working more towards making things intrinsic in the children, or extrinsic, which is like maybe the classic 1950s dad who’s lording over you. The reality is because of the internet, social media, even if I banned you from having a phone as a child, you’re still going to get access. You’re still going to have awareness. And so, the importance of creating this intrinsic, I guess, consumption of the values and internalization of values and self-worth, and the toolbox you commented on is so important at a younger age, because they’re going to be exposed to it, and we have to have them ready for it at 9, 10 years old.
Neil Dudley: So, just the whole birds and bees conversation, that stuff comes along so much quicker. Which I felt I kind of had exposure to the idea of how babies came about and this and that just because of cattle and horses and dogs and just being around animals. Well, a lot of in today’s world, people aren’t around animals as much and they don’t have a livelihood that depends on getting a cow bred and how does that work? And now we need to have a baby and all those things.
Luke Abbott: I agree. For my 9-year-old, 9 is so young, but there’s a book I read with my 23-year-old and 19-year-old from Dr. Dobson that’s about the birds and bees and does it in a very frank and direct way. And if you have these readings, so I’m going to start that with my 9-year-old. I’m starting a couple of years earlier than I did with my older kids just because of where we’re at today. I mean, they’re going to get exposed to it. I’d rather be the one telling the story instead of having them make it up based on what their friends say.
Neil Dudley: Yes, that’s so right. Don’t be afraid of these conversations, people. Get in there, get dirty with them, and just in love and with kindness. I love the Dr. Dobson thing because my parents used that with me.
Luke Abbott: The same book?
Neil Dudley: I don’t know what book you are talking about, but they did use Dr. Dobson as a kind of a beacon of how to parent and navigate things. So that’s cool. I haven’t done anything with Dr. Dobson. I need to look into some of that.
Luke Abbott: If you think about walking through those conversations with their children, they can be a little awkward, to have Dr. Dobson with you.
Neil Dudley: Well, and it brings me to this thought of one of the podcasts or books I was reading, it was some very successful people, and it was talking about this Bill Campbell, who kind of coached a lot of Silicon Valley’s top brass, big company, let’s say Steve Jobs, Gates, all these kinds of guys. He was kind of their coach. And in this particular podcast, the guy was talking about it. Oh yeah, I remember, he was Google’s CEO. What was his name? Anyways, it’s kind of, well, germane to the story, but the CEO of Google was being mentored a bit and the guy was saying, “Well, you need a coach, and this is the guy I would recommend.” And he’s kind of like, “Well, you know I’m the CEO of Google, right? I kind of know what I’m doing.” And the guy that was mentoring was like, “Well, yeah, I mean, that’s true. You do, you’ve made it to the top of the mountain, but let’s take, for example, Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of all time. Does he have a coach?” Yeah, he does. So, everybody can use that, that in your corner perspective of a coach that will shoot you straight, like, “Hey, dude, start acting this way. You used to all the time. Now you’re starting to get this little tick in your personality that’s going to be detrimental, and it can help you-.” I thought that was really cool. You’re never really, truly on the top of the mountain.
Luke Abbott: I agree. I agree.
Neil Dudley: Luke, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you about life, parenting, business. I’ll put all of this stuff we’ve talked about, the biographies you recommended, Dr. Dobson, in the show notes, this book, the Five Dysfunctions of Teams, so everybody that is listening can get access to those things, check them out. They’re recommended by a guy that I look up to as really impressive. The things Luke’s done in his career just speak to his abilities. And what he’s saying is something that we can all learn from. You got any parting shots over the bayou you’d like to make?
Luke Abbott: Neil, I’m just honored to be here. You invited me here and I’m just so honored. And by the way, last night, we were able to go to the Ball of the Bash, and it was just such an amazing experience to see you up there as you’re raising money from the local community for, I believe it was, type I diabetes. I am honored to have a friend like you who’s obviously very successful in business, as a family man – I got to meet your wife last night for the first time – and then to see everything you’re doing to try to make the world a better place by bringing the community together to raise funds. I think you raised, was it $25,000?
Neil Dudley: $28,000 last night, make sure and get that extra three in there.
Luke Abbott: Every penny counts. Yeah, I just, I have known you for many years. You’ve actually come to San Diego. We’ve had dinner with I think my younger children.
Neil Dudley: That is kind of a part of the story we didn’t tell anybody is how we even got to know each other, which was – I think most of the listeners are going to know that I sell bacon for Peterson’s and, well, you guys were a customer of ours and a good customer. So, we spent some time together getting to know each other then, and then we kind of really haven’t talked over quite a long time, and then it just happens to be- I would say this to everybody listening, everybody you meet can affect your life one day. So, take that into consideration. So, Luke and I did business together, successful business together, went different ways, and now we’re back around and potentially really just helping each other through the next phase of business, because the market’s changed, lots of different things have changed. We’re in a different season of our careers, all of those things. The amount of people that I do business with now that I’ve met as just somebody working in a store that are now decision–makers and pulling strings on big deals that we’re making are just guys that, that relationship is so awesome. Because they know I’m really who I say I am. They don’t have to doubt – oh yeah, I know you because you used to be carrying these boxes in the back door. That’s so valuable.
Luke Abbott: My favorite part about this business is the relationships. And it is like a massive national extended family. And typically, if you’re not a kind of person, you’re not going to last, and if you are kind, you’re part of the family. So, it works.
Neil Dudley: That’s, I think just kind of as a last note, kindness prolongs. Bullies may get what they want.
Luke Abbott: In the short run.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, so play the long-term game, treat people right, and you will be better off for it.
Once again, we’ve come to another conclusion of what I just think is just such a blessing in my life, an opportunity I had to spend with a good friend of mine, Luke Abbott, to talk about our perspectives, things that are important to us in life, or even on the front of our minds, just in what we’re doing day to day. I hope there’s some perspectives in there that you can take home, chew on, roll around in the old noodle and see if they play for you in life as well. I did want to let you know I’m going to put links, notes, etc., in the description of this podcast so you can reference some of those things we talked about, either books, people, resources that we find valuable in our life. Once again, thanks so much for listening to the Cowboy Perspective podcast. And until next time, party down.