Are you a risk-taker? Are you an overachiever? Do you want to feel empowered by running your own business? If any or all of those resonate with you then you will be glued to this episode with Gay Gaddis.
Gay cashed in her IRA for $16,000 in 1989 to create a new breed of agency, T3, that rose to national prominence for innovation under her leadership for more than 30 years.
Today, Gay is focusing her always-on energy to empower entrepreneurs and the next generation of women business leaders to take big leaps in their careers and lives. She is an active speaker on women’s leadership, company culture, and entrepreneurship. Her book, Cowgirl Power, released in January 2018, shares insights and examples for women to develop personal power and lead like fearless cowgirls.
This podcast is a primer of how to take your business from its infancy to being an eight-figure powerhouse. You will learn that with great risks comes greater reward potential. We talk about how to embody your power as a CEO, which also means not shying away from the difficult, unfavored decisions.
We talk about how knowing your numbers is sexy and vital to being successful. And how do you walk away from a business that is your baby? Find this out and more with our amazing guest this week, Gay Gaddis.
I am sure you will be wowed by her and will want to learn even more from Gay. You are in luck she has a series of webinars coming up for you. The next one is Wednesday, July 15, 2020. You can find more information by going to her Webinar Page.
Enjoy this episode with Gay Gaddis.
The Transcription is done with Otter and uncorrected so it will not be completely accurate.
Gay, It’s so much fun to be here with you on the Wealthy Wellthy podcast. Thank you for just taking some time with us. I’m so excited to be with you this morning.
All right, well, I have your book right here. cowgirl power, how to kick ass in business in life. And girlfriend, you are the role model for women to kick ass at business and life and I just admire you. I admire your success. admire your identity and your reputation in Austin, Texas over the many years. I’ve always aspired to meet you and know you because you’re always that successful idol that I had for so many years of my life is I was young and working to build my own business. And so you didn’t you probably didn’t know but I was really A raving fan from afar. So it’s a real pleasure to be here with you today.
Well, that was very kind of you. What a nice way to start my morning.
All right, well, there’s so many things to talk about. And really, from your own point of view, first of all, share a little bit about you to everybody listening. And really, you have such a great story. The story is in your book, and I really after I read your book, it’s like, oh, my gosh, you know, you’re you’re even more amazing than I thought you just have really such a cool life story with so many lessons from your parents, from business from some of the opportunities that you took advantage of from being a leader from lots of failures and big successes. And so share a little bit about just who you are some of that story. And then and I’ll dig in a little bit deeper, and then just yeah, talk about t three and the success there like so everybody can really listen to what kind of that that badass you really are.
Well, I grew up in a small town in East Texas, Southeast Texas, and a lot of the lovely people. And the lessons I learned are right there. And they shaped me the my godparents were wonderful people. my godfather was a rice farmer. And he was the first person to put me on a horse. So therefore the cowgirl and my parents were both from Missouri, and they dressed me up as a little cowgirl always when I was a child, and I laugh because I have all these photos of me and these little cowgirl boots and regalia. And I would tell people, this is not a Halloween costume. This was me, this is how I dress, because they all kind of thought that was fun that I was the first little Texan in the family. But as life will hit you some time it’s my father passed away unexpectedly when I was just turned 13. And because of that, my mom and I found ourselves in kind of a financial bind because he had just started a business himself. He was an entrepreneur, and Emily a few years into it, and that business was doing well, but certainly hadn’t taken off yet. So my mom was a kindergarten teacher. She was an entrepreneur as well. She owned her own kindergarten, but then she went back into teaching in the public schools. And so between her teacher salary and what we had leftover from his business, that’s what we were living on. And so I ended up going to work when I was 13. And worked at a jewelry store in Liberty, Texas, my small town. And my first job was as an engraver at the jewelry store. They taught me how to engrave. And for all of you out there who don’t know about much about this years ago, it was very popular to give people a lovely big silver tray with your name on it, or maybe some some kind of phrase about, you know, the best coach ever for the volleyball team. 1962 blah, blah, blah. Well, anyway, so I learned how to engrave it, and I would do this and they taught me and it was a real risky job though. And so this is my first big risk because they tell me that if you mess up any of these silver pieces, then you You’ll have to pay for them. And I just started going through this mental gymnastics of oh my gosh, I’ll have to be working the rest of my life to pay for this if I don’t, you know if I make a mistake so lo and behold, I did not make mistakes. Although one day they came in with a little jigger, and it had a long horn on the top and they said, We want you to engrave hook them on this and for all of you out there, yeah, that’s the University of Texas. plug them hook em horns. So I put the carefully the Little Peter jigger into the stylus on the stylus and started to hook them and the minute I did, the stylus just fell into it into this melted almost mush. I got through it, but walked out crying and it said hook them but it was blurry. And I said it didn’t work. And I’m sorry, I have to pay for it. And so they looked at me and they picked it up and then they said you know what? We didn’t know if this was going to work anyway because this is pewter and it’s a very soft metal. So you can just Have that and don’t worry about it. That was one of the first lessons I learned that you forgive people when it’s not their fault, really. And sometimes, you know, when I was managing people through the years, and literally going through ups and downs and trials and tribulations with business and recessions and losing clients and and all the things that happen is you run a business, that sometimes things would just happen that really were not our fault. It was just the way it was, but what do you do to deal with it? And so it gave me a forgiving spirit for those things, and you just roll with it. You know, you just have to roll. I still have that little jigger on my bar, because it reminds me of that lesson. But all the things that I learned growing up, and learning that money was very precious. And every dime I made, I had to make more out of it. And my mom used to have a phrase that she said much later in life, that I didn’t ever hear her side, but she told her friends this, she would always say if you give gay Nicole, she’ll rub it too. Gathering make $1. And so I honestly, you know, lived from the time I was a young teenager, to this day, I’m being very, very cognizant of every dollar, where it is, how I’m making it, how you make a profit, how you store up for your future, all of those things. And I know that the topics that you spend so much time on with, with your audience and with the people that you coach. And so it’s something that I learned, though, as a very early age, because of necessity.
Yeah. And thank you so much for sharing that. And there’s I’d like to dig into that a little bit. And do you mind sharing a little bit of story like where this came from that you referenced in your book that that there was, you know, coming from mom even in a way that you just spent money and live beyond the means and it’s very easy for a kid never to learn beyond that. Like that is the example maybe from the parents and said that continues? What was that moment where you realize like that That doesn’t work, I’ve, I’ve got to do money differently.
Well, my mom really didn’t have a very good handle on money. And actually, that was a point of contention between my parents, as a child, I remember growing up, and my mother would take me into Neiman Marcus and Houston, we weren’t that far from Houston. And we’d spend the day, you know, and just buy all this stuff and come home with boxes full of things, and my dad would kind of have a fit because, you know, he was starting his business and and we he was very mindful of our budgets and all those things, and she was just kind of a spendthrift to be honest. And so I watched that and didn’t understand it at the time. And then, once he passed away, and I really got into the money with her, I realized that we had to budget ourselves and we had to be much more careful. But she had another tendency. What happened is, he had an engineering firm, and he was a civil engineer, and surveyed land and so as the Houston area was growing, many times and the reason we were Cash poor, when he passed away was that he would take pieces of land in lieu of payment. And it was a really smart thing to do. But you know, again, it wasn’t a cash fly. But it was something that was more of an investment. And he always looked at that as a long term annuity, basically for our family. So my mom, instead of holding on to some of those and let them appreciate, we just fell off the land. And so she would keep doing these things. So we would have money to spend, and all of a sudden I put the brakes on her. And I just said, we can’t do this anymore. And so I’ve worked every day in my life since I was 13. And I knew I had to be self sufficient. I worked through college, I was a TA I got scholarships. I went to work, I got out of school and three and a half years, because I needed to get to work. And so I push myself to get through an art degree faster than just about anybody I’ve ever known. And went to work in the advertising business. And so that’s and that story goes back to the fact that I was an art major I’m in my art gallery now at my ranch. I’m painting again and doing quite well with that. But the interesting thing is I could draw, and I could write, so I went the advertising business, because in the late 70s, that’s how we did it. There were no Mac computers, everyone has to imagine a world where if I was going to show a client or show you a concept, I had to draw it. And so I learned how to do those things. And that’s how I made money and first got a school. So again, back to my mom, those were almost reverse good lessons. She was a wonderful person and taught me so many things about life. She was just an incredible spirit. And she has an interesting story if we want to get into it, but the thing about her that was the money was always a problem. And fortunately, I was able to take care of her throughout her entire life and give her a life that was really comfortable. And that’s something I wanted to do. But she was not a my money manager teacher. But she taught in reverse. Like I said, Sometimes the things that happened to you that aren’t someone beating on you saying oh you must manage your money you must do this. She was the opposite. And so I learned how to do it out of survival.
Yeah, I love that and you even made that your intention is like hey I I see that this type of way to be with money doesn’t work for me and it’s not going to work for her so I’m going to make my career and success enough and financial situation up where I can take care of her because she is such a great woman and idol and all these other things. She’s just not in this one area and and I can do that for her said, I love that story. And I love hearing that that’s that’s what happened.
Well, I want to say one thing too, about the quest to make money. It wasn’t just for me. You know, I was doing it for my family. But I was also had a bigger mission. And that was that. When I started my company, and we mentioned t three started the company in 1999. I was really broke at the time it was during a deep recession. And the only money I had to start the company was a $16,000 IRA that I had saved. And that was it. We were living on a thin, thin ice because all of our salaries had gotten cut it was it was really a rough time, I’ll just say, and Texas was particularly hard during this recession. So when I started the business, I thought, you know, what, if I can grow this thing, and provide jobs for people, that’s going to be a big thing, you know, and it would really give me great joy in my life, if I could be the catalyst that created opportunities for not only clients in the advertising world, but also for a lot of creative people who need a place to practice their craft, so to speak, and I’m a creative I came out of that, but I was a business person too. And I want to put one caveat, you know, I did get the art degree, but I went back to school to work on my MBA because I realized I didn’t understand the language of business very early. Early on in my career, I never finished the MBA, but I got real close to finishing. And so I have the business background too. And so having those two things, I always kind of understood the creative folks. Because I was one I came out of that. And I understand the business of the business. So, for me to look back on my career now, and now that I heard through the, through the almost 31 years, I ran my business over thousands of people, thousands of people basically and affected lives across so many because of their families and extended families. That is a great, great piece of pride I have you know that we were able to do that. And I took the risk to do it. It would have been really easy to just kept it small. And I will say a lot of women don’t scale their businesses. And that’s one of the things that I always wanted to do was to keep it growing and you have to me I had to, you know, to let it stop and stagnate. is almost a kiss of death. New Business is the lifeblood of any organization, I was really good at bringing in business and, and it was exciting because not only were we growing with larger clients, and it was a big risk, but we got to work on more interesting things. And that was a fun thing when I could come back and say, Gosh, we’re going to get to work with GPS. And we have this first big project. And just to see my team so excited about working on a national stage with Allstate and Capital One and chase and 711. And all through the different clients that we worked with in Dell back in the day, which is a big story of mine. And so those were, those are great things that I feel good about now that I was able to bring those opportunities to a carrier group of people who were so excited to work on this thing.
I love that. So just as a little reference point, would you talk about just a little bit of the success of T Three, two things and then I want to really dig underneath each of a few different categories, but one p3 as the advertising company, I’m guessing it didn’t go linearly from zero to where you exited. So one is just to, I think there’s this preconceived notion that Oh, once you hit a certain stage business just becomes easier. Money just becomes easy. And it’s this, you know, up and down, like it goes up over time, but it’s full of lots of hills, I think, at least from my own experience, kind of, you know, peaks and valleys, but the peaks and valleys go up over time. And then so just share a little bit of that journey. And then ultimately, what was the success of d3 upon your exit?
Okay. Well, the interesting thing about t three is that I started as I said, in 1999, in Austin was a very sleepy little town. Most people would come today and not even realize what it was like in those days, we had the University of Texas, and a lot of state government employees and then some small mom and pop companies. There were some larger companies that had come to Austin but they were outputting You know, IBM had been there for a while, and Motorola three, and but they that was not headquarters. So you didn’t really have a business Nexus in Austin. But there was one company that was starting to grow. And that was Dell. And it was kind of a small company when we started working with them in 1992. And they were renegades. And they turned the computer industry on their heads by their business model. And so we started doing some work with them. And it was like a tiger by the tail. And it was really exciting. And so And I’ll never forget 1994 I was in a meeting with Michael Dell. And he addressed a group of us and said, we’re gonna start selling on the internet, because it perfectly fits our direct model. And wow, I said, Okay, so I ran back to the office, and there were like, 35 of us at the time. And we had a few people who were kind of dabbling with this internet thing, but no one really had it under control at all. And so I addressed the team and I said, Look, if we’re going to keep Dell, we’re going to have to learn how to do this. internet thing, because we will lose them if we don’t. So we work hand in hand with Dell for years building very first, very first, I mean online marketing programs from email campaigns online advertising. And just on and on, I could tell the story was virtual, I mean, just incredible stuff we were doing. So because of that, it gave us opportunities to work with other companies that were starting to dabble in this thing, too. But Dell always was our biggest client. And that was a big bit of a problem in a way because it grew and it grew and it grew and it grew and we had a 16 year relationship with them. One day, they decided they were going to consolidate advertising agencies and we’d been there like I said, 16 years, we knew everything about them. We had incredible synergy with their teams. And we’d really learned how to sell on the internet better than probably anybody. And so they did consolidate agencies. They said we’re you t three, you And t three are going to still be in this as it Okay, that’s great. But they also told me that if I was going to stay, I had to sell my company. And this was in 2008. And I said, we’re not selling t three to the holding company they chosen. And so they came back and they finally said, if you don’t sell, you’re out, I said, I’m out. And you would not believe what that meant to us. That moment, I walked away from $70 million in revenues. 70 million. That was huge. It was a biggest client we had. And so I tell our team immediately, and that’s something I want to share with this audience is I believe in transparency, and being honest with your teams as quickly as you can. So the minute that decision was made, I’ve gathered the entire team together and told everybody there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We were all very, very distraught. It meant because here we were reading To fall into a recession, that there would be layoffs and there was going to be huge cuts. And I don’t even know if we could make it to be honest. But I was determined we would make it. And so over the next months, I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my entire life. So you know, this time that we’re going through right now reminds me of things like that. It was really, really hard. And I didn’t know how I was going to replace point replace the business. But here’s the magic of the whole thing. Because we did no internet marketing and we had absolute results. I had an incredible bag to sell out of. So I called everyone I had Evernote, I called every existing client, I went on the road and I asked people to please hire this wonderful team of folks I had, who had skills that everyone was trying to figure out. And one by one we brought in more business and more business and you will not be leave this. We parted ways with Dell in February 2008. I closed my business every year, September 3. If we were hold by September 30, that year, we didn’t lose a dime, and knock on wood, thank God. I never lost a dime. Every year I was in business, we were profitable every year. Some years were more profitable than others, but every year, so that was an incredible experience. But what it tells about t three was that our innovation, our ability to pivot, our ability to think outside the box and do new things, and then my ability to network and just hit it made it successful. And this happened over and over again. It was really an incredible experience and it almost killed me. I talked about it in my book. It was it was rough. I mean, I was really, really stressed out for a long time. But somehow we made it through and boy and we did it was just like amazing because all of a sudden we made it up or made up the money. We brought our teams back together and one nice thing happened During all this is that it was like a gift from God. Charles Schwab decided to open an office in Austin and have an in house agency. And so while we were laying off some people, a lot of them were able to go over into the Schwab organization. So it was a year we were in this going this recession. And so it was a great thing that I didn’t feel like I just had to put people on the street. And so that’s the worst thing I’m going to say to anyone listening you ever have to do is that let people go, especially people who are doing a great job, and you would never do that under any other circumstances. So feel for the folks out there now, who are in that position where they’re having to borrow or let go or what do you want to call it or layoff or furlough wonderful people. And it just breaks your heart and it breaks their hearts. I mean, it’s it’s devastating to their careers in their lives and their incomes. And so that’s the toughest thing that you have to do. And wow, when I could see that we could replace Is that business or find a job somewhere else for somebody that took a big burden off my heart?
Yeah. And again, it shows it’s wasn’t just about the money. It wasn’t about the money for you it was to your promises, jobs and helping people and, and to do great work. Something you said in there you said some Well, first of all, before I go deeper, tell me a little bit. Where did Where did t three end up?
Okay. Well, you know, my son, my oldest son had come back into the business and had been there. What when when I sold it, it was it 10 years, he’d been there 10 years. And Ben has a lot of the same qualities of leadership and ways of working with clients and bringing in new business. He’s a great public speaker. He’s just a lot like me in those ways. And so I felt like, you know, he was in a good place to do that. And so I named him the president. And when I wrote the book, I started kind of backing out of day to day I was still there, and I always watched them. Money. And I always work with my management team very carefully coaching them working with them. But I wasn’t in a lot of the day to day stuff. And we got extremely technical. I mean, some of the work we were doing was, had never been done before. And to be honest, we were hiring biomedical engineers, we were doing some really interesting things, a lot of software engineers, and a lot of that was just so far out of my wheelhouse. I loved it. But, you know, I wasn’t the person to manage that. So it was great, because I went on the road, I was doing a lot of public speaking, wrote the book. And I wasn’t at t three every day. So I started kind of pulling myself without even realizing it a bit out of the business and a bit out of the daily emotions of it. And it also kind of taught my teams that they could get by without me being there. And so it started that started happening and so not really thinking I would sell the business. I was already starting to kind of make that change and I One day, we had a family meeting, which we have a couple times a year. And we all sat down and said, Is this the time to really think about selling t three, and of course, my spine just bristle because I never built t three to sell, to be honest. I mean, that was not the way I made decisions along the way. And we could talk a lot about that, because there’s a lot of companies that are set up from the get go to sell and the way you make decisions and the way you spend your money and why you invest in your company is totally different. And so I didn’t set it up that way. So it really kind of my Oh, I don’t want to sell the company. Let’s keep it. But we all decided, well, let’s hire a professional firm. Let’s just go out and see what’s out there. We were overwhelmed with responses to the RFP on looking into the purchase or buying of T three we had an overwhelming response. So we had to look why not. And so we went down the path. Well, we got down the path a little farther. And there was a whole lot of those companies that I wouldn’t even talk to as a No way. And so we kept going and kept going. And finally, we ended up with a few that were pretty interesting. We got real serious with one, the money was right. The people were right. And it wasn’t another ad agency. And that was something really important to me. So in the end, we ended up selling to a company called l rw. And it’s a long term company that’s been around and their expertise is in data collection, customer insights, deep dives into research. And it was just a great match for us because we did some of that. But I just felt like putting that rocket underneath what we did was going to be a really interesting dynamic. And for us to have more and more customer insights and more data to work with and more real time checks on everything we did was like the magic dust, you know, and so it was just telling I decided okay, and this is a good time Oh, my goodness, I look back on it we closed end of October had we push that decision into this spring or forward we wouldn’t have done it. I mean, there’s no way and so Timing is everything I guess. And it was also a good time for me to and I decided and undergo shading this whole thing that I was out I didn’t want to linger be on the sidelines, but I do have an equity position still left in the company. I’m a role, you know, hoping wishing and interest and still talk with a lot of them about where they’re going and all of that just because you know, I do have a piece of it, but it was mainly a cash play. And we did well as a family and I’m happy for that. But I’ll sought out a gave a lot of my people some good opportunities to work with a lot, a larger organization that was growing and give them some new insights. So it was it was a tough thing to do though. You know, as my child I was a baby for almost 31 years, and just Say goodbye was, was a bit difficult and just untangling myself from the details and all the people and how my life was inextricably linked with everything there in the clients all of that, but it’s worked out. And now during this pandemic, I was kind of forced into thinking differently anyway. And so I look back on it now and think, Well, that was it was good timing. It really was.
So what it like where where did the word she end up revenue wise, top line revenue wise for the company, and can you share with it?
Well, you know, we were a $40 million shop revenue, so 40, and that’s pretty good. So I can’t share exactly we weren’t publicly traded as a private company, but you know, it’s multiples of that. We can go do your math. I felt like we left it That was a good place to end up. 40 million in revenues is a good sass company and one of the most respected innovative digital shops. In the country as well. So it was just again, it was good timing it always, always in a downturn, always in a recession, you can take it to the bank, so to speak, that marketing dollars and advertising dollars are the first things to go are one of the first things. And so it happened again, you know, and it happened in this spring. But fortunately, again, t threes always been fortunately again on the cusp of the things that clients need and the more you can share results. The more you’re doing successful campaigns, the more your dollars don’t get cut. And I’m even saying that once again, broadcast is going to get a big splash in the industry. So t three made some mis make course corrections over the spring but they’re they’re in good shape. So you know, it’s one of those things that we would have lost revenue in the spring building it back, but it’s it’s definitely was a good time to To make an exit last fall.
All right, wow. Again, congratulations and let’s go You said a couple things. I, there’s so much to dig in here. First of all, one thing that you said that’s just so important, I think for you know, small businesses, entrepreneurs, is separating themselves from the business like what you said you were the talent to creative, did great work through your pictures, you went out and got the business and, and that but then you’re also a businesswoman and they’re distinct. So you had the, you know that the intuition or whatever it is, it’s like, wait, there’s a business language. There’s a whole business science, there’s something different to being a business woman and running, growing, operating, dealing with the challenges of business. So let me go learn something about that. So can you speak a little bit more the distinction between being the leader the talent, the creator, you know, the the title Mission, if you will, in the business and the owner and operator and the decision maker what what are these two distinct categories? Because I see so many where they make mistakes is they really don’t know anything about business. They’re just in a business so to speak, and, and therefore they’re not looking at the money. They don’t know the difference between revenue and profit. They’re not trying to read those two nickels together.
Yeah, you know, I, I was really always again, you know, we talked about it goes back to my history that you don’t take anything for granted. I always knew every dollar we had at t three I was in when I told you that I kind of stepped out of the company a little bit. The CFO and I talked every day, I was always very, very much in tune with our profit margins what we were doing and you know, we can be really innovative in how we work with our clients. Because again, I didn’t have a board of directors. I didn’t have anyone I was working for except for our clients. So sometimes we would embed in them, you know, and we would not give things away, but we would invest in new ideas and invest in things. And I would make those decisions, because I could, and I was really at the end of the day, the decision maker, and I had very strong people on my team. And my husband actually was my Chief Operating Officer for a number of years. And he retired before we sold the company. But I had people who were, you know, so good at what they did every day. But when it all came down to the end, I had to make decisions. And I was a very quick decision maker. And I think that’s where I see a lot of people fail, is they will just toil and toil and weigh this against that and this and this, I was always able, for some reason to just cut through and see what we needed to do for the better of our clients and for our company. And for my family, really, and so I would just, you know, I could cut it fast. You know, if I need to make a decision one way or the other. I would do it but I Understanding the money is an extraordinarily important thing. If you get into any industry, you better get it. And you better understand your clients to out, you know, I’ve watched so many agency people through the years and they, they worked on client business, but they didn’t really understand that client business. And I would say, Boy, you better be listening to those earning reports. I mean, so many companies we work with are publicly traded, you could get the info, you listen to earnings report, you read the annual report, you pay attention to their sales. And again, I think I had a perfect learning example for our teams, especially all the ones who worked on the Dell business, because we had extreme transparency into what was working at Dell and their sales numbers. And we could tell right off the bat, what was working what wasn’t. So you would cut it fast. And we used to have a phrase that we used a lot was called fail fast and fail fast comes from the pharmaceutical industry actually, when they were tested when they test drugs. They said, Boy, if something’s not going to work, you better let it fail. because you don’t want to spend millions of dollars on a drug that’s not going to go to market. So that was kind of a term that I used a lot in the company, if something isn’t working, let’s fail fast and move on. And so those were the things that we always measured by and by having the ability to make tough decisions, and understanding business, understanding how our clients were making their money if they were winning or not. And then how that translated to how we were doing, it was kind of a winning combination. And I have to tell you, I never borrowed one dime to run t three, it was always bootstrap 100%, not one dime. And very few people will grow their business up to 40 to $40 million business, especially women, I went, we did some research and I think I’m in there. We can’t even find a number less than 1%. And so it’s a rare bunch of us out there that really go to that scaling of the business that we talked about. Earlier that we went through, and it takes a lot of tough risks that you have to take along the way. But it also does, I think it really goes back to decision making.
I trust my gut a lot. And I talked about that in the book, you have to have your facts. And the fortunate thing for me is that I always had people around me who could provide me with pretty good backs. And I watched those, I looked at my numbers, I loved exactly what I was getting into. And sometimes just jump in the deep end of the pool and take a risk. But most of the time, when I took a risk, it was based on a lot of data, a lot of information and then that last check would be my gut. Is this good or not? And who does this benefit and why are you doing this and just act on it quickly and move on. If you make a mistake, which I made many mistakes. I mean, we all make mistakes. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Just fix it and move on and do what you have to do. But that’s you shouldn’t stop you from making some of those tough calls and decisions when you need to. One one thing this is kind of a long story, but I think it’s a perfect analogy for it I’m talking about. My mom was a, like I said, was an incredible woman. She had bone cancer when she was 12 and 13. So I had amputated her right arm and those days, there was no chemo, there was no radiation, it was just do the amputation and hope to god you live. And fortunately she lived, but it was a rough thing for her. And she told me when I was a little girl that she said, You know, my parents. I was she was an only child like I was and she said they were just terrified that every day I was going to die, but they told me once that they called her Dorothy Jane, they said Dorothy Jane, we did this to you because if we didn’t take your arm away, we could have lost all of you. So I always had this thought in the back of my head. You know, if you don’t take out the cancer, you don’t take out that ruff or make that tough decision that sometimes is really a bad decision to have to make. If you don’t do it, you can lose the whole body. So removing one thing or taking one thing away, that is hurting the whole body is sometimes the only way to save the body. And so I’m thinking t three in that way, that if we have to know maybe, and this even included, you know, firing cords. And so this isn’t good for us. It’s not working. It’s not a good relationship. It’s a cancerous thing. So we take that out or other decisions I had to make through the years, but it would save the whole body.
That’s good. All right. Well, just to kind of drill in the point here is I see so many talented high income earners on the top line. They advocate the money. It’s like they just want to run the business. They wanted to do what they do, but they don’t want to look at the money. They’re afraid of it or they it’s time consuming or it’s inconvenient. So what do you say about that?
You have to if you don’t want To understand the money and how you’re working and how you’re making money, what is profit? How are you making money because you can’t make decisions, you cannot move forward, if you don’t have your hands on every number. And you need to understand and each industry there are key indicators and their numbers, you have to watch what what I would watch. And my business might be different from a person running a different type of business or a different kind of company. But learn those key indicators. And start watching the trends. You know, that one of the things we did in all my measurement meetings is we had a pie chart. And in the pie chart, one of our pie charts, we had many charts we looked at to try to show our teams where we were going and I tried to be very transparent with the teams about what’s working, what’s not. But one of the pie charts we always looked at was our client ratios. And we would say all right, this client is 20% of the business his clients 12% this clients and 1% we see growth to hear This was a big problem. And when I talk about the Dell business, they were over half of the pie chart at one point. And when I talk about the $70 million, that was not really a good thing. And I would never recommend ever, ever that you let one client become that big piece of your business. Because if you do lose them and you will, someday, all the good things come to an end, then it can devastate your business. And that was the lesson I learned. But I will also tell you, there was a reason we let that happen. We were doing so many interesting, exciting things for Dell, and getting to tread into uncharted waters, experimenting, doing things that were breakthrough, I mean, innovation daily, and so I couldn’t stop the animal. I couldn’t stop that horse. It was like a racehorse that was running so hard and to have held it back we would have missed opportunities to work on interesting things. So the double edged sword on that Was Yes, it was, I would never do it again, you know, I would never let one piece of business overtake my pie chart like that. But as we lost it, all those things that we had done were the things that I mentioned earlier that I could go and talk to another potential client and say, Look at this, that we have proven we’ve done. So we were getting experience. And that was worth it to me. But again, there were key indicators in every business. And if you don’t know what they are, you better figure out who they are. And maybe you need a consultant, you know, maybe someone needs to come in and help you figure those things out. Everyone isn’t a wizard on the business. But if you’re going to be a business owner or a partner, or someone who is really leading a business, you have to know your indicators and watch them and if you see danger signs, correct them and make those make course corrections before it’s too late. Now you get a big wave that hits you like this pandemic. You have to be prepared for things like that. All Time, you always know that it could be this year it’s the virus next year, it could be a recession, the next year, it could be business shifts, or consumer trends shift, or all of a sudden, what was popular, you see so many products that, you know, one day was the greatest thing and then you change technology or something happens and it’s obsolete. So that’s the other thing is you have to watch the obsolescence of what you’re doing. Watch the money, but how relevant Are you always watch what the where the consumer is going that in consumer and if you aren’t providing services or products, or some sort of business model that meets where consumers are going, you will become obsolete. And so innovation watching the trends of consumers is just as important as anything you do.
And what you said there that I really try to, to drill with, with business small business owners. It’s just that is that why watch the money Because how do you make decisions without knowing how the money’s going and flowing and what’s working and what isn’t money tells the story. It’s a narrative. So it’s not about the, oh, we need to run a p&l, or I need to do you know, like abdicate this to somebody to manage my money, or bookkeepers, or CFOs. Say, no, this numbers tell you something. So you read it, to build and make future decisions to be able to understand your customers feel to understand your business. And there’s no other way to do that really, except by because the money the money is black and white, it actually will, will tell so much story. And then over time, you get better at making interpretations, at least to my own experience. So thank you. So something we’re really running, we’re starting to bump up against some some time together. So I’d love to talk about power. The world word power, power, especially for women I think can be more of a negative word like something’s bad about power, or it’s like, force or takeover or you know something, doing something to someone else versus very living in one’s power. being powerful understanding power walking in power. So as something is a very met is a magnetic energy, but it also just to an energy that that makes a lot of great things happen. So can you talk a little bit more about your interpretation of power and how your own power and how you’ve been powerful and how that’s, I guess work for you?
Well, there’s a meaning and cowgirl power about that. And what I say is power is the power that comes from within. And I invite everyone to start thinking about all the times in your life that you felt powerful and go back to childhood. Go back to maybe when you were in the fifth grade play and you did a great job or that college degree you got or that all the things you did and think about the times that you had those successes, you felt powerful and you build on those. But all those things, what gives us power is the hard work. There’s no way around. It because hard work makes you competent. You learn something, you get really good at something and just like we talked about learning the money, you’ve got to understand the money. But when you learn things and you really become expert and competent, that gives you confidence. You know you because you know your stuff. And there’s no shortcuts around that, you know, if you’re going to be really good at something, you have to practice, you’ve got to learn, you got to get your head into, you know, I started painting again a few years ago, I’ve worked my butt off painting. I mean, I work really hard at it. And it wasn’t I just walked in one day and got a canvas and started slapping paint on I really have worked with this. And so that gives you power though. That’s where you get your power. It’s not like you said a top down autocratic online version of power. It’s the power that comes from within. Once you grasp that, then it gives you confidence to do more things. And you can take that next step and the next one, and keep growing and keep learning because that’s what is It’s all about, you know, it’s about the inner power that gives you confidence.
And how much that too and I totally agree. When it comes to financial power. How much do you think like, I don’t know, I have this belief it’s not grounded other than just my own experience. And you know, what I’ve seen around me is understanding money being good at it, making decisions with it. It’s like women owning their power financially. And again, there’s this this tendency to, I’m not good at that or I don’t want it I don’t want to be good at it. How much do you think is like being really intimate and connected and close with your money, being able to make it they’ll make decisions with it. Having strategy for it, being able to grow it over time, all that stuff that is you like owning that knowledge and that ability like just how much power did that give you an another In other words, to be able to know your numbers to know your money know how much money you have? All of that at work?
was incredible. You know, and when and I really Really think people have to get their head around the fact that Oh, I’m not good at math, I’m not good at numbers. Well, business math is a lot easier to me. Then, you know, algebra, calculus, all those things are some of the stem stuff that people are trying to get good at, which is great. I totally support that. But there’s a you got to get your head around the business man, it is it is pretty lucky said it is black and white. It is right there. What How much money do you have? What are the receivables? What are the payables? You know, where are the profits coming from? And you know, I always tell individuals to that you need if you’re part of an organization, or if I was leading the organization, I needed to understand how that organization paid for me. What How was I earning my keep in the organization, because if I’m a contributor, somehow to the bottom line, and I understand that, that is a power play like nothing else, because I found it gave me great negotiating power through the years before I even start In my company, if I knew that I was contributing X dollars to the bottom line, and the business I was bringing in, or whatever I was doing was making a difference. I could prove it. And I watched that too. So it doesn’t mean you’re just a business owner and watch the money. You need to start watching all the time, how any organization, be at nonprofit, whatever that you’re working in, is able to make money and survive and how are you the individual contributing to that and keep up with it and understand it?
Right on all right, another thing that you’ve just been so good at is being a leader so what have you learned through you know, your your journey can maybe a young leader and then you know, the leader, you really you really became what are some of those? What is it from your point? What is a leader? What are those leadership skills or you know, what type of advice do you have for just owning that leadership role?
I got back to again, you go back to your childhood. And you start looking at times where you felt powerful. I’m a self proclaimed and very much an extrovert. And so I always put myself out there and I had parents who pushed me out there to be on center stage. So I learned how to do that. And somehow I learned how to bring people along with me. And so I got voted in to do this job and that job and lead this group and lead that group. But at one point in high school, and again, I was in a small town, but I was running almost every organization. And I’m not kidding. And some most of those were voted on by my peers. But I ended up running the drill team, and that’s a thing we called the drill team, but it was a dance squad in my high school and I became extremely powerful in that. And I did things that I made them make their grades before they could march on a Friday night at the football game. And I had to go to task with the principal over that because that wasn’t a rule. And I just did it and I was really pretty hard on those gals. A lot of them ended up absolutely hating me. And by the time I graduate from high school, I didn’t have many girlfriends left. In fact, there was an article written about me in the high school newspaper by a guy who’s a friend of mine who was a very good friend. And it was a very flattering article about me going off to university of texas and all these accomplishments I had, I got to school the next day, and my locker had been broken into and it was stuff with those articles with the most obscene things written all over it torn up shredded, and people and I realized that I had made some enemies. big lesson learned their big lesson. Yes, I had the natural ability to lead people put their confidence in me they voted me in these offices and they voted me in these things, but I abused my power. And so as I went on through my college years and then later that was those were big lessons arm because I never wanted to wake up and hit my mailbox stuff with hate letters and so on. Learn that you bring people along Oh, my goodness, and you give them opportunities to really have their voice and things. And it’s not about controlling people, it was about giving them power to do their best and bringing the best out of people and complimenting them and stepping back, you know, giving them the credit. And one thing I learned along the way, if anyone in this audience ever will take anything from me, self deprecating humor is a good thing. Or just self deprecation when I told you this story about being, you know, the locker stuff with things, that’s not a really good story about me, but it’s a story that taught me a big lesson. And we have to laugh at ourselves, you know, you got to step back and say, Oh, my gosh, I was so silly doing this. Or you know, or look what I did. And I absolutely use that as a technique really, and staff meetings and different things. I would make a point out of being the goat sometimes and I’ve shouldn’t say that because I love goats and goats, but no, I would, I would make a point at of being the butt of the joke or, you know, not so Miss perfect, because I wanted them to see that we all have our foibles, and we all work together and there’s nobody really in control. It’s someone who’s able to make the decisions and guide the group and then motivate everybody else. So my job was really connector out there bringing in business and motivating others to do their best. So that’s the lesson learned there.
And on the flip side of that, I many times with women too, I see that sometimes they don’t make business decisions, important decisions, leadership decisions, because they’re afraid of being disliked. They’re afraid of somebody being upset with them. So what do you say to that?
Well, people aren’t going to dislike you and I’m not telling you I found the recipe for for genuine love and respect from everybody. I have a good friend many years ago, I was on the Salvation Army board and a man named dick Rath gaber sat down with me one day on the board, and he said gay if you don’t have about half the people mad at you at any given time, you ain’t doing business. And so what he meant by that is that you got to make decisions sometimes and every decision is not going to be popular with people. But you have to make decisions sometimes that are very popular with people and the times that I tell clients that we would no longer be working with them. were some of the biggest cheers I got from my team because I went in and fix something that was abusive or unpleasant for my team. So they saw me make tough decisions that sometimes would cut things away or do things but they also saw me make decisions that were for the good, and they respected that. So you had to you have to do both. One thing I did during a recession one time, though, was I was looking literally looking at the money and we were trying to sign how many people were going to have to cut. It was horrible. You know, that awful gut wrenching thing. We got to cut overhead. So I was going through and we were trying to figure it out. And I said, Wait, wait, wait. I want to see every dime we’re spending on anything else in this company, we started going down the list, I wanted to see if every line item, every subscription to this everything. And I looked at this one line item and I said, Oh my gosh, we used to have this thing called candy Friday. And I said, Look how much we’re spending on candy Fridays. I said I could save a person almost for that I could give a low entry level job beside for that. We’re cutting out candy Friday. So next Friday, no candy, you would have thought I had shot a dog in the front yard of T three people went crazy. Because I had stumbled on a icon of our business. It was kind of part of our culture. And when you do that, and you pull that out, sometimes you’ve done a big harm to the organization. And so I realized it and we brought the candy back and that was just part of the thing because they were already going through enough tough things. And candy Friday it became kind of a fun thing that we did and who needs candy anymore, but it was just the time it was a big thing. So again, it’s like but going back, you know, line item by line item by line item, you know, God of note every time we’re spending in your business, and many times you’ll go back and things that you thought, Okay, oh my gosh, we’ve done that for five years well, and we’re just gonna keep doing it. Well, maybe that was important five years ago, but you don’t need to be doing it now. And just because you’re making money over here doesn’t mean you need to be continuing to doing things that are sucking money out of the business that don’t have any meaning or relevance anymore. Get rid of that stuff and invest it in something else, or hire another person or make more money that year. Because you know, things that just get institutionalized as line items aren’t necessarily important. And you need to go through them every year every six months as often as you need to, to decide what’s really critical to the business.
All right, well, we’re bumping up against the our time together. My gosh, this is just packed with so much good stuff gay. A few final questions to wrap this up is tell me If I tell me if you said, Christina, if you really, really knew me, you would know that tell me something a lot of people don’t know.
Oh, you know what, I’m just a country girl at heart. And I’m a good cook. I love to cook from my garden. I love dogs so much. And I’m just really kind of a simple country girl at heart. And I’ve had the trappings a lot of times have and put myself in some very sophisticated situations. But the last thing that about that is that my dad taught me something before he died. And he always said, meet people where they are. So I’ve always been happy about my humble beginnings and the fact that I am just kind of a country gal. But always he did teach me that if you’re in at the White House at a state dinner, you better be able to talk behave and act appropriately there. So I can go all the way up and down the scale. I’m just as happy at the feed store. In Burnet, Texas, as I am, you know, at a Broadway play with my best friends or, you know, at a very sophisticated dinner someplace, so, fortunately about me, I’m able to kind of live in all these worlds. And it’s just because I love to meet people where they really are because everybody has potentially a piece to your puzzle. And you can’t overlook that. I’ve learned so much from people that just interesting characters that I’ve met along the way. Because I take the time to get to know people and talk to them and try to create a relationship. And those relationships lead to an amazing network. I have people and friends that you would say how in the world did you meet that person? Oh, I’m met them just standing in a line in the grocery store one day, just things like that. So it’s always looking around you and thinking about who people are around you as well and what you can learn from them. That
Tell me tell me what Bragg moment with something you’re really proud of?
Well, I have to say, I’m very proud of what we did at t three with our baby program. And over 28 years ago, I had four women get pregnant about the same time in the company, and we were much smaller than, and I came up with this idea to let them just bring their babies to the office. And it’s a long story. And it was fought with fraught with all kinds of changes in different ways. We dealt with it through the years, but it’s still alive and well. And we’ve had over 100 little babies that have grown up at t three, and all the teams and all the staff help with that. It’s not an on site daycare. I’ve been on the Today Show several times, ABC, nightline, New York Times I’ve been everywhere talking about this program. And I’m hoping now that we’ve all exchanged ideas and have had a different way of looking at things through the pandemic, that we may be a little bit more forgiving about these moms who have to somehow balance work with childcare and And so I’m very proud of what we call t three and under. And it’s been a very successful program and I hope more people will look into it. And think about it as a way of running their businesses to help our young parents move through life.
I love it. All right, one more thing is best it would you bust a big fat lie for us bust a myth from a point of view.
Well, there’s a lot out there, you know, here’s the thing. Right now, especially, there’s so many different opinions and things getting thrown out. And we’re in a political year, I asked everyone to really bust those myths. Dig deeper than what you just hear in the news. There’s a lot of stories behind stories. And and many times I will say something in social media, or I will hear something briefly in a news report and I go, Wow, that doesn’t sound right. Do a gut check. Is that really right. And sometimes when you dig underneath it it’s just the headline, or just the beginning of a story. And when you find out what’s really behind it, it’s not even true. So we have to be careful right now in this age of social media and quick news bites and short attention spans, that you really bust those myths because you might be making decisions and he me business decisions based on false has untruth and half backstories. So it concerns you, you need to really do your homework and start to dig beneath the surface and many times you’ll find that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but it also lies underneath a lot of lies,
as well said so bust the myth of like to bust your own Miss in a way. Okay, you are extraordinary. Again, I just really love the opportunity to sit down with you in person over a glass of wine and then having this opportunity to, to dig into you and your story and your success a little bit so everybody else can have the privilege of listening in on on what I do. got the opportunity to get to know you and so much to learn. So, tell me very quickly before we, before we complete about your webinars, I’ll be putting the dates to these webinars in the show notes. So anybody listening who wants to? I mean, after listening to you, there’s no way I think anyone won’t want to be on one of these webinars. So share a little bit more about this what you’re doing.
Okay. Well, I’m very passionate about teaching leaders to be leaders, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to quickly jump into some things that you aren’t prepared for. And so giving people tools and ideas and opportunities to handle those in a more effective way to be more successful is what I’m all about. So I’ve come up with a webinar series that we’re kicking off July 15, is the first one and they touch on you know, how to deal in difficult times. And we’ve talked a lot about some of those things today, but how to difficult deal in difficult times and really digging into the money side of your businesses, and then also, how to build effective teams You know, that’s a big part of how we live and work in this way. You’re not successful unless you build a team around you that shores up your weaknesses. And so we talk about that. And so we’re going to talk about a lot of things in the webinars. Again, they start July 15, and there’ll be there live, there’ll be q&a. So there’s going to be opportunities, limited audience so that we can really interact with our audience. And so invite people to go to gay Gaddis comm look at the webinar section and see if there’s one or more that is something that might help you in your journey. And we hope you join us.
Right, well, thank you guys so much for being here. I know it takes a lot for you to carve some time out of your, your calendar. So thanks again.
Thank you and I’m very proud of you and the business you’re building and what you’re doing to help people understand their money and be more successful. So keep up the good work
that they do. Thank you.
What We Covered
[2:44] Who is the CowGirl that is Gay Gaddis?
[7:40] Her quest to make money
[14:54] Talk about the success that is T3.
[22:16] Where did T3 end up?
[27:30] Where did you end up top line revenue.
[29:10] One of the big things is separating yourself from the business. Can you speak to the Distinction of the categories of running a business. From being the leader, the talent, the technician, the creator, the operator, the owner, the decision maker.
[36:40] What do you say to the entrepreneurs that are afraid to look at their money? Why are they in a rush to abdicate the responsibility of the numbers?
[41:45] Talk about your interpretations of the word power. Especially in regards to how sometimes power has a negative connotation with women. How do you empower yourself?
[44:20] When it comes to financial power. How much do you think is being close and intimate with knowing your numbers? How empowered does that make you feel?
[46:38] You have been an amazing leader throughout your career. What makes a good leader? What are those key leadership skills?
[50:30] I have seen so many women not make the important leadership decision because they are afraid of the adversity. What do you say to that?
[54:00] If you said if you knew me you would know that?
[56:00] Tell me a brag moment
[57:20] Bust a myth for me.
[59:08] Tell the people more about your webinars.
“If you give gay two nickles she will rub them together and make a dollar.”
“I believe in transparency and being honest with teams as quickly as you can. ”
“Always in a downturn and a recession you can take it to the bank so to speak marketing and advertising dollars are the first to go.”
“Understanding the money is extraordinarily important”
“You better understand your clients”
“Fail Fast and move on”
“Learn the key indicators”
“Self-deprecating humor is a good thing”
“We have to laugh at ourselves. “
“Take the time to get to know everyone.”
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