First of all, I’m a skeptic.  After almost 53 years on the planet 10 years in the bar & restaurant industry, Everybody has a BBD (bigger Better Deal), it costs almost nothing and they only need 10 minutes of my time.  Yeah…Check’s in the mail.

I went to my first conference in Nashville last May at the urging of my Director of Operations, Rhiannon.  She thought it’d be a good idea because of the association with  I came home from the conference feeling of ambivalence.

I was all hyped up by the energy and the message, but discouraged by how much I had NOT done in my business.  Likewise, was this another snake oil sales pitch?  Will it be one of those, “Just read my book, listen to my CD and then you’ll be ready to buy even more of my stuff” type of deals?

After meeting Howard, I had my doubts.  He seemed too good to be true.  Nobody genuinely acted like he did.  I road my motorcycle back to Dallas, told my wife what I had learned and it was pretty much put on the back burner to simmer.  Then, the Mega-Conference came to Dallas.

I had the opportunity to take my wife and D.O. to see the Phenomenal Products Program first hand.  Now we were all caught up in the hype—but still leery.  So, I went on line; determined to find the truth about Howard Partridge and company.  After an exhaustive search of the internet, I couldn’t find one derogatory comment pertaining to the “The Partridge Family”.

Could it be true?  Was he for real?

Having the opportunity to get mentored by Joe Erickson and Jim Laube was another perk of the Inner Circle and the three of us were big fans of so we decided to take the chance and we have been impressed on three different levels.  First, access to the amount of expertise these people offer truly is phenomenal.

(Side note: although we’ve never done it, my wife D.O. and I often joke about playing a drinking game during our PODS—that every time someone says, “phenomenal” we have to take a shot.  We haven’t done it for fear of missing the content of the POD as well being counterproductive for the rest of the day!)

There is a wealth of knowledge on both the Howard Partridge website and the website that can only be accessed by inner circle personnel.  Additionally, the two teams (to include Santiago, Michelle and Victoria) are so responsive, you’d think that none of these people had anything to do save sit around and wait for my phone call or email and answer my questions.

Secondly, the PODS have been a great tool for two reasons:

1) you get access to the POD leaders’ experience PLUS you get the benefit of the experience of all the other POD members.  I’m reminded of the old adage, “You have to learn from other people’s mistakes—Life’s too short to make them all yourself.”

2) Accountability and being held to task.  Even if you have a jam-packed week, you don’t want to get on the phone every Monday and say, “Well, I didn’t do anything on my list from last week.”  And if you do, it’s still a shot in the arm (or a slap in the face) to get back on track.  A lot of the material seemed redundant at first.  But many times, after hearing something for the second or third (or eighth) time, something clicked.  Additionally, it ‘s kind of like sports practice.  You have to keep doing the basics over and over until it becomes automatic.  That’s a big part of the system.  Come to find out, there is a playbook for small business.

Thirdly, is Howard himself.  Again, the skeptic in me thought that once Phenomenal Products got my money, that’s the last I’d ever see or hear from Howard.  But it’s been the exact opposite.  About a week after I joined the Inner Circle, Howard happened to be in Dallas on business.

He made a point of calling me and asking if we could meet on his way back to the airport.  He explained that he wanted to witness my business first-hand so he’s know what he was dealing with.  Again, when he was in the area for business, he not only invited me and my wife (and my visiting brother and his wife) to join him for lunch, but then orchestrated a field trip for other IC members and some Ziglar folks to come by my restaurant after they were done conducting business and patronize my establishment.

After he left, my wife, Johnnie, said, “You know, he really seems to care about us.”  I said, that’s what makes Howard different.  He makes everybody feel like he cares about them.  And he really does.  Emails get answered far faster than I’d expect from anybody, much less someone with Howard’s schedule.

Whether in person or on a POD, he really takes a personal interest in MY business.  He took it upon himself to do our first monthly one-on-one coaching session.  It wasn’t a bunch of fluff, “Listen to my CDs, read my books, buy some more of my stuff.”  It was a true brain-storming session to try and help my business succeed and grow.

Since becoming an Inner Circle member, just in the past 90 days, we’ve developed a mission statement, vision, core values, implemented the prime cost wizard, started weekly manager meetings and used all the above to begin the transformation of my business’ culture.

My managers are thriving because they have guidelines and structure.  They’re helping devise their own systems.  AND, they’re starting to free me up to do what I need to do: Work ON my business instead of IN my business.  They say that every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  The Inner Circle helps us with the first step and every step thereafter.