Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I'm your host Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide. And today we have a very special guest. Today we are speaking with Aaron Walker. Aaron has founded more than a dozen companies over the past 41 years. He attributes much of his success of having surrounded himself with his mastermind counterparts. Aaron spent a decade meeting weekly with Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Abraham and five other amazing entrepreneurs. Aaron is the founder of Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind that now hosts 15 groups with national and international members. Aaron is the author of View From the Top, a must-read to fully understand how to live a life of success and significance. Also the founder of the Mastermind Playbook, an incredible resource for starting, running and scaling, masterminds, Aaron lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Robin for 40 years and he has two incredible daughters and five beautiful grandchildren. Aaron, welcome to the show.
Aaron Walker: Giuseppe, thank you for having me. Oh, man, I really appreciate it.
Giuseppe: Yes, I appreciate it as well. I know we've been trying to coordinate this and I've been really looking forward to it. So Aaron, I always like to start off just for the audience, fill us in on a little bit about your on your background. How did you get into the business you're in? And what does that journey look like?
How Aaron Got Into the World of Entrepreneurship
Aaron: I appreciate you asking. I'll try to make this as brief as possible. You know, 42 years as an entrepreneur, it's not going to be too brief, but I'll go way back. I was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, three generations deep here. So I love Nashville. Started in my own business when I was 18 years old. I worked for a local retail outlet here in Nashville from the time I was 13 until I was 18. Fell in love with the business. Found a couple of partners that funded it because I didn't have any money, and went into business. So we grew that to about four locations over a nine-year period. And I sold out to a fortune 500. So I went from rags to a little bit of riches in just about nine years and took about 18 months off and didn't do anything. And then went back and bought the company I worked for when I was a kid. We grew it to about four times the size it was over the next 10 years. And then when I was 40 years old, Giuseppe, I really say that's where my life started. I was headed to the office on August 1, 2001, now 19 years ago. And ran over and killed a pedestrian on my way to the office. And it really changed the paradigm shift of my life. I couldn't handle the stress and the pressure. I was seeing a counselor and really getting a lot of help to work through that. Wasn't my fault. He just didn't see me. He was 77 years old. His name was Enrique and he was crossing the street to catch a local bus and just didn't look my way and just ran out in front of me. And so took me about five years to work through that. And over the course of that time, we built a new house and we traveled abroad and kind of got my legs back under me. And went in the construction business. Five years later, we built high-end residents and small commercial and took that to number one three consecutive years here in Middle Tennessee. And nine years ago, I turned 50. And I decided to retire for the third and final time. So my wife said, I've retired more than the law allows. And I retired and then I went to my mastermind meeting and Dan Miller and Dave Ramsey were sitting across the table from me and they said, What are you going to do now? And I said nothing. And Dan Miller proceeded to encourage me to coach and Dave Ramsey encouraged me to coach as well and so I did. I started View From the Top. We had just a couple of guys that we were coaching, just kind of to keep me busy. And started doing a few interviews and my business literally exploded. And I started coaching people all over the world. And that got more than I could handle. So I started a mastermind group, continued to do interviews. And today, we're just about to launch our 19th mastermind group. And we're in nine different countries now.
Giuseppe: That's pretty amazing. Just, what a story. You know, owning companies, starting companies 41 years. You don't hear that too often. So I guess one question I personally would have is what's your secret to success? 41 years, you know, given what's going on in the world and just the success rate of just the average business, what's your secret, if you can give our viewers or our listeners that piece of advice?
Aaron: I don't know if there's one specific answer to that. This is our 14th company that we've built over 42 years now. And I would just have to say that we're hyper-focused on our clients. Relationships are our best asset. And I spend probably a third of my time intentionally building relationships. And we quit trying to make sales decades ago and we try to add value. And if you try to add value rather than make the sale, customers will come your way.
Giuseppe: That's great. That's, Wow, that's some really good advice. We, you know, you had mentioned masterminds and that's a term I hear often, and there are quite a few out there. Can you just in, in a few words, describe what a mastermind is and talk a little bit about your mastermind?
All About the Mastermind
Aaron: Yeah, thank you. You know, there's all kinds of fancy definitions out there where two or more minds gather together forms a third mind. You hear all this, you know, Napoleon Hill was famous for giving a really elaborate definition of mastermind groups. And the truth of the matter what a mastermind group is is a board of directors. There are people that are non-biased, trusted advisors that you can go to and subject yourself to their scrutiny and allow them, give them permission to tell you the truth. And I've been in masterminds now every week for over two decades. And I can't even begin to tell you the value that it's added to my life. We can get into some of the other things and the value of being in masterminds but the bottom line, Giuseppe, is that it's these trusted advisors that have no dog in the hunt, right? They, whether they tell you the truth, or whether they were to lie to you, they have nothing to gain or lose. And so there was no reason for them not to tell you the truth. And so that's what we've been able to build. We were called the Eagles. Dave Ramsey started this mastermind and we met in Dave's office. To give you a little history on that, I went to a chamber of commerce breakfast in the early 90s. And I just built a new location and there were 25 people at a chamber of commerce breakfast. And I walked in and they had this guy there that was talking about starting a show on a radio station teaching people how to manage their money. So I thought it was pretty intriguing and went up and introduced myself afterwards and invited him a mile down the road to see our location. And he came in and loved it. He said, This is incredible. He said, you know, I'm on a radio station here in Nashville. And he said, I would love for you to advertise on my show. And I said, No, I don't even know you. Why would I advertise on your show? And he said, if I gave you a week free, would you try it? And I said, Well, sure. I've got nothing to lose with a week. Three days into the week I called him. It was unbelievable, Giuseppe, at how people in the Nashville area were coming into our business. They were buying the things we were selling. At that time, we did live promotions, so I would call Dave at a designated time, we would promote something and no more than get the phone hung up and people would come in and they'd say, is that still available? I want to buy it. And I called him and I said these people drink the Kool-Aid. I don't know what you're selling, but I'm interested. And he said, Well, if you want to continue on, it's an annual contract. And I said, You got to be kidding. He said, No. I think he was testing me. I don't really think it was an annual contract. And I need to ask him Monday if it was, but I spent the next 21 consecutive years being his sponsor. Out of that we develop quite the friendship. And he asked me years later, he said, Hey, I'm starting a mastermind in my office, and I want you to participate. And to be honest, I didn't want to do it. And the reason I didn't want to do it, Dave is such a hard charger. I knew that he wouldn't allow me to sit in the corner and not be vulnerable and transparent, and he didn't. And the other amazing 10 men that were in the group were incredible. And we spent a dozen years for an hour and a half every Wednesday in Dave's conference room, and we helped each other grow their businesses. And so I'll forever be indebted to those men, but as a result of learning that, that's why we've implemented this strategy and that's why we've had so much success is because I had a dozen years of experience. And now we've laid the framework out to where we have very successful mastermind groups.
Giuseppe: And you said, and how many masterminds do you have?
Aaron: Yeah, this, we're about to launch the 19th group. We have 18 presently and we're about, we have 15 that are exclusive for men only. We have three groups for women, and we have one group for emerging men 20 to 25 years old.
Giuseppe: Right. So if someone listening in and wanted a little bit more information, where can they get more information on the masterminds?
Aaron: Thank you. That's a great question. The easiest place to find me is at viewfromthetop.com.
Giuseppe: And we will include that in the show notes as well. So yeah, mastermind, you know, I've looked at a few groups myself, and I've heard nothing but, you know, some good things. Great networking overall, which is, you know, huge, huge benefit everyone looking to help one another out. So,
Aaron: Can we talk a little bit more, Guiseppe, about some of the reasons that masterminds are valuable?
Giuseppe: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
Aaron: I think it's important to understand really what it's about. And that concept gets thrown around a lot. And most of the time, it's interpreted as dissertations or one person leading the group. That's really group coaching. That's not really what masterminds are about. Masterminds, first of all, really give you the relationships that you need, and relationships, for me, are the number one asset that's overlooked today, and especially in the millennials and Generation Z. You know, a lot of the things are done online. They're solopreneurs. They're behind the screen and we miss a lot of the benefit of assets. And I think that a third, probably maybe a quarter to a third of my time every day is spent building relationships. And I just think that's a key component that we miss. The other thing is access. Masterminds give you access and when you have a huge pool of relationships, it really gives you the ability to implement those relationships. And you don't really realize how important personal recommendations are. But when you have huge relationships, you have access, they can open doors for you that no one else could. One of the other values is perspective. And this is something that people miss as well. No matter how hard you try, Giuseppe, you can only see things one way. You were raised a certain way. You have a set of filters that you were raised with that you run your decisions through. Recently, I had a building project going on at my house and there was a problem getting it to match with our residents when we were building an addition. And they couldn't get it resolved. And there was architects there, subcontractors, general contractors, designers, no one could get it to work. And about two weeks later, I was sitting on my patio behind the house and I was on a coaching call and I looked up the situation and I solved it immediately. And it was a metaphor for me thinking we had only looked at it from one perspective. And then when I looked at it from the rear of the house, I could see clearly how it could work. Well, that's what masterminds do for us. I would get out of the shower most days, you know, when I would go out to days home, and I would have three ideas in the shower, right? It was like when I get out of the shower, I've got all these business ideas. I need a whiteboard in my shower because I'm always thinking in there. It's quiet. And I'm like, Dave would go that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of, or Dan Miller would say, wait a minute, hold on. If we tweak this, or we add this to it, or it's giving you a different perspective. And then you can take something that may be a good idea, it may not, but when you have the counsel of the multitudes, you have many people looking at it, you can oftentimes really get to something. Accountability is huge. It offers you the ability to see your blind spots, right? We all have different perspectives. When we're too close to something, we can't see our own blind spots. Insite, it gives us. Affirmation oftentimes, which we need. There's resources that we need that masterminds give. Different vision. I just created a new mission, vision and value statement and that came directly out of the mastermind. The network. Upper limit challenges that we have, these guys can help you push through that. And then lastly, for me is celebration. Like, I like to celebrate. And if you don't do life with people on a regular basis, it's hard to celebrate. But when they see you working through tasks, there's a time for celebration. So those are just a few things that are highlighted for me that really offer a lot of value. And the bigger thing also is the isolation. And most people are in isolation and I say isolation is the enemy to excellence. And if you really want your life to go to the next level, we were designed to be a community. We weren't designed to be in isolation. So I would just encourage people listening, that, you know, for whatever it's worth, get out of the isolation and you can go to heights you never thought possible.
Giuseppe: Right. I agree. And I will say one thing as well to, you know, to your comment, when you are speaking with other people, yes, they can definitely give you some different perspective. I know when I seek advice I ask people outside my industry, outside my world, you know, for their own perspective, because sometimes we're just so, not closed-minded, but you're doing the same thing. We're in the franchising world so I'll speak with someone in a completely different industry, you know, organization and you get some really good perspective. So definitely helpful. You know, someone that's taking a look at a mastermind, are they for the most part entrepreneurs or do you have employees of companies as well?
Who Mostly Participates In the Mastermind Groups?
Aaron: Oh, no, we have both. Yeah, we absolutely, we have C level executives. We have employees of companies. We have smaller business owners. We have large business owners that have four and 500 employees that do million-plus revenue a week. And so we have, you know, it's very diverse and I set it up that way intentionally. Because, Giuseppe, if everybody thinks like you, we don't need but just you. And so we need people from diverse backgrounds, experience levels, economic differences, that adds the value. We have one guy that does really, really well, millions and millions of dollars a year, but he struggles in his home life and he doesn't have a good relationship with his children. He's divorced recently. And we have guys in the group that don't make a fraction of what he does, but their families are solid. So this guy that's got a solid family can learn from the guy from the entrepreneur world, but the guy that does a million dollars a week learns about how to take care of his family better from the guy that doesn't do as well. So you can always be a mentor or you can be a mentee. You know, as we're recording this our country's in a little bit of a quandary right now. And we were in a mastermind called Monday. And there was a very successful young man in the group, 35 years old, and he presented a situation that under normal circumstances, we would say this response. And one of the more seasoned gentlemen in the group spoke up and he said, You know, this is uncharted waters that we're presently in. And if you do that the way you're suggesting, it could put you out of business, and here's why. Well, after he thought through the rationale, he said, You're exactly right. And he took his example, he implemented in his business and it saved his company. If he had done it the other way, which made practical common sense, he would have gone out of business. You see, he didn't know what he didn't know. And that's the value that the mastermind can bring.
Giuseppe: That's great. Wow, that's very well put. And I know that term, as I mentioned, has been used quite a bit. So that's some great clarification and obviously in the show notes and we gave all the information. If anyone wants additional information, we'll put it out there. But by the way, when you had mentioned, I thought this was pretty funny where you have some great ideas or some clarity, the whiteboard for the shower, there's an actual product that I purchased probably about 20 years ago, I think it was called Aqua Notes. I have to look it up. But it's a pencil with some special paper and I always get my great ideas, some of my best ideas in the shower. I know
Aaron: Giuseppe if I brought that home, my wife would leave me. She's like you work all the time now and if you're gonna work while you're sitting in the shower, I don't know.
Giuseppe: You know what it is because then you get it and this is obviously we're going off-topic and way too much info, but, you know, and then nothing worse than having a great idea to forget, then forget it by the time you get back to your office.
Aaron: I know. I know. So here's the thing. Here's the bottom line, all of your great ideas are naked, right? And so now we know.
Giuseppe: Now we're really going to scare the audience away.
Aaron: We're not scaring them. They were thinking it. I was just brave enough to say it.
Giuseppe: Well, I'm gonna have to find, you know what, after this call, I'm gonna have to, I think it was on Amazon, we're gonna have to look that up and put that in the show notes as well. So I'm sure they'll sell out pretty quick. This has been great. A few last questions, but what's, you know, what are you most excited about? Kind of in your world, in your business, you know, kind of going forward?
Aaron: That's fun to ask. We're developing strategies to grow. We literally at some point, want to have thousands of people in Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind. And, you know, we've got guys that have been meeting, and ladies that have been meeting in these groups. You know, our group that we first started has been meeting six years, the same guys with a few additions to that group. And so there's a lot of value these guys get out of that. Then we meet twice a year in person, you know, in April and October and then we meet every week online. And people say every week? Yeah, man, because if you only meet once a month, there's a lot of life that happens. And I need people every week breathing into me. And we cover about 60%, professional, about 30%, personal and about 10% spiritual. So we really cover every dynamic of your life. And the reason we do that is because years ago when I was a young guy, I almost lost my family. I came home with a pocket full of money to a house full of strangers. And if you build your business up at the expense of your family, at the end of the day, you're still a loser. And we just don't want that happening to anybody. And so we really are big on family, building boundaries and protecting that. And we teach people how to be very successful financially, but very significant simultaneously. People started contacting me about two years ago, Giuseppe, and they said, How are you scaling all these masterminds? No one's ever scaled masterminds. And so I started telling them some of the things that I was doing. And they said, Would you train and coach me to do the same? And I said, Ah, not really. I don't really want to do that. That'll take a lot of time. And they said, what would you charge me to do that? And I didn't really want to do it. So I just threw a number out there knowing they wouldn't do it. And they say, Where do I send the money? And I'm like, seriously? And they said, yeah. So then I did that. And then another guy called, same thing. And I'm like, dang, well, my daughter is the COO of our company. And she walked in one day, and she said, Dad, listen, all these people are paying you these ridiculous sums of money to teach them to do what we're doing because we have a team and we've developed all the systems and processes and we've really fine-tuned this. So why don't we create a playbook? And I said, What do you mean? She said, Why don't we create a course and we'll call it a playbook, and we'll teach people how to do what we're doing. So, Giuseppe, we got our whole team together. We spent a year putting together all the systems and processes. We leave no stone unturned. There's over 30 professional videos, there's over 90 to 100 tools and templates, white-labeled products in there for advertising and marketing. We give you enough content to lead a group every week for 30 months. You don't have to create anything. The books, the titles, the themes, the reading assignments, we give you everything.
Giuseppe: That's great. Wow.
Aaron: And so we put that together and we did a beta test. And Ink Magazine just reached out to us, they did a full-page story on it. Dave Ramsey, they took his whole team through it. They loved it. Dave gave me an endorsement. Ray Edwards just interviewed me and he said it's the best course he's ever taken in his career. And we're hearing that over and over and over. John Lee Dumas just did a big thing on it. We've got other people that are really really taking it to the next level with their audiences. So if you're interested in that and you want to start your own mastermind group, you can start one group, you can grow them, you can scale them like we've done. And we've got the proven model. This is not hypothetical. I mean, we've got social proof with 19 groups that we've had for years. This process works. So you asked me what we're working on right now that I'm excited about? It's called themastermindplaybook.com.
Giuseppe: And they can go right to that site and sign up for that?
Aaron: Absolutely. And now they get time with me too. You click on the calendar, and I personally will call you, talk to you and answer all your questions.
Giuseppe: That's great. Wow. Very helpful. And I'm sure and as I mentioned before, we'll put that in the show notes as well. One last question just around, just entrepreneurship in general. What is your number one piece of advice for someone that's taking a look at becoming an entrepreneur? In our audience's mix, we have franchise owners, franchisors and we have corporate execs that are looking to become franchise owners for the first time. So any, you know, one or two top pieces of advice?
Could Did It All
Aaron: Sure, sure. I think it's a lot of just mindset, Giuseppe. And when I was a child, my mom had a little saying that I hated it at the time, but I've adopted it as my life mantra and that's can't couldn't do it, and could did it all. And that really has developed a lot of self-esteem within me. We have to develop a mindset that we can do something. A lot of people say I can't do that. Well, maybe you can't do it yet. The other thing is, is fear. That holds most people back. And I say fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure. Now for 42 years I've been an entrepreneur. I've never worked for anybody as an adult. I've always been on my own, and I didn't have any money at all when I first started, I was broke. My dad was a general contractor and we lived in a 600 square foot house with four children in my dad never made over $15,000 a year in his life, so I didn't have anything. And at 18 years old, I had to go out and find two guys with money and I had to give up two-thirds of the business in order to make a go on it. I got married two weeks out of high school. So I told my wife I said, we've got to make this work. So the consistency of working in adopting the mindset of can't couldn't do it and could did it all. And it wasn't about will it work, it's gonna work. Like, no was not an option. This has to work. And we worked for nine years, and I took an $18,000 a year salary for nine years, and then later sold to a fortune 500 and I was able to retire 27 years old. Well, I don't say that boastfully, I say that there is a way if you want to do it if you've got the right mindset and you're willing to put the hard work in, you can do it. The thing that I wished I had done even earlier than I did, was get a trusted advisor group around me because there's so many people bad ideas that I had that the group could have saved me. And so I really subject myself to the scrutiny of a lot of people. I ask a lot of questions. I take that veil down that we have that's called pride and ego and I say, Hey, I don't know this. Can you help me? And people think that they're doing a disservice to the people around them by saying, I don't know. You're really endearing yourself to them. Because then they go, Okay, now I have permission to say, I don't know, either and we'll figure it out together. And so I would just encourage your audience to dream a little bit and figure out a way that you can do something and not can't.
Giuseppe: Right. Wow, some great, great advice. I really appreciate that. Very, very helpful. Aaron, we've, you know, I want to keep true to the time here and I really appreciate everything. You know, we talked about a few things as far as the mastermind, the actual playbook. If someone wants to just reach out to you if they have a general question, what is the best way? Is that the website or a phone number?
Aaron: The easiest thing to do would go to viewfromthetop.com. My email address is there and my personal cell number is there. People are like you got your cell number there? Yes, because I want to talk to you. So if you need me, I'm very easy to find you can type in Aaron Walker on Google and I'm very, very easy to find.
Giuseppe: Sounds great. Well, that's awesome. Well, listen, Aaron, I really appreciate your time. This has been very helpful. Some really good advice. And I hope, I'm sure some of the listeners will be listening to this show twice. So thanks again for your time, Aaron, and we'll definitely talk soon.
Aaron: Thank you.