Dan Waldschmidt: A Turnaround Specialist Living on the EDGE

Dan Waldschmidt runs EDGY Inc., a SiliconValley-based consulting firm that specializes in business turnarounds, he is also the force behind one of the most read sales blogs in the world, Edgy Conversations, which The Wall Street Journal calls one of the business’s most influential sites and which The Dow Jones has ranked as the 7th most visited sales blog on the internet. Dan is also an ultra-marathon runner who competes in 100 mile plus races and is only the 10th person to ever run the Mount Everest challenge. Dan’s book, EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success, is an international bestseller and tells the inspirational stories of average people who went on to accomplish the incredible!

Dan’s story, much like those that can be found in his book, is an inspiration in its own right, it’s the extraordinary tale of a kid who paid his way through college with the money he saved since he was 12 years old mowing lawns, who went on to support himself with roles selling everything from air conditioning, to cemetery plots and life insurance before finally landing a position as a sales rep for a law technology company, a startup that was just taking off in what would become an extremely hot space. Once there, Dan would evolve from a journeyman sales professional generating hundreds of thousands in sales, to a highly prolific dealmaker closing millions upon millions in revenue, his rise culminating in his appointment as the company’s chief executive, a role that would see him lead the company to a highly lucrative acquisition.

“I was mowing lawns at 12 and paid my way through college with the money I saved up all through my teenage years. And then from 19 began selling, selling my way into my first job, which was at an appliance store, I convinced the owner to instead of letting me sleep in the parking lot for minimum wage, if I could begin to learn the craft of installation, and then I learned early on that the fastest way for me to make money was to be in sales, no other craft allows me to make more per hour than just about anything else in the world. A good sales guy makes thousands of dollars an hour, making way more than the highest-priced attorney in the world. At 19 I started selling everything from home products to air conditioning systems to cemetery plots to Life and Health Insurance to a couple of really big opportunities where I was able to help grow magnificently. One was a law technology company, talk about serendipity. I was at a company that had potential to grow in an industry that I was about reading being ready to explode, and I don’t know what it was, gut instinct, but I saw the potential and jumped into it, and from a couple hundred thousand to millions of dollars in just a year, and then more millions and millions and then eventually I ended up being CEO and selling the company. When I became CEO, I learned I was selling in a different way, instead of selling externally, now I’m selling vision, I’m selling growth, I’m selling new ways to evolve, (I’m selling) to a team that’s tired from the high impact, that’s kind of worn out. It’s really this new phase, and how to really inspire people to be their best self when they’re just too tired.”

Now Dan turnarounds mid-market companies that are not growing by helping them see the world in which they operate in a different way. In doing so he brings a world of unique sales knowledge, strategy, and tactics to a game that is too often stuck in the repetition of systems and processes that often become stale, and leaders that often become stuck in working process merely for the sake of process as the world changes around them. Dan has always been an iconoclast and a maverick and is always seeking to break things and do it differently, his blog is full of content on those who took a unique, new or different path to success. Dan himself embodies that maverick spirit and stories of his approach to sales are legendary. The way he prospects for new clients alone is so unique and outlandish that it is no surprise he is able to land meetings and reach the leaders, founders and CEOs of companies that most assume are unreachable. For example, while most sales professionals are looking to prospect for companies that are successful, that can “afford” new systems or services, Dan does the opposite, he looks for companies that are struggling, companies that are missing their revenue targets or have just come out with a disastrous earnings report. Then, Dan will have a sword made up by a fabricator that builds move props for Hollywood studios, a “Conan the Barbarian” style battle sword, spending sometimes up to a thousand dollars to create the perfect weapon, he will then have it inscribed with a quote such as “Wars come and go but my soldiers stay eternal.” from the 2-Pac song “I’m a Soldier.” Dan will then send this sword to the embattled CEO with a handwritten note saying “Business is war and I noticed you lost a battle recently. If you ever need a few extra hands in battle, we’ve got your back.”

“So I would send a CEO who might be struggling a sword. And it might be engraved with the quote like a 2-Pac quote “wars may come and go but my people are eternal” and then I would say, let me know how I could help you in the battle to stay ahead. I think it was such a shock, such a cutting through all the crap (moment) that we (would) get called immediately. And what’s interesting is, sure each one costs hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to hand-make and be commissioned. But the result is almost instantaneous, immediate, and not just a meeting, but the sense of like, this guy gets me. (So I had the) instant ability to get a meeting with whoever I want to get, but one of my most famous ones, the most powerful person (was the CEO of) one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, I sent her an engraved sword that had like Swarovski crystals in it, so it was a little more feminine, not as, you know, not as macho. But right on the wall, when you came into this very high powered person’s office, you would see this weapon on a plaque beautifully displayed. It kind of set the tone, that look, that this is a battle, that this is a war and I’m here to do business. It’s certainly worked. and I’ve given out all kinds of crazy stuff over the years, everything from something you could bolt onto your toilet and I’ll send a handwritten note that says, “Let me help you clean up your mess,” to any number of things, whether silly or serious, that allows me to kind of cut through the conversation to get a meeting with the person I think I can help.”

Dan went on to start his “Edgy Conversations” blog in 2006 to communicate his ideas and approach to sales and wrote for eight years before anyone took notice, and then with one article, his site caught fire, penning a post that was eventually read by 30 million people, which was the spark that helped his site become one of the most popular sales blogs on the web. And it was in that moment where Dan realized that this is what people notice, the success, they don’t see the grind and blistering hard work that it takes to get there, they only see the moment of glory and prosperity, and when “instant success” doesn’t come, most people quit. Much of Dan’s content, from the stories he tells, to his articles and videos, revolve around this theme of the unseen steps in the trajectory of all success stories, the actions taken when ordinary people work feverishly hard, apply a novel method or take a unique path in their quest to accomplish something great. And therein lies the epiphany, that all business tycoons, megastars and billion-dollar performers were once average people, unknowns, and there are tens of thousands of them. Dan has studied many of these stories and has used the lessons learned both in his own practice to help give CEOs “superpowers,” and to motivate and instruct the masses, by recounting many of these little-heard tales of how everyday people rise to incomprehensible heights of accomplishment in his book Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success.

“I just wanted to get my voice as a CEO out there, and maybe someone would read along with me. Fast forward to 2014, that’s eight years, eight years, almost 3000 days. But this perspective, eight years of writing, and then all of a sudden I write this article that a million-plus people read in two days, and the 2 million people, then 3 million people, and by the end of it 30 million people had read my blog. It took the UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, decades, to get to the point where they were even break even. And then what happened? They had the Ultimate Fighter (reality TV series). And the last episode on the Ultimate Fighter was so memorable that we were like, oh my gosh, we all lost our minds, it became a big hit. There are these moments of serendipity where hard obsessed work and chance-taking and guts combine with an opportunity. People say right place, right time, but maybe you’ve been at that place 1000 times before. Maybe you’ve been at that exact same place a million times before. And so one of the phrases that I often tell myself as I’m pushing through these dark moments, is what if today was the day you were supposed to win, and you didn’t show up. So can you imagine that today was the right place, and it was the right time, and you didn’t show up? This was the day you decided, screw it, it’s not working. And so these are some of the things that I’ve done. And the other thing I’ll add to this is that I’ve never met a successful person who said to me, you know, I wish I would have given up, I persisted too long. (And) so Edgy Conversations (the book) was the result of four years of me trying to figure out what makes people successful. Why is it that some people win when they probably shouldn’t win, and why do some people continue to stay stuck, when they should be growing, when they should be successful. That led me, to write this book where we had over 1000 stories of high performers. And yeah, I gotta tell you, it was an interesting project because it’s led us down some stories where like in the book we talked about it, a Hall of Fame football player born with one leg, homeless people who went on to become very successful. And then there are many stories that didn’t even make it into the book. But heartwarming and staggering when you think about the story behind the story, because that story looks a lot like you looks a lot like me, it looks a lot like the people who are watching the show, and it’s just human and all the flaws and ugliness with the ability to turn it all around and achieve greatness with a couple decisions. A couple of decisions and you’ve turned it all around.”

When asked what it takes to become a success, after having achieved a great deal of it himself, as well as having studied the thousands upon thousands of biographies of others who have gone on to even far greater heights than himself, Dan says it comes down to two things: first, having a deep-seated need, being hungry, the type of hunger that leads to obsession, and second, being teachable, being prepared to learn new things.

“One day I thought, you know what, I am tired of losing. I am tired of people telling me no, I’m tired of going out and busting my ass and not making money. In one minute, I satisfied something that needed to change, and then it all became a different story after that. So I would tell anyone that it’s about having the need in your life to change. You know, at the beginning of the year. We all (feel the) need to make New Year’s resolution because there’s social pressure to start fresh, to start anew. So that need within us causes us to scratch out on a piece of paper, something that we want to change, but 80% of people don’t persist because we no longer need it. I think it’s fighting that need in your life. That need leads to obsession. Yeah, it does, it really does. – So there’s hunger, hunger leads to effort, hunger leads to obsession, hunger, leads to urgency, hunger leads to drive, hunger leads to learning and curiosity, right? And then two is (you have to be) teachable. We all have to grow, no matter where you are, there’s another level of yourself, that’s possible. And if you’re not teachable, not only are you a bit of a disgusting human, I don’t mean that to be mean, but to be honest with you, think about some of the people that make you the angriest, they’re probably not teachable, right? Someone you can never have a conversation with. They’re just not teachable. And so you know, hungry and teachable.”

Useful Links:

Dan Waldschmidt – https://danwaldschmidt.com/
Edgy Conversations – https://amzn.to/2Ui4yoD
EDGY Inc. – https://edgy.bz/
125 Miles For Hope Documentary – https://bit.ly/2BjS88Q
Dan Runs Everest Challenge – https://bit.ly/2Xn0PYB

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