#029: Les Heinsen Transcript – Optimism Isn’t Enough

Host: Tim Martin
Guest: Les Heinsen
Episode 029: Optimism Isn’t Enough
January 24, 2018

Les and Sharon Heinsen

Download pdf Transcript HERE

Welcome to Success is Voluntary, a podcast devoted to helping you become the salesperson you were always meant to be, where it’s all about helping you learn the techniques and tools that will enable you to win in the increasingly competitive world of voluntary benefits. Welcome your host, a guy who has hired and trained over 2,000 voluntary benefit salespeople in his career, Tim Martin. Success is Voluntary, selling voluntary benefits.

Tim Martin: Yes, my name is Tim Martin, and you are listening to episode number 029 of Success is Voluntary. I want to tell you that you are in for a treat today. This is the second time I have had Les Heinsen on the Success is Voluntary podcast. It would be a huge understatement to say Les has been influential in my leadership and, quite frankly, in my life.

Les has led massive sales organizations to great heights through good economies and bad. The reason I asked Les on today is many people can fall into the trap that, just because the calendar flipped to a new year, they think things are going to miraculously improve. Les taught me years ago just because time passes doesn’t necessarily mean things are going to get better. Please join me in welcoming Les Heinsen to the podcast. Thanks for joining me, Les!

Les Heinsen: Well, I’m glad to be here! Thank you, Tim.

Tim: I understand you’re up at your winery. Is that true?

Les: That is correct. That is absolutely correct. We’re up here putting the finishing touches on things for our opening here very, very, very soon.

Tim: For your tasting room? You’ve been selling wine now for a while. In fact, you’ve won a bunch of medals and all of that. Tell us a little bit about that.

Les: Yeah! We did our expansion and remodel on our tasting room, but our website is up. We just got a gold medal on one of our first wines in the California State Fair, so we’re proud of that, but many more to come. We just sent some more off to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, so we’ll see how we do there. For whatever those things are worth, that’s not what we live for or what we’re trying to do, but we’re going to make damn good wine regardless of what the judges say.

Tim: I have yet to try it, but I understand it is most excellent. How long ago did you retire out of sales, Les? Had you already purchased the winery by the time you retired out of sales?

Les: Yeah, we did. I spent a 38-year career in the insurance business and retired from that about a year ago in December. A year before I retired we purchased the property up here and the vineyards in preparation for the imminent retirement. You know, 38 years is long enough to do anything, and all with one company, so it was time to pursue some other passions. We were preparing for that.

Growing up on a farm in North Dakota, farming is in my blood, and I always loved it but was the farthest thing from farming for all of my business life and career. I love getting back to the farming, even though we didn’t farm grapes in North Dakota, as you know. We have the farming aspect.

Anyway, that’s a little off tangent there, but we bought this thinking we were going to farm for a while, but our wine maker said, “You may want to open that tasting room sooner because it’s really expensive to farm grapes,” and he was right. We set up the process of getting the tasting room open.

Tim: Well, I think many of the people I know who know you… We all are a little bit jealous. We think you probably have the best exit strategy in the history of exit strategies.

Les: We’ll see. Time will tell. There are others in the industry who think I’m nuts.

Tim: I’m sure they do.

Les: You know what they say about how to make a million in the wine business. Right?

Tim: I’m guessing, start with two million.

Les: That’s exactly right. How do you make a small fortune? Start out with a big fortune.

Tim: All right. Well, let’s get to some things that are more pertinent to our audience here. I’m not going to ask you to go into deep depth about your sales career and how you got started and all of that because we covered that almost four years ago, the last time I had you on the podcast. Can you believe it has been four years?

Les: I can’t believe it has been four years, but I’m sure excited for you, Tim, and glad to see you back doing something else you’re very, very good at.

Tim: Well, thank you. That’s very nice of you. Boy! It has been probably 15 years ago or maybe just as little as 12, but 12 to 15 years ago you told me something I think is really pertinent to this time of the year. This time of the year people are really hoping (I guess that’s the key point) that this year will be better than last year.

I don’t know very many people who came out of 2017 going, “Boy! That was so good! I hope 2018 isn’t nearly that good!” I mean, people don’t do that! They think it’s just going to get better, and you said to me, and I wrote it down when you said it, “Just because time passes doesn’t mean things are going to get better.” Can you tell me a little bit about how you discovered that and what you meant by that?

Les: Well, I think probably what I was referring to when I said that, Tim, was you have to be intentional. Time can get away from us, and we can get into a rut and kind of think things are going to get better just because time passes, but it doesn’t. We have to have a plan. I learned from John Maxwell early on that you have to be intentional about your growth. That’s really what it’s all about, from year to year getting better and, rather than just wading through time and not growing, we want to make good use of that time and continually get better at whatever we’re doing.

I think I was just referencing that we have to be intentional. Of course, we set goals at the beginning of each year. Most of the people I know who I’ve worked with in sales all of these years developed a habit of creating blueprints for success or a business plan well before the previous year ended so we’d go into the next year with our goals set and a plan to achieve each of those goals. I think that’s really what I was referencing.

Tim: Absolutely! I think you would have retired a lot earlier and probably would be a very wealthy man if you had a dime for every time somebody we were leading said, “I know the first quarter didn’t end up the way I wanted it to, but the second quarter is going to be awesome!”

Les: Absolutely! I think another thing we tend to do, Tim, is put too much value on tomorrow. This time of the year the thing I always tried to remind myself of and warn myself of, as well as others, was we have the whole year. We can get fooled into thinking… If these are my annual goals, we have to break them down, first of all, into smaller segments so we know we’re on track. For example, hitting a specific quarterly goal. We think we have the whole quarter.

You’ve heard Maxwell talk about overvaluing tomorrow and undervaluing today. I think if we are very clear on our goals, committed to them, set them, break them down, and then every day achieve something that moves us closer to that goal, time doesn’t get away from us that way. That’s really what success is, the day-by-day realization of a goal that is worthwhile to an individual. If every day you’re achieving something that moves you closer to your goal, then you’re successful. Period. That’s the definition of success.

Tim: I agree. One of the phrases or words I’ve heard about that is periodization, breaking down a larger goal (even a quarterly goal) down into a weekly goal. You could take it down to a daily goal, if you want to. I remember when I was heavy, heavy into recruiting, my best year I had 156 recruits, but the idea was not to get to 156 that year. It was to get to six a week. That gets you to that number. Is that right? I guess that’s only three a week.

Les: You’re probably right. That would be something like 300, but you have to aim high. Right?

Tim: Well, I had weeks as high as 15. I think that was my record. I had 15 contracts approved in one week. Boy! I think I won a Super Bowl trip for that during that process, so that was pretty cool. At any rate, periodization… Taking those bigger chunks and breaking them down into smaller, bite-sized goals and those kinds of things.

Why do you think people just…? I don’t know. They don’t pay attention to that. They really believe next week or next quarter or next year is going to be better. Why do you think that is? Do you think there’s any psychology behind that? Is it just that we’re lazy? What do you think that is?

Les: I think, especially in our business, we tend to be optimists, so just like you started the call, no one wakes up thinking today is going to be worse than yesterday or tomorrow or next month or next quarter, so I think part of it is just the inherent optimism that salespeople have, but I think with that optimism we also have to be realistic and be, like I said, intentional about growing and improving and getting outside of our comfort zone, if you will.

All growth takes place outside of our comfort zone, and it’s so easy, especially when you get good at something and you’ve mastered something… Believe me. I’ve been there. It’s easy to get inside of a comfort zone and just get pretty comfortable and complacent. You’re not going to grow there. You only grow when you step outside and get outside your comfort zone.

As you’ve heard it said a rubber band doesn’t serve its purpose until it’s stretched, and I think that’s the same with us. We can’t really serve the purpose until we’re stretched and get outside of our comfort zone. I think that’s some of it. We’re optimistic, but we just have to have that plan and, I guess, a commitment that goes with it.

Commit to the action steps, and that way it will be better than the previous quarter. It can’t help but be better. There are setbacks and it may not be as good as you had hoped or expected, but it will be better, believe me, if you act on your plan and execute with discipline on your plans. That would be my take on that.

I’ve been in that trap and had weeks and quarters and maybe even years go by when things didn’t go as well as I had hoped or didn’t go as well as they could have because I didn’t execute as well or didn’t grow as much or didn’t get outside my comfort zone and really put it on myself as much as I should have.

Tim: Yeah. I think one of the things you’re talking about is falling into the trap of… The reality is what got you there won’t keep you there. Right? I mean, you hit a level of success, and unless you grow you’re going to go backward.

Les: Absolutely. Yeah.

Tim: Well, you’re growing. We started talking about your new business, so what are you doing in your new business to make sure the future, however you want to measure it, is going to be better than where you are right now? I guess you’re so early on that it doesn’t have to get better, but you have to be incredibly optimistic. What are some of the very tangible steps you’re taking right now?

Les: Well, I can tell you one thing. We have to get the tasting room all done. We bought the property two years ago in December of ’15. It has been two years, and we are about to open our doors. Definitely, if we’re going to achieve our goals, we have to get this place open, and that’s about to become a reality.

It took a lot of perseverance and a lot of breaking through the barriers to get here, not only from a regulatory standpoint, but everything just costs a heck of a lot more than you anticipate. That’s one thing we’re doing right now everyday, working on a very tangible goal because this is a very big part of our future growth.

We’re not just building this thing to sell wine. We’re going to make the very best wine this AVA will produce, and it’s one of the best AVAs out there. We also want to create an experience for people, because wine tasting is not just about the wine; it’s about the sights and the smells and the sounds and the breeze and the wind. We’re creating something people can come here and feel. That’s the goal. The tangible thing I’m doing so that I make sure the future sees us achieving that goal is getting this tasting room open.

Tim: I guess so! I can’t imagine the state of California having a lot of regulations and regulatory things going on there. I’m sure it’s pretty easy there. Right?

Les: Yeah! A piece of cake! It’s kind of like Mexico.

Tim: Yeah! No zoning, no rules… It should be pretty easy.

Les: It has been a learning experience, Tim, and the business we’ve been in is very different, so a lot of reading and a lot of learning about it, but it’s fun stuff. It has been fun.

Tim: Well, speaking of reading… That was a great cue-up for my next question talking about reading. One of my favorite authors is Timothy Ferriss. He wrote The 4-Hour Workweek. He had a book out called Tools of Titans. He just released a book called Tribe of Mentors. In it, he asks the same question to every single person he interviews, and I’ve decided I’m just going to steal it from now on.

I’m going to give you a choice to answer either one of these questions, so you don’t have to answer both of them, but…What is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why? The second question would be…What are the books that have greatly influenced your life?

Les: Well, the book I probably recommended the most… I used to give books out, but I don’t anymore. Not because of the cost or anything like that, but I have found many times I gave books and they didn’t get read. I will recommend books and let people make that investment themselves, but I digress.

The one I have recommended the most is one written by Jim Rohn, and of course, he has a lot of teachings, and that is, Seven Strategies for Wealth and Happiness, one of the early books I read that fundamentally was basically about the philosophy of life and how to think right, which is the foundation to success in getting the right thinking.

Tim: In any endeavor. Right? It’s the secret for success in any endeavor.

Les: Yeah, in any endeavor. Absolutely. It’s also probably the one that has had the biggest influence on my life. The teachings, the book itself. Of course, I went on to read many of his other books and listened to many of his lectures and went to his different seminars, but Jim Rohn is, I think, the granddaddy of them all, and his book will hit you smack between the eyes. That’s the one I recommend the most.

Tim: Yeah, I love Jim Rohn. Thanks for bringing him up. Oftentimes, I think we discount some of the stuff that is classic to chase the shiny object, and his stuff is timeless absolutely. You’re busy. I mean, you were busy before you retired. Do you feel busier now than ever?

Les: Oh, yeah! It’s extremely busy but rewarding, and I’ve always felt… In all of my 38 years I didn’t really feel like I worked a day, and I kind of lived by the philosophy that work is anything you’re doing. Would you rather be doing something else? As long as I did it, I wouldn’t rather have been doing anything else, and to the detriment probably, I didn’t chase anything else. I just focused on my career, and the same thing here. I’m loving it and can’t wait to get up every day and chase after the things that are going to keep moving us toward the future we want here in this business. Busy? Yes. Absolutely, but fun busy.

Tim: Sure, but you have to value your time. Otherwise, other people won’t. Correct? What do you do to protect your time? What have you gotten better at saying, “No,” to in order to protect your time?

Les: That’s a good question. As I get older, I have less patience for frivolous… I don’t mean this to sound bad. I really don’t, but it popped into my head, so I’m going to say it. Suffering fools… There are things I just don’t have time for. The time I have left I want to be making the very best use of my time at least achieving the goals. That doesn’t say I succeed every day, believe me, and especially up here. My gosh! I have to learn a whole new business and learn how to integrate some of those things into my business so I don’t get my time wasted.

There are times I come up here and some of these guys just like to talk. I’ll come up here with a list of things I want to get done and phone calls I need to make, and all of a sudden, someone will start shooting the crap with me, and I can lose 30 minutes or an hour just because they’re friendly and I want to be that way.

One thing I learned is you can be efficient while being effective. That’s what I want to say. When it comes to people… When I come in contact with someone, I can’t let my list of things to do make me become the person I’m not or not be authentic, and I’m going to sit and listen to that person and engage with that person and connect with that person. That’s just who I am. I think it was Maxwell who said, “When it comes to people, you be efficient with things, but with people you have to be effective.” To be effective with people, you have to give time.

I have to recognize and realize that and understand that, but at the same time, there are a lot of days up here when I’ve not gotten all of the things done I wanted to because of people just wanting to… They operate at a different pace, and I guess that’s okay, too. I need to learn how to operate at a different pace, but saying, “No,” to things that aren’t going to move me closer to my goal is pretty easy.

Tim: I think you and I both kind of suffer from that same thing. We’re very driven, and to slow down and to spend time sometimes is bordering on annoying. Then, I stop and think, “Wait a minute! That is my job.” I get so caught up in all of these things I have to do. That’s my job. I have to get these things done.

Then, I realize in leadership, really, your job is to develop relationships and develop people who want to be developed, so that’s a really big trap I fall into, and it sounds like you can fall into that, too, where you just almost start fidgeting to get back to your tasks. That’s a tough thing to learn.

I’m going to ask a couple more questions here. Actually, I guess it’s really one. Then, I’ll let you get going. By the way, I promised Kim Parks I would say, “Hi,” to you. I was talking to her just before you called and jumped on this podcast. She wanted to make sure I told you, “Hi.”

Les: Well, that’s awesome! When you talk to her again, you tell her, “Hi,” from me. I miss seeing her and working with her, and I hope to see her again sometime soon.

Tim: She’s awesome. I think she’d really enjoy getting up to the winery as well. One of the things you said that really has stuck with me is… If there was ever one single thing I ever remembered about Les Heinsen… There are dozens and dozens and dozens, but you said, “If you’re going to be better at whatever you’re doing, you have to be a better you.”

In other words, if you want to grow professionally, you have to grow personally. If you want to be a better husband, you have to get better as a person. If you want to be a better community member, you have to get better as a person. So tell me. What are you doing right now and maybe in the last couple of years to grow personally? Not professionally. I know you’re reading a lot of books on agriculture and wine and wine-making and all of that, but what are you doing personally?

Les: What am I doing personally? Probably not as much as I should be, Tim, to be perfectly honest with you. That is something that… Especially the last year, I consider I have grown a lot. I guess you could say what I’m learning… I consider if I learn something new… What’s the old saying? When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I have to take an assessment of what are some of the firsts I’ve done in the last year. A lot, but it all has to kind of do with the path Sharon and I are on and where we’re going and learning about grapes and growing grapes and learning about wine and making wine. The sales part is going to be pretty easy, so I guess that’s the whole part of the personal growth.

Some of the community things and maybe even some of the spiritual things have not had as much attention as they should. Family always is. I’ll always work at that trying to grow as a husband. I slide backward and go forward. Trying to grow now as a grandfather is easy. That’s a fun one! That will be something I’ll have to continue as my granddaughter gets older. I’ll have to continue to learn how to be better for her and a good father to my sons. They’re just doing awesome, and I’m learning from them probably more than they’re learning from me at this point.

Tim: When I look at you and your family, you’ve been very accomplished in your career and in your business. You mentioned earlier sometimes you think, “Maybe I was a little too focused,” but I look at the fruit. I look at your two sons and your relationship with Sharon, and people could do a whole lot worse. You guys are awesome!

Les: Thank you. You’re too kind, Tim.

Tim: No. I mean it. I can respect somebody in business to a certain extent, but if their life is in shambles, that’s not a role model for me, and you certainly are a role model for a lot of people. Les, again, I really appreciate you jumping on. I think this discussion around making sure you execute… You talked about business planning and all of that, but I heard you loudly and clearly say, “Execution is the key.”

Les: Yes, sir. Yep. You said it. I want to encourage you to keep executing. I’m so glad you’re executing back on this idea of continuing to help people through your talent of recognizing, relating, and assimilating information and getting awesome people to do this podcast (present company excluded). I feel really honored to be amongst that group. Thank you for thinking of me. Please come up and see us. We’ll have a very special VIP treatment for you when you come up and visit us here at Element 79 Vineyards and Winery.

Tim: Why don’t you go ahead and give people your web address and how to connect with you so they can…? Can you ship to all 50 states now? I know you couldn’t ship to Arizona for a long time (California couldn’t), but they can now, so…

Les: Yeah, we can, but not all 50 states. I won’t bore you with all of the details and the regulations about that, but prohibition laws changed and a lot of things really moved in the right direction, but they still have a long ways to go with some states. We can ship to many states. Our website will tell you where, and if it doesn’t, call me. We’ll try to make something happen. There are five no-go’s that you absolutely can’t ship to. Or maybe it’s seven. I can’t remember. You can reach me at les@element79vineyards.com. Our website is www.element79vineyards.com.

Tim: All right. Well, Les, hopefully we sold a bottle or two of wine for you. I know that’s not why you came on, but I really would encourage people to check you guys out. I understand from some mutual friends that it’s most excellent. With that, we’ll wrap up.

Les: Thank you, Tim. We’ll ship you some wine and you can taste it. We’ll fix that really quickly. You and Donna come up and see us. Thank you, again, for having me on today.

Tim: You bet. Thanks, Les.

Remember, everything is voluntary, including success. Take it in your hands now. Head over to www.successisvoluntary.com, and stay up to date with all the latest tips, news, and techniques in the world of selling voluntary benefits.

Tim: I sure hope you learned as much from Les today as I did. Every time I talk to Les I grow as a leader and as a person. His leadership and friendship and generosity have meant more to me than he will ever know. Oh, yeah! I heard he also makes a mean Cabernet. Check out the show notes for a link to the Element 79 Vineyard website.

Well, that’s it for this week. Please do me a favor and forward this podcast to everyone you know. If you’re really feeling generous, please take a second and rate it on iTunes. Trust me. You will not want to miss next week. Until then, make sure you volunteer for success.