About this episode
In 1994, Robert Hartline started selling phones in the back of his car. By 2019, he had built Absolute Wireless into a chain of 56 wireless stores and 350 employees.
Hartline was able to systematize his business while he grew by creating employee onboarding videos and delegating key processes (download your copy of The Definitive Guide to Standard Operating Procedures).
The business was a success and Hartline was riding high up until early 2020. The pandemic hit, and two of his wireless carriers merged, leaving Hartline’s business spinning out of control.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- Why Hartline’s acquirer dropped their offer by $4 million.
- How to motivate your sales team.
- How supplier dependence undermines the value of your business.
- Why selling your shares is often preferable to selling your assets.
- The one thing Hartline would do differently if he could rewind 2020 (his answer may surprise you).
- “75 Hard” and how Hartline is using it to toughen his resolve.
Check out the written by John Warrillow on How To Avoid The Switzerland Valuation Discount.
Curious about what your company might be worth? Start with a Built to Sell Valuation.
Show Notes & Links
(03:49) Robert Hartline: “Right now I’m in Uvita, Costa Rica. It’s a little vacation home that we got a couple years ago. We were actually on House Hunters International. That was a fun little story.”
(05:10) Robert Hartline: “I started selling phones out of the back of my car in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1994. Nobody had cell phones. In fact, I worked for a company called Telega [sp], which was a phone that was basically a cordless phone when you’re at your house and a cellphone when you’re away.”
(06:30) Robert Hartline: “I did the door-to-door thing for a couple years, started working for Verizon Wireless. Then Nextel launched in Nashville, Tennessee in 1998. About 10 months later, I started Absolute Wireless, and kept running. We sold all kinds of different brands. We grew up to our peak to about 58 locations. Two years in a row, we were the fastest-growing company in Middle Tennessee, and that was really attributed to actually an EO Event. I forgot, you’ll probably be able to mention the person’s name who speaks to a lot of EO Events. It was at a Nerve Event talking about growing through scale.”
(13:35) Robert Hartline: “So we started using an app called Marco Polo, it’s an app that allows you to do asynchronous video. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it before, but it’s a fantastic way to create groups, record video, and really communicate. We use that primarily, it was very helpful with the onboarding process.”
(23:07) Robert Hartline: “One of the straws was we were in a transition where one wireless carrier bought another wireless carrier. Our brand changed due to this thing. Well, when the launch happened, they took our stores off of Google. In fact, every other dealer that was like mine, they took us off Google. So when the transfer happened back in August of 2020, I saw my call volume drop 30%.”
(36:50) Robert Hartline: “I was running where I just couldn’t do anymore. I wasn’t sleeping. I wear this ring that tracks my sleep.”
(42:35) Robert Hartline: “It’s anything from vendors and inventory, the unload. Man, I had $300,000 worth of the product that’s sitting in a warehouse. …of phones and accessories. I mean, I’m sitting here working with Amazon and eBay to get rid of them. It got to where I just gave up. I basically gave away accessories just to get them … Because I was paying space and time and energy to manage them.”
(47:02) Robert Hartline: “Dude, if you Google 75 hard, it is two workouts a day. Each has to be 45 minutes. One’s outside. Drink a gallon of water, read 10 pages in a book, don’t drink. You follow a diet. That’s a hell of a challenge to do those things. … In fact, the book that goes along with, if you were to read the book, talks about happiness. Happiness is a pursuit that we all seem to be thriving for.”
About Our Guest
Robert Hartline went from selling cell phones from the trunk of his car in college in Murfreesboro, TN in 1994 to building a chain of 58 wireless stores called Absolute Wireless. For two years in a row, Absolute Wireless was recognized as the fastest-growing company in Middle Tennessee, at their peak employing 350 employees and with just under $100 million in revenue. In December of 2020, Robert sold his wireless stores to focus on his software companies. Robert is currently CEO of Call Proof, an app for outside salespeople he started in 2012 which helps sales organizations track the daily activities of field salespeople.
Robert lives with his wife and two young boys in Nashville, TN. Robert enjoys: learning new technology, surfing, skiing and lots of travel.
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