EPISODE 135: Here’s How Opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hootie and the Blowfish Set Up Boomer Muth and West Creek Financial for High-Growth Sales Success
BOOMER’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Find your passion. If you feel stressed, it’s probably not your passion so find your passion. Find what you really care about, create a vision, commit to that vision, and share it with everybody in your life.”
Boomer Muth is the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at West Creek Financial in Glen Allen near Richmond.
Prior to taking over the reins here, he founded a home healthcare business
He also was an analyst at Capital One in the beginning of his career.
Past guest Will Fuentes introduced us to Boomer.
Find Boomer on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Boomer Muth: I’m a big math geek, back in high school I used to do math competitions so you can imagine I was extremely popular. Actually, I offset a little bit by being a musician. I love music, I sing and play bass and guitar. I went to school in mechanical engineering which was enough for me to know I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer so I started my career at Capital One, decided to start a company while I was at Capital One and now founded West Creek. It’s been my favorite job I’ve ever done in my life.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little bit about West Creek, tell us what you sell and tell us what excites you about that.
Boomer Muth: We’re a point of sale finance firm, we partner with over 6,500 retailers across the country. When a customer walks into a retailer, mainly furniture, mattress, appliance or tire retailer and they’re looking for financing but can’t get approved for traditional financing, they’ll run an application through our portal and we utilize machine learning, all the geeky statistics to ensure that we are approving the right customers. We do it through a machine learning algorithm and prove all customers automatically within 10 seconds.
Fred Diamond: Who exactly do you sell to? Do you sell to the stores, do you sell to distributors, who are your customers?
Boomer Muth: We’re a B to B to C, so we’re selling into these retailers. We have a sales team of about 60 both inside and outside and they’re mainly trying to present the value of our product to retailers to help empower them to make more sales. We’re selling to people so that they can sell more which is really enjoyable.
Fred Diamond: I’ve got to ask you one quick question. You mentioned in the beginning you were a math geek, how does that apply to your day to day? Do you think in analytical terms, again we mentioned one of your first jobs at Capital One was as an analyst. How does that translate into being a sales leader?
Boomer Muth: I think one thing that’s powerful as a sales leader with analytics is the problem solving aspect of it. Whenever I’m preparing for a sales call with a big retailer I will research who they are, try to understand what they care about and then piece together how our product fits in with them. Instead of just assuming that I can throw everything about our product at them and it’s going to fit in, it’s almost like a puzzle piece and that’s the part I used to enjoy about math competitions was you get a problem presented and you have to think quickly on how to solve the problem.
Fred Diamond: I’ve got a question for you, translating that to your team. One of the things of course that comes up frequently with young sales professionals is, we’re talked about this on the podcast many times, the whole concept of “showing up and throwing up” and saying every feature, and of course you have a lot of features with your solution. How do you coach your people to not get into that rut and to also try to be more focused on the needs of the customer?
Boomer Muth: You mentioned Will Fuentes earlier, he’s been a great coach to our team. I think one thing he and a lot of other great sales leaders I read on is about the questions. Ask a question and then pause, that’s been really powerful with the team. I’ll probably hit on it a little bit later, I would say that my team coaches me on a regular basis. Me having a background that was more analytical and engineering, traditional sales experience is something that my team helps teach me on a regular basis. I think asking questions and prying even more on those questions is a powerful way to understand what your customer cares about.
Fred Diamond: Talk about the beginning of your sales career and how you made the shift into generating revenue and being the sales leader.
Boomer Muth: How about I just tell you first how I got into sales in my whole life? I started a band in high school, the band’s name was Copper Sails.
Fred Diamond: Sails, S-A-I-L-S?
Boomer Muth: S-A-I-L-S. It would be more apropos if it were S-A-L-E-S. That’s the perfect example of sales, because I tell everybody sales is passion, I’ll take a passionate sales leader over a trained one any day. You can’t be more passionate than about songs you write, I believed that I was going to be a rock star. If you don’t actually believe you’re going to be, you have no chance at it so you have to convince your friends to come see your shows, you have to convince them that your music is any good every time you step on stage, you’re trying to sell them on, “This is really awesome, you should listen to it.”
The big lesson I learned was about persistence and not everybody’s going to like what you do. There’s local band reviews where they critiqued us, I remember walking down the hall in school, we put up banners advertising our shows and I walked by one and someone had crossed out “sails” and it said “Copper sucks”. That persistence and that realization of, “I still believe in this no matter what people are going to say” and people are going to say no to you. I would say being in a band and trying to convince others that the product you have was valuable was the best lesson I’d ever learned in sales.
Fred Diamond: That is great. You may think you just did your best performance ever and you just killed it on the song and look out in the audience and people are looking at their phones, or something on those lines today.
Boomer Muth: Today that’s probably it, back in my day they didn’t have the phones.
Fred Diamond: Curiously, who were some of your musical influences? Who were some of the bands that you really enjoyed listening to growing up?
Boomer Muth: I think The Beatles are absolutely the most inspiring band I’ve had and they’re unique in the sense that not only were they the most popular band at their time, but they were also the most innovative. I always look at them because that’s such a unique combination of innovation and popularity that I think is hard to find nowadays, kind of what we aspire to be as a company. We want to be the most popular amongst our customers but also innovative at every step of the way.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you’re an expert in, tell us about your specific area of brilliance.
Boomer Muth: I would say probably I’m an expert in nothing, but I’ll tell you what I’m obsessed about. I’m obsessed about leadership, most everything that I spend time on is about being the best leader I can be. I actually have a daily checklist that has come from leadership coaches, people that I like to read about, that I try to check off every day. I feel like if you don’t measure something, it doesn’t get done, “Inspect what you expect.” That’s a standard I try to hold our sales team to and everybody in the organization, so I try to hold myself to that as well.
Fred Diamond: Can you share some of the things that are on that list?
Boomer Muth: Five hand written notes a week. We drive a really high, intense high performance culture, that means we demand a lot from our employees. If you’re going to demand a lot from your employees, it’s important to show appreciation. There’s a stat that John Ezzo shared when he was talking to me once was 60% of the workforce hasn’t been told, “Good job” in the last year. What I tell everybody that joins our company is we have a culture of discomfort. What that means is we’re going to make sure you’re uncomfortable and that’s our gift to our employees because without discomfort there’s no growth, comfort really is the enemy of greatness but if you’re going to have a culture of discomfort, high performance, you have to show that appreciation.
Fred Diamond: What does that look like, a culture of discomfort?
Boomer Muth: I think there’s a few things about it. I was listening actually to a podcast, a wonderful one of yours, Chris Baron and she was talking about leadership and she said, “I can’t motivate, but I can inspire.” It resonated so well, when I think about our sales team I can’t motivate them to get out of bed every morning but if they are and they’re committed to greatness, I can inspire them. She worded it so perfectly in your podcast and I got a lot of value out of that, so I think our culture is if you’re not motivated, this isn’t a place for you. We don’t keep unmotivated individuals around, a lot of people think that a culture of terminating employees that aren’t cutting it actually demotivates, we found it really motivates.
High performers want to be around high performers and learn from high performers. That’s part of the culture of discomfort, and it’s not discomfort in the sense that you’re worried about your job, its discomfort in the sense of I’m always going to try to inspire everybody on the team to be greater and they do the same with me. Everybody on the team is constantly reminding me, “Boomer, this is a thing that you could have done better” and I appreciate that. That’s really important because I can’t grow without that.
Fred Diamond: Give me an idea of what the inspiration looks like, do you have meetings every morning, huddles type of thing? Do you run around with a bell? What does it physically look like on the floor here at West Creek?
Boomer Muth: That feeds into one of the biggest challenges. On the floor I ensure that I walk every day and say good morning to everybody, and I talk to them about what’s going on. We have an inside sales team as well, I need to visit them even more often, but walking down the hall, finding out what they’re doing, finding out what matters to them, celebrating the wins. We have a score board that sits in our inside sales team, we have a bell that gets rung every time they close a deal, it’s a culture where they’re both motivating and competing against each other.
I would say our biggest challenge is we also have a distributed sales force throughout the country and I think we have regional sales managers that do a great job at inspiring their teams and staying connected with them. I know that they have little chat functionality that they talk to each other on a regular basis, pump each other up, celebrate wins. Distributed sales force, I wish it was easier to see their faces every day. I think that’s probably the one challenge that I want to ensure that we continue to improve as a team.
Fred Diamond: Do you use things like Zoom or Skype to keep in touch that way?
Boomer Muth: Yes, Microsoft Teams.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career.
Boomer Muth: I think on the sales mentorship front I would probably cite a few of the sales leaders on my team as being some of my strongest mentors. We have a person named Randy Stacy on our team, he actually sends videos out to the team celebrating on a regular basis and he shares it with the entire 60 person sales team. He pumps them up, tells them what they’re capable of, shares a recent success that may be a skill that they may be able to use.
I’ve got another two great sales leaders, Josh Borgstrom and Craig Leffew, they bring me on big deals, they help me understand that there’s a long sale cycle when you’re dealing with a big company. It’s a different type of sale than when you’re cold calling a company that might just be a mom and pop. Getting that perspective from the people on my team, sales doesn’t look the same everywhere, you have to understand it differently and really listen to what your customer needs.
One you mentioned, Will Fuentes, one of the things that he’s given me as a mentor that was super powerful and I think of it as a cheat code for sales is whenever you’re selling against a competitor and you also want to get more information, the question is what do you like about your competitor? It sounds like a really simple question, but it’s amazing how powerful it is. A lot of people say, “What don’t you like?” One, that goes straight into negativity and it also puts the customer on guard. This question that will gain me of what do you like about your competitor is amazing because you’ll ask it and then all of a sudden you’ll find they’ll just start telling you the things they don’t like even though you were really positive and said, “What do you like?”
In the instances where they don’t tell you what they don’t like, they actually tell you what they do like, you know what they care about because every product has different benefits, what benefit do they care about? That question has been powerful. I know you were back on the mentors, I would say also my co-founder Rob, he’s our CEO. He’s been a real mentor in the sense of just how hard he drives. We have a culture of just driving very hard, failing fast and I think that “fail fast” doesn’t mean you fail dumb, it means you fail smart. Why would we wait? It’s just like sales.
When you wake up in the morning, why are you going to wait to do that thing tomorrow? There’s nothing you need to wait on and the same things that make you successful in sales make you successful as a company. He’s been a great mentor in saying, “Can you do this even better?” One of my biggest fears, I’ve read a lot of when I started the company and I’ll tell you the story on the company because I think it helps provide some insight.
When we started West Creek I knew I wanted to go all in. What really inspired that and has been really valuable in my life is I read a lot on what people say on their death beds. Consistently you hear no one talks about regretting any of their failures, they regret what they didn’t try. They regret not giving it a shot, it’s things like, “I wish I had taken action and dove in head first”, “I wish I had taken more chances”, “I wish I had kept going”, those are things you hear from people on their death bed.
My biggest fear in life is dying and saying, “Did I do every possible thing I could have done?” and I think when you wake up in the morning and say that, especially as a sales person, there’s always that one more call you can do. There’s always that one more angle that you can look at the sale in, so that’s my big fear is did I really go all in? Going back to the mentor of Rob, I think he pushes me in that area.
Fred Diamond: That plays into the culture of discomfort as well, are you doing enough? What else could you be doing? Boomer, tell us about the two biggest challenges. You said you manage a team of 60 sales reps, a bunch of them are distributed, a bunch of them are inside here. By the way, we’re doing today’s podcast interview just outside of Richmond, Virginia. Is this a Richmond address?
Boomer Muth: It’s a Glen Allen address but it’s very close to Richmond.
Fred Diamond: Not too far from Richmond, state capital, for the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe. Richmond’s about a hundred miles from DC where we do a lot of the interviews, we’re in the office of West Creek. It’s a beautiful office in a beautiful building with a lot of buzz. By the way, we’re actually right next door to a concert venue, do you get big names coming to that concert hall as well? It’s an outdoor arena, actually.
Boomer Muth: We do, it’s usually on the back end of their careers, somebody like Hootie and the Blowfish or Lynyrd Skynyrd but still bands that are great to go see.
Fred Diamond: I think you mentioned during the pre-interview that you opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Boomer Muth: We did, actually.
Fred Diamond: What was that like, were they friendly?
Boomer Muth: Very friendly. I think it’s almost like you finding entrepreneurs. I’ve joined a network called YPO that’s been extremely valuable, and I went into it thinking, “These are really successful people.” I had assumptions about them that they’d be pretentious or not down to earth, and this is this realization that I’ve got in life of, “You aren’t successful if you don’t have a high EQ.” It’s very hard to be successful unless you understand people and you’re down to earth and I think the same thing in bands. When we met successful bands, you have this assumption that they’re not going to treat you well, they wouldn’t have gotten far if they didn’t treat the people in their lives well.
Fred Diamond: Especially the ones that have been around for 40 years, the Lynyrd Skynyrds of the world. There’s such appreciation to go to a place like this and have 5, 7 thousand people cheering on songs that were written 45 years ago, that’s got to be an amazing feeling, you have to appreciate that. If you’re not appreciating that, you’re definitely in the wrong business. I could talk to you for hours about opening for bands and your music career and stuff like that, we’ve actually done a couple recent Sales Game Changers podcasts where we’ve been talking to sports professionals or who have had a great career in collegiate sports, maybe we’ll try to figure out a way to talk about the convergence between sales excellence and music excellence as well. Why don’t you tell us about the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Boomer Muth: I think you hit on one of them when you were talking about sports. I’m sure a lot of listeners have heard of Jack Daly, I love one of his quotes because he said, “Most sports teams are run better than businesses.” It’s so true and I think it feeds into my biggest challenge, if you have great passionate salespeople as we do, I would put our sales team up against anybody in any industry especially when it comes to their passion. I would actually say their weaknesses are my weakness and my weakness is the fact that I haven’t created a world-class playbook for them.
A great salesperson, you create your lanes and you let them go but I think that what I need to do as a leader is get better around the systems and processes that ensure that they can be successful every day. I think right now we ask our salespeople to do a lot of prospecting. Why are they prospecting? What they’re really good at is getting in front of as many people as they can every day to help them realize the value that our product can have. I need to ensure that we have all the tools they need so that they can be in front of as many people as possible on a daily basis. That’s my responsibility as a leader.
Fred Diamond: Excellent. Why don’t you take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of?
Boomer Muth: I think now might be a good time to tell the story about West Creek. I started my career at Capital One and I realized quickly into that that Capital One was making more money on me than they were paying me which is the way any good business works. I realized I want to be on the other side of this but I was too afraid to leave the comforts of my corporate job and so I tried to do both at once. I started a home healthcare business and the best lesson I learned was if you try to do two things at once, the best you’re going to do is mediocre.
When I sold that company in 2012, I said next time I do this I’m going all in. Lo and behold, luckily two years later I actually got kicked out of Capital One, it was the kick in the butt I needed to say, “This isn’t the place you need.” It was almost the universe telling me, “This isn’t where you want to be anyways.” I had a meeting with our co-founder Rob two weeks later, he told me about the business idea really using machine learning and using intelligent analytics in a way that no one else was in this industry. Did research, realized it’s an $11 billion dollar industry and there’s not super compelling players in this space so I came back to Rob.
I’m probably shortening the story a little bit, and Rob and our third partner as well, Scott, said they were each going to give this business a shot. They said they were each going to put $250 grand into the business and they’ve done really well in their careers, I hadn’t done as well as them. The original plan was they were just going to hire me and I was going to start the business for them because I had the entrepreneurial experience and I was also an analyst at Capital One. They said, “We’ll give you some stock options and we’ll give you a salary, you won’t have to take much for the pay con.”
It took a little more time than one conversation, but through a little bit of time I realized all in really means all in. I said, “Rob and Scott, if I liquidate everything I have about $251 K so I want to be an equal partner.” I really took my whole life’s savings and just went all in. After I did that they said, “It’s weird for partners to make a lot of money, so we’re going to take your salary down. I took about $120 K a year pay cut and I took my life savings and put it all in. Let me tell you, something beautiful happens when failure is not an option, you really realized what you’re capable of. I had never sold before, so I had to sell into our first 40 doors. I was not trained at all other than my experience in trying to sell a band and selling a company, but doing the door to door was something I hadn’t done before. It was out of necessity and out of passion, truly the only reason I was able to sell, was being passionate about the product.
Fred Diamond: I love that statement, “All in means all in.” For the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe to the podcast, I’m thinking about a lot of the people that we’ve interviewed and by this point we’ve interviewed about 150 sales leaders. All of them have been all in, they’ve committed, they’ve really put themselves deep into the company if it’s their own business or representing a brand or something on those lines. To get to those levels, you have to be. Interestingly, you said, “All in means all in”. You went all in, you started knocking on doors, you still talked a couple of times about regretting you’re on death’s bed things you didn’t do. It’s like all in can even push a little bit further.
Boomer Muth: I don’t think I was really all in, can we actually be all in in this society? Because probably even in the back of my mind I was like, “I’m not going to starve.” What if I could have starved, would I have been capable of more? One thing that I really learned there was not only was I forced to learn how to sell but I didn’t want to hire anybody else because my money was in. I was our first dealer’s support rep, I was the first customer support rep and we knew we were going to win in this space by having the best technology and he best approval rates for our retailers so that they could sell more.
What I learned was how important service was because I would see applications come through our portal and I’d immediately call the dealer and I’d say, “How can I help you make the sale?” and the dealer’s reaction was, “Holy crap, I can’t even get your competition on the phone a whole ten minutes and then I get someone that can help me.” It was that realization, because that was sales. All of a sudden they started telling other retailers about us, so we grew to word of mouth. We did our first $2 million dollars in business from just a few mom and pops that I booked and growing word of mouth, and it was because of that necessity that helped me learn how important service was because service really is sales.
Fred Diamond: Again, you’re the chief revenue officer and of course you’re the co-founder and the president of the company but as a chief revenue officer, you’re responsible for all sales. You mentioned 60 people and you have 6,500 somewhat dealers in your network. Did you ever think to yourself, “I’m knocking on these doors, it’s too hard. There is a safety net, I’ve got my bass in the trunk, maybe I’m going to go back to Virginia Beach and give it one more shot” or something like that? Did you ever say to yourself, “This sales thing, it’s just too hard, it just ain’t for me”?
Boomer Muth: I think that answer is kind of complicated in that I think every day but also never. Let me explain that, there’s the moments in the day where I say, “This is hard” and it creeps in of like, “What if I just gave up?” Giving up is comfortable, that’s why we do it. Giving up is absolution, it’s a finalization so part of what I think what drives me every day is a phrase, “Never, never give up.” Winston Churchill said, it, Rob, my partner shared me a card that said that and that’s the reminder of never give up. I don’t ever end the day with that, “Maybe this would be easier to give up” but to say that it never creeps in your mind would be silly. Another version of giving up is, “Maybe our company is big enough.”
I’m not, I don’t believe that, in four years we’re going to be a billion dollar company. I tell everybody in our sales force that. Now we’re a hundred million dollar plus company, in four years we’re going to be a billion and nothing happens without a vision. If I don’t say it and I don’t tell as many people as possible, the reason I’m telling the podcast is because I’m telling the world that.
Fred Diamond: The YPO terminology, BHAG, it’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. Today’s Sales Game Changers podcast, we’re talking to Boomer Muth. He’s the co-founder and chief revenue officer at West Creek based over here in Richmond, it’s a company that provides point of sale financing for retailers, typically mattresses, tires, products like that. Boomer, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals to help them improve their career?
Boomer Muth: I think it’s what I hit on which is the “never ever give up”, but I think if I summarize it it’s about passion and persistence. Simon Sinek has a quote, “Working really hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working really hard for something you love is passion.” If you don’t have your passion now, you have to find it but once you find it, it has to be all about persistence. Make sure you’re motivated in what you do, and that usually comes with passion, then make sure you’re inspired. Keep learning, keep discovering. As soon as you think you know it all, you’ve actually lost. That’s why humbleness breeds success.
Fred Diamond: The very first person I worked for, she had a placard on top of her desk which said persistence is her key to success. I’ve always been aware of that great one. You mentioned a couple things, you have your leadership check list, but what are some of the things you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Boomer Muth: I just mentioned, I’m glad I was introduced to this podcast. It’s phenomenal to hear best practices of now over 130 different sales leaders, really got a lot out of it, just the one last podcast you had, Chris Baron. I mentioned Jack Daly, I have two coaches, Will Fuentes being one of the coaches. I believe very much in coaches, great sports athletes aren’t successful without coaches. I think that’s a key as well, Will Fuentes talks about the 40-20 rule and I think he mentioned that a lot on your podcast. Spend 40 hours a week doing your job, spend 20 hours a week focused on improving. I think that’s powerful as well.
Fred Diamond: You said you want to grow your company to 4 billion, what’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Boomer Muth: It’s around building in scalability. I told you what I owe this phenomenal sales team that we have right now that’s really committed to excellence is a way to be even more excellent. That comes on me, am I building the systems and processes that enable them to be great? Some of the salespeople work around it, they actually build their own little sales process and they say, “Here’s what I’m going to do every day.”
They’re not dictated to, I would say everybody who is listening, and you probably know this already, but make sure you know what you’re doing every day and make sure you plan your day. Make sure you set a vision with goals, because that’s the only way you achieve them and tell everybody what your goal is. That’s your committing, then you’re committing to it and then you feel like you’re letting down everyone that you ever told you were going to do something.
If you’re a great salesperson you’re a winner, you’re competitive and I want to ensure that the team has all the tools that they need. You as a listener, if you don’t have the tools that you need you have to create them yourself.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great answer. One thing we tell a lot of the sales professionals that we’re working with that are starting out their career, first couple years, I’m sure West Creek provides a lot of tools like you mentioned, there’s a lot of great inspirational things all around your building. You talked about some of the things that you do, but you’re the VP of your career. You’re the CEO of your career.
If you’re listening to this podcast, good for you because you’re doing something that a lot of people aren’t doing, you’re taking some time to learn from a great sales and business leader like Boomer. He’s given some great insights, some great information but it’s your career, you’re going to do as best as you can. This is a very nice work environment, you have free parking outside, it’s a beautiful building, beautiful facility but it’s up to you to ensure the success of your career. Boomer, we talked about this a couple times throughout the podcast. Tell us briefly to wrap on this, what is it about sales that has kept you going? What is it about the profession and the process that you really have gravitated towards?
Boomer Muth: One, it’s uncomfortable and my promise to myself is to seek discomfort. It’s always uncomfortable, people are telling you no, they’re rejecting you and that’s why I know it’s the right place to be, because it’s not easy. Also, I love it because it’s the most powerful way to add value to someone’s life. If you really think of yourself as more of an advocate and almost evangelical about your product, you’re actually making people’s lives better. You have the job of influencing and inspiring that person to make a choice that makes their lives better.
Fred Diamond: Boomer, why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire our listeners today?
Boomer Muth: Things I’ve said already, but find your passion. If you feel stressed, it’s probably not your passion so find your passion, find what you really care about, create a vision, commit to that vision, share it with everybody in your life. That’s the only reason this has been able to happen for me and seek that discomfort because without that discomfort you’re probably not close to failure not being an option. Put yourself in a place where failure’s not an option, you’re going to be amazed at what you can accomplish and then don’t ever give up. If you give up, that’s the regret you’re going to have. A lot of people say taking a jump is a risk, I actually believe is the opposite. The risk is that this wonderful life is over and you didn’t take a risk.
Fred Diamond: All in means all in.