One of the most important moments in my billboard career stemmed not from a lease I successfully signed but one that I failed on. That setback put in motion a whole new perspective regarding the ways to approach the billboard industry, and life in general.
Episode 43: Don’t Let Anyone Stand In Your Way Transcript
In about 1982, I was starting up my billboard career, not really knowing what I was doing, but at the same time, I had a dream, had a vision, had some enthusiasm, and I really wanted to build a billboard company. So I was working in a whole lot of different potential leases, not really going anywhere, but I had this one that I thought was really, really gonna pan out. And it was gonna be a really big deal to me. There was a guy that owns several properties, all on major roads. I called him up, he was interested. I did a lot of legwork. I went out and I canvassed the market, and I got all the comps, and I went to the city and I found out everything about where the sign could go and the permitting process. I even did some renderings to show what it would look like. It was all put together. And then after he led me to believe he would sign my lease, I went over to his house, and basically, after all of this work, he said, "Let me see all the work." He tells me, "Well, you know what? Since you've already done all that work, I'll just do it myself."
Totally screwed me over. I was absolutely crushed; without that deal I had nothing. But also it was a very important moment in my career, because I was so mad that what had occurred, I vowed never to let anyone stack that in my way going forward because I had pinned a lot of hope, and I thought that people out there were out to really help each other sometimes. And I didn't know how much in the business world people do tend to screw each other over. So I made a vow to myself that from that day forward I would not let people hold me back from my destiny. I was gonna be in charge of my own destiny. And the way I figured I'd get around having a future problems like that, is I wasn't going to do things for people without getting things in writing, I was gonna get leases signed up on the frontend before I spend a lot of time working on such things as the permits. Those should come up after the lease is signed, not at the start, and I also realized I could improve my position enormously through volume. Instead of having just a few deals I was working on, I'd have a lot more safety if I had 10 times that many.
So basically, I made a promise to myself that going forward, I would try and do things on a much larger scale to hedge my risk of something like that occurring. And that I would no longer do a lot of work for free on behalf of somebody who therefore thought they controlled my destiny and could take it away from me. Not long after that, another deal that I had started up tended to go down the same path, this time it was a car dealer. I wanted to do build a sign in the corner of his parking lot, I told him where it would go, I told him how much it would cost to build. I showed him everything about it, I was good-natured, I didn't know any better, straight out of college, and he tried to do the exact same thing. He said, "Oh, okay, that's great and everything. I appreciate you doing all that work. But I think I'll just go do it myself." That time, it was different, I was no longer gonna let that guy control my destiny. I ran to the neighbor next door and said, "Hey, I wanna build a billboard on your property." I was to the point, I was forceful, and I explained them that the guy is gonna build one right next door and then you'll lose your right forever. The guy said, "Well, I don't wanna lose my right forever. Yeah, I'll do it."
So I whipped out my lease, I had all in together for the guy next door. All he had to do is cross through and change the street address, had the guy sign it, and I ran down to file my permit. Lo and behold, I beat the guy to the punch, I got my permit, he called me up, had a fit at me, "How dare I do that, how dare I take that location away from him? Now, he can't have a billboard. He was hopping mad, I could care less. He was trying to stand in the way of my destiny, and I wasn't about to let him do it. If you're thinking of getting in the billboard business, thinking of building some signs, you probably have those people who are supportive and say, "Oh, that's such a great idea," but others who are very, very negative, they say," Oh well, I don't know if you could actually pull it off. I'm not sure, you got the brain power or the know-how to get that accomplished." Don't listen to those people, because the problem is, they don't live your life, only you live your life. So whatever you wanna do in life, whether it's billboards or really anything, the key is don't let others stand in the way of your destiny. Do not let others stand in the way of your goal, because they aren't you. They don't live your life, they live their life. They're not really completely on your team.
You'll find many people as you advance in billboards or in anything, that really wanna help you, they're very supportive, and they'll go out of their way to make things happen to open doors for you. But there are others out there who their entire goal in life is to slam doors on you and hold you back because they just can, and they're just mean, and they're not ever in your best interest. And don't let those people get in your way. So again, work on volume, don't waste time on things that are not signed up, do smart things, and don't let others have control over you. Now, don't be a rebel, don't be someone who says, "Well, I can't work with people at all." No, that's not what I'm saying. You have to work with people, you have to get things signed, but you can work smarter to make sure that people don't have control over you. And that's what I learned from that one fateful meeting back in the early '80s when I decided that going forward, only I would be the master of my destiny regarding building my billboard business. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.