In this episode, Alex Mandossian talks about the millionaire with cold feet—how Leon L. Bean turned his cold feet during the deer-hunting season to a multi-million dollar payoff. Learn why problem solving is not enough to sell something rather, you need to tell the story; and why serving a narrow niche has less uncertainty than selling to the masses. Lastly, find out why being famous for one product leads to a multi-product demand.
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The Millionaire With Cold Feet
In this episode, you’ll learn three key insights that I believe are critical in making you a highly skilled ethical influencer. Ethical influence is not a skill you’re born with. As a baby, you cried and you got fed. You were ethically influencing your parents or whoever raised you. Ethical influence is a learnable skill.
You’re about to discover why number one, problem-solving is not enough to sell something. You need to tell the story. Number two, you’ll learn why serving a narrow niche has less certainty than selling to the masses. Go narrow and deep versus wide and shallow. Number three, you’ll learn why being famous for one product can lead to a multi-product demand and an entire line of products but it always starts with one.
Leon L. Bean: The Millionaire With Cold Feet
The entrepreneur that I’m going to talk about, even brag about, grew up over 100 years ago in Western Maine in the United States. He was all about having happy feet in the cold because the State of Maine is in the Northeast. It’s the most Northeastern State and it gets pretty cold up there.
He grew up in the late 1880s and he was orphaned at the age of twelve. That means he lost his mom and dad. He first worked in his brother’s dry goods store in Freeport, Maine. His name was Leon and as he tells his story. He said, “My life to the age of 40 was uneventful.”
How old are you right now? Are you under the age of 40? Have you lost hope? Do you feel like your life has been uneventful or you have school debt to take care of or credit card debt? Keep reading because I’ve put together this episode for you. If you’re over the age of 40, keep reading. This will inspire you to take that extra leap of faith. You’re not as good as you think you are, you’re better.
Leon said, “My life to the age of 40 was uneventful.” To any onlooker like you and I, it was uneventful. He lived the life of a normal life. Although he was an orphan, Leon L. Bean, also known as LL Bean, tried to solve the ongoing problem of his own cold feet.
Living in Maine, it gets rainy and cold in the wintertime. People hunt up in that part of the United States. When you have cold feet, your entire body is miserable. If you’ve ever gotten your feet wet and it’s cold outside, your toes start freezing. In some cases, people get blisters. Many times, there’s frostbite. It doesn’t have to be in the Antarctic or in the North Pole to get frostbite.
LL Bean was an avid hunter. He couldn’t seem to keep his feet dry and comfortable during the cold deer hunting season in Maine. In Maine, the cold deer hunting season is in the winter months. After October and into November, December, January, February, it’s cold there.
In 1912, this middle-aged sportsman decided to do something about keeping his feet warm so he could hunt more often. He can stay out and become comfortable. He knew, like the other sportsmen, that he didn’t have to suffer from cold feet. The payoff from that observation grew to hundreds of millions of dollars with one simple problem and predicament resolved and solved. He decided to create a unique outdoor boot.
He wasn’t an entrepreneur at the time. He was trying to solve a problem. He’s a hunter, his feet are getting cold and he wants to keep them dry. When they get wet, they even get colder and they freeze. He wanted a unique outdoor boot design by combining a thick leather upper level of the boot for strength and a rubber overshoe for dryness.
Leather was not enough, you needed the rubber. If the rubber was covered by the leather, that would guarantee dryness. The Maine Hunting Shoe wasn’t a brilliant branding guy. He named it after his home state, the Maine Hunting Shoe. The Maine Hunting Shoe, as LL called it, was thus born from solving that problem.
It wasn’t a problem for city dwellers. It wasn’t a problem for people in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, or any other city that was booming at the turn of the century. This is the twentieth century. This was for the hunter and there were plenty of them all over the United States. It was a niche. Hunting outdoorsmen and women were known to be in a niche.
I used to play the game of squash. I’m a national champion in the year 2000. Even though the sport isn’t widely played, the people who do play it are maniacal just like golfers. They’re willing to buy any piece of equipment to reduce their score in golf. As you know, the lower the score in golf the better.
In this case, the drier the feet, the better for LL Bean. He believed that even though this boot was not for city drought dwellers, it was a niche that he could sell comfortably to outdoorsmen and women. Gradually, LL developed a wide range of outdoor products for both men and women which he offered in the soon-to-be-famous LL Bean Catalog.
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I want to make a point here. If you’re aware of the Sears Roebuck Catalog, Sears became a department store chain. Originally, it was a catalog that would sell to farmers. Farmers lived far apart in the United States. The United States is much bigger than Europe and most countries.
For a farmer that lives in a rural area, coming to the city and buying stuff was difficult. Sears would send this thick catalog to the farmers. As a result, farmers would buy via mail order and the stuff would get delivered via post and courier. Bean was no exception.
Leon L. Bean of the LL Bean Catalog knew that outdoorsmen and women live far apart. They weren’t in the city. He wanted to get a catalog to people where they could buy from the comfort of an armchair, couch or bed. That would be simple to transact. Even though it took some more time, it would be a lot more convenient than driving several hundred miles to the city.
It was better than stores like Sears Roebuck. Selling to farmers who lived throughout the United States was Sears’ strategy. Selling to outdoorsmen and women was LL Bean’s strategy. With lots of practical ideas and plenty of hard work, Leon Bean’s business leaped ahead by adding new clothing and outdoors products year after year.
Remember, it started with a boot that had leather covering rubber that kept cold feet dry and warm. When once asked why he had reached success in such a short timespan, LL remarked, “There’s no doubt a chief reason is the fact that I try out every article of clothing and product I sell.” As the owner, he tried everything.
He was like, “Try before you buy and make it available to my people.” That was a great story. That was the story that he told. Problem solving is not enough. He had to tell the story of trying out every product from the Maine Hunting Boot to the clothes that he wore, to the overalls, to the fishing rods and to whatever else that he sold.
It was to his narrow niche of outdoors people. There was less certainty selling to them than to the masses. They are a lot less fickle because their tastes don’t change as often as people in the city. He was famous for selling one product that led to multiple products. The Maine Hunting Shoe or Boot was the first product.
You could say that the iPod was the first product for Steve Jobs that led to all the other i-products like the iPhone, the iWatch, the iPad, etc. He said, “If I tell you a knife is good for cleaning trout, it’s because I found it to be so.” He would try everything out.
“If I tell you that a wading boot is worth having, it’s likely you may have seen me testing it in the Merrymeeting Bay waters.” He always tested the products he sold and that way, he developed a relationship with his customers. You can do the exact same thing.
The secret to Leon L. Bean’s success was his passion and passionate view to always considering his own customers as a seamless part of his organization. He saw it as an extension of the LL Bean company. He treated each and every one of them that way. “When you sell your customers quality products and you treat them well, they always come back.” Come back, they did.
It was a great stick strategy that worked year after year. Now, they have retail stores and they still have the catalog. LL Bean died in 1967. His one-man operation is now a multimillion-dollar business renowned for its quality and customer service. It’s like the Nordstrom’s for outdoorsmen and women. It’s an intrinsic contributor to the American lifestyle.
Leon L. Bean was a tireless entrepreneur who didn’t even know it. At age 40, his dream began by solving a simple problem of warming up cold wet feet while hunting deer. Solving a simple problem through observation eventually led to an empire.
People Who Became Famous After 40
I thought that I would put together a list of famous people who became famous after the age of 40. If you’re living an uneventful life and it is before the age of 40, that’s great. If you’re over 40 and it’s still uneventful, take heart. Your life can change the moment you finish reading this.
Here’s a brief list of famous post-40 wildly successful people. Let’s take Samuel L. Jackson, the actor. He wasn’t famous until after the age of 40. Julia Child, the famous cook, who went on television, started the whole cooking scene on TV and she did it after the age of 40. As a woman back in those days, that was a big deal.
Martha Stewart, after the age of 40, brought her designs to the marketplace. Colonel Sanders, he did it after the age of 60. Ray Kroc, he did it after the age of 50. Also, there’s the designer, Vera Wang. Steven Carell, the comedian from The Office and other great movies. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was over the age of 40 when she first started to help the children in the impoverished parts of the world.
Mahatma Gandhi, another one over the age of 40. He was an attorney. After the age of 40, he started to protect the Indian people from some of the English who were wanting things that were not theirs.
The Prophet Muhammad, at the age of 40 he was visited by Gabriel in a cave. That’s the first revelation from God if you know the story. There’s Moses in Acts 7:23 in the Old Testament. It reads, “When Moses was 40 years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.” These are some of the people who were successful over the age of 40.
As for me, I made my first million at the age of 36. I was pretty close. I had wasted ten years, from 26 to 36 years of age because of a big mistake I made at the age of 25. That’s the first episode in All Selling Aside. I lost over $242,000 at a Polar Frozen Yogurt Store and bakery franchise in Long Beach, California.
Go back and read that so you’ll see how I shaved off ten years of my life and wasted it because of the hole I got into. I didn’t follow the path of LL Bean. I took a huge risk and I sold many products instead of focusing on one.
Duck Boots Distribution
Let me tell you one thing about a product. Leon began by selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. They were also known as duck boots hunting deer, but they’re called Duck Boots because ducks are around water. That was the product, that was his message.
Did people have that problem? Of course, they did. It was visceral. Freezing cold feet. You come home and you don’t go hunting as long and you’re not out there as long because you’re uncomfortable. I’m sure the same thing happened on ski slopes at some time.
The niche he was after was for hunters, for fishermen and women, outdoorsmen and women, and campers. It is similar to a Norman Rockwell painting and the story is awesome. That niche is something where you can get rich if you go after them year-after-year. That’s going narrow and deep versus shallow and wide.
How did he distribute this product to the niche? Like Sears and Roebuck, farmers were reading that catalog and would send in them their mail orders. They would get them delivered. Hunters, fishermen, and outdoors types didn’t live in heavily populated areas or the urban areas.
What LL Bean did is follow the path of what Sears Roebuck did. He had this surgical attraction. In surgery, you’re cutting a certain part of the body to take out something that is ailing the body, whether it’s cancer, a cyst, or something that is not keeping you healthy. He surgically would attract people with the catalog address by address many miles apart and would get the orders.
That was a distribution strategy. One product, the Maine Hunting Shoe, also known as the Duck Boot. The niche, hunters, fishermen and women, outdoorsman, campers, etc. Distribution through the catalog at first and then they came to the big city. These days, LL Bean is available in the big cities. They are available where I live in Corte Madera, California. They’re probably available where you live if you’re in the United States.
Alexism: Three Things Entrepreneurs Can Never Take Back
The Alexism for this episode is as follows. There are three things entrepreneurs can never take back. Number one, a broken promise. Number two, a neglected opportunity. Number three and worst of all, a wasted day.
Leon L. Bean didn’t break his promise. He would try before he would ask his customers to buy. Number two, he never neglected an opportunity to expand his product line after the famous Duck Boots were selling with the Maine Hunting Shoe. Number three, he didn’t waste his day. He started late at the age of 40 like Samuel L. Jackson, Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Colonel Sanders, Ray Kroc, Vera Wang, Steven Carell, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the prophet Muhammad and Moses.
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Imagine if those three things you never could take back so you never wasted them. A broken promise, a neglected opportunity and a wasted day. What if you knew the importance of all three? That’s why it’s the Alexism for this episode.
Here’s a review of the insights you and I both rediscovered in this 48th episode of All Selling Aside. First, you learned why problem-solving is not enough to make the sale. Many people solve problems. It’s finding the problem and telling the story as LL Bean did that makes all the difference. Steve Jobs did the same thing with a thousand songs in your pocket when he launched the iPod.
Number two, we both learned and rediscovered why serving a narrow niche, which is in this case outdoorsmen and women, has less certainty for success than selling to the masses. The masses are fickle. Selling to urban areas, they’re fickle. If you focus on the habits that have been around for hundreds of years, like fishermen and women, outdoorsman and campers, that’s a much more stable niche and market for you.
Number three, why being famous for one product leads to multiple products. Do not expand too soon. That’s one of the biggest mistakes my high-end and low-end clients face every single day. Remember, these insights will only work for you if you work them. I want you to have execution intelligence.
Please make sure you execute what you’ve learned from this All Selling Aside episode. It doesn’t cost you anything other than your time. Because it’s a public service, doesn’t mean it’s not invaluable to you. It’s 25 years of my mistakes and know-how, problem-solving and problem finding and it’s delivered to you in about 25 minutes of time.
Make sure you execute and apply what you’ve learned in this All Selling Aside episode. If you do, your future will be bigger, it will be brighter and you’ll be creating it on your own terms. Isn’t that what you want?
Speaking of reviews, I want you to go to AllSellingAside.com/itunes. I want you to type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment you experienced from this episode. Not about the podcast in general, just from this episode. You’ll only get to do it once.
If you haven’t already done so with any of the episodes, it will mean a lot to me because it will tell iTunes to put me up in the ranks and more people can get access to this who don’t know me. Maybe you’ll get to meet them as well as a JV partner. You can do this by going to the iTunes reviews section.
What will happen is iTunes will ask you to rate the episode. I do hope I’ve earned five stars from you. Will you do that for me? If you haven’t done so, go ahead and declare your one big takeaway in the iTunes review section by visiting AllSellingAside.com/itunes. It will take about three minutes out of your day.
What you declare publicly can provide you a lifetime of learning, I promise you. When you affirm it, it sticks with you. When you declare it, it goes out to the universe and to everyone else. It will not fall on deaf ears. If you’ve already done this on iTunes, thank you. I appreciate you.
I want you to write your biggest a-ha or takeaway or “pack my bag” moment as we call them in our events. I want you to write that on a declaration card or an index card and hold onto that so you can review it. That way, that a-ha moment can be the a-ha from episode 48, The Millionaire with Cold Feet.
I have one final gift for you. It’s in honor of the 48th episode of All Selling Aside. It’s the complimentary access on the video eCourse that will teach you four things. The big shift of the digital economy.
Number two, how to identify your market within the digital economy. Number three, how to create your message in that digital economy so it’s irresistible. Finally, how to capitalize on the most lucrative media sources available to you right now.
All you’ve got to do is go to MarketingOnlineMentor.com and you will sidestep the $197 tuition that everyone else has to pay. Please don’t give out that link to anyone else, but do bring them to this podcast so they can go there on their own. Is that a deal?
Please do whatever it takes to join me next time because our topic is First Who, then What?. It’s all about Jim Collins, it’s all about who versus what. If you don’t know what that means, come and bring a friend.
I encourage you to bring a friend or bring a study buddy. I don’t know if it’s your spouse or maybe it’s one of your children. Maybe it’s a parent or maybe it’s a colleague. I want you to bring a friend and a colleague so that you can refer them here and study with them because it’s public service at no cost. I love doing that.
Hopefully, our paths can cross at another level in a future time. I can’t wait to connect with you and hopefully the person you bring. It’s super fun for me and I hope it is for you as well. I hope our paths cross again then.
- Leon L. Bean
- First episode on All Selling Aside
- First Who, then What? – All Selling Aside episode 49
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