Texas-born and Tennessee-raised, Derek Godwin has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to change the world. Derek graduated college at the top of his class. Fast forward years later, he now owns and operates many businesses that range from real estate to engineering and even technology that bring in over $40 million annually in revenue. Today, Derek sits down with Jason Duncan over some cigar to talk about the process he’s taken to reach success. He also opens up about his definition of success which is working together towards a goal. Learn from Derek’s process and discover how you, too, can be successful.
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The Process To Success: Working Towards A Goal With Derek Godwin
This is a show where I interview super successful entrepreneurs about how they grew incredible companies. I’ve got this theory that there are five indisputable keys to success that every successful entrepreneur has gone through at some point, whether they knew it or not to lead them to the success that they’ve achieved. Generally speaking in this show, I talked to entrepreneurs who founded their own business without the help of a family business. They didn’t use a franchise. They’ve created a business that generates more than $10 million in annual revenue, and they have an individual personal net worth of greater than $5 million. That’s who I have on the show because I want you as readers to understand how these people got successful, how they went through the process of becoming successful, and how you too can be successful.
We’re recording this in Nashville, Tennessee at the Standard at the Smith House, we’re in the Matador Room. It’s a private club and a restaurant. This is an 18,000 square feet of Southern sophistication style. The proprietor is the great one and only Joshua Sterling Smith. He’s so kind to let us use this location to record. My guests are smoking some nice cigars as we do the show, which is not every guest wants to do that. That’s fine, but we can do that here because we’re at the Standard.
This show is brought to you by Results University. Are you ready for success? Results University is a premier online educational for entrepreneurs and business leaders. We teach five subject areas of entrepreneurship, leadership, sales, financial literacy, and we have courses on spirituality and faith. It’s designed to deliver a world-class education content that takes 18 to 24 months to go through. It’s completely self-guided. It’s all online for a low monthly tuition. If you follow the show, you get a discount on your tuition. All you got to do is go to TheRootOfAllSuccess.com to find out more, or you can go to ResultsUniversity.org/root to find out how you can get discount on tuition. Thank you for being here with us. We are also syndicated on the C-Suite Radio Network. I want to say thanks to the C-Suite Radio Network for allowing our show to be on there with so many other amazing shows.
Let’s get on with the episode. Texas born and Tennessee raised, my guest has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He has a desire to change the world. He was a straight-A student in college, graduated the top of this class from Tennessee Tech University here in Tennessee. He’s a dedicated husband with two beautiful little girls. He owns and operates many businesses that range from real estate to engineering, even technology. These businesses make Derek a very happy man. They bring in over $40 million annually in revenue. He is on a track five-year plan to get to half a billion in revenue. If anybody can do it, I know Derek well, and I know he’ll be able to do that. I want to welcome Derek Godwin to the show. Thank you for being here.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Here’s the thing, in my businesses, I’ve worked with a lot of engineers over the year. You do not at all fit the engineer motif and what the engineers look like. How did you go from this straight-A engineering student to have the swag that you have as a business owner?
I’m not the typical engineer. I get that a lot. I’m a good salesperson. I’m a closer. I’m a straight-A student. People look at that and Engineering degree, and you automatically get tagged as introverted and shy, which I’m probably a little bit of both, but we’ve set bigger goals that we can overcome. My goals far outweigh any hesitation and shyness that I have. We’re able to be successful and talk and enjoy doing business with other people.
I’ve known you for a while and we’ve become good friends. We’ve gone camping together and done some things. I’ve appreciated getting to know you, but what is interesting about you and what I want to talk about is how you went from being a straight-A student in college, engineering track at one of the greatest engineering schools here at Tennessee or in the Southeast, it’s a great engineering school, Tennessee Tech, to now you own several businesses that are creating tremendous amounts of revenue, working all over the country, traveling a lot. How did you go from that engineer track to become super successful business owner? Tell us how that happened.
I graduated from college during the great recession in ’09. I had a job at a company as an engineer, and we didn’t have any work. My other guys at work were playing cards all day and sitting around not doing anything. I’ve gotten one of the company vehicles and went out driving across the country, and finding railroads to work for because everybody has needs. I show up at their doorstep like “How can we help you?” It was because I had to. I wanted to eat. I didn’t want to be unemployed and we didn’t have any money. That’s how I got my start and figured out I was good at sales. I’m managing client’s expectations, making them feel comfortable with the work we’re doing, pick up more and more work and grow companies.
It sounds like you were an employee at that point, just being a very ambitious employee who didn’t have to wait to be told to go do something. You went out and did it on your own, but how’d you move from employee to business owner?Money makes you more of what you already are. Click To Tweet
In 2013, I had an opportunity to go out on my own. I went out alone because I was confident in my ability to sell, build relationships, and complete work. I have an opportunity to continue doing the same work that I’d been doing for the past decade at that point.
When you made that decision, was that “I’ve got a ton of money in the bank. I’m going to go start this. If it fails, it’s okay.” Tell us how you were able to get that off the ground because that sounds like a big deal.
There was a lot of barriers to entry in the industries that I’m in. The insurance cost is enormous. Working on the railroads are risky. One of our insurers is Lloyd’s of London. When those guys are involved, you instantly start paying a whole lot of money. When I started, my oldest daughter was two-years-old at the time, my wife wasn’t working and then I became unemployed to start and live this dream that we’d been talking about for quite some time. When I left, I had $96,000 in my 401(k) and I borrowed a $100,000 from my mom. That was the only money that we had. We had no other money in savings and we had no assets. We had a house that was leveraged out completely because we’re new couple and build a house. That was the lifestyle then. We put it all on the line, every bit of it.
As we talk about people becoming successful, I want to make sure that the audience understand that was years ago. Here we are now and that risk that you took now has turned into over four companies that are bringing over $40 million in revenue. That is astounding and it sounds like success. Would you consider yourself successful? What do you think?
Everyday we’d get up. I’ve got my family by my side. We’ve got opportunities to grow companies and take care of all of our employees. We’re nearing 150 employees now. The way I look at it, we’ve got an average family of four. We’re feeding 600 people a day, 300 retirements, and 300 college funds. We get a lot of joy out of getting up. I consider myself very fortunate and successful.
This is The Root of All Success, we talk about success in general terms and define it. We talk about how you got to become successful and what your journey was to get there. Let’s start with what you would define success in your own words. I know a lot of people have different definitions. You could look up in the definition in the dictionary and they’re all different. What does Derek Godwin believe in his own words what success mean?
You’re right, success for everybody is different. Success for me is setting a goal with my wife and working together towards that goal. It doesn’t mean we’ve reached that goal yet, but it’s not the dollar amount. It’s very broad what success is.
It’s not just about money. Have you known a lot of miserable millionaires?
Yes. Money makes you more of what you already are. If you’re miserable and rude, and you get a lot of money, you’re just more miserable and rude to people. It magnifies what you already are.
You talked about you and your wife, that success is about setting a goal and reaching that goal. What’s interesting is that if you look at the word success from a dictionary definition, only a few of the definitions dictionaries lists wealth or finances as a part of the definition, but almost every single one talks about that success is when you attain a goal. It’s the result that you wanted. When you launched out on your own, hindsight’s always 20/20, but if you go back and say in 2013 when you said, “I’m going to do this on my own,” what was the primary goal at that point?
That’s funny that you asked that because we think about those days a lot. My primary goal was to put food on the table for my family. It was very simple. I didn’t see the opportunity at the time to grow a business, have lots of employees, and be where we are now. That wasn’t part of the vision then. As we grow and set goals, we’re continually updating what the end looks like in our end game. That’s why we’re looking at half a billion of revenue. That’s unfathomable when you’re $0 revenue and you’re the only employee.
I don’t keep up with enough to know if anybody won, but the lottery was right up at $1 billion. I don’t think people understand how much money that is. You’re one of the most intelligent people I know because you know stuff that most people don’t know, and you figure stuff out. Your brain works different than a lot of people. From a guy like you, who are super smart but worked for another company, started something from scratch essentially with borrowed money from mom and a 401(k). To go from that years ago to the potential within the next 3 to 5 years of being half a billion, that is astounding. Was there ever a moment in your journey where you said, “This is stupid, we can’t do this. I’m going to go back to work for another company.”
There are lots of days that you regret starting the business. We’re told how lucky we are. It’s not luck. It’s the 5,000 hours a year and twenty years of working that has made us an overnight success. There’s nothing more to it than doing the right thing and take care of relationships. Still to this day, I’ll work 72 hours straight and sometimes I ask myself why. What we ended up doing is looking at our goals, where we want to be, how we’re going to get there, and that’s the path that we’ve selected and agreed on. That makes it all worthwhile at that point.
That’s what success is. We talked about that success is reaching the goal that you want. If you have a goal to get to a certain position, whether it’s financially or geographically, and you reach that by definition, you’re successful. What I love sitting across this table with other successful entrepreneurs is I learned that my original goal was, “I want to hit $1 million in revenue. My next goal is I want to hit at $10 million.” Yours is $500 million in the next five years. What’s the next goal? It’s going to change. Your next goal is $750 million, next goal maybe is $1 billion. That is the hunger and the passion of an entrepreneur.
I want to do this now. Passion is the first P of success, as far as I’m concerned. When I teach these 5 Indisputable Ps to Success, there’s Passion, Place, People, Preparation and Plans. This passion idea, and I want to get your perspective on this for the readers, is that there are two sides of passion. Number one, there’s this excitement, sheer joy and loving it. You work a lot. We’ll talk about the Railroad Consultants a little bit more deeply, but you work a lot in the railroad business. There may be passionate excitement about railroads and engineering in general, but there also this other side of passion that means willing to endure and suffer. If you think about the Passion of Christ, it wasn’t that Jesus was excited to go to the cross. It was that he was willing to suffer and to endure for the outcome.
You mentioned that you sometimes work 72 hours straight. I happen to know that because when I texted you, you’ll get back to me for a week. It’s because you’re working. I also know the stories that you’ve told me about how much time you put in, and you mentioned 5,000 hours a year. For the people that don’t know how to do math really quick, 2,000 hours a year is what a normal employee works at 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, 5,000 is more than double that. It sounds to me like passion is one of the keys to your success. Your passion translated into working a lot of hours and putting in all the time. Tell me and the readers, what you think about how passion plays a part of your success.
We’re very patient about what we’re doing. You can tell that because I get excited talking about our businesses, where we can go and the opportunities that we have. I’m hearing passion in somebody’s voice. When we’re talking on the phone to someone, you can’t see them, but their inflection and tone will go up. They’ll talk to a higher pitch when they’re excited. That’s a natural body language that you can hear and sense. We’ve got some great goals. Our goals aren’t selfish or greedy, and we want to keep doing what we’re doing the best. We want to be the recognizable brand.
In fact for 2021, we’ve removed the words under our logo. We just have RC now because we want to be that recognizable brand nationwide. We’re rebranding and we’re working coast to coast. If you don’t have the passion, the drive and the fire, we would have shut this thing down a long time ago. It’s not that we weren’t content, I’m content every day of my life. If we never hit the $500 million, I’ll be happy every day that we’re here doing what we’re doing, and doing it with excellence. To this day, people don’t understand that goal. We’re at $40 million in 2020 in revenue, and we’re looking at 2021 to $75 million to $80 million with what we got on the books. It’s a very attainable goal.
Let’s talk about Railroad Consultants or RC as you said you’re rebranding. What services and products do you provide to your customers?
Anything railroad. It is what we tell them, but we’re a professional service firm and we also do construction. We provide civil and structural engineering, mechanical electrical engineering. We provide permitting, surveying. We’ve got staff that’s licensed in all 50 states on engineering and construction. That’s going to be the big growth. It’s the construction side. That will be the largest growth that we’ll have and all the companies. We’re working for a lot of the class-one railroads and we’re getting in the door with the other class-ones. It’s all about relationship and also doing what you say you’re going to do, but that’s how you build a relationship. First, get going and risk it all a lot of times. Every day that we’re out there, we’re still risking it all, not in a risky sort of fashion. We put all in line and we’d take the big jobs. We’re always successful doing it but it takes a lot of pressure to do that, and a lot of coordination and good personnel. We wouldn’t be where we are now without the staff and relationships that we have.As we grow and set goals, we continually update what the end looks like in the game. Click To Tweet
Passion and risks seem to go together in your stories. You were willing to risk, which is a suffer point. If your risk there’s this opportunity of loss, but you calculate that against what the opportunity of gain is if it succeeds. A lot of entrepreneurs understand the concept that, “With great risk comes great reward.” That’s not always the case, but your great rewards certainly don’t come with that great risk. With you, you risked a lot and you’ve been rewarded a lot with that. That has to play into your passion. There’s something greater than just going out and play with railroads, building bridges and tunnels, and doing civil engineering and mechanical engineering. On the passion side, I understand that, especially because I know you personally, I can see and understand the passion that you have for that.
Let’s talk about the second P in the success and how it might or may not have played into your story and that’s Place. I talked to talk about this in terms of being at the right place at the right time. You were born in Texas, moved to Tennessee at some point early in your childhood. You went to Tennessee Tech. Was that the right place at the right time to get you where you are? Was there some other place you can point to go, “When I was at this place that propelled me into where I am now.”
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Neither of my parents went to college. My dad ended up taking over a steel business that was essentially bankrupt and turned it around. In college, it was my sophomore year, my dad passed away. The plan was always to work for dad. I may be able to grow with the family business and that was the plan. All the kids were working there and we were going to grow that sucker and make a name. It was a steel fabrication shop, make it a nationwide brand and do a lot of work. I was on scholarships and they put my scholarships on hold in coop. There are a lot of things that aligned to put me where I am now. In the end, it’s God’s plan for what we’re doing. The amazing thing is there have been opportunities that I passed up and regretted. At the end of the day, it was part of the plan because it would have prevented me from doing what I’m doing.
We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of different things due to my relationships. I passed some of them up and thought, “I should have taken that opportunity and go work for this guy or started this company.” At the end of the day, we’re living our purpose. We didn’t start those companies and they were good ideas or didn’t go down that path, or work for this other company at that time. It wasn’t remorseful, but you do have those thoughts like, “Maybe I should have done that.” Looking at that 7, 8 years later, we made the right decision. This was the guidance and the path that we were supposed to be on.
Our ability to adapt will always outperform our ability to plan. As entrepreneurs, we get smacked in the face a lot. Things happen. One of the ways I tell people when I talk about it, you and I may have talked about this before, that in the life of an entrepreneur, there’s this invisible, horizontal line below which when you go, you’re done, you’re out of business, probably bankrupt and maybe people get hurt, who knows. The entrepreneur, the business owner, the founder is the only one who knows how close you are to that line at any moment because it goes up and down like a heartbeat. You want it to go up further than it goes down at every given time.
For you, like every other entrepreneur, you can point to places where we were close to the line and I had the opportunity to do X and I chose not to. At the time, I regretted it but now I look back and I’m like, “Thank God, I did not do that because hadn’t I done that, it would have taken me to a whole different path.” Let’s talk about people in your life. Inevitably, when I talk to successful entrepreneurs like you, they can usually point out to a person or two where they say, “That person was the person that helped get me to that next level.” Do you have a person or persons like that in your life that you can think about?
There are lots of people. There are people that gave me the chance on the railroad and started company. I was right at 29 years old when I started the company. People don’t have multimillion-dollar contracts with the railroad at 29 years old and no money. I borrowed money to pay for the insurance so I could get going. It was me. We’ve got some guys with the railroad that said, “We’ll give you an opportunity, but you got to sell yourself to upper management.” As far as your capabilities and working, but we will say, “We at least consider the scaffold, set the meeting.” That was the first opportunity. Without that, we wouldn’t be here. It was just a dream at that point, feeding in my imagination. There are guys like that.
My CFO who’s also my stepdad, he’s like my real dad. He helped companies grow from nothing to hundreds of millions of dollars. He thinks we’re going to do $1 billion in revenue. He knows how to get deals done in his entire life. I’m a CPA by trade but for many years, all I did was acquisitions and mergers. We’ve grown this company one at a time up until this point. That’s hard, it’s painful to grow one at a time.
We’re starting to look at the M&A side. A big problem we had there is finding the right company. There’s a lot of opportunity now, but we want to have the company that we can go in and rebrand and put our beliefs and views and make sure that they can adapt. They may be pretty closely lined with what we already believe anyway or it’s not going to work. I feel like were growing extremely slow. I do see how fast we’ve grown. It makes banks nervous because you’re growing so fast, and there’s opportunity everywhere. There’s not a person out there who is going to control my destiny other than myself. I’m not going to wait on the world to tell me what to do or act on me. I’m going to go act on the world. People drive down the road and I see dollar bills everywhere, $100 hanging from trees and hanging in this guy’s yard that needs landscaping, and this guy needs something painted. There’s opportunity everywhere.
Isn’t that what separates business owners from entrepreneurs? A business owner can take a business and run it. As long as the systems are put in place, he or she can run that business, that’s a business owner. There are certainly accolades that are due to people that run successful businesses, but the entrepreneur is doing what you just discussed. It’s about looking for opportunities. It’s taking risks that a business owner wouldn’t necessarily want to take. They want to work in a known system. The difference between an entrepreneur and a business owner is they want to risk things and they’re willing to innovate things or look for opportunities. It sounds to me that’s exactly what you did in your career. You talked about the risks that you made in terms of time, and there were some money risks. Were there any other risks that you’ve taken that you would want to share like this happened or I did this and it sound stupid at the time but it turned into $10 million opportunity?
It’s the risk of starting my first company. Everyone tells me, “No, don’t do it,” but they didn’t understand. They still don’t understand like, “You’re right. You were lucky.” To this day I’m still just a lucky guy. “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” that’s my response to them. As far as risks now, we have one client that we wanted to do some work for. They required 30 people on standby to do this work. I say, “We got it done.” I had seven days to hire, train, do background checks, and drug tests on fifteen people. I had two weeks to get the other fifteen on board. At the point, it was about 3 or 4 years in the company. There’s new social and ads. We want to be competitive in the marketplace and it was a good opportunity. We’re going to hire 30 people that have any work, then I sold all the work. I had everybody working within about a two-month period. Banks don’t like that, they don’t understand that I’m confident in my ability to sell.
I’m still doing everything I tell them that I’m going to do and have met all the obligations, timelines, and commitments that we’ve always told them. In fact, we beat them. Our projections every year blow them out of the water. I give them what they don’t like as a conservative projection. I give them what I think is very conservative. We ended up doubling that a lot of years. It’s always fun though. It’s hitting for the moon and we miss and were among the stars. Every year we far exceed our projections from the year before.
An entrepreneur with the experience that you have, and the experiences that I’ve had would know that having a banker on your team that understands the entrepreneurial mindset is extremely important because I’ve gone through bankers who simply were not entrepreneurial. They’re like, “If it doesn’t make sense on paper, I don’t even want to talk about it.” Thank goodness, I have a banker now who understands. He was an entrepreneur. He had a business before he went into banking. He understands what risks there are. When I go to him and tell him something crazy, he’s like, “We can do that.” Having that banker is important.
Finance can make or break you. We’re growing so fast, we need a lot of capital. We’ve got capital retention plans in place. We’ve got lots of people want to throw money at us and invest that we know out there. We weren’t going to give anything up. We’ve got big places we’re going, and we’ve got a great banking team, and then our CFO who used to be on a board loan committee. He was the head of that for some large regional banks here. He knows how the negotiations work. Every time he walks in the door, they already look defeated. They’re going to give us whatever we need. It’s going to be the best tag on price you can get.
We talked about passion, place and people. We’ve got the last two Ps to talk about. The first of the last two is preparation. When I talk about preparation, you got to be prepared to be successful in the thing that you’re doing. You are primarily in the engineering space and railroads, but your preparation sounds to me like, “My dad had this steel company, which there’s some engineering involved in that.” You went to school to get a degree in Engineering. Was that your preparation to help you be successful? Were there other things that you would point to? Is it a coach, is it a mentor, or was it a certification class? How did you get prepared to be a $40 million company seven years in?
I spent my whole life preparing for this. I was always entrepreneurial. We didn’t have anything growing up but hard work, integrity, and we work on construction projects with my dad. We were building decks for somebody. We were building handicap ramps for people. We were cleaning gutters. We were doing work for the community, whatever it may be. Every single weekend we were doing something. Some weekends, it was at the house, cutting firewood and bringing it home and splitting the firewood, and then stacking them. We grew up working. That was part of life. That’s something that’s missing from where we are now and this next generation coming up. It’s work ethic.
I know your work ethic. I know you well enough to know that it’s second to none. Talk about your college experience. A lot of times I mentioned on the show when talking to entrepreneurs, about 50% of them went to college, 50% didn’t. It doesn’t seem to be a strong indicator of success, but then there are specific things like what you’re doing with engineering that it requires. If you wanted to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer, you almost have to have that degree in order to do it. What part did your college degree play and prepare you for success?
That’s probably a controversial topic. I went to school to be an engineer. I got there because of naivety or whatever you want to say. I was the youngest of three. My brother is 2.5 years older. He was three years ahead in school based on our birthdays. He was going to school of engineering. I was like, “I’m going to go be an engineer because I’ll do it better than him.” That was how much thought I put into what profession I was going into. We’re going to work for dad and run the company, run the family business or do something anyway. They didn’t have any college education. They were extremely successful for a lot of reasons.
Without college, I wouldn’t be able to be an engineer. I wouldn’t be able start an engineering company. I couldn’t start a construction company but engineers are fairly simple to get into from a cost perspective compared to all the equipment that we have now, all of the contracts nationwide and everything we have to keep up with. It’s very capital intensive on the construction side. As far as college prepared me, we had some good professors who are no longer with us. They were the old school professors, and you couldn’t miss a day in class, or you automatically get a B. You get to C, if you miss 1 or 2 days. That was assuming he had a 100%, it would scale you back that far. If you miss more than 2 days, you failed and had to retake it. You couldn’t be late.
At the end of the day, they have taught how to derive formulas and not just give you an answer. They gave us a fishing pole and taught us how to fish, versus feeding us like some of the other professors do. More and more prevalent in this day is here’s the formula, but we learned the reason behind the formula. We learned how to develop that and drive that. I still to this day can do that. I was a loner in college, went to class and did all the work on my own. That’s probably the biggest thing I got from college is the derivations and learning how to think the different way and not being provided answer. I was already a critical thinker and a problem-solver that sort of thing. That’s always been my cup of tea. That’s why I was so good in college because I was prepared for that. It helps magnify what I was already doing.There's opportunity everywhere. You just have to drive down the road and see the dollar bills everywhere. Click To Tweet
When we talk about preparation that also leads to the last of 5 Ps that I talk about and that’s plan. I firmly believe that successful entrepreneurs use these 5 Ps and the fifth one being planned. I believe that there was a plan and the plan isn’t business plan, a lot of people think, “I’ve got to have a business plan to be successful.” No, not necessarily because I grew up a multimillion-dollar company without a business plan. I don’t know whether or not you had a written business plan, but what I find is that most entrepreneurs didn’t. They didn’t have a written business plan. What I mean by the word plan is the strategy to obtain and deploy the resources required to be successful.
You mentioned in your story that in order to go out on your own, the insurance costs, first of all you had to have it, but they were astronomical. It sounds to me, your plan was, “I will figure out how to get the resources required, which includes an insurance, no matter what it takes.” You went and borrowed the money to pay for the insurance premiums. Tell us about how the plan, not the written business plan, although if you had one, we’d be happy to know about that. As a matter of fact, I teach in my university how to write a business plan, but I also make sure that students understand that this is not a prerequisite for success, but rather you need a plan to get the resources. Tell us about how your plan worked to get the resources you needed.
I don’t have a written business plan now and I never have. We’re growing and changing so fast. It changes every day. We we’re growing exponentially not linearly. We don’t have those plateaus and dips. We keep everybody busy. We’ve never to this day lay off for lack of work. We intend to keep that tradition alive because we see opportunity out there. As far as resources and plan, it’s all about relationships and abilities and having confidence. For example, when we hired 30 people in two weeks, and had commitments to have them on site, and trained and background checked, and all those commitments we did. I didn’t have a plan. They called me and I was like, “We can do it.”
At that point, we had sixteen people in the company. We grew to 200%. We tripled in size in that period which would have bankrupted us because we have all these people we got to pay. They do the work and all our clients pay us, but you do the work for 30 days, you invoice to get paid 30 days later. You got this carrying costs for 60 days. I wasn’t prepared for that, but we figured it out. I don’t sit there and negotiate with clients. I’m the closer, I negotiate with clients. Just tell me where we need to be then we’ll figure out how to make it happen.
We don’t need to go back and forth fifteen times like a used car salesman or car salesman in general, or any kind of salesman. Just tell me what you want. Tell me that expectation. Tell them that number that you’re looking for. If I can make it happen and I think I will. We did one and this is something I do about every day anyway. I was working on another proposal and they finally gave me the number. I even revise it to say, “We’ll do it for this amount and I’ll figure out the rest of it.” We’ll figure out how to save money, figure out how to do it better and more efficient. We will make money on the project, but we’ve also picked up a good client.
I refer to what you described as fake it until you make it. I know there are a lot of gurus that talk about fake it until you make it and there’s no integrity in that and that’s an ‘80s thing. I think that you faked it until you made it, but you never lied to anybody. It’s like you said, “You need 30 people. We got it. We can do it.” You knew and you’re betting on yourself, “I have a plan to get those resources, human capital resources, not financial resources. I have a plan to do it so I can fake that I have it ready, because I know that I will get it ready.” You didn’t lie to anybody, you’re not being less integrous, and to this day that has paid off in dividends for you.
That’s one of the biggest segments of our business is that division that we opened. For example, the fake it until you make it does have a lot of negative connotations, but I’ll never lie to anybody. If they said, “You have to have 30 people to do this work and you have to have them by this day,” I said, “Okay,” then we got busy. I remember when we got our last guy trained at 1:00 AM on Monday morning, when he’s supposed to be onsite at 6:00 AM, five hours before the deadline and we made it happen. A lot of people have great ideas. They never react and they never do anything with them. They’re too scared and freeze up.
I’m not one of those who are like, “Let’s commit, then I’ll figure it out.” Our mantra and one of our things we don’t do is we don’t say no, we say yes as long as we got integrity and no issues along those lines. We’re a yes man. We can make anything happen. We proved that time and time again and have yet to stumble or fail on that. We had some close ones and we’re glad we pulled that off. You do that one time, you pick up a client for life. Railroad have been around. Since 1930s, we’re building railroads here in the US. They’re sitting their ways and then get other contracts that were used for three generations. It’s tough market to break into. It’s all about relationships and getting that chance.
I see how much time and energy you put into traveling and being with your clients. You sent me some pictures of you went on a duck hunt with some of them. I don’t think I know any other entrepreneurs who spend as much time as you do with your clients. It may be because of the nature of the industry in railroad, that’s what happens. I don’t know a lot of people who do that. Is that a nature of the industry or is that part of your nature?
It’s probably more of my nature. The relationships again are key. We believe that it’s safety in relationships and we want to make money. We want to have these goals met, but we are wining and dining and we’re friends with these guys. They pay their own way. It’s one of those deals. It’s crazy but it’s about getting together and talking. We try not to talk a lot of business when we’re together. If we’re hunting or we run into the lake. We’ve got a client that I was going to lake with every year. He brings his boat and I bring my boat and we have our families and we hang out together and that’s it. We do that once a year on Memorial Day. It’s one of those things that has already on my calendar like camping every year with you and knocked over.
We spent a lot of time talking about Railroad Consultants. Is it going to be RC and drop the whole words?
We are still working on that. RC is good because we’ve got Railroad Consultants, Railroad Construction, Railroad Conglomeration, whatever may end up coming up with in the future. RC will be the logo in the brand going forward. I’m not sure that’s going to be the name. If you look at Nike, they’ve got the swoosh but everybody knows that means Nike. We want people to see RC like Railroad guys. They can do anything railroad.
The other businesses that you have that are contributing to your success, do you have any that you want to specifically mention that you’re new?
We’ve got, probably not by name, but we do have steel fab shop. We do a lot of retail spaces and malls. We do a lot of work for a lot of big clients. Someday probably the top ten largest companies in the world, we’re probably doing work for three of them. They’re probably close to the top five. That’s about the relationship and being able to meet impossible guidelines. The railroad, if you don’t keep trains running, you don’t generate revenue, and we don’t get paid. We’re very creative, innovative and understand what it takes to build a job and design a job successfully and efficiently. We value engineer a lot of projects and save the clients millions of dollars and they loved it.
We continue to work because these other companies don’t understand how to value engineer. These are construction guys too. I grew up in the construction world, and grew up welding and I understand access holes and how to get things done. I go out there with the construction guys every once in a while and I work with them. I did that right after Christmas on an emergency project. I went out there and worked with the guys. I like to do that every once a quarter, once every six months when I get out and show them that we do know what we’re doing, and it builds camaraderie and builds a good sense of culture, which is very important.
A lot of entrepreneurs who are listening to this would agree with my sentiment when I say that, when you find the thing that you are passionate about, that you enjoy, and you’re excited about, you go all in. You’re like, “I’m in on this, whatever it is.” For me, I’m in on the things that I’m doing and I love it. It’s been a long time as an entrepreneur, since I’ve looked at other opportunities outside of my own businesses and thought, “I want to throw with that guy or this girl,” because I thought that their opportunity might be better than mine. In your story, probably there were these times when you were like, “This other guy got this ice cream shop, I think I can make it,” whatever that is. As where I sit in my chair now, I don’t have that happen anymore. I’m not looking for other people’s opportunities to, “I want to get in on that. I can make a lot of money in that. I could do that or I could be successful.”
Out of all entrepreneurs that I know, you’re the only guy who every once in a while comes to me like, “I need to partner up with him.” I’m excited that I know you and you you’re a part of this show. I’m happy that we’re friends. I’m honored that you’re a guest on this show. I believe that there are a lot of things that people who are entrepreneurs who want to be successful can learn from somebody like you. You put in ungodly amounts of time and hours that I don’t think a lot of people would be willing to do, but the outcome speaks for itself. Your wife is fantastic, your girls are awesome, and your house is fantastic. We go hang out together and do different things. I appreciate you, Derek. I appreciate your friendship. I thank you for being on the show. Is there anything else that you would want to tell the readers about success, about your business, how to get in touch with you, or anything else you want to share with us?
A lot of people freeze up and don’t have confidence in their abilities. Same thing for me, when I started, it’s to employ myself. That’s the best way to do it for the money started turning green, turned at the last minute, on the last day and finally things were up from there. Entrepreneurships only can go from hero to zero, back to hero in about a 30-minute period. You got to hang on for the ride. You got to have that tolerance and manage your risks good. You have to have a good wife in the house, family support, or husband, a good spouse. The most important thing is that probably 9% of people never act. They’ve got good idea. They could change the world. If everybody who had a great idea would go after that, or if half the people would, think about how different this world would be now. It’s incredible. My biggest advice is if you got an idea, don’t be afraid to go after it. If it doesn’t work, you’re in the same position you are now, nothing’s changed. If it does work, then you might have changed the world.
There you have it. You learn it from a very successful entrepreneur, Derek Godwin, who has built a fantastic company with Railroad Consultants and all the other businesses that he has. You see that my theory about these 5 Indisputable Keys to Success, passion, place, people, preparation and plan, played out in his story, maybe in different ways than in other people’s stories, but it could play out in your story as well. If you want to see how your odds of success or probability of success works out, I’ve got something special to offer you. If you go to TheRealJasonDuncan.com/success, you’re going to get free 5 Ps of Success assessment. That assessment gives you a personalized report showing you where you rank on those five things and whether or not you should proceed in that idea or that venture, whether you should pick a new one.
What’s interesting about that assessment is that a lot of times when people take that assessment, they come up with, “I don’t have the passion for this like I thought I did, or I don’t have the preparation that’s going to be required to get there.” You can either abandon it or you can work on those particular Ps and get those up. Download that and take that assessment. It’s completely free. If you’re interested in getting a world-class education in entrepreneurialism or business leadership, you can go to ResultsUniversity.org/root for a special discount on tuition. Derek, thank you for being here. This has been great getting to know a little bit more of your story and enjoying a good cigar.
You can see all of these episodes with The Root Of All Success on my YouTube channel, which is at YouTube.com/c/therealjasonduncan. If you’re on Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher, please subscribe. If you like this and it’s a good interview, please hit a review button and leave us a great review. I would appreciate that. Next time, we’ll have another guest on here talking specifically about how he or she got to the success that they’ve experienced and how you can do the same thing. I’m The Real Jason Duncan and Jesus is King.
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About Derek Godwin
A businessman of many trades, Derek Godwin owns and operates numerous businesses, which include engineering, real estate, technology, and construction companies. He is an expert at knowing what services and products a community needs and provides them through sustainable businesses that provide real value to people.
His businesses operate under the same ownership, meaning each benefit from Mr. Godwin’s extensive knowledge in how to scale and grow a business. Togher, his businesses have combined revenues of over $40 million a year.
His many ventures continue to grow each year under careful management and expert business practices. Mr. Godwin’s businesses are projected to have revenues exceeding $75 million in 2021 and his entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t stop there. Mr. Godwin’s 5-year plan is to achieve half-a-billion dollars in revenue across all businesses.
He is a proud father to two daughters and a devoted husband. In his free time, Mr. Godwin enjoys the outdoors, often by spending time at the lake with his family and camping.