My name is Richard Hirtle, HBA, Richard Ivey 1979, University of Western Ontario, the one who created Ricky McMountain. Ricky McMountain set records that still remain unbeaten well over 20 years later. I was privy to some of the top corporate decisions being made regarding the path to be taken, quietly behind the scenes. Ricky McMountain was hugely successful and captured the hearts and minds of the GTA. Ricky set standards of behaviour in the home improvement sector. Ricky showed me how our societies behave, how people behave, and personally understanding the eventual gang behaviours that erupt against that which is viewed as "too powerful". Even if the "too powerful" was gained using truth and doing what you say you would do. This was very disheartening as the success and power of Ricky McMountain was simply due to saying "we will check each company by calling 25 previous customers of our choice, then only if they pass they can be Recommended by Ricky". And then doing just that.
Every company we recommended knew the rules, price to do the job properly and then do it. Any complaint reaching Ricky - the direct line was on my desk- had to be fixed to satisfaction or they get booted out. Consequently a bad year was getting two complaints out of thousands of jobs done. Most calls where thank you calls, often with "at first I did not believe you Ricky but now I do". I have a few very good stories about a few of those complainants too!
I went to Overland Public school, where i was held back a year due to missing many days while having multiple childhood diseases at once. Then Don Mills Junior and Senior high schools. Graduated all (1976). I was not overly enthused with school. One lasting impression came from my teacher Mrs. McQuaig who constantly picked on me. When I asked why she said .. because you have the most interesting comments. She also was friends with David Suzuki, who visited over the years. I agreed with the man. I did feel he was not going to win widespread support on climate issues, as people do not listen to facts very well if they interfere with their own desires.
Another teacher Mr. Greiser helped me gain a better flair for positioning in marketing, and the overall need for direction and elevation in thinking, he made me think better, imaginatively.
I won a spot in the speaking contest finals for Ontario. Did not win that one. Did represent my school at Expo 67 as one of two from each school. One art piece, a ship I made by shaping metal into a sailing ship, went on tour around the education system for months. Got an offer of $200.00 for it, and refused it. Got the highest marks in grade 13 marketing. Other than that, nothing special.
attended Huron Collage (1976) for two years and then two years at The School of Business Administration (Richard Ivey, now), UWO. Graduated (1979) second quarter. At Huron Collage I had two professors who made me think. One was economics and the other was philosophy, both helped refine my thinking. In particular, I began to see and understand how mixed up thinking was becoming.
I was not an exceptional student, and I was not being greatly impressed with the overall narrow framework of thinking. I harbour no ill feelings towards Richard Ivey, on the contrary, it sharpened my thinking, eventually. One incident stands out. In Professor Gandz lecture we had to answer the question: is there quality to a decision. I'm Yes!. Well apparently not according to my classmates. Stood pretty much alone on that one, Gandz, stepped in, "Rich is right", to calm us down. One comment upon graduation to my parents was from John Nicholson, "The Teddy Bear with Claws", as his nickname was accurate. He said something like, "I have never, ever seen such ability in strategy as Rich has" That felt good. On the day our yearbooks came out I was late and did not get one, and still do not have one. There were enough, and upon questioning no-one came forward as having more than one. Anyways, I never returned after graduation much at all. Over the years I kept in touch with only one classmate, Mike McCain, just a few times, by email. Lost track of Steve Finlay, whom I saw for a few years after graduation.
purchased lot of scientific equipment from CADC (-crown asset disposal corp) for $21700.00, with family money ( about 2.5 tractor trailer loads), from the department of public works testing laboratory liquidation, including two kilos of 5/ninth fine platinum crucibles. My Uncle Bob initially brought this all up. I was intrigued and drove up to Ottawa to look at the lot. I took a good look and asked questions about items and to see the platinum crucibles. "They are in the safe", okay, the safe was a locked file cabinet. The guy said, "you are the only one to weigh or look at the crucibles". With that info and knowing two kilos of platinum included plus numerous analytical balances and scales all with Ernst Pfeiffer's (a balance calibration guy) info. So I called Ernst and he said they are all in perfect shape, no-body else called him, and we became working friends for a few years. He tried to get me hang-gliding, no chance, at 6'6" (198cm) NO!
I bid about 700.00 over the value of he platinum for the entire lot and got it. Huge pain moving it to an old factory near Renfrew Ontario for a few months storage. Then to Toronto.
I called Mathey Mallory Canada the crucible makers and said I'd like to sell. Got a quote and it was jolting, so I called the US Mathey, who quoted far less. So I sent them the crucibles by Brinks Armoured Service to the USA, $300.00, paperwork included and ability to sell it by phone. Russia walked into Afghanistan, platinum skyrockets (now about 4 times more valuable), little family squabble over selling platinum delays me selling, outcome, they get platinum (still worth more than the loan) and I get balance of the lot. I should have just sold the platinum, a simple call, and everyone would have done much better. Platinum incident: continues, the platinum security check, I passed the questions. I say, "The Government sells me the platinum, I want to sell it, I check pricing, get two quotes, better price wins and I get it out of the trunk of my car, and send it, simple. Now what is wrong with that and what possible trouble could that cause me? Apparently none, other than a relatively close scrutiny, a few visits and calls and gaining a certain following of paperwork readers and other types. So now someone(s) are reading the sales paperwork for the lot.
The water stills incident: Too bad I could not just say Google it, (Google was not born yet), would have saved a lot of oops-hit. So, some more calls and visits to take a look including some well dressed 'critters'. Water stills are used to distill tap water using steam condensation not alcohol. Conversion is possible was the big issue. Gained some more 'followers'.
The radio active wand incident:Next up are more calls and visits regarding a very low level radio active wand. So low it does not require heavy shielding. After some discussion I gave it back and then we had discussions about leaving me alone, having passed all these previous 'tests'. That was agreed to and everyone is now happy and no more visits. I was given a few direct phone numbers to very high level security and politicians and told to call if I ever needed help. I am now a 'friend' to these groups.
Selling the load was fairly easy over the next months and the last items were sold to Mark Raufman, a competitor, Labequip, for about $30,000.00 and my promise to stay out of that business, I agreed.
a four colour web press ($20,000.00) and tons of paper for making flyers from Runge Press in Ottawa. Tried a bit of a printing partnership did not work out. Ryn Advertising started giving good marketing advice and using flyers in envelopes, delivered to homes to deliver that marketing. Competitors, Bill Dodd and Rich Richardson (who both became 'acquaintance friends') Rich was the life of any party, Bill outgoing and gregarious too, I liked them both. They did food and national coupons, Valpak did small runs of business envelope sized coupons and I did home improvements and home services. I was first to use flyers in envelopes to tackle the home improvements and services market in a big way, covering the Greater Toronto Area and always giving good solid advice to clients.
I spent time getting to know each owner, their business and their ideas. Then help them understand, that good corporate behaviour, with good thinking and good marketing plans can do wonders for their business including what bad ones can do. Together we set lots and lots of growth rate and market share records with these companies. Notable, AAmco Transmissions (Wayne Krangle on Eglington East) fastest ride up the ENTIRE AAmco franchisee rankings ever seen, from near bottom to consistently in the top 13. Record unbeaten. Next, Century 21 Chartland Real estate. Bob and Sharon Ivany, captured about 2.5% of the entire GTA house listings. They had one office, that grew from 6 people to over 250 agents. Their market growth was fastest ever in the Century 21 lot. The total average sales per agent was just barely beaten by Manhattan. Records still stand. They crossed over to Ricky for a bit then Bob and I parted under bad terms. He went off plan and into development with the result they are no more. There are lots more companies that set notable records consistently!.
Numerous "self proclaimed experts" kept jumping into the flyer market. Their pitch, "same thing" and "better prices than him". They became a big problem and not because of expertise. What happened over the next few years?: their constant low price message made many of my clients think: 'price is the most important consideration'. Some clients began to hedge, demand price matches, slowing payments and many clients slid back to short term thinking, my prices were about 15% higher. (we marketed the envelope, prizes, Lottario tickets, missing kids pictures, etc.). Remember, every one of my clients are growing far, far faster than their competitors, and have been for years, which is why the "self proclaimed experts" invasion began in the first place. Thus began the march to mediocrity.
The end result is, "self proclaimed experts" pulled most business owners down to price oriented thinking. Then most of the first wave of "self proclaimed experts" went bankrupt. Followed by a continuous wave of "new self proclaimed experts and some of the first wave arouse a second time too. Now, we have all seen a person or company rise to the top then be slaughtered for being too big, powerful or somehow dominant and bad for unclear reasons. This was my first time being 'the target' of "self proclaimed experts", using lower price as their only real weapon. All this came about because of highly successful use of good thinking and envelopes full of well designed flyers with additional marketing. My viewpoint was, "How do I help you build your business given your situation?" versus "I have low prices."
I saw the speed that low price messaging can undo and overtake good thinking. All it takes is enough repetition from enough sources, (reach and frequency so to speak) then the herd and tribal mentality take over and mediocrity begins. Then it reigns supreme, and decisions are dictated by pricing. Once embedded in a sectors thinking it is near impossible to reverse.Remember, this is from the the home improvement and services sectors. They see how you eat, sleep, interact with each other, they see all of it. They are a rougher crowd and they have closer relationship with customers of any group.
In my flyers case, the thought was simply, "you are paying too much" causing customers to demand "full service at discount pricing" which is a business impossibility and every business person knows that. That's quite simply bad. These are rational people and I see this happening all over.
Think and create and get some of my existing customers picked and ready for the next step.
The Ricky McMountain Buyer's Guide took the city by storm. Ricky had a real person behind him, me. Ricky was going to follow my exact behaviour and he was going to loudly proclaim his promises and he was going to keep them. Ricky promised to do good and would only recommend companies that could pass his tests. The big test, Ricky would choose 50 customers and 25 would be interviewed, answers recorded, questions asked and you either passed or failed. If you passed you had better keep your customers happy as my direct telephone number is in each Buyers Guide, and I took all calls. A bad year was two complaints. All complaints got handled and dealt with by me immediately.
Almost all calls to my desk were from people just saying thanks and often saying they did not believe me at first and now they do. There was some curious thinking going on, people started to recommend the companies in Ricky's Guide even when they had never used them. People started to have feelings for Ricky, good feelings and quite strong, love like feelings. Simply telling the truth was what Ricky always did and people liked that.
to get the entire Ricky strategy going. Then I had creative people, Syd Kessler, Jukebox (Greg) Johnson, and others help Ricky use radio and do other marketing. David Craig did my portrait as Ricky McMountain. Radio was to be extensively used to the point we were the second largest buyer of retail radio in the GTA for years.
This time and for the next years they have very little luck messing with my customers thinking. Mainly due to Ricky McMountain being a such a strong and powerful name along with customer growth rates being so far above average. Plus they were charging to do the jobs properly without customer complaint.
The situation: customer revolt. Business was tough for many and they wanted a discount. So I ended up cancelling radio, saving about $1500 a page. This showed the fatal flaw in the Ricky McMountain strategy. Having a group of companies that could not easily be replaced en mass and who were all doing exceptionally well at keeping Buyers Guide readers happy. Effectively I could not replace them. The problems: 1. the Buyers Guide often swamped new customers with so much business they could not keep up. This leads to bad feelings all around. 2. every time a company left or was replaced they did not pay their last bills without a fight. The decision to remove radio took "theatre of the mind" out of the marketing max and if not replaced Ricky would steadily lose effect. And he did. I must admit this all annoyed and disheartened me.
A few more highlights Steve Curson writes about the summer Olympics and causes a commotion, Federal water report cancer clusters along great lakes, Hamilton harbour. Creates political firestorm bringing Government heat.. easy pass ... facts dictated outcome Get a few calls and a few visits from some well known individuals from the intelligence community and leaders. Talking computer. IBM did not know of anyone else in world checking companies like Ricky checks. Bill Etherington was Canadian CEO Old issue brought down federal sales tax. Bill Critch RCMP calls.
The story. I met Wayne Krangle while doing flyer marketing. The question: how do you market a transmission repair company when everyone does not trust the industry? We decided to offer free transmission checks with the idea of recruiting the local population to act as salespeople for Aamco. How? The idea was to do the transmission check and then send almost all of them home saying, "your transmission is .. they were told the truth" and "when your transmission really does act up come back and I will look after you." Well in short time Wayne's Aamco shot from the bottom of the list of franchises to the top 13 and he stayed there. Local people sold each other on Wayne's Aamco being good to deal with. A simple strategy that worked exceptionally well. To this day no other Aamco has risen as far or as fast as Wayne's did.
The story. I met Bob and Sharon Ivany when they had 6 or so people all told. Bob and I decided upon a strategy of offering to buy your home if they could not sell it. This started with flyers and then Buyer's Guide. In a few short years Chartland had about 250 agents and has about 2.5% of the entire GTA home listings. All out of one office. To this day, I know of no real estate that has come close to the speed or market share obtained by Century 21 Chartland.
Bob and I had a big disagreement over his going into land development and we parted company. My view was "Bob you have a cash cow you are set. Go and enjoy life. Development is risky and can command huge amounts of your capital." The result: a short time later they were no more. This is all sad. Over the years I have seen good business owners change from an attitude of "look what we did" to "look what I did" and they get a feeling of I am invincible an can do no wrong. When that happens disaster often follows quickly.
The story. Erney Levy and i met and I liked him. Cousins carpet came onboard and sales went way way up in a short time. Cousins did a great job and looked after Buyer's Guide customers exceedingly well. Then Erney decided to let his sales manger Gord, look after marketing. Erney told me he had to let him try. I told Erney he would likely not be able to get back into The Buyer's Guide. He said that he would take his chances. I replaced him with Giant Carpets, run by Jerry Piltsmaker.
The story. Giant did a great job of looking after customers. They grew from 1.2 million to over 40 million in sales a year. Jerry was not pleased with the customer revolt which ended up with cancelled radio. His letters tell the story. I liked him and he did good while associated with the Buyer's Guide. Unfortunately years later Giant disappeared.
The story. Jake Anang was a true gentleman, just a pleasure to deal with. His companies sales increased dramatically. Customers really liked him too. Jake was a director of the BBB and asked me if I would consider becoming the new head. I refused.
The story. Attilio Monaco or T for short began our relationship years before Ricky McMountain. His company grew rapidly. T was constant from flyers to the Buyer's Guide. The most memorable was the year we introduced Carrier factory rebates. His representative Tony went all out to put the rebates together. End result T got about 600 new system installtions in JANUARY and FEBRUARY. That caught Carrier's attention. According to Tony that type of volume had never occured before. T was a nice guy. He has passed.
The story. Millennium was to be a magazine dlivered to every Canadian home and backed by large radio support. It's editorial was to be composed of large numbers of short articles about new and interesting ideas and new research. I met numerous CEO's of large companies. See the millenium section for more on this.