Meron: Inspiring Innovation Podcast Episode 20, “From USA Marines to World-Leading Style Expert for Men”.
You are listening to the Inspiring Innovation Podcast where real life stories of world-leading entrepreneurs will show you how to turn your own ideas into reality and become a successful entrepreneur. Now, your host, Meron Bareket.
Meron: Hello and welcome everybody to Episode 20. I can’t believe it, Episode 20 of the Inspiring Innovation Podcast. I’m your host, Meron Bareket, coming to you live every Thursday from Lake Galilee, Israel, and we have a fascinating show for you today.
We’re going to find out how does a former US Marines officer venture into the world of fashion and become a leading authority in men’s style. The Real Men Real Style CEO, Antonio Centeno, will join us today to share his entrepreneurial story, secrets, and tips.
But before we get Antonio on the line, just a very quick housekeeping, if you’ve been listening to the podcast, you know I just launched the Inspiring Innovation VIP Members Club. I just want to thank all the people that already joined and shared with me what’s on their mind and gave feedback on how to make this podcast better and more relevant because at the end of the day, it’s all for you guys.
If you want to have an impact on the direction this podcast is going and to get direct access to future guests, we have Benny Hsu; Srini Rao from BlogcastFM; Kamal Ravikant, one of the most famous Amazon bestselling authors; Darren Rowse, the founder of problogger.com; Leslie Samuel from becomeablogger.com. All of these people are coming up on the show and VIP members get direct access to ask them their own questions.
Add to that, exclusive access to special episodes just for the VIP members, early access to the normal episodes and a bunch of really high quality, valuable stuff. If you’re interested, join us. It’s super easy. Go to iipodcast.com/vip. As always, today’s show notes will be available at iipodcast.com/episode20. Now, let’s get Antonio on the line.
Welcome, everybody, to another interview of the Inspiring Innovation Magazine. Today, we have a very, very interesting guest on the show, Antonio Centeno.
Antonio’s story is going to take us from growing up in a trailer park in West Texas to becoming a captain in the United States Marines, getting married, having three kids, and founding two companies, “A Tailored Suit” and “Real Men Real Style”.
Antonio is changing the world by helping real, everyday men learn the basics of real style in order to live to their full potential, achieve more, be more successful, and have higher confidence. His YouTube videos have been viewed more than three million times. That’s just an amazing figure. All this is achieved with no formal fashion schooling whatsoever.
Antonio, it’s an amazing pleasure to have you here.
Antonio: Well, thank you very much, Meron. I appreciate that you’re taking the time to reach back out to me. You didn’t mention that we met very briefly when we were at New Media Expo together and we had a great conversation.
I have a big respect for what you’re doing and I’m excited to be here on the show, so any questions you have for me, I’m here to answer.
Meron: Well, I am going to refer to the New Media Expo meeting because being able to see you in person had shown me even more how much you’re into what you’re doing and how good you are in what you do.
I’m not only talking about the style, but it’s the way you stand, the way you talk to other people. I think you talk a lot on your videos about how much more confidence people can have when they’re dressed well and in a suit that suits them.
Antonio: That’s correct. One thing about me — and people always — because I talk about style, I talk about clothing, I own a clothier — is that the clothing actually is not important.
What’s important is the inside man, and I say “man” — if there are some ladies listening, please know that I’m using both here, but what I focus on is men. I just would look around and I would see so many men shooting themselves in the foot because they fall into this belief that appearances don’t matter.
Well, appearances do and it’s not fully correct. It is not something that society is trying to push, but it’s something that we judge people all the time based off of what we see.
I realized that if I can help men overcome that, if I can teach him to master this with clothing, the way they speak, the way they present themselves, the confidence that they can build by practicing this, they can achieve what they want in life no matter what it may be.
I don’t aim and I don’t create content for fashion models. I look for the guy that’s a master electrician and he wants to grow his business, which is blue collar and very respectable, but appearances, many people think, “Oh, well it doesn’t matter to this guy.”
You know, it makes a huge difference to someone in that kind of position because if he wants to be able to charge a premium to be able to keep his business going, if he wants to have a set standard going across the board, then he needs to maybe look at a uniform, not that he wants to push uniformity across and stifle innovation. No.
He really doesn’t want us people to have to think about getting dressed, and whenever they knock on the door that the person who’s looking in the people recognizes, “Oh, it’s the electrician. I can tell by his uniform.” They create instant trust and credibility. That’s one small example.
I also, of course, talk about suits and sports jackets, but really it’s about teaching men how to master their appearance so that they can achieve greatness in their lives no matter what that may be.
One of the things I learned early on is what not to do. This goes back to where I grew up. I grew up in West Texas. Yeah, I grew up in a trailer park. There’s a reason that here in the United States, there’s basically — when you grow up in a trailer park, you can get the term “trailer trash”, and I saw this everywhere.
It’s about people not caring about not only their appearance, but the appearance of their home, but the people that it seemed that I really respected, even if they didn’t have much in terms of means, they always — and my aunt is probably a great example.
She kept her trailer home very clean, very neat. Her vehicles were always washed, always well put together, and I spent a lot of time — she was my godmother — spent a lot of time with her and she told me how important this is. Anytime you’re presenting yourself, you put your best foot forward. You may not have the most expensive car, the most expensive clothing, but it’s clean. It’s pressed. It’s well put together.
I started to pick up on this and then I got a little bit lost. I managed to go to a university outside of Texas and went up to Iowa. It was when I joined the Marine Corps that all of a sudden, this clicking it took into a whole another level.
The Marines are known throughout the world as one of the preeminent fighting forces. Even within the United States Military, the Marine Corps are kind of looked at as a — well, if the Navy is a technical organization, the Air Force is more of a corporation, the Army is a military, the Marines are considered a religion. Literally, these guys are so — they’re just fanatics and they are the storm troopers where — yeah. They will just hit the beach running.
But one thing about Marines is that they like to party hard and they care about their appearance, so it didn’t matter if the guy was an enlisted E2 or if he was an O5. He paid attention to his uniform, how he presented himself. He paid attention to his body.
Another thing that I took out of the military is there was a respect for every man. If you were a fighter pilot and flying F-18s, maybe in the Air Force, you look at yourself as — excuse my language. I’m not going to say anything bad, but basically “hot stuff”.
Now, in the Marine Corps, you look at yourself and yeah, you may think you’re hot stuff, but really you’re support because everybody supports that grunt on the ground, the guy who’s at the checkpoint, the guy that is right there with his boots on the ground who’s actually interacting with the person on the ground and is putting his life on the line.
All of us, they focused on the Marine Corps. You’re helping that young man or young woman who is right there on the front lines and really is the person we’re there to support. So it didn’t matter if you’re a fighter pilot or it didn’t matter if you were a supply officer. It didn’t matter if you’re an officer or you’re.
I love that officers eat last. Senior enlisted eat last and we do that to show respect for those young 19 to 20-year-old men who are probably going to leave the military. Most of them leave the military after the age of 22, but it’s something that it instills in us that these guys are what we’re here for. I took that with me.
So when I came and started creating Real Men Real Style and my other businesses, I always thought the servant leader is really important, and also leading by example. If you look with all these videos I create and this information I put out, I only talk about things that I have experience with and if I don’t, I try to bring in an expert who does. I try to keep it practical, so a lot learned in the military when it comes to appearances and I try to apply that with what I teach now.
Meron: Let’s go back to the beginning why you decided to join the Marines to begin with, and even before that, what values you took from home besides appearances that drove you into entrepreneurship later in your life.
Antonio: I’ll go ahead and I’ll start first with why I joined the Marine Corps. I came from a family of military men. My father was in the Army.
My older brother was an enlisted Marine. Everyone was enlisted, a number of people in the Army or the Air Force, and it was something that I really saw as a challenge, the Marine Corps, and becoming an officer was even higher level.
I just graduated — well, I was about to graduate from university and I was I think a bit lost in terms of — people say you need to find yourself and I really think that’s a crock of bull.
I’m more of a believer of finding something that you believe in maybe that serves a bigger purpose and then focusing and dedicating yourself to it.
The Marine Corps, I knew going in — and I had no problem leaving after five years because I knew it wasn’t going to be a lifetime or a career for me, but it formed a lot of who I became simply because it was an organization that was more — it wasn’t about money. It was about service. It was about being able to be surrounded by men who seemed to have different reasons, had a reason of being there.
When you put yourself in a situation when you’re surrounded by the best, it’s amazing. So whether or not you’re a Navy Seal, whether or not you’re a Gurkha out of India, you’re putting yourself in a position where you are challenged. I think once you get knocked down a few times and you are humbled, it really forces you to reevaluate the way you’re doing things and it forces you to take your game to another level.
That was really my reasoning for joining the Marine Corps. I thought it was just going to be incredibly challenging and it would make me a better person for whoever I wanted to be later on in life.
Meron: And do you feel it lived up to these expectations?
Antonio: Yes, for sure. Just being exposed to the opportunities and — one of the guys I can think about, Jake Harriman. I served with him when I was with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. Jake was an amazing man, came out of the hills out of West Virginia, ended up going to the naval academy, then he was Force Recon with the Marine Corps. When I knew him, he was just a platoon commander. This was the kind of guy that’s jumping out of helicopters onto small pirate ships and taking them out, so pretty high scale stuff.
Now, Jake, he ended up going to Stanford University, got his MBA there. After he left the Marines, he went off and he started Nuru, and this is a nonprofit that is going from village to village in Kenya creating sustainable practices. He takes a lot of military analogies, but he sends in small teams because he doesn’t want it to be about us pushing our ideals on them, but they focus on water. They focus on sustainable farming and fertilizer, very basic things, but the idea is to get them out of the cycle of extreme poverty.
Now, Jake’s a great guy and he’s doing amazing things, and that’s just one person who was to my right, and there were many people to my right and left just like Jake. To put yourself in that company at an early age I think is really important for people that want to be great and surround yourself with people who are greater than you. You’ll find that you’re forced to measure up to it.
Meron: And is that a lesson you took with you afterwards and applied again and again after you left the Marines?
Antonio: Yes. Anytime I go someplace, I try to be around — I never want to be — it’s probably been said before, but I never want to be the smartest man in the room, and when I am, I realize I’m in the wrong — I try to go someplace else.
I want to constantly be challenged and that’s something that it just makes me feel alive. It humbles you because you don’t ever want to get a big head and think that you’re doing great things. I mean, yes, it’s nice to be able to reflect on that, but I’m constantly looking for self-improvement.
Meron: Can I ask you — because a lot of our audiences are coming from Asia, Russia, and other countries that aren’t necessarily the US, especially the Western US, Silicon Valley and all of that. I think many of the people in the audience wish they could surround themselves by people that are much more advanced than they are or smarter than they are in their fields and in their ventures, but it’s very hard doing it from a small town in Indonesia or a rural village in Russia.
I know you live in a very remote location in Wisconsin, so maybe you have an answer to our audience.
Antonio: Yeah. There are a lot of options out there. Fifteen years ago, this would’ve been a much harder question, but nowadays, you can go online. You could probably check out Mixergy. There’s The Rise to the Top. There are a lot of great websites out there in which you can listen to interviews and in a sense maybe surround yourself not literally, but in a separate sense, surround yourself with those people and their thoughts and be listening to those podcasts, watching those videos in your free time.
Another thing to do is to reach out to people, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in Belarus or if you’re down over in Tajikistan or over in Cambodia. You can still reach — and in fact, that makes for a greater story. Reach out to an entrepreneur that you admire. I’d like to go for a B or C level guy. Don’t try to reach out to the guys at Google or the guys at Groupon. They’re just not going to get back to you.
Look for a company that’s maybe up and coming, a company that maybe is more niche especially if it is within your area, and reach out to people you respect. One thing I started doing — a lot of people look at their competitors especially if they’re starting a company, they look at their competitors as enemies, and I’m a big fan of the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” but they’re not really your enemies.
I keep a lot of people who are — many people who you’d view as my competitors, I make them my friends and the reason being is I don’t want to — it’s a scarcity mindset when you think that there’s only so much of the pie. Whatever they grab, they’re taking it from you.
Instead, look at the mindset of making the pie bigger by working together to shape the market. Does that make sense?
Meron: It absolutely makes sense. I think also it was the great Abraham Lincoln who said, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Antonio: Yeah, in many ways. People, they’re just like you. Many of these guys are lonely and they’re working hard. You’re one of the few people on the planet — if you’re starting up a company, let’s say you’re over in Beijing and you’re working the same crazy hours.
You have more in kinship, even though you may not speak the same language and English is broken for you, you have more relationship with that guy in Silicon Valley than probably his neighbor and it’s simply because you work the same hours. You sacrifice in the same way and you can find more ways to connect, I think, especially with the advent of — Twitter is a great tool for connecting with people. You’re allowed to get through a lot of gatekeepers that way. A lot of people have Twitters. Their Twitter handle is connected right to their phone. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to get a hold of them, so Twitter is a great tool.
Facebook, reaching out via Facebook is a great tool as well. You can find a way to get to people. They’re not as hard as you may think, and then you can start to form friendships. Be careful though of — don’t ask anything of them. People, they’re just as busy as you. Think if you’re in their shoes. What would you want?
Well, what most of us would want is help or in a sense, something of value for free, so be thinking about how you can give value to others. That’s a whole another thing I could talk about, the law of reciprocity.
Meron: Well, I think you’ve touched a really, really important point here, which is (a) the Twitter thing. I absolutely agree. It’s just unreal how easy it is to reach people via Twitter or Facebook today. I think all the people I’ve interviewed in the magazine besides those I met in person, I got them via Twitter and it took under 24 hours to get a reply. It’s that easy.
The second thing you mentioned, and I love that, is providing value to these people. I think a lot of it is about waiting for the right opportunity where you can provide your top value and do it with your whole heart, not expecting anything in return, and helping out one of these people you’re looking up to because you’ll be in their heart forever after.
I actually heard about an amazing story of how you actually employ this principle. I heard it from Pat Flynn, who shared the story on his talk at the New Media Expo, and if you want to share that story, it’s a great example.
Antonio: Yeah. That’s actually pretty funny. Pat Flynn, I’ve been following him for probably about two years. I remember when he was really small.
Pat gave away a great e-book. It was basically an e-book on how to make e-books. When I first found this, I was at a point in which I didn’t believe I could monetize information. I was focused on selling clothing, physical product. That was my idea of business. You sell a physical product. Pat opened my eyes to the idea that I could be selling information, and it was something that was just novel to me, very unique.
His book was so well-written. He should’ve charged money for it, but he didn’t. I took the book and I took action. I created an e-book and I followed a lot of best practices. I followed probably ten other guys, so Pat got me started on the e-book. The next thing I know, we’re getting 20 downloads a day, 30 downloads a day, 50 downloads a day. Today, probably 150 people have downloaded my free e-book simply that I followed awhile back simply learning from Pat.
I wanted to thank Pat. I saw Pat was heading off to give a speech. He shared how he was going to dress and I looked at how he’s going to present himself. He’s going to wear a T-shirt and jeans. It was a Financial Bloggers Conference and I was like, “Oh man, this isn’t going to go over well” because I know Pat. I love his content. I love the guy. He’s just provided me so much value, but I don’t want him to feel embarrassed when he goes there and everyone’s wearing a suit.
I put together a presentation for him, a very personal video presentation because I knew how to do that and it wasn’t too much work for me, and I knew that this would be a value add to him because I explained to him and tried to put it into context of how he was in the marching band when he was in the university. I talked about how the respect that he received, how no one questioned when he walked onto the football field — I mean, there were just things that came with wearing that band uniform.
I put that as the analogy to, “Okay, you’re heading into this environment. Ninety-five percent of these people have no idea who you are. There are going to be hedge fund managers there. There are going to be investment bankers there. They don’t have a history with you. They’re going to look at you trusting the way you are and they’re just going to blow you off and not giving you the time of day, which is going to be a travesty because you have so much value to add.”
“Let me show you how to in a sense dress sharp, dress comfortable, and still maintain your level of individuality.” As you saw at New Media Expo, he looks great, and yet he’s still dressing sharp. No one thought he had sold out because he was dressing the way he did. It felt so good to be able to add value. I wasn’t expecting that and he called me out on it.
The other part is he did give me some nice “thank you’s” and emails, but it was just a nice way to stand out and to give value, give something of use back to somebody who had already — in a sense, I had taken so much value from his website.
Meron: I love this lesson, giving value to these people you’re looking up to. That’s just the best way, probably the only way to create genuine relationships with these people because as you said, they’re just as busy as you are, if not more.
Going back to our story, I asked you about the environment where you grew up. Were you exposed to entrepreneurship? Was this something you dreamed of?
Antonio: I would say I wasn’t exposed to entrepreneurship, but again, I knew what I didn’t want. Every one of my family worked hourly jobs and they didn’t like their work. When you’re surrounded by people who basically talk about work as a necessary evil, as something that is bad, I did not even want to study business.
To me, business and making money was — gosh, I just didn’t want to. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor. I thought it would be great to help people. And hey, they get paid well in the United States, so that was the initial path.
When I ended up joining the Marine Corps, I was exposed to a lot of other opportunities, but even getting out of the Marine Corps, it was something that I thought, “Okay, my skill set is all about — I can blow things up. I can fire a weapon. It sounds like I need to go into law enforcement or something like that,” and I wasn’t excited about that.
So I would say one of the better decisions I made was to go to business school. You hear a lot of people say, “Don’t go get an MBA.” Well, when you can get an MBA pretty much for free, you should go get an MBA especially if you have no business background.
Because I had no business background, because I was able to get it a very affordable cost — the State of Texas has a great program for combat vets called the Hazlewood Act and basically, I was able to go get my MBA at the University of Texas. I was exposed to people who they loved business and they loved not making them, but the money was like a scorecard. I felt like I was back in athletics and sports where you keep score because you want to see where you’re at, but you play the game because you love it.
When you start to meet people like this, you’re like — wow! Business is actually really fun. This is where I think really entrepreneurship took hold for me, seeing, and for the first time, being around people who — it was where making money was moral. Making money was a great thing in society. You didn’t have to make money just to give it away, which that’s a cool thing, but simply by having a business that did well, you were already giving a great thing to society.
You are providing jobs and livelihoods to people. Now, I feel it’s my personal responsibility in the sense that I’ve been fortunate enough to get a great education, to have some great experiences. I need to give back to society in terms of creating jobs and creating wealth for others by making a sustainable business that creates wealth for me.
Meron: Wow! And not only your business is creating wealth for your community and the people that work for you and their families, but also your whole — everything about Real Men Real Style, you have a deep passion of helping the world become a better place.
Antonio: I completely agree. When you have kids, when you have a family, you start to look at the future quite a bit more. I’m not as reckless as I was before I had kids. I rode a motorcycle. I do wheelies, do stoppies, split lanes, all that fun, crazy stuff. I used to climb radio communication towers. That’s when your life is really about you. You can take those risks. You can have that fun, and I’m still all about having fun, but I also now start looking towards the future.
I hear people talk about the world as if it’s all going downhill, and the funny thing is people have been saying this for thousands of years. I think I was just reading about 400 or 500 years ago, there were a couple of parents — I’m talking about the generation that their kids have no respect. They’re all going downhill.
When I read this article, it was like it could’ve been written right now, but it was written 400 years ago. I truly believe that the world is actually getting better, not worse.
Meron: Let’s go back to the time before you had kids. You went out of the Marines and you got married, and then you moved to the Ukraine for a few years?
Antonio: I did, yup. I lived in Kiev, Ukraine. I’ve saved up some money getting out of the Marine Corps. It wasn’t too expensive. It’s gotten a lot more expensive since 2003, 2004.
So at the end of 2003, I went over to Ukraine and I wanted to spend a lot of time with my then fiancé. We had been dating for a few years and very interesting relationship. I asked her to marry me after only knowing for like four hours, but it worked out. Now, we’re still together and —
Meron: Ten years later or so, it turns out it did.
Antonio: Yeah. Ten years later, we’ve got three kids and a very passionate, loving relationship. I can’t complain. She’s hot. She’s like a supermodel.
Meron: All Ukrainian women are.
Antonio: Yeah. Ukrainian, yes. I won’t go down that path too much because I know we’ve got a wide audience, but let’s just say I am happy to be a man and I love women, so that’s all. In fact, I’ve been asked many times to start a women’s side of my business, and I can’t do it. I want my marriage to last.
I love the fashion industry. Probably, this is a question a lot of people ask. “How do they end getting to the fashion industry from the Marine Corps?”
I left the Marine Corps and was living in Ukraine, and I wanted to do something that was really laid back. In the Marine Corps, when you screw up, people can die. In the fashion industry, when I have a custom clothier — I just had a blunder this morning. We sent a suit to the wrong address. It’s going to get to him a few days late. I can live with that. That’s okay. In the Marines, if you do something like that, you can really put people in a bad situation.
That’s what I love about this industry, is that at the end of the day, I’m not in a mission-critical industry, so this is pretty important. Make sure whatever you get into, you’re not going to stress out about it because guys, business should be fun. Have fun with it.
Meron: Well, thank God you didn’t become a doctor if you have this resolution now.
Antonio: Exactly. I don’t know. Maybe I could’ve been a plastic surgeon. That probably wouldn’t have been too bad.
Meron: Yeah. The salary is even better actually. Anyway, going back to Ukraine, what did you do there for two years? How much time were you there?
Antonio: It was about two years and I ran a nonprofit initially and I learned very quickly that I didn’t understand anything about finance because we were running that company into the ground. It wasn’t really a company. Basically, we were providing medicine and toys and services to orphans throughout Ukraine. I really liked it because it served the higher purpose of — it wasn’t about money.
However, you need money to survive, and a lot of people, they — I said something earlier in the interview and this actually — I think Rabbi Daniel Lapin, but he talks about how making money is moral and I truly believe that that’s a great thing and something that is — again, if I said I wanted to be a millionaire, people would tell me, “Well, don’t tell anybody because that’s not a good thing. You’re obviously going to take money from others.”
What I saw is that if you have resources, you can do a lot of good because most people who want to do good have no resources, or so it seemed to me. That was the big thing. What would business doesn’t even exist anymore because it couldn’t exist. It wasn’t sustainable.
So seeing that being run into the ground, knowing it was going to die really forced me to, “Hey, I need to learn about business,” so that was a huge eye-opening experience and that’s one of the big reasons I went to business school, is I realized I didn’t understand anything when it came to finance or accounting.
Meron: How did you stumble into fashion to begin with?
Antonio: Well, I started off more as a mercenary in the term of I like well-fitted suits. I couldn’t find one in Ukraine whenever I was going out. I interviewed at Cornell University and a few other places to get my MBA, which doesn’t make me sound — I’m not a super smart guy. You can simply game the GMAT. I had like a 2.4 GPA out of undergrad, so I partied my butt off and had a great time, but once you had been out of undergrad for a while, you can game to GMAT. I got a lot of schools that were giving me some pretty awesome rides, full rides.
But I realized going to these schools, I’m going to be around people who are pretty high-end, and I’m still this guy who I knew how to wear a military uniform, but I didn’t know how to wear a suit. So when I went out there, I couldn’t find any information on the web. That was one big problem. The other problem is that the suits I saw, they all fit really, really poorly.
So I had this idea cooking and then I met with a custom clothier. I realized the industry was dominated by a lot of guys that didn’t have any formal education. I saw that the money they were making was actually pretty good. So again, this idea is cooking. When I was in business school, we started interviewing for financial jobs and consulting jobs. I looked at how much I was going to get paid versus how much I was going to work, and I thought I might as well start a company.
That was where I started my first company. “A Tailored Suit”, came and it was me personally meeting this need for custom clothing and seeing that it wasn’t being met and that these traveling tailors, that none of them in a sense were using technology.
I was probably the third or fourth company in the entire world, I think, that was back in mid-2007 that was doing something like I was doing at A Tailored Suit. Now, there are 100, maybe 200 companies that are doing something similar, so it’s interesting to have watched the industry grow up and get a lot bigger.
Meron: I want to talk a bit about your business and especially the way Real Men Real Style became such a huge sensation because we’re talking about almost three-and-a-half million views on YouTube, and you just started January 2011. How did you achieve so much in two years?
Antonio: Well, I would have to even make it sound better because I didn’t even start pushing it until the summer of 2011. I would say part of it was I didn’t start from scratch, so I already owned and ran atailoredsuit.com, and that website was getting a good amount of traffic and I saw why it was getting traffic because we had good, solid content that was authoritative. Google liked me and was sending people there for information.
I also blog over at The Art Of Manliness, and this is a great example of — I don’t get money for blogging and for guest posting at The Art of Manliness, but I enjoy what The Art of Manliness is about and that website gets quite a bit of traffic.
So I developed friendships because that I gave. The law of reciprocity is simply that whenever you give, people want to give back. They feel they have to give back to you.
So when I started Real Men Real Style, I simply started putting out — I followed a lot of simple techniques. I focused on great content. I also made sure the content was presented in a way that was unique. There were plenty of blogs out there about men’s style that everyone wrote, but very few people were getting in front of a video camera and very few people were putting out any type of podcasts.
So I started focusing on those different forms of media because it didn’t take a whole lot of extra effort, and I was embarrassed a little bit again in front of the camera. People have made fun of the way my clothing fits. I’m in the fashion industry. People look at all those little details, but I kept at it. I had to grow a little bit thicker skin.
Next thing, we started building up a following and I leveraged the traffic. I pointed people that were coming to “A Tailored Suit” over to “Real Men Real Style”. I pointed people over at “The Art of Manliness” to “Real Men Real Style”, and I found that because I had supported other people at other blogs that they link to me as well. It wasn’t even something I had to ask for. They just felt they were obligated to because I was always trying to help these other websites.
In addition, I set up a lot of systems and I’m a huge believer of systems. If you haven’t spoken with anyone about systems, you need to at some point, but just an example would be that anytime I would shoot a video, I would not shoot one video. I would try to shoot at least four, sometimes as many as 12 videos at one time.
This was very important because you get sick, things happen in the week, and I found it would take me an hour to set up my video studio, and then it would take me maybe 20 minutes to shoot one video, but in three hours time, because that hour to set up the studio is the same, in fact, I would get better if I shot more and more videos, and we were able to make it happen.
Again, I did this on a budget of $2000 that we did — a basic on $2000 over a period of 200 days. We released 200 videos. That was probably what jumpstarted sending a lot of traffic over to Real Men Real Style, was putting in that concerted effort and setting up systems so that I could accomplish that.
Meron: Yeah, absolutely. We talked a bit about it, I think, in Vegas about checklists. The book called “The Power of Checklist”, was it?
Antonio: “The Checklist Manifesto”.
Meron: Yeah, “The Checklist Manifesto”, that’s the one.
Antonio: It really is a very powerful book. A lot of people don’t like the idea of checklists because they feel it stifles creativity. If you look at the greatest creatives, some of the most amazing people on the planet, they use checklists because it allows you to be more creative because you don’t have to waste — we’ve only got so much ability to focus and if you’re having to spend time focusing on the mundane, then you can’t focus on what is important.
So look at your willpower and your mind and how much you have is a limited amount. Anything that you can put on a checklist and literally you don’t have to think about is a good thing. Cosmonauts, astronauts, jet pilots, doctors, they use checklists.
Meron: Absolutely. Actually, if you would be willing to dig a bit deeper into this subject of checklist and just give a few examples.
Antonio: You know, I don’t have one pulled up, but I will give you an example that every checklist changes. I would say it’s better to get started with one. Even something as simple as go review this article, I like to have the little [0:39:51] [Indiscernible] where you can actually physically print it out and then check it off, but a lot of people, they don’t do it because they think it’s going to take a lot of time.
To me, these checklists are living documents. I’ve got a number of virtual assistants, and with my VA, I never get upset with her. My standard response, which she probably gets tired of, is, “Let’s improve the checklist.”
The first time she created the checklist on in a sense how to manage my LinkedIn profile because I have her manage my LinkedIn profile. She would sign in and every time she would click on something, she would have to write it down as part of the checklist.
When you go into LinkedIn, first thing you do is you look at the alerts up at the top. There are two alerts, so she would add that to the checklist. Then she would go in and she would have to then make a decision usually because I have people who want to just connect with me, so I allow anyone to connect with me. I’m a big fan of having a big network, so that’s pretty easy.
But then whenever I would get a response from somebody, we would then have to go deeper into the checklist. Now, I don’t want her to create areas in the checklist that are hypothetical. Instead, what I tell her is deal with what we have now. The hypothetical we’ll worry about when we do it. So look at your checklists as living documents.
I love to use Google Docs for them because multiple people can see them and add to them and make changes. It’s okay if your checklist only has two or three things initially. It will grow. The worst part is that most people never even get started.
Meron: Yeah. Well, thank you. That was a very detailed answer and I hope it helps at least some of our audience.
Now, before we finish, I want to ask you — we have a fixed set of questions that I ask each interviewee before the end. The first question is, looking back and knowing what you know today, what would you have done differently?
Meron: Wow! What is the one question you wish people would ask you, whether it’s your customers or on interviews like this one, or on your YouTube channel, the one question you wish someone would ask, but it never happened yet?
Antonio: That one’s a bit harder. Let me think. I would say the one thing I wish — it can’t be just one. I’ll go back to something we did discuss, but I don’t like it whenever somebody wants to pick my brain. Somebody wants, “Let’s go have coffee.”
Instead, I want someone to say, “Hey, I want to change the world with you,” and instead of just wanting to steal 30 minutes of my time for your benefit, how about, “Let’s work for a full day. I’ve been talking about this company. I would love to work with you on this and together, let’s get this started. Let’s make it happen.”
People just don’t want to put in the work, I find. People like to talk about doing great things. It’s very rarely that people want to sit down and get started after a full day’s work at 6:00 p.m. and pull an all nighter and literally get that website going by 8:00 the next morning.
Meron: Absolutely. Where can people reach you?
Antonio: There’s quite a few out there. I’d say the best way is simply to go to www.realmenrealstyle.com, go the contact form. I don’t make it easy to find me, but if you want to look, you can find there’s a contact form and go have fun.
My contact form, you should check it out. I have a lot of fun with it. This is something I took from Derek Sivers, but I make it a little bit of fun to fill out my contact form. If you can make it through that contact form, then you can get a hold of me.
Meron: Well, Antonio, thank you so much for spending the time with us and I hope our audience has been inspired to take action and go out and make a difference.
Antonio: All right. Well, Meron, take care. Bye-bye.
Meron: That was the interview with Antonio Centeno. He had some really valuable gold nuggets there. When I came back to edit the interview and re-listen to it, in effect, I found so much more stuff, so I recommend you to come back to this interview down the road when you’re into your business and see what else you can pick up from it.
I really loved the tip of only starting a business that will be fun because otherwise, what’s the point? That’s so true. I made that mistake more than once previously in previous ventures, to see the competition as your friends and not as competition.
Amy Porterfield gave the same tip and many other people on the podcast share the same view, and it (a) makes business a lot more fun, and (b) the networking just catapults your own success to the next level. Just get it done, low budget, high budget, whatever.
Antonio made it with a low budget, 200 videos in 200 days, and received three and a half million views on YouTube. And even though people ridiculed him at the beginning, he just carried on going, ignored this negativity, and just made an amazing thing happen for him. You can do the same.
Our next episode will feature Jocelyn Wallace. Jocelyn helps people use graphical illustrations like doodling with a pen basically to solve serious business problems, to strategize, to plan. She will share her story of how she built a business around it and will give us some beginner’s tips to use our most powerful sense, eyesight. Our brain can solve more problems visually than any other shape or form, so join us next week.
I’ve been applying some of the tips she gave me and I can definitely say I’ve seen the benefits, so join us. It’s also a very cool entrepreneurial story. That’s all for this week, folks.
Again, VIP membership, join us, become a founding member. Get your free lifetime membership at iipodcast.com/vip. Thank you guys so much for joining and I’ll see you next Thursday.
Thanks for listening to the Inspiring Innovation Podcast with Meron Bareket where real life stories of world-leading entrepreneurs show you how to turn your own ideas into reality and become a successful entrepreneur. Join us again next week for another inspiring entrepreneurial story.