Sept 9, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 1, Episode 9 – Consistency & Patience Leads To Sales, with Tom O’Hare
Episode 9 brings us a talk with my friend Tom O’Hare. Tom founded Get College Going to help students, parents and young adults achieve educational goals after high school. He focuses on helping families find the right educational path for the right reason, at the right school, and for the right investment. He tells us about how he gets his name out there to find clients and about how the work you do today can pay off 6 months from now. Tom and I talk about the power of information and the trust we need to have in our referral partners as well as their trust in us. This conversation is all about education and learning, patience, & more. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
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Matt Ward 00:00
Hey there, welcome to the mass business podcast. My name is Matt Ward, I am your host. Today we have a great guest for you. My good friend Tom O’Hare from Get College Going. Tom founded Get College Going to help students, parents and young adults achieve educational goals after high school. He focuses on helping families find the right educational path for the right reason at the right school for the right investment. Tom is a parent of four and has held consulting and management roles in higher education, financial services, recruitment, and served as the director of enrollment at a private high school. He’s a contributor and instructor with pivotal college years and online college planning portal. He’s worked throughout Greater Boston, Massachusetts, New England and virtually across the United States. Please sit back. Enjoy the conversation with my good friend Tom O’Hare. Are you ready? Let’s go. Welcome to the mass business podcast where small business owners, also known as risk takers share their stories about the growth of their business and themselves. Our interviews and our content is focused on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. I say it all the time. And I’ll say it again today. You never know where your next referral will come from. Hey there and welcome to the podcast. Tom, thanks for joining me, I greatly appreciate it.
Tom O’Hare 01:52
Hey, it’s great to be here, Matt.
Matt Ward 01:54
Awesome. Well, we’re gonna have a good conversation today about real business success and the growth of a small business and what it is you do but real quick and under 30 seconds, can you give a quick nutshell to the audience those listening on their favorite podcast app or even watching on YouTube? What exactly you do? And how you help people?
Tom O’Hare 02:14
Yeah, thank you. And thanks for letting me be here today. Um, I try to help bring peace of mind and harmony to households. For families of high school and college age students as they’re trying to navigate the sometimes complex, sometimes stressful process of finding the education path for a student after high school.
Matt Ward 02:37
Okay, so that’s pretty straightforward. A lot of words to basically say you help kids get into college at an affordable price. But simply put uh, it’s interesting, because the kids are not your clients, that you work with your kids. But that does not make them your clients.
Tom O’Hare 02:58
No, actually mum and dad and my clients. So I market to parents, and provide a service to them as an advisor, and I am a counselor, to their students
Matt Ward 03:13
So you play it, you play a dual role, which is very interesting, because most service based business professionals are working with the person that buys their product or service. Isn’t that interesting?
Tom O’Hare 03:24
Yeah. And I do work with parents at the same time.
Matt Ward 03:27
Sure. So how how, you know, I hear all the time in the in the referral business that people tell me all the time and sales solves all problems. So how are you approaching the marketing and sales aspect of your business? To the greater Massachusetts community that you serve? How are you reaching parents?
Tom O’Hare 03:51
Well, I’m trying to use a couple different tools, a couple different resources. I’m a big networker. I participate in multiple networking events, both now in the zoom world, and hopefully back in the one on one in person world. To share my message to share what I try to do from the standpoint of helping families, I try to be a consistent and frequent writer, on my own blog, on other organizations, material and places to put things and I spend a lot of time actually on Facebook, looking at sites the parents might be visiting to try to help answer questions that they’re posing through those types of resources. Because information is power as far as I’m concerned, and sometimes information out there can be very wrong.
Matt Ward 04:44
So let’s talk about that. Because I’m a big believer that information is power too. And it can be very wrong. And you’re probably well aware because I we’ve probably heard me talk about the fact that I owned a digital agency for 16 years and I sold that In 2018, and funny enough, the way I went to market the way I found new clients was to go out and do educational seminars, presentations at local chambers, networking groups, things like that. And I would teach people how to build their own website. And then funny enough, they didn’t want to do it. So they hired me as the expert, I have always believed that if you give away your knowledge that people will hire you to do what it is that you provide a service for.
Tom O’Hare 05:26
I totally agree. And I am an educator, I’m a salesperson by background, but an educating salesperson by background. And that may sound odd. But I learned early on in my career, that one of the best things to do when you go in and visit a prospect or even a current client is provide them with information that they may not be up on, or education that they may not be keeping pace on. So you’re bringing your resource to them, when I meet with parents and students. So try to provide resources through the various social media. I’m trying to provide instructional information, education, sometimes positively disruptive, and I’ll come back to that if you want to know what that means. But the whole idea of trying to help people learn so that they can minimize their stress and anguish. And if that turns into a referral to someone who’s going to work with me, that’s great if it’s someone who learns, and doesn’t necessarily need to come back to me for full blown business, but maybe one off questions. That’s great, too.
Matt Ward 06:30
You know, it’s interesting, because I have no interest in the in the, in the interest of transparency, I have no problem telling the listening audience or the viewing audience that I’m a client of Tom’s. And funny enough, I became a client because I recall doing just basic one to ones with Tom and learning about his knowledge around what he was doing. But I’ll never forget what happened was I just reached out with a basic question. From Tom’s perspective, the basic question could have been something that I was asking because I might have known somebody else, or I was just curious from a networking perspective, or a business perspective so that I could possibly get him referrals. And as it turned out, it was more of a personal question. And he answered the question, never got a bill for it. And what happened next, I just reached out and said, Okay, let’s get let’s, let’s get college going. We’ve been working together, why I say we, I’m out of the mix. I just, I’m happy to just provide my credit card number and everybody else take care of the problem. It’s in I like it best that way, to be perfectly honest with you. But I mean, I think that, that has grown to fruition through the process of education. And I think people need to just understand that you not, you need not hoard your own information. Give it out, do the blogs, do the YouTube videos, do the podcast interviews like this, give everybody an opportunity to learn who you are, and what you do. Now, there’s so much out there, Tom. So the people who believe in this the people who are thinking, Oh, wait, this might actually work for me, too. How do they manage it all? How do you juggle it all? That’s the big question.
Tom O’Hare 08:17
Well, yeah, that’s a big question. I think that the key is to be focused, be focused in what you know, what you’re good at, and who your partners are, that can help with the fringe work. I have a colleague who uses the phrase, I stay in my lane. And I think it’s a very good way of describing how you can be effective and ineffective. So I know my business, I probably consider myself a subject matter expert, at least I remind myself when I get up in the morning, but I’m not in other areas. I’m not a financial planner. I’m not an investment person. I’m not a crisis management counselor. I’m not a social service counselor. Oh, when I encounter individuals that need those services, I want to turn them on to someone, I want to be that guy that’s going to be able to help refer them to someone else. So that I’m staying in my lane and people will trust me from what I know and what I’m going to try to communicate.
Matt Ward 09:15
So interesting you say that because I believe about an hour ago, maybe somebody that works for me, was helping me with something. And I said, Oh, we should do it this way. And she replied, okay, yeah, no good point. I’ll stay in my lane. So she what she was doing was doing a task that I would normally do. And by the way, I have the same discussion with her. This is Heather, have the same discussion with Heather, about the things that I shouldn’t be doing that I’ve tasked her to do yet I stick my fingers and nose in it, and I shouldn’t do that. And on this podcast so far, the previous eight podcasts, we’ve talked to people about delegating. We’ve talked to people and they haven’t They haven’t said the word stay in your lane type of thing. But that’s exactly what this is. Right? So what we’ve heard from numerous guests previous to you, is that they struggle with the control aspect of giving things up in the business, how do you wrap your head around delegating things to other people, whether it’s outsourcing and or getting help, and staying focused on what you should say focus on without controlling what you’ve delegated?
Tom O’Hare 10:31
Well, I think just as much as a client or a prospect of ours has to be trusting us, we have to be trusting our partners. So it’s defining and finding the individuals who have like interests, like approach, like business plans, like business conversations, and you work with those individuals. So if you’re able to transfer or refer somebody to someone else, then you’re not worried about them. The other is to work in partnership. I mean, one of my best styles of working with financial planners, is to be the planners resource with their client, so that the client sees me as a resource to their expert, their trusted advisor, and at the point where it might be a time for me to become more involved than the financial planner, or someone else is going to say it’s time for Tom to take over. And I think that’s, you know, that’s part of it is understanding that you can’t cure everything, you can control up to a certain point. And unless you’re going to be spinning your wheels, 24 hours a day, you’ve got to find that right balance.
Matt Ward 11:40
And I love , the statement I love to share with people is trust, but verify, you have to trust but then it as you continue to verify that the work has been done the way that you’d like it done, then the trust grows. And what ultimately happens is you delegate more, you trust more, and you verify less. And that’s just the great way to do it. So what is your biggest challenge in small business these days?
Tom O’Hare 12:08
Finding new customers, I need new customers as a fee service provider. Because in my business, a lot of what I provide is free. People doing things in the DIY world, as my young son reminds me that hundreds of 1000s of others have gone to college, or gone to work or found their education path without needing someone like me. And that’s true. So I work hard to find the unique person that needs a unique piece person like me. So you know, right?
Matt Ward 12:45
Because you don’t you don’t need to work with 1000 students a year?
Tom O’Hare 12:49
No, no, no, you
Matt Ward 12:52
you wouldn’t have the bandwidth for that now would you?
Tom O’Hare 12:54
I need a team of individuals, and that’s not my business model. Right. So you know, so so trying to be that provider for the right person is the challenge and getting people to understand that sometimes you need a trusted advisor, sometimes needed an advisor to be a good linchpin or a bridge between you and your kids, or between you and your neighbors and friends that are stressing you out. Because they think that, you know, they’re presenting their family. And you’re feeling that, you know, you’ve messed up. I mean, as parents, we want the best for our kids. And we’re going to try to do the best. So sometimes going out alone can be difficult. So I try to present my…
Matt Ward 13:37
so do you feel like I mean, are you so when you say you’re trying to fill the pipeline, so to speak, you’re trying to get sales? I mean, that’s what I would imagine that’s what 95% of all small business owners tend to want to answer when they’re being authentic about the challenges in business, right? We tend to answer something else when we want, we don’t want to be honest about the fact that we struggle with sales, right, as a whole. But I mean, if we fill the top of the pipeline, so to speak the top of the funnel, with more and more people that know who we are. Then at the end of the day, out of the bottom of the funnel comes more qualified prospects for conversations. Right. And so the goal is to get more conversations and yeah to do that you It sounds like you do networking.
Tom O’Hare 14:21
I do networking, I try to, you know, belong to and participate in conversations to share my message. And, you know, some of it is also having patience. I mean, I can try to fill my pipeline with a lot of people that might need my services, but they don’t necessarily need my services. And that sounds strange, but, you know, there’s a certain threshold of individuals who need the kind of counseling and advising that I’m doing, but I’m trying to to get that message out and do it the right way. So, you know, the idea of filling the pipeline is a matter of starting conversation.
Matt Ward 15:02
That’s so interesting you say that, because it isn’t sales, it’s sales activities, right. And so conversations are sales activities, yeah. And they lead to sales. And so what I tell people all the time is you’ve got to have more sales conversations. Now if that starts with a networking conversation, so be it. That’s how you get sales conversations. That’s how you get introduced. Right? At the end of the day, I help service based businesses get more word-of-mouth referrals. But I specialize in a subgroup of service based businesses referred to as web designers and web developers. Because I have an experience in that market, right, I have a lot of experience doesn’t mean I don’t work with other people, it just means that if I’m going to go focus on one thing, it’s going to be this particular market, right. And for you, it might be, you know, those people going to, you know, private colleges or, or the people from a specific town or people who have been Eagle Scouts or something like that, right. So it’s about niching down as much as we possibly can, which is a fearful thing to do in a lot of ways, right? Because we’re afraid that we’re not going to get the clients.
Tom O’Hare 16:10
And it’s for me, it’s also having a conversation being patient, because I can talk to someone when they’re student is a sophomore, or even a junior. And although I think it’s the right time for them to take advantage of services that I provide, it’s not timing for them, they have other distractions, they have other things going on in their family, they have other needs. I mean, I recently had someone that I talked to two years ago, send me an email last night, just to say, Hey, I’m ready. And if I….
Matt Ward 16:43
I just told somebody that on Facebook a half hour ago, you’ve got to be patient, you’re planting the seeds. This is a garden of leads, it’s a garden of leads and referrals. And it takes time to grow, you must water it, it must have good soil, it must have sun, and then it comes and you get the call two years later.
Tom O’Hare 17:05
But I think the other challenge, the other challenge, is not to deviate from your plan.
Matt Ward 17:10
Tom O’Hare 17:11
If I get frustrated that I don’t have enough clients, and all of a sudden, I’m going to start doing something different. Well, that might mean I’m going into the wrong lane, the high speed lane or the breakdown lane. And you know, as a small business person that’s relying on those types of referrals to generate revenue and generate business. Yeah, you have to be patient. I’m not a transactional base of business. I’m a relationship business that is based on helping one customer who’s going to tell another customer is going to tell another customer. Now you want to have, you know, multiples talking at the same time. But in a small business world, I have to be patient, I have to stay committed to what I’m trying to do. And you know, that’s the sprinkling of the dust, the pixie dust to try to get the business moving forward.
Matt Ward 17:59
Now I see that bookshelf behind you. And I know you’re an avid book reader. So what book are you reading lately? What book is your biggest favorite business book? Do you read a lot of business books?
Tom O’Hare 18:10
I used to. I used to.
Matt Ward 18:13
what are you reading right now? What other book are you reading right now?
Tom O’Hare 18:15
I’m reading a book about the Vinci Da Vinci.
Matt Ward 18:18
Tom O’Hare 18:20
Because there’s so much about his his work that he did, that is missed in the sense of what’s going on today’s design. You know, the Wright brothers was supposedly credited with creating the first plane while he was doing it, then back in the day. I try to read books that are going to continue to challenge me to be well, as I say positively disruptive, and that means position your message correctly. For me it means positioning your message correctly, correctly, honestly, and with education. So I dwell between education books, I dwell between philosophy. I love reading psychology today. I’m not a psychologist, but I love reading about what’s going on people’s behavior and that kind of thing.
Matt Ward 19:10
So this is how you stay up to date and continue to be educated yourself?
Tom O’Hare 19:15
Yeah, I mean, I’m immersed in reading what’s going on in higher ed, what’s going on in the workforce development world what’s going, in, you know, trying to get the 17 to 25 year old wanders back to school because they’re just out there drifting. I’m hoping to put on a symposium with a couple colleagues in the fall to help individuals learn about the value of upskilling and skill based learning. So, yeah.
Matt Ward 19:44
it’s good stuff. What’s your what’s your best, you know, if you were to give one one software tip, one software tip for all the people listening? What one software piece of software tool do you use? In your business that can help others grow their business.
Tom O’Hare 20:05
I guess I’m gonna say Grammarly.
Matt Ward 20:08
Oh nice. That’s a good one.
Tom O’Hare 20:10
Okay, it’s totally off it’s taught it’s not necessarily going to grow your business from the standpoint important more nickels in your pocket. But what it has done for me is made me a better writer, a better you know, because I think I told you the story one time that you know, I’d write something and put it out there and I’d get a call from my youngest daughter who’s a graphic design creative art director and she’d say, Dad, did you read that? Did you write that? I know what you’re trying to write but come on. So he turned me on to Grammarly. And I’m telling you, for me. It’s, it’s like you know, Ivana in a sense that the it helps me be a better writer. And that makes me a better educator and a better communicator.
Matt Ward 20:50
That’s, that’s awesome. That’s so great. So yeah, so some great insights on this podcast today. You know, fantastic stuff, everything from Grammarly to staying in your lane. I love that staying in your lane and educating yourself and reading you know, both business books and non business books and things like that. That’s always helpful.
Tom O’Hare 21:11
And in all fairness, in case he’s listening that’s Charlie Meila from Connect pay he’s the one that’s all about staying in your lane so
Matt Ward 21:20
Oh, there you go. standing in line there you go give him Yeah, well, maybe we’ll have Charlie Meila, I can’t he’s not a business owner he’s an employee doesn’t qualify. But if you’re a business owner and you have a mailing address in Massachusetts, you qualify to be on the podcast. So make sure you reach out to us. Pop something in the comments on Facebook or here on YouTube. And make sure you share what tools and tips that you use in your business in the comments. And we also want to hear what kind of books you’re reading these days. Make sure you post that in the comments too. Tom if people want to reach out to you and learn more about you and network with you and do one to ones on zoom and and find out about get college going? How do they reach you? Where can they find you?
Tom O’Hare 22:01
They can find me they can text me or call me at 617-240-7350 or they can drop me a note at Tom@getcollegegoing.com And if you want to read about my blog, hit me up at getcollegegoing.com, my website.
Matt Ward 22:19
There you go. Tom O’Hare, everyone from Get College Going. Thanks for being on podcast episode number nine Tom. I greatly appreciate it and everybody out there. We’d love to have you on the podcast. If you qualify, make sure that you apply. Until tomorrow’s episode. Don’t forget to live happy smile a lot and high five everyone around you. Take care
Tom O’Hare 22:40
Thank you Matt, I appreciate it.
Matt Ward 22:56
Thank you for listening to the Mass Business Podcast where we focus on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. Don’t forget to like on your favorite platform and share out this podcast. This show has been produced by Heather Grant. Music by Cailte Kelley. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot. And high-five everyone around you.