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This business coaching lesson tells the story of the early years of an entrepreneur.

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Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Dr Z's Advice: Learn how to get along with the people around you.
  • Lesson Nugget: Whatever it is that you do, make sure it's something you enjoy.

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-My name is Clay Clark and today I'm joined with a very successful person, name of Dr. Robert Zoellner. You see, Dr. Zoellner is a business mentor who grew up financially without much and he's been able to build a huge empire. And today we're going to be talking specifically about his early years and how he went from right here to right here. And how that applies to you and I, how you and I can go from right here to right here.

So as you're watching today's episode, I'm telling you, this episode has the power to absolutely not only inspire you but to encourage you and to give you some specific actionable items that you can apply in your own life and business.

At thrive15.com our business mentors all believe that knowledge without application is meaningless. So as you're watching today's episode, go ahead and take the time needed to ask yourself, what do you need to do to specifically apply these principles in your own life and business? Otherwise today's episode may just prove out to be more meaningless than buying an electronic pet rock.


-Dr. Z, thank you for letting us be here today.

-You bet, Clay.

-I appreciate it. Hey, I want to know, this is one of the most massive chairs I've ever seen. At what point did you decide that you wanted to get chairs this massive?

-Well, when you had a room this big, you had to get massive furniture so it didn't look like you had little dollhouse furniture in the room. So it was kind of a challenge to find big enough furniture for this room.

-I'm a huge fan of this chair, and so--

-Well, you look good in it.

-I appreciate that. It's the lighting really. A lot of Photoshop's being down to this. What we're here to talk about is the early years.


-You obviously today-- I think you own five companies?

-Yes I do.

-And then you kind of are in part--

-Own parts of other companies, yes.

-So about 10 businesses you're involved in.


-200 employees work with you.


-You're married 30 years this year.


-And you have three kids.

-I sure do.

-And so all these things are going great, but you started somewhere.

-Yes, I did.

-And so we're going to go back there because I think a lot of people watching this are there right now. So where did you grow up?

-In Tulsa, Oklahoma, over on the east side, 36th and Garnett. And grew up in a big family with not a lot of means and started--

-What did your parents do?

-My father was a funeral director and my mother was a stay home mom with seven children, six boys and one girl. She--

-One girl?

-Uh huh.


-Yeah, my little sister.

-Well, that's why she's such a driver. She had to put up with all you.

-Absolutely. Oh yeah. She's tough. Yeah. But you know, she was so spoiled. We didn't have any money but she was the only one with her own bedroom. I mean, it was just not fair. So.

-Despite the adversity that you didn't have really your own bedroom as a kid, what kind of adversity did you guys deal with as kids? I mean, everybody grows up with something that's a challenge. What were some of your challenges growing up there?

-Well, I mean, our challenges were-- you know, when you have a big family, just the dynamics of that and learning to get along. I mean, even though they're siblings, everybody has a different personality, everybody has different buttons that you learn not to push, to push. I mean, I think that growing up in a big family, you really learn how to get along with a lot of different kinds of people.

-Were you the oldest?

-No, I was the second oldest.

-Second oldest? So was there a turning point in your life where your older brother or maybe you said, hey, hey, hey, we could do something here. We could start businesses.

-Well, one weekend my mom had given us some money. We were watching the kids. We were kind of built-in babysitters. I feel like I raised a couple of my youngest brothers.

But one of my brothers was still in diapers and so she gave us a little bit of money and she said, I think that's his last diaper so you need to go and buy diapers this weekend. So we potty trained him that weekend so that we could take the money and go buy a fishing pole with it.


-You took money?



-Yeah, we potty trained him. We said, you're old enough. Yeah, we just intensive potty training the whole weekend and then we took that money that was going to be spent on diapers and went and bought a fishing pole.

-And was that sort of your first glimmer of entrepreneurship.

-You know, money is easy to make. We've just got to find a bunch of kids that need to be potty trained.


CLAY CLARK: Weekend intensives.

-Yeah, exactly. Give us your diaper money, bring us your kid and your diaper money and we will send you back a kid potty trained.

-You are an optometrist by trade.

-By education, yes.

-When did you decide to become an optometrist? Did you have that epiphany?

-Yeah, you know, growing up there were a lot of things that interested me. There was a lot things I thought I'd like to do. But then the more I thought about it, I thought, you know, I wanted to have a career that would give me a better chance at success.

And so I thought, well, gosh, doctors. I don't know a poor doctor. I'm sitting there thinking, hm, I'll be a doctor. And I thought, well, what kind of doctor? I thought, I really like business, I like selling things. So I thought, hey optometrist.

Half their day is kind of doctoring and the other half is kind of selling. And I thought that's a good fit for me.

CLAY CLARK: Let's break it down for a second though.


-You're saying you decided that you wanted to be a doctor because it gave you a good chance of being successful.


-And you chose optometry because you could sell things?

-Yes, because it was a nice mixture of business and doctoring. Plus when the patients came in they weren't really sick sick. And helping people see is a very rewarding thing. You know, you've got on glasses, and so when you slip on those glasses for the first time, and I remember that a-ha moment when I was a boy because I had to wear glasses.

So part of my knowledge of eye doctors was from firsthand experience. And so I remember the first time I put them on and went, wow, there's really leaves on trees. And so just that moment in doing that with young kids and even adults and seeing them light up and they go, thank you so much. It's very rewarding.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Lesson Nugget: Make sure you go into a career where you can make enough money to do the things you want to do.
  • Lesson Nugget: Learning opportunities can come in various forms; look for nuggets of information in different areas of your life.
  • Word of the Day: Wherewithal: The money or other means needed for a particular purpose.
  • Lesson Nugget: Don't let past experiences limit future pursuits.


-A lot of people watching this though are choosing a career, and they're sort of dying on a poverty hill because of a career choice.


-So as an example, I remember meeting with a young man. And he said, I really have these big goals. And Dominic wouldn't mind me sharing his story. But he was like, I have these big goals. And he tells me the goals. And then I'm like, well, how are you going to pay for it with your current occupation? And he's like, well, it's not possible. And it just-- right there, like, the dream died because he chose an occupation that didn't afford him the ability to do those goals.

And I've worked with him over the last year and a half or so. And today he has a business that's allowing him to pay for these goals and he'll achieve these goals. Would you recommend for anybody watching this who's maybe in college or anybody who's out of college, that it's important that you choose a vocation that has the ability to earn you enough compensation to do what you want to do?

-Absolutely. I see people spending a lot of money on a college education and I say, fill in the blank. What are you getting? And they tell me, and I go, how in the world are you going to even make enough to pay back the loan that you took out to go do that? I mean, you have to do some research on what it is you can do with that degree, and how much money is reasonable to be made.

And of course, I mean, if you're an entrepreneur, I mean, the sky's the limit. I mean, you could have any degree and be doing anything, and focus those into building a business.

So my undergraduate degree's in mathematics. You might say, mathematics? But you know, the thing about it is, I don't think it's so much important about what people have done as to what is-- more important is what they're going to do and do with it, you know? I mean, a college degree of any kind shows that you have the wherewithal to stick to a program, to jump through the hoops you need to jump through. And there's a certain amount of that DNA now that's in you that says, hey, I can do this.

And so, you know, it's a victory in your life. Check it off. It doesn't necessarily define you for the rest of your life. Just because you got a degree in this or a degree in that doesn't mean that you're pigeonholed now into not doing anything else.

CLAY CLARK: Do you feel that you encountered a mentor at some point that pointed out-- because, I mean, the way you explain it to me, you seem like it's pretty factual. You're like, well, I'm looking for a career that pays decent amount of money, and then it increases my chance of success, and I could sell things. Optometry. OK. And to me it seems logical. Like, that makes sense to me.

I know my path-- I was sitting there in class one day and I'm doing the numbers in broadcast journalism class, and I'm going, you know, if I graduate and I spend this much on my degree, I'm only going to make this much. If I only do, like, five weddings a weekend as a wedding entertainer as a company, I could make more than that. I'm going to quit doing this to do the-- to me, it was a mathematical-- it was a decision thing.

I think a lot of people, though, were getting caught up in these emotional reasons for choosing an occupation or something. But was there a mentor that encouraged you to think this way, or did you just do it yourself?

-You know I think I just kind of did it myself. I'm trying to think back on-- I mean, the thing about it is that I learned when you encounter people along the road of life, I always try to learn something, get of little nugget, get a little pearl from any place I could find it. And my first job, I learned a lot. My first boss named Dick Slater. You know, there was a lot of things I learned from him.

And it was funny. One day, we were back and we had a jukebox, the sound system. And went back, and it was a Mexican restaurant. And there was all kinds of music on there. But I would play a lot of the Mexican songs, fast moving Mexican songs. And Dick Slater came back there one day, and I'm back there at the dishwasher. He goes, hey, who's playing all the music? And I said, I've kind of been taking over the jukebox and kind of making sure it's always running and going and everything.

He goes, I like that. You're playing a lot of the Mexican music. Why? And I go, I just figure, it's a Mexican restaurant. Put people in the mood to eat maybe more Mexican food, you know?


And he looked at me, and he goes, I like that, you know? But the thing about it is that like with Dick, I learned a few things from him. You also learn things not to do from people and from jobs you have. But I think that there's a reason why we have two eyes and two ears and just one mouth. And if you go along and you purposefully try to pick out a little-- see something, you go, now, why did that motivate me? Why is that good? How can I incorporate that?

It's kind of like when I watch commercials. I would watch a commercial and say, what was good about it? What was bad about it? Did it motivate me to buy? Why? And really think about it like that.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Lesson Nugget: Marrying someone who is supportive and wants to achieve the same goals can make a huge difference on your life.
  • Lesson Nugget: If you get married, remember they're not only your spouse but your new business partner.


-It's interesting to me, because you're a high energy guy. A lot of people know you as being excitable. But you're also very observant.

-Well, I think that's the thing that some people miss out on is that there's a whole world around them with things to learn and things to better your situation by. And so, take that opportunity.

-Now let me ask you this. How old were you when you met your-- and I'm not trying to get you in trouble if you miss the dates here-- but how old were you when you met your life coach/wife of 30 years? Were you in college?

-I was 19.

-Really? So how old were you guys when you got married?

-I was 19. No. I'm sorry. I just turned 20. It was two weeks after my 20th birthday.

-Hey. We're the 20/20 club. I got married when I was 20 as well.

-There you go. All right.

-Awesome. That's great.

-20/20. Vision. 20/20. Boom. It's a wrap. There we go. Perfect Wrap it all up.

-Awesome. The circle is complete.


-So you guys got married young.


-So you've built this business together. You've built this house together. You've built this-- I mean this is something you've done together.


-And has she always been supportive of your career?

-I think so. Yes.

-So you guys sit down-- there's a couple. Cause a lot of people watching this have a spouse, a husband and wife that are trying to-- did you sit down together and you say, hey, you know, I think I'm going to open up an optometry clinic here.

-Well, exactly. I mean you have-- if you're married, you definitely have a partner in the situation. And what you're doing definitely affects their life.

My wife always tells people that she went to the fair. She knew she was going to ride. She though it was the Ferris wheel. Turned out to be the extreme roller coaster with me.

But the thing about it is that I've learned to bounce things off of her. She's a very good sounding board for me. Before I'm going to try something, I can bounce if off of her. And it's a nice flow.

She's an educated woman. She has her MBA. Almost became a CPA. And then we started having kids. And so she kind of took over the role of mom. But I've always really enjoyed the fact when she comes into the business and helps in some capacity. I like for her to know what's going on.

And early on she actually kind of did my books. And then she got so busy with the kids that we had to hire a full-time person to do that.

-I think a lot of people, though, that I've met who are successful entrepreneurs, you don't have to have a great spouse to start a business. But it certainly helps.

-It doesn't hurt. And you definitely have to have their support. And you definitely have to be rowing in the same direction in the boat.

It just breaks my heart to think about when, you know, I know a friend or know somebody, or someone that comes to me for advice, and their spouse is not only not being a comfort and a help, they're actually being a deterrent. And it just breaks my heart.

-Napoleon Hill wrote about the number one causes for failure. You know, why people fail. And one of the things he mentioned was choosing the wrong spouse.

And I know that seems harsh, but for those of you watching this who are not yet married, I think it's important that you choose a spouse just like you choose an occupation. But the point is, you're choosing. You're intentionally living. You're making--

And if you are married to a spouse that's maybe less than supportive, I know certainly in my life I've been sort of a man bear pig at times. And have frustrated my wife to the point of-- I mean, I really have pushed all of her buttons simultaneously. Like, I'm just hitting all the buttons.


-And I think sometimes if we ask ourselves if our spouses aren't being supportive, sometimes it's something that we're doing too. So I think there's hope. You've just gotta make sure that we're rowing in the same direction, I guess.

-Absolutely. And if you are having those conflicts, I would encourage people to work them out. To sit down and talk about them. To express yourself.

And I think sometimes men, we bottle things up. And we think, well, heck or high water, they should have our back and do this. And there's some part of that that's true. But there's also a part that you know, maybe you're not doing some things you need to do. I like that man bear pig.

-I am a man bear pig. That's what I am.

-I like that.

-That's what I--

-You know, it's a man cave. And the bear.

-I'm working on my own new cologne. Man Bear Pig cologne. I'm gonna send you a bottle for the holidays.

-I would appreciate it. I look forward to that.

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