On this week's podcast, Marcus sits down with Nathaniel Patterson. From managing a store at nineteen to empowering other business owners through his writing. Listen to this week's podcast and hear all about it!
Nathaniel: Nathaniel Patterson, Chief Engagement Officer of Culture of Excellence, Incorporated.
Marcus: Nice. Well, Nathaniel, it's good to have you on the podcast. I know we've been kind of getting to know each other over the last year, I guess.
Nathaniel: Yeah. Year, year and a half, however ... You came on the scene with an explosion.
Marcus: Well, this podcast isn't about me. So I'm gonna deflect everything you say nice about me and-
Nathaniel: I already had it set up.
Marcus: But no, I'm glad to finally get you on here, 'cause I think you're doing some really good things in the community and trying to educate business leaders and help people get a foothold.
Marcus: So I'm really excited to share your story with the listeners today. So, give us some background. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, where'd you go to school, did you go to college? Some of your work experience, but don't get into too great of detail, 'cause we'll get into that. Are you married? Just give us some of your backstory.
Nathaniel: Married? Well, I grew up really a couple miles from here. I was just chilling down on the waterfront, Virginia and Dearborn Street area. Went to St. Peter Claver Elementary School, McGill High School for two years, Williamson High School, graduated, go Lions. I left here, injured football player, I went to Texas for a year. Jarvis Christian College. Then I transferred to California State and wound up staying in California.
Marcus: Never looked back. For a while.
Nathaniel: Stayed out there 28 years. Yeah, that California sunshine.
Marcus: Yeah, I hear you. It's alluring. I've been out there a number of times 'cause I have some family out there, so it certainly will capture your interest. But tell us, what was your first job, and what were the lessons that you may still remember from that? And I'm talking about your first crap job, I'm not talking about, well, I got out of college. I'm talking, flipping burgers, scrubbing toilets, that job.
Nathaniel: My mother had a strategy, and I didn't know it until I graduated from high school. Her strategy was to let me work all crap jobs. And she told me in order to get a better job, you need to go to college. So my first job was, I was down to the state docks. I was underage working on the state dock full time. I had to size ... lifting sacks in the ship hold down in the engine room, 120 degrees down there.
Nathaniel: Coming up every 45 minutes carrying a 100 pound sacks. And every time I picked up a sack, I said, "I'm going to college." Yeah.
Marcus: Thank you, mama. Right?
Nathaniel: My mother had me working in the fields. They told us they were going to pay us a dollar a bushel. A dollar was a lot of money back then, so I'm thinking, I'm going to be rich by the end of the day. I'm going to pick me 10 bushels. It took me the whole nine hours to pick one bushel. So I found out a lot about picking watermelons, picking peas down at the state docks. Everything she could get, yeah, she let me work.
Marcus: Now, I oftentimes find that in those early jobs that there are formative things that happened to us that make us who we are. And I know you well enough to know that you're not afraid to work hard. So I can imagine that there were quite a few lessons learned from that. Now, how did you get started in business? What were some of the things that got you to where you are today?
Nathaniel: Well, the real story began in California with ... I went into retail. My mother was in retail 50 years, and she told me, never go into retail.
Marcus: And you didn't listen.
Nathaniel: I didn't listen. But the beauty of it was that retail gave a young person responsibility. Kmart. Oh, man, I think it was $3 something an hour.
Marcus: And for some of you that are young, and you don't know, Kmart was very similar to Walmart. But I don't even know, does it exist anymore?
Nathaniel: They still exist, barely. Sears is about ready to close that out too, Sears owns them now. But they gave me that responsibility, I was assistant store manager, had 385 employees.
Marcus: At what age?
Nathaniel: At 19.
Marcus: I'm sorry, say that again? You had ... You were an assistant store manager at 19?
Nathaniel: Assistant store manager. The guy said he loved my maturity and the way I spoke to people. He said, "We need somebody who can speak to the customers and speak to the employees." He said, "I'm not that type. They better do the job." So I was the opposite of what he was, and it worked out pretty good there.
Nathaniel: Yeah, that was my first job. And what I learned really was about relationships.
Nathaniel: The trend now is about experiences. That's what I learned about 19, how to create experiences for people, and employees, really. You train your employees right and invest in them, then they will treat your customers good. And that basically was my basic story that I learned back then.
Marcus: Yeah. What other experiences do you have, 'cause I know you've done more than just that. You've worked at some other retail shops and done some really good things.
Nathaniel: Oh, man, I worked ... I'm telling my age. I closed down TGNY stores across the nation for a year and a half, liquidated that. I was director of marketing for two HMOs in California. I set up call centers. Man, I set up so many call centers in California back in the day. So in all that process, it always was related to marketing, though. And that was my thing. How to market, but also, how to relate to your people, how to get the most out of your people. And each one of those jobs ... This is what I learned, Marcus. I had a problem getting jobs because I left school without a degree. Six classes before my degree, 'cause Target threw a lot of money at me. And I never went back. So later on, I started to get to a point where it was hard to get jobs, the good jobs, because I didn't have the degree. So I what I targeted were companies who were in financial trouble or just starting up, and they gladly brought me on board. So with that in place ... And learned a lot. I learned a lot, 'cause those type of companies gave you a lot of responsibility and put a lot on you. And basically, my compensation was commission and bonus, so if you want to get it done, you gotta get the right people-
Marcus: Which isn't a bad job for somebody that can hustle. You're going to be rewarded for the amount of work that you put in.
Nathaniel: There you go. But the one thing I asked of the companies was that I want to hire my own people. I can't have you hiring your cousins and best friends. I need people who are hungry. And that's what I've learned, to hire on character. I think more about character than skills. Unless it's highly technical, I can teach you what you need to do. So let me hire the character first.
Marcus: Yeah, we have a lot of those. I think I'm a little bit younger than you, but we have a lot of the same experiences. So I started my career in food, but then quickly transitioned to Lowe's and Home Depot and worked there through college. And so a lot of the customer service side of things comes from that. And I was, much like you, I was looking to go into a career in retail. I thought I was going to go and be a store manager, and of course store managers at Lowe's and Home Depot is a six-figure ... well into six-figure job. And so I was really excited about that, but then they started playing with me a little bit, and I decided I was going to get out. And technology was calling my name. It was something that I always had an interest in, and I took my first programming course when I was in first grade or something like that.
Marcus: So I just went that route. But we very much look for culture fit, character fit, whether somebody is a hard worker, more so than we do the skillset, because the skillset can be trained. But if you're not culturally and character-wise, if you're not there, then it's just going to grate on the organization as a whole. Now tell us about your business. Tell us what you do.
Nathaniel: This is really a culmination of all my businesses. As I worked through corporate America, I always had a business. I always had a business. Down in the Bay when I first started out, I tell people about the newspaper route where I came up with this thing where I would hire other people to throw the papers 'cause I didn't want to get up in the element. So I would go get the papers from the distribute centers and give it to them, and I got seven or eight guys working for me. So they just taught me a lot. But I had a concert promotion firm in Los Angeles for seven years, started a janitorial firm which ... We just started out cleaning offices, and within two years, we had contracts with a lot of the retail environment. From there, I went into marketing. And I started my marketing company in 1994 in Los Angeles, small boutique firm based on my name. And my name got to be pretty good in LA, so I put out Patterson Marketing Group. And that, man, it was empowering for me, because what I learned in corporate America I was able to take first to nonprofits. So this is how you brand yourself, this is how you set yourself up really to get the money coming in. And then I started looking at the culture and the organization development. So really, what the marketing was was a way for me to get into the company. Once I got in the company, I got involved in other strategic initiatives.
Marcus: Right, and really moving the needle.
Nathaniel: Yeah. And that's really what I found that I was seeking to do. I'm a strategic person, and I'm a very relationship-oriented person. And the two of those things were lacking in a lot of arenas, so I brought that to the plate. I wind up doing a lot of ghost environment work for CEOs and VPs at larger companies. I wrote their plans, I school them, I coach them. My name never got mentioned, but that's the way you get paid. And in LA, I started doing publicist work too, in order to get to the CEOs. And I represented a lot of CEOs, but over the years, I finally decided that 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning calls saying, "Hey, I've got a problem, the stock market's going to react to this ..." You get tired after a while.
Marcus: Yeah. But tell us about your current venture. What are you working on now, 'cause you moved back to Mobile, and you've got some interesting things going on with some writing and stuff like that.
Nathaniel: Yeah. Currently, it really was an evolution of me. Doing marketing, consulting, and saying, how long do I really want to do this? And my background, my family, I have a lot of teachers. And I finally started to realize that I haven't really ... I'm a teacher. So what does that relate in business with? That makes you a coach, really. All right. So how do I really ... this knowledge that I have, how do I pass it on, how do I monetize it and help, because of course you're not going to be in business if you're not making any money. So I started writing columns for small newspapers. Consistently, I have about 40 that I write for every month now. But I started and said what I wanted to do was take these seminars that I've done, put them on a website ... Oh, that's why I listen to you a lot. And within this next year, I'm going to make that knowledge available through whatever the latest technology is, because I've been looking at podcasts, webinars, the different things. But I'm writing a book, and really, that book is what I'm basing my next year on for speaking tours. What if I fail? Because man, that's what's stopping so many people, that fear of failure. When I started realizing really that failure, fear, is really an emotion. It's nothing about reality, it's an emotion, and you've gotta overcome that emotion.
Nathaniel: So that's what I'm doing now. I'm focusing on coaching and training, sharing this knowledge, and then figuring out ways, which platforms can help me monetize it.
Marcus: Yeah. I would agree with you 100%. The other day, I posted something to my Instagram story, and I'm going to butcher it now, 'cause I'm trying to remember it off the top of my head. But it's, your failures don't define you. It's your inability to move forward once you have failed that defines you. So it's amazing to me how people won't even get to that point, where they'll take the steps necessary to where they even could fail.
Marcus: And it is just kind of a limitation of our own mindset.
Nathaniel: It's hard for people to get in this fear ... When I talk, I say, look. My value that I have now really came from my failures. I'm trying to tell you, go ahead and fail. It's okay, it's okay. But what most people are scared of ... Not scared of failure itself. They're scared of what other people will say, and that feeling they feel from that.
Marcus: Yeah. And let's be clear, calculated failure, right?
Nathaniel: Oh, yeah.
Marcus: You don't want to ... You try not to detonate yourself and just blow up everything. But at the same time, there's always a risk. As business owners, you could lose everything tomorrow. So what's the pivot? What do you do next? Or how do you insulate yourself, or how do you insure yourself to make sure those things don't completely devastate your business? But I love it, because we recently did a workshop, the She [Economy] Workshop over at Bishop State, and just getting to hear you speak about some of the mindset things is really powerful. This whole idea of just pushing yourself forward, and especially in the minority community, because it is important for those of us that have made ... I don't know, I don't count myself a success just yet, but I've achieved something. I've been in business for 10 years. There's a lot of business that don't make it out of year one.
Marcus: But looking back and sharing knowledge with those that are just getting started and helping them by giving them a hand or giving them some information that allows them to do something, whether it's just overcome that mental block or some actual tasks that they can do to increase their business or whatever, is extremely important too.
Nathaniel: What you look at as the word ... Now, I hate trending words, but the ecosystem.
Nathaniel: People have to realize that ... In Mobile, they don't think you're in business unless you have a brick and mortar. Technology allows you to be in business where you're sitting underneath a palm tree.
Nathaniel: So you have solopreneurs and freelancers and contractors who can work from home. I know some that are paying themselves up to $90,000-100,000 a year. That's their income working from home. And then you have small business owners who basically are concerned with local income and feeding the family. Then you have entrepreneurs who are looking at scaling. So you have to realize, there are different types of businesses and different approaches. And with that in mind, my empowerment to others is, look. We have, in Mobile, we have incubators that are starting up. The Chamber of Commerce, a beautiful program, I love Chambers of Commerce. Been a member of one since I was 20. I understand how that works. But we have a gap here of the people who are starting, say, from $0 'til they reach $200,000 in revenue. Once they reach $200,000 in revenue, we have all kinds of programs who can work with them. But that $0 to $200,000, we don't have a lot to work with.
Nathaniel: So that's me looking at it, saying, okay, how do we empower these people to move from this zero income to start developing an income and having bonding, insurance, and business licenses? And turn them over to the rest of the providers so we can help them grow. Then we have this community grow, and I'm really into seeing quality of life.
Marcus: Yeah, it's interesting. So for those of you that are listening that aren't business owners, what he's describing is that $0 to $200,000 ... There's a number of things that happen when that takes place. So when you start a business, it's an idea, and you're not really generating any revenue from it. But then as you start to get revenue, you start to pay yourself. And it starts to become something that you spend more time on. And then all of a sudden, you think, wow, I can actually quit my job. And you quit your job and you're generating revenue that's actually providing for yourself. And then at some level, when you get $100,000+, between that $100,000 and $200,000, you're thinking, man, I need some help with this. And so you may hire some people. And that first hire is the scariest hire that you will ever make as an entrepreneur. Am I right?
Nathaniel: Yes, yes, yes.
Marcus: So you make that first hire, and then you have to start thinking about things like policies and process, and what do I do from this point forward, and do I need a physical location and all that other stuff? So you're right, that's an extremely influential portion or part of the entrepreneurial journey. So hats off to you for trying to address that. Now, imagine that you're talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business. What's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Nathaniel: I tell people every day this, is that business is really not about brilliance. It's about relationships and resilience. So if you-
Marcus: Now, wait a second. Come on. Say that again. Relationships and resilience. That is so good.
Nathaniel: Yeah. That's me. I learned it the hard way. And really, looking at other people, 'cause we have different ways of learning. We can learn from our experiences, we can learn from other people's experiences. And I've seen a lot of times that the people who are most successful were not the most brilliant people, but they learned how to establish positive relationships, and they're very resilient and they're focused. So I saw, hey, I can do that. That's not brilliance. Yeah, we need some knowledge along the way. But that's what counts to me. So I'm telling them, if you're committed, we can make this happen. If you're not committed, don't waste your time, 'cause you're going to quit as soon as something happens.
Marcus: Yeah, 'cause it's not an easy road.
Nathaniel: No, it's not. It's not.
Marcus: If you were looking to the business world, is there a person or maybe two people that motivate you, that you think of?
Nathaniel: In the current business world?
Marcus: Yeah. Well, you know what, no. It doesn't have to be current. Maybe somebody that influenced you significantly as you were coming up.
Nathaniel: Well, I'll tell you, it was two. My grandfather influenced me a lot. He was a Merchant Marine. But he also had, as he called, side gigs. And those are what we call the hustling on the side, doing things now. But he treated people so well that when they saw him, even if things were going bad, they always smiled. And that relationship got them to open up and tell him the truth about their problems that he could help them solve. So he influenced me a lot about how to treat people there. But I tell you, I had the opportunity to meet Zig Ziglar.
Marcus: Oh, wow. Dude.
Nathaniel: And man, that was awesome. But Zig in turn gave me this book that I read. I'm losing his name. But The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Marcus: Yeah ...
Nathaniel: Coling ...
Marcus: No, I can't remember it either.
Marcus: Covey, yeah.
Nathaniel: That seven habits changed my life.
Nathaniel: I read that book probably 30 times, and I still have it. I read it every now and then now.
Marcus: Yeah, it's definitely worth picking up a copy of that. It's a little bit of an older book, but the truths are there. There are books like that that are timeless.
Nathaniel: Yeah. Zig told me, he said, "The way you walked up here, you walk with confidence." He said, "You've got something in you. But I already saw, right before you came to me, you stalled, you stopped." He said ... He called me up on stage when he was speaking, and he said, "Tell them what you got to tell, tell your story." In Beverly Hills hotel. Never had spoke before more than 50 people.
Nathaniel: My staff. And he brought me up on stage and said, "Just tell them your story." Oh, man, that was powerful for me. That was life-changing.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool. Now, you teed up my next question. So are there any ... Not that one. But books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Nathaniel: Yeah. I read a lot. They say the average successful person reads one or two books a week. I probably read three or four, plus I listen to podcasts.
Marcus: You ... I don't, man. One or two a week? Wow.
Nathaniel: Yeah. I go through those books, but I'm a ... I sleep three or four hours a day. So I believe in learning. So I'll tell you my sources. I love Inc Magazine, I love Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur got started right when I was out in Orange County, so I stuck with them the whole time. And I look at different books they suggest and I go through that. I can't think off the top of my head which ones, but I'm just fascinated by business books and biographies. I love to follow the trail of successful people. So, yeah.
Marcus: Yeah. Any organizations? I know you mentioned the Chamber, you're tied in there.
Nathaniel: Hey, we all tied into the Chamber. It just makes sense. This is the premier business organization in Mobile. So if you have people who are making decisions on the inside of that, why wouldn't you go meet them?
Nathaniel: Yeah. In my lifetime, wherever I've moved to, I've always joined a Chamber of Commerce and a performing arts organization and a community organization. Get on boards and you meet people. It's just as simple as that. You're going to get out what you put in.
Marcus: It goes back to the relationship thing too.
Nathaniel: There it is.
Marcus: So what's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Nathaniel: Integrity. Integrity. You've gotta be honest. First, you've gotta be honest with yourself, 'cause too many people believe their own lies. So be honest with yourself about your talent. Be honest with yourself about everything, 'cause that's going to hurt you if you don't. But be honest with other people, because if you're honest with them, then people will open up, and they'll open doors for you. I believe in that momentum that you just keep moving, you keep telling the truth, you keep doing the right thing. The one word I talk to my kids about a lot is excellence. I'm not a believer in perfection. You waste a lot of time trying to achieve perfection. Just be the best you can be.
Nathaniel: And if you can do that, that's going to gain momentum. And momentum is going to open doors for you.
Marcus: That's good stuff. And I think so many people get tied up in perfection that it doesn't allow them to actually ... to move forward. It actually becomes a hindrance to their success versus something that causes success.
Marcus: All right. So I've changed this question so many times, but I'm trying to get to the root of this. But how do you like to unwind?
Nathaniel: Oh, man. In the mornings, that's my time. When I first wake up-
Marcus: What time?
Nathaniel: Somewhere between 5:00 and 6:30. It depends if I'm working out. If I'm working out, 5:00. If not, probably more like 6:00, 6:30. Get me some tea, read my Bible. I love Proverbs. I'm a Proverbs fanatic. So I love that. I'm in Tribulations now, trying to read that. And I'm applying a lot of things, 'cause to me, a lot of things you see in the Bible basically are business strategies that you can apply. I'm the type of guy, I'm always thinking about strategies, strategically. But that's my time to unwind, watching the squirrels. I love to see the squirrels, cats, and birds battle each other on the back fences and trees.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool. So just that peaceful time where nobody else is probably bothering you at that point in time.
Nathaniel: Yes, yes.
Marcus: Well, tell people where they can find out a little bit more. Is there a place where they can go to find out more information about some of the workshops or the videos or anything that you're getting ready to... ?
Nathaniel: Well, the website's ... I'm really finally going through funding, so I'm going to get that together. I'm coming to see you. I've made up my mind, that I've come to see you.
Marcus: Very good.
Nathaniel: I really went through the market and say, hey, who can help me build this dream?
Nathaniel: And I not only wanted them to be technically able, but I wanted them to have that same feeling, an entrepreneur feeling. And I have that faith in you, so I'm coming to you with that.
Marcus: Here's that $20 I promised you.
Nathaniel: $20? It costs more than that. Damn, inflation. But you can get hold of me ... In the past, what I've done is through my Facebook pages, my LinkedIn presence. LinkedIn brings me 30% of my referrals nationwide.
Marcus: That's good.
Nathaniel: My LinkedIn follows-
Marcus: That's a really great stat, too. So for those of you that are out there that are thinking LinkedIn is dead, I'll stand in front of you and tell you that LinkedIn brings in a fairly significant amount of revenue for us as well. And if you're saying you get 30% of your leads from LinkedIn, then it's a powerful social platform. And you do have to treat it as such, so don't ignore it.
Marcus: I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. We'll wrap up any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share.
Nathaniel: I just love what you're doing for the city of Mobile. I'm excited. Really, I thought about a couple years of returning back to Los Angeles, because I love that entrepreneurial spirit out there. But you and Abe & Carl, down at Harper Technologies, y'all came in and-
Marcus: I'm sorry, we're going to have to mark the tape there and cut that out.
Nathaniel: Y'all got me fired up again. So I was thinking about leaving, but I see a lot of young ones coming in.
Marcus: That means a lot man.
Nathaniel: I want to stay. I want to stay, I want to see this resurgence happen. And I need to follow one of my words. I need to be resilient with it.
Marcus: Yeah. So I'll say this to that. My goal in starting this podcast was to stop the brain drain that happens in Mobile, because the more that people leave this town, it will continue to cause the city to be the city of perpetual, what is it? Perpetual potential. Thank you, Jared. He's my brain when I don't have one. And we wanted to share the stories of people like you that are doing important things in the city because we want there to be a positive thought about the entrepreneurial community here, and what is possible, because quite honestly, you go to LA or you go to DC or you go to Boston or New York or wherever, and making a start in a town like that is crazy. It's much, much more difficult than it is in a town like Mobile. So anyway, that was the whole purpose behind starting this podcast. So you saying that, that's awesome, man. Thank you.
Nathaniel: Yeah. I found my telephone number. I got a new telephone number.
Marcus: There you go, yeah.
Nathaniel: So if you want to contact me directly, (877) 351-4698.
Marcus: Do it again.
Nathaniel: (877) 351-4698.
Marcus: Awesome. Well, Nate, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you, man.
Nathaniel: Thank you very much, appreciate it.