Listen to Walters’ success story about his childhood in South Dakota to being the man behind the scenes in some of the largest elections in the United States. Walter Monk went to college and took up Wildlife and Fisheries Management but felt empty during classes, so he left to work in a gas station as a manager. That earned him quite a sum of money. He worked in some other businesses and experienced ups and downs, which eventually led him to the political space business through fundraising through texting. Stay tuned and learn more!
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Creative & Proven Entrepreneur, Walter Monk
In this episode, we are with a long-time friend, Walter Monk. Walter, welcome to the show.
I am glad to be here.
Thank you so much for coming. Walter, your primary business is a company called Text2Survey.
That is the moneymaker at the minute.
Tell us what does Text2Survey do?
We text people, lots of them. We have got about 300 people working from home. Mostly this is political or nonprofits that are either fundraising or want to do polling or events. In any case, they want to reach out to a lot of people quickly and ask them to do something. Either they are going to ask them to do a poll to find out what they think, click a link to go donate money to some cause, or possibly they are going to say, “We are having a town hall meeting and we would like you to come. Would you be interested in coming?” The people respond back and then our people respond to that. Sometimes, the people do what our clients want them to do.
How did you get into the Text2Survey business?
Many years ago, I had a lot of communication equipment for making phone calls and I was helping coach my son’s soccer team. I was not really coaching. I was just running up and down the lines. The real coach was a political consultant by the name of Craig Murphy. Craig Murphy was starting out then and he said, “I am having a lot of trouble with my phone calls.” He was complaining about and I said, “I do a lot of phone calls. Maybe I could help you with that.” He explained it to, so I started doing it for him. He has grown. His company is called Murphy Nasica. It is one of the, if not the largest, campaign strategist firm in Texas and one of the most successful in the country or anywhere else.
He is still a great client and a very smart guy. He even still uses us sometimes for polling and for other stuff. My son and his were on the same soccer team. That is how I got started in the political space. A while ago, we had a client that every so often, we did some work within the political space. They came and said, “You guys can do texting, right?” I was like, “Yes.” “We heard you could use this to do fundraising.” I was like, “I don’t think so. I think the laws are going to be wrong.” We dug into it and sure enough, we could if we did with human beings doing the texting.
We could not do it automatically. We have to do it with human beings. We made it so that it was easy for human beings to do it on a big scale with people working from home. That client was very smart and they blew up. They had a lot of campaigns on a national level and therefore, we did too. That has been a good run.
Think back to young Walter Monk. I know you live in the DFW area but where are you from? Are you from here?
I grew up a lot in South Dakota and then I came down to Texas.
Many entrepreneurs, when they look back at their childhood, were involved in something entrepreneurial, successful or not, but as a child. What about you?
There were many failures. I have tried a lot of things that did not work. This was way before the internet. I read this article about raising rabbits. They said, “Your rabbit will breed this often and you get more rabbits. You can sell rabbits for X amount.” I knew there was a lot of corn around that I could get for almost nothing to feed the rabbits. I already had a lot of fencing to fence them in, so I made out my first projection of a business plan like, “I am going to be a multimillionaire in about a year at this rate.”
The first thing was I got to get some rabbits, so I bought this rabbit. It is a great big female white rabbit. That blew about all my capital getting her, and then I had to buy this skinny, scrawny, little male rabbit. I put them both in the cage and I am expecting fireworks and great things to happen. The little male was amorous. He had come over to the female and she would kick him. He would go into the other end of the cage and it took only a few times like that until he did not try anymore. I had no more rabbits and my dreams of being a millionaire were gone.
I decided, “This was a fiasco.” I decided that I would sell my rabbits back. I put an ad on the paper and I remember this guy coming to buy the rabbits. He was away from the big city. He drove out there and was like, “How much do you want for the rabbits?” I did not know any better. I said the amount that I had paid for, which was $3.75. I was in fifth grade, not very old. He says, “$3.75? I will give you $3.” I was like, “No, I paid $3.75. I want $3.75 back out of my rabbits.” He says, “$3. Take it or leave it. I am leaving.”There are a lot of things that wouldn’t work in your life. Click To Tweet
He leaves. I know nothing about it. I have no negotiating skills whatsoever, but pretty soon, the guy comes driving back. He says, “You are the toughest negotiator I have ever met. I will give you $3.75.” I did not know what he was talking about. I was like, “What?” Sometimes, you get lucky. At least I got out of it with my $3.75.
No loss of capital, just a little loss of time, energy, effort, and the poor male, maybe some dignity. You left South Dakota, went to college, went to the military, and went to the Merchant Marine, what did you do?
I went to college for Wildlife and Fisheries Management which does me a whole lot of good in current career. I never did go into Wildlife and Fisheries Management.
I was going to say, did you do good in any career?
It taught me that this was not for me. I remember going to the counselor at school and saying, “I am going crazy because I can’t go to classes. I do not get up. I sleep through them all. Is there something wrong with me? Can you fix me?” The counselor starts asking me questions like, “Why are you here?” I was like, “A lot of reasons but I want to do this.”
The counselor says, “Are you sure you want to be here?” “Yes. I definitely want to be here.” Eventually, believe it or not, the college counselor could see that I did not want to be there. I could remember that day really well because he said, “You do not have to be here if you do not want to.” I left and I was so free and happy. I was skipping across the campus green like, “I am free. I never have to go back to class ever if I do not want to.”
I did not. I went out and shortly thereafter, I got into my first business that I actually made any money.
Tell us about that.
I was working at a gas station when I was supposedly going to college. There was another one that needed a manager. The guy who needed to pick a manager for it had no time and I was the best candidate at that time. He is like, “Would you like to do this?” I was like, “Yes. That would be great. I have nothing else to do for the rest of my life.” I went over there and he took me under his wing. He said, “You do this every day. You do this and this. This station has to be open from 6:00 AM to midnight. You are the only employee and you got to get to the bank sometime in that time.” There are all these impossibly conflicting rules.
Long story short that worked. I made a butt-load of money in the gas station business when I was really young. I thought that was God’s gift to entrepreneurs and I knew everything there was to know. I sold them all and I went to Hawaii to catch lobsters. One year later, I lost my money, never caught one lobster, and came back. That is how it has been ever since.
That is quite a story from, “I am going to rule the oil and gas industry and gas stations” to “I do not know how to catch lobster.”
There were a lot of lobsters. Nobody was catching them on a commercial scale until not too long after that, another 12 or 15 years, some Australians figured out how to do it. Now it is a big business over there.
Did you start Text2Survey immediately after the lobster business?
No, I went into the bar business. I decided, “I am going to do something that seems like it is fun.” I bought this mini bar in the basement. It was called The Last Step. The clients were either alcoholics or drug dealers or both. It was a very strange business in the beginning. We were in business by the time I was married. My wife and I were like, “We are running out of money.” We are sleeping on the floor in the bar. We did not put any money for anything except to barely keep it going. After three months, we finally had a day where we grossed $100 on a Saturday night.
We were like, “It is possible. Maybe we will make it here.” It took a while to figure out the bar business, but eventually, we did. We started expanding. After a while, we had six nightclubs. We moved out of that one and moved into a bigger one. We got it going. We were quite successful in it for a while and made a lot of money. Eventually, the Peter Principle kicked in and everybody moved up until they got to their level of maximum incompetence. I passed that level. It all crashed down, went bankrupt, got divorced, and back to being broke again at age 35.Everybody moves up until they get to their level of maximum incompetence. Click To Tweet
You then opened Text2Survey.
No. I was divorced, so naturally, I started dating service. How else am I going to find anybody? I found a wife, made some money and sold the first dating service. I built another and sold that one. I came to Texas built a big one nationwide, and that is where I started doing the automated calls. I started doing it a little earlier than that, but I scaled it out here for the dating service. That is where I met Craig Murphy at the end of that when the law changed that it was no longer illegal to do what we were doing. It was legal for politicians, but it was not legal for dating services. We are in the political space now.
Think back, and if you would share a warp speed moment. Some time, when business was doing pretty good, but then all of a sudden, you had this massive acceleration, and it seemed to take off.
I had two of those in my life. The last one was around 2020. At that point, our first big client figured out how to do fundraising with texting. We were experimenting for about nine months at that point. Some things worked once in a while, and then they really hit it. To these guys’ credit, once they hit it, it was like, “Let’s roll this baby. Let’s go.”
We went from doing 30,000 texts a day to doing 100,000 texts a day. I remember celebrating at that and then it was 500,000 texts a day, and then it was 1 million texts a day. Until the day before the election, we did 10 million texts. That is a ramp-up like crazy. It was three times the best year I had ever had prior to that. That is one.
Tell us about the first warp speed moment.
At one point, we got a great bank in South Dakota, still do. They have taken care of me in any ways over the years. They needed to market credits cards and I said, “I can figure that out.” They said, “We will pay you $75 apiece for every credit card you can issue.” I was like, “Maybe I can make that work.” We tested and tested on some things. We eventually figured out that if we sent out a certain letter that was handwritten with almost nothing inside except one thing that was almost like a Visa card, but not quite that says, “Call this number.” We could make that dog hunt and it started hunting.
I said to him, “How many credit cards do you need? How many do you want?” He says, “All you can get.” I said, “Really? Okay.” We turned on the gas, and this was back quite a few years ago, to put this into perspective, we hit a month where the profit was $500,000 that month. That was about four months after we started. We were like, “We go from 2 people to 20 people to all of the people you can fit in the building that is here 24/7 and flipping shifts.” All of a sudden, they were like, “We got enough cards. Thank you very much.”
What about a hard moment? Was there something in your past where it was painful and you did not like it, but in retrospect, looking back on that event, you see the benefit in what happened there?
When I was expanding nightclubs, it seemed like every single one made more money than the one before. From my perspective, what I saw as my limiting factor was, “I will have enough capital. How can I get more capital?” I got to be really good in raising capital, but not as good as I wanted to be because I wanted to go build them all over the US. When I got up to the fifth and my same store sales were not going up that year in my other ones, which should have been my “woah” moment. I kicked myself in the butt later and it is like, “Go fix what is there and make the same store sales go up.”
I did do that, but I rolled the dice on the sixth, which was going to make theoretically more money than the rest. It did not and some other things happened. What was really my limiting factor to keep me from growing was my own incompetence. It was my own managerial, not having te systems in place to support that growth at that clip and over-leveraging like, “How much can I get? As much as everything I can possibly throw into this, let’s put it in because it makes money,” but it did not. It was embarrassing. There were lots of people that trusted me in it.
If you could go back and talk to 22-year old Walter and you can say, “Walter, listen to me. Let me give you this good advice.” What would that advice be?
It took a while for me to figure out that the key piece of growing a business is attracting good people and giving them part of the action. Everybody that matters in the business needs to see that if the business succeeds, they succeed more. Their contributions need to be pretty direct. In the beginning, I did not do that. I was like, “If we make money, I make money.”
That for a while is like, “That does not work very long.” People do not like working for somebody like that, so then it became like, “If we make money, we all make more money and we all get to go help more people in whatever it is that we are doing.” If I had to do it over, I would have started that a lot earlier. We eventually got individual P&Ls for everybody that matters.
If the Proven Entrepreneur Clan can support in some way, what would that be?
I have an idea of launching a game that can help people. Before I came over here, I was kicking off a piece of it. I have yet to figure out a monetization strategy for it which is scary for me, but there are pieces of it that I know work. I tried them out on myself to try to make myself a better person and the people around me in that way. It is fun to do and I want to make it a game, ideas or help or anything like that pawn that.You can go from nothing into half a million bucks a month. Click To Tweet
Everything from how to make things that are useful for, say, Don Williams that help Don Williams become part of his DNA to how to stop doing the things that Don Williams does not want to do. Also, how can you have fun and keep score in a way that other people are playing too, and encouraging you? That is what I am working toward.
Is it gamified self-improvement?
Take away the stigma. We start with healthy people. We start like, “How can we make life more fun? How can we make life better?”
I think there are a lot of people on this planet that would like to make life better.
Make the world a better place. If I am living a better life and it resonates with other people around me, it is all well and good and it spreads. If I am living a life where I am sucking the life out of everyone around me, then that is not good either. Each of us matters more than we know.
I want to thank you for coming to the show. I want to talk to the audience and tell you that if you want to make your life better and have fun doing it, look for Walter Monk’s new deal that is coming out. It has been fun and life has been better. Walter, thank you.