Johnny Appleseed, King of Referrals

After 12 years in operation, my franchisee recruiting business is mostly driven by referrals. I owe it all to an American folk hero that I learned about a long time ago in a children’s story. John Chapman was his real name and he spent his life traveling and developing apple tree nurseries in the Midwest. He was known for his generosity, kindness and his rejection of material things – even though he was quite wealthy. Johnny spent his life and his wealth helping other people get what they needed. He felt that the more he helped others and the less concerned he was with his own worldly comfort, the greater his reward in the afterlife would be.

Many people, in several states, wanted to repay Johnny for his generosity and they sought him out to do just that. This, I’ve found is the essence of building a referral based business. When I was a young sales rep, I joined all the right groups, went to all the right meetings and I shook every hand. I read books on how to work a room, I had a clever little elevator speech and I passed out thousands of business cards. I thought I was a great networker, but I didn’t get it – not at all. I had plenty of success as a sales rep, but my referral business was never that great. It wasn’t until I started in management that I recalled the story of Johnny Appleseed. Things started to change when I figured out that I was in a position to help people. The more people I helped, the more business seemed to flow my way.

When I started my own company, I made it a point to get involved in the community. I met other new business owners and I bought goods and services from as many of them as I could. Every day I introduced someone I knew to someone I thought they should know. I listened to people and I tried to figure out who I knew that could be a resource for them, even when it had nothing to do with business. Now, the bulk of my marketing strategy is this: I give out several referrals every month. This simple formula of focusing on who I can help instead of who can help me, has resulted in an 60% reduction of my annual marketing expense. 

The greatest part of all this is that I have no expectation of any individual to return the favor – ever. The only expectation I have is that if I do good deeds, good things will happen for me. People like Johnny Appleseed have known this throughout history. Sometimes we get caught up in the rush of business and we forget the things that really matter. Thanks Johnny!

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Dan Brunell

Dan Brunell is the CEO of Dearborn West, LLC, an independent boutique consulting firm that specializes in entrepreneurial talent acquisition and training. Dan has fostered recruiting relationships with over 300 franchise systems throughout North America, created and delivered customized training and coaching programs for global consulting network, and established the best practices and ethical guidelines for this emerging industry space.