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BFU - student directed learning for visionaries


Interviewing Ross Rayburn, creator of a Small Business Master's Course

Ross Rayburn, BFuniv course B501

Start Your Business Right!


For the last 17 years Ross Rayburn has been a very successful small businessman.

For some business is a game they play to win; for others they value the freedom and choices that success brings. Ross is of the latter type. Ross found being an employee or an employer took too much of his effort pleasing co-workers rather than clients. Ross runs his own business as salesman, manager and employee. He has done extremely well for himself, and for his customers.

We are proud to present this recent interview of Ross Rayburn by the Rector of Bastiat Free University.


BFU)    Your course is about starting a business; do you have a “most important advice” for a person considering working for themselves?

RR)    No. What is most important will vary with each person. Some will need to discover themselves first, others just need to get off their butts and start. If someone is not confident of their abilities, I would encourage them to get a sales job in a retail establishment. Promotions come quickly in retail, they will get experience in all sorts of business disciplines; sales, buying, inventory control, income statements, and lots of other important knowledge. They will also get the chance to enter management and discover if they enjoy that relationship. If they decide to go out on their own, they will have the basics for success along with a knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses.

BFU)    So what makes the difference in starting styles, and how would a person find where they fit?

RR)    Personalities. Some learn best getting face to face with clients, others need to get face to face with themselves first. Everyone needs to keep learning and challenging themselves if they expect to be successful. There are many good inspirational books or biographies of successful people that a person can read. I am usually reading three or four books at a time; I do make sure the book I read before bed is inspirational. I also avoid newspapers and T.V. News. The so-called news is filled with depressing tidbits that you cannot effect; feeling powerless is not a way to build the mental fitness required for success.

I also listen to motivational tapes or books on tape in the car. Music is nice, but it will not help me develop a winning outlook. A lot of your ability to apply yourself comes from your own determination, you develop that by immersing yourself in positive information.

BFU)    I hear what you are saying about reading biographies. When I read about George Muller I found out a great deal about the flexibility of faith, and its application. Is there one biography you have read that stands out?

RR)    Ford. Henry Ford. An original thinker and a great success at accomplishing what he set out to do. He had a top notch group of engineers, many of the best. He told them he wanted a V8 engine, they said it couldn't be done. He kept going back and asking how they were doing on that V8, they kept saying it was impossible. After a year or so he asked, and someone had an idea of how it might be done. It was done.

BFU)    Was there anything else that impressed you about Ford?

RR)    There was a point where Ford was going through competency hearings. Someone wanted to put him away and take over. They kept asking Ford basic questions, as he only had a third grade education, he had no idea what the answers were. Ford finally got fed up with their trying to show a lack of formal education meant he was not competent to manage his affairs. Ford said something to the effect, “I manage a huge company, I can push a button on my desk, and get the top expert in the world to answer any question I want answered. I don't need to know the answers, I know how to get an answer if I need it.” Ford knew his job was to think, and ask new questions; those with the education to have the appropriate answers could be employed to answer them.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young. 
The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."

Henry Ford

BFU)    How well were you prepared when you went out on your own?

RR)    I started my business at the same time as 9 other sales people, of the 10 of us I was the least qualified. Within a short time I was the only one left. There is a huge amount of work required when starting a business. I am extremely lucky that my wife knows how important it is for me to stay glued to my desk, or sometimes the kitchen table, without interruptions. It took 4 months before I was making enough to cover all my bills, and a bit beyond for goodies. Those were 4 months of 6 or 7 days a week, working from early morning to late night. I kept that schedule for quite a while as I built a cushion of business, and I still wake early to get a few uninterrupted hours of work in before the world starts humming.

BFU)    Once you have started sales, how can you be most effective?

RR)    The key is getting face to face with your clients. Drop by, even if all you do is hand them a business card. If you phone a client you will be interrupting something, in person they apologize for interrupting you. I've never had a client act upset that I've shown up, although sometimes if they are busy all I do is say Hi. Frequently they will say, “Hold on a minute Ross, there is something I want to talk to you about.” That doesn't happen when you call for an appointment.

BFU)    Ross, talk a bit about the pleasure of working for yourself.

RR)    I'm happy to. When I worked for a boss and a regular paycheck my wife had to push me out of bed in the mornings. I hated the alarm clock, I hated the sunrise. After I Quit and started working for myself everything changed. It didn't take long, the first morning I jumped out of bed, set myself up, and started going. Now the great part, I was doing exactly the same job. The difference was I was doing it for myself. Instead of a dribble of a paycheck, everything I made belonged to me.

BFU)    How do you organize yourself?

RR)    I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. The key is to put 80% of your effort into that 20% that are your best customers. Many companies ignore their clients while they beat the bushes for new customers. They have it backwards. You need to take care of the customers you have, they will re-buy and supply referrals that are presold by the client's stories about your service.

BFU)    You have established that it will take hard work to develop a business. Anyone can see that you have enjoyed the rewards of your efforts. Other than the lazy, or those without the freedom to dedicate themselves to the task, what else would limit someone from opening their own business?

RR)    You hit that right. There are a few personality traits that might disqualify someone from seeking the freedom of their own company. I believe however that everyone can sell. From the time you as a child looked up at your mom and cooed you are involved in sales. Selling is easy and natural; you talk and find out what is best for the client, then you help them make a decision that is to their benefit.

BFU)    Any final thoughts Ross?

RR)    Yes. If you want to be successful and stay successful remember one thing:

All business is long term.


BFU)    Thank you Mr. Rayburn


This interview has been provided by Bastiat Free University. This may be quoted or copied if proper credit is given to BFU Master's courses and to Mr. Ross Rayburn. Ross is a corporate health insurance specialist in California, although he is exploring a few other ventures.

"By virtue of exchange, one man's prosperity is beneficial to all others." - C. F. Bastiat


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