Lou Edwards, popularly known as Captain Lou, has 30+ years of sales and marketing experience, offline and online, b to c and b to b. He considers himself “psychologically unemployable”.
After getting fired 5 times in a row, Captain Lou built several 7-figure sales operations from scratch on little more than an 8th grade education and fire in the belly.
His goals are to travel the world, not only fulfilling his own dreams and fantasies, but also those of his clients.
Captain Lou prides himself in showing niche group leaders how to cruise the world for free, with their own highly profitable “Special-Events-At-Sea”.
Nicola: Nicola Cairncross here and I am absolutely delighted to welcome to the podcast Captain Lou Edwards. It’s really very fitting that my first interview of the year is with Captain Lou because I have literally just a week ago got off a fantastic ship in the middle of the Caribbean with Captain Lou and 400 hundred of the world’s brightest marketing minds and did we have a blast or did we have a blast?!
Captain Lou: Oh my goodness did we ever… I am still recuperating from the blast we had.
Nicola: I think everybody is. I only realised at day 3 that my ankles were swelling up because I was not drinking any water…I was just drinking frozen Margaritas.
Captain Lou: Awesome, awesome. I think that today I am going to be more of a Captain flu than Captain Lou but I will persevere.
Nicola: I’m Nicola Cough Cairncross today. So if I have to mute myself, that’s what’s going on. I was thinking to myself that’s OK because Captain Lou can talk for England or America. So I won’t have to say too much…
Captain Lou: No, No, No, Wait a second Nicola. I need you and your audience to help me overcome my extreme shyness.
Nicola: Oh, I have heard about this extreme shyness. It manifests itself in lots of different ways, doesn’t it? Largely on stage.
Captain Lou: That’s true. Most people’s greatest fear in life is to have a microphone in front of their face and speak on stage. My greatest fear is to not have a microphone.
Nicola: To have it taken away from you. That is awesome. I don’t even know where to start with the best bits of the cruise really because I loved the mastermind sessions, I loved the hot seat sessions, I loved the tips and tools sessions. Every time we were called to the Ebony lounge, I absolutely loved it.
Captain Lou: Yes, it’s hard to describe. We had people – the tried and true alumni, original friends and guests that have become family over the years that come back every year. It’s really quite an extraordinary mastermind and networking vacation with the perfect work and play balance. It’s my biggest event of the year, you know I do many group niche cruises and special events.
It’s hard to explain the experience that you and I just had. People just have to come and see for themselves what it’s all about. It’s an experience. It’s not a seminar or a conference or a trade show, but rather a unique relationship building experience that is kind of magical. I don’t know if its the formula that we have patented over the years or the wonderful people that we attract from all over the world. It’s really amazing.
Nicola: We walk around with our internet marketers badges on so everyone can recognise each other and you can reconnect because I’ve been there in 2009 and I’ve missed it since then because my business took a bit of a dive which all my listeners know about and I have built it back up again, and I was very proud to be able to get on the ship again this year.
You walk around the ship and everyone just talks to you who is an internet marketers cruiser and you just make new friends. And this really struck me on the ship – the staff who were just walking along corridors going about their business, they bothered to look at your name tag and greet you by name. I found that amazing.
Captain Lou: It really is awesome. We happened to have a particularly great staff and crew on this year’s cruise. So the warm fuzzies were in high gear.
Nicola: Yes, they were. Even from the guy who was making my omelettes in the morning through to the guy who served our table, they all took the trouble again to call you by name. I don’t know if that’s an American thing, but it’s such a refreshing blast of fuzziness as you call it, when you come from the UK.
Captain Lou: Yes. Much needed in January for sure
Nicola: Yes, and that kept been going through the bad weather in November – December, knowing I was going to be getting on the ship. Anyway let’s stop raving about where we’ve just been and tell me a bit about yourself and your business at the moment, because obviously I’ve known you for a while, I know you do specialist cruises… Tell us a little bit about where Captain Lou came from and how did you get into the cruise business?
Captain Lou: Well, you know… For those of you that haven’t read my books or know my story, here’s the short version. I was an 8th grade dropout that has never seen the inside of a high school and yet now I’ve lectured at colleges and speak on stages around the world. I was the kid, the goofy, uncontrollable kid that was voted least likely to succeed.
After my Mum died, when I was 15 years old, my dad was very old and had problems of his own and couldn’t properly care for me, I kind of ran away from home and joined, not the circus but close to it, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation back in the late 70’s. Yes, I was running around with people like André The Giant and Ivan Putski “The Polish Power” and Bruno Sammartino, and this really dates me but the wrestlers kind of took me into their family and I became a ring announcer and colour commentator and radio talk-show host. New York’s youngest radio programme producer back in the late 70’s and early 80′s.
Nicola: Wow, the high day of disco!
Captain Lou: It was, right, absolutely, it was an amazing experience and I did that for about four years and my well-meaning friends and whatever family I had left said: “Lou you’ve got to get a real job and stop going on the road with the professional wrestlers, wrestling will never be big”
Nicola: Really [laughs]
Captain Lou: Amazing…Timing is everything and I had none of it, so I quit pro wrestling to get a real job and for the next twenty years I became New York’s only straight – as in heterosexual – interior decorator.
Nicola: Oh my god, that’s brilliant.
Captain Lou: I did very well. In fact, I was a blind man – that was my niche specialty. I wasn’t really blind, I made customised blinds for your windows and that’s what I was known for. I had a sales force, I always had a strong sales background and in the tri-state area of New York City we would come to your home and show you nice fabric swatches and different colours for your window treatments and I did that for 20 years. I did very well, but I hated every minute of it, I just hated it. It was not fulfilling! Did you ever have a job where you’ve done something very well, but you hated your life?
Nicola: Pretty much every job I ever had was like that. I always got jobs very easily, but after 18 months I was fit to self harm myself.
Captain Lou: Yes and then you say, there’s got to be something more to life than this.
Nicola: And you look at your salary if you’re in a job and you think, “Get bigger for God’s sake!” If you’re in a business it’s even worse because you’re paying everyone else first, aren’t you?!
Captain Lou: Ain’t that the truth! Yes, even today I pay everyone before I even pay myself. And managing a payroll through up times and down times, as you know, it’s not easy. But going back to the window treatments, for twenty years I was making a living and then I decided I want to start making a life.
I wanted to help fulfil dreams and fantasies because if I did that for my clients, in turn I would be doing the same for myself right? So why not do something that you love and, like the cliche saying goes, “if you love what you, do you’ll never work a day in your life.”
So I decided to just toss it all to the wind and give up what was actually a very good paying sales job and I decided to work to get into the world of travel because I wanted to see the world.
And in January of 2003, I find out about something called an Internet Marketing Seminar. It’s called “The Big Seminar”, it’s 11 year ago in January 2003, and I decide well, there’s something called the internet and maybe, if I start this travel business, I can get customers not just from around the corner but maybe from around the country and eventually around the world.
So I show up. I did what Woody Allen suggested, that 80% of success is just showing up, right? And I decide to show up at an internet marketing conference called “The Big Seminar” and I start learning about putting up websites and building lists and doing.. back then we didn’t have webinars.. so it was teleseminars.
Nicola: Yeah, I remember those.
Captain Lou: You remember those? And how to bring your product or service to the rest of the world? Back then I was just doing part-time travel as a hobby. It wasn’t even a serious consideration!
Nicola: So what were you doing exactly? Fixing up trips for individuals or something?
Captain Lou: Right, like any of the hundreds of thousands travel agents that are sitting in a room with those racks with the brochures and attempting to sell one-on-one instead of one-on-many. Like you say fixing up a trip to somebody that might want to go on vacation, but I was a very shoppable commodity with very low commissions, the way most travel agents still do it ‘til this day and that wasn’t going to work.
I needed to learn to think bigger.
To think bigger financially and to niche-ify my business into something that was unshoppable and also to learn how to sell one-on-many instead of one-on-one as we are all doing here. I know you and all of our colleagues do the same thing. You know that the potential for one-on-many is way greater than just sitting with one person and hoping to make a sale.
Nicola: I am fascinated Lou because it does lead into the first question really. I’m fascinated to know what made you think “Ok, travel, I could do that”. Did you just leap straight in, did you know someone who was doing it, or did you meet a mentor?
Captain Lou: That’s a great question. It was more kind of a challenge from many, many different areas. Most travel agents don’t make a lot of money. The typical travel agent in the USA earns between $18,000 and $23,000 per year and works about 60 hours a week, so it wasn’t a very enticing career for me to go in to also there were people in the internet marketing industry that said, “Lou, you will never get a good number of people to give up their businesses for a week and join you on a vacation for networking in the Caribbean. So your idea of putting together these niche cruises where people will bring their families and network and build their businesses.. That is never going to work.”
There was a very famous internet marketer, I won’t name names, he said to me.. “I think you should be doing one-on-many but I don’t know if you are going to get marketers to all want to come together and brainstorm and network. That might be harder to do.”
So I took that as a personal challenge.
Another thing Nicola, is that the cruise industry itself back then, told me people don’t book high ticket multi thousand dollar packages online. They’re not comfortable with the internet. They are not going to put into a shopping cart, their credit card for $2,000 or $3,000. They need to be sold by telephone the old fashioned way. No one is going to book travel on the internet that readily.
Nicola: Listen Lou. You’ve jumped ahead something shocking there. One minute you’re going to The Big Seminar, which I think was one of the Armand Morin’s, wasn’t it?
Captain Lou: Correct.
Nicola: And the next minute you’re selling your idea for specialist cruises for marketers. How did you get between, a little travel agent going to his first internet marketing seminar to having that idea of putting big marketing networking cruises together for marketers?
Captain Lou: How do you make that jump? Well, I wish I could take credit for it, but actually it was a woman named Holly Carter that happened to be in the audience, just another attendee. And she came up to me and she tapped me the shoulder during a session and she said “Hey Lou” – back then I was not even Captain Lou, I was just Lou, I don’t know when people started to calling me Captain Lou – she said, ”Lou, could we put together…do you want to do a JV with me?” I didn’t know that JV stood for joint venture, so I thought she was asking me to smoke a joint with her in the bathroom. I thought she was asking me to do drugs with her.
Nicola: Out by the bike sheds. Naughty old Lou.
Captain Lou: I said no, no I don’t do stuff like that. I’m very, very conservative. A good boy and I don’t do things like that. She said “No, no, no, it’s nothing like that! It’s a joint venture, it’s a partnership. Why don’t we go and ask the speakers? Why don’t we go and ask Armand and Alex and all of the speakers that host the event, if they would email their lists and bring their families onto this cruise and then if they got enough people they can get a free cabin and we can all go and hang out in the Caribbean, instead of some stuffy hotel conference room.”
She said, “Lou could you put together a seminar at sea where we’re all sipping pina coladas in a jacuzzi at sunset while sailing away from some sun drenched island in the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Is that what you do Lou? Could you do that?”
I thought to myself, well I’ve never done anything like this before but with all courage and bravery I turned to her and said: Oh absolutely! That’s my specialty.
Nicola: That’s my specialty?! You actually said that’s my specialty!
Captain Lou: I actually said that’s my specialty while my heart fell into my shorts…
Please listen to the podcast to hear what happens next, or if you would prefer to read Captain Lou’s full mind, marketing and money tips for entrepreneurs, it will be published in “Mindset, Marketing & Money – Vol 2” by Nicola Cairncross, available globally on Amazon UK | Amazon US in early 2018.