Bob Phibbs is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing mentor, author of three books, and motivational business speaker. He is CEO of the Retail Doctor, a company that helps retail businesses increase their sales. Phibbs is the author of the books The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business and You Can Compete.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
My dad was a civil rights activist in Toledo, Ohio in the sixties. He marched with King, he was head of the Toledo Area Council of Churches and usually gone. When he was home civil rights was the better-looking 4th son I and my two brothers just couldn’t compete with. My mom was a science teacher and not affectionate. Getting good grades was just expected. I felt deeply alone most of my childhood at one point ready to put my things in a bandana and leave home until I overthought it and realized I couldn’t really leave with my clothes and bandana that weren’t really mine. I found my voice both figuratively and literally in the chorus. Music became my language throughout school and it was no wonder I wanted to become a conductor in college which I did. My part-time job became my career in retail when I realized I was good at it. I come from a long line of preachers on both sides of my family, I just think I use a different bible.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
The power to succeed up to me and not someone else to find or seek permission from.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Speak for free for “exposure.” That’s called “starve.” Value your expertise and charge enough to live the life you want.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I hated my dad much of my life. I proudly held on to all the time he didn’t spend with me. Before he died I spent time getting my stories on paper and studying how to make them better and the reader to feel what I was feeling with two writing teachers in Los Angeles Terry Silverman and Jack Grapes. They taught me how to paint the scene, not describe it. Over four years I worked on it until I presented it in a one-man show, “I have a scream: Growing up a child of a civil rights activist isn’t black and white.” I had made peace with my dad through my writing and realized I had been expecting him to dig a trench when all he had was a knife. I let him off the hook and while he had said all he and his family suffered was not worth it for what became of civil rights, he was able to see Barack Obama become president. I called him that night and he said it was worth it and called it the best night of his life. He passed away a couple of months later. I’m so glad he did not have to see what America looks like in 2020.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I work. Truly. When you are the brand you have to work weekends, late at night, and find ways to stay in front of people like a celebrity. It takes a lot of work but if you want to harvest what you’ve worked on for decades, you can’t stop. I tend to say “yes” sooner than “no” which has allowed me to be part of some great opportunities.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at 4 am most days go downstairs and make myself a glass of fresh celery juice with my juicer, do a 20-minute priming exercise I learned from Tony Robbins, have breakfast, meditate for 20-60 minutes, take a shower, and at my desk by 7:30 am. I break for lunch for an hour and leave my home office at 5 pm. After dinner, it is a movie or show until about 9 then off to bed, or if I’m on deadline, down to work where the hard stop is 11 pm.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation. It helps me realize I control my thoughts, I am not my thoughts, and how to stay present at the moment and not worry about the future or regret the past.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I’ve used a system of Post-it notes when I have an idea for years. I’ve had an assistant for 2 years and that has helped along with an online project scheduling program I’ve used. The time suck for many of us is the unexpected commitment in a project or the trap of social media.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. A buddy of mine was in the road company of A Chorus Line in the ’80s. Their performances were electric. When I asked him why it was so great he shared they all had read that book and that was it for me. It was the first time I had been exposed to the idea of a positive mindset which, as the Retail Doctor in the middle of a pandemic still gives me hope.
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. THE book on understanding people only want to talk about themselves and how to get out of their way so they want to talk to you more. It works in personal interactions and business equally well.
The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale. This little book became the number one motivational recording of all time. Earl makes the point we are about as happy as we make our minds up to be.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“The person who says they can and the person who says they can’t are both right.”