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EPISODE #013

#13 Accidental Success with Robert Koagedal BA, MSOM, L.A.C.

Sometimes we plan for success and our best plans can’t surpass accidental success. Listen to Robert Koagedals story of  how he has achieved success while never having a business plan. 

https://www.acuhealthaz.com/

 

The Biz Sherpa Episode 13: Accidental Success with Robert Koagedal, BA, MSOM, L.A.C.

 

Speaker 1:

From his first job flipping burgers at McDonald’s and delivering The Washington Post, Craig Willett counts only one and a half years of his adult life working for someone else. Welcome to The Biz Sherpa podcast with your host, Craig Willett. Founder of several multimillion-dollar businesses and trusted advisor to other business owners, he’s giving back to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve fulfillment, enhance their lives, and create enduring wealth. The Biz Sherpa.

Craig Willett:

This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa. Welcome to today’s episode. I’m excited for today’s episode because I think we’re going to learn from a different perspective. I have a special guest today and he’s going to help us understand accidental success. He’s trained in Chinese medicine and acupuncture, Robert Koagedal—a good friend. Welcome Robert.

Robert Koagedal:

Hi, thanks Craig, thanks for having me.

Craig Willett:

Glad to have you today. I’m excited to hear a little bit of your story. Maybe you can tell us a little bit, your training and your background, and then how you ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona with a Chinese medicine and acupuncture practice.

Robert Koagedal:

Training and background, pretty straightforward; went to school for Chinese medicine in 1995, so I’ve been doing it half my life, went straight from college into graduate school. That part of it led me into all of the things that I do now at my office, practicing acupuncture, all the various therapies associated with Chinese medicine.

Craig Willett:

Great, and if you had a specialty in acupuncture—I know you do some treatment of some people who are in stage IV cancer—but you also have some other specialties?

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, so, well, maybe I can jump a little bit to before all of that came to be, as far as my specialty goes. I jokingly answer that question with, I started my career actually working for the mafia. And this is maybe a little unusual, and I say it tongue in cheek, but after I finished school, there’s not a lot of gigs waiting for you as an acupuncturist. If this is anything for your audience to maybe take home, and when we use the term accidental success—which actually, I like that a lot—this is an antidote to what we would call the business structure. I’m not a business major, I didn’t learn anything about business. I’m a philosopher by training, that’s what my bachelor’s degree is in. So Chinese medicine fell into my lap for a variety of other longer stories, following a bachelor’s degree—

Craig Willett:

You mean you didn’t intend for that to happen?

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, all of this on some level is not based on some genius that I have for structuring a business with the vision of how you’re going to make a lot of money and building into that. This was really taking the way that the waves of life would come at you, and being able to adapt to all the different ups and downs that came. And to the degree that you want to go down those ups and downs and all the fun I’ve had, I’m happy to share those stories too.

Craig Willett:

Well, I’m excited, and I think that’s of great value to a lot of people because I think we have a philosophy that you come up with a business plan, and you take that business plan to a banker, and the banker blesses it—or an investment group—and they invest in a business to help you start up, and that you’re going to follow this well planned out method. My experience as a CPA, as I’ve talked to a lot of clients, that’s not how it always has worked out. People have an idea. So you’ve got your education and training, and what led you—

Robert Koagedal:

I did have an idea, so there was an idea there. Then remember—and if I had known this information when I actually went to school for Chinese medicine, I probably would not be sitting here—but at the time of my graduation in 1998, ’99, 5% of acupuncturists went on to have a successful business.

Craig Willett:

Wow, only 5%?

Robert Koagedal:

And I didn’t know that at the time, only 5%. So, you can imagine—

Craig Willett:

Well, they don’t tell you that or you wouldn’t—

Robert Koagedal:

They do not inform you of that when you call the school and you’re like, “Hey, I’m interested in this acupuncture gig, and it sounds really interesting, there’s a lot of things that are really meaningful, I think this is very interesting.” But they don’t advertise that portion of it, so—

Craig Willett:

So how did you find your way though? When you did learn that 5%—I mean, it’s quite a statement that you’re—

Robert Koagedal:

Well, I learned that afterwards, and not knowing something is sometimes better than knowing something. And maybe that’s part of this story is from that—there’s not like there’s a job waiting for you. When you finish school, you hope you hang your shingle, you hope that people actually enjoy your services, they appreciate what you do, they get better and they come back. I mean, that’s a pretty basic business model on that front, but most people, when you go in and you take out loans and you have a nice chunk of change you’re going to be paying back, you’ve got to make some money. But the only place you could get a gig back in 1999 was in New York, and that’s why I jokingly—and not so much—say I got a job working at a pain clinic, basically, in the Bronx in New York City.

 

Packed Mary up—we had kind of befuddled around, and lingered, and didn’t know what to do—and ended up in New York City where I was seeing 50 patients a day. I mean, it was a total factory, but I got it straight out of school, I was getting—

Craig Willett:

A lot of experience.

Robert Koagedal:

I was getting $50 an hour and a lot of experience, and one day when the FBI showed up, I said, “See you later.” And that was the end of that.

Craig Willett:

Let’s hear about that, the FBI, yeah.

Robert Koagedal:

So that was a little intimidating at that point, but long story short, I went into—and that was one of the next best moves that happened to me, which gets me back to where we got into the specialty, which is that I mostly do—primarily for the last 18, 19 years—I’ve done reproductive health. I’ve seen really thousands of people, and couples looking to start or grow their families, and that’s kind of my niche as it’s been here in Scottsdale. Then as you initially started, there is an area of where I see patients who are going through cancer treatment and we do treatments specifically to help them through portions of the treatment that they are getting.

Craig Willett:

So that’s a pretty scary start to a career—to have these great ambitions to help people, but to see the FBI show up.

Robert Koagedal:

Well, exactly, and so the funny part of it is as this WASPy kid from California who imagines he’s a do-gooder and he’s going to fix everyone, and you find out that by the time you see this one guy for the third time, but he has a different name, and you go, “Oh, okay, this isn’t right. He’s not really here to heal anyway.” But it was an interesting adventure, nonetheless.

Craig Willett:

I think all of our experiences help us.

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely, yep.

Craig Willett:

So I have a question—and against this maybe anti-business plan idea—but I can’t help but ask someone from California, what was your approach to marketing when you came to Scottsdale?

Robert Koagedal:

So, I got here and funny enough, again, not with any kind of business background, with some basic stuff, I happened to meet—and many of this is again, accidental stuff where I met this gentleman who—this is 2002. And I don’t know if everyone had a website then, you know?

Craig Willett:

Yeah.

Robert Koagedal:

I don’t know if anyone was walking around with a website, but I met this guy at Starbucks in Fountain Hills when we first finally landed here. And when we got here I ran into this gentleman and he was a really sharp guy, and he was very kind. He built me a website, and we just became friends. He built me a website and that in and of itself kind of started things going, but—

Craig Willett:

And that was under the name AcuHealth AZ, right?

Robert Koagedal:

You got it, exactly, because AcuHealth had been taken, so we had to add the AZ onto it even back then. But more to your point then, how I have built my business from a practical standpoint was I knew on some level that physicians were going to be my friends—and physicians who had moved beyond the only way of thinking of how they’ve learned medicine, but had some understanding that wellness was something they wanted their patients to experience, and that drug therapy isn’t the only answer to a number of the things that we have. So, I went out after getting my new office—had you ever been to my old office?

Craig Willett:

Yes, yeah.

Robert Koagedal:

Oh, I’ve known you that long?

Craig Willett:

Yeah, it’s been a long time.

Robert Koagedal:

Okay, so you remember that one, and I’m sitting there—this is literally the first or second day—I’m sitting there, and I’m like, “Oh, the phone’s not ringing and I don’t have any patients, I have to come up with $7400 a month for this fancy spot, I better get out here and do something.” So I went out and I just started introducing myself. I literally went office to office, I went to chiropractors’ office, physicians’ office, I started going—this is a long time pre-COVID, so you could just walk in and say hello, and do all that kind of stuff. Literally the next day, I had my first patient, which was a referral, and that guy came and he sent me his aunt, and then it literally just started to grow from there.

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting because I think so often we think there’s some magic formula to marketing, but I think it’s more about awareness, and then you have to be good because you have to deliver on the expectations that are there.

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely. Well, I learned from New York, because after I had to leave the criminal organization and actually go start my practice in New York—which I had for two years before 9/11 and we had to hightail it out and decided to come to Scottsdale—I had had the experience of paying for marketing, paying for guys handing out fliers on the street. I had paid for some other advertisement in some magazine. Nothing, zero, nada, and then after I’d paid this guy—I think I paid him cash and he was handing out fliers and stuff—I went into a bar and I was having a beer after that and this guy was sitting next to me, we started talking, he told me about his back and the next thing I know, that guy became a patient. I knew that this was one-on-one, this was, “I know you.”

 

People are not driving around going, “Gee, who am I going to go see?” It’s because they know you, and they know somebody who knows you, and they were referred and, “Oh, I had that problem, and this person helped me.” That’s how all of this got started.

Craig Willett:

Right, in fact, that’s how I found you, I had some friends in the horse industry and we were around at a dinner party, and I had moved to Arizona from Utah, and I had been being treated in Utah through acupuncture. I asked, “Does anybody know?” And someone who you treated for something other than what my ailment was, but I was a firm believer. But I came across it in a different way, I was in an accident in France, and I ended up injuring my arm and I was treated in the emergency room with acupuncture.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, how about that?

Craig Willett:

Who would imagine that that would be mainstream? You wouldn’t see that necessarily in the United States.

Robert Koagedal:

No, you wouldn’t, not yet anyways, but things are continuing to progress.

Craig Willett:

And I remember as he was treating me, I was asking him how it works, and he’s kind of looking at me—

Robert Koagedal:

“Well, you know—”

Craig Willett:

No, he just said, “You’ll never understand, even though you speak some French.”

Robert Koagedal:

He didn’t say, “You American.”?

Craig Willett:

No, he didn’t do that, but you know what? I thought maybe I’d broken my arm, they took an X-ray, no, and then he treated me with acupuncture and I noticed later that day, the swelling went down. I could move my hand again, so my arm was fine.

Robert Koagedal:

So the French through Vietnam became associated and they picked up acupuncture through that area, yeah.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, and I thought, “Well, if it’s good enough, they have a good healthcare system.” If it’s good enough to use in the emergency room there, I wasn’t as afraid of it here. But once you become aware of the benefits, then it’s a matter of trusting who you go to as well, because if there’s a reason there’s only 5% that succeed, how do you overcome that? There’s got to be a way that you intentionally make sure you educate your clients.

Robert Koagedal:

And by succeed, I mean support a family, and support a mortgage, and support—Right, not a hobby, not out of the side of your house, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but where it was the professional practice of Chinese medicine applied across all disciplines of health and was something that was respected and people would come to and pay for.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, speaking of that—paying for—one of the premises of one of my businesses that I had was that you can own for less than rent and that a professional like you, who spent a lot of time and effort getting an education, should have more to show for it at the end of the day than just a good practice that pays you that you can build a retirement by owning your building. I know you own yours, you didn’t buy it from me because I didn’t develop in Scottsdale.

Robert Koagedal:

I looked at some of yours.

Craig Willett:

You did?.

Robert Koagedal:

I looked at a second clinic down there, yep.

Craig Willett:

But how did you go about that? What went into your mind to even look?

Robert Koagedal:

Well, at some level, I knew that Scottsdale was home and I was going to stake my claim here, so to speak, and make my business grow, and have my family here, get it going. Once that had been kind of like, “This is the direction.” Then I knew that I had to build in some type of thing that would allow me to build some equity into something so that I had something at the end of 25 years of doing this to show for it. But again, back to the accidental success part of that, that was, again with some chagrin and maybe a bit of embarrassment, I tell these stories because these aren’t things that you want to necessarily do, but they actually happened—

Craig Willett:

Well, you may not admit to them either, but the nice thing is they happened, they happen to all of us.

Robert Koagedal:

They did, and at one point, someone had came to work on my credit card machine, and then somehow, the neighbor, for three months, got all my American Express money, and I was so not cognizant of my ins and outs in this—

Craig Willett:

You weren’t missing those deposits, apparently.

Robert Koagedal:

I was, but it was more like I was so focused on other things that those went by the wayside, but there was a point where I went, “What the heck happened here?” And because probably, I’m not the greatest saver and the greatest “how to use structure and do all these things the right way,” that was almost put in a bank account for me, I had no way to—

Craig Willett:

The forced savings.

Robert Koagedal:

The forced savings so to speak, and literally, that became the deposit I was able to get an SBA loan for in 2008. Well, one thing, I had a client who like you, was a CPA and a very successful man, and he had come in and six months before the crash in 2008, he told me what was going to happen. He worked in the building industry and knew Pulte Homes, and on the board of all these things, and he’s like, “Robert, I like you, you’re a good guy, I like what you do, but you have a cash business and when the shit hits the fan, you better get yourself ready.” And I was like, “What?”

Craig Willett:

“What do you mean?”

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, and he says, “Basically, in January, this is what’s going to happen.” And for all the reasons we now know that the stuff happened, and so I just wanted to build in something that secured something, and in 2008, I found a property that was the perfect location, perfect size, and I was able to get into that, so it’s been real fortunate.

Craig Willett:

I think it’s one of those things that you build a retirement because you can’t necessarily plan on selling your practice. There are some businesses that are easily sold, but—

Robert Koagedal:

No, and you’re right on point there because I’ve discovered, acupuncture businesses are not exactly sellable—saleable?—in the way that you imagine some other successful, like medical doctors sell, a lot of money, this doesn’t translate that way. You don’t get out of 20, 25 years, you don’t get what you put into it. So you better have something else planned.

Craig Willett:

Right, so there’s got to be more than just earning your living and supporting a family, there has to be assets that are growing.

Robert Koagedal:

Exactly. Yeah, so on some level, I mean, maybe it was even you on some level that got me thinking on those things, and I can’t go directly to my memory bank.

Craig Willett:

It was subliminal.

Robert Koagedal:

Subliminal, yeah.

Craig Willett:

I don’t know, I doubt it, I doubt it, I think you probably had a good mind and I think sometimes we just have instinct, and sometimes our instincts may serve us. We  may be embarrassed sometimes with the things we do, but we have to look at what our strengths are and you have to play to your strengths. I think that’s one thing that you mentioned that you do when you market. You have to instill the confidence of your patients in you, and that’s what generates the referrals.

Robert Koagedal:

Totally, yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig Willett:

So tell me a little bit about the reproductive—I mean, you’ve got doctors referring you, what types of doctors and what have your experiences been? Because there’s a certain balance to life where we can get out of balance, and I look at Chinese medicine, or acupuncture as a balance issue—balancing out energy, balancing out flow.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, well, I think you’re right on that the principles of Chinese medicine are built around, obviously, those polarities of yin and yang, and that translated also to me—which maybe was a part of what I was thinking about—was always thinking about the balance between running a business and having family life. I think that’s a part of your podcast’s theme is on how do you do that? Maybe as an example, a friend of mine who started and runs two very busy clinics in LA, he decided that working on Saturdays was going to be good for business. But when you have kids that want to play baseball on Saturdays, it’s not so easy to take that time off when you’re seeing 30 patients a day and the income that brings to your business. So I on some level said, “I’m going to be here at these hours, and I’m going to structure it.” I’ve found that people respect those areas if they really want to come in, and they’ll find a way to do it.

Craig Willett:

I found the same thing, especially for me as a CPA during tax season. People want to come in after-hours late into the night, and I always managed that, “No, not on Saturdays or weekends, and only till a certain time in the evening.” Because I wanted to be home, be with the family.

Robert Koagedal:

Right, those aren’t easy things to do either. I could be open on Saturdays.

Craig Willett:

No, because you think, “Oh, I can get more people.”

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely, yeah.

Craig Willett:

But the real secret is, you don’t. You don’t necessarily succeed any more by working more hours, you tend to burn out and you tend to have other things. So isn’t that part of the secret, as you help people get their lives back in order and achieve some of their dreams, if they want to have a family and aren’t having success in conceiving children, how are you able to help them?

Robert Koagedal:

Well, on some level, that is where the rubber meets the road in the decisions that you make. For example, if I come in at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that means that on some level, I’m doing those health and wellness practices for myself that I would suggest to my patients if they’re stressed out, or not sleeping well, or have whatever issues. Being able to build that in has also, I think, helped me a lot in being able to avoid burnout and all those issues that come up with it. But on the side of the reproductive medicine component, that was really on some level, like a lot of these things, found me and maybe I can tie this back to the—

Craig Willett:

Accident theory?

Robert Koagedal:

—the accidental part of it, and maybe it’s not so accidental if you want to get more metaphysical but—

Craig Willett:

There’s the philosopher coming through.

Robert Koagedal:

The part of it where I had said, “Okay, no more mafia acupuncture clinics for me.” And I was in New York City, I was crossing the street in Union Square, and I just finished a chapter in the Huangdi Neijing, which is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, it’s the oldest medical book in the world. In the chapter I had just finished was an outline of the conversation between his chief physician, the Yellow Emperor’s physician, Qibo, and the Yellow Emperor, and in that conversation, they outline the seven-year life cycle transformation. So, women go through seven-year hormonal life cycle transformations. 7, 14—14, the dew of heaven arises—21, the wisdom come in, 28’s the height of your—So I’m standing in Union Square, I had just finished this chapter on seven-year life cycles and I’m standing there, this bus pulls right up in front of me and I read the sign on the side and the Public Health Department had done a public health announcement that says, “Past 35, a woman’s fertility drops by 50%.” And I’m like, “35? 7, 14, 21, 28, 35.”

 

Well, that’s statistically the mean average when endogenous sex hormones begin to drop, and we think of in this culture as 35 is reasonably young, but biologically speaking in terms of your reproduction, they are no longer at the same level as they were even a few years earlier. So there are these tipping points—and the Chinese observed this 3,000 years ago—and so I was there having just finished that chapter, and then I’m looking at that, and then as all this comes to be as per your—I met a guy not long ago—

Craig Willett:

How many times has this happened to you?

Robert Koagedal:

This has happened a few times.

Craig Willett:

Okay, one was in a bar, one was in Starbucks, and—

Robert Koagedal:

Yep, exactly, one was in Starbucks—well, I mean, yeah, so how do we account for these things, right?

Craig Willett:

Right.

Robert Koagedal:

If you’re planning everything, you know?

Craig Willett:

Right.

Robert Koagedal:

That guy started probably—I think he even says it on his website, “I have been doing it for 24 years specializing in reproductive medicine.” I met that guy who started a practice specializing in reproductive medicine.

Craig Willett:

In New York?

Robert Koagedal:

In New York, and at that same time, that same weekend, there was a woman. Her name’s Dr. Angela Wu, she runs probably the busiest acupuncture clinics on the West Coast for reproductive medicine. I went and took her class and I’m not kidding you, it wasn’t six months later, a study came out on the use of acupuncture in reproductive medicine where then my phone was ringing off the hook. That’s how I got Juicy going in New York, and I had that all kind of going, and Mary and I were even looking at staying there and getting a house somewhere, or going to Brooklyn or whatever. Then 9/11 happened, and 9/11, after that, we were like, “You know what? I think we need to head back, we’re not East Coast folks.” That wasn’t our place—

Craig Willett:

Right, you’re from California, it’s a whole different lifestyle.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, it’s a different lifestyle, different everything, and we had a great time in New York, but then we were looking for the place, “Where is the Shangri-La of starting a family, building a business?” And I went back to North Carolina, we did a car trip from San Diego to Vancouver, we looked at Oregon, we really looked, we knocked. And we’re sitting at my family’s home in Lake Tahoe, and a website, on realtor.com, and I saw a house and I was like, this is after looking at pieces of junk in the Bay Area that were $700,000, and I was like, “Wow, you get that house for that much?” We drove down the next day, we’ve basically been here ever since.

Craig Willett:

Wow, that’s amazing. I think what I love about what you’re sharing with us is that really, you can’t plan this stuff, and you have to go with what you know, you have to go with the opportunities that come your way, and I’ve always said this—in fact, I wrote a book, I never published it—“Opportunity Knocks”—and I think you have to look at—

Robert Koagedal:

I like that title.

Craig Willett:

You have to be able to look at where those opportunities are coming from and spot them, but you have to be looking and that’s what you did, they hit you on the side of the head—

Robert Koagedal:

How do you take that, Craig? What is the meaning of that, if we’re not planning, what is it inside of us that intuits, feels, senses, cognizes, and is able to move on and act on that?

Craig Willett:

It’s a need, right?

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah.

Craig Willett:

You were without, you were kicked out of the clinic by the FBI, and you’re trying to figure out, “I’m trying to make it in this world of not very many people succeed in my profession, so how am I going to specialize?” I think you become aware of that, you were reading, you were doing what you always do to advance yourself, and ideas come. Some stand out, and that’s what I believe. I think there’s a certain intuitive nature to us that—we can call it inspiration, and that inspiration comes in many different ways. Why did that chapter stand out to you over—I don’t know how thick that book is—and how did that coincide with meeting the people you met?

Robert Koagedal:

But I mean, as far as business stuff, how do we listen to that, hear that, and then act on it irrespective of, “I have my plan, here’s the plan.”

Craig Willett:

Well, the plan gets in the way, I can tell you that.

Robert Koagedal:

Exactly, and you go left instead of right.

Craig Willett:

The plan or we live in a world where I think we spell business the same way you could spell busyness, and that is we get so busy, we block that out. I think part of your philosophical background may have led you to that, but I think for our audience if there are those of us who tend to want to check things off on our planner and on our list, but sometimes there’s a benefit to stepping back and being able to observe what’s going on around you, and I think you’ve done that well, which is one of the reasons you’re sitting in the chair you’re sitting in today.

Robert Koagedal:

Well, yeah, well maybe yeah, that may be an instinct in me, but for your listeners then, yeah, what does that mean for them to step back? What is the stepping back move, psychologically? What does that mean to simply witness, and maybe relax a little, as opposed to trying to put—what is it? A square in a round hole, you know?

Craig Willett:

Yeah, well, that’s true, but I think part of it is, we have a Biz Sherpa scorecard, and part of it, I try to get people that I consult with to look back and say, “Where am I spending my time, and am I spending time at the things—at least 80% of my time—at the things that make the biggest difference and impact on the lives of my customers or my patients?” If I can do that, then all the other busyness stuff, the other day-to-day really falls by the wayside. I’m able to focus on those things that make the biggest difference and changes in lives because I’m sure your success stories are great motivation to you, more than what you can charge someone for your procedures, it’s got to bring a lot of joy because I’ve been in your office. I see the pictures in the book of the people who got treated by you and now are having families. What’s that feel like to you? Because to answer your question, I’d like you to answer it because I think there’s a satisfaction that comes.

Robert Koagedal:

Well, there is indeed, and I’d say what your intention is, that is what you want to create—what you’re looking to create, and if that is that on some level, someone who comes in who’s suffering and you are able to provide information that allows them to move forward to move to the highest level of their function, that ties together the key principle within Chinese medicine which when I heard it, I said, “I’m in the right place.” Because it’s a really interesting concept, but the number one thing for—what the practitioner of acupuncture, Chinese medicine is to do is what’s called nourishing destiny. That is if on some level, people don’t feel an alignment with what they are doing in this world, they’ll suffer, they’ll have some type of block, whatever you want to put it.

 

So the highest practice of Chinese medicine is on some level, helping them become aligned with that so that they feel simpatico with something natural inside of them that they want to move forward on.

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting. So, I think that’s great advice, I think you just gave it right there, we have to step back and feel what’s natural. What are my talents? What are my skills? If I’m not an accountant, why am I trying to do the books in my business? If I’m good at sales, I should be selling, I should be meeting with my customers, not sitting in the back accounting for what came in and what’s going out the door. I think that’s that alignment we all have to find, and I think that takes getting to know what your strengths are. So how do you recommend to business owners, being one, to keep that healthy life balance?

Robert Koagedal:

Well, a lot of it is you’ve got to play around to see what’s going to work for you, and maybe some people are more ambitious in ways that they do better by going crazy and working it out and doing it, and this is nothing against that, it’s only to the degree that then you’re getting feedback that you’re getting high blood pressure, or you’re not sleeping well and all of those things. Those are pretty clear cut signals that that’s out of balance.

Craig Willett:

I think I heard at one time from Carol. In addition to my CPA practice and doing real estate development, I was asked to testify in Congress in Washington DC, and was put on a number of boards and Carol said to me, “Our kids are going to grow up really quickly, and they’re not going to know who their dad is.” I think that comment right there made me step back. It caused me to step back and look, “Where am I spending my time? And where does this lead?” It may give me some kudos professionally, but at some point, we have to define our own success, not what the world or other people would define us as.

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely, you literally just pulled the quote out of the thing I was thinking about, I have to pull this one out because this is a patient of mine who sent this to me this morning.

Craig Willett:

Really?

Robert Koagedal:

I wrote it down just because I was like, “Oh, it was really, really good.”

Craig Willett:

Oh, I want to hear that then.

Robert Koagedal:

“The most destructive thing I’ve ever done is believing someone else’s opinion of me.”

Craig Willett:

Wow, and I think that’s right, we have to know and we have to set our boundaries, and it’s the same thing. How do we define success? You asked the question how do you know if you’re on track, and I think you have to set a number. You had a friend you gave the example of in California, running two clinics and working on nights and weekends. Sometimes I think it’s this matter of saying, “All right, I can control my expenses, and I can, to some degree, control my income, and so I just need to figure out what’s the formula that brings me what I need sufficient for what my needs are and allow me to build a retirement and experience success or happiness.”

Robert Koagedal:

Where’s the sweet spot? Yep.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, and I think sometimes, we get clouded because the world would define success as more.

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely. Well, again, then you have to, on some level, know what your values are and if you accept the world’s values, that might be not a great idea.

Craig Willett:

Right because what is more? There’s always somebody who will have more. I always say there’s somebody who’s smarter, somebody who’s brighter, somebody with more money, if you’re measuring against somebody else, there’s always going to be somebody with more than you. I think it’s one of the problems we have in society today, we report earnings and it has to be an increase in sales, are they growing the business? What’s wrong with maintaining the business to some degree?

Robert Koagedal:

Well, yeah, you’re not going to get hired with that if you’re looking for a corporate job, but—

Craig Willett:

No, definitely not.

Robert Koagedal:

But yeah, that would be sanity, yeah, uh-huh (affirmative).

Craig Willett:

Now, you also mentioned that people need to find the way to take away the destructive, or the blocking in their lives. What role does acupuncture play in helping stress relief and helping find energy?

Robert Koagedal:

That’s a good question. First, let’s start so that your guests listening don’t think this is any kind of woo-woo way of understanding when we use the term energy, because what do we call a body with no energy?

Craig Willett:

Dead.

Robert Koagedal:

It’s called a cadaver, yeah, exactly. So, when you understand biologically that you as an animated living being—what I fancifully called a biodegradable space-time suit—that you have 17 trillion batteries, which we call your mitochondria. It moves through the electricity through the fascial matrix within your body, and acupuncture is a tool—and I think specifically to your question you’re asking about kind of balancing out the nervous system, is that what you’re asking about?

Craig Willett:

Yeah, yeah.

Robert Koagedal:

With energy, right?

Craig Willett:

Energy, yeah, depression, or lack of energy or stress, overload.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, so when you look at this from the point of really physics and evaluate that when we say we have lots of energy, we feel good, we have clear thinking, good appetite, all the different things that we call having energy, those generally translate into quality of health and quality of life. When that starts to become depleted—and especially you could say that one of the places that uncorks how much you can hold a charge in your cells is stress. So the perception of threat on some level, when people walk around with that—either due to a variety of issues, perceived or real, the majority of them are in this case, perceived. They’re kind of structures in the mind in which we perceive and anticipate events that are threatening—

Craig Willett:

Right, I’m my own worst enemy, I project into the future bad things and so—

Robert Koagedal:

All the anticipatory fear thinking, and I’d say that’s a habit that on some level is built-in in how we literally train our children, and how we go through the education system. So I think acupuncture then is a fantastic tool that helps do two things. Both as I appreciate and bring to the experience of an acupuncture visit, is really teaching people how to learn how to not follow the habit of anticipatory or fear thinking, and how to learn to have more meditative capacity for surrendering to the unknown and being capable of being in the present moment to the degree that they can really move from there into their life’s experience, as opposed to being in the spinning of their fear thinking. Acupuncture as a physical tool helps facilitate greater communication throughout all systems, but acts on a system called the pregnenolone steal effect, does that sound familiar?

Craig Willett:

That’s a long statement, help describe that.

Robert Koagedal:

The conversion of basically adrenaline and cortisol. If you run on adrenaline and cortisol, you systematically shrink blood vessels throughout the entire venous system and obviously, this organ right here requires a lot of oxygen. Now, you do that long enough and you will end up going to see the cardiovascular physician. And so for people who are running on chronic stress, acupuncture acts as a tool to mitigate that so that you actually convert your adrenaline and cortisol to become your endogenous sex hormones. So this is another avenue through which both the stress of infertility affects these things, but overall, quality of life is depleted dramatically when people are in a constant state of anxiety and perceived threat.

Craig Willett:

I think we all have moments like that in our life, and so it’s being able to identify those moments to either call and get help, or find ways to be able to turn that off and become more present—

Robert Koagedal:

What’s the point if you have more and you’re stressed out and not sleeping? I mean, so, to be successful then ultimately is finding the mindset that can appreciate the beauty of what’s right in front of you, and if that’s not available to you, I can guarantee you, it’s not going to happen because you have more.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, so I’m curious as to this whole idea of depletion and being stressed out. If you’re treating patients with stage IV cancer, for instance, what do you learn from them? Because I’m sure they’re going to be spending some time with you, and some of them—you have a good manner about you—I’m sure they start talking about things that are important to them?

Robert Koagedal:

You bet, yeah.

Craig Willett:

What are some of the things you’ve learned from some of your patients? Because I admire you, you’re in a key position to hear some really insightful moments. I had a friend that had cancer and he was able to be brutally honest with me about a lot of things in his life, and I learned a lot. It was one of the most educational processes, I became his friend for the year and a half that he had left in his life.

Robert Koagedal:

Yep. Well, the first thing that you learn is everyone has a story and appreciating that they aren’t cancer in that sense, that they are a living being with a story, and when you behave and respond to them in that moment like that, cancer doesn’t exist. It’s there, obviously, and we’re there to help biologically and help to treat that and do all those things, but when you’re just in conversation with someone and you get to hear their fears or their worries, or concerns, or even get to hear their amazing story of their life, of the things they’ve done in organic farming from people who have been in Vietnam—

Craig Willett:

Oh really?

Robert Koagedal:

Oh yeah, just memories pop up and I can tell you of just people who tell me, and you get to be privileged to actually hear their story, and again, with all the hope that I have that what we do is going to be helpful in the context of the treatments they are receiving for them to live healthier, longer, or get the benefit from those things. This isn’t just about them telling me their story, but in that sense, it’s a privilege. And I think I’ve learned to listen more than anything else to just anything that they want to tell me that they find. You get to see some amazing people, and some people that struggle, some people that are afraid or in pain, and all that stuff.

Craig Willett:

Right, so how do you do that? I mean, I think one of the successes for business owners is building relationships, whether that’s your referral network right at the beginning with your patients or your clients. But how do you establish that rapport?

Robert Koagedal:

I think the first part of it is listening, and the rapport that someone recognizes that I’m not thinking about something else when I’m about to do acupuncture with them, you know?

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting, my wife always tells stories about—she can tell whether she’s going to have an interaction with someone or not if they’re reaching out to shake her hand and they’re looking for the next person to talk to.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, “Oh, hi.” Politician style, or whatever it is.

Craig Willett:

Right.

Robert Koagedal:

On some level, the only thing we have that’s free as human beings is our attention, and can you place your attention in the moment in a way that you welcome the other person’s presence? And if you can do that, on some level that’s a mutuality, it’s an exchange where people instantly know, “Okay, I’m here.” As opposed to, “I have to be here, I have to do that, I’ve got other things to do.” I’m not saying I don’t get busy and get distracted on occasion, but if you can deliver on that in terms of just—if this is for acupuncture students listening out there—that can be one tool you can use is learn how to not be addicted to your thinking, but just practice being in your body and learning how to use your breath as a way to enter into the present moment so you can just be there.

Craig Willett:

But I think that’s with anybody in any business.

Robert Koagedal:

Absolutely, across the board.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, I think if you sense that someone’s more concerned about what they’re getting out of it, you’re less likely to do business with them. So when you’re genuine and you’re real, they can be genuine and real too, then you understand the need and then you can fulfill that need. Because that’s the basis of exchange. Somebody comes to you when you have a business, whether your business is healthcare or your business is selling suits, if they have a need they come to you to fulfill that need, and if you’re better able to understand that need, you’re going to find something that delivers greater satisfaction to them. Then it doesn’t become about price, it doesn’t become about the transaction, it becomes about the interaction.

Robert Koagedal:

Sorry, you triggered a memory, now you’ve drawn me back to the Bronx there and it just made me laugh. When I was in the Bronx, this guy would come by, literally, a truck would pull up, in the back this guy would hop off, he’d go, “Suits, we got suits for sale.” This guy would come into the middle of the clinic with the suits and they’re like, “Where’d those come from?”, “They fell off a truck somewhere, we’ve got suits.” I bought one, I bought one.

Craig Willett:

You bought one, do you still have it.

Robert Koagedal:

I was Trump for Halloween last night with that suit.

Craig Willett:

With that suit?

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, I was a good 20, 25 pounds heavier back in New York, eating lots of bagels. So yeah, I still have that suit that I bought off the rack of the back of a truck in the Bronx.

Craig Willett:

That’s pretty funny, I think that’s great. Hey, I’m interested to know because I know you personally and I think this is kind of part of this. What I’ve seen as I’ve interviewed people on this podcast is that a lot of them come back to becoming friends with the people they do business with and their patients, and their clients. While that has its boundaries, you practice something in your personal life and I think it translates to doing that and that is I’ve noticed that you take family vacations, and what role does that play in keeping balance?

Robert Koagedal:

Oh, well, one, you need to go on vacation, and two, you can’t leave the kids behind to take care of themselves.

Craig Willett:

“Hey, watch the dog, we’ll be back.”

Robert Koagedal:

Exactly, “Watch the dog, and try not to get in trouble.” Yeah, I mean, it’s fun, we’ve come up with some good family vacations that we’ve enjoyed over the years, some of them have become traditions, and I’d say planning for those are things I look forward to, the fall break here in Arizona to get out and go to California is one of our favorites because the weather’s so beautiful. So we have a good time finding time to go share some time with the kids and stuff.

Craig Willett:

I also noticed—I mean, as we’ve visited through the years, as you’ve treated me you’ve talked about golfing with your son, the different sports, basketball, what’s that like? How important is that and what role does that play for you?

Robert Koagedal:

Craig, I think on some level I don’t fully appreciate that I have it pretty good in terms of when you point these things back out to me I go, “Yeah, that’s pretty good that I can go on a Wednesday if I’m done at 2:00 and we can go play the back nine at the TPC.” Or that those things are available to us, and I hope I don’t take it for granted but those are things that I’ve tried to build in to being able to make that my priority.

Craig Willett:

I think that’s important because a lot of times, people say, “Hey, I started a business so I can have all this free time.”

Robert Koagedal:

Well, yeah, exactly and, “I’m going to spend 20 years struggling to get to where I have enough money so I can have the free time.”

Craig Willett:

Exactly right, but you have to build that in because you can’t—

Robert Koagedal:

I think so. I think it is kind of—you have to on some level—and again, people sometimes, they can’t leave their office, so I get it, I don’t want to sound like some ignorant acupuncturist.

Craig Willett:

Right, but maybe there’s some things they can change so they can leave their office.

Robert Koagedal:

Maybe, and again, I’ve never worked in corporate life so maybe I can’t even comment on how—

Craig Willett:

No, no, no, this is about entrepreneurship, and so I’m trying to get the people out of corporate life to be able to accidentally succeed.

Robert Koagedal:

Then to hell with the corporate, if you work at a corporation, get the hell out of there because you ain’t going anywhere, and if you think your money at the end of the golden rainbow is going to save you—no, you’ve got to enjoy it now. If you’re not able to enjoy it now, you’re not going to enjoy it then. Again, building in those things are really reflections of your values, and if you can start to put those into practice—it’s not practice, it’s just life. I want to play golf on 2:00 on a Wednesday with my son.

Craig Willett:

Right, and look forward to that.

Robert Koagedal:

Or 3:00 I guess, school ends at 2:35 or something.

Craig Willett:

Right, but do you see, those things you have to build in and I think that’s part of the balance, and you have to be intentional—

Robert Koagedal:

I might not have done that when I was starting out.

Craig Willett:

No, the first two or three years, probably not.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, exactly, and you use your house as a bank account so you can pay your rent.

Craig Willett:

Right, yeah, there you go.

Robert Koagedal:

Also, not good business practices.

Craig Willett:

But I had a guy tell me when I was working for another CPA firm, I went to deliver his tax return to him and when I came out to talk to him—I don’t know why he shared this story—he goes, “I used to be a CPA.” I gave him his tax return and he said, “When I started my practice 30 years ago, 35 years ago,” he said, “I went to get a loan to get a line of credit so that I could make sure I had enough to cover the expenses in the first couple of years. So I gave my pro forma business plan to the banker and the banker a few days later, I stopped in,” and he said, “the banker told me, ‘No, I’m not going to approve your loan.'” And he said, “Do you mind if I ask why?” He goes, ‘Yeah, I don’t see anything budgeted for vacation. I am not going to lend to you if you’re going to burn out.'”

Robert Koagedal:

That’s pretty good, wow.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, and so for me, that stuck in my mind, and so I think you’re right, you have to plan for that and you have to allow for that, you allow for it in your pricing, you allow for it in your hours, you allow for it in other ways that can afford you those opportunities, because it does. Business ownership offers great freedom. But you don’t have one boss, you have how many patients? 3,000 patients are all of a sudden your boss, and so you have to be responsive to that. Well, what are some of the things that you do that help you sharpen your focus?

Robert Koagedal:

Some of the things that help me—well, the last year has not been the greatest with all this stuff going on.

Craig Willett:

A lot of distraction.

Robert Koagedal:

A lot of distractions, and a lot of things that again, when this all kind of came about, and I got an email from my brother that, “2.5 million people are going to be dead and you better close your practice, and you can’t see anybody.” When the Oxford epidemiologist came out with all of that, I’m like, “Oh my god, this might be the end of my business.” I mean, I’m a cash business and I’m one-on-one with people, and if that’s not going to be allowable, and if I’m considered to be non-essential,” which I wasn’t, fortunately, “this could put at risk everything I’ve built.” And another point at which—

Craig Willett:

That’s an awakening moment.

Robert Koagedal:

Awakening moment, and—I’m sorry, tell me again, what was your question?

Craig Willett:

Well, I’m just trying to say how do you sharpen your focus?

Robert Koagedal:

Oh, sharpen your focus. Well, I think sometimes you just double down and work with what was succeeding, but I mean, on some level, there’s luck involved too—

Craig Willett:

Plus the whole accidental success.

Robert Koagedal:

I mean, what if I had been deemed non-essential, they close your business, you can’t be open at that point, you put yourself in legal positions, and the fact that I was able to stay open, even though it slowed down—I was probably 60, 70% down—I guess you just go back to maintaining that sense of being hungry and wanting to keep building something and not going to let go of it. So there’s a degree of tenacity I guess in that, and I feel on some level I’m still as hungry as when I jumped into this, maybe even more so, and—

Craig Willett:

And what is that hunger for? Is that hunger for financial success or is there something more to it?

Robert Koagedal:

No, again, I think you and I have mentioned this, you can’t put the cart in front of the horse, and if your motivation is that you want to make money, you can only be successful, in my opinion, relative to being interested in what it is you’re doing—

Craig Willett:

Right, which is making money.

Robert Koagedal:

—that then leads to that coming in. And in our culture, we teach kids that they need to get a job that allows them to make lots of money even if it’s some crappy job that you’re not suited for and isn’t really something that you enjoy. I don’t know about you, but maybe death is a good teacher, maybe death is a good focuser. Maybe it’s that I remember that this biodegradable space-time suit isn’t going to be here. If you want to be around stage IV cancer patients, they certainly do teach you that. That they were perfectly fine at 46 years old, guy coming in and this is now four months later who had stomach pain, he has three kids, living his life, went into urgent care, they said, “You have cancer everywhere in your body.” He’s already passed, so that’s one way to sharpen your focus.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, my mother was killed in a car accident at a fairly young age and so, you don’t know when that’s going to come, so I guess that helps sharpen your focus. But I think one thing that you said is it can’t be all in the financial results, there has to be an exchange on a personal level that takes place, that gives you some emotional reward for what you’re doing. I think it’s fair to say in healthcare, maybe that’s more realizable, but I think it’s translatable totally across the board in any business. I think that’s what we should be shooting for, and as we do that, and I think you embody that, I think that’s one of the great strengths to being in business is you get to have that emotional reward for owning that business that made a difference in somebody’s life.

Robert Koagedal:

It’s a great lesson.

Craig Willett:

You can do that as an employee too, so I’m not going to totally knock the whole corporate world.

Robert Koagedal:

You can, you can, and how you’re being of service in ways above and beyond what you do for work, necessarily, but in ways that are in your community and other things too. I have amazing patients that show me things all the time and they do really cool stuff.

Craig Willett:

Oh, that’s pretty neat. Well, great, well, you can’t come to the Sherpa’s Cave and not leave without having answered one really important question with a follow-up and that is, what is your greatest failure?

Robert Koagedal:

Greatest failure? Well, I’ve had lots of small failures, but I’d say one that was challenging was after finishing school, I made a concerted effort to try to make it back to California. And part of what was unique in California is you actually had to take a separate test from the national test, which gave you access to practicing basically anywhere in the US. But California had its own licensing exam, and for me to go back to—

Craig Willett:

Not surprising.

Robert Koagedal:

Exactly. For me to make it back to California, I had to go take that, and did my thing and studied for it, and went in and failed the first one and missed it by two questions.

Craig Willett:

Oh, wow, painful.

Robert Koagedal:

This is after having spent $80,000 and now I have loans coming up and now I’m supposed to be a practicing master acupuncturist and now I’m waiting tables again just trying to make a living, living at my in-law’s house, and really then gearing up to go do it again. I go back again, and I failed it again by two questions, and then at that point, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do here.”

Craig Willett:

Sometimes there’s divine destiny, but I’m not saying going to work for the mafia is the answer.

Robert Koagedal:

There you go, so it felt like putting, again, what is it? The square peg into the circle, and banging my head against it where then I had to surrender that that wasn’t maybe in my future in ways that were kind of difficult because my kids haven’t grown up with their grandparents and that sort of thing. So there were definitely sacrifices that came with that, but on some level, that was definitely a struggle for a while until something kind of came on and I saw—this was in the newspapers when people read newspapers, a thing where, “Come work for the mafia at this clinic and we’ll pay you $50 an hour.” “Shut case, I’m out of here.” So yeah, and my best friend had moved there so a lot of things worked out afterwards.

Craig Willett:

So what did you learn from that?

Robert Koagedal:

I think on some level—you can take it kind of two ways, there are other ways where sometimes you’ve got to keep banging, sometimes you’ve got to go take it a third time, and sometimes maybe that is part of your—if you felt that and if you were into that, and you go take it a third time until you damn well conquer that thing. Maybe I feel like I still, I just didn’t do it or I gave up, but on some level—

Craig Willett:

But you can’t second guess that.

Robert Koagedal:

I can’t second guess that now, but it worked out. But I’m blessed that some of these things that have been failures on the surface turned out to be things that played out for me in ways that I’m grateful for.

Craig Willett:

There we go. There it is, the true lesson of life, the accidental success.

Robert Koagedal:

Yeah, absolutely.

Craig Willett:

Your career, you ended up in an area—I would say Scottsdale’s a great area for what you do.

Robert Koagedal:

Fantastic, yeah.

Craig Willett:

And great for family time compared to California, maybe the grandparents might be a little farther away. 

Robert Koagedal:

All our friends there, they generally work two jobs, they both come home at 6:00. It’s one of those things, to build a life here, we’ve been very blessed, Arizona is our home and Scottsdale’s been a real blessing for us too.

Craig Willett:

That’s great. Well, I love your stories, I think they’re great and I think it’s a great demonstration that if you care about people and you have a passion for what you do, that no matter how many times we may stumble, that we kind of find our way and that there is a destiny for us and we just need to find that. Sometimes, we fight against it, but oftentimes if we go with the flow, the accidents lead to greater success, and I appreciate you being here today, Robert. Thanks for taking the time to come in and be our guest.

Robert Koagedal:

My pleasure, I really enjoyed it, nice talking to you.

Craig Willett:

This has been great. This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa, thanks for joining us today.

Speaker 1:

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