Death of a salesman

Written by Rick Spence

Corey Rudl was one of the first Canadians to figure out the Internet.

A former teen motocross champion from Ottawa, in 1994 Rudl wrote a book called Car Secrets Revealed to help consumers save money on vehicles, repairs and car insurance. When the book didn’t sell, Rudl turned to the Internet to market it.

Rudl was a pioneer of long, long online ads that used a chatty, personal style, short paragraphs, yellow highlighting and endless testimonials. He offered multiple benefits that were always specific and compelling: “How to talk your way out of almost any traffic ticket,” “19 techniques to reduce your car insurance by up to 50%” and “How to get 20% to 40% off every auto part for the rest of your life.”

Within nine months, Rudl had made US$140,000 on his book — and the former University of Western Ontario business student had a new career.

In 1996, Rudl founded the Vancouver-based Internet Marketing Center to sell $200 courses to online entrepreneurs. As he honed his craft, Rudl excelled in affiliate sales (getting other websites to sell his products), bonus giveaways and marketing through free e-newsletters. In nine years, IMC became one of the biggest brands in Internet marketing, going from one employee to 50, and generating sales of about US$6.6 million a year.

And then, three months ago, Corey Rudl died.

On June 2, Rudl was killed in a high-speed car crash at a California speedway. He and Benjamin Miles Keaton died when the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that Keaton was driving veered off the track. Rudl was 34 years old.

IMC received more than 17,000 messages of condolence. In mid-June, Rudl’s right-hand man, Derek Gehl, stepped up to the plate and announced the company would continue its mission.

Like Rudl, who avoided the business press, Gehl declined to speak to PROFIT. But he agreed to let us excerpt an essay he wrote on five key lessons he learned from Corey Rudl. It’s a masterful summary of entrepreneurial best practices.

LESSON #1: Failure doesn’t “happen”; it’s a choice.

In Corey’s mind, there were only two ways you could “fail.” You could give up and quit; or, you could decide not to learn from your mistakes. Corey believed failure was a choice. So Corey never failed.

He tested new ideas. He learned from what worked and what didn’t. Then, he applied those lessons to his next test or idea, and he kept doing this until he got results he was satisfied with.

LESSON #2: Assume nothing, test everything.

Corey had zero respect for people who were content to assume. To him, it was a mark of laziness. So something everyone quickly learned when working with him was to deal in nothing but the facts.

If Corey asked a question, and you didn’t know the answer, it was one thousand times better to say, “I’ll look into it and get back to you,” than “I think this might be the answer” or “I assume this is right.”

LESSON #3: Create opportunities to learn, and take notes.

Corey read every business book, article, course and marketing campaign he could get his hands on. He made tons of notes about everything he read and kept all his thoughts in “master project documents” that he’d refer back to every month, looking for new ideas.

Corey knew that genius doesn’t just happen — you need to look for opportunities to learn, and keep track of your thoughts. Your best ideas will frequently be sparked by new information, or new approaches to old information.

LESSON #4: Seek out great teachers, and be a great listener.

Corey made a point of seeking out teachers and mentors and asking their advice.

Corey was always asking people around him for feedback. What mistakes was he making? How could he improve as a leader? As a marketer? How could he be a better public speaker?

It takes guts to ask for feedback. But it takes wisdom to listen and learn from it.

LESSON #5: Define your own success and live with passion.

Corey’s biggest frustration was that so many of his clients and subscribers just let life “happen” to them. I can’t tell you how many times I heard him rant, “They have dreams… but they don’t set goals! Why don’t they set goals and take action?”

Success isn’t determined by genetics. It’s about persistent, consistent action.

You can learn more about Corey Rudl’s work at

© 2005 Rick Spence

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