Dean Renfro is CEO of Business Profits Academy, a coaching and consulting business designed to help small businesses generate more leads and make more profits. He is also a husband, father, pastor and grandfather and is passionate about helping individuals and families capture their life stories, moments, precious memories and the share then with generations to come. These books are a labor of love from Dean’s own journey to capture some of the precious memories of his mom’s life when they learned she had Alzheimer’s. In this interview, Dean shares information about his new books and software system to preserve memories and your legacy.
Tami Patzer: Hi, this is Tami Patzer and my guest today is author Dean Renfro. Welcome Dean.
Dean Renfro: Tami, thanks for having me today, I really appreciate the opportunity to share with your listeners and with you this thing that kind of gets ahold of you in life and you realize this is too important to just let go of and not see something happen from it. I really appreciate getting to share today with you.
Tami Patzer: Good. Before we get into the books, let’s tell everybody a little bit about you and your background, because you do have quite the history. Let’s start with a little background about you, for example where do you live, and most of all why do you write?
Dean Renfro: I was born in the shadow of The Walls of the Texas prison in Huntsville, at that time the only prison in Texas that was called The Walls unit. Now it’s known for its infamous place of where they deal with hardened criminals. From there I’ve lived in small towns, big towns, big cities here in Texas and being involved in very different places. As far as Texas goes I’ve got a pretty big handle on the Texas culture which your listeners can probably tell “Yeah, that guy’s from Texas.” The funny thing is I had never been out of Texas until I was almost twenty years old. Sometimes people find that hard to believe, but they just don’t really realize how big Texas is that you can go a long way and not get out of Texas.
In the forty something years that I’ve been involved in small businesses, and pasturing in particular, and starting new churches which led to the necessity of being able to fund yourself, I’ve been a Jack of all trades. Several different businesses in different towns and places. It’s let me have that involvement. That led me to some journeys along the way where I realized there are things that are important that you need to pass onto people. There’s things you need to share with business people. There’s things that you learn that are valuable to other people. I began to realize the need to write. I’d known about the need to write ever since I got out of college and is one of those things where you stumble along and think “I need to do something about that, I need to write about that.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Finally one day it ran over me like a truck and I realized “I’ve got to start writing.”
Tami Patzer: Obviously something happened that made you realize it was time to start writing this stuff down. What was that moment?
Dean Renfro: Part of it I have to go back to seminary experience and being a part of the dean, the president staff and going around, going different places we would have conversations. He has several doctorates and he was always talking about dissertation, and research, and study, and how important that was. That birthed inside of me some things … “You know, I’ve got some things I need to say.” Then life gets busy and you have kids and you’re here, and you’re there, and we’re moving, and all those kind of things. As it began to move that toward that and I began to do ministry across the United States I begin to realize “I’ve got some things that I know and understand that other people don’t.” About the only way to really communicate that and to get an inside track with people when they don’t know you is to have a book. Some exposure to people like Dan Kennedy and Mike Koenigs, I began to realize that book concept is a ticket into people’s lives, and to people’s businesses, and opportunities that you can share with people because simply people don’t throw a book away. They might put it on the shelf and never read it again, but the fact that you’re an author creates a different kind of opportunities for you. Partly through personal growth, exposure to some people who were prolific writers who were successful prolific writers. I lost track of how many books Dan Kennedy has, but he’s written about all kinds of things. It’s a totally different niche, but just the exposure to the fact that you’re walking around all the time with all this experience, and knowledge, and information that you’re encountering that if you don’t put it into something like a book it’s going to get away from you.
That sparked the whole idea and then six years ago when my mom was ill. Back in the late nineties, early two thousand when my grandmother had died, my mom’s mom died, she was in her nineties. I realized, I began to think about then going “A lot of history, and life experience, and personal stories just left, just left this earth. Yeah my mom knows them, and my aunt knows them, and my uncles know them.” First thing you know two of my uncles die and then my aunt dies and then I realizes mom’s it. Mom is the story that’s left and we better do something. Then we discover she has Alzheimer’s, and so then it began to be a scramble. How do I take what mom has and the stories mom has and move them into something that’s more permanent to share with my kids and grandkids. Of course part of that came about because of us living all over Texas we weren’t living next door to grandma. Some of those stories will have to come through me to get to my kids. That began the “We better do something here” big why thing of why we’re going to write now.
Tami Patzer: You were really inspired by the fact that you saw the fact that your mother was the last of the long line of the story keepers, or tellers of the stories, and if you didn’t figure out a way to capture that the stories would disappear unless you had them. You have two books that you’ve recently published. What the titles of those and then you can describe what those books are?
Dean Renfro: These two books are totally different. I have a business book that I wrote, but these books are totally different. These are a labor of love, a passion experience that had led to that. The first book that we put out and made the best seller is they all have long names. I got that from the Dan Kennedy thing. Say what you’re going to say in the title of the book if you can do it. The first one is “The Official Nana and PawPaw Memory Making Starter Guide”. Then the second book is “The Official Making Memory Starter Guide For” and in this case it’s moms.
Tami Patzer: What exactly is in the book, and if I want to capture my family stories, give me an idea how the books will help me.
Dean Renfro: Out of my inexperience I would talk about “I need to write that down”, or “I need to record that”, or “I need to remember that and I need to make sure this happens and that happens.” I realized as most people who start writing, or at least many people who write and then start to write, there’s this huge blankness just like I had just a moment ago come over you and like “What am I going to write about and how do I do that?” They look at the blank paper, or in this case even a blank screen and they never get anything down. The look at their phone and they know “I could do this on my phone” but they never do. The guide, The Making Memories Starter Guide is just that, it is a journal that is how you get started. What I did is we took fifty questions that people could ask, the interview approach of the newspaper reporter to give you an opportunity to start writing the answers down.
While the book is not prolific in stories and content, it is prolific in the opportunity to start writing these things down. It’s a journal based on a journal approach where you start writing them down and you answer the question which basically starts building a story for you. When you start asking the right questions you’ll start getting a story. The idea there is then to begin the story. Then in various parts throughout the book we talk about “here’s the way to help you continue to story to the generations to come.” The simple concept of now every smartphone has a camera and a recorder on it so turn the camera on and the recorder on and talk to your future audience. Whether it be your kids, or your grandkids, or your great grandkids, or even generations to come that aren’t born yet, introduce yourself, tell your story.
That’s how the book is designed to give you a way to get started, answer questions, and then we have things in there like “Talk about mistakes that you made in life, or tips that you would have, or traditions that your family practices, or things you want to make sure that people know about. Things like medical history.” We discovered from my grandmother and her going into the latter years of her life that she carried this certain trait in her blood. Of course led us to some things to realize what is that? Then we found out I was a carrier of it, and that one of kids is a carrier of it, which is fine until they marry somebody else that has the same trait and then their kids would have terrible deformities. We realize “Oh okay, our kids need to know about that.” That’s one of those stories had that not happened, some terrible things could’ve happened to my grandkids had that not happened.
That’s the idea, and then of course favorite things that your parents have. In the grandparents one, and of course it’s a lot of stories about values, and tradition, and talk about things that nobody else would know about. Tell some stories on your grandparents and parents, get back at them, that your kids and grandkids would need that they would never know because they’ve never met these people. Like in my case my kids never got to meet my grandmother on either side of the family. There’s stories I tell that I’m going to tell my kids and grandkids that that’s the only way they’re going to know about them. Then the mom’s book is the design on the same idea with different sets of questions. There’s a lot of things we talk about, intuition that you had, and things you thought about your kid, what makes a kid special. Moms love all their kids, but each kids got their own endearment to their mother. One of our kids, our oldest kid, it took 19 hours of labor to get her into the world. My wife’s got a special story about all that, and I’ve got my special story about that and I constantly remind my daughter of the turmoil that I went through. Nothing like labor, but the turmoil. I remind her daughter “This is not going to happen to you.” Then our second child was an emergency C-section. He’s got his story that we tell about him and all the things about him and some things that happened at birth. Then our third child, he of course had to be a C-section, but he had a totally other issue when he was born but I had to snatch him up and fly him 300 miles to a specialty hospital leaving my wife behind. There’s all these stories, I don’t know whether they’re going to share those with their kids or grandkids or not, but I am because me and my wife are putting them in this book. That’s the idea, the gist of the book of how it helps people get started telling the story kind of a thing.
Tami Patzer: While I’m listening to you I’m thinking about my children and how each one of them has a story. My youngest son, I swear the kid has had a smile on his face since the day he was born. He’s just a happy person. I can really relate to that. Then as I listen I’m listening to you and your accent and how cool it would be a hundred years from now if your ancestors could hear you telling a story in your own voice and how they could hear the nuances, and the voice inflections, and the accent. I really like this concept of giving people a guide and the story prompts to get started so that you can leave this legacy to your children, grandchildren, and all those future generations. I really like that show on TV “Who Do You Think You Are?” Every now and then it might be a diary, or a signature, or legal records and that’s all they have to try to piece together their ancestors.
Just think of the power of this when you actually have real documentation in all of the media that we have available today. That’s really cool. Who do you think would really, really appreciate your books?
Dean Renfro: Given the environment in which we live, nothing’s private anymore. Yet there’s things I want to say to each one of my kids and at least to the grandkids that I have now, there’s special messages that I want to leave behind just for them. Things that I want to say to them, and I don’t want to put that out there in the world for everybody to make something out of, or read something into, or turn it into something else. We see that happen everyday on Facebook, social media, things get totally blown out of proportion. Part of this is a way for parents, grandparents to really be able to speak to the generations to come. Pretty much anybody that’s looking to leave behind their story in a particular way, I think it fits that audience. There’s some special people that I think this means a lot to.
People who discover, like in my case, their parents have Alzheimer’s. As a matter of fact I’ve learned just the other day of a friend who they found out their mom has symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I boxed up one of the books I just got, I packaged it up and sent it to him. Said “Let me tell you from experience, you need to get started.” People who have people who have diseases like that. Of course I’m all for them finding a cure, and maybe they will and they won’t need my book for that anymore. People who have a good friend whose sister died from cancer. People who have cancer victims, and especially when they find out it’s something incurable and their days are numbered and limited. This is an opportunity for them to sit down in a creative way and start saying “Let’s tell your story because we don’t want your story to get away.”
People who have kids, and I would encourage anybody that’s got younger kids … I have a friend that she lost two of her three kids to automobile accidents in their teenage years. The one sibling that’s left, there’s some stories that he doesn’t know because he was younger. If they adopt kids, “Who are these people that we keep hearing about?” Parents, you never know when something like that’s going to happen. I have some really good friends that we talked a little bit about in the book, the mom was killed because in the middle of the night a tornado hit their home and scattered their belongings over I don’t know how many acres. The boys that are left and the husband that are left, there’s not much story, there’s not much past. Like what you were saying a minute ago, all they have is we have bits and pieces of paper. Having a system where you’ve put this stuff down and got it together in a place. We don’t have our wedding pictures because we had all our wedding pictures in a box and we moved and when we moved one time we put them on the floor next to the wall to keep them safe. Little did we know the pipe int he wall would leak and leaked into the box and destroyed all the pictures. We got a few proofs of that. Those things happen. It’s a matter of saying “I want to preserve stuff.” I think everybody has an opportunity to do that.
The biggest thing I think for it Tami, is it’s a way to get started. I found that most people if they ever get started, they’re on their way. It’s kind of like “I don’t know how to get started.”
Tami Patzer: I think you’re absolutely right because like you said you give fifty questions, you give them idea starters. You give them an idea of where to start so they’re not sitting there looking at a blank page. I understand not only is this a book, but you give people access to some software that can help them really create a legacy with this so that they don’t have the box of photo situation where everything gets wrecked if the computer blows up or crashes. Or it’s on paper and something happens and there’s a hurricane. I live in Florida, there’s always that risk that some natural disaster can happen and your books, or papers, or whatever, or computer will be destroyed. What is this software? Tell me a little bit about that because that sounds really interesting.
Dean Renfro: Six years ago when I found about my mom’s Alzheimer’s situation I got on a quest to say “How do I make sure that my kids, and grandkids, and other people get access to people’s stories?” At that time QR codes had started making a big into the marketplace and people starting to use QR codes. In one of my businesses I was promoting mobile marketing and that QR code was a big deal. I realized “What if you take a QR code and you put it on a grave marker and people could take their phone and scan that and then a video file or an audio file came on and shared this person’s story?” I thought “That’s cool.” I talked to monument and grave marker companies in the United States. “Oh yeah, yeah, we could do that. We could even engrave it when we do their name. That can be done, that’s no problem, oh that’s cool.”
Of course back then most people would think six years ago … Everybody didn’t have a smartphone six years ago, for our listeners who don’t know about non smartphones. People still had flip phones and analog phones, there was an issue there, technology. Then the other issue was on the other end there was no easy way to get that from the phone, to a server to have access for it to read the QR code. All that hadn’t happened yet. I know it’s hard for some people at the moment to think “Oh man, we always had this.” We didn’t, even six years ago. I let the idea drop because it just seemed totally unfeasible. In that quest I had talked to some people about my idea and everybody “Oh yeah, this is a great idea.” Of course some people thought it was kind of weird that your ancestors could talk to you from the grave.
I said “Nah, I think it’d catch on.” The technology didn’t exist on either end. In the conversation both parties left that there. Eventually a man, a programmer had this similar situation happen to him with a friend who left behind envelopes in his home. Each envelope was separated out. He trusted his friend so he said “Make sure each one of these envelopes get to the appropriate person.” It hit him what we talked about in this whole thing of “Oh, wait a minute, I can do this digitally.” Of course by then The Cloud computer had come along and things were now a little safer and more secure. He set out on a quest to develop this system to create a digital, if you please, time capsule feature that you could put your digital download videos, documents that you scanned, all that kind of stuff, and then be able to direct them to the people that you wanted by of course giving them a password that they would have and then giving each person a set of trustees that would notify the company that you’d passed and then the time capsules would be dispersed.
That’s how that idea was born, we married our ideas here and part of my book not only gets you started but also “Here’s how you keep it alive forever.” You can put your stuff in your own cloud and that’s fine, but the problem is if people don’t know your passwords or don’t know that you’ve put them in the cloud then they’re still stuck. It’s like burying a treasure box but not giving anybody a map. Nobody ever knows they’re there until accidentally somebody finds them. This software gives you the capability of ten capsules that you can assign to people and you can put in what you want to. Then you have three trustees who you designate to notify this company when you’ve passed to say “They’ve passed” and they’ll then release those time capsules to people. You can edit them, update them, all that kind of thing so it keeps everything secure. It’s really built for this idea that we’re talking about.
Tami Patzer: Wow, that’s really cool. How can we get more information about your books and access to all this good information?
Dean Renfro: You can find out about my books at my website get the book, GetTheBook.DeanRenfroSays.com, that’s a hub page for the books I’m writing. Were going to release some more books built around these special niches of people with special questions for each one of those areas of interest as we have opportunity. I have connection to people that have cancer victims. I’m interiewing them to say “What questions do people need to answer about this, and veterans, and those kinds of things?” So that people know who are connected to those people how to get those stories out of them and put them into something like a book and a journal and then get them into some kind of time capsule system where they’re preserved for the generations to come. GetTheBook.DeanRenfroSays.com is where they can access that, and of course the book’s going to be accessed on Amazon.
You just type in my name Dean Renfro and I’ll come up as an author and you can find the books.
Tami Patzer: I can see how people could use these for a lot of different things, especially in the health arena when like you said in your experience sometimes we have genes or something that you need to know you have so that if you are going to have children with somebody you know the consequences in advance if you would some kind of problem.
Dean Renfro: Yeah, and even medical situations that maybe have been in your family. I know if you were to ask my kids “Tell us about your parent’s family history, health history.” It’d be like looking at a blank page and then go “My parents have never really ever been sick, I don’t think they have any issues.” There are a couple that their doctor would need to know about.
Tami Patzer: Yeah, most of us walk around and we’re fairly healthy until one day we’re not. I think it is important for us to have a plan, and this really does fall into the planning or pre planning stage. Then also the beauty of it is not only is it a useful tool, but it’s also a gift. A gift to the future and it leaves a legacy. I think that’s what I really get from it, the fact that I could leave a gift so that all of those children yet to come will know who I was and how much I cared about them even though they weren’t even here yet. That’s really a cool thing.
Dean Renfro: I appreciate the opportunity to share with you and your listeners. Again, a labor of love, covers a lot of things, and I just want to encourage people get the book, work the process. As I talk about one statement in the book is “A hundred years from now people will thank you that you did, because it’ll make that big of a difference in somebody’s life down the road.”
Dean says, “One hundred years from now, someone will be thankful that you took the time and expense to keep these memories alive. So do it. I promise you won’t regret it.”
To Learn More:
The OFFICIAL Nana and PawPaw Making Memories Starter Guide, and The OFFICIAL Making Memories Starter Guide For Moms