by Devyn Imholt
Derrick Butts is a motivational speaker, sales professional, master communicator, and CEO/founder of AssistU2Win. I had the pleasure of having a conversation with him about his life, his passions, and his professional experience.
Q: Can you tell me about growing up in Arlington? Who did you grow up around, what were your interests, and who were your influences?
A: My dad was in the military, the air force. My dad and my mother were married. I grew up with my older brother and sister, I’m the baby of the three. Arlington was the place where my Dad ended up retiring. I was in the seventh grade when we moved to Arlington, went to Bowls Junior High, and then to James Martin High School, Arlington Martin. I played sports all throughout my childhood. I was a baseball player then I converted over, in sixth grade, to basketball. I didn’t see a lot of black kids playing baseball, so my eighth-grade year was my last year playing baseball, and then I switched over to playing basketball. I won a lot of accolades in the basketball world, I was an All-State player here in Texas, also had plenty of college scholarship offers. I was the district MVP for 9-5A. One of my main influences at the time was inside of a youth ministry, his name was Scott Wilson. Scott inspired me so much to the place that I knew that I had some kind of call to speak and impact people’s lives with motivation, with my mouth, and with just speaking. I turned down lots of basketball scholarships to go into full-time ministry. I soon became the chaplain of South Eclipse High School. I started a Bible club with eight people and we had over 150 people come into that. Finished college, I planted a church at the end of my senior year called Chosen Generation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Pastored that church for 6-7 years. I transitioned out of that, went to education, and taught school for three years in Duncanville Independent School District at Akron Elementary, I taught fourth grade. From there, I taught school for three years. I wanted to make some more money and I got into sales. I saw an ad in the paper about auto sales, I never did it before but knew that I wanted to make additional money. They were advertising double the money that I made at the school district so I said ‘let me go do this.’ I did that, and within four months, I made more money than I did all year teaching. For about twenty years of my life, I’ve been inside of sales at AutoNation, I was one of the only African Americans in the DFW to be a general manager of a store. That’s kind of that. [laughing] I think I gave you a lot more than just the childhood.
Q: That was a great overview, though. From that, I have so many different questions. Let’s go back, first, so you said you started out with baseball and ended up with basketball, what positions did you play in both of those sports?
A: So, baseball, I was a shortstop and pitcher. In basketball, I was a point guard.
Q: You mentioned why you transferred over from baseball to basketball, that was a big decision to make at a young age. Can you speak to me about that decision?
A: At the time, here I am, we’re in an area where there were not that many African Americans. I’m getting those junior high things in my life, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade, so I’m trying to figure out who I am. And as I look back over that period, I realize that I didn’t love me. I had identity issues, I had self-esteem issues, but they were masked because I was a good athlete. I was always getting awards, I was always on All-Star teams, so no one knew those things, but I guess privately, I’m dealing with ‘who am I?’ I think that answering that question, I started to not feel as comfortable in places that didn’t look like me, so I gravitated to a sport that looked more like me. That’s where that shift happened for me at that time was. Mind you, my mom had cancer, so she had to go to San Antonio during that period. I played in a baseball game, I pitched the night before, we won, my coach decides that he’s going to pitch me in back-to-back games. We were playing a team called Weatherford. Anyone that knows the DFW area knows that its country, there’s nothing out there but land, farms, and cows. These kids were way bigger, they could hit the ball a lot farther, and that night my parents are in San Antonio with my mom going through that period, and I get rocked as a baseball player. I had so many homeruns hit against me, which was the final game of baseball for me. I don’t know if it was the fact that I got hit so hard that day or the whole fact of I wanted to go play a sport that looked more like me, but over the course of that, that was really the transition that got me over to basketball.
Q: That’s why I wanted you to speak to that, that seems like such a mature decision to make at that young age. That’s an awesome story to tell and experience to have. Let’s go back to basketball for a moment, you talked about how you were All-State and how you did all of these different things in Texas, a state that is known for producing basketball players, so obviously you were pretty good. I want to hear more about the decision to turn down these full-rides to play basketball in order to instead go and do what I truly want to do with my life. Once again, a very mature decision to make at such a turning point in your life.
A: So, I think, with having a brother and sister that were ten years older than me, that I grew up faster than most kids grew up. From the desire to be in older audiences, I think that I had an old soul at a young age. I was one of those players, when looking back, that was a good player in a great system versus being a great player on a good team. There’s a big difference there. I recognized that I played in a system around great players, my position allowed me to excel as long as I could help others excel. Getting the person the ball at the right spots, being able to play defense, being able to be a coach on the floor. Lots of these traits I still have today and its why I do what I do, but I think that I learned a lot of these traits early on. For me, I didn’t see this long-term future in sports because I knew that I needed a certain system in order to be successful in. I saw my life taking the principles of sports, being able to talk to it, speak around it, coach it, and then influence people because of it. I took that exit at an early age to do the thing I knew that I’ve known that was born to do, and that’s speak.
Q: You spoke about being influenced by someone that was in a youth ministry with you. Was religion always a part of you and your family’s lives growing up?
A: Oh yeah, 100% yeah. When you work up in the morning, you needed to be saying a prayer or reading a proverb of the day, and making your bed. That was part of your day-to-day, daily routine in my household. We were the Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night crew. If they had something during the week as well, we would be there for that. So yeah, religion, relationship with Christ was a big part of our lives then and still is a part of my life now. I think that we’ve found a different level of balance to it today, but growing up then, yes it was very heavy.
Q: So, you decided to go to the Southwestern Assemblies of God University and you got a Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Studies and Elementary Education. Obviously, growing up around religion, it meant a lot to you. I wonder, though, when did you realize that you had a passion for it, in terms of making it part of your future, career-wise?
A: Yeah, I think that happened junior year going into my senior year is when I solidified it. I had some glimpses when we were at youth camp, maybe, in my younger years but I think to solidify that, was my junior year going into my senior year. Scott Wilson allowed me to hang out with his family. At the time he only had one son, he has two more today, and just seeing how he moved, his energy on the stage, his impact that I know he made in my own life and in the lives of others, that was it. He was the introducer to me to John Maxwell. Being a senior in high school, I remember reading my first John Maxwell book to where, a lot of people today don’t know it, but John Maxwell had a club called the Injoy Life Club where you would get a tape a month from John Maxwell. That’s where the leadership portion of my world got developed, but never would have been a part of it if there wasn’t a Scott Wilson. Very interictal part. John Maxwell, of course, the guru of leadership today, I’ve read every book he’s written, I’ve been a part of his seminars, I’m actually a certified John Maxwell coach but that’s when that portion happened. End of my junior year, senior year. Of course, that’s happening at the same token I’m still trying to be the cool teenager so I’m going in and out of certain things as well. But, I knew at the party that this was going to be a part of my life so that’s when that happened to me.
Q: So, you began teaching and then you later launched your own church. I would like to hear about that process.
A: It was in September right there at our home in Duncanville. I was living at home, I didn’t go live on the campus, I lived at home and drove to the school. We started a church inside my parent’s house, I remember having 12 people show up. I start right there, I’m in school, I’m a sophomore in college and I just said ‘I’m called to do this.’ Now prior, too, there was a whole chaplain experience that I had at South Eclipse High School. I was like the liaison between Oakcliff assembly, 98% white church, and South Oakcliff High School, 98.9% black school. I’m the liaison between the community and this congregation. So, I then feel that they are starting a charter school, and this is where the separation, for me, came from me from the church, was that I believed, at the time, that they started a charter school to get dollars from the government to serve a group of people that the church couldn’t service. They ended up building a church in Red Oak, they kept the church in Oakcliff, but those dollars ended up building another charter school where all their kids went but it was these kids that ended up being repugnant, and at that point, I could not be a part of that ministry. So, I start my own church called Chosen Generation, twelve people in a home, and we just started. From there, I got granted a building, which was in the neighborhood where we lived, and we met at that building, we grew. And then I spoke at the chapel at my Assemblies of God school my senior year, and after speaking at that chapel service, one of the faculty members came to me and they had heard about me having a church, because a lot of the students would come. They, then, grant me a building in Lancaster and they gift the building to me, I don’t pay a dollar for it, we turn lights on, we pay the electricity, and we now have our own building. It was the Assemblies of God School’s building, we were kind of a non-denominational church but they allowed us to go in there. We start growing this church, right there in the community, impacting people’s lives there and that’s how that thing got off the ground.
Q: Wow, what an amazing story. I love the fact that you left something you didn’t want to be a part of and went and made your own way. Moving on, a little bit, I want to know about the transition process from teaching and working with your church to entering into the world of sales. I would assume that you were able to utilize your gift of speaking to help you succeed in this new position.
A: To this day, I’m not a car person, I’m a people person, and the success did come because I knew how to connect with people. When I got into sales, I got in, of course, with one desire and that was to make money. I did that. Speaking did help with that. Just being able to connect, I started to learn people. From learning people, I sold lots of cars, they moved me into management and I got the ability to close car deals and so I moved up the system pretty fast. I worked at a place for seven years and then I took some time off and this is where AssistU2Win started. It started with a small group again, just the way that the church did. A small group again, we called it ‘Winner’s Circle,’ I had six couples and we met twice a month inside of our home and it was then just talking about their goals and dreams. What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? What’s the passion of your heart that you had to put away just to make a living? And we just started talking around that. I led a group of people through six months to a year and some of them are still doing the businesses that they created during that time. During that period is kind of where AssistU2Win got birthed but I only knew how to just lead the talk but I didn’t know how to do business. Of course, I had some savings because of the career I had in sales. I took a different job with AutoNation, I started in finance and I moved up, they sent me to general manager school and I became a General Manager for them. I turned a dealership around that was losing $300,000 a month, in three months we lost $8, and in four months we turned a profit. It took a dealership that was heading down and caused it to have such great success that they were able to sell and make a profit when before they were getting ready to just sell the dealership and lose money selling it. That’s kind of the quick story of how I got into sales.
Q: Anyone who knows anything about sales knows that -$300,000 a month is a big hole to be in, to turn that around so quickly that they were able to profit shows the job that you were doing. The next question I was going to ask you was about the beginning of AssistU2Win, which you talked about. What part does AssistU2Win play with O.W.E.?
A: During this period there were so many different ideas that I had. People around me know that I’m a creative thinker, I’m a strategist, and I’m an idea generator. O.W.E., Online Worship Experience, doesn’t even exist today. This is where I’m now trying to figure out how I connect everything that I’m passionate about. Now I’m not full-time in a church, I’m working in sales, I have limited time, how do I then connect to the spiritual side of me? What about O.W.E.? Let’s do an Online Worship Experience. I was starting to do so many things virtual because of the limited time I had because of the time that I was spending at a dealership. AssistU2Win had these different channels that I was doing things through. I would speak for somebody at a church, in my mind, that was AssistU2Win because it was speaking. Then it was ‘oh, I want to speak more than I have engagements for,’ create your own table, so I started Online Worship Experience where I would just speak over Facebook on Sunday nights. We did that for a period of time. Everything was in this evolved state, though. I would have flashes of ‘okay, I would do this with AssistU2Win,’ but it was because I didn’t have a true direction at this point, I just knew that this was a part of my passion. I knew I couldn’t shake it anymore, I knew AssistU2Win was my verbiage, so for the next, probably 5-7 years I’m in and out of different ideas with AssistU2Win, sometimes not calling it that because I didn’t want people to look and say ‘oh, he’s a failure’ or ‘I thought you did this,’ I just called it something else. The whole time I’m really trying to find the rhythm and purpose of what AssistU2Win is, who we’re supposed to serve, and what we’re supposed to accomplish. This is where some of those other areas get birthed.
Q: What years did you first create AssistU2Win and O.W.E.?
A: 2013 is when AssistU2Win first had its launch with the group Winner’s Circle. O.W.E. comes 2017/2018ish. It lived for a brief moment, we don’t do anything with it today.
Q: So, AssistU2Win has almost been going for a decade, can you speak to how it has been to watch AssistU2Win grow and expand over these years?
A: A statement that is a staple statement around what we do at AssistU2Win is ‘you build what you birth, you drop what you adopt.’ Looking back, everything has been built off of a winner’s circle concept, winner’s circle being accountability. Today, we know exactly who we are and who we serve. The evolution of AssistU2Win is that looking at the pieces of our life we found the purpose of our life. Starting back from sports, to my jobs, to AssistU2Win, we know that our job is to be number one at being number two. When we come alongside a business, or an individual, we help come into three things. The first is clarity. We have to get to the place of being clear what it is somebody desires, what they want to see themselves manifest and what their goal or dream is. The second word is strategy. AssistU2Win brings strategy to clarity of an individual or busineses life. Without clarity, there’s no need for strategy. The final word that we really focus in on is accountability. Once we have the clarity and strategy, now we come into accountability. This is a process because, without the client’s weigh-in, there’s never true buy-in. It’s not us consulting 100% of ‘this is what you should do,’ this is the conversation, this is the discovery, this is the leading down a path so that their eyes are open to who they are and what they are supposed to be creating, and then we hold them accountable to action. That’s what produces what we say is ‘predictable probability.’ That’s what we deliver. We deliver predictable probability and productivity principles to somebody and it comes with those three words.
Q: You’ve gone through a lot of periods that have been associated with lifestyle changes. Currently, with your work, faith, and family, how do you maintain a healthy balance?
A: The balance comes because we only coach ten clients at a time. Outside of the pandemic, when we came back and turned the lights 100% on, we coach ten people at a time. We have some real strict guidelines with the one-on-one coaching that we do. With that, we’re able to get massive results because we go deeper and not just general with people. We do that over a 90-day period, that’s the first level of commitment that our clients make is that they work with us 90 days. Many cases, they work with us for the year and they just keep renewing and we just keep going. It’s hard to get in sometimes because we currently took a roll back with AutoNation so that we could set up AssistU2Win where it would succeed even in the course of us being duel-prenuers. We take ten clients and then we take on speaking engagements that go around our avatar. We had to first go and do those three words, find clarity, strategy, and accountability. As we found those, we found the rhythm, and with the rhythm we found both impact and income in AssistU2Win.
Q: What are some things that we have not discussed that should be mentioned?
A: I have written books, too. I have two. The first one is called The DGCP Method for Winners, that means dream, growth, change, push. Our signature coaching that we do surrounds that DGCP method for winners, it’s a short bookwork that starts with the mindset of the individual. When we wrote it, we called it ‘a bookwork on purpose’ because the reader is doing work with the book that naturally gets somebody ready for coaching. That is the baseline of it. The second one is called Make Every Day A Winsday. That book was written for motivational and transformational principles that we coach around. I tell a lot of stories inside but it is broken up into three sections, the first one is a mind shift. This generation has talked so much about mindset but I believe you have to have a mind shift before you can have a mindset. The second section is about methods. The methods that we talked about are the principles that produce productivity for individuals. The final section is about mastery. If you are going to succeed you have to be able to master the methods and master the mind-shift principles of your life.