Ep 462: StoryBrand 7 Step Method with Dr. JJ Peterson

RV (00:02):
I am so excited to interview my, my good friend Dr. JJ Peterson. We’re gonna be talking about StoryBrand and the StoryBrand framework. I take credit for the success of the StoryBrand book because we did the book launch party at our house. Donald Miller, who was the original author, wasn’t gonna do a book launch. And we’re like, Don, are you crazy? We gotta launch this book. We launched it at our house, and I think it’s gone on to sell a million copies, or, you know, close to, if I think it, I think it sold a million copies. So that’s all because of where Don hosted his book, launch party. And that night I got to meet Dr. JJ Peterson, who now is the head of StoryBrand. He’s also the host of the Chart topping Marketing Made Simple podcast. And JJ is an amazing guy.
RV (00:49):
So he has a PhD in communication. He spent the last 20 years studying and teaching communication theory. He’s also an adjunct professor at the Owen School of Business at Vanderbilt University. And I mean, he’s, they, they, they’re, these guys are involved in so much with, you know, helping politicians and filmmakers and business owners and, and academia. I mean, StoryBrand has become mainstream. And it was like, I can’t believe we haven’t actually had you back on the show in such a long time. Never. J’s never been on this show. So we have to do this. Dr. JJ Peterson, welcome to the show, brother.
JP (01:29):
Oh my goodness. Well, thank you so much for having me. And yes, we still to this day absolutely give you 100% credit for that book, selling a Million . So
RV (01:38):
Yeah, we we’re gonna start charging a package. Like, if you just wanna sell a million copies host, you can host your book party at the Vaden Villa.
JP (01:46):
I will give you a testimony right now, , I will give you, we can record a testimony and make it happen. So,
RV (01:52):
I mean, obviously I, I feel like StoryBrand has become mainstream pervasive. It, it, it’s, it’s become a verb that people use. Like you got a story brand it, but if, if someone’s listening and they’ve, they’ve never heard of the book story building a StoryBrand, what is, what is StoryBrand exactly? Like, give us, you know, take us there.
JP (02:12):
Well, the, it kind of all goes back to when Donna Miller, who was a, you know, he was an author and had written a bunch of, you know, bestselling books, and most of them were memoirs. And he ended up putting on this conference where he was inviting people to come and kind of become the hero of their own stories to like, basically create these life plans, find purpose in their life. And, you know, he’d sold millions of books at that point. And so they were like, yeah, the conference is a no brainer. He rented out an auditorium for about 1500 people and sold 700 seats for the first event, and which was great, profitable, wonderful. And got great reviews. And then all of a sudden, the next time the conference came around, they’re like, well, we’ll sell out this time. And sold about 700 seats again, Uhhuh, and then sold about 700 seats again. And through the process began to realize that they weren’t able to actually articulate the value of the conference. Like people were coming. ’cause They knew Don they were coming because they’d heard from friends, just word of mouth. But it wasn’t growing because nobody could actually articulate the value or why people needed it or anything in the conference itself. So Don actually went off to a cabin to try to kind of figure out what his next book was going to be, as he
RV (03:38):
JP (03:38):
He, as he does, as
RV (03:39):
He just disappears to the cabin and comes out with another bestseller. Me off, like,
JP (03:43):
I’m, so, I know it’s a bit annoying. His genius is a bit annoying in that way. But he goes off and he kind of begins to, he gets distracted and starts watching movies and he, he tells the story, you know, and he really, he had been studying story for a while, been he had written a screenplay, and he began to realize that, you know, there really was formula to all movies, formula to all stories. Hmm. And in the moment, what he started realizing is, what if we could apply story frameworks, which really were, you know, the, the, like, they’re powerful mediums. You know, movies are making millions of dollars. Story has been studied for centuries, and there are rules to story. And he thought, well, what if we could take these rules and move it out of the screenwriting space and actually put it into marketing?
JP (04:34):
And through that position, the customer as the hero of the story, instead of what most businesses do is position themselves as the hero. And so he began to change his marketing for the conference and position the customer as the hero was able clearly to articulate how it worked clearly articulate how the conference was gonna benefit them, help them survive and thrive, all these things that you do in marketing. And the next conference did not spend any money on marketing. The very next conference sold out, then went to a bigger venue, sold out, went to a bigger venue, sold out. And he began to realize that when companies or thought leaders or authors were able to actually articulate the value of what they bring to the table in a way that through their marketing positions, their customers, the hero that both people win out.
JP (05:31):
Mm-Hmm. Because if a thought leader actually has something that’s gonna change people’s lives, or a business has something that’s gonna change people’s lives, then it actually, it does not serve the world if nobody under nobody knows why they need it or what they’re supposed to do with it when they get it right. And so he wanted to start helping people clarify their message using story as the foundational framework so that companies and thought leaders could actually communicate more clearly their value proposition. They could position their audience or their customers as the hero, and ultimately they could grow their companies. And so that’s kind of how it started. And since then, we’ve worked with thousands and thousands all over the world.
RV (06:14):
I know you guys do. And, and it’s, it’s funny because it’s like one of the toughest questions for people to answer. And, and I’ll say for mission-driven messengers, like for personal brands, right? Like, the people that we serve are these, like, oftentimes they’re almost like these bleeding heart. I, I wanna change the world, I want to help people. And then someone asks them, what do you do, ? And they just fall apart, right? It’s like, it takes 40 minutes to explain what, because they’re like, well, I have a nonprofit and I have this methodology that I’ve created and I’ve worked over here in this country. And, you know, I work sometimes with educational institutions that sometimes with corporate people and, and you know, like, because, or they just go I don’t know. Like, it’s, it’s so, it’s so much like, how do I communicate that quickly and, and succinctly?
RV (07:02):
And, you know, I remember the first time I read you know, I still have the, one of the galleys, one of the advanced reader copies of StoryBrand and Mark the whole thing up. And I, I, I called Don and I was like, dude, this is gonna be a game changer. Because it’s, I mean, why do you think we have such a hard time JJ communicating? Like when someone asks you, what do you do when you’re on a airplane, or, you know, you’re at you at a dinner party or whatever, a networking event, it was like, what do you do? Like, why do we fumble that up so much?
JP (07:34):
I think some of it, if, if I’m, if I’m really digging in, some of it is trying to be, it’s insecurity and also trying to be humble. Like, there’s two things in that. Like, there’s some insecurity about what you do, so you start fumbling through that, or there’s, you’re trying to be, you don’t wanna come across as cocky. Yeah. And so you’re trying to be humble in that. And what we’ve just found with all of that, and what I would say is that when you try to shrink in what you have to offer the world by not coming, you don’t wanna come across too cocky. You don’t like, you’re insecure about the fact that you can make a difference when you actually shrink in that moment, not only are you not serving yourself, but you’re not serving the world, you’re not serving your potential customers.
JP (08:17):
Because if you actually have experience, if you have things that you figured out along the way that can help pe make people’s lives better and easier, and you don’t know how to, and you lack confidence in your way of communicating that what you’re doing is by shrinking, you’re actually not serving people. And so we teach people how to explain that through through the whole StoryBrand framework really is there are seven talking points really that are essential to every good story. And these, like I said, have been studied for centuries. They go all the way back to Aristotle and Plato who argued that the best way to move people to action, the best way to change culture was through story. If you go back, you know, all the way to poetics it. Like,
RV (09:04):
No, you guys better be careful. I’m just afraid that Aristotle is going to bring a plagiarism lawsuit against Don here. And I, I don’t know if we should be sharing that. Well,
JP (09:13):
We, we cite him. We cite him. So we c him.
RV (09:15):
Him. Okay.
JP (09:15):
We cite him. Okay. So we definitely cite our sources. You
RV (09:18):
Tag him. Do you tag him on Instagram?
JP (09:19):
A hundred percent hash hashtag Aristotle Poetics hashtag Aristotle.
RV (09:22):
JP (09:23):
And , you know, and these, the, it’s, the formulas have been refined over the years, but really every good story has seven elements to it. Seven talking points, there’s a formula. And when you follow that formula, what you do is you ensure that your story actually is clear and compelling. That’s really what we’re looking for when we’re trying to create good stories, is it has to be clear and it has to be compelling. And so the seven elements, okay. Do you want me to go into those or
RV (09:53):
I, I, we are gonna, I do want to go into those, but before we do that, you know, you’ve touched on this idea that I think one of the big mantras of StoryBrand, and one of the thing that works really well, and one of the reasons why we believe in it and like we become such emphatic fans about it, is the idea that you as the business owner, as the mission-driven messenger, you as the marketer, you are not the hero. The customer is the hero. And I just wanna connect this back to what you were talking about shrinking. When people shrink themselves, or they wanna be humble, the reason they’re doing that is because they think the conversation is about them, or they’re making the conversation about themselves. And I think a huge, like the big central thing is to go, if, if the conversation’s not about you, if, if the goal of the conversation is not to impress the other person, but to simply help the other person to serve the other person, now all of a sudden there’s no reason to shrink. ’cause It’s like you’re showing up as like, the best helper in the world versus like the most important person in the world. And, and, and so I just wanted you to talk on that part a little bit. ’cause I think, you know, the tactics of StoryBrand are super practical and actionable. I wanna talk about the seven points, but to me, the real heartbeat is this idea that customer’s the hero.
JP (11:20):
Yes. And you know, you would never see, well, let, let me just say this. We all wake up pretty much every day as the main character of our own story, right? That just really is how it is. Like you’re the main character of your movie. I’m the main character of my movie. And so we’re all kind of walking through life that
RV (11:39):
Way. And in my head, I have abs that are more defined than what I actually see. But like, yes, I, I wake up, you know, I think of myself as like Brad Pitt, but you know, it’s not
JP (11:49):
Way Oh, you
RV (11:49):
Are, you’re, but I’m, but I’m, I I, I get what you’re saying. Keep kick your
JP (11:52):
. Yeah. Yeah. In my, in my version, I’m six two and I’m really five three . So you know, but we all are heroes of our own story. And what happens in good movies is that the hero, actually in most, in all movies, is actually one of the weakest characters in the story. And they have a lot of self-doubt. They make a lot of mistakes. They are up and they are down, and they’re insecure through the whole thing. They don’t actually become the strong hero till the end of the movie. That’s what the Hero’s Journey is all about, is becoming the hero. But in the beginning of the movie and the rest of the movie, they’re actually very weak and insecure and scared and Ill-equipped. But at some point in the movie, they meet in a good story. They meet a guide, they meet somebody who has been down the path that they’re trying to go down before they’ve, but they’ve also won the day.
JP (12:48):
So in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is the hero, but he comes in contact with Obi one Kenobi and Yoda wi in Lord of the Rings. There’s Frodo, but then there’s Gandalf in Hunger Games. There’s Katniss. But then there’s Hamid. There’s always this older, wiser guide who comes along to help the hero win the day. And when thought leaders position themselves as the hero, and what I mean by that is when you start talking, quote unquote about just yourself making the conversation about you, what you’re actually doing is positioning yourself as weak. ’cause You’re positioning yourself as a hero in the story. The best people who are equipped to help other people win are always the guides and guides are confident. They are s strong, they’re actually the strongest character in any movie, right? Obi one, Kenobi, Yoda, Gandalf, strongest characters in the movie who are helping other people win.
JP (13:50):
Now, they’re not out there bragging about themselves. They’re not even talking a lot about their history. In fact, we usually don’t know a ton of their history in a movie. All we know about them is that they are equipped to help the hero win because they’ve been where the hero has been, and they’ve overcome the same obstacles. So when you’re a thought leader, or you’re in business, when you talk about yourself and just make it all about kind of your insecurities, or kind of shrink a little bit, you’re making yourself the hero of the story. And you’re actually positioning yourself as weak, which means you’re actually not able to help other people. But when you talk about yourself in a way that talks about how you’ve overcome the similar problems that the people in your audience or your customers have experienced, right? So if you say, look, say you’re a thought leader on finance, and you stand up in front of an audience, and you don’t have to say, look, I’m really good at finance all this stuff.
JP (14:46):
But if you get up in front of an audience and you say, Hey, I used to be overwhelmed by finances as well, I get it. I was actually depressed, I was really struggling. What you’re doing in that moment is you’re positioning yourself beginning to position yourself as a guide to your audience with empathy. So when you say, I get it, I was like, you, and then you say, but actually, I was able to figure out a system where I was able to budget and invest in a way that actually has made me a millionaire in the past 10 years. And I wanna share that with you. Mm-Hmm. , that’s not bragging. That’s positioning yourself as a guide to your audience or your customers. You are saying, I am like you. I’ve experienced what you’ve experienced, but I’ve also found a way forward, and I wanna bring you along in that journey. Mm-Hmm. that what say power
RV (15:33):
Is one of our, one of our flagship, you know, probably most repeated quotes at Brand Builders Group is your most powerfully positioned to serve the person you once were.
JP (15:45):
Yes. I love that.
RV (15:46):
It, it anchors to what you’re, it anchors exactly to what you’re saying here is to go. You, you can be the guide if you actually are teaching people and selling people something that you know something about because you’ve been there, it automatically, like the default is you are the guide, and it it sets, it sets you up, like in that position perfectly.
JP (16:09):
And because everybody’s the hero in their own story, they’re looking for a way to overcome their problems. They’re looking for a way to win the day. They’re looking a way to move forward. And so, again, going back to your initial question when somebody says, what do you do? And you start fumbling and you start kind of trying to shrink a little bit and going, well, it’s really complicated. Immediately in their brain, what they’re doing is, oh, I’m not sure this person has really anything to help me move forward. Not in a, like, not, not in a,
RV (16:39):
In a subconscious
JP (16:39):
Way. Yeah. But it’s very subconscious. They’re going, this person, it is not gonna help me move ahead. And quite frankly, they’re not interesting . And so you might go, oh, great, nice to meet you. All right. Hey, I gotta leave. I gotta go get a drink. You know, like, it’s the conversation’s over because the person being introduced is not making them curious about what they offer, curious about their product, curious about their thought leadership. And so the best way to answer that question, a very simple way to tell what I would argue is a short story, is the way that you wanna always answer the question. What do you do really is three parts. I mentioned that overall stories, when you create good movies and stuff, there are seven parts. But to tell a short story, there are actually three parts to it. It’s very formulaic.
JP (17:28):
All right? In order to position your customer or your audience as the hero, what you wanna do is the very first thing you wanna do. And somebody says, so what do you do? You don’t answer that question. You start with a problem that they or your customers are experiencing. So if you asked me, just like, jj, what do you do? I would start, I wouldn’t say I work at StoryBrand. I would start by saying, so many businesses and thought leaders have a hard time explaining what it is that they do in a way that can actually make them a ton of money. So I just start that like, people have a hard time explaining what they do to grow their business,
RV (18:06):
Articulate the problem,
JP (18:07):
Articulate the problem. What you’re doing in that moment is you’re actually making the story about the person you’re talking to, not about yourself. So you start with the problem, then you come in as the guide and position yourself as a solution. So I’ve said, you know, a lot of thought leaders and businesses have a hard time explaining what they do. So they’re actually missing out on a, on a lot of money. What we do at StoryBrand is come in and help people create a clear message using the elements of story. So now I’ve just positioned myself as a guide to, to you the hero. And then I finish out the story with my customer success. So then I say, when people go through this, they’re able to not only articulate what they do in a really powerful way, but they’re able to actually help more people and grow their business. So it’s what the, the three elements are problem, solution, success. That’s a short story. So I’ll just put it all together. I would say so many thought leaders and businesses out there have a hard time explaining what they do to people in a way that makes them money. We help people clarify their marketing and their message by using a story framework so that then they ultimately have a clear way of explaining their value proposition can help more people and grow their business. Mm-Hmm. .
RV (19:26):
Got it. So yeah, give us the seven points. I wanna make sure that we at least hit, hit high level on ’em. I know you, they go deep in the book and in the course. Yeah, yeah. And the training that you guys do. But like, walk us through the seven parts. ’cause, And I want for you listening, these are the seven parts of a story. But then this is also like a checklist for like how you would write out the copy of describing whatever it is that you do. So all right. Hit us, jj.
JP (19:53):
All right. So the seven elements of any good story are that in the first bit of the story, right at the very beginning, there is a hero. And that hero wants something in a movie within the first nine minutes of a movie for the story to be good. We have to know what that hero wants. And we could probably all think of movies where we just could say, oh yeah, the hero wants this. It should be very clear, it should be very obvious, and it should be really one thing. Jason Bourne wants to know his identity, but he can’t also open a cupcake shop and want to run a marathon. And all these other things has to be one thing, right? How that
RV (20:32):
Someone wants to get married, couple wants to have kids, somebody wants to be rich. Well, someone wants to find their dad. You know, finding Nemo wants to find their parents like Uhhuh.
JP (20:41):
Yep. Very, very clear. How that then applies to marketing is the principle is that companies need to, if you’re positioning your customer as the hero, companies need to be able to clearly articulate what they offer. And it actually has to be one thing. It can’t be 50 things. And that is what enters your customer into the story. So you have to be able to say, not just say like, I help people achieve a great life. No, no, no. What do you actually offer? And it needs to be clear. So you need to create talking points that articulate what you offer. ’cause That is really what your customer’s looking for. The second element of any good story is that once the hero, we know what the hero wants. A problem has to get in the way. The only way a story gets interesting is if the hero encounters a problem, right?
JP (21:32):
It’s like, if Liam Neeson’s daughter gets kidnapped for the eighth time, and he gets that phone call that says, you know, I have your daughter. And then all of a sudden she hops on and goes, just kidding. It’s a joke. Do you want to come over to Europe and we’ll just go shopping and look at colleges? And then the rest of the movie is about that very boring movie, right? We’re not interested in it. The hook of the story that makes the story interesting is the problem. The bigger the problem, the more interesting the story. How that applies to our marketing is the only reason people are paying attention to your marketing or coming to you to buy a product or service is because you solve a problem for them. So you have to clearly articulate what problem your customers are experiencing that is gonna hook them in the marketing.
JP (22:25):
These two pieces are the two biggest pieces when it comes to writing a good story and creating good marketing. If you don’t articulate what you offer and you don’t constantly talk about the problems your customers experience, then people won’t pay attention to you. And if you can get those two things right in a movie and in marketing, you’re gonna do great. But the story keeps going and gets even more interesting. So then the element comes in that we’ve already talked about. The third principle of the StoryBrand framework is that the hero meets a guide. Mm-Hmm. They meet somebody who comes along and helps them win the day. Mr.
RV (23:02):
Miyagi, here you come. Yes, here he comes. Daniel son, Mr.
JP (23:05):
Mgi. Yes, exactly. , yes. And so that say, we’ve already talked about this, but the really, the paradigm, big paradigm shift in the StoryBrand framework is you’re not the hero of the story. You’re the guide. So stop talking about yourself and talk about your customer’s problems and talk about how you understand them. You have empathy for it, and you have authority to fix it. You have, you kind of give evidence that you’ve solved it for other people, testimonies, awards, things like that. Then the fourth element of a good story is that the guide gives the hero a plan. In every movie, I actually wanna do like some dissertation research to see how many times or in how many movies, the phrase what’s the plan, or here’s the plan appears. Hmm, I bet I mean, you, if you think about it, it’s in every movie, and it doesn’t matter how complicated the plot is or how complicated the problem is, they’ll go, but here’s the plan, right?
JP (24:01):
And what that does in a movie is show the audience that there is a clear path forward, easy and clear path forward for the hero to win, right? Even in Oceans 11, they’re gonna rob the Bellagio, it’s never been done before, it’s impossible. And then they go, but here’s the plan, right? . And then they follow the plan. Nice. The principle for that in marketing is you need to show your customers that there’s a clear and easy way to do business with you. What are the three steps that you guide them through to either purchase your product or work with them? So it can be schedule a call, we create a plan, then we meet monthly to make sure that that happens. You know, something in your, you know, we do an intake session, you join a mastermind group, and then we meet one-on-one after that, right?
JP (24:50):
We just have three steps to show them this is how you win the day. Then the fifth element in a good story is that after the hero gets the plan, there’s a moment where they have to be called to action. They have to be either in or out. And so the, in a lot of movies, there is a ticking time bomb that is gonna force the hero to act, right? Like, it’s gonna go off in five minutes and they’ve gotta be in or out, they’ve gotta run towards it. Or runaway a tsunami’s coming to de destroy Los Angeles, and they’ve gotta get their daughter out of the city. You know, there’s all of these kind of this countdown that says you need to act or there may be consequences. The principle for that in the marketing is we actually need to have clear calls to action in our marketing, our heroes.
JP (25:40):
Our customers need to know exactly what they need to do in order to buy our product and service. There is a study that was done recently that said 70% of small businesses in America do not have a clear call to action on their website that people are losing money if they don’t know if, if your customers or your audience doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do next. If you’re a thought leader and you’re up on a stage, you better at the end of your talk have something that they’re supposed to do that will connect them to your products and services. What’s the next step they’re supposed to take in order to work with you?
RV (26:16):
Yeah. And I, you know, it’s interesting. It’s never really dawned on me the, the, the, the, the dynamic of the ticking bomb part of it, right? So there’s a clear action, but then, you know, obviously, like you know, we do a lot of copywriting, like sales copywriting, like to, you know, how do you create page that gets someone to pull out their credit card? And you know, urgency is like a really big part, is people, people always procrastinate. And I’ve never thought about that with the relation, like the connection to StoryBrand in movies, how it’s like, you know, he, he’s about to get on an airplane and leave your life forever, or you know, you better ask her out on a date before she like gets on the train That there, like that kind of a thing. So do you guys advocate kind of like deadlines and countdowns and that kind of stuff?
JP (27:07):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Because if you allow people to delay action, it often becomes inaction. So I, I say that a lot. Delayed action usually is inaction. And so when you, it’s always in a movie, like you said, it’s very clear, there’s a moment, right? It’s, it’s not kind of wishy-washy of what the hero is supposed to do. They have to go get the girl, they have to disarm the bomb, they have to hop in the helicopter. There’s something that they have to do. And all the sports very,
RV (27:35):
Very clear. Every i’ll I have the built in clock, like
JP (27:37):
Exactly. And if, if you’re saying, okay, so let’s say Tom Cruise is running through the airport to disarm a bomb, and all of a sudden he finds out it’s going off in a month, well, there’s no urgency for that action , right? He’s just like, what am I doing? I’m not gonna sprain my ankle doing this. There’s no urgency. So that’s why there’s so often like literally a ticking time bomb. So in calls to action, when you can create a sense of urgency that in, in your emails and on even on your webpage or on your social media, then absolutely. But even almost, I would argue more important than that is most people, their calls to action are often like, well, if you wanna learn more or it, or, you know, or, you know, Hey, let me know if you have any questions. No, no, no.
JP (28:21):
What you’re doing again, in that moment is you’re shrinking. And again, I’ll remind everybody, you shrinking does not serve your customers or the world . And so what you’re saying when you’re just like, well, you know, if you have any questions or blah, blah, blah, what you’re actually doing is saying, I’m not quite sure I believe in my product or what I’m willing to offer you. I don’t believe that it’s actually gonna change your life or make a difference. And our customers subconsciously feel that. So be strong, buy now, schedule a call, sign up. You know, any of those kind of things, you need to be very
RV (28:53):
Clear. And I think of it, you know, so like, as a parent of two toddlers, I go, if my son is about to pick up a marble and put it in his mouth, I don’t kind of politely say, Hey, you should maybe not do that. Or like, I reach over and I smack it out of his hand like now. Right? And so, mm-hmm, , when you have that, when you truly have that service centered mindset, there’s urgency on your part to create urgency on their part. Yes. And, and, and I think, I think a lot of people miss that, especially the mission driven messengers. ’cause It’s like, I just want to help everybody and I just wanna encourage ’em. And it’s like, yeah. And a part of that is giving ’em a freaking deadline. Yes. If you don’t give ’em a freaking deadline, they’re not gonna do your thing, which means they’re not gonna change their life, which means they’re gonna do exactly what they’ve been doing, which means they’re gonna continue to be a mess. So it’s like a part of a creating a service is giving people a deadline. Absolutely. That’s what you’re gonna change their life.
JP (29:54):
Absolutely. Clarity is kindness and showing people where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do is actually an act of service. So if, if , I would almost say literally, if you hear nothing out of this out of this podcast, make sure that your calls to action are clear on your website and your social media and in all of your marketing, that is actually a gift to the people you serve. The last two elements of the StoryBrand framework are what we call success and failure. These are what are really in a good movie, the stakes in the story, and they’ve kind of been forecast through the whole foreshadowed through the whole movie. We know what a happy ending looks like for a hero, and we’re rooting for that. But we also know what tragedy can look like for them. That, you know, they’re gonna win the day.
JP (30:42):
They’re gonna get the girl they’re gonna hit the home run, or that actually they’re gonna strike out and everybody loses. They’re gonna miss out on the girl and she’s gonna marry his brother. You know, like we know what the tragedy, what we’re pain we’re trying to avoid, and what success we’re cheering for. And it’s the same thing in marketing. You need to create talking points and value proposition around what their, your customer’s life will look like once they do business with you. That’s called success. So what, what are they gonna save time, save money? Are they gonna be more confident? Are they gonna be able to get ahead? What are the things they’re actually gonna be able to benefit from, from your product or service? And we need to write those out and articulate those, but we also need to articulate what they’re going to miss out on, or what pain they’re going to continue to experience if they don’t work with us, that they’re gonna continue to be tired, they’re gonna continue to be overwhelmed.
JP (31:38):
And that might get a little bit worse where they actually struggle with burnout, right? You can kind of forecast what can happen to them if they don’t work with you. And mainly it’s that their problems either are solved if they work with you or are not solved. If they don’t, and they either can get then a little bit better or a little bit worse. And those really are the seven elements of a good story. And a seven, the seven elements of good marketing. So what we actually do is then teach people how to create talking points for all seven of those elements so that you can make sure that on your website emails, when you’re giving keynote addresses, when you’re doing webinars, that everything you’re talking about is very clear. It’s positioning your customers the hero, you as the guide, and showing how you can make their life better if you work with them by giving them a clear call to action. Mm-Hmm,
RV (32:30):
. Yep. Yep. So I mean, on that note, jj, where should people go if they wanna learn more about you guys and all things StoryBrand and Donald Miller and like all, all the stuff you guys got going on?
JP (32:44):
Yeah, we actually have a little a little gif for everybody who’s listening is that you can actually go to storybrand.com/brand script. And when you go to storybrand.com/brand script, you’re actually gonna see what we call an online brand script where it has these different elements that I’ve just been talking about. And there are boxes to be able to create, start working on your own story, your company story, your entrepreneurial story, to try to create talking points around those pieces. So it’s actually like an online version of everything that I just talked about. So you can go there and practice creating your marketing and your messaging, and that’s storybrand.com/brandscript.
RV (33:27):
So Cool. Yeah, so we’ll link up in the show notes. And you know, I guess this last thing, jj, like, if, if someone is starting out, you know, right now and they’re hearing this and they’re going, oh my gosh. Like, you know, I, I I’m, I I I struggle with articulating what I’m doing and y you know, like, I don’t know, you know, I’m not a great writer, et cetera. I mean, you’ve given ’em some really great tools and, and stuff, but just kind of more like on the emotional side, you know, what, what’s kind of the encouragement or the reminder that you would want that person to hear?
JP (34:05):
Yeah, I think, you know, I, for me, for a long time, ’cause I’ve been in marketing and public relations and things for a very long time, and the thing that I struggled most with was I, I never wanted to brag about myself. I never wanted to elevate myself. And it, it meant much of that came from kind of a false humility. Truthfully, , it was like I was a little arrogant, but then I didn’t want people to think I was arrogant, . And so, you know, it was like, almost like a false sense of humility. And so I didn’t know how to talk about myself. And when I discovered the StoryBrand framework and realized that actually I am not the hero, I don’t want to be the hero of my own story. I want to be a guide for other people to help them win this, their story that changed everything for me.
JP (34:54):
And it actually lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders and allowed me to talk about myself and the things that I do in a way that really serves others versus serving myself. And so if you’re in that spot where you’re like, I don’t know how to do this. I’m, I, I feel weird talking about myself getting on podcasts or going, getting up and giving speeches ’cause it feels like, what do I have to say? Well, the first thing I would say is you have amazing things to say, everybody. A lot of times people think they don’t have anything new to offer the world. And I’m telling you, you may not have a new idea, but you have a new way of telling it because you’re the only person who’s ever experienced what you’ve experienced. So stand in that authority that you have that there is only one you.
JP (35:39):
And then the second thing is, stop thinking about what you do and start thinking about the problems that you solve for other people. What pain are people experiencing? What problems are they experiencing? And what wisdom do you have, or tools or tips or tricks do you have in your arsenal that can help them solve their problem? If you start just thinking in that way, the weight will come off your shoulders. You’re gonna get so much more excited about talking about what you do and selling your services because you are going to make the world a better place. People need you. They need your wisdom, they need your experience, and they need what you have in order to make their lives better and the lives of the people they serve. So,
RV (36:25):
JP (36:25):
Think about that and solve problems. Don’t talk about yourself. Solve problems.
RV (36:31):
Yeah. Amen, brother. Don’t, don’t be the hero. Be the guide. Dr. JJ Peterson, thank you for coming and for sharing your wisdom, brother. We love you guys. And we, we, you know, we always want the best for you guys, so keep kicking butt.
JP (36:45):
Oh, thanks. It’s such an honor to be here. Love you guys too.

Ep 460: Helping Speakers Get Booked On More Stages with Joe Heaps

AJV (00:02):
Hey everybody. AJ Vaden here. Welcome to the Influential Personal Brand. I am super excited for today’s interview because I love when I get to do interviews around very niche topics like we’re gonna do today. And today we’re gonna be talking about the world of speaking and most specifically how to get booked as a speaker. And I have invited a newer friend of mine, but a good friend of my husband and a lot of the team at Brain Builders Group, Joe Heaps. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about Joe in a second, but I wanted to let you guys know what this interview is about and why you should stick around. And just before I hit record, Joe and I were talking about how, you know, there’s so much stuff on the internet, on social media about what it means to be a speaker and how you get paid as a speaker and how you get booked as a speaker.
AJV (00:53):
And the truth is, I think there’s a lot of value in some stuff that’s out there, and there’s no value in other stuff that’s out there. And so we’ve been on this kind of mission to help get some industry leaders in the speaking industry on this podcast to help create some clarity and expectations around if you have a dream, if you have a passion of becoming a highly paid professional speaker who is booked on stages because you have a message that you just feel called to share, right? There are some things you need to know that will prepare you and equip you to do that successfully, where you can take this dream and turn it into a very lucrative business. But if you think it’s gonna happen overnight, and you think it’s gonna happen by, you know, just posting some social media content, well, that may be where you’re a little off schedule, right?
AJV (01:45):
And so today we’re gonna have just an honest conversation of helping you build that dream of building your speaking business. So if you’re an aspiring speaker or even a speaker who’s getting booked, that just goes, man, I wanna get booked more. I do want this to be my full thing full-time thing, then this is the interview for you. So stick around get your pen and paper, take notes, because this is gonna be jam packed with tons of industry insights that’s gonna help you succeed in that endeavor. Now let me introduce you to the gentleman who’s going to help share some of these industry secrets. ’cause It’s not gonna be me today. I’m just going to be asking some questions. And quite honestly, I have my pen and paper too. ’cause I’m super excited to learn what’s new, what’s changing, what’s evolving. Because as a speaker myself, I have no doubt that Joe’s gonna share some tips today that I can put into practice in my business.
AJV (02:39):
So Joe Heaps is the managing partner and also the CMO at E Speakers, which you’re gonna learn all about. He is and why I think this is so helpful. He’s the one who’s responsible for all the sales and marketing strategies, which, you know, surprise, right? , if you are a speaker, you are in sales and marketing, right? Right. It doesn’t matter how you get booked, but you are in sales and marketing. So to have Joe come and talk about that, I think is a really fundamentally important part of this conversation. He is in charge of helping drive the vision of e speakers but also helping the the speakers who are part of e speakers improve their business and get booked and build a lucrative business, right? And that’s why I wanted to have him on the show today. And so Joe, as a, a part of the industry, I’m so excited to have you on the show. I’m so excited to learn from you. So welcome.
JH (03:34):
Thank you. Appreciate the invite.
AJV (03:37):
Yeah. And you know, as we’re kind of getting started and helping everyone learn about you and e speakers and why I got started, I just wanna start with like a little bit of background knowledge of like, what is e speakers and how did that even come about? Like how did you get started with that? Like yeah, tell us what it is and then why, why did it get created?
JH (03:55):
Yeah, you bet. Well first of all, our e speaker’s mission statement is we truly believe that the right speaker in front of the right audience can make a lasting, it kind of creates a magic. And and that right speaker in front of the right audience leads to like long-term improvement in organizations and individuals. And so the, the idea that a speaker can go out and just speak to anybody is false. I mean, you can collect a check, but we really feel like there’s a magic when the right speaker gets in front of the right audience and that change is made. And that’s really what this is all about. And I know any speaker that’s out there has felt that, like, you felt like maybe you just checked the box, you gotta check and you walked away and it really, you, like, you did your job, but you didn’t really connect with anybody.
JH (04:42):
And I know that people have been in the audience and done the same, but that, that change is really what’s important. And it’s what keeps a speaker getting booked, quite honestly, is if people in the audience feel their authentic self and they, they really connect with their content and they feel like they’re making a change in their life. And so our mission is to help speakers get on more stages and to make that change more often. Mm-Hmm. How we started was 24 years ago by a speaker named Art Berg, who Rory is a good friend of, I don’t know, AJ if you met r art before, or not he hasn’t. But art was a speaker he’s a quadriplegic and spoke, you know, over a hundred times a year, traveled the world. And that, and that at the time was a pretty big challenge, kinda like a a unique situation because he was in a wheelchair and traveling the world and on his own without any help.
JH (05:47):
And that, that’s a lot of work for a quadriplegic. And now there’s, there’s several more you know, and, and they do great jobs. But the fact that Art did that was a major thing that he tackled in his life to show that, you know, that wasn’t gonna stop him from making a difference in the world. And so one of the things that art he was really big on technology and how it connected with people. And he had this vision that through technology, his job could get easier and he could make the meeting planners, the buyers, the people that hire speakers, their job easier. And so he created a, a software with my business partner, Dave. And they started off with that technology. And the technology was really an event management tool that he could track all of his events in, in the calendar and everything.
JH (06:45):
And that he kind of gave a backdoor for speaker bureaus, which are kind of the in-between people that that book speakers off also, they’re kind of an agency. And those speakers bureaus kind of had a backdoor into the calendar. And at the time the cloud wasn’t really even a thing. Nobody knew of the cloud, and this was kind of a cloud technology. And so it, it allows people from their offices to be able to connect with speakers and be able to book them. Because at the time, you know, cell phones were just barely coming into the picture. No, internet wasn’t even around in the beginning. And so, you know, it just, it just blossomed from there. And unfortunately a few years into the Endeavor, art passed away. And but, and that’s when I joined the team and, and you know, that’s what Speers that’s where we started.
JH (07:38):
And really art art’s vision really is what we use every day to kind of keep us moving forward is just that idea of making speakers more readily available to book and giving them the tools and, and the things they need to be able to, to get booked. And then making it easy for meeting planners to connect with them and, and their job. And especially in this day and age, it’s you know, you can search the internet for any type of speaker and find something, right? But again, is it the right person and are, is it making it easy on the buyer? So that’s kind of what we have an event management tool that we can talk more about if you’d like. Or we have also have an arm of our business that is all about promotion and marketing of a speaker and specifically to those meeting planners or those buyers. So that’s kind of
AJV (08:34):
What we do. You know, I, I love that. And I know I’ve heard, you know, so many different great things about e speakers through the years and, you know, we’ve known of you guys since we’ve been a part of the National Speakers Association, but I mean, it has to be at least 20 years that I’ve known about you guys. So what did you guys start in the nineties?
JH (08:53):
99. 9 99?
AJV (08:55):
Yeah. ’cause I know it’s like, even in the early years of us being a part of the National Speakers Association, I remember seeing e speakers and, you know, I spent some time on the websites, you know, kind of getting up to date on the all the news speakers that you guys are featuring. And I think that’s and I think talking about both of those would be really interesting in interesting for our conversation today. But one of the things that I would love to start with since you are, you know, a huge part of like the sales and marketing strategy I’d love to start there of just going, like, when you think of a speaker and what assets, what, what tools they need to get booked as a speaker, right? So when you’re thinking of like, what do meeting planners need to make quick decisions, and what does speakers need to have readily available to supply? Like, what would you say are the most important marketing assets that a speaker needs today?
JH (09:46):
Yeah. Well I think probably the thing that we see that peop, that speakers stumble on quite a bit is what we call our audience benefit statement. It is it’s front and center on a speaker’s profile and the audience benefit statement. We tend to see speakers and they don’t really have that defined in, we’ve actually gone through your course Brand Builders course ourselves. And, and and so I know you, you know a lot about this as well, but really talking about the benefits of hiring you rather than in marketing. Marketing 1 0 1 talks about features and benefits of a product. Doesn’t matter what product it is. A good product is marketed with benefits. Like, it’ll help you do this, you’ll feel better doing this. It’ll, you know, and, and we give lots of examples of companies that do that in their advertising.
JH (10:38):
But the benefits of hiring a speaker are way more powerful than the features. So we see speakers lead with things like, I’m a New York Times bestseller, I’ve written these books. I’ve, I’ve talked to these people, I’ve presented to these groups, I have these degrees. I went to this school. You know, and that, that’s, that’s really, really common. In fact, seasoned speakers still tend to kind of slide back into that because speakers are unique in regards to a product because you do talk about yourself a lot, and you’re building your own personal brand as you know, right? And so that’s one of the things that causes some pain for speakers is they’re wondering, why am I not getting booked? And it’s because they’re leading with the features of the product. They’re the product and they’re leading with the features rather than the benefits. And the benefits are things like, why would somebody hire you?
JH (11:31):
What do you, what benefit are you going to bring to that audience? And so you need to lead with things like when I come speak to your group, we’re gonna identify these key things and your audience will walk away knowing how to do this, this, and this. Right? And so that’s really kind of the idea of a benefit statement. Yeah. And, and there’s a lot of different examples. I mean, if, if, if people wanted, they could go to our directory at e speakers marketplace and, and go through and search on a topic. And you can see, in fact, if there are speakers listening, I’d encourage you to do that. Put your topic in and, and see the reco the results that come up. And you’ll see some really good ones. We’ve tried to really work with people on that audience benefit statement, but some of ’em come up and, you know, they’re, they’re just, like I was talking about, in fact, they lead with their name.
JH (12:18):
Like, you know, it would say, Rory Vaden is a New York Times bestseller and speaker and author and trainer. Well, we have like 20,000 speakers in our database. And same thing, most of ’em are trainers, authors, and speakers, right? And, and could be New York Times bestsellers. So you know, that that type of, just getting that outta the way and the process of working through that audience benefit statement really sets the stage for the benefits. And then you take those benefits of hiring you and they become, you know, bullet points in your bio and they can become even programs like your speeches, right? And so that’s really the probably the biggest thing that we see. The other thing in regards to just, I mean, that’s the marketing side. I know that’s what you ask about. But the other thing that we see is speakers tend to struggle with systems.
JH (13:08):
And that’s where our tool really shines, is that, you know, a good system means that you can be away from the system. And, and our, we live in ACI in a world now that everything is connected, everything ties together, whether it’s through I calendar, whatever. And you have all these different ways now, even since the pandemic, zoom is the new thing, and, and everybody, you can zoom from an airport if you needed to, right? And, and on the road. But speakers are super busy. And you know, having a good system that keeps them on track mm-hmm. Is, is really important. And that’s one of the things that Art started in the very beginning is, you know, being, having such a demanding schedule with over like, you know, 200 presentations a year or whatever. One staff member, he found the value of systems and the, the freedom a good system gives you to like chart this course of success.
JH (14:07):
And so really that’s, that’s kind of what he harnessed in our tools and, and we see as a real big value. And it’s still a big struggle for speakers, is is having a good system. Could they be away from their business for a week and everything continued to run? That’s good. And, you know, that’s, that’s really not just, I mean, of course we expect speakers to take a vacation, right? But not just vacation. It’s, it’s being booked three times or four times that week. And just the intricacies of going to Nashville, going to Dallas, going to Chicago, flying to LA and you know, just don’t have time to keep up with things. And so having a good system is super important. So, oh, well I, that I’m not sure if I answered your question, but No,
AJV (14:49):
I think I have some follow ups, but I think that that systems part of the conversation wasn’t even on my radar. And the truth is, is most speakers, at least when they start out, they are the sales department, marketing department, operations department, billing department. Right? Right. It’s like they’re all the departments. And I don’t think if a lot, I don’t think a lot of people realize, it’s like, no, being a speaker is being an entrepreneur. It is a business. Yeah. You gotta do all the same things that you would do as a small business owner. You, and if you don’t have a good system, all of a sudden it’s like, it’s not so fun anymore. Yeah. Now it’s, it’s a lot of work. And you’re working all the time, traveling all the time on stages all the time. And it’s like, oh, all right. This thing I thought I wanted to do, I don’t wanna do it anymore. Yeah.
JH (15:34):
Well, and if people, if speakers only, if all you had to do is say, Hey, you have an event this day, show up at this address and speak on this topic, and that’s all you had to do then I think things will be a lot easier. But the truth of it is, is that it is literally a business. Mm-Hmm. . And you have to do the sales and the marketing and the accounting and the business development and, you know, clean the toilets and, you know, all that stuff too. You know, I mean, you, you all, everything. And you know, I, if you have staff you know, that adds another element to it where the staff now need to be connected to you and have a system that are connected to you. And so it gives you a little bit more freedom. And really what we try to focus on is, is systems really give you the freedom to work on revenue generating activities. It doesn’t mean you’re just gonna go, you know, set up on the couch and drink diet Coke and eat cake or whatever you wanna do, watch a TV show or whatever to relax it. It means that you’re gonna go focus on things that now generate money, right. And being in the business instead of, you know, work on the business instead of in the business. Right. And so that’s really what a good system will set up for you.
AJV (16:50):
No, I love that. And, you know, often I refer to speakers as artists, right? And it’s like, the reason most people wanna be a speaker is because they have this message that they wanna share and speaking is a, a craft that they want to get better at. And, and it’s like, but then you get kind of stuck with all you’re doing is sending out emails and proposals and, and contracts and, and all of a sudden all the things that you wanna do, the things that you love to do, you don’t, you don’t really get to do those anymore. And having a good system gives you the freedom to work on the message, hone the craft and do the revenue generating activities, be excellent on stage and do the pre-event calls. So I love that you brought that up. That wasn’t even on my radar for our conversation, but it’s such an important part of where most people get into something and then all of a sudden they’re like, I’m exhausted, right?
AJV (17:42):
I’ve got major burnout, I don’t know if I can keep doing this. And it’s because you didn’t have a good system to start with. So I love that part of it. Right. And I love the, the benefit statements. ’cause You’re right, it’s like most speakers start with, here’s, here I am, right? Like, these are my credentials. So I love that benefit start statements piece. But then you also mentioned a few other things like program descriptions and all of that. And so do you find that it is still necessary that speakers have like a media kit or a press kit, a demo video? Like what’s most important, what’s least important? How long should they be? Like, what are those things look like today?
JH (18:18):
Yeah, no, those are good questions and yes, super relevant. All of that is still needed. I mean, and just to give the listeners a, a kind of a blast from the past, the way this used to happen, I’m answering your question, I promise. The, the way this used to happen was quite literally, if any of you were old enough to remember how you used to order things over the phone instead of online, you’d open the JCPenney catalog and you would find the number and call ’em and say, Hey, I want x, y, z number. Well, the same thing happened with speakers. Specifically bureaus would print this big, like catalog of speakers and they would ship that out to all the buyers, all the meeting planners. And then the same thing happened. They call and they look through and say, Hey, these are the speakers I want.
JH (19:06):
And so it, it changed from that to then speakers had like individual websites and then social media came into it. And then people were still mailing VHS tapes and then CDs and, you know, all of that. And that media kit has graduated into this digital media kit now. And so yes, it’s still valuable, but, but different. And, and one thing that I think speakers need to know is that just because you have a website and everything’s there doesn’t mean that that solves the, the doesn’t make it easy for a buyer to hire you. They have to go find your website, they have to navigate that. And you have to give them things easy at their fingertips. And I mean, I, I haven’t seen the numbers on this lately, but seems like before the pandemic MPI, which is meeting professionals international, they’re a big group of meeting planners.
JH (20:06):
And they had listed being a meeting planner was in like the top five most stressful jobs in the US. And I’m still, it’s, I’m sure it’s probably still up in the top. But they have a lot on their plate. And if you just say, yeah, go here and do this, then that’s, that’s not easy. And we’ve become a society where we want things instant. Like we go buy something online and you want to actually see if they have those red shoes in stock. And if they don’t, you’ll go somewhere else where you know, they have it in stock. ’cause You don’t wanna wait. Mm-Hmm. , right? And so that’s how a meeting planner literally feels they wanna buy people. And that’s where we’ve kind of evolved into actually having an end-to-end process of hiring a speaker online through our directories. They can inquire with them, they can engage with them through you know, direct message through our platform.
JH (21:00):
They can narrow it down to one of ’em, hire ’em and and sign the contract and pay ’em all through online. And all of that is generated or has come about because of the, the type of buying that people are doing online. Right. That’s a new, and anyway, so my point is, is that that digital kit is so important and yes, have it all on your website, but that’s one of the reasons that our, our profiles, our online profiles have done so well is something we launched about 10 years ago. And we had, we saw this need where speakers were sending their kits out to all the speakers bureaus and all their meeting planners. And it’s a huge cost number one, ’cause you got to, it’s a big box, you know, then you’re shipping that out and then they have to then go through that and digitize the video or then take the video and put it on the website.
JH (21:56):
And it’s a lot of work for all those people to do that. And we heard from the bureaus that they have rooms to just boxes full of VHS tapes or CDs, right? And, and meeting planners have the same thing. People just send meeting planners random boxes of stuff and just say, Hey, I’m a speaker on leadership, hire me. You know? And so they just had a hard time processing all that. So the, the digital media kit is effective in the, in the sense that it’s one thing that you can send them and it has everything in it, and it’s easy for them to like save in a folder and, and share with people and things like that. And that’s one of the things where the profile, our profiles have really shined is on the profile itself. We have all the different marketing materials that, that are, we’ve found that speakers or the buyers want to know, they don’t have to leave the profile at all.
JH (22:49):
They have their bio, they have all their topics, their fees, they have videos, they have marketing materials, they have all their programs, their calendar, if they do virtual work, all of that thing. All of that is on one profile. And it, what it creates is a an a a better experience for the buyer. And they have everything they need right on that one page to make the purchase decision. And yes, they could go to the speaker’s website, yes. They could be go to the speakers social media, yes, they could look at this PDF, but you know, ultimately, like having one place where all of that is, is together is, is still valuable. So, yes.
AJV (23:28):
Yeah. I love that. And I think one of the things you said that really stands out to me, and which I don’t think a lot of speakers are probably doing when they think about their demo videos or speaker press kits is, am I building this to appeal to the, the buyer, right? Am I building this to attract them, make it easy for them? ’cause I see a lot of Prescott that are like 12, 13, 14 pages and it’s like, takes me forever to go through it. And I’m supposed to be doing that for our clients, right? It’s like, that’s really long. Or demo videos that are 20, 30 minutes. And I’m like, I don’t have time to watch this. So I’m guessing a meeting planner doesn’t either. So for, when you’re thinking about making it easy for this buyer, right? The meeting planner to make decisions, is there like a special recipe of like how short it is this? Yeah. Tell us about that. Yeah,
JH (24:16):
There is, well, specifically with programs, so we, let’s just talk about that audience benefit statement that it’s kind of your lead in, right? It’s what’s your, the benefits of hiring you. And then as you take that, you go into your bio and your bio should always start with an extension of that audience benefit statement. ’cause You don’t want ’em to all, all of a sudden go to your bio and now all of a sudden you’re talking about being a New York Times bestseller and all this stuff. And you said, Hey, I thought you were a leadership expert that could change the culture of my organization. And now all of a sudden you’re talking about this. So it’s kind of the segue paragraph. That first paragraph is the segue paragraph that really ties in your audience benefit statement into, now this is all about me. So you have that, that segue paragraph that talks about the benefits still and explains them in more detail.
JH (25:06):
And then the rest of the bio is all about you as a speaker. Sure. Say all those things that we talked about. These are the things I’ve done, books I’ve written places, degrees I have, or what makes you be able to support that. You, you can change culture in an organization because you’ve done all these things. Right? And then the, the next extension of that is in the programs, your speeches. So when you outline your programs, you always lead with the benefit, right? So this is the benefit of hiring, this is why you want me to speak to your group on this program. And then the format of that is always great to identify who this is good for. This is great for senior leadership, middle management, you know, salespeople, whatever. And so you identify kind of who it’s for and then the last thing you look, make sure you always have in the program description.
JH (26:01):
You have the program description and then the takeaways. Mm-Hmm. . So what are the key takeaways to, for that program? What are people gonna walk away with knowing how to do or how to implement or whatever, right? So that’s kind of the structure of a program. And it’s usually, oh, I don’t know, four, five paragraphs kind of in, if you were to look at four or five paragraphs, four paragraphs, it’s about that length. And you know, it’s obviously not all paragraphs ’cause you have bullet points and thing takeaways and all that. But you know, it’s a, it’s a little bit, I don’t know the character count, but it’s usually shorter so they can process it. Mm-Hmm. . And and then I’ve seen speakers do a really good job of doing like a one page that’s just on that program. Mm-Hmm. . And so it’s a little bit more so if say, Hey, that’s really great, tell me more.
JH (26:50):
And they can send ’em this PDF that’s a one page about how to create culture in an organization and kind of more about what you present. So that’s kind of the general gist of kind of the content that you should have on your profile, you know, really driven by the benefits. And then you asked earlier about the video and we find effectively that somewhere around 30 to 40 minutes of video total is like probably the most valuable. But we, we prefer really small segments. Hmm. So I wouldn’t ever put a raw video up there. It’s like 30 minutes of you speaking. ’cause That’s just boring Right? and nobody’s gonna make it through that. I mean, we’re lucky if they make it through 30 seconds of it. Right. So really it’s the, we find that the key like clip is between 30 seconds and like two minutes at the most.
JH (27:49):
Wow. And so, and, and really we found more success with short little video clips. So let’s say you know, a AJ or aj your speaker, right? Mm-Hmm. you speak. So you may have a topic of branding or leadership or business. And so what you would have is of a clip of your video. And it, and a lot of people say, I don’t have any clips of me on the stage yet. I’m brand new. And the truth is that you don’t really have to have, I mean, ultimately yes, you have to have the best video is you on the stage engaging with the audience, delivering some kind of content. And somehow we’ve got into this weird video sizzle reel thing that there’s this voiceover and there’s testimonials in it. And there’s, you know, like all these words on the screen that people are reading, they’re like, hold on, I wanted to just see ’em in action.
JH (28:48):
Like, what’s all this stuff? And so if that’s not, if they don’t see you on the stage in the first 30 seconds of the video, they’re out. Right? So I’d always lead, and I don’t have any problem with voiceover videos, but, you know, if you want to take the first couple seconds and say, Hey, this is AJ Vaden leadership expert, and then show you on stage where you’re delivering content, that’s where the value comes. And that’s really what they want to see. They want to see you delivering your content, how you interact with the audience, if they’re engaged with you less about the content itself and more how you’re working with the audience. And then secondly comes the content, right? And so that’s where, if aj, you’re a, a branding expert, they want to see the content. This is, this is AJ speaking on branding, it’s the video name.
JH (29:37):
And the next video might be, you know, AJ speaking on corporate culture or whatever, right? And they expect when they, when they listen or watch that, they’re going to hear a segment of your speech that talks about branding, about corporate culture or whatever, right? It’s not just somewhere in that 30 minute video or 15 minute clip. It’s, it’s in that two minutes. And you can obviously go longer than a two minute clip. But we found that we, in our system, you can have six topics, up to six topics. And so that would give you six individual videos that would show you delivering your content and with those particular topics. And that’s a really great way to do it. And then of course, you can also add other videos that would be like a testimonial video. So if somebody was interested in hearing testimonials, not just reading them, you can, you can go in and add those testimonial videos and, and of, and if you wanted to outta a sizzle reel. But in our system, you can set a primary video that always shows up on your profile and that particular one I, I don’t like making it anything other than something that you’re right up on the stage in the very beginning to catch ’em. So
AJV (30:52):
I love that. That’s what we, I think that’s really insightful about Yeah, it’s great to have a sizzle and it’s great to have testimonials, but that needs to be ancillary to the main thing being the main thing, which is you on stage, which is what this meeting planner needs to see first. Right.
JH (31:07):
And the interesting thing is that we’ve seen speakers do this and they create these little clips and you can be, so if you don’t have stage video and you can be just like, AJ is right here to me in the Zoom window, and and you can just say, Hey, my name’s AJ and I, I’m a, I’m a expert on corporate culture and when I come speak to you, we identify this, this, and this, and you audience will walk away knowing how to do this, this, and this. I mean, it’s just simple as that. Hmm. And it can be a video just like we’re on right now. And you know, it, it works out great. And and it’s something that can be shared on your own social media and on your own website and meeting planner really like that. And it can be even a marketing, we have a couple speakers that just did some marketing emails out about being an expert in whatever it was that they were an expert and that video was part of that email that they put out. So anyway, it just, there’s a lot of value in like, really specifically saying what you do and how you solve problems. You
AJV (32:08):
Know, I love that for the, the brand new speakers who are just starting out where, you know, so much of it as you hear, it’s like, you’re not gonna get booked without a demo video. And it’s like, well, you’re saying yeah, you can. Yeah. So I think that’s a, a really one hope inspiring for everyone who’s just beginning. But for those people who are just starting out going like, Hey, I’ve got my message. I know what I’m doing. I just don’t have any stage footage yet. I haven’t had that opportunity to get it filmed on stage. You really think doing something like this that’s just articulating what you talk about, how you do it, what the benefits are. You think that meeting planners are booking speakers that way?
JH (32:44):
Yeah. Well, a hundred percent. I know they are.
AJV (32:46):
That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s, I think that’s really hope inspiring for everyone out there going eventually you need stage footage, but you don’t have to have it to give back.
JH (32:57):
Yeah. Well, and the crazy thing is, is we all know people that have big names, celebrity figures, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, whoever, AJ Baden, , you know, all those people. And and the truth is, is that those kind of, we call ’em celebrity speakers in the sense that they don’t really have to work super hard for new leads coming in. They’re, they’re, they have to actually work hard on turning down leads ’cause they’re requested so much. Mm-Hmm. . And that is a, a situation we all wish we were in. Right? and, and in fact, I think we tried to book Simon Sinek one time and they said, yeah, he’s a year and a half out. His next availability is a year and a half out because he just doesn’t book himself. He doesn’t overbook himself. Mm-Hmm. . And and I mean, luckily for us the pandemic hit and we were the first people to book him for a virtual job and which was, which was great.
JH (33:55):
And and anyway, but that, so that’s how we got him to get booked. But you know, the, the, the point is, is that that if you’re not a celebrity figure, which the majority of us aren’t then how do you get jobs? And it, it takes, it, it really takes the doing all the time. I think, oh man, I, I don’t remember who it was. It might’ve been I don’t know. I was listening to David Goggins I think one time, and, you know, he said to Grove something, you really have to do it. You have to be in doing it. And it’s all about the doing. And I’ve always remembered that as just like, it, you, you can’t, there, you can’t just like all of a sudden say I’m a speaker one day and not do anything to like build your business.
JH (34:46):
Right. You has, you have to do it. And so when you’re small, it means doing everything. And when you’re larger, it means you know, making sure that other people are doing everything right and that everything’s still happening and all the boxes are checked. So that’s, that’s what we’ve seen as we work with speakers and we’ve actually seen, I have literally seen speakers come and I’ve talked to that haven’t had one speech. They not even call them. Supposed they’re just learning about speaking to now they’re charging $20,000 a speech and they’re booked over a hundred times a year. You know, so it’s, it, it, it, it happens, it does happen, but it just ha you have to, you have to go and get in and do it. And that’s what people, they have to roll up their sleeves and get to work and it just doesn’t happen automatically. So
AJV (35:41):
Yeah. It’s, but it’s back to, it’s treating, speaking like a business, right? It’s like Right. Say you’re a speaker doesn’t mean anything’s gonna happen. Right. But you gotta put yourself out there and do the right things to get yourself booked, so. Right. All right. So I’m watching the time, and I know we have this a little bit longer, so I’ve got a few other questions here. So one of the things that I think we hear all the time at Brand Builder’s Group is how, how do you know how to set your fees? And so any insights around, doesn’t matter if like this is your first engagement, you’re just starting out, or you’ve been doing this a while. Is there any sort of thoughts, insight, or is there some magical strategy of how speakers should be setting fees?
JH (36:23):
Well, I’ve always heard this philosophy, it, it’s whatever people would hire you for is what your fee is. Right? And so it’s a sup, it’s a supply and demand thing. But in general we encourage new speakers to just get out and get experience, speak for free, get low paying jobs. You can start with like, rotary clubs are a great way, chambers of commerce are a great way. Like you can, you can really get out and get paid $50, a hundred dollars a speech just giving speeches. You just, you can’t I don’t know. I had a, I was talking to a guy recently that was a CEO at a company and he was transitioning over into speaking and, you know, he makes a good amount of money as a CEO and then came into speaking and felt like, well, I’m not gonna go earn a thousand dollars.
JH (37:16):
You know, it’s like, well, you have to then build your brand. You have to, you know, like you have to give, there has to be some reason that they would hire you for more than a thousand dollars. And so we kind of helped him recreate his what he was doing in a different approach and, and added more value to it by his experience as a CEO. And, but if you’re just starting out, that is obviously gonna be a lower fee. And so you just keep pitching it. And I’ve, I’ve heard this question a ton is when do I know when I can raise my fee? Hmm. And so that really comes when you’re getting booked enough of that fee that you feel like if I raised it, I’d still get booked and everybody’s different. There’s no secret sauce on fees. Unfortunately in my, in, from my experience start low, like if you wanted to start, like low range is, you know, 500 to a thousand, that’s really low range.
JH (38:17):
In, in our database of our speakers, you know, like a lower range would be like 2,500 to 5,000. That would be a good place to start. So if you, if you’ve spoken a bunch maybe for low fees and you’re trying to set some type of fee, you know, 2,500 is a good fee that p somebody would pay to get you to, to book you. And then like the 2,500 to five is a general good range. If you’re a, you know, if you’re like five to 75 is another good range, but like right around 10 is a, is a fee range that you see most speakers kind of ride around. You know, they’re, they’re booking 80 times a year 80 dates, and they have a pretty good business. And anybody above that, they either have some content or experience, they landed a plane on the Hudson River, they wanna race, they sold this business for whatever.
JH (39:13):
They have some reason that’s taking their fee, you know, to a higher level and or their content is just so valuable, right. You’re a Simon Sinek and you know, people will come just because of your content. Yeah. And that, and that’s a whole different thing, right? You, you know, those, those, those people are 50 to a hundred thousand a speech or not, or more. Right? And so it really depends where you’re at. But that’s, that’s that’s in general I think kind of the fee ranges that we see. And I really would just start with people, things like chambers of commerce and, and rotary clubs and, you know, volunteering free stuff. Just get some experience underneath you. ’cause You don’t want to go get somebody to say, yeah, I’ll pay you for 5,000 and you don’t have the experience delivering that speech and you don’t do a great job. And they’re like, yeah, not so great. You want all of your speaking experience, your, all of your bookings to build upon each other so that you can get references. Because that’s super huge in, in speaking as you want to be able to have testimonials to say, yeah, they delivered a great speech. And those also help in raising your fee.
AJV (40:28):
Yeah, I think that’s really, I think that’s really wise. And it’s, I think it’s interesting to hear, it’s like most speakers are around that $10,000 range. It’s like, if you’ve been doing it for a while, would you say that’s the most crowded fee range where that’s like, where it’s like, man, is there the most competition in that fee range?
JH (40:47):
In which one?
AJV (40:48):
The 10,000?
JH (40:51):
I would probably say five to 10,000 is probably the range, but probably more so there’s probably more people in the 7,500 to 10. They’re the, they’re the speakers that have figured it out. They have system in some place. They have they have a good database of, of contacts. They’re, they’re getting leads off the web. You know, they’re, they’re, they’re kind of well-rounded mm-Hmm. you know, they’re, they’ve got some good testimonials under their belt. So yeah, I would say that, you know, 10,000 is a good range. It just depends honestly, where you’re coming from and what kind of value. I know the people, a lot of the people you work with are brand builders, have established businesses and bigger names possibly. And so yeah, I would start them at a higher range. And it just all depends on where you’re coming from and every speaker’s a little bit different.
AJV (41:49):
Yeah. And I think that’s really helpful of just going like, Hey, starter fees, you know, it could be as low as $500, but somewhere between 520 500 if you don’t have like, a lot of name recognition or credibility or, you know, books or content that’s gonna set a higher precedent. I think even having that idea for everyone who’s listening of going like, okay, like I thought my fee was gonna be 10,000 . It’s like, no, it’s probably a little bit lower than that. At least to get started and then follow like basic laws of supply and demand and Right. It’s like as you get booked more and there’s, you know, less supply and more demand, then you increase the fees. And, and I love that too. It’s like as you’re getting, you know, 10,000, 15,000 and over, it’s usually because whether you’re getting booked so much that you can do that, or there’s something else has happened, rather your content’s gone viral. There was a bestselling book, or, you know, you climbed my Everest, or you know, you did some sort of like, things Exactly that’s gonna like position you in the marketplace.
JH (42:48):
Some of it’s exposure too. I’ll give you an example. A local speaker here in Utah I had a youth group activity in my backyard and I had him come speak and it was, I don’t even remember what the topic was. It was just probably about achieving your very best or something to that effect. And he came and did it for free. ’cause He was looking for experience. Right. He was just transitioning into it. And that was probably eight years ago, and I just ran into him the other day and his fee is 50 grand. That’s awesome. And it’s all because of exposure. He got, he, I, I always thought he was great. He’s the same great guy now that he was then he has the same content, he’s better at it. Yeah. But he literally has the more exposure, he got more people like, wow, where’s this guy come from? And he just, it just, it just ballooned from there and got bigger and bigger and bigger. And now, you know, he’s 50 grand of speech and that’s amazing. Right. And that’s about eight years ago. Eight, eight years of work, and now he’s going from zero per speech to 50, and he’s still booked, you know, 80 to a hundred times a year. So
AJV (43:59):
That’s amazing. You know, but, but my favorite sayings is the more you speak, the more you speak. Yeah. Right. And it’s like, you just gotta get out there and as you’re, as you’re in, you know, a beginner mode doesn’t mean you’re a beginner in business, but a beginner in the speaking world, it’s like you just say yes. Right? You take the gig. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the Chamber of Commerce or, you know, the, you know, networking group in the back of Applebee’s. Like whatever. Right. You just say yes because you never know who’s in the audience. Right. And that’s always been our take. It’s like you just never know who might be there that can lead to the next event and who’s gonna be there that lead can lead to the next event. All right. So I’ve got two last questions for you.
AJV (44:40):
That was I think super insightful, especially for those in that beginner range and aspiring of going, like, what is a moderate price to start with? All right. So two last things. Who would you say is booking most speakers today? Or what topics are getting booked the most? Like, are there any industry trends of going like, Hey, like education is just like booking everything or ced, or are, or are there any topical trends that you’re seeing of going, Hey, doesn’t matter what, you know, year we’re in culture’s always gonna be top. Because I know for a long time there was like this huge rise in social media speakers but I’ve also seen that really go down. And then there was like, you know, diversity and inclusion speakers was really high, and then it’s kind of dropped off. So are you seeing any trends with like, industry bookings or topical bookings that we should know about? Yeah.
JH (45:36):
Yeah. Well, let me ask you this first. This is a roundabout answer. What percentage do you think a speaker hiring a speaker is in all the things that a buyer does a meeting planner does? What percentage do you think, where did that rank?
AJV (45:55):
Oh, maybe 5%.
JH (45:58):
What, okay. What, what priority do you think? Yeah. Oh no, 5%. Five percent’s good. I mean, that’s a good guess. The truth is, is that we did a recent poll with our database of meeting planners, and it’s 81% of event organizers said it’s in the top three things that they do. Wow. Is hiring a speaker. 81. 81% said that. And so the, the thing I want to bring up is that you know, speakers always, it’s, it’s a small thing. I mean, like booking an event or scheduling an event, you book the space. Mm-Hmm. , you have to do all the food and beverage. You have to worry about attendance and how to get attendees to the show and exhibitors and sponsors, I mean, all those are huge things. But it was interesting for us to find that the meeting planners still a priority in the, it’s in the top three things of an an event is what speakers they hire. And so just realize that what you’re doing makes a difference and you’re important. And even when they negotiate with you and all these things, like you’re, you’re an important factor in that, the success of that event. Now I forget the actual question you gave me. Sorry.
AJV (47:10):
Just like, as meeting planners or, and I think that’s fascinating. ’cause It’s like, I would’ve thought it probably would’ve been further down because it’s like, my gosh, there’s so many logistics to do these big events. Yeah, yeah. But it’s like, are there any trending topics?
JH (47:24):
Oh, right. That’s right. Yeah. So knowing that, that they’re, they are hiring speakers. I’m going right to our live statistics right now on e speakers. And the top topic that’s being searched right now in our database is inspirational. Hmm. Inspirational healthcare humor health and nutrition customer service, leadership. Those are some of the big ones. Women in business. Those are some kind of trending right now. I do know that corporate culture is huge. I mean, we, we get a lot of re inquiries about that changing the culture of, and it, and it has been since the pandemic because it’s unique environment, right. Culture is a big deal. And, and diversity, even though it has dropped off a little bit in regards to our focus of it, it’s still one of the top things that people get booked for.
JH (48:24):
Diversity and inclusion, equity inclusion, it’s all, it’s all super important. And, and anyway, so I, I actually was at a conference for speakers in Canada for the Canadian Speakers Association, like NSA in December. And there was a speaker that spoke about how we need to do better jobs as speakers of being diverse in our presentations. And this is, this is one of those things that you don’t really think about as a speaker. It’s like, I don’t speak on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I speak on these other things, but really you do, because we live in a world where there’s so much diversity in the audience that the things you say matter make a difference. Right. They do matter the way you address people. And I’ve even, I I, I took this to heart and because I say you guys and hey, you guys, and hope you guys are doing well and all of that.
JH (49:26):
And I, I know that’s changing now, right? But you can’t just say guys, and you can’t even even say men or women or ladies and gentlemen even. And it’s, it’s very specific. And so it, you wanna make a difference. As a speaker, I’d really dive into that and, and address how you actually present to your audience and what you can say and what you can’t say and, and make a difference that way. Even if you don’t speak on Mm-Hmm. , diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can do a better job speakers, we can do a better job at being more inclusive in our presentations. And I’ve, I’ve just been thinking about that a ton since she gave that presentation as it’s not one of the topics that’s getting booked a lot as recently, like it was maybe a year ago. But I think maybe forward thinking or looking forward that’s going to be a super important thing for speakers to address in their presentations. Mm.
AJV (50:28):
Yeah. I think that’s wise. ’cause They’re like, you know, I thought that was interesting and I had jotted this on when you said it, it’s like inspirational as a top trending topic. But it’s like the truth is any speaker could make their topic inspirational. Right? Right. And it’s like, same thing with, you know, diversity, equity, inclusion. It’s like you could integrate some component of that into pretty much anything that you talk about. Right? Same thing with culture, right? And it’s like, same thing with customer service or experience. It’s like if you just focus on like, Hey, these are things that are important out in the business world today. These are what people are looking for, and learn how to integrate that into your message without changing your topic, then it really does make it a more well diverse option right. Across the board.
JH (51:12):
Yeah. And, and one of the things that we’ve seen where speakers are more successful is where they actually have an outcome that comes from their, their topic, right? So you’re solving a problem, there’s an outcome to your topic. And if you don’t already have that, if you don’t know what your outcomes are, then I would highly recommend that you look at that because you’ve gotta know what, what is the outcome that this buyer wants me to deliver on? What problem do they have and what outcome am I delivering? What am I solving? What problem am I solving? And if you don’t know that, and just say, I’m a speaker on this and, you know, hire me to speak, you’ve gotta talk about, you know, solutions and problems and you know, outcomes. And we’ve seen a, the speakers that focus on an outcome driven content Mm-Hmm. , they seem to connect really tight with their, with their meeting planners and those audiences,
AJV (52:08):
I love that outcome because
JH (52:09):
They’re actually solving the real problem. Right? What’s that?
AJV (52:12):
That outcome driven content. Yeah.
JH (52:15):
Yeah. They’re really solving problems.
AJV (52:16):
Yeah. And that is the hard work of making sure you know, the problem that you’re solving and are you speaking to that. And I, that’s all back to honing that craft of practicing that. And it’s like, sometimes you only figure that out because you’ve done this speech a hundred times, right? And sometimes it’s a hundred times for free, right. But the point is, is you’re getting out there, like you said earlier, and it’s like you’re doing the work whether you’re paid or not, you’re out there doing the work. Joe, if people wanna learn more about e speakers, where’s the best place for them to go?
JH (52:49):
Well it’s pretty easy. E speakers.com and there’s some dropdowns there for speakers on how you can learn more. You know, we you know, if you, if you contact us and tell us that you listen to this podcast, we can give you a free base account because we’re partners with brand builders and, and love these guys and they do great work and and we’ve gone through it Ourself has been amazing and, and they’ve changed some of the things and the ways we do things even so. But anyway, yeah, east speakers.com is where they can go and get a free profile and get started. And if you’re brand new, that’s a great way to kind of put a stake in the sand and say, Hey, I’m in the speaking industry. And if you don’t have a system in place and you are a successful speaker and if seasoned and you don’t have systems in place, we have great solutions for that and tie into a lot of the CRMs and financial software. And so we have, we have 24 years of business behind us, under our belt and most of the new features and system, the features that we work with and the benefits that we’ve come from or we’ve I guess that we, the benefits that we provide are driven by our customers, our speaker customers. They say, Hey, look, this is what I need to run my business better. And so we provide solutions and and tools for them to be able to run their business with them. So
AJV (54:17):
I love that. And that’s so super generous. So if y’all didn’t hear that, go to e speakers.com, mention that you heard about e speakers from this influential personal brand podcast with Brand Builders Group, and they will let you set up with a free account. So cool. So generous. Joe, thank you so much for being on here. And for everyone else, stick around, listen to the recap episode and then join us again on another episode of the Influential Personal Brand. We’ll see you next time.

Ep 458: The Coaching Habit with Michael Bungay Stanier

RV (00:02):
I’m so honored to introduce you to someone who I have found to be a delightful human full of really deep wisdom and just someone who’s been a real joy to be around. We ended up meeting each other at this bestselling author meetup, just a private meetup of colleagues that happened just a couple months ago, and I’ve started following him more closely since then. And now I’m bringing him to you and you’re gonna love getting to meet him. So his name is Michael Bunge Stanier. And he is most probably most popular for his book called The Coaching Habit, which is probably the bestselling book on the topic of coaching this century. I followed his book long before I met him because here’s what’s very unusual about his book. It sells a lot every single week. , most books sell a lot at first, and then they kind of like trailed down, you know, from there.
RV (01:02):
Yeah. And this book has not done that for years. It has been. It’s just like super consistent every week in and week out. Michael also founded a Box of Crayons, which is a learning and development organization and company that’s trained thousands of managers to be more coach-like in organizations. So this is companies like Microsoft Te Gucci teaching their leaders how to become better coaches. And when I met him, I was just like, oh my gosh. We have to introduce you to our audience, both to hear the story of how you built your personal brand, but literally, like all of us are coaches in some form or fashion. So anyways, Michael, welcome to the show, buddy. Oh,
MBS (01:42):
Look, I’m super excited. That was an amazing gathering in Nashville, wasn’t it? There was so many impressive people there, . I was like, there’s so much to learn, and it’s such a supportive community. I mean, it’s a real insight around, part of the way you, you continue to elevate is you continue to hang out with people who are ambitious and doing smart things and, and are generous. And the the generosity in that room was really amazing.
RV (02:07):
Yeah. Yeah. I, I feel the same way. And I, you know, whenever I’m in a room like that with colleagues, I am you know, proud to be there, humbled to be there and, and, and then really blown away by a lot of the people because I’m, I’m a reader first. I’m a student first. I’m a fan first. Right. And so I’m, I’m fangirling over a lot of the, a lot of the people even these days. Like a lot of our clients, I’m like, you know, I’m, I’m glad that we’re helping them, but I’m also like, still so excited to like, get to know them and meet them. And so I think this topic of coaching Yeah. Is super relevant. And can you just like, talk us through the, the, the premise of the coaching habit and like that, not just the book, but the body of work and like what that’s all about?
MBS (02:57):
Yeah. You know, I I was really sure I was gonna be a coach early on. You know, it felt like one of those, the saying inspiration is when your past suddenly makes sense. When I discovered coaching, I was like, oh, look, my whole past aligns around that. When I was 17, I did crisis telephone counseling and helping kind of youth anxiety and youth suicide and stuff like that. And so I’ve been learning how to ask questions and stay curious and, you know, sink deeper into what was going on since I was 17. And I heard about coaching when I was working and living in London. And of course part of me is like, it’s a weird Californian thing. ’cause This is like in the 1990s before it really blew up . And part of me is like, intrigued and, and I’m in London where we’re, you know, skeptical about everything, but a part of me was intrigued.
MBS (03:44):
And then when I moved to the States and lived in Boston, I hired a coach and I started telling my clients, my consulting clients, I was coaching them, whether I didn’t know what that meant. And then when I moved to Toronto in 2001, I’m like, I’m gonna start a coaching practice. And I did my training and, and I found I didn’t love being a coach. Hmm. It was very confusing. I grew a practice, I had lots of people, I’m like, this isn’t quite right for me yet. But I’d been invited by a, a big multinational to help design a coaching training for them. And I designed other training on other topics before, and suddenly something clicked around this, which is, oh, I want to un weird coaching for busy managers and leaders, because coaching has this, it comes with baggage and there’s a lot of kinda woowoo ness around coaching.
MBS (04:38):
You know, it’s kind of like, oh, it’s mysterious, it’s touchy feely. Everybody’s wearing caf, dans and lighting incenses, . You know, there’s a kind of, there’s a, there’s a bunch of stuff that people are like a bit suspicious about it. And I’m like, I was really clear that I think coaching can be an amazing technology to unlock people’s greatness, help ’em have more impact in the world. I didn’t love how it was being taught in the, in the ways I’d seen it. And particularly I didn’t think it was being taught well in organizations where often life coach training was just brought in. And like, we’ll just tell the managers the same stuff. Yeah. So the origin of this was like, I want to un weird coaching for normal people. So even though, you know, I’m, I’m kind of well known, I guess in in coaching circles, the people I’m really trying to serve are people outside coaching circles, which are people like, I need, look, I’ve got a team. I’m trying to lead them. I’m tapped out in the leadership skills that I have at the moment. And I, I, I have a sense that I, you know, my organization’s telling me to coach them, and how do I do that? And I’m like, let me show you as best I can so that you can read the book or hear the book or whatever, and go, oh, if that’s coaching, I can do that. And that’s the impact I was really trying to have. Mm-Hmm. .
RV (05:57):
And I remember being in college, you know, when I heard the word coaching, I used to think of, you know, for me it was, it was athletic coaches. I did martial arts and I had basketball coach. Right. And I, I, I thought I thought of it very much as like instruction and teaching. And, you know, then I was in the world championship of public speaking and I had coaches that, you know, they were giving me feedback and they were critiquing. But then when I was, when I was in college, I took a class on coaching and I very vividly remember them saying, coaching is not teaching. It’s only listening. It’s only asking questions. And like, the foundational premise was that the, the client has all the answers. Yeah. And so it was like a very Socratic method of like, your job is to only ask questions. And so even to this day, I’m still a little unclear on like what the proper definition of coaching is. ’cause A lot of my clients call me a coach, but I teach them what to do.
New Speaker (07:02):
Like I tell them, you know, so I don’t know if that counts. I,
MBS (07:06):
I, well, I get, I think you can get really hung up on these kind of technical definitions of coaching. Sure. So I have a behaviorally based definition, which is simply this. Can you stay curious a little bit longer? Hmm. Can you rush to action and advice giving a little bit more slowly? Because I think coaching involves teaching. I think it is partly a, like I, look, I’ve got scars, I’ve got wisdom , I, I, I’ve got stuff. I can tell you this. You know, some of the answers are not waiting to be uncovered within because they’re technical stuff that you learn in a different place. And I’ve got that wisdom, and you don’t yet have that wisdom. So I think it’s ridiculous to say, oh, coaching, you can only ask a question. But equally, I think if you think coaching is just telling people what to do, you fundamentally misunderstood one of the powerful ways to help people learn.
MBS (07:56):
Mm-Hmm. . ’cause What you’re help, what you’re, the goal in coaching is to help people generate new insights about themselves and about the world. You can do that by asking questions. You can do that by offering up learning, teaching advice is to actually help them shift their behavior so they do something differently as a result of it. It’s helped them to notice the impact. So they get feedback from their new insight and their new behavior. And then it’s to help them then move to, now what’s the new insight? Noticing that. So insight, action impact. And that’s the cycle of coaching. And how you get there depends on the person, depends on the context. Depends on the moment.
RV (08:35):
Yeah. And you know, in inside that definition, and it’s like, I don’t, you know, like brand Mild’s group, I actually don’t define it as a coaching company, right? We are really a training company. We have curriculum, right? We’re putting people through processes exercises. Right. We’re certainly getting input, like to tailor it to what we’re doing doing, but it’s like, it’s not, and and to me that is very different from coaching of the idea of going ask questions to sort of help someone discover what Yeah. You know, their like I love the way that you said, I think the word that you, you said was it’s technical training. Yeah. Technical training is different from sort of a find the answer within type of a Yeah.
MBS (09:16):
Conversation. But there’s a, there’s a way that these two dance together. It’s not one or the other. I mean, if I was training you on, on your world championship speaking, you know, I, you could, you could give a talk and I could immediately jump in and go, right, Rory, let me, let me make some adjustments here. But it’s actually a more powerful lesson for me to go. So Rory, tell me before, I’ve got some ideas, but what do you think went well? What do you think your strength is? Where did you feel the weakness in, in the talk? What bit do you feel like you really need to focus on to kind of lift the level? And you figuring that stuff out is helpful for you. And it’s also then helpful for me to then go, right, let me take, I, I can figure out the advice that’s most useful for you.
MBS (09:59):
Like, even at the highest level of sport now, like the rugby world championships on rugby union. And if you, if you know it, you know, it’s a big thing. And if you know rugby union, you know that the New Zealand, all blacks are the team. They are the, they’re the most winningest team in sport. They have this unparalleled success record. They dominate this sport in a way that is incredible for coming from a tiny country. And the way these elite sports people are taught are part directed through questions. What are you noticing? What are you learning? What do you guys think we need to solve around here? And part technical intervention, which is like, here’s what we need to do differently around that. It’s both. And the bias that I’m looking to shift for people is start with curiosity and then know that teaching might be the thing that follows curiosity. ’cause That might be the most appropriate thing to do.
RV (10:55):
Mm-Hmm, . Yeah. And I think like you’re saying to the, to the context, I mean, there’s so much power in somebody realizing for themselves what, what, what the action is. I, you know, I also think about it in selling, you know when we teach like how to deal with objections, one of the things that we say is you are selling, if they’re talking, and that basically, it’s like, like the prospect. Your prospect only believes like 20% of what you say, but they believe a hundred percent of what you’re able to get them to say, .
MBS (11:30):
That’s great.
RV (11:31):
So if you, if you can ask the questions, if you can, if you can orchestrate the questions and engineer the questions in a way that the light bulb comes on for themselves as they’re talking, there’s, that’s like a, that’s a revelation that will be more influential than you just telling them what to, you know what to think. That’s
MBS (11:49):
Right. Because if you come in, if you lead with advice, and that’s what so many of us have kind of built in as our default, our default response. You know, somebody starts talking to you and after about 10 seconds, your advice monster comes up outta the dark and goes, oh, I’m gonna add some value to this conversation. Or just wait till they stop talking. ’cause I know what I wanna tell them. But if you, if you default to advice, the first thing you need to know is that the power in the relationship shifts. It’s like you go one up, they go one down. And when they’re one down, ’cause you’ve got the status, and they don’t, I know this answer. You don’t know the answer. People inherently resist advice sometimes even when they ask for it, they’re like, can you gimme some advice on that?
MBS (12:29):
Yeah. And yeah, , and I mean, just think of all the advice you’ve given and how little has been followed through on in your time. But if you can find a way for them to more specifically ask for it or figure some stuff out themselves, or for you to build on what they’ve already figured out, they’re just more likely to hear what you’ve got to say to them. So it’s not even, it, it’s like, it’s not even a, oh, I should always ask questions. It’s like, if I want my advice to land, leading with curiosity gives your actual advice a better chance of being more helpful and also acted upon. Mm-Hmm.
RV (13:02):
. Mm-Hmm. . Yep. It, it, it, there’s a part of it, like, especially I think when you’re managing quote unquote managing someone, right? I think it’s one thing if someone hires you to go, teach me a skill. Teach me, teach me Spanish. Right? Teach me how to do QuickBooks. Teach me, teach me how to paint. That’s very different from going, how do I manage my, my, my teammate to become a high performer? Or how do I have a conversation with my aunt, my aunt, aunt about how to change her life? Or how do I give advice to a friend who’s going through a tough time? And
MBS (13:43):
I think that’s true. But I’ll tell you this, Rory. You know, I, I’m, I am a teacher. Like I, you know, through my books and through my courses and the like, and something that, and knowing that there are coaches and teachers and, and people doing similar stuff who are building their own brand by building their own content one of my key design elements is what’s the least I can teach that would be the most useful. So part of that design philosophy is for me to not think that me just adding more value, more content, more information, more advice is actually helpful. Part of the discipline of being a great teacher is going, how do I strip it down to what’s essential? How do I give them the least of what I can do? And how do I create the most space for them to then interact with it, to play with it, to understand it, to deepen it? And one of the things that I see in less experienced teachers by teachers, you can be a facilitator or a coach or any other thing, is the sense of, I’ll just keep adding more content as a way of proving my worth. And the courage, the courageous act is to keep taking content out so that you shift you shift away to the audience’s interaction with your content. And it means you give up control, but you increase engagement and you increase learning.
RV (15:09):
Yeah. That reminds me of I’m pretty sure it’s Mark Twain who said that brevity is the essence of wisdom,
MBS (15:16):
Right? That’s right.
RV (15:19):
And it also takes, except
MBS (15:21):
He said it a little snappier than that. I’m kidding. As a .
RV (15:28):
But the, it, it also, it also, it takes more work to be able to say something concisely, but not to get away from your real point, which is to lead with, you know, to be curious, not necessarily to is So is being curious the same as just leading with questions?
MBS (15:46):
Well, I think, I think so. I mean, I think questions are the great, the great force of, of cur curiosity. So you know, it’s useful to understand that most of us have an advice monster, a driver to go look, the way I add value is I tell people stuff. And we have different things that, that advice monster feeds in us. Sometimes. It’s like, I like to just be the smart person, show my status, show that I have, prove that I’m adding value by the content I have. Sometimes it’s like, I like to be the person who rescues people. I like to save people. I like to be seen as a person who will protect everybody from everything and know everything. So nobody has to stress or worry. And sometimes it’s like, I just like being in control . And when I’m giving advice, I have the upper hand, I have control.
MBS (16:33):
But if you can understand that you’ve got a, a, a wiring and a bias to jumping in with advice, it’s deeply wired in your brain. Your brain loves certainty. And when you’re giving advice, even if it’s the wrong advice to solving the wrong problem, your brain is still going. But this feels quite good, . But when you ask a question, which your brain likes less, because it’s like when you ask a question, it’s a little more ambiguous for your brain. ’cause You’re like, is that a good question? Did they understand the question? Well, they have a good answer. What if they have a crazy answer that I don’t even understand? There’s a little moment of uncertainty, but then you shift the focus onto the person, you give them your full attention, it’s about them rather than about your status. And that’s when greatness gets unlocked.
RV (17:20):
And so is the, is the primary, you know, benefit of that, you’re saying to just that they’re more, they’re more likely to make a change in their life if they come to the realization themself? Is that the premise?
MBS (17:33):
Well, there’s a couple of premise behind it. The first is, if you leap in with advice too soon, quite often you’re not solving the real problem. You know, the one of the powerful questions in the coaching habit book is what’s the real challenge here for you? And the inside is the first challenge that shows up is not the real challenge. And when your advice monster is loose, you’re like, oh, that was the first challenge, and I’ve given you some advice that my work here is done. But your work here isn’t done because you’ve just offered up not very good advice to solve the wrong problem. So there’s, if you can become a, if you’re in a, in a leadership role, if you can become the leader who is known for figuring out what the real problem is, rather than having the fast answer, you become a much more revered, much more valuable person to the people around you.
MBS (18:23):
Because everybody’s got answers. Very few people have the discipline to say, what’s the real challenge here? What’s the hard thing? What’s the most important thing for us to solve? So part of it is like, can you figure out what the real problem is that that alone is, is gold dust? Secondly, it is absolutely true that if people figure out their own answers, they’re more likely to act on their own answers. So if you’d like people to do something differently, the more they can figure this stuff out themselves, the more they can make their own neural connections, you help them grow in competence and confidence and autonomy and self-sufficiency and all of that is good for them. But most of that can be really good for you as well, because you become more effective as a coach or as a manager or as a leader, because your people are like, I’m smarter. I’m more confident, , I’m better able to figure this stuff out myself. I mean, now less dependent on you as a leader, which means that you as a leader or whatever role you’re in, you can just get on with your own stuff.
RV (19:26):
So connecting this back to like, so I like, I I love this I love the application of this too, being a leader and a manager in Yeah. An organization. It, it, there’s also an element of this that to me feels like the more fam the the more familiar someone is with you, like the more, the closer you are in proximity, the more this feels important. Yeah. where it’s, it’s like your kids, right? Like they won’t, they don’t listen to you when you tell ’em to do stuff. They listen to somebody else. Yeah. Because you’re in such close proximity and, and the people you see every day that you’re leading on your team, it’s like eventually they just get tired of hearing you say the same thing over and over again. You know, when you look at it as, as being a coach that people hire, right? Mm-Hmm. And you go, they, they hire you. I think you, you, when you, you get into like the dance you’re talking about, about being curious, asking questions, but also typ, you know, I guess sometimes it’s like if, like for life coaching, I process this very much as like life, like a life coaching conversation. Yeah. If somebody is struggling, they don’t know why they feel blocked. They, they have low confidence. You know, a lot, lot of those are sort of these deep rooted issues.
RV (20:51):
If you look at like a different type of, you know, I’m a health coach or you know, something like that. Or like, I’m, I’m, I’m a, I’m an accountant who coaches people on their, on their, on their finances. Right?
MBS (21:07):
RV (21:07):
There’s always that part of it. Like, what’s the real driving? How do you get them to change their behavior? Yeah. Like you’re saying it’s a behavioral model. This, this is like the, the getting them to modify the behavior is the part of it. Teaching them the what to do is a, is also part of it. So anyways, just any any tips on finding that balance, finding that dance, if you’re a hired coach Yeah. In, in those different kind of types of roles.
MBS (21:35):
So the starting point for me is when you are a coach in that role and you’re hiring your clients and you’re trying to figure out who your ideal clients are. Yeah. ’cause That’s part of the quest for success, is who do I best serve? Sure. you have a conversation with them at the start going, what does good coaching look like or sound like to you? let’s, let me tell you what it looks like. And it sounds like to me, and you actually have this conversation going, how do we talk about how we work together before we plunge into the work? Because, you know, if you’re a health coach, somebody shows up at your door and you’re like, right, , I’m go, I’ve got so much to tell you. I’ve got stuff about weight management. I’ve got stuff about diabetes. I’ve got stuff about exercise.
MBS (22:20):
I’ve got stuff about blood pressure. My, my head is filled with amazing content. And you’re like, I, and I’m so keen to prove my worth to you and add value because I’m, I want, I want you as a client and I’m driven by purpose around helping the world be healthier. So you’ve got all this motivation to get into the work, but the thing to do is, before you get into that work, ’cause it’s, it’s calling you, but it can wait a moment. If you look at your client in the eye and go, look, when you’ve worked with people before around your health and it’s been really helpful for you, what happened? What did they do? What did you do? And what can we learn from that? And now let me tell you my, when I’ve worked with people and I’ve coached them around health and it’s been really successful, let me tell you what happened, what they did, and what I did.
MBS (23:07):
And you actually have a conversation where you actually figure out what’s the best expression of our working relationship together. And a couple of things are gonna happen. One is you get to start educating your client around, this is how I work. Secondly is you’re like, you get to fire your client. ’cause You’re like, it seems like we don’t have a good fit here, even though it looked like we did on content because you got this health issue. And I know stuff about that health issue, the way we work is not compatible. And secondly, you go, right. So I think I understand what the balance is between how much curiosity and how much advice that that is best to strike in, in this circumstance. So there’s no generic answer to this, Rory, other than to say there’s a place for curiosity, there’s a place for advice on balance lead with curiosity. Because that will mean that when your advice shows up, it’s better directed, it’s more specific and it’s more likely to be solving the right, the, the real issue. But primarily it’s like whenever you are working with anybody, sit down and go, how will we work together?
RV (24:16):
Mm-Hmm. . So I wanna come back to the management like inside of a company like organization. Like a lot of the work you do with companies for a second. Yeah. You know, and I’m thinking about our team at Brand Builders Group and like, you know, we’ve got, we’re growing so fast that we have basically like a, a, a mid, a mid-tier level of management that’s developing. Mm-Hmm. And some of those are people who started with us and, and you know, they’re fairly young, but they’ve done so good and now they’re getting promoted. And so they’re in this new world of like, how do I manage and, and, and lead other people? You said something earlier in our chat that basically a lot of times people in corporate, you know, they have like a stigma about coaching. Like, oh, that’s woo woo or whatever. But then you show them this other thing and they realize, oh no, if that’s what you mean, I could do that. Yeah.
MBS (25:04):
RV (25:04):
What is that switch there? What’s, what’s the thing, what’s the thing that they’re thinking now that gives them the stigma about coaching and what’s, what’s the way that they start thinking about it once they understand the coaching habit? Yeah.
MBS (25:17):
You know, in general there are five reasons why people resist coaching, certainly in organizations. So let me walk through the five points of resistance and offer a a counterpoint to those points. So the, the first is people go, I just don’t have time for this stuff. . I mean, I’d love to be coaching my people, but Rory’s a hard task master. I’ve got too much on my plate. My calendar’s already super busy. And you know, I know coaching is like this, what is it, 45 minute or one hour conversation. I can’t, I just, I mean, I’ve got a life. I can’t do that with my people. And I’m like, great. I agree. If you can’t coach in 10 minutes or less, you don’t have time to coach. So it’s like resetting this expectation around what coaching is. It can be a really fast conversation.
MBS (26:06):
In fact, at its best it’s five minutes or it’s 10 minutes. Hmm. And then the second point of resistance people go is, Michael still don’t have time to coach. Even if I could coach in five minutes or less , like my world is full and the gaps I’ve got in my calendar are for going to the bathroom, having lunch and doing all the other stuff that is urgent and important on, on my plate around this. I can’t add coaching to what’s expected of me in my company. And I’m like, great, if we’re trying to add coaching to what you’re already doing, we, we, we’ve lost. It’s just pouring water into a full glass. This is about transforming what you currently do so that you can be more coach-like in the way that you interact in your current interactions on email, in person, over Zoom, whatever it might be.
MBS (26:54):
It’s not adding it. You are not going, I need to now add coaching to everything I’m already doing. It’s like, be more coach-like in your current interactions. Then the third point of resistance people go is like, look, I don’t, look, I don’t wanna be a coach . I didn’t sign up to brand builders group to be a coach. I signed up to help people figure out what their essence was in the world, or help them drive their marketing or help understand their speaking position or help build their speaking business. You know, I’m a marketeer or I’m a sales person, or I’m a brand builder. I’ve got technical expertise that I’m working on. Don’t make me be a coach. And I’m like, great, I don’t want you to be a coach. There are lots of coaches who want to be coaches, but I want you to be coach-Like, it’s not a role, it’s a leadership behavior.
MBS (27:41):
We’re not, we’re not making you put on an uncomfortable suit, which is like, this is just an essential way to lead, be coach, like, love that. And then people go, this is, this is number four. Which is like, but I honestly, I’m not even sure what coaching is because like you, it’s like, is it sport? Is it executive? Is it life? Is it health? Is it a DHD? Is it, you know, there’s a thousand variations of coaching and I’m not sure what any of them are. And that’s that definition we’ve talked about. Really behavioral, can you just stay curious a little bit longer? Can you rush to action and advice giving a little bit more slowly so it’s got no woo woo or kind of outcome thing. It’s just a process, staying curious longer. And then the fifth and final point of resistance, Rory, is people going, okay, but what’s in it for me?
MBS (28:32):
Like, I can see why Rory wants me to be a coach, because that’s gonna help the people in, in the organization thrive and do their best and keep up with the, the growth we’re having as a business. And I can understand why the people who I’m leading would love me to be a coach because it’s a great leadership skill and I feel seen and I feel heard and I feel encouraged and I’d be become more competent and confident and capable and self-sufficient. But, you know, you’re asking me to shift my behavior. I’m pretty good at giving advice. what’s in it for me. And for me, I would say it helps you essentially work less hard and have more impact. So whether, you know, Rory, people are wired one of two ways. They either wanna move away from pain or they wanna move towards a reward. So if you’re a move towards a reward person, it’s like this allows you to do more great work, work that has more meaning, work that has more impact and those around you to do the same. But you, you get to do more great work. And if you wanna move away from pain, it’s like, this has means that my team is less dependent on me. It means that I’m less overwhelmed and it means that I’m more connected to the work that really matters. So
RV (29:45):
That, that one’s the one that, that jumps out to me. ’cause A lot of ways this is basically like, not ba but part of what this feels like to me is it’s the difference between fishing for a man and teaching a man to fish.
MBS (30:00):
RV (30:00):
Right. Like, if, if, if, if I train my team that I have the answers, I tell them what to do, I solve the problems, then they constantly come to me for every one of those things. The,
MBS (30:12):
The more you give them the answers, the more they come to you for the answers. The more they come to you for the answers, the more you give them the answers. And like before you know it. And this is coming from good intentions, like it’s exhausting. And you’ve built a team of vampires who are just draining your life. Like what? You guys are smart and capable and talented. That’s why I hired you. What has happened? And you’ve just built this system where they’re like, they’re like, I don’t feel I can come up with my own stuff. ’cause You wanna gimme the answer the whole time. So it’s a real shift in identity sometimes.
RV (30:44):
Yeah. I mean, one of the other things that you, I don’t think has come up in this conversation, but one of the other benefits of doing it this way is you actually learn a ton. Like you actually, I I’m shocked sometimes at the creative stuff that like a team or a client will come up with where I’m like, I never would’ve thought of that. Right. And by not launching into just like giving them the recipe, you, you have a chance to be like, there’s this beautiful discoveries that, that come out of it.
MBS (31:17):
Well, you haven’t hired the people you’ve hired to just come up with ideas as good as you can come up with. ’cause You’re like, I can already do that. I’m hiring you to have ideas better than I can do and take this business further than I can think of. You want their full brilliance. And this, this commitment to curiosity allows people to say, oh, I’m going to bring my best. You’ve given me the insight and the courage and the commitment to kind of like, try and be braver, be bolder, have better ideas.
RV (31:48):
Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Well I I, I wanna, I wanna ask you one other thing before I do that. Where should people go, Michael, just to like, connect with you? I know that we’ll, we’ll put links to the Coaching Habit book and, and your other books and stuff too. But where should people go if they wanna link up with you? Yeah,
MBS (32:06):
The main website is mbs.works and that’s a hub for all the books, the coaching habit, the advice trap, the new one is called How to Work With Almost Anyone. And all of those books have, you know, free resources and stuff. So whether you want to download the questions from the coaching Habit book or see me hold a Keystone conversation from how to work with almost anyone, all of that’s accessible and available for people. Mm-Hmm.
RV (32:27):
. And so if, if, if somebody is kind of saying, all right, I, I want, I’m willing to give this a shot, whether, you know, it’s with a paying client or someone they’re managing or even a family or a, you know, a member or a friend. What’s, what’s kind of the first thing? I mean, I know the, the message here is just stay curious longer and you, you know any, any other kind of tips in terms of the first thing they should do or the, to focus on or like to shift in order to help them do that? Yeah,
MBS (32:59):
There’s a couple of places you might wanna start. One, one really interesting place to start is just start noticing how much advice you give during the day. how quick you are to jump in, often interrupt kind of how quickly you stop listening to the other person. ’cause The, the, the answer is already in your head. You’re like, we’ve only just met, we’ve been talking for 20 seconds. You’re telling me a complex situation about people I don’t know in a culture, I don’t know with a team. I don’t know, but I think I’ve already got the answer for you. So just start noticing how quickly you default to that. That’s one option. If you wanna get more specific. You know, staying curious longer is a really great overall mantra, but it’s unlikely to shift your behavior. So what I would do is get specific, this is just good habit building 1 0 1, which is like, who’s the person with whom you’d like to build a coaching habit and what’s the context in which you might be interacting with that person?
MBS (33:56):
And if you could ask, pick just one question to ask that person might be, what’s the real challenge here for you? It might be, and what else, you know, the best coaching question in the world. There’s always a place for, and what else it might be. What was most useful or valuable for you at the end of the meeting? You could just pick one question. What question would it be? You know, people abandon, have a building ’cause they try and take on too much at once. The smaller you can make it, the more likely it is that you’re gonna get that first rep, rep in. And once you get the first rep in, the second rep’s easier. So pick something specific, pick one question, one person, one context, and then commit to actually following through on that.
RV (34:39):
That’s great, man. Well, I I, I love it. I mean there, I, there’s no doubt that this can, if nothing else, this can improve our relationships with one another dramatically. It’s like God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. , that’s right. And is, you know, be be it’s kind of the like slow to speak, quick to listen, kind of a kind of a thought. So I really, I really appreciate this and love it. Thanks so much for being a part of this and sharing your wisdom and, and we’re cheering you on, man.
MBS (35:09):
Yeah. Thank you Rory. It’s been great.

Ep 456: Building Your Referral Based Business with Barb Betts

AJV (00:02):
Hey everybody and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. So excited today to have a good friend, Barb Betts on the show. And before we get started, and before I introduce her like I always do, I wanna let you know why you should stick around for this episode and also if you should stick around if it’s for you. But today is one of those episodes where it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are in your personal brain journey, what your business is, if you’re a beginner, if you’re advanced, it does not matter. This is an episode for you. This is universal. It is applicable to every single human because we’re gonna be talking about the power of relationships. And if you do relationships well, how you can use those to grow your business through. My favorite thing in the world, referrals. And it doesn’t matter.
AJV (00:50):
I don’t care what business you’re in most business today, regardless of what you hear out there online is not because somebody found you on a Google search. It’s not because they heard you on a podcast or on Instagram. Most business still today, yes, in 2024 is still done by referral. It’s because someone said, I know who you should meet. I know who you should go to. And that is because you have a great reputation. ’cause You have a great business. And also mostly because you told people about what you do. And please tell your friends, right? Those are referrals. That is the power of it. But referrals only happen when you have great relationships. And so if you wanna grow your business without having to spend paid traffic, money, or advertising, and you wanna have some good freeway of growing your business, then today, right now, this is the episode that you want to listen to.
AJV (01:41):
So now let me introduce you to one of my favorite people. And I love when I get to interview people who are not only do I love and know personally, but who I got to meet through Brand Builders Group, because that gives me this inside track of knowing what their business is all about, what their content is all about. And in fact, I was so excited about what Barb is doing, that I actually had her come and do her referral training to our entire strategist team at Brand Builders Group. So after that happened, I was like, yep, gotta have her on the podcast. This was so good. It was so helpful, it was so actionable. And that’s why she is here on the show today. So Barb is a sought after keynote speaker. She is also a, a tenured and seasoned real estate expert.
AJV (02:27):
She is the CEO of re collective. It’s a boutique brokerage in Southern California, although I am trying to recruit her to Nashville, Tennessee. So we’ll see how well that goes . But she has been speaking on stages all over the country. You’ve got Woman Up, you’ve got the National Association of Realtors, you’ve got the Inman Connect, you’ve got Ram Builders Groups speaker there. But I think what I love most about her is that she actually does what she teaches. She is a practitioner of this art, of building relationships, not to get referrals, but building relationships. And as a byproduct of that, getting referrals. And that’s why I wanted to have her on the show today. So, Barb, welcome.
BB (03:08):
Oh my gosh, aj, thank you so much. I, I can’t tell you how much that introduction means to me. And I agree a thousand percent with every single thing you said. I love it when I’m actually talking to someone who gets it, and I don’t have to convince them to understand why they should listen to this message. So I’m so excited to have this conversation today.
AJV (03:27):
Yeah. You know, I think one of the things that I notice all the time even internally at Brand Builders Group, but also through a long time of doing sales training in my former life, is like everyone knows that getting referrals is a powerful part of your business. But yet there’s this hesitation, there’s this reluctance sometimes for people to do the hard work of asking for referral. And somehow we convince ourselves that meeting strangers on the street or on the internet is somehow easier or better than actually getting referrals from clients, friends, family, or whoever. And so I’d really love to talk to you about, like, as we kind of get started, is a a little bit about the mindset around, even if we know that getting and asking for referrals is one of the fastest ways to grow our business, why don’t people do it? Like, what’s the hangup here?
BB (04:19):
Yeah. Well, I love that. And it is, it is a thousand percent true. And I, you know, I’m in the middle of writing my first book, which I’m very excited about. And as I’m talking to these publishers, I’m telling them like, you know, every single business book out there, every single business book I’ve read, no matter what strategy hack, no matter what system they’re teaching somewhere in the book, it is bound to say at the end of a chapter. But you know what, it’s actually all about relationships. But no one actually tells you how to do it, right? Like, they all know that’s the foundation of every successful business, but very few know how to focus it and make it a priority and and really leverage those relationships. So to your question, what I would say is the issue is that people look at, well, if I’m going to leverage a relationship or ask for a referral from a friend or family member, I’m crossing that line.
BB (05:15):
I’m being salesy. I don’t wanna be pushy. And what I always say is, you will never be a pushy salesman if you’re making it about them. Number one, pushy salespeople make that about themselves. And the reason you are not comfortable asking for that referral, the reason you are not comfortable asking your friends and family is because you haven’t been given permission to do so by yourself. You haven’t built that relationship to a point where you have absolute permission to ask that referral. That’s really what it comes down to. Once you have that permission, once you’ve built up enough in that trust department with that person, you will have no problem calling up AJ and saying, Hey friend, I need your help. Can you do me a favor? And then it just becomes this natural byproduct. ’cause You know, you’ve built that relationship, a real relationship to the level where you get comfortable asking,
AJV (06:13):
Okay, so I love this. So I think this is really important ’cause I think a lot of people talk about building relationships in business, but no one really says, well, what do you mean by that? Like, what is a real relationship? And how do you know when you’ve crossed that threshold of now I have permission to go and ask for help, ask for referrals? Is it like a timeframe? Is it like, is there like some like checklist we can do here? like tell us what, what, what is that?
BB (06:40):
Oh my gosh, that’s so great. So first it starts with the foundation of what I describe as real relationships equal referrals, right? You’ve gotta have real relationships. What does real mean? Well, real is relatable. You engage, you are authentic and you listen. That’s how you build a real relationship. You’re relatable, you engage, you’re authentic, and you listen. And when you do that with enough people over time, you start developing those real relationships. I want you to think about any relationship you have right now, whether it be a friend, whether it be a family member, whether it be your best clients. You probably can go through that framework and go, wow, I’ve done all these things. I am authentic with them. I do engage with them, I do listen. And then it comes down to when you, when you talk about when are you ready to ask for that referral?
BB (07:31):
I like to te teach a simple framework that talks about how you have to make deposits before you make withdrawals. So I talked about that trust account. Right now, there’s no scientific formula, there’s no check the box, but it’s a feeling that you just know. It’s that feeling when you open up your phone and you’re not afraid to text AJ and check in on her and ask her for something or ask her for help, where you’re not afraid to pick up the phone and make that call to that person. And how you do that is you focus on making deposits. And once you’ve made enough deposits, it’s just like a good old bank account friend. You can’t go to the ATM if there’s no balance there to withdraw any money. And so that’s, it’s the same way with relationships. If you have not built up a balance in that, that relationship account, you can’t take any withdrawals.
BB (08:14):
You don’t have permission to ask. And it’s, it’s the, it’s the self-awareness we all need. I do it too, in my career that I came from, before I developed my keynote speaking career and my all my passions to do this, I would open up my phone to text a client and I would look and the last time I text them was a year ago. Hmm. So even if I wanted to ask that client to help me out with something I didn’t have permission to, and I knew it, versus my best clients who I engage with all the time, who I am there for them all the time, I have no problem. Again, calling up AJ and saying, Hey friend, I need your help. Can you help me with something? So really comes down to real relationships and building up that trust account.
AJV (08:58):
Okay. So this is a great topic ’cause I hear this all the time. It’s like, well how many people can you honestly do that with? You know? And it’s like, I even think about myself. It’s like, yeah, it’s like most of the people that I would probably go to to ask for referrals, I’m like, eh, it might have, it might be a minute since I’ve actually last engaged. You know? And so I think a lot of that is like, what are some tips of going like, Hey, here’s how you set up. Like these are the relationships you invest this amount of time in. Not, and again, not to get referrals, but it’s like, hey, these are vested relationships that I’m in gonna be intentional about. And what, how often should we be engaging and what does that look like? And, and then honestly just some ideas around efficiencies of going, when there’s so many things vying for our attention, how do we kind of put some blinders on and go, this is what I’m gonna do with this group of people.
BB (09:48):
I love everything you said. And it does come down to having a system, which is why I built the RELATE framework. And the relate framework starts with the relationship foundation, the relational mindset. It goes into establishing trust, leveraging your network, authentically engaging, taking thoughtful action, and then executing effective systems. That framework is the system. Now, we clearly in this short time in a podcast do not have time to go through the system, but I wanna focus on that LI wanna focus on how you leverage your network. Mm-Hmm. , right? Everyone has a network. You also can connect your network to be a database. A database in my world is a list of relationships. It’s not a mailing list friend. It’s people that you go down that list and you look at them. And if you ran into them in the grocery store, you might recognize who they are.
BB (10:36):
So these are not just a bunch of information you’ve compiled over time inside that network, you have a bunch of people. And you’re absolutely right aj. We cannot focus on all the people the same way. We can’t stay in contact with all the people in the same way. And I have lots of strategies where you can stay in consistent contact for those, if you will lower level people in your database. ’cause What I teach is a ranking system. I teach you to rank your database, rank your relationships, just like we rank restaurants on Yelp and open table and do reviews. And it’s a simple five star system. Hmm. So once you develop that five star system and once you rank those relationships, then I teach a frequency formula for staying in contact with them. Because let’s face it, if I am one of your best clients, you should be in touch with me frequently.
BB (11:26):
If I’m one of your best relationships, you should be in touch with me frequently. And so when I teach the five star system, I teach also a simple frequency formula of five star people. Those are your advocates. Those are your walking talking billboards. You are in touch with them at least once a month. And please understand, these are not five minute phone calls. These are not long drawn out messages. These are simply aj Hey, thinking about you today, how are you and Rory doing? I saw you went on a Disney cruise. How was it? Looks like it was a blast send. That is a connection. Point four star people. These are your raving fans. These are the people that really love you, but they’re just not quite those, you know, referring type people that are constantly sharing you everywhere. Those people you’re in touch with every 60 days, three stars.
BB (12:17):
These are the people that you’re connected to. Those people you’re in touch with every 90 days. Two stars and one star is, two stars are your acquaintances. Every 120 days. And then one star. You can’t have a mailing list. You can have a bunch of information you’ve collected over time from potential clients and customers, but you don’t really know who they are. Mm-Hmm. Those people. That’s your mailing list. That’s your drip campaign or whatever other kind of marketing campaigns. So if you follow that and those advocates, those people that are most likely to refer you if they’re hearing from you 12 times a year in an authentic way where you’re looking to connect and deepen the relationship and you’re making it all about them, I promise you, when it comes time and you need something, you’re gonna be comfortable asking.
AJV (13:03):
Yeah. I love that. And I, you know, it’s interesting because I read somewhere that you, you had mentioned it’s like most people aren’t comfortable asking for referrals ’cause they’re not comfortable with themselves.
BB (13:16):
AJV (13:17):
So, well, and I do think that’s true and a lot of, like, as I think through some of the people that I’m like, if you just asked for referrals, your business would be so much, you know, better in terms of how you feel about how things are going. It wouldn’t be so stressful. So what do you mean by that? It’s like when you think about if you’ve got a reluctance to ask someone for help, right? And in this instance for a referral, then there’s probably a disconnect with yourself. Like, can you walk us through that a little bit?
BB (13:41):
Yeah. It’s the r it’s the relational foundation and the, and the foundation of that is that you cannot have an authentic relationship with anyone else before you have an authentic relationship with yourself. And the reason I say that is because you have to know who you are. You have to know the value you bring to the table. You have to be confident in what you are delivering is something that people need. When people say, I don’t wanna ask my friends and family for a referral, I always turn it around on them in this way, let’s say you are an insurance agent and you don’t tell your friends and family that you need them to connect you to people who need honest advice, good, good plans, not gonna rip them off all the things. And then their friend goes and gets insurance from someone else and gets mistreated, isn’t well taken care of.
BB (14:36):
God forbid the accident happens and they don’t have the coverage they need that’s on you because you weren’t confident enough to ask the friend or family member to en you know, engage with you to deliver that referral so that you could take care of that person. So it all comes down to the confidence within ourselves and, and how we show up. And honestly, aj, most people are taught to show up as a salesperson. Hmm. They’re not taught to show up as who they are, which is why I love the work Brand Builders group does because it teaches people to understand who they are, to understand that they are their marketing department. It is your personal brand is the marketing of the future. And so you can’t have that be a strong marketing department if you don’t love who you are. Hmm. So it all starts with building that authentic relationship with yourself before you can start developing with others. It’s why the first chapter in the book is all about, we gotta shore up our house first, which is us before we can put any kind of system to work.
AJV (15:36):
Yeah. You know, that’s so true. And I can think of so many instances in my life where people have asked me for referrals, and it comes from a genuine place of I know I’m gonna do a fantastic job for them. Like, if, if you refer them to me, I will take care of them. Right. And it gives me a lot of confidence because, you know, the truth is, is people are asking for stuff all the time. Mm-Hmm. . Like, I actually, I’m on a listserv with my EO group, the Entrepreneurs Organization, where basically the entire listserv, does anyone know anyone who does blank? Does it, can anyone refer me someone who blank? It’s like the whole thing that we use it for, it’s like, because why we don’t want to trust a strange company that we found on a Google search. It’s like, no, I wanna know that you use them. And it’s like when you do a really great job, it’s easier for you. Well, and I guess too, it’s like when you believe that you’re gonna do a great job, right? Mm-Hmm. . And perhaps if you, if you’re listening and you’re feeling like, man, I I do not feel comfortable asking for referrals, then maybe you should ask yourself, do you feel comfortable in the service that you’re delivering? Do you feel like it’s a five star experience with what you’re delivering?
BB (16:45):
I could not agree with you more. It all starts with us. It all starts with what we’re doing, how we’re doing it. Loving yourself, knowing that you are really good at what you do, and that you’re gonna take really good care of people because that’s who you are. And then the rest just kind of falls into place from there. But we gotta fix who we are first. I went through a very, how I kind of stumbled honestly across this is I went through a very authentic journey with my hair. Go follow me on social media. You’ll see all about it. And the next thing I heard from everybody was, Barb, you’re so much more confident now all my friends, you’re so much more confident now. And I’m like, I didn’t just put this hair on my head and become confident overnight that person was in me, that I had to learn to love that person. I had to let my own walls down. And you know what? I am more confident calling people now. I am more confident walking into appointments. I am more confident on this podcast as a result. But it’s because I fixed my relationship with myself first. That frankly, I didn’t even know I had a problem with until I discovered it through this authenticity journey, which is why I’m so passionate about authenticity and showing up real.
AJV (17:47):
No, I love that. And I think that is for mo for the, for the most cases. And I bet for the majority of people, the reason you don’t ask for referrals is probably one of two reasons. One, you don’t, you’re not completely convicted and what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, right. Because if you were truly convicted then you would be like, I can’t not. Yeah. I can’t not. Yeah. And there’s so many examples. But you gotta do that deep work. And sometimes until you do the deep work, you’re like, oh wait, what I do is awesome. Yeah. What I do is amazing. And I think a lot of people don’t give themselves enough opportunity to go, no, I do a great job. I do a better job than most. And that means something.
BB (18:30):
Yeah. I, you know, it’s interesting you say that because when I think back to my sales career, there’s so many times early in my career where I’m like, I should be helping more people. I’m really good at what I do. Why am I not helping more people? And I realize it’s ’cause I’m not asking for business. You know, people aren’t lying awake at night deciding and wondering how I’m doing in my business. You think they are, but they’re not. And most people want to help you. That’s why I love in my dialogues, I teach, can you do me a favor? I don’t know anyone who would call me that. I have a real relationship with always that foundation where if they say, Hey Barb, can you do me a favor? Then I’m not gonna be like, absolutely. What do you need? How can I help
AJV (19:13):
Ask? That’s so true. So I think that is like, that’s probably half of the people and then I think the other half of the people genuinely just don’t know how to ask. Yeah. Can we talk about that for second? We absolutely can talk about that. Let’s say you’re that person who goes, I know I deliver a bombshell product or service. I feel great about it. But I don’t really know how to ask. So I don’t, it’s like I want to, but what do I do? What do I say?
BB (19:40):
Well, let’s start with one foundational principle that we haven’t talked about yet. When you are asking someone for business, you are not selling to them. You are selling through them.
AJV (19:51):
Mm. That’s good. Like
BB (19:52):
One thing I wanna talk about, because that’s another reason people are like, well Myer, whoever it is, I don’t want to sell to them. I don’t wanna be a salesperson. You’re not, you know where I came from? I came from the real estate world. I have plenty of friends, family, and clients who are never going to sell their home because they love the home they live in. I’m not calling them to get them to sell their home. I’m selling through them to leverage their network. So when you’re reaching out to that person, it’s, Hey friend, hey aj, whoever it is, and you use those magic words. Can you do me a favor? When you say, can you do me a favor? You instantly have their attention. You instantly have their wanting to help. Then you say something to the effect of, can you do me a favor?
BB (20:36):
You know, and tell them something about what’s going on in your world. Like tell them why you need their help. Tell them you have a great new product you need to roll out. Tell them that the industry is in need of this. And then say something to the effect of when you come across. Because then you’re not making it like, I need that referral right now because Right. How have you ever been in front of a financial advisor that are famous for this, where you sit in front of them and they have a piece of paper and at the end of the appointment they slide it over and say, can you give me three names and phone numbers of people that could use my services? ? No. I don’t even know who the heck you are yet. I’m not giving you three people. Right? That’s being a pushy salesperson.
BB (21:14):
Let’s not do that. But when you say, can you do me a favor? When you come across, insert what you want, you have to be specific about what you want. You can’t just say someone who needs insurance. You’ve got to be specific about what you want. When you come across someone who has a business and doesn’t understand how powerful their personal brand might be, who wants to leverage who they are, who wants to find out all the goodness about them, then I would love you. And then here’s the magic words. Don’t use the word referral. I have seen this time and time again where you say, I need a referral. And no one even knows what it means. How to do it. Like, do they have to be qualified? Do they have to be ready to go? Do they have to be ready to buy?
BB (21:57):
No. I just want you to introduce or connect me to them. Don’t say both words and pick one. I use them interchangeably. But the nice thing about saying, Hey aj, when you come across someone who needs blank, would you do me a favor and introduce us? And then give them a mechanism in a text message, in an email. Give them the way you want them to do it. And guess what? When you teach them how to refer you and you make it easy on them, they’re more willing to do it. And nine outta 10 times they’ll say something like, oh my gosh, I was just talking to a friend at work the other day about this. And all of a sudden you’re getting a referral instantaneously. Which is fantastic, but not always. And sometimes it comes down the road, but using the words, can you do me a favor? And using the magic words, introduce or connect me, have transformed so many businesses of business owners that I’ve worked with.
AJV (22:48):
. I love that. It’s so funny because after you did the training with our team, like half of our team was like, I love that we shouldn’t say the word referral anymore. and I, it really resonated with them.
BB (23:00):
I always like to be clear, a referral is when I teach and train, I use the referral. Every other word. A referral is what you want for sure. Internally, it’s
AJV (23:09):
Not what you ask for is
BB (23:10):
What you ask for. And can you use the word referral? Absolutely. There’s something now if you’re talking to another business owner, they’re gonna know exactly what to do. But when you’re talking to this everyday person in the street, they’re like, how do I do it? When do I do it? And the other thing is, some industries are very locked tight in their rules and regulations. Mm-Hmm. . And the word referral comes with a, what are you gonna do for me? Because it’s all over your doctor’s office. Everywhere you go, give us a referral, you get a hundred dollars off your next service. Some businesses can’t do that. So sometimes using a different word is very helpful in the outcome you receive.
AJV (23:41):
So do you think it’s best to get quality referrals? Do you think it’s best to do it like on a phone call in person? Do you think it’s okay to do it in a text, an email? Like what are some of the mediums that’s most successful?
BB (23:56):
Love that. It goes back to my philosophy of any way that someone can respond to you. Hmm.
AJV (24:01):
That’s good. Meaning.
BB (24:02):
So I call, so when I’m teaching people how to do their activities and how to do their, you know, connection, strategy and their frequency formula, I always say outgoing connections. You’ve got to use your telephone for what it’s meant to be. Outgoing messages. Like you initiate the phone call, you initiate the text message. But here’s the other great part. We have so many other ways in today’s day and age. We have Facebook messaging, we have Instagram messaging, we have video chats, BombBomb, like there’s a million different ways you can do it as long as they have a way to respond to you. So for instance, I’m a big personal note gal. I believe in handwritten notes. I believe in the power of them. It’s another strategy I teach where I teach take thoughtful action. But they can’t, I don’t ask for a referral in a note.
BB (24:46):
Mm-Hmm. they can’t, what are they gonna do? You know, open their mail, set it down and think I need to text her back. No, that’s not a way for them to engage back with you. So I believe you can do it all different ways. I don’t believe it has to be on the phone. I am, I believe that in today’s day and age, sometimes calling people is an interruption and you need permission to call somebody. Like they know you’re gonna call them so that they’re prepared for the phone call and can have a great conversation with you. So really it’s any way that they can respond back to you.
AJV (25:14):
I think that’s so good. And I think that’s true. It’s like if you call someone and you catch ’em completely off guard and they’re like, whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not ready for this. But I think again, all of that is just having a plan and a system which just takes some thought and some intentionality. Well,
BB (25:28):
It’s having a real relationship. ’cause You know them. So I always use the example of my best friend in the world as a kindergarten teacher. So if I’m doing my lead generation calls, if I’m doing my connection plan at Tuesday at 10:00 AM and I call her, she’s gonna answer the phone ’cause I’m her best friend and she’s gonna be like, are you okay? Because she would know that, why would I call and bug her Tuesday at 10:00 AM Mm-Hmm. . But a text message is not intrusive. She can answer that when she has time.
AJV (25:52):
That’s good. I think a lot of that she’s get, again, back to when you know someone, you know their communication habits and preferences and you know what works. Yeah. But I think that comes back to that real relationship of referrals aren’t technically from strangers, they’re from people, you know. So then here that leads to another question then. So if you don’t know someone exceptionally well that they’re a client or they’re a friend or a family member, like how do you go about generating, you know, potential referrals from those people? It’s like, do you have to be BFF with these people? Like do you have to be clients with them? So what’s kind of the dividing line there?
BB (26:32):
The dividing line is that that’s why you apply the connection strategy. When you apply the connection strategy. When you are being in consistent contact with them. You don’t ask them at that nine the first time you message them. You don’t ask them for a referral. You’re just simply trying to make their day. I have a mindset of your outgoing connection plan when you are doing your, if you will, see, to me, lead generation is not just asking for business. You’re gonna ask for business when the time comes and the time’s. Right? Mm-Hmm. . But there’s another strategy I teach. When you’re not comfortable with someone, you simply just check in on them. You do exactly what I said. Hey aj, you know, saw you went on vacation. How was it? You’re gonna likely respond back even if we don’t have a deep rooted relationship. You know who I am.
BB (27:10):
So you’re gonna respond back and be like, oh my god, Barb, it was so great. The kids had such a great time. And then you might say something like, Hey, how are you? Like, I always teach people, sometimes we are not taking the opportunity to ask when they’ve given us permission to mm-hmm. , right? The second someone says, how are you? They just don’t, they don’t just wanna know how your vacation was. They wanna know how you are. And this is your opportunity to ask for that business or to tell them what’s going on in your business to remind them what you do to remind them what’s going on in your industry. So you do not have to have that deep rooted relationship. Sometimes you’re given permission to now if you’re not, and if they just respond back and say, oh my God, it was great.
BB (27:49):
Thanks for checking in. Hope you guys are doing well. Great. You log that. I’m a big tracker of activity. I’m a big believer of you cannot measure what you do not track, which is what I teach in the effective systems category. You’ve gotta track what you do. And so you’re gonna track that as a connection. Great. You made a connection to aj. Then 90 days later, if you use a good CRM like I teach you to 90 days later it’s gonna pop back up and tell you guess what time to connect with AJ again. You’re gonna connect with AJ again and before you know it, you’re gonna start showing up in their life so that you get that permission to ask for the business. But layered in throughout that entire process and throughout your entire database is a concept of you’ve got to be marketing to them.
BB (28:31):
There is still good old fashioned marketing. You’ve gotta have valuable marketing in front of them that positions you as the best in your industry. Because I believe that people do not do business with you till they know you like you and trust you. Everyone knows that. But what people don’t understand is there’s a gap between like and trust. Just because someone knows you and likes you, they don’t necessarily trust you as a professional till you give them a reason to. So layering And it’s like, it’s like a layering plan. It’s like a farmer. They don’t just, you know, water and get, you know, crops. They have to fertile this. They have to create the soil, they have to aerate it, they have to lay the seeds, they Right. It’s a layering effect. Yeah. So this system, relationship marketing does not work overnight. It, that’s number one does not work overnight. But what I can promise you is you start doing this now and you do this enough over time, you will get to the point where you have to do nothing else. Which is when you know you’ve really made it. It’s when your business feels good, you love doing it. You love who you’re doing it with. And so you can get to that point with, with, if you will, I wouldn’t say strangers, but people that don’t know you as well as you might know your other people. Yeah.
AJV (29:41):
And I love that. And I think one of the things that I kinda wanna circle back to, ’cause so much of what you’re talking about is as the person who is trying to generate business, you really have to know exactly who you wanna be introduced to. Yes. You have to know who you wanna be referred to. Like everything you just said, it’s like you can get to the point where you love what you do all day, every day. And you love who you do it with. Well, you know what, you get to create that. Yeah. Like if you’re getting referrals from people that you’re like, man, I just want 10 more people like you or 20 more people like you. It’s like they likely know them. Yeah. So it’s like, but we gotta know exactly who it is that we’re looking for. And I don’t think most of us spend, spend near enough time going, these are the demographics and psychographics of my ideal client. This is who it’s easy for me to serve, it’s natural for me to serve. It doesn’t even feel like work. But then I think the other part is, I think often many of us have so much scarcity mindset that we take any lead, any referral off the street. Yeah. And then we’re miserable. Yeah. And we have built a business full of people that we’re like, man, I I I don’t love this. Yes.
BB (30:44):
Well, I always say when those people come up in your database and you like want to avoid them like the plague, they’re not a relationship. You need to move them down in your database. But you are so correct. You have to know exactly who you are talking to and exactly what you want and what you said about I just want 10 more of you. I use that all the time. I always say, you know what, good people, no good people. Mm-Hmm. . And you guys were incredible. This is what I usually do at like the closing or the you got the contract signed or they bought the service and just say, listen, it has been such a pleasure getting you to this point. I really love people like you. Like you guys light up my business. So I need you to do me a favor.
BB (31:26):
Can you duplicate yourself? Who else do you know that’s just like you? And I promise you that works. ’cause They do know good people just like them. And then they also know that the other people that they’re not gonna refer you to because they’re not nice humans. Right. And so I think knowing who you are, and that’s why I love the work that Brand Builders group does, is that it really does help you niche down to who that ideal client avatar is. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t serve people on the peripheral. It doesn’t mean that they, if they fit a little bit outside of the demographic that they’re not still gonna be great clients. But it does help you get laser focused in who you’re looking for and asking for. For sure.
AJV (32:05):
Well, and for the person who’s being asked, when you’re clear, it makes it so much easier for me to go, I know exactly someone that you need to meet. I know exactly who you need to talk to. I just, like, as you were talking, I was thinking about two recent experiences that I had in different, you know, business, you know, kind of association groups. And both of them happened probably within a few weeks of each other. And this one woman was doing like a general ask in like a, a group setting for referrals. And her business was hyp hypnotic weight loss. And she was talking about how it’s like, this could work with anyone who has had problems of, you know, historical problems, of trying all these different fad diets and they just don’t work. And she was like, so anyone that you know who was looking to lose weight, I would love, I would love to hear from you.
AJV (32:58):
And I thought to myself, I know like a thousand people who’d like to lose weight, but it’s like, I don’t know anyone that would probably be like hypnosis. I wanna try that . Right? And so I was like, I mean I probably do, let me think about it because my mind was going like, do I know anyone that if I referred them to a hypnotic weight loss clinic, but they think I’ve lost my mind? Then a few weeks later, it was in another like, business group setting and this woman stood up and she does I think it was like some sort of like emotional therapy around healing let’s be emotions then headed into weight loss. And she was talking, and I like, literally as she was talking, she was like, this is the person that I was born to serve. It is the woman who is most likely a mother.
AJV (33:47):
She has most likely put herself second for far too long. She is working and she is pulled in many directions. She has gone up and down with her weight for her entire life. This is someone who has struggled with it since childhood. She went on and on and on. And literally as she was talking, I was like, I know two people you have to meet. Like I have two people that I need them to meet you. And it was like Ashley was talking, it was like, I almost got emotional of going like, if you could genuinely help this person, I know it would be life changing for so many people in our lives. And the first one I was going, I mean maybe, but I don’t know. And this, and it was like, they were very similar conversations and they were both kind of non-traditional methods. But the second one, she was so clear on her and she, the way she described the person, it was like she was describing this person I know in my life. And I was like, how do I get them in touch with you? Like, what do I do?
BB (34:45):
She painted the picture in your brain. She painted the picture of someone that you know, and that you are absolutely crap. You have to be specific. You cannot be general. Because generality is going to get you nowhere because I’m not gonna be able to think of that person. I hate the word anyone. . Anyone. Anyone, anyone. So like this guy walking down the street in front of my house right now, like, you want me to go out, see if he needs a personal brand. ,
AJV (35:11):
Maybe, maybe. I don’t even
BB (35:13):
Know if he has a business. Right? Like yeah. It, it definitely being specific. And then again, this is all about planting the seed. This is all about, you know, the person may not know someone right now, but you’ve now planted that who in their brain so that when they do come across that person, they’re gonna be like aj. The number one thing that, again, the valuable marketing, developing the trust, everything else that I teach gets you to, is top of mind awareness. Yeah. You wanna be the first person they think of in the category you serve. If you can get to that point with enough people, you, I promise you will have more business than you know what to do with and when you can figure out, and this is a whole nother conversation for another day, but when you can figure out who those referring type people are, like barbettes, when you get enough of me in the world who’s a natural born referer and connector
AJV (36:00):
Promoter. Promoter, yeah. You need promoters. Listen,
BB (36:04):
I just have to know who you want and I will connect you with more people than you probably not can handle. ’cause We all want more business, but you’re gonna have a very successful, thriving business. And it gets down to my number one outcome I love to create for people. I always say that salespeople, people in sales, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, or just on a sales team, most people love what they do. They love serving the client they love providing the value and transforming someone’s life. I don’t know any salesperson that doesn’t love the product or the service they sell. Mm. Most salespeople hate how they have to do it. Mm. They hate the generating of the leads the way they think they have to do it. And when you start learning to love building relationships and having all of this communication and conversations and everything that I’ve talked about and you love what you do, then you have a business that you wake up to every day and you are ready to serve, you’re ready to go. You live a better life. It’s just a better way to do business. It’s a better way to live your life.
AJV (37:07):
I love that. You know, and one of the things that you said certainly earlier that you just made me think of is knowing how to ask of the medium. Like as you were just talking, it’s like I was literally putting myself in the shoes of how often I get asked for stuff. Like, Hey, do you know anyone who you know builds websites can do blah, blah, blah? You know, all the time. Right. And I, one, I’m a promoter as well. I love to refer good talent because I know it’s really hard to find really great talent. And you know, it’s like made me think about this story I just shared about like these two, you know, totally similar but polar opposite examples and the first one. So they were just like, yep, you just give me names, emails, and phone numbers. And I was like, probably not doing that.
AJV (37:51):
But the second one when she was like, Hey, and I, I literally approached her and said, I do know someone how, how do I connect you? And she goes, actually, it’s never good to just connect someone that you think needs to lose weight. And I was like, that’s great idea. Don’t, I should not do that. So what, what do you do here? And she goes, I have a great strategy. Just tell me who they are. I will connect them on Facebook. I will tell them how much you were talking about them today and say, I was so impressed with the way that AJ talked about you. I looked you up on Facebook and wanted to connect. I’m like, I am. It’s brilliant. And it made me think about when you really know what you do, love what you do, you’re convicted in what you do and you know who you’re meant to serve. It’s like you also know how to approach the person. And it took so much pressure off of me. All I had to do is give the name and say Yep, that’s the person on Facebook that that’s them. Yeah. And she said, I got it from here. I’ll let you know. Yeah. And I’m like, could not be easier in the world. And that’s, I think a part of it. You’ve gotta make it easy for me to give you a referral.
BB (38:52):
Yeah. It’s, it’s so, you’re so true. That’s why I love the introductions and I teach in my world, I teach people just, you know, introduce us in a group text message and I’ll take it from there. Right. It very simple. I’ll take it from there. Just open up your phone and say, Hey aj, hey Barb, you guys need to know each other. This is who AJ is, this is who Barb is. I’ll let you two take it from here and let me do my work from there. It’s my job to then take it from there. It’s not send ’em to a website, have ’em fill out a form, have ’em take a questionnaire and then blah, blah blah, blah, blah. No, it’s as simple as find the mechanism to make the introduction. And if it is something as simple, ’cause you know, weight loss I would agree is something very personal.
AJV (39:30):
BB (39:30):
It’s kind of like me texting AJ going, aj you know what? You really could lose some weight and I’ve got the person for you. I know that sounds awful . Like, don’t do that. Right.
AJV (39:40):
But I love that. It’s like, you know, it’s like it made it so easy and simple and I’m like, well that’s all I have to do. I probably could think of some more people. Right. And it’s like a lot of that is the easier it is that you make it, the easier it is for me to just go ahead and take action. Yeah. Right. And so I know that we’re almost outta time here, but there’s like two other quick things that I wanna talk about because I do think this plays a huge role and a lot of like how we just functioned today. And you mentioned it earlier when you said like, you know, Facebook and, you know, different social media. So how, how does social media play a role in the building, maintaining of relationships, but referrals? Like how does that all work together? What do you see?
BB (40:21):
Social media is the biggest gift given to anyone in sales in modern times. You’re just not using it effectively. Hmm.
AJV (40:27):
Love that.
BB (40:27):
First thing I recommend is you go through your list of relationships and you make sure you are connected to and following and friending every single person in your ecosystem. And then you start paying attention and then you start having conversations. I I, when I teach social media, I in the authentically engaged section of Relate, I always tell people there’s two ways to do social media. One is of course posting and posting reels and things like that. And that’s great to find people you don’t, stories is where you wanna live. For the people that you do know. Stories is the most effective way that I know that you can broadcast to your entire list of relationships in one conversation and stories, if they’re done correctly, start conversations. And I can’t tell you how many conversations, outgoing connections, dms I have done through stories. It is powerful because it’s the best way to stay in touch on, stay in touch with someone in their life.
BB (41:26):
‘Cause They’re sharing it and someone can stay in touch with you in your life and know what you’re doing on a daily basis. I always say the simple strategy of document your day, what do you do from morning to night? Four or five stories. It will start conversations you never could have imagined. So social media is a gift. It’s a gift if it’s used effectively. And it has to be a system. It has to be something you do consistently. Nothing that I have said is going to work if you do it one time. People are like, well, I did the referral thing, I did the introduction thing, I asked and I got nothing. I’m like, oh great. You did it one time. Yeah. I called them once a year. I haven’t called them in 13 months and they still haven’t given me a referral. I don’t understand why doesn’t work like that. .
AJV (42:10):
Well, and I love that too. It’s like, and I think there’s so much of this is such a mentality shift, right? It’s a mentality shift of do you believe that your product or service actually helps other people? And if you do, then it is a requirement of you to tell people about it. Right? It it like, and it’s like, I I think that’s a mentality shift. I think what you just said is a mentality shift of like, social media is a gift. I cannot tell you how many people I hear on a daily basis. Like, social media’s the devil, it’s the devil . I’m like, why do you say that? I’m like, and they’re, I’m like, devil,
BB (42:45):
Because how you’re using it, it’s,
AJV (42:46):
Yeah. And I love that. It’s like if you treat it like a business tool, then it will help your business. Right? And it’s like, if you’re only following a bunch of like horrible newsfeed, well then it probably does feel like the devil, right? It’s, but it’s like all about how you use it. And I love that this approach of like, it’s a gift. It’s a way to maintain relationships, stay in touch with people, start conversations. So I, I would love to hear from you like what are some effective things to be posting in this relationship maintenance kind of realm?
BB (43:19):
Yeah. Well, I always say back to what you were saying, people are telling you everything you need to know online. The question is, are you listening? Mm. Are you going to social media to listen and engage? Are you going just to social media to promote yourself?
AJV (43:33):
Love it. There’s
BB (43:34):
A huge difference there. So what can you post? Well, you need to make sure, and, and you’re gonna love this because this is all goes down to your personal brand. Social media needs to be 90% about you as a human who happens to do blank. Mm-Hmm. and 10% actual selling. Like 10% the content about what you actually do. If you make 90% of a about who you are as you go throughout your day. Which is why I love stories so much. Because in stories you should be working typically Monday through Friday, let’s just call it nine to five. That is not unusual for you to be doing your craft and talking about what you’re doing nine to five. So you can throw up, if you will, everything that you’re doing in your day and in your business because people expect you to be at work.
BB (44:23):
Yeah. And then when you get into the evening and the morning time, it’s a little bit more of your personal life. And when you start showing off what you’re doing in a thoughtful way, that’s when people start to get obsessed with what you do. And they learn very clearly what you do. And then if you a adopt a real strategy, and there’s plenty of really great social media experts out there and gurus that teach this, but if you adopt a real strategy where you’re actually creating content for your ideal client, now you’ve got this whole mechanism to generate other leads. ’cause I am not saying that relationship based marketing is the only way to do business and that you should drop everything else that you’re doing. I’m saying that you should get to the point where you don’t have to do mm-Hmm.
AJV (45:01):
a traditional, that’s good.
BB (45:02):
But everything in business works if you do it consistently. You just have to do it consistently. So if you do a real strategy to start attracting some other business, some if you will, cold, not really cold, but people you don’t know, strangers, to your point now you’ve got this really healthy balance of focusing on relationships and driving some attention to. ’cause If I promise you, if you jump into the reals world and you know who your ideal client is and you position it correctly, I’m seeing some significant growth in businesses using reels and social media and combining it with talking to the people that you already know.
AJV (45:38):
I love that. And I think, again, everyone who’s listening, it’s like if you, if you’re one of those people that’s like, oh, I hate social media, it’s like shift your mindset around though this is a business tool. So treat it like one. All right, last question and the, the last couple of minutes we have here, and I think this is I think this will be applicable to a lot of people, and I, and I hope that this is helpful, but one of the things that I hear a lot is, well, my business is new, so I don’t have any clients to ask for referrals from. So what do I do then? So what is your advice to the person who’s in a new endeavor? They maybe don’t have any clients yet, and they’re going, yeah, I’d love to have a referral based business. But they’re, I don’t have any of that tangible proof yet. I don’t have any longstanding clients. What’s your advice to them?
BB (46:30):
You absolutely do have a database. ’cause You have a list of relationships. I don’t want you in any way, shape or form to think anything I said is just for past clients. It’s for your list of relationships. It’s for the people who already know you and like you. So that’s the first thing you’re gonna do. You’re gonna create a database of people that know you and like you, I always tell new business owners, the best way to do this is think about your getting married or think about your daughters having a baby or whatever it may be, or your holiday card list. Like who would you send an important thing in your life to? That is your database. That is,
AJV (47:05):
That’s good. I love that holiday list tip. It’s like they’re on your Christmas card list and you’re on, they’re on your database. They,
BB (47:12):
You, you have, I hope you’re not sending Christmas cards to random strangers. That would be weird. So you have a list of relationships, start there. That’s a
AJV (47:20):
Great place to start.
BB (47:21):
And what I want you to do is simply rank those relationships by level of relationship even though that you have not done business with them. Just who do you know the best in your life Down to who’s like, eh, that’s my husband’s colleague at work, their family. Mm-Hmm. . And we met them at the barbecue three years ago. Okay. Rank them. And then you’ve got to do something in that gap. When I talked about the know, like, and the gap before, trust, trust, I want you to think of in two categories. I want you to think of it as personal credibility, show up on time, honest, trustworthy, and then professional competence. Good at what you do. You need to create a valuable marketing plan to start getting in front of people so that they learn that you, your new business, your new endeavor, you do know what you are doing.
BB (48:08):
Mm. But I promise you, the foundation of people that already know you and like you and love you as a human or loved you in your past life are gonna be the first people to trust you if you give them a reason to. But you have to start giving them a reason to. And you also need to call those people, those five star people and just be honest with them. Be honest with them. Hey, I need your help. You know, I’ve started this new business. This is who my ideal client is. When you come across someone, can you introduce, start asking the question. You’ll be amazed if they loved you for who you are. They’re gonna love you for what you do now. And some businesses that might take more time, don’t get me wrong. Some businesses you just became, you know got your series seven and you’re gonna be a financial advisor. Well, yeah, before I refer you, someone with a million dollar portfolio, that might take a little bit more time. Yeah. But if you start laying the foundation now, you will reap the reward in the end. But you’ve gotta start with that list of people that already know you and like you. And then remember what I talked about? The gap. That gap you’ve gotta close into trust.
AJV (49:09):
Yeah. This is so good. This is so helpful. And if you’ve been a hermit for the last three years, it’s time to come out of your shell. . Time to pick up the phone, get back out in public, right? Yes. It’s time to put on. You cannot
BB (49:21):
Be a secret salesperson. , you could not be a undercover agent. That does not work.
AJV (49:27):
I love this. Barb, if people wanna connect with you where should they go? And I know that you have this awesome lead magnet. We’ll talk about it in a second. And if you guys are like a lead magnet, it’s like, yeah, if you guys want to get some really awesome free stuff, you can sign up for that. It’s a free lead magnet. But before we talk about that, if people just wanna like, follow you, get to know you, like, where should they go?
BB (49:49):
Instagram’s my jam. I love Instagram. I’m on Instagram every day in the story. So just my name at Barb Betts, also Facebook, of course, LinkedIn. I’m on all the platforms underneath my name. I love new conversations. I love talking to new people. So as they say, I know this is, I gotta figure aj, we, we together need to figure out another way to say, slide into my dms. Like I cannot stand that, but I totally appear in my dms, surprise me in my dms. Oh, wow.
AJV (50:20):
Yes. That’s awesome.
BB (50:22):
But yeah,
AJV (50:24):
Well, I would second like, follow on Instagram. What’s your Instagram handle
BB (50:27):
At Barb Betts?
AJV (50:29):
At Barb Betts. And we’ll put that in the show notes. I follow you on Insta, so I, I would highly recommend it. And then as I mentioned, there’s also this awesome free resource that Barb has made available. And if you go to barb betts.com/authenticity you can sign up for this free, awesome resource. So, Barb, tell us what it is.
BB (50:51):
Yeah. So it starts with back to that first pillar of the foundation, of the framework, the relational mindset. And it starts with, you can’t have an authentic relationship with anyone else. So you have ’em with yourself. So it’s my authenticity blueprint that will get you on your way to building that authentic relationship with yourself and goes through my framework on how to do that. So you can start showing up as the real you and start impressing and infecting everyone with all your goodness so that they’re compelled to work with you.
AJV (51:16):
Love that. So go to bar beds.com/authenticity. This has been a fantastic conversation. All of you should have a little bit of a new renewed enthusiasm for getting out there and getting referrals. And a stick around for the recap episode. We’ll talk more about it there. And we will catch you next time on the influential Personal brand. We’ll see you later.

Ep 454: Mindset Shifts that Lead to Massive Success with Erwin McManus

RV (00:02):
Such an honor today to be able to introduce you to someone who I think is one of the most brilliant people on the planet. I think one of the most gifted communicators, one of the most intelligent people at creating distinctions that truly can transform your life and your business. And his name is Erwin McManus. And Erwin is the national bestselling author of this new book the book is called Mindshift. And Erwin has written several books. He sold actually over, well, well over a million copies worldwide. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages. He speaks all over the planet. He has spoken in 70 countries. I know that he speaks sometimes in stadiums, and he works with organizations like the NFL and the Pentagon. And he also has been a private coach to professional athletes, celebrities, world leaders, like billion dollar companies. And he just, I think, has a gift for helping people unlock their personal genius. And it’s been an honor to get to know him and work with him a little bit over the last year or so. And anyways, Erwin, welcome to the show.
EM (01:15):
Hey, thanks for having me, man. I, I, I, I’m impressed by the way you introduced me, but it’s, it’s not, it’s not quite that big, but it’s great. .
RV (01:24):
No, I mean, in, in all seriousness, it, one of the things that I love about you, Irwin, is like several of the most influential people that I, that are clients of ours and friends of ours. Mm-Hmm. . It’s amazing how many of them point back to you and say, Erwin changed my life. Irwin, Irwin changed my business. Irwin, Irwin changed the way that I, I think. And you know, I just, I, so anyways, I really, I really do believe it. But let’s talk about mind shift. , let’s talk about the, the, the, the, I mean, anything related to mindset right now, to me is super valuable and relevant because there’s so much turmoil in the world. There’s so much noise. I think there’s a lot of evil, a lot of negative programming and businesses, entrepreneurs, salespeople, authors, speakers, all of us have to protect our mind. And, and so gimme the premise behind Mind Shift. Why this book? Why now? The background?
EM (02:27):
Yeah. I mean, the premise of the book is written on an empty page with one sentence on it that says, the intention of this book is to destroy internal limitations. And Rory, one of the things that my life journey has helped me see is that no matter where a person is in their life stage, or what arena or domain they work in, they have the same internal struggles. I spent 10 years working with the urban poor, with with drug cartels, with street gangs, with wow people trapped in the world of drugs and prostitution. And I was super idealist, you know, in my twenties. And I thought if I could just remove all the external obstacles that are gonna thrive and break out of poverty and, and the lives are gonna change, and I began to discover to a, a really a, a very painful level that the real limitations for people who are trapped in poverty were the internal narratives, the, the mental structures that, that really ingrained poverty mindsets.
EM (03:28):
And I thought, okay, when I moved to LA start working with artists, creative celebrities, you know, the most talented and attractive people in the world, I’d have to develop new tools, exact same thing, the same internal mental structures, limited them, and really held them back and actually stole from them the joy of their success. And then the last, you know, decade or two, working with people in the hundred, millions, billions, people who have started companies from scratch and, you know, and have had immense success, people, the top of their fields, same exact mental structures. And so one of the things I really quickly began to discover is that you cannot get successful enough to fix your inner world. You actually have to do the work of developing mental structures for success. And one of the things that really highlight in Mindshift is most people try to prepare themselves to bear the weight of failure, but they rarely prepare themselves to bear the weight of success. And that success actually weighs heavier than failure.
RV (04:27):
So I wanted to ask you about that. ’cause You, I, that is one of the things you say directly in the book, you say, success weighs more than failure. It’s one of the questions I had prepared, . And since you, it was actually gonna be one of the last questions, but since you went there , like, talk about that. What does that mean exactly? ’cause I know you, you’ve been around and it’s unique. You’ve been around a lot of successful people Mm-Hmm. . But you’ve been around successful people in many different avenues. The political arena, the sports arena, the, the entertainment arena, business nonprofit. Like, you have this unique exposure. So with that was one of the things that caught my attention. So unpack that idea. Success weighs more than failure.
EM (05:14):
Yeah. Well just a little added caveat to that is the fear of failure weighs more than failure.
RV (05:22):
Oh, that’s good.
EM (05:24):
And, and so a lot of times what people think they’re being suffocated under as failure, but they’re not. It’s the fear of failure. Failure actually is not nearly as heavy as the fear of failure. When you fail, you realize, oh, I got this . I can, I can actually survive this. It’s, it’s the weight of the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of shame, the fear what others will say, that is what’s debilitating and crushing. But at the same time, the fear, the the weight of success is immense. And, and some of it is because there are things you lose when you gain success. You lose friends, you lose people who are cheering you on. It’s amazing how many people will cheer you on when you’re failing and will cheer you on while you’re trying to succeed. But when you succeed, the pause stops.
EM (06:17):
You actually move through what I would call a transitional loneliness. When people would ask me, in fact, I got asked this question a few weeks ago. Somebody said, so, is it lonely at the top? Is it true that it’s lonely at the top? And I said, first of all, I take it as a great compliment that you think I’m at the top . I, I’ve climbed a really small mid-size hill , and there are massive hill Himalayan mountains behind me and of opportunity. But if I’ve achieved any level of the top, I can tell you I’ve never had more friends in my entire life. I’ve never had, I’ve had a, a more tight-knit beautiful community in my entire life. Hmm. So if I’m at the top, it’s not lonely here, but you know, where it was lonely, every transition I’ve had in my life where I left a level of living and decided to elevate to a different level of living.
EM (07:08):
Because in that transition, you lose the friends you had, but you don’t have the friends yet you’re going to have, and there is a, there’s a, a massive weight of aloneness, which is a part of the weight of success. And then what happens is when you become successful, you, I, I was gonna say people assume, but no, we end up assuming that our success validates all of our internal structures, while we may actually have some incredibly dangerous internal structures for failure, and they become self-destructive. And that’s why you see so many people at the pinnacle, their success crumble, their marriages and their children are AMAs. They’re depressed and even suicidal. And even people with billions end up taking their lives because the weight of success was something they were not prepared for.
RV (07:59):
Yeah. I mean, that, and that blows, that always blows my mind. There’s so, there’s so many implosions that happen in, again, all these different arenas, doesn’t matter of sports, whatever. So what are some of these internal limitations, right? Like, what, what are some of the most common ones? And you know, I very much empathize with what you’re talking about here personally, of going, you know, I was raised by a single mom. My dad left me when I was young, never knew him. And I think a lot of my ambition for most of my life was just trying to prove to myself that I was worthy of not being left. Yeah. And, you know, in some ways I’m very grateful for that. ’cause I think it drove me really hard, which I’m grateful for what it has led to. But I very much empathize with what you’re saying, that no level of success ever actually fills that hole.
EM (08:51):
Yeah, absolutely. Because sometimes we don’t know if we’re running from something or running to something. Mm-Hmm. . And so oftentimes success is coming. ’cause We’re running from something, we’re running from poverty. We’re, we’re, we’re running from this struggle of self-belief that we have no value. We’re running from all the people who told us, we’ll, never amount to anything. You know, we’re running from the fear of failure of being what we were. And then we actually think we were running to something. And one of the, I think, really important nuances is that success, wealth, power, position, fame, they’re all wonderful consequences or benefits of life. They are terrible intentions. And so when success becomes a driving intention of your life, or wealth or fame or power, it actually leaves you empty because it’s a terrible intention. Hmm. It’s a great outcome. Like, I’m, I’m all for, you know, having success or gaining wealth, or having influence or, or, you know, act gaining power that you can use to make the world better.
EM (09:59):
It’s just that when those are the driving forces of your life, they leave you empty because they never satisfy. And, and someone asks me, what do you do when you’ve lost like your a hundred million dollar company? And, and so how do you regain your purpose? And, and I told him, I said, one, your purpose should have never been in your a hundred billion dollar company. Mm-Hmm. Your purpose should always be focused on who you’re becoming, not what you’re accomplishing. And if your intention is about who you’re becoming as a human being, no one can touch that. And success and failure are irrelevant to your intention. They’re just outcomes.
RV (10:35):
Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think that, I love that idea that it’s more of, it’s a great, a great outcome, but a terrible intention. And when you, when you think about these shifts, you know? Mm-Hmm. one, one of the other things you talk about in the book is talent. Yeah. You said, you say talent is a hallucinogen.
EM (10:55):
I know. It’s a really hard thing to say that, that I, I shouldn’t have picked that word. I can’t even pronounce
RV (10:59):
It. Hallucinogen. It’s harder to spell than it is to say That’s true. I tried to spell it like 10 times. I was like, preparing, and I’m like, halluc, I, I don’t know. I can’t get it. But,
EM (11:08):
Well, you know, span Spanish is my first language. So hallucinogen is still a hard word.
RV (11:12):
There, . There you, there you go. But talk to me about the talent. You know, like, again, the book is called Mind Shift. Right? And that’s what I feel like that’s what you’re helping us do, is you’re helping us go almost like, don’t think this, think that. Yeah.
EM (11:26):
Why? So real quick, like, here’s some real quick summaries on my shift. ’cause Really my shift is 13 chapters of Red Bull. You can open up anywhere and you pop it open, you, you, you know, consume it quickly and it’ll explode in your brain. And one of the chapters that maybe the shortest chapter in the book is you are your own ceiling. It may be the shortest chapter, but it might also be the most important chapter. It’s about the mental shift from who is holding you back. And when we think that what’s holding us back is other people, the man, our past trauma, our parents, our, the abandonment we’re feeling you know, whatever it may be. Whenever you externalize blame for where you are in your life, you become powerless to change your life the moment you embrace. I am my own ceiling.
EM (12:13):
You know, I, I may not have wanted these things to happen, but I am powerful enough to respond to them. I’m in charge of my response. I’m in charge of how they shape me, and the person that I create myself to become. And then the moment you embrace that, it shifts everything you can. And you can listen to a person’s language when they’re always blaming someone else. They’re powerless to change their life. When they take responsibility for their life, they now are empowered to change. And then you mentioned the chapter Talent is the hallucinogen. Some people have the curse of talent. I did not have the curse of talent. I was not born with the curse of talent. But I know people who had the curse of talent. And my brother, I think, had the curse of talent in sixth grade. I think he was the fastest kid in the United States.
EM (12:59):
He was a, a superior athlete from day one. He was the high school quarterback, broke every conference record, had a full scholarship to play football. He’s also a brilliant, like a savant. He’s a genius. He and every arena, my brother was just naturally good at everything. So what happens when you have talent is people build external structures so they can actually access that talent. They don’t care about you. They care about the talent that’s inside of you. And so then you think you have the internal structure for success, but you don’t, you have external structures that actually protect that talent. So it can be accessed by those who want it. That’s why pro athletes, five years after they’re finished in the NFL, are divorced, drug addicted dead or bankrupt, because they were the most talented person in their schools from elementary to junior high to high school.
EM (13:55):
No one was as talented as them. So organizations built structures around them, access that talent all the way through college, all the way through the pros, the moment the structures are gone, wow, their lives collapsed. See, when you don’t have the curse of talent, you know, wow, I gotta find a different way to succeed. , you know, I don’t have natural talent. So you start working hard. You establish disciplines. You began to develop internal structures for success. Because I didn’t have any perceivable talent. I had to decide if I’m going to succeed, I have to take on certain patterns and disciplines that other people do not have. So what happened is that I created internal structures for success. And so when the world changes, when the environment changes, when the economy crashes, when you, you know, when a project goes south, I still have those internal structures.
EM (14:45):
And what I try to do in Mindshift is help a person realize, look, you may have talent, but talent is like a mirage. It makes you believe you will succeed without hard work. And so then when you fail, you move into a pattern of blaming rather than actually reframing. And when you understand that talent is just a hallucinogen, I’m so glad you have talent. I’m so glad you’re super intelligent, or that you have, you’re, you’re incredibly attractive, whatever it may be. But you need to realize you cannot build a sustainable future on talent. It has to be on the internal disciplines of, of mental structures.
RV (15:23):
Wow. Yeah. That’s powerful. That’s a, that’s a completely different, I mean, it’s a mind shift, a way of, of thinking of, of talent, you know, even as a, as a liability. You know, applying that specifically to the, to the people listening to this show that, you know, a lot of everyone who listens to this show is what we call mission-driven messenger. Right? Like, they have some calling to go, I wanna make the world a better place. And you, you are, you in many ways are, are what we aspire to become. You speak on the biggest stages with the most wealthy people in the audiences, the, you know, like the most in influential people. You mentor these folks. You’ve got books that are selling. What do you think are some of the mindset limitations, either that you’ve had to overcome or that you think other speakers and authors type, you know, coaches, consultants, that they have to overcome on their journey when they’re just starting out and they’re looking at, like, all the people on social media and all the bestselling authors and all the amazing speakers. Mm-Hmm. , what do you think are some of the, the mind set limitations in this space specifically? Yeah.
EM (16:35):
If you’re early on in the process, the two chapters you need to jump into right away are, you don’t need the applause. And no one knows what they’re doing. Those two chapters, I think are the most important chapters early on. And then I’ll talk about some other ones. But one, you don’t need the applause is really important. ’cause If you’re at the beginning of the journey, you, you need to make sure that your driving force is your own internal sense of accomplishment, rather than playing the game for the audience. Hmm. If you need people to celebrate you, if you need people to affirm you, if you need people to tell you you’re going to be awesome, you’re not going to succeed. And if I can put it in the book writing category, I can always tell when someone’s not gonna finish a book. Really? Yeah. It’s one thing.
RV (17:19):
Tell me
EM (17:21):
They write a page and they share it with everyone.
EM (17:26):
They write a chapter and they share it with everyone. Because you end up having the same endorphins of success when you share one page and people say, oh, I love the page. It was amazing. You such a great writer. Then you do when you finish the whole book, because now you’re living for the applause. You’re living for the affirmation of other people rather than this deep need to get this message out to the world. And so, one of the things I say right away is, do not become the prisoner of praise of applause, celebration. The other chapter, and there’s so much more we could talk about there, but I’m moving fast, is no one knows what they’re doing. You, you ever, ever,
RV (18:05):
Hold on a a second. I just before you, I can’t just let you go to this next one, . Just, I just, for, I have to feel, I feel like we have to just pause for a second. You said, do not be the prisoner. Say that again.
EM (18:17):
Oh, do not be the prisoner of praise. Yeah,
RV (18:20):
Man, that’s powerful. Irwin, like, because it’s like, praise is with everyone seeking. We’re seeking the likes, we’re seeking the shares, the comments, how many followers. And it’s like, we’re actually seeking the thing that makes us a prisoner. The, which means we, we perpetually are chasing after putting ourself in like a more strict jail cell, a tighter stronghold on our life that gets worse and worse and worse the more we achieve it. Because it’s like, we just become more and more, it’s like a high you get, you’re just chasing after it more and more and more.
EM (18:54):
By the way, that’s why incredibly famous people are so depressed. Oh. Because now, you know, when you were not famous, you were a prisoner of 10 people’s praise. But now you are famous and you’re the prisoner of millions of people’s praise.
RV (19:11):
Wow. I mean, that’s, that’s just, that’s powerful. I, I don’t, that’s just a, it’s a total mind shift to, to realize that maybe the very thing that you’re chasing could be the thing that you, is gonna make you a prisoner. You know? And for me, you know, I’m a hardcore bible thump of Jesus freak. Right. And so I’m always, I’m always internalizing things going. That could be God protecting you. Like the reason why he’s not giving you the fame is because he’s knowing like he might be protecting my, our hearts to go. You’re not ready to handle that. Like you said, that’s the weight, that’s part of probably the weight of success too. Anyways, so that’s really good. So yeah, the other one I love this is no one knows what they’re doing. And I totally, I’m a hundred with you on this. So like, tell, tell ’em about no one knows what they’re doing.
EM (19:58):
Well, whenever we start something new, we all feel like a fake , you know? And I mean, when I first started designing clothes, like my wife’s like, what are you doing being a fashion designer? You know? And, you know, what do you know about designing clothes? And I go, well, I know a lot about fabrics and I know a lot about textures and I know how things feel, and I know what they look like when they fall on your shoulders, just right. And I know what clothes looks like when it makes you look fat or fatter than you are. And when it makes you look slimmer than you are. And, and, and, but when I first started, I thought, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? I’m not Ralph Lauren. You know, I’m not Jerry Lorenzo. I’m not, you know. And so you always feel like you’re fake. You always, and you know, you don’t know. I’m going, I hope everyone knows I don’t know what I’m doing. You know? And, but I thought, I’m the only one doesn’t know. And I remember 10 years ago when I had a fashion company, I hired three guys that all had fashion degrees. And it took me about a year to realize they have no idea what they’re doing. And they have degrees, but they have less perspective, less sensibility. And I walked in one day and one of them was actually stealing all these patterns from another store.
RV (21:10):
Oh man.
EM (21:11):
And I, and I, and I go, oh, poor guy. He’s afraid to tell me that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Because as agree. And that’s why a lot of times we steal because we don’t know. We can create. And, and early on we have to go. Of course. I don’t know what I’m doing. You know, I, I’m learning. And when I started working in film, you can you imagine what it was like to be behind a camera as a director, going, I hope these actors don’t look at me and realize I have no idea what I’m doing. And, and very, very quickly realized, oh, directing is like, it’s like creating a culture. It’s directing is like being an orchestra conductor with human talent. And, and all of a sudden I discovered, oh, I, I love this. I like, I, I’m, I’m, I actually have like, skill.
EM (21:57):
There’s so many things that I’ve done in my life that when I started, I felt like a complete fake. I had this massive imposter syndrome until I realized no one knows what they’re doing. And so they do it, and it’s only when they do it. And that’s when I went nuts. Lemme tell you, I, I hired Navy Seals. I filmed under the ocean. I, I rented a helicopter. We took off the, the the door and filmed from the air on a scene. And I would just literally coach myself to do the most difficult things in the world. ’cause I thought the only way I’m gonna learn how to do it is by doing it. And it, it was so exciting to realize early on in my life, the best posture is being an amateur. Hmm.
EM (22:40):
Whenever you’re a novice, you’re just so fresh and it’s all so new, and you’re wide-eyed, and you’re curious and you’re teachable. And here I am now at 65, lemme tell you, I am a beginner. We were even saying that before we started the podcast. See, I, I just tell myself, Hey, you’re starting over again. You’re a beginner. You’re a novice. Start from, from scratch goes. You don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s okay. But no one knows what they’re doing when they start. And you only learn what you’re doing as you do it, as you step into it and as you fail. And that is the greatest freedom in the world when you’re starting. It’s, it’s just wonderful. You don’t know what you’re doing. Own it. It’s gonna be the only time in your life you’re gonna be this free from all the hardship of experience.
RV (23:22):
. Yeah. I mean, that’s one of my favorite quotes from and from Steve Jobs. And he says, your entire life changes the day. You realize the whole world is created by people who are no smarter than you. Mm-Hmm. . And like, that’s the freedom is to go. No one knows what they’re doing. Right? Yeah. Like, nobody, the first time they try to write a page in a book, and you’re like, I’m not an author. What am I doing? Writing? Like, I’m not a podcaster. I don’t even know what microphone to use. Like, and then all of a sudden you look back after just doing it and it’s like, I guess I am that
EM (23:52):
You know, where it’s most clear, Rory and more, most terrifying.
RV (23:56):
Tell me
EM (23:58):
We have one life. We get to live on this planet. Mm-Hmm. . And we didn’t get a warmup game. We didn’t have a preseason, we didn’t have training camp. We’re born into this world without any knowledge, and we only get one shot. And for me, when I realized, wow, the most important thing we have is life. And no one knows what they’re doing. You know, you’ve, you’ve never been five before, you’ve never been 12 before. You were never 16 before every single phase of your life. You were doing it for the first time without any practice at all. And that’s why it’s so important to develop mental structures that actually help you see life clearly. ’cause Every phase of life you move into, it’s your first time.
RV (24:51):
Yeah. Yeah. And y’all, this is, this is the handbook for this right. Mind shift. It doesn’t take a genius to think like one is the, is the subtitle. And that’s what I feel like Erwin’s given us this handbook for exactly how to get pa to, how to get past these limiting beliefs, how to defeat them, and how to install as an operating system, like a proper set of, of, of thinking that creates a paradigm that gives you purpose, that gives you clarity, that gives you confidence, that gives you the insight of, of knowing that you’re free to create. You’re free, you’re free to live, you’re free to love, you’re free to do these things. I do have one last question for you, Irwin. Before I give before the last question. Where do you want people to go to hook up, like sync up with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
EM (25:40):
Sure. the easiest place to go is erwin mcmanus.com. And there you can find out about what we do online with the arena, which is our online mastermind and find out about the books and all these other things we offer. Erwin mcmanus.com is the best place.
RV (25:53):
Love it. Okay. So we’ll link up to, we’ll link up to that. Obviously you can buy Mindshift, you know. Mm-Hmm. anywhere there are books. I did wanna let you go without talking about creativity and accessing our genius Mm-Hmm. , especially in recent years. I feel like you’ve talked more about this you’ve got other books on this, a lot of podcasts and stuff is what, what are some of the limiting beliefs we have to be able to move past in order to access our real creative genius in order to go to really build the things that no one else can build or to write or create the things that no one else can create? Talk to us a little bit just about how to get past that limiting belief on, on creativity and, and artistic genius.
EM (26:41):
Yeah. You know, I ironic, Rory, the first book I ever wrote is a book called An Unstoppable Force. I wrote it like 25 years ago. And in that book I argued that humans are intrinsically creative. That every human being is, is an artist, and that every human being has genius within them. So this actually isn’t a new conversation for me. Interesting. This has been my life long conversation. And I, and I fought it. I mean, I got fought really hard even within the, the world of faith. I had people telling me, Irwin, you’re telling everyone that every human being is creative. You’re putting undue pressure on people. I had one theologian telling me people, humans are like worker bees or worker ants, they just need a task and they’ll be happy. Mm-Hmm. You need to stop telling people that they’re creative. I was in New York at an event and I had someone in a Q and A get upset going, you’re trying to create anarchy if everyone believes they’re a creative who’s going to do the work?
EM (27:40):
And and I said, you know what? Ironically, that’s the same mindset that the slave owners had. If you set the slaves free, what’s gonna happen? And, and I said, really, we need to believe first of all, that every human being has intrinsic God-given creativity inside of them. That there is genius inside of every person. In fact, every study in the world lets us know that humans are extraordinarily adaptive at birth. And Rory, you probably don’t think of yourself as a linguistic genius. Like, you know, because I think you probably only speak English. And yet, mostly, mostly,
RV (28:20):
EM (28:20):
Mostly. But when you were two, you learned the most complicated language probably in the world because you had to, you didn’t even know English was hard. And if they had moved you to Japan, you would’ve spoken Japanese or to the Philippines. You would’ve spoken tagalo when you were two to five. You were a linguistic savant. You were mentally capable of adapting to any language in the world. And you could have learned multiple languages if they had moved you to multiple environments. But we convinced ourselves that we’re, we’re actually not that, you know, I’m not good at languages. No. You learned all the languages your brain believed you needed. Oh, I’m not good at math. No. You learned all the math your brain believed you needed. And the reality is that when you go, oh, I’m not a genius. Well that’s ’cause you convinced your brain. You didn’t need to be a genius to live the life you’re choosing. And what I’m trying to help people is to reawaken the full capacity within them. And I think that most people live a suboptimal life because they do not believe they have the capacity for more. And I wanna destroy that mental framework and help people see there’s a lot more in them.
RV (29:36):
Yeah. That is it. I mean, they live a suboptimal life because they don’t believe that they, they have the capacity for more. Yeah. So much of that is our internal thinking. So much of that is controllable mind shifts we’re creating. Go get the book, everybody. Irwin, thank you for your wisdom and for your insight and your distinctions. And I think you, you just are such a magnificent source of inspiration and creativity. And I just think profound wisdom and you’re one of my favorite communicators on the planet. And I just, what an honor to have you and to have this conversation, man. We will be cheering for you. Always, always, always. So thanks for being here.
EM (30:19):
Thank you so much. And Rory, thank you so much for believing in my shift for all the work you and your team did for helping us break barriers in in the launch. That wouldn’t have been possible without you. So we’re really grateful for you.
RV (30:31):
It’s our pleasure, man

Ep 452: Building Your Personal Brand Journey with Elizabeth Stephens

AJV (00:02):
Hey everybody and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast. Super excited today to have on a fellow BBGA very good close personal friend. But also Elizabeth Stevens is the VP of our member experience here, brand Builders Group. And so there’s so many fun things about this exciting interview. And before I formally introduced her, I just wanted to share why I wanted to have Elizabeth onto the show today. And I think there’s a couple of different things that are really important as we look forward to wherever you are in your journey or wherever you are in your year. But as you just look, look forward to the next 12 months, there should be some things that you are always asking yourself, such as, what should I be working on? And what order should I be working on these things? Where should I be investing my money, my time, my energy, my resources?
AJV (01:01):
And am I doing these things in a way that actually is going to benefit me in the end? So it doesn’t matter what year of what month of the year it is, it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your journey. There’s always things that you should be asking yourselves as you’re looking ahead to those next 12 months. And so I thought having Elizabeth on the show today would be so helpful to talk about how we can do the right things, but in the wrong order, and then we’re confused. And then we, we stale. We kind of, kind of become stale and stagnant. So that’s gonna be the conversation today and a lot of fun things in between. And so as we get into this, I just want you to know that as you’re listening this is one of those conversations that is applicable universally.
AJV (01:47):
Doesn’t matter how beginner you are, how advanced you are, doesn’t matter what you’re working on, why you’re working on it, this is one of those conversations that has a very holistic approach. So if you’re tuning in, this is, this is a conversation for you today. So stick around and don’t leave because it’s going to be well worth it to the very last second. Now, let me introduce you to the one and only Elizabeth Stevens. Elizabeth is a personal brand strategist and an expert at that. She’s also the vice President of Member Experience here at Brand Builders Group. Woo woo. I would say that she has also worked with brands extremely closely on a personal level like a personal brand level, as well as a large corporate level like Charles Schwab in Southwest Airlines. She’s worked with New York Times bestselling authors, eight, nine-figure entrepreneurs top ranked podcast hosts. She has done all these things. Not to mention, she is the founder of a nonprofit. She is helped people craft Ted Talks. She has three amazing kids. So she does all these other things in the midst of being a mom, like all these different things. Plus, she’s a speaker and an all around amazing human being. So, without further ado, Elizabeth, welcome to the show.
ES (03:05):
Oh, thank you so much. I get exhausted hearing that, especially the part about the three kids and all that stuff as we during the time of this podcast. It’s right before the Christmas season. And as any parent knows, it is complete insanity on all fronts. So I can Thank
AJV (03:23):
You, . I can relate. Mm-Hmm, . So I just kind of wanna hit this with a couple questions that I’ve been getting asked a lot here lately. We’ve actually been doing a lot of interviewing for new team members at Brand Builders Group. We’ve actually added 10 new team members to our team this year, which just feels impossible and extraordinary all at the same time. And from almost every single interview that I’ve had, I’ve had one really consistent question. And then being in our events and being a part of all the different things in our client community, I started noticing like, oh, our interview candidates aren’t the only ones asking this question. So here’s the question that I think is important for everyone. Why do some personal brands excel? Why others fall flat, right? If everyone is coming in with this mission and its passion and this message that they feel like is a calling on their heart, and they’re all, and I’m just thinking about in Brand Builders Group where they’re all following a similar curriculum, a similar path, kind of why are some taking off like a rocket? And why do others still still feel stuck in the garage?
ES (04:33):
Hmm. That’s such a great question. And it’s one I think we ask ourselves a lot and finally got to this point where we really realized it’s all about giving them those parameters, right? It’s really understanding, and you said this earlier, you referenced it at the beginning about a, a lot of people decide what they want to do. They make a decision. I want to be this thing. I want to create this piece of work. I want to excel in this area. But the question we often don’t ask ourselves is, when do we do that thing, right? How do we create a timeline that aligns with the, what the big overarching goal that we want? And so we come into these ideas and these businesses saying, and these personal brands saying, this is what I wanna be, this is what I wanna do. But we don’t ask ourselves. The most important question is, when do I do the things that are going to make this happen? And I think that is one of the biggest mistakes personal brands, entrepreneurs, businesses make, is we have a good idea of the what, the passion, the purpose, and deep inside of us, but we have not created a timeline to where that works for us and for the people we serve very effectively.
AJV (05:50):
Hmm. So I know, and for all of you who are listening who don’t know, but Elizabeth also holds a really special place in all of the client’s journey that we work with at Brand Builders Group because she does annual planning calls with every single one of the clients, our members at Brand Builders Group. And so she gets to have these unique conversations of let’s reflect on the last 12 months as we plan the next 12 months. And so I imagine a lot of that feedback, those insights are coming from these calls. And so that kind of leads me to another question that you kind of mentioned. It’s, you know, we know that there’s a timing and a sequence to things. And so what is that timing and sequence of things?
ES (06:32):
Yeah. Yeah. You know, one of the things that we developed and really I think wrapped our minds around very intentionally and specifically even in the past year specifically, are our customer journeys, right? Really identifying the goals that people had. That what, like, this is what I’m running after. And then saying, how do we reverse engineer that goal into a timeline with parameters of knowing when to do the right thing at the right time? And you, you referenced this earlier too, is that so many people do the right thing, but at the wrong time, right? We’re either pushing things too fast when we’re not ready, or we’re maybe moving a little slow when, when we could really aim our sights on something different. And so developing these customer journeys for our members has been, has been really enlightening and eye-opening, and it has allowed them to achieve success so much faster, right? It’s moving towards the what at the right time. And so our customer journeys that we have developed are super specific, right? It’s based on that overarching goal. And like I said, it’s a reverse engineering, right? If this is what you’re running at, what do you need to do in the next 12 months? What do you need to do in the next 24 months, 36 months to reach this objective?
AJV (07:53):
Hmm. So before we talk about what these customer journeys are, I would just like for you to share in your perspective, ’cause you’re so close to the member community. So like Elizabeth, you’re touching hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people every single year who are out there building their personal brands. I would love to know, it’s like as we like, kinda like delve into this customer journey, and as people are reflecting on their 12 months and they’re entering into the next 12 months, what, what would you say are the biggest pain points of like, if we have these journeys and people are supposed to be following , that keyword’s supposed to be like, what, what is happening there? And then on the flip side, what is happening for those people who are breaking through some of those barriers and seeing extreme success? Have you noticed any patterns regardless of journey? And we’re gonna step into that next of what, what is working and what is not working for people building their personal brands?
ES (08:53):
Well, something just super practically speaking is that a lot of our clients and members are feeling still very diluted, right? We have a saying at brand builders group, diluted focus yields, diluted results. It is the biggest pain point by far that our members experience in their brand and business, right? They are wearing too many hats. They’re focused on too many different ideas. They have spread themselves very thin. They’re unable to get traction. And even, and I would say that the people that I talk with that are still struggling, like they are, they’re given the right information. They have an accountability partner, they are still getting really diluted, right? They’re chasing a lot of ideas. They are definitely living in the, the present, but with lots of distraction where we wanna really temper yes, be where you are. ’cause There are ramifications of moving too fast or turning around, but, but living in the present and being distracted by everything, literally enveloping them I see is the biggest detriment to their long-term success.
ES (09:56):
There is still a little bit of diluted focus, right? And, and it’s, it’s shiny objects. It’s running after, oh, I just got this call to potentially run after this big opportunity. And it’s really tempering that back and asking, is this aligned with my overarching goal with that long-term plan that I have created for myself? If it’s not, and it doesn’t follow into my customer journey or trajectory, I need to know when to say no. Right? There are things to say no to and to say yes to. So I think the biggest thing I’m seeing is still that chasing the shiny object that all entrepreneurs struggle with so, so consistently. But that I think is the biggest thing I’m seeing on a consistent basis in my calls.
AJV (10:39):
No, I think that’s so insightful. And it’s interesting because we were on a call yesterday with one of our clients who’s had extreme success this year with her new book Forever Strong. Her name is Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. And I asked her, I said, Hey, if you’ve had an incredible breakthrough year, what would you say is like the number one thing that other people could do to have a breakthrough year next year? And she said, easy become undestructible.
ES (11:09):
Hmm. So
AJV (11:10):
Good. And she was like, that’s the number one thing. She goes, every, like, I encounter this with my clients, with my friends, with business partners. She goes, people are so distracted, right? And she goes, I don’t see shiny objects. I don’t, I don’t see squirrels. She goes, I am undestructible. And I asked her and I said awesome. How do you do that? Right? Mm-Hmm. . So it’s like, how do you do that? Because she also has two young children. I think she has a three-year-old and a four and a half year old. She’s got a three thriving business going through a book launch. She is being booked out to speak. Her husband is a, a surgeon, so it’s not like she’s not susceptible to distraction. And she goes, it’s easy. I filter all my decisions through the message that I feel called to share.
ES (11:56):
AJV (11:57):
And I’m like, that’s so good. And she’s, I’ll give you a quick example. And she goes, I am speaking at a healthcare conference this upcoming week. And she goes, personally, I don’t wanna do it. She goes, I don’t wanna be away from home. I don’t wanna travel to this particular location. I, these are not necessarily my target audience for additional revenue. It’s not the speaking engagement fee that I wish I was getting. And she goes, so a lot of people are going, why are you doing it? And she goes, because I’m undestructible and this is a part of my message, getting into the right hands that can to change the world. Hmm. She goes, I filter all of my decisions through what message do I feel called to share in this world. And anything that interferes with that gets a hard no, but anything that fits in that gets a quick yes. Yeah. Even if I don’t feel like doing it.
ES (12:44):
Yeah. Yeah.
AJV (12:45):
That’s, that was really good. Of like, people who are seeing breakthroughs realize it happens because they have removed shiny objects they have removed. And that was the other thing she said that I thought was so good. She goes, I don’t care what anyone else is doing.
ES (13:00):
Mm mm
AJV (13:01):
I don’t, I only care about what I’m doing. Mm. I don’t care what other people are doing. I know there’s other things I could be doing, but what I’m doing is working so I don’t care. And she was like, I’ve learned to not care what the industry says and what other people in my space say, I’m just focused on what I can do, what’s working for me. And I filter all my decisions through the message.
ES (13:24):
Hmm. You know, that’s so good. I, I love hearing stories like that from our clients that understand the, the one thing that they need to focus on. ’cause That truly is, I mean, it’s what we preach. It’s what we teach. It’s, it is what we know works. Right. And it, and it’s needing to be constantly reminded of that. You know, the human brain needs to hear something seven times for it to stick. This is no different. Like, we need to be reminding people that are running at a passion, a purpose, and a calling that they need to stay true to the path. And something else that I have realized in these calls with our members is that it is really hard work. Like it takes a lot from deep within you to stay the course. And I’ve thought about this a lot and, and it comes back to this missional mindset. And I’ve seen this very subtle nuance between people that are successful with the mindset and people that aren’t. And it’s the people that aren’t necessarily as successful as they want to be in their journey to building a personal brand or a business, really treat it like a job or an idea. Mm-Hmm. And a job and an idea you work for and you work at, right. That’s the mentality. But when you are truly viewing it as a mission or a vocation, you make it work.
AJV (14:41):
ES (14:42):
And I think that is a big difference, right? You are so called deeply to something that you believe in that purpose, you were just speaking to that you have to make it work. Like it is work and you make it happen. While the, this i this mindset of this is my job, this is the next step for me, it’s an idea I have. You just work at it. Right. You chip away at it and there’s a, there’s a difference there. And it makes a big difference long term in success.
AJV (15:13):
Mm. That’s so good. And I love that. ’cause You know, like one of the questions that I had kind of outlined earlier, which is why do some things feel like work and others don’t? And I think it’s all through the filtering of like, is this missional right? Mm-Hmm. And I love that like, concept of like, is what you’re doing missional or is it just the next step? Is it just another idea of, versus like, is this in your core, what you were put on this earth to do, and are you doing it right? And it’s like one of those things that’s like, you kind of have to get to the level of I can’t not do it. Like, I can’t not put this off anymore. It’s like, it’s just like coming out of me no matter what. And it, it made me think about, you know, so often when, when people come to Brain Builders Group even as, even as podcast listeners for everyone listening, it’s like, there is like this deep down like knowing or calling.
AJV (16:07):
It’s like, man, I, I just feel like I’m, I’m supposed to do something else. Hmm. I, I feel like I I’m called to share something or, or do something more. Or I just feel like there’s something in me that’s not being utilized. Mm-Hmm. Right? It’s like we hear that all the time, which is usually how people come across our path. It’s like, man, I just, I know I’m supposed to be doing something more, something else. And I think a lot of it stems from finding that missional thing of going, like, there is that inkling that calling somewhere within you. But let’s don’t be mistaken. It is work. It is work. It’s not gonna just magically happen because you, you followed your calling. It’s like, no, it’s work a lot. I love that. I think that’s so good. So, all right, so talking about the work, tell us what are these customer journeys that we’ve identified and how do they work?
ES (17:02):
Hmm. Yeah. I, so I’ll talk a little bit about customer journeys, but something really interesting leading up to this idea of, of why did we develop customer journeys? Why were they so important? And I just learned this recently, so it’s really relevant to the conversation today. And there have been studies that have shown that retention, which is what we developed customer journeys for, right? This idea of, we know the journey is a journey, right? It, it’s not a magic pill that you take, or you launched something once and you’re skyrocketed to success. Like anything that’s missional you’re working for Mm-Hmm. Right? You are, you are making it work on this trajectory, but retention actually dips when your culture is really strong, right? And so we have this strong culture at Brain Builders group of all of these members that are, are in it for the same reasons.
ES (17:50):
They’re scrappy. They’re, you know, they’re pulling theirselves up by their bootstraps with this purpose and this mission. So our culture’s strong. And I read this study that says, retention dips the stronger your culture gets if you don’t acclimate people to the mission. And I thought that was so interesting because that is really one of the main reasons we developed these customer journeys was saying, our culture’s really strong. We know people need to stick with us, with brand builders group with what we have created for people for the long haul. Like we believe in it that much. It’s not a get rich quick, it’s not come with us for a couple months and you’re set. We know it’s the long game. We believe in that so much. So when our culture’s that strong, we have to figure out some way to really align and acclimate people to what that looks like for them.
ES (18:37):
Like how are they implicated in that journey? Which is why we developed the customer journeys and we really built them based around what our customers were coming to us for. It’s really pretty simple. Like, not always easy, but very simple of what are the most of our, our clients, our members coming to us to build, right? What is that consistent through line? And so we developed really core four customer journeys. There’s one around authors because Brain Builders Group, we just get a lot of people that wanna put their message into the world in a written word. Like they just, they have this desire to write a book. Sometimes it’s their first, sometimes it’s their second or third. But they really wanna have the alignment. The next is speakers, right? We really work well with people that want to get their message into the world through voice, through the spoken word.
ES (19:27):
So those are kind of two of our really granular customer journeys of people really wanting to reach that elevated status of getting a book into as many hands as possible and getting on big stages to spread their, their word and their mission. And the other two are lead generation, right? And so this, what, what is that? It’s for mostly all of our professional services people, people that are in insurance, real estate. There’s a replicable model with lots of potential buyers, right? It’s how do you separate yourself in the market, right? We don’t build BA businesses based around what you do. We base a a brand around who you are. And that’s the differentiator. And I would say a lot of our clients fall into lead generation. ’cause Everyone needs leads no matter what you’re doing. If you own your business, if you’re working underneath a company at a high level, and then we have new revenue streams, right? This is for the person that comes into Brand Builders group saying, I have an idea and I wanna build it out for the first time. I’m gonna create a new business model, a new revenue stream that I wanna put into the world. So those are the four typical customer journeys we see our clients really align with and fall seamlessly into.
AJV (20:43):
No, I, you know, I think that’s one of the things that you said that’s so insightful is like categorically speaking, like this is roughly like the four main areas of what people come to us for. And as I sit and reflect over the last five years, you know, and, you know, as a part of like this joint venture and creating these, like, one of the things that I was really curious about, like to see in my own brain is well, why, like, why is it those types of people that gravitate towards brand builders group rather through social media or the podcast or as paying clients? And we have this saying at Brand Builders Group, which is, you are always most well positioned to serve the person you once were. I’m gonna pause, let that sink in for all of you listening, that you are always most well positioned to serve the person you once were or currently are.
AJV (21:41):
And as like it was, I don’t think it was coincidence. I don’t think it’s irony that the majority of the people that have found their way to us are actually who we are as people at Brand Builders Group, right? It’s like, we are speakers, we are authors, we are people who at the, at the core, every single person in our company if they know it or not, they are salespeople. Mm-Hmm. , right? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you’re a strategist, you’re in customer care, you’re in member experience, you’re in operations like you’re a salesperson, right? You’re selling ideas, you’re selling employee retention, you’re selling services. But like that is lead generation. And then the new be the new revenue stream. It’s like, well that’s kind of like what we do every day, . It’s like there’s these, these little known fact we’re just like a bunch of little idea factories at Brand Builders group.
AJV (22:34):
We have to learn the discipline of saying no more often than not. But I think it’s like, it’s one of those things that it’s like, I bet if all of you who are listening just paused and said, if I take a really good hard look at the people that I’m serving in my current business, whether it was on purpose or on accident, I bet you would find some really common themes of characteristics of who you once were and who you are. Mm. And if you put a little bit more intentionality into actually going after those people, because you know them inherently because you are them I bet your work would be more enjoyable, more missional a little easier, probably even a little simpler. Mm-Hmm. . And I just think like, in addition to like, this is just naturally who our people wanted, I think there was some bit of reflection of their naturally coming because that is who we all are. And so we just naturally gravitate and understand the nuances, which kind of makes our job, again, simpler. Not always easier, but it makes it simpler.
ES (23:41):
Yeah, for sure. And I think anyone thinking through creating customer journeys for their own brand and business need to take that into account. You never wanna teach someone to do something you’ve never done yourself. I mean that is I think a recipe for disaster long term. Like, you know, we always wanna be learning at, always learning, but always exceeding who we’re teaching, right? In that area. And I think you brought up such a good point that we are naturally attracting these members because we have done what they want to do so exceptionally well.
AJV (24:16):
Now that we’ve talked about the journey, so there’s an author journey, a speaker journey a journey for generating new leads, lead generation, and then a journey for that person who wants to create a brand new revenue stream which is like starting a brand new business. But we really haven’t talked about what is a journey? Like what is this journey like, tell me where am I going? So tell us like what is a customer journey, at least through the lens of Brand builders group. Yes.
ES (24:45):
So in any type of membership and Brand Builders group is a very robust membership. So if you are a brand or a business that has something like this where you have members paying you for information application, you want them to leverage your membership, like you have spent time, effort, and energy creating courses, creating trainings, creating touchpoints in real life time workshops, there’s so many facets of your membership and what leads to retention utilization, right? We want people taking us up on what we have to offer. And I think what we realized was we have so many great things to offer that people were going, what do we do? Where do we start? Should we take this course or not? It’s all so good. And people were spreading themselves thin, even with our incredible content, you know, it was just so good. They wanted to consume it all.
ES (25:36):
And we had to really scale back and say a customer journey really increases, increases utilization in the specific areas of which these members want to grow, right? And so when you identify goals, say you say, I wanna be a paid keynote speaker and get my first paid gig in the next six months, nine months a year, great. That’s a great goal to have. Let’s reverse engineer it. If that is your long-term primary focus to be a paid keynote speaker, then you’re gonna be on the speaker journey. Like that’s a no-brainer. That is your long-term focus. So what does that mean? That means we are gonna create year by year, quarter by quarter exactly what you should be consuming, engaging with people. You should be meeting workshops you need to be attending and exactly what you need to be doing at those workshops to reach that goal.
ES (26:28):
Right? It’s this reverse engineering, but it’s super hyper-specific because we don’t want you in the first three months to go take a podcast course. It’s there, it’s fun, it kind of looks shiny. But do you need that to reach your overarching goal right now? Probably not. It’s going back to doing the right thing at the right time. And so we have created a three year journey for our clients to really look at a, this three years in full of what are the milestones I need to be reaching and attending and using in order to get to where I want to go. So it’s just a real big reverse engineering of a goal.
AJV (27:11):
Yeah, I know. I love that. And I think I think it would be helpful for people to go, ’cause I know that some people are going three years. What? Oh, God’s green Nerf, I’m not gonna be doing for three years. What? So I do think it’s worth talking about that, but also I think it’s worth talking about. It’s like, I think that people often, you know, they underestimate what can be done over the course of say, 10 years, but they severely overestimate what can be done in the course of one year. And I could even say people underestimate what can happen in a year, but they overestimate what can be accomplished in three months. Mm-Hmm. . And so why, why would you say that the quarter, like the 90 day sprints are important when you’re looking at focus, which is what this is, is we’re providing a benchmarked focus every 90 days. So why 90 days or why three years?
ES (28:10):
Yep. So I, when I explain and when I show the entire customer journey for each, you know, area of focus and I showed three years, I always, ’cause I know anyone looking at that goes and it’s mostly, I want that to happen faster. Like, why can’t this happen faster? ? And I think we live in a world where we want really quick wins and quick wins aren’t bad. They just have to be intentionally quick. Right? Like you can acquire a ton of quick wins and get nowhere. You really can. And so we live in this society though that says, do this in 20 days and you’re gonna have a million followers. And I think we understand and we value the long game, right? But when you look at three years, it’s actually so much shorter in retrospect than even what you took to build your personal brand or Rory.
ES (28:58):
And, and it’s again, learning from people who have been there and done that, right? Rory has, and you have built these personal brands and it has taken decades. Decades, right? To break through what we call she hands wall to get on the other side where people are approaching you and, and grabbing from you and wanting to hire you and pay you the highest fees that they can. And we have really shortened that learning curve. I mean, if you look at 10 years or 15 down to three, it’s incredible. But we also tell people, and I’m really quick to do this. Look, you can go as fast as you can or as slow as you have to, which is something that Brand Builders Group teaches our clients. If you want to move faster and you have the capacity and you have a team behind you and you’ve got all of these things that are really aligning, you can potentially do this faster than three years.
ES (29:45):
However, if you’ve got a full-time job and all these different areas of focus, and this is just something on the side that you’re building long-term, you can take five years, you can take eight, really, like we are here to temper that for you. But the most important part in all of that timeline is staying hyper-focused in those 90 day sprints. A lot can be done in a quarter, like we think about quarters really naturally in the business world. And thinking through how can we take our big overarching goal and create subset goals within quarters that makes it digestible and makes it doable. And not only both of those things, it makes it done well. Mm. Which at the end of the day is what we really want for people because well equals longevity.
AJV (30:30):
Mm. I think that is so good. And I think that thing too that you just said, it’s like it also ensures that you do it well. Right? It’s like if you’re not going to do it, well, why are we doing it? Because this is missional work that is like, that’s what we’re here for. And you know, one of the things that I was just thinking to myself as you were talking is it’s like it took us the better part of 20 years to figure out how other people could do it in three we, we might be slower than others, but it took a long time to go. Why is it taking so long? Like, there’s gotta be a better way. There’s got to be a simpler way to learn these things and to figure out these things. And in addition to 20 years of doing it and trying to figure out the path at Brand Builders Group, it has been five years of fine tuning and streamlining to not only go, how do we do it in a more succinct fashion, but how do we ensure that the order is correct? Right. And I think that’s what you said. It’s like, you know, you can go faster, you can do multiple things, but why? Right. Because that’s not gonna ensure that you do it. Well, that’s back to shiny object syndrome. And I do think there is a, a, a giant lesson in patience in all of this, of going, sometimes it’s just not meant to be hurried.
ES (32:01):
AJV (32:01):
It’s just not meant to be rushed. Mm-Hmm. . And when you’re doing this level of internal work as well as external work, it needs to sit and it, it needs to settle and you have to have time to process it, not check a box and move on. And I do think there is a, an era and an aura of speed and urgency due to technology and AI and all the other things in life distractions. But I think there is a, an essence of slow down Mm-Hmm. slow down and it’s like slow down to speed up. And it’s like once you get that infrastructure in place, it’s amazing if you spend three years building the infrastructure, how quickly it can grow after three years. And it’s like we’ve seen the fruits of those labors and our clients and in, in our own company as you know. And I think that so many of us, we wanna hurry to the next thing that we forget. We’re learning so much in the process. So don’t rush the learning, don’t rush the process. Let the process be what the process is. ’cause You’re gonna come out on the, on the other end in a much better place. Better
ES (33:12):
End. Yeah.
AJV (33:13):
Yeah. I love that. Okay. So next question I have for you is, I think it, and this would just be like in your opinion, right? In your opinion, what, what do you think people need to know that are listening for them to go, okay, I may not be working with Brand Builders Group as a client, but I listen to the podcast, I’m absorbing free information. So as a non-client, how, how do I know what journey I’m on? Mm-Hmm. Like how would you say that anyone who is listening and ’cause I think a lot of people even in our own community have selected the wrong journey. So it happens even in a, a client relationship, but how do people determine, Hmm, what is the journey that I should be on to pursue this missional work that I feel called to?
ES (34:02):
Hmm. That’s a really good question. And I would echo the fact that yes, a lot of people really gravitate towards one particular journey. And I’ll share which one that is and why that reason is in my own opinion is a lot of people gravitate towards new revenue stream. And I think we look at those clients a majority. I mean, when you look at our number of clients that have said and declared a journey, it’s like declaring a major in college, right? When they’ve declared their journey, I think it’s about 50 50 if not, you know, 60 40. A lot of our clients are picking new revenue stream. And it’s so interesting to me because you, we talked about this earlier, a new revenue stream is like building a brand new business. And I don’t know if any of the listeners out there have ever built a business.
ES (34:48):
It is exceptionally hard. When you look at a three year journey and you’re building a brand new business, it’s gonna take longer than that. I can almost guarantee you there are so many things to think about. It’s a slower, you know, revenue stream that’s coming in. You have to have certain things in place to make that work in an efficient and effective way. But a lot of people think, well, I’m building a personal brand and so that means I’m starting a new revenue stream. And that is usually, typically not the case. And so what we often ask people to do is to step back and we an exercise we walk our members through called the Golden Grid. Even before that, like a revenue streams assessment. Like that’s kind of the first iteration of saying, what are all the things that you’re doing right now that are making money?
ES (35:36):
Could be making $10 a month, could be making a hundred thousand dollars a month. I don’t care. I want you to list them all out, right? And then I want you to tell me how much time you’re spending on all of these things. And then I want you to tell me how stressful they are on a scale of one to five. And then I want you to tell me how much future potential these things have on a scale of one to five. It seems so simple and it is, but looking at that document and saying, oh man, there are things on here that I’m doing that have no future potential and bring me excessive amounts of stress. It really helps you identify opportunities and things that you need to get rid of. And so once you’re starting to look at that, you might think to yourself, huh, like, I’m speaking a lot for free and I really love it and I’ve got like a really great opportunity to grow that piece of my business.
ES (36:23):
You know, I can create courses or I can, you know, start a podcast. I like to think of it as majoring in minoring, like I’m majoring in keynote speaking because it brings me a lot of joy. I don’t have to spend a ton of time on it. It could potentially bring me a lot of money in. And it’s not a high stress for me. Like the I’m already doing it. Like I should, I should continue to roll in that direction. Doesn’t mean I can’t create a course, doesn’t mean I can’t start a podcast. Those are just things that are not taking all of my time, effort, and energy. I don’t need to create something new. And same for lead generation. Like most people should focus on lead gen. They already are driving people to something naturally. I think 90% of our clients either are driving them to something that already exists, something they’ve built, or to their business that currently already exists. Why are we not pumping wind into our biggest billowing sail? Why is it always our natural inclination to hoist another sail up and hope that wind goes in that direction?
AJV (37:21):
So true. So true. Right?
ES (37:23):
Right. And so it’s just thinking through, like taking a big assessment of what we’re already doing, but knowing that things are already working for us. Like there is typically something already in the mix and how can we double down on that and build something then start something totally new from scratch. So I think it’s just this mindset thing and really identifying and taking inventory of, of and level setting of where we are.
AJV (37:48):
No, I think that’s really insightful. And you said something that I kind of wanna like come back to, which is people naturally associate building a personal brand with starting some sort of new revenue stream. And that’s not what a personal brand is. And I think people are associating a personal brand with a business model
ES (38:09):
That’s so good,
AJV (38:10):
Right? Mm-Hmm. and a personal brand is not a business, it’s not what you do, it’s not what makes you money. A personal brand is who you are. It, you know, it’s like, and that extends universally over all things you do. Not a thing you do. And I think that kind of comes back to like one of our core beliefs that brand builders group, which is if you’re asking do I need a personal brand, you’re asking the wrong question because you already have a personal brand, you just may not know it. Right? Mm-Hmm. It’s like we all have a personal brand. ’cause In our world that is just it’s the formalization, digitization and monetization of your reputation. Mm-Hmm. Right? But we all have a reputation. Some of us, like the one we have, some of us don’t even know the one we have , right?
AJV (38:59):
But it’s like we all have a reputation, right? If you just sit, she’s sitting there and ask yourself, what do people think of when they think of me? That’s your reputation. And that in is in the essence is also your public personal brand. The art of personal branding is putting intention behind it of going, I can influence this by what I talk about, my research, where I spend my time, what I, I post about what I do, where I put my money, how I organize my calendar. It’s like I actually can influence how others view me and what they associate with by where I choose to spend my time, energy, money and resources. Mm-Hmm. . Like, you get to do that. But that takes time, effort, energy, resources and attention, which is the art of personal branding. And I think that is where people get confused and they come and they go, okay, I’m ready to build my personal brand.
AJV (39:58):
I’m gonna launch X, Y, and Z. And it’s like, why? Why are you doing that? You don’t have to do that. You don’t actually need to do that. In fact, you should not do that. Instead, it’s like, we need to put fuel and ammunition behind what you already have. Right? Right. How do we help more people learn about what you’re doing? Now if you don’t have anything, well then of course that makes sense. But I think that is a great distinction that you made. It’s like people get caught up with, oh, I’m building my brand so I have to start something new. And that’s just not true.
ES (40:33):
It is not true. And I would say the other thing is that people in that same vein will often say, gosh, I need to put my personal brand on hold ’cause I really need to pay attention to my business. And that blows my mind all the time. I’m like, what do you mean? Like your personal brand is literally your business. Like you are driving people to your business. Because we know at the end of the day, people don’t do business with products, services, marketing companies. People do business with people, right? And so when people always say, gosh, I need to take time to really focus on my business. I’m like, what do you mean? Like, you are doing that right now and you’re doing it more successfully than most everyone around you by building a personal brand that builds trust. And so that, that is a big, like external facet of what you’re talking about. Now.
AJV (41:24):
Oh my gosh, you just reminded me of and I’ve heard this quote a hundred times, but Rory and I just did a weekend long goal planning session for the next 12 months of our life, and it got us thinking of like, how many people actually take two days of every year and plan what the next year’s gonna look like? And he reminded me of this quote that we heard when we were engaged and our, you know, marital counselors that we had leading up to our wedding said, I just want you to remember this and never forget it, is that most people spend more time planning their wedding than they do their marriage . And most people spend more time planning their annual vacation than they do their life. Hmm. So what you’re doing right now is putting intention into your marriage, and I would encourage that your marriage be more important that your and than your wedding and your life be more important than your vacation.
AJV (42:19):
And that stuck with us so clearly. And so ever since then, we’ve done these two days just me and him for a weekend of going, what do we want our family to look like? And what do we want our business to look like? And what do you know? What does my my faith walk look like? And mm-Hmm, as you were talking, it made me think it’s like there’s a great parallel to that with what you just said, is that people spend more time working on their business than they do on what I would call their reputation, which is with you for a lifetime.
AJV (42:50):
It’s with you for a lifetime. And it’s like, do we ever spend time potentially everyone listening on the wrong things? You know, like, do we I do. I know, I do. Sure. And I think it’s one of those things of going, it’s not an either or, it’s an and, but by working on yourself, you’re always working on your business. And by working on your dreams and your goals and finding something that fills your cup it impacts everyone around you. Positively. Generational change comes from I have found my purpose. I am living into my work. Right? My work has become my ministry, and it’s then it doesn’t feel like work anymore. Hmm. And so if you’re gonna working on my business, maybe the question should be, is that what I really should be working on? Right.
ES (43:38):
So good. Really good. I love that.
AJV (43:40):
All right, Elizabeth. If people are asking themselves a question of, okay, okay, well if I do have this personal brand , maybe I should, maybe I should do something about it. Where should people go to learn more about Brain Builders Group? And specifically it’s like, if, if you heard something that resonates today about, man, I do have a calling to speak on stages one day, or I’ll publisher book or, you know, I do wanna figure out how to more organically generate leads for my business based on who I am and who I wanna work with. Or maybe I, I am in this unique stage where it’s like, it’s it’s time to expand my revenue stream and add something. Where should people go to learn about? That’s
ES (44:17):
A great question. If you go to free brand call.com, you can put in a request for what we call a brand strategy call. These are complimentary, they’re about an hour long. And our strategist will really help identify these opportunities for you. They’ll learn a little bit about your goals and what you’re looking to do with a personal brand. They’ll answer some questions around that, and they will do it all through the lens of the customer journeys we talked about. So your customer journey conversation can start on one of these complimentary free brand calls with our team. So it’s free brand call.com.
AJV (44:54):
I love that. And if Elizabeth, if people wanna connect with you your awesome self, where should they go to connect with you?
ES (45:02):
Yes. Well, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, Elizabeth Stevens with a pH. I always have to differentiate that I’m married into a name, which is so easy, but I have to, I have to tell people how it’s spelled. Or you can follow me on Instagram. It’s at EAS 2 8 8 3. You’re gonna see a lot of my, my work life and my home life and all of the fun things that happen there. But I would love for you to follow me both places.
AJV (45:27):
Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining in as today. And for those of you who dunno, Elizabeth actually was a part of our team prior to starting Build Brand Builders group. She’s been a part of the founding team and an integral part of every single move, pivot, shake up, shake down that we’ve had since we launched this. And we’re so honored that you are the face of our community. We love you. We’re so grateful for you. Thank you for being on today. And for everyone else, stay tuned for the recap episode, which will be coming up next. We’ll see you next time

Ep 450: Unreasonable Hospitality with Will Guidara

RV (00:01):
Well, I’m honored to introduce you to someone who I love to hate because I am so jealous of this man and so inspired by him. Will Guera is the author of a book called Unreasonable Hospitality, which is an incredible book, and it’s doing something that we all aspire to do, which is to sell thousands and thousands of units every single week without knowing how , and whenever I ask, whenever I ask an author, I go, how are you selling books week in and week out? The one answer I hate to hear is, I don’t know. I have no idea. and will, will came to this private bestselling author meetup that Donald Miller and I and a couple other buddies hosted this summer. And when the Will’s name got thrown out about being invited to this, I was like, absolutely. ’cause I’ve been tracking this book Unreasonable Hospitality for years over, you know, a couple years now.
RV (01:02):
But before he was an author, will was the co-owner of 11 Madison Park. And if you are a foodie, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So this is a restaurant one of was actually named in 2017, number one on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. It earned three Michelin stars while it was under, his leadership had four stars from the New York Times. And that was why Will was, you know, handling and managing the hospitality there. The co-owner of that restaurant. So not an easy place to get a reservation at, from what I understand. I had to research it. I’m not even hoity-toity enough to have been invited to this restaurant or even know about it. So that shows you like the, the level of people that get in there. But he also hosts a conference called the Welcome Conference, which is also something that just has so much street cred.
RV (01:57):
It’s so much legit, like so many legit people I know talk about this conference. So it’s an, it’s an annual hospitality symposium. It brings together, you know, just amazing people from all different kind of walks of life who are interested in hospitality to sort of share ideas and, and, and best practices. But will also is a graduate of the Hospitality School at Cornell University. He has co-authored four cookbooks, was named one of Crane’s Business 40 under 40. He’s the recipient of the Wall Street Journal magazine’s Innovator Award. And turns out, even though I don’t like him, it turns out he’s hard to not, like he’s an amazing guy. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. And my team, here’s the other thing, true story. My team was talking about this book before I ever met Will, and that’s how I know an author is really making dent a dent in the world. So, bro, welcome to the show, man. It’s so great to have you .
WG (02:55):
Well, I, I just wanna say that while you may love to hate me, I just love to love you, my friend , and, and I’m happy that we met however many months ago that was. And you know, what, what I think is so cool is when, when a couple people gather together other people, and in that gathering, like with intention and creativity, create the connection or the conditions for connection, it’s pretty remarkable the relationships that can come out of it. I mean, we were together for, I don’t know, 36 hours total, including when everyone was sleeping. And, and the relationships that came outta that for me are, are nothing short of extraordinary because you guys were so good at leading with vulnerability which begot vulnerability in return. And, and I think it was a lot of people that were excited to be there, but invariably when new people show up in a room, their walls are up to some extent. And you all did such a good job of getting people to lower their guards quickly enough that real relationships could be built. And that’s the only time we’ve seen each other in person. We’ve seen each other on the screen a bunch of times since. But I, I feel much closer to you than the number of hours I’ve known you should normally merit. And so it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m excited to spend some time together.
RV (04:28):
Well, thanks brother. And I, and I feel that’s like, I mean, that’s kind of the, in many ways the message of your book, you know, unreasonable Hospitality is like you create these bonds so quickly with people. So just explain, start at the beginning. Explain what’s the premise of Unreasonable Hospitality? What is it? How did you come up with it? And like, before we get to how to apply it, just define it for me.
WG (04:56):
Yeah. So how it kind of came to pass was I was at that restaurant 11 medicine park, and in 2006 I got there and the restaurant was, was fine. It was a mediocre restaurant served delicious food, but it was not all that significant in its technique or its ingredients and all that. The service was very friendly, but not all that precise. But the dining room, man, anyone listening to this who has never seen a picture of the dining room at the Madison Park, you should look it up. It’s truly one of the most beautiful in the world. And so I was brought in as a part of a team that was charged with elevating the restaurant experience to live up to the room itself. And we initially did that, at least we started out doing that by focusing on excellence, right? I think anyone who’s ever sold anything, whether it’s a product or an experience, when you want to make it better, you focus relentlessly on the product itself, on how to make it as good as it can possibly be focused on training and sourcing and techniques and education and discipline and all that stuff.
WG (06:06):
Got fancier plates and silverware and glassware and, you know and it started working pretty quickly. I mean, listen, like anytime you’re trying to do anything of consequence, you need to be pretty audacious and your ambition, but patient in your pursuit. And we were, we were pushing hard over a number of years, but in the grand scheme of life, it wasn’t that long before we went from two stars in the New York Times to three Stars and then to four stars and zero Michelin stars to three Michelin stars. And both of those rating systems, those represent the most stars you can get. But there was this one list that we really wanted to be on, and just my nature, I’m a competitive person. I wanted to be at the top of which was the 50 best we set out to create one of the best restaurants in New York and then in America.
WG (06:55):
And once we had done that, I wanted to create one of the best restaurants, not only one of the best restaurant in the world. The thing about that list though, and even as you hear me say it, perhaps it sounds as ridiculous as it is, I mean, how can one restaurant be the best restaurant in the world, right? It’s too subjective, there’s too many restaurants. But that list acknowledges when you, when you reach that top spot, is you’ve become the restaurant that’s having the greatest impact on the re on the world of restaurants at any given time. And so in order to do that, I needed to figure out what our impact was gonna be. You know, I looked at the people that had topped the list before me. They were chefs, chefs who were unreasonable in pursuit of the food that were serving, relentless in pursuit of innovating the kind of techniques that would evolve the craft of cooking forward into the next generation.
WG (07:54):
But I’m not a chef. I’m a dining room guy. I’m the guy that likes to be out there throwing the party, welcoming people, making them feel at home. And I decided that if we were gonna become their number one, number one, it was not going to come by being unreasonable in pursuit of the product we were serving. It was going to come by making the choice to be unreasonable in pursuit of people and relentless in pursuit of the one thing that will never change, which is well, our human desire to feel seen, to feel cared for, to feel a sense of belonging, to feel welcome. And so that first year when we were put on that list, we came in last place, we were number 50. And that night on a cocktail napkin, I wrote, we will be number one one of the world.
WG (08:39):
And then I also wrote those two words, unreasonable hospitality. And that became my mission statement going forward. I mean, simply put, what does it mean? Listen, I believe if you’re trying to be extraordinary in your field, excellence is required. But at the end of the day, excellence is table stakes When you get to the top tier unreasonable hospitality means that you are making the choice to be just as focused, just as creative, just as relentless, just as intentional in pursuit of how you make people feel, as you very likely already are in pursuit of the thing you’re selling. That you don’t reserve your best efforts only for the thing, but for all the feelings and emotions that surround that thing.
RV (09:30):
So is it, and so at its essence, is it that, is it, if somebody feels special and somebody feels seen, then mission accomplished?
WG (09:46):
I mean, Yeah, basically, right? Like, listen, we’re in the midst of so many transitions just globally right now, whether it’s the digital transformation which is being supercharged by artificial intelligence, whether it’s the post covid hangover with either our collective remembering of our need for connection or our coming into this new reality where we’re either working remotely or in a hybrid world. I think now more than ever, people are craving human connection. And so yeah, if you can make the people around you, you, not just those you’re serving, but all those that you work alongside in order to serve those people, feel valued, feel seen, feel cared for, feel that genuine sense of belonging, if you can accomplish that, not by accident, not organically, but with intention, if you can give people memories, if you can make them feel a genuine part of what you’re doing and who you’re trying to become. And I know I’m speaking very philosophically, and we’ll impact this and get the weeds on it in a moment, but yes, a hundred percent mission accomplished.
RV (11:13):
Yes, it’s ironic. I mean, you, you even see like the explosion of social media over the years, and it’s like, what is that? More than people just wanting to be seen, recognized, valued, appreciated for who they are, what they know, what they could do in the world. So yeah, I wanted, I wanna know how to apply it, right? And so I, I told you a lot, most of the people listening are small business owners, but in this one we’re gonna be, I’m gonna be super selfish and I want you to consult Brand Builders group because you know, we’re, we’re starting to scale. We’re gonna hit right around eight figures this year. It’s our fifth year in business. We got about 40 people on our team. And you know, so we’re, so we’re growing and we’ve been, we’ve been on the excellence journey, right?
RV (12:00):
I mean, really we’ve been on the survival journey. Like startup is like mm-hmm. You move from survival, and then we try to streamline and then we, you know, excellent. But like, where we really want to get to is making people feel special, right? Every person, the, the, the podcast listener, the person who reads a book, the person who subscribes to the blog, all the way down to the people who become customers and affiliates, and then ultimately team members. But if you’re a small business, and my guess is most of the people listening to this are even smaller than us, and you don’t have unlimited budgets and things like that. How do you do this tactically? And, and what I’m really curious about is how to operationalize it, right? Like the founder of the company can make people feel special a lot of times through their words, or they just have this passion, but like, how do you create a culture of it? How do you, how do you systematize it to where every person who walks in the dining room has this amazing experience that they all, they all feel that way? How do we create that in our small businesses?
WG (13:09):
So the first thing I did when I got home from those first awards and I had that cocktail nap napkin with the big ambitious goal and the strategy through which we were gonna achieve it, I sat down with my team at our daily premium meeting. If anyone out there has worked in a restaurant, you may know what premium is. That’s the 30 minute meeting. Most restaurants have together in a circle right before we unlock the doors and welcome people in for dinner. Most restaurants do that meeting, although many of them waste it by talking about something that’s so like, clearly could have been accomplished via an email, a new menu item, or a new glass of wine or whatever. I think that 30 minute meeting, a daily huddle within any organization is one of the most transformational things any company can do. And it’s an opportunity not to talk about the what, but about the why and the how.
WG (14:02):
It’s an opportunity for a leader to share moments of inspiration, invite the team to do so in return. It’s an opportunity not just to talk to your team about what they need to learn to be better at their jobs, but about all the things they can think about or learn from or be inspired by to be better human beings. I think that meeting is when the people you work with cease being a collection of individuals and come together as a trusting team. And only when everyone on the team like, you know, falls into that beautiful pocket, can you unleash their most fully realized collective creativity and capacity. And so I go deep into that because any single business out there that serves other people, if you don’t have some version of a daily huddle, I think you’re leaving so much opportunity on the table. Think of it like a daily locker room speech, like Al Pacino and any given Sunday, there’s a beautiful opportunity to fire pet, make sure.
RV (15:04):
Fight for that. You gotta fight for that in
WG (15:07):
. And so I got to together with the team and I said, Hey, we’re gonna be the number one restaurant in the world, and we’re gonna do it by focusing unreasonably on hospitality. And so the first thing we did is we started going through like the main touch points in the guest experience to try to figure out how to make each of them more awesome. How we were welcoming people at the door, how we were taking their order, how we were delivering the food, whatever. But then one day I had this, this moment where I kind of realized we were focusing only on the most obvious touch points and the guest experience, which were invariably the ones that are competitors were focusing on. What I’ve come to realize is most people in the service industry don’t understand every touchpoint in the experience because they’ve never paused for long enough to interrogate it.
WG (16:01):
And so what we did is we closed the restaurant for lunch one day, brought every single person on the team in. By the way, I think brainstorming as a group is always a beautiful opportunity to balance the gap between information and authority if you engage every single person on the team. And we did an exercise that I now call interrogating the guest experience, where for four hours this team broken up into a bunch of groups, tried to identify every little touch point everything from picking up the phone to call and make the reservation, to walking through the door to going to the bar to have a drink. If your table wasn’t ready to getting up and using the restroom in the middle of the dinner, you get the gist, every little touch point. And then once we’d isolated every single one of ’em, then we got to do the fun part.
WG (16:53):
We got to figure out how to make every single one of them, or at least as many of them as humanly possible, a little more awesome. What I came to realize is the smallest enhancements, the least likely touch points in the guest journey can have the greatest possible impact. Because if you focus on creativity into a part of the experience that no one else has ever paused for long enough to consider the impact can be significant. I’ll give you an example, A story I tell in the book. The check was close to the end of the list, right? That is a touchpoint when you’re serving someone the moment you drop the bill on their table. And yet it’s one that very few people have ever invested any creativity into, right? A because it’s transactional, and we generally tend to believe that if something feels transactional, it can’t feel hospitable.
WG (17:45):
But b, because it’s just a hard moment to get right at a restaurant when you ask for the check. If it takes us too long to get it to you, people get really impatient when they’re ready to leave. We can undo all the goodwill that we’ve built. We can’t drop the check on your table before you’ve asked for it, otherwise you feel like we’re trying to rush you out. That’s also the moment at a fine dining restaurant where you realize how much that meal cost, which makes it a lot harder to appreciate how much you loved it moments earlier. Uhhuh ,
RV (18:12):
You open it and you go, okay, brace for impact. Oh God, brace for impact.
WG (18:17):
I mean to the point where no one’s really ever done anything creative with the check. I mean, you know, I actually read in John Lin’s book, another one of our buddies from that, from that day Giftology. Yeah. He talked about Cornell University did a study where they studied a bunch of restaurants that gave a mint with the check versus a bunch of restaurants that didn’t. Yeah. And the restaurants that gave out mints got on average 18% more in tips than those that didn’t. This beautiful display, that generosity begets generosity in an asymmetrical way. But anyway, we identified that touchpoint. So then as a group, we figured out how to make it more awesome. And this is what we came up with when I knew you were done. You didn’t ask for the check yet, but you were done. I went over to your table with a bottle of cognac and a glass for each purse, and I poured a splash of cognac into each glass.
WG (19:08):
Then I put the bottle on the table and said, Hey, this is what their compliments help yourself to as much as you’d like. And then I put the check down and said, and your check is right here. Whenever you’re ready for it, what do we do? Well, no one ever had to ask for the check again. No one could ever feel like we were trying to rush them out. We’d just given them an entire bottle of free booze. At the moment when they realized how much the meal cost, we’d matched that moment with a gesture of crazy generosity, which maintained the value proposition we were trying to offer. And at the end of a very long meal where we had been serving people immaculately, we gave them the gift of being able to serve one another, which is the very essence of hospitality. I’ve met so many people over the years who, in spite of the fact that we were serving some of the best food in the world, don’t remember a single thing they ate that night, but they remember the cognac and the way it made them feel. So the first answer to that question, and I have a few different answers, is look at the entire experience, interrogate it and find a couple of those really unlikely touchpoints and make them profoundly best in class. Because if you focus on something that no one else has, it gives you an unfair competitive advantage. By definition, you win because you’re doing something somewhere where no one else has done anything before.
WG (20:36):
Does that make sense? Uhhuh
RV (20:37):
, I love, I I I love that. I mean, even, even just the exercise of identifying every touchpoint in your entire customer experience is super enlightening. And you go, oh, when was the last time we updated that voicemail? Or when was the last time we updated that email responder? Does anyone even check that inbox? Like, does what, what does, what is the first message that somebody gets when they sign up for our program? What, what is, what happens when their credit card payment declines? Like even just identifying those is super
WG (21:12):
Well, yeah. And what you’re gonna find is you probably do a bunch of stuff really badly. You probably don’t do anything in a bunch of areas. Yeah. And you’re probably really proud of the way you do some things. I did this exercise with an automotive with an auto sales group. It’s like a group out in California that has a ton of dealerships. And when you’re interrogating all the touch points after about an hour, you think you’re done, I urge you to keep going for another two hours because it’s when you finish picking the low hanging fruit and you have to climb a little bit higher up in the tree, that’s when you find the real stuff that gives you the real opportunities with them. It was like a bunch of like big, you know, manly car dealers. About 45 minutes in, they were bored with the exercise and I kept on pushing ’em and they were annoyed with me.
WG (21:57):
But by the end, well, we realized that the first time you get a flat tire three months after you buy the car, maybe that’s a step, that’s a touch point in the journey. The first time you opened your glove compartment, maybe a week after you buy the car. That’s a touch point in the customer journey. Once you isolate those things, now you can elevate them. Like everyone talks about extending and experiences as far into the future as they possibly can. And so, and if a week later you reach into the gove compartment for the first time and you see a beautiful little note and just a nice, thoughtful, not overly expensive gift waiting there for you, the way that you’ll feel about the people that sold you, that car jumps so dramatically because their thoughtfulness and their care becomes so much more evident.
WG (22:50):
So, okay, that’s one. I think another practical which this came, I’m going to go chronologically way out of order, but for the cadence of the conversation is a similar exercise, but instead of interrogating the touch points in the customer journey, I call this one pattern recognition of recurring moments. So, okay if you and your team sit down and you say, okay, I don’t wanna think about the touchpoints, the things that happen as a part of the guest journey for everyone we serve, instead, I want to spend the next couple weeks identifying the five things that just happen often. So in a restaurant that could mean that oftentimes people are on their way to the airport right after their meal. It could mean that man, you know, like twice a week a party of four shows up as a party of three because one of the people’s spouses got sick and is at home in bed with, with the flu.
WG (24:01):
Or it could mean man, like once every week, someone is getting engaged here. Okay, now you’ve identified recurring moments. These are things that just happen often. Every single business has recurring moments. If you identify them in advance, then along with your team, you can determine how you’re gonna react to those moments and even develop the stuff you might need to make those reactions more awesome. In my world we had a graphic designer design and we had these beautiful boxes, made 11 Madison Park airplane food for every single person that was gonna the airport after their meal. We had this amazing thing packaged, prepared and ready to deploy easily for our team. So every time someone mentioned that, we hit them with this beautiful gesture of hospitality. We had an amazing chicken soup recipe ready on the dessert screen of our micross terminal. So when a server was entering desserts for a table that showed up one person short, ’cause they were homesick in bed, chicken soup ready to go.
WG (25:07):
So that person, even though they missed the meal, could still quote, eat at 11 Madison Park, or, man, my favorite one, I tell this story all the time because I just think it embodies the idea so well, is that a lot of people get engaged at a restaurant. Yeah. And if you go to a decent restaurant, you propose to your person and they say, yes, there, they better pour you a free glass to champagne like we did. But that’s just reasonable. Once he’d identified that as a recurring moment, we could figure out how to make it unreasonable. Tiffany and co had their offices across the park. I started knocking on doors until I found the chief marketing officer convinced her to give me 1000 of those baby blue boxes each with the two champagne flutes in them, put ’em in a closet in the back that we emptied out and called the Hospitality Toolkit closet, which is where we put all the stuff we needed for these gestures.
WG (26:02):
Next time someone got engaged, we poured in free champagne just like we always would have. But what they wouldn’t notice was that their champagne glasses looked a little different from everyone else’s. And when they were done with their champagne, we brought the glasses back, washed them, dry them, put them back in the box, and gave them to them on their way out the door. Again, I’ve met so many people who got engaged at our restaurant and years later don’t remember a single thing they ate, but they’ll never forget how we made them feel with those glasses. Maya Angelou has a quote. She says, people will forget what you say, they’ll forget what you do, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. That is the essence of hospitality. And so the second piece of advice is to get together with your team people all the way at the bottom of the hierarchy, very much on the frontline, as well as all the way at the top of the hierarchy, not quite as close to the frontline. And come up with five, just five recurring moments and with creativity and intention and a little bit of investment. Figure out how to make your reactions to those moments fricking bonkers. Awesome. And watch what happens.
RV (27:13):
I mean, that’s so good. You used this term earlier, and I wanna come back to this. You said we’d match that moment with crazy generosity, which is like what you just described, right? I mean, leaving a bottle of cognac on the table for every single person, that’s a lot of dough. You added up now and you know, certainly Tiffany’s champagne glasses. Now if they donate ’em that sure, that sure helps. But like how crazy is the crazy generosity and how do you, how do you justify it and not be scared that like, I’m gonna go bankrupt, just like doing all this stuff.
WG (28:01):
Well, so it’s a good question. I mean, listen, the chicken soup, the impact of that was just as significant as anything else. And that cost us maybe a buck 50. I
RV (28:12):
Know that’s brilliant. Mm-Hmm,
WG (28:14):
The bottle of cognac actually didn’t cost us that much because at that point in the meal, people had had so much wine, they weren’t having more than the sip or two of cognac.
RV (28:21):
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. They’re not gonna sit and chuck a whole bottle. They’re probably drunk already by the time he gets there.
WG (28:27):
I mean, like with most of these things, and yes, the Tiffany glasses were free, but I’d say a couple things. I mean, the story that I’m most known for because it was such a turning point, is the hotdog story, which I, I’ll, I’ll tell in a moment ’cause I think it helps answer the third way to deal with this all. And that’s one of the most impactful gestures and it cost two bucks. We’ve done a bunch of gestures of unreasonable hospitality for people that have been totally free. It’s not the cost of the gesture that counts, but the thoughtfulness. And obviously you need to look at your average check whatever your average bill size is, and tailor the moments of systemized hospitality accordingly. We are a very expensive restaurant. We could afford to put down a bottle of cognac. You look at five guys what do you think of when I, when I say five guys? Well
RV (29:22):
The burger, but I’ve never been there, but just the ,
WG (29:25):
You’ve never been to a five guys. I’ve
RV (29:26):
Never been to a five guys, but should
WG (29:28):
I go? Okay. So anyone listening who’s ever been to a five guys? I would say half of you just probably thought peanuts because five guys. Okay. You think about the customer journey interrogation is the only fast food place I’ve ever imagined that has the wherewithal to recognize that the time wait spent waiting for your burger to be cooked is a touchpoint in the guest journey. They’re the only ones that have ever done anything for you during that wait. And what do they do? They put out a big, big box of peanuts and it’s still in the shells. And you just help yourself to some and eat them while you wait. That doesn’t cost them anything. At the end of the day, it’s so inexpensive that because they gave you something during a part of the experience where no one else has ever given you anything, it gives them an unfair competitive advantage.
WG (30:15):
I’ll give you another example. I went to speak at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and like many travelers over the past year, I’ve been consistently plagued with flight delays. I ended up getting to my hotel the night before my talk at like two in the morning after delay, after delay and got outta the car in front of the hotel ready to go through the whole normal rigmarole, which feels like it’s gotten even more insane recently. Driver’s license, credit card, phone number, email. And this guy named Oscar was in there overnight manager. He said, Mr. Guera, welcome. You must be exhausted. Here’s your room key. Go get some sleep. We’ll check you in in the morning. Found the hotel GM the next day, said, Oscar deserves a raise. That was amazing. He goes, yes, Oscar is amazing. That had nothing to do with him.
WG (31:08):
We had a meeting a couple months ago. There had been so many delays. We just decided to try to figure out how to systemize a bit of hospitality. And anytime anyone checks in after 1230, we would just give ’em their room key to tell ’em they could check in in the morning cost zero. It just required a bit of thoughtfulness. They did some simple pattern recognition and decided to try to figure out how to be more warm, hospitable, gracious, and welcoming to people who are checking in really late at night. That’s a recurring moment. They identified it and then they figured out how to treat it more responsibly and more hospitably.
RV (31:46):
Yeah, I think, I think so much of this, it’s like the, the enemy of hospitality is almost just like speed and rhythm and convenience of just being in the motions and not, not stopping long enough to go, how can I, what could I, what could I do for this person in this, in this moment to make them feel special? ’cause We’re so busy just like cranking the machine, running the process, getting the people, getting the people through. So I love that. I love it so much. So yeah. So tell us, tell us the hotdog story. ’cause I wanna make sure that we, I wanna make sure that we hear the hotdog story before we let you go. So
WG (32:29):
My big breakthrough in all of this, and again, we’re, we’re chronologically all outta whack here ’cause I discovered some of these exercises later. But I was in the dining room helping out the servers on a busier than normal lunch service. So they were getting just crushed. And I went out there and was just busing tables. I think sometimes the best thing a leader can do to support their team is the most menial task. And so I love busing tables and I was clearing ta appetizers from a table of four foodies people who were on vacation to New York just to eat at great restaurants. And while I was at their table, I ever heard them talking about the restaurants that’d eaten at all the fanciest restaurants in New York. They had a blast and this was their last meal. They were gonna the airport to head home right after their lunch.
WG (33:19):
But in the midst of their conversation, a woman at the table jumped in and said, yeah, but you know what? We never had, we never had a hot dog from one of those street carts. And man, it was like one of those light bulb moments in a cartoon where, you know, the character has had a good idea how we ding like light bulb. Yeah, exactly. So, ran back into the kitchen, dropped off the plates, ran outside, got a hot dog, ran back inside, somehow convinced my fancy chef to serve it. And we cut the hot dog up into four perfect pieces, added a little s swish of ketchup, a little s swish of mustard and a canal of sauerkraut and relished to each plate. And before their final savory course, which at the time was a honey lavender glazed muscovy duck that had been dry age for two weeks, utilizing a technique that had taken us years to perfect.
WG (34:03):
I brought out what we in New York called a dirty water dog . And I explained it. I said, Hey, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t go home with any culinary regrets. And Rory, they freaked out. I mean, it was one of those breakthrough moments for me because I realized in spite of the fact that I’d served every fancy ingredient under the sun, I’d never seen anyone react to any of them like they did to that $2 hot dog. Athletes always go to the tapes and they’ve had a bad game to see what they did wrong, to see what they could have done better. But what they, what honestly none of us do often enough is go to the tapes and we’ve had a good game to see what we did well to make sure we keep on doing that thing. So I went to the tapes and the hotdog.
WG (34:47):
What it, what like, what happened so that that could happen? Well, the first, it just required me being present, not being so focused on what I needed to do next that I couldn’t fully focus on the thing and the people I was with. Then if I wasn’t present, I wouldn’t have heard the line about the hotdog. Two, listen, if you wanna be the best, you better take what you do seriously. And also we need to all stop taking ourselves so seriously. Way too often in customer service, we try to build these like beautifully articulated brands and then we let those brands stand in the way of us giving the people around us the things that will bring them the most joy when a hotdog in a four star restaurant is sacrilegious until you look at how it made them feel. And third, hospitality is about making people feel seen.
WG (35:38):
And if that’s the case, the best way to do it is not to treat them like a commodity, but a unique individual. I could have given them a fancy bottle of champagne. It would not have had the same impact as the hotdog because it would not have been specific to them. And unreasonable hospitality, one size fits one. Okay, the hotdog was the true north in those three things. We now had a roadmap. This is where it gets good. Now I turn to my team and gave them the permission and the resources to start doing this stuff themselves. We gave ’em a little budget, brought a person onto the team called the Dreamweaver, who is just there to help them bring their ideas to life and encouraged them to go out into the dining room and be present with their guests, not to take themselves too seriously and find one size fits, one gestures to deliver to their customers.
WG (36:30):
And with that, we were on fire. I mean, we did the craziest stuff. We sent people who were there with kids who were seeing snow for the first time to Central Park with sleds in the back of an Uber to go sledding. We turned our private dining room into a beach complete with 500 pounds of sand for a couple who was in our restaurant because their beach honeymoon got canceled. We bought people teddy bears for their kids ’cause they forgot to do it. We set up train sets on tables, all this stuff. All of which made the guests happy, all of which was amazing for our bottom line because yes, we did spend money on this stuff, although not all the gestures cost that much money. In fact, the one that started at all cost 50 cents a person. But every dollar we spent on Unreasonable hospitality had the point of John Bruin’s mint reference on that check and asymmetrical return.
WG (37:26):
Because the moment you give the people you’re serving stories like that, they want to go out and tell them over and over and over again. And suddenly you look up one day and you have the legions of ambassadors out there preaching your dharma. And it also made us happy. ’cause For the first time, the people in our team were no longer just serving plates of food that someone else had created. We were imbuing the experience with our own creativity. We felt agency, we felt empowerment. We are no longer salespeople. We were product designers. And I have yet to meet an individual who won’t give more of themselves to help something succeed than once they feel they have a genuine hand in determining what that thing is. So that is the third way to systemize this into your culture is one, tie space. Give your team, well, yeah, no, but give your team the permission and the resources to color outside of the lines. Empower them to do the things that are right. Allocate whatever budget you can afford. It doesn’t need to be that dramatic. In fact, sometimes smaller budgets lead
WG (38:34):
To, to more creativity. But you can systemize this stuff through touchpoints. You can systemize it through determining in advance how you’re gonna react to recurring moments. But the most powerful and profound and transformative way is to look at your team, choose to trust them that become more trustworthy, give them more responsibility, they’ll become more responsible, and make it zone defense. Get everyone in the game and let everyone have fun starting to play.
RV (39:07):
Man. So good. I know why your book sells a lot and it’s the, it’s the answer that I hate. It’s a really good book. . It’s, it’s it’s the, it’s the, the answer that is the hard, hardest to replicate. And man will I just, I I love this. I just love it so much, brother. And what a magical thing to be remembered for helping other people feel special versus trying to be remembered yourself. And I think that’s why people are so drawn to you. It’s such a magnetic and it’s such an unusual, it’s an abnormal trait that you carry to go in a world full of people who walk around going, look at me, look at me. You’re literally an ambassador walking around going, how can we help? Say, look at them, look at them. And I just, I think that’s magic about you, bro. And it’s, it’s lightning in a bottle and it’s fun to, it’s fun to be a part of,
WG (40:12):
Hey, lemme say one more thing. And by the way, I feel the same way about you. The amount of time you spend, I mean, you’re, I think it’s super important to identify the importance of your work and the nobility of it. The capacity you and your team have to impact others. You guys are literally working your butts off to help other people’s dreams come true. And if I’m on your team and there’s ever a day that just feeling grumpy or I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I’m having a hard time bringing my most fully realized self to the table, that is what I’m tapping back into. There are a few things more powerful you can do with your time than unreasonably supporting other people’s dreams coming true. And I think that’s pretty powerful. But the one thing I wanna say, we talked about budgets and just for people who are still not convinced listening to this, who are like, yeah, I can’t afford to do this.
WG (41:13):
I wanna see two things. Well, if you can’t afford to do it, you’re probably the person that actually needs to start doing it because this does drive revenue and business and will put you in a position where you can afford to do more of it. So if that’s your first reaction, just check yourself a little bit because that’s not the attitude that’s gonna get you to the top. A like, there’s that old adage, it takes money to make money, I hate it, but you know what, there’s some truth in it. But the other thing is that most people already spend money on this stuff. And so as a starting point, just take the money you were already spending and spend it better. If you send out some nonsense Christmas gift to everyone in your list, and it includes some dumb water bottle with your company’s logo on it, or a hat or a shirt, take the same budget and just be more thoughtful, be more connective, be more human.
WG (42:08):
Be more unreasonable. Instead of spending three hours picking the right water bottle, spend an entire week picking a different gift, using the same budget for every single person on that list. Or if you don’t wanna go that far, pick out three gifts and then just categorize the people you’re sending the gifts to into three groups and give the proper gift to each group. You don’t need to jump into the deep end on this stuff, but I guarantee you, if you’re a little creative, you can find a way to wade into the shallow end and then see for yourself whether or not it works.
RV (42:45):
Yeah, I love it. Well, the book is called Unreasonable Hospitality. Clearly that’s what it’s about. It’s a, it’s a game changer. We’re, we’re in on this and this is something that we see as a, as a way to take ourselves up to the next level. Where do you want people to go? Will, if they want to connect up more with you and stay, stay tied into what you’re doing?
WG (43:10):
I’m on Instagram at w Guera. Most of our stuff [email protected], including our newsletter that you can sign up for there which is called Premium based on that meeting that I hold so near and dear. And then yeah, hopefully I’ll, I’ll see you at, at Rory’s place one day in the not too distant future.
RV (43:32):
I love it, bro. We wish you all the best.
WG (43:34):
Thanks brother.

Ep 448: Retain Your Customers With the Beginning In Mind with Shana Lynn

Hey everybody, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast. This is AJ here, and I am so excited to introduce you guys to a new friend that I have. And, but before I introduce her, I want to remind everyone who this episode was curated for and why you should stick around. I think it’s always important for you to know as you’re listening what you’re getting into and who this was really designed for. So today we’re gonna be talking about community and retention. So in other words, this is for you. It doesn’t matter who you are. It does not matter if you have a coaching program or a speaking business or a membership, or you are a professional services provider that has, you know, a, a book of business. Doesn’t matter if you are a product company, you have clients, you have customers, and I bet you would like to keep ’em.

I bet you would like them to stick around and buy more and not leave and go to your competitors. So when you think about community, uh, yeah, there’s online communities, there’s offline communities, but we all have a community. It’s just are we treating them like a community? So today is one of those rare episodes that it does not matter what you do, what industry you’re in. I really believe this is for you, although we may talk about it more specifically in some areas over the course of the interview, but it’s for you. So stick around. Now, let’s introduce you to our awesome guest today. Uh, Shannon Lynn, I am so excited to have you on the show today. Uh, and just for those of you, uh, who don’t know, uh, you’ve got somebody who has over 10 years of retention and community expertise. She’s a podcast host, she is a speaker, she’s a consultant.

Uh, and I would also say she is someone who has built amazing communities with retention, not only for her and her own business, but for a lot of really well-known personal brands. And I’ll let her share those with you if she feels comfortable, um, or keep it secret. But this is someone who is not speaking from, oh, this is what you should do. No. It’s like, no, this is what we are doing and this is what is working. So, Shanna, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me, friend. I’m excited to be here. I am so excited to be here and to help our audience get to know you. I would just love for them to say like, get a, get a quick high level overview of like what have the last 10 years looked like for you as you’ve been in this business, and then this industry of figuring out keys to building a community that stays in retaining and retention. Like, I would just love to know one, how did you get into it and then what, what has it looked like over the last 10 years to get you to, to where you are today?

That’s such a great question. You know, it started actually when I was in college. I was a part of this honors program and you had to do a senior thesis for undergrad. And I had this amazing professor and she handed me this advertising age magazine that was talking about social media and online marketing back in 2007. I was like, oh, this is really fascinating. And so I actually did my thesis and wrote a paper on online marketing in virtual reality communities back in the day. It was second life. There was no metaverse or anything like that. And that ended up in the paper, which got me on stages around the country to speak about it. And then I ended up with a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. And we took that medical center to be the very first medical center that has social media policy.

We launched online communities for their cancer center, life flight, all sorts of communities for them. And then it wasn’t long after that that I was supported by my wonderful chief marketing officer and um, you know, really just had peace from God himself to go out and adventure and start my own consultancy. And that was in 2012 when I became a full-time consultant and I started working with businesses, really traditional businesses to take what they were doing offline with their brand and bring it online and merge those two communities and create consistency. And so that led into managing a lot of online communities as we built them and then ultimately starting my own online community. And then this, uh, guy in the industry, a lot of people know Stu McLaren, who is a, um, membership expert, kind of tapped me on the shoulder and he said, Hey, we’d really like to have a strategic mind to come help us be our director of community and take our community to the next level.

So I worked with him for a few years and started teaching in-person workshops and got to train community teams and leaders for some of the best memberships in the space. And going back, you know, I look at all that and I’m like, wow, it’s this combination of, um, online marketing, which I believe a lot of what we do after the sale is actually just marketing as well and community building, but my own internal desire because as a kid I went through a lot of tragedy and I didn’t have a community. My mom didn’t have a community around us. We really didn’t have community when we needed it. And so I truly believe that when people have a place, a community where they are fully known, that they show up more fully in the world and it’s just, it’s something that we all have a core need for. And so it’s developed into really teaching business owners to create those spaces for people so that we get the best of people and people have that place where they can show up fully as themselves.

Oh, I love that so much, uh, so much. And I think that’s even grown in its, its need since, uh, the pandemic of people just naturally being isolated. And I don’t think people have really acclimated back to real relationships, real community. And I think that’s why one of it’s, it’s not the only reason, it’s one of the big reasons I really wanted to have you on the show. It’s let’s stop treating people like customers and start treating them like people and Exactly. Uh, like does and and realizing like you have community all around you. Do you see it? Right? Are you treating it like it?

Yeah, and I think the thing that I love about merging retention and community is that when we build really strong retention systems, because I know people hear community and they think really fluffy and they think Facebook group, which is not what we’re talking about by any means. But then I usually come in with systems and data and they’re like, whoa, wait a second. Like, I thought you were a community person, but having strong retention systems in your business, which are those systems that um, are everything after the sale, how do we help people actually get a result? How do we help people actually make progress and how do we keep them on that customer journey with us beyond the initial sale? All of those systems, they shouldn’t be automating things to alienate people. They should actually be creating space for human to human connection. And so when we’re all afraid of AI and everything that’s gonna happen, I actually embrace it. I think it’s wonderful because there’s lots of things that it can do to create space for us to do the unscalable activities that really make a difference.

Yeah. So let’s talk about those. Uh, I wanna talk about like what are the unscalable activities that sometimes don’t get the necessary time, love and attention that are needed that actually build community and retention? So what would you say are some of those things?

Yeah, so back in the day it was always handwritten notes. That’s what I wanted to do. I loved it. I wrote handwritten notes to everybody and I still do, you know, um, send a lot of them. If you’ve been in my world, you probably have received one of those . But now there’s ways to kind of give that personal touch faster, but still in a way that is scalable. So we, uh, recommend a lot of video messaging. There’s different tools that you can use, like Bon Juro for example, is one of those. Video Ask is another one where we can send personalized video messages to people just really short at different touchpoints in the journey. Now when we can, we do actually want to customize those. We want to say, hi Sally, I’m so excited I see that you just joined x, y, Z program and you have this challenge.

I can’t wait to support you in that. It can be that simple. But even when we can’t personalize everyone, we can still send a video message at a mass scale that feels more personal and more connected and opens up dialogue with those that are willing to enter into it. So that’s like a simple example of how to do that. Another example is, we’ve talked about your program before. So inside of your brand builders group, you have these mentors, these coaches that are supporting people at a much smaller scale. Now people love group programs and creating, creating them because they think, oh, I’m just gonna continue to scale it and my profit margins are just gonna continue to increase. But what they don’t realize is that as the program grows, it gets harder and harder to get people results. Mm-Hmm, if you’re only focused on systems and automations.

And so when you take, um, that scale and then you can leverage team members like coaches or mentors that can come in and create an intimate environment within a larger scale environment can create more customized really di guidance and direction, it’s not customizing the content, it’s just guiding them to the next best action step for them. That’s one way that you can really scale that kind of connection, scale, that kind of intimacy. And then one other way that I recommend a lot is with Zoom calls. Everybody’s familiar with doing Zoom calls now. And if you aren’t doing, you know, onboarding or welcome calls for new customers or um, new cohorts of people coming into your program, it’s something that I highly recommend. But Zoom actually has a feature called breakouts where we get to break them out into smaller groups so that they get to connect more with each other. ’cause it’s not always just about connecting more with us.

Hmm, that’s good. Especially when you have tons of people coming on of there is a limit to how much you can just do when it comes to one-on-one welcome and one-on-one onboarding without needing more human capital to constantly do that. Which again, it’s hard because like you need constantly, every new member actually does create, or every new customer creates the need for another, you know, employee. But doing them in, uh, breakouts, I have never thought about that. So like that’s really important because then it’s not so reliant on you and the company, but it’s now it’s building community within the community.

Yeah. And that’s what makes community really sticky, right? It’s the, there’s the connection to you, which is often what builds the trust that gets them in. Then there’s the connection to your team which expands. It’s you passing that torch of influence to your team members and then there’s the, the connection to each other. And that’s actually what keeps people around because as your community grows, their connection with you is gonna feel, it’s gonna feel not as powerful, but hold on. Okay, we can edit that out, that as your community grows, it’s gonna feel not as powerful, not as close that connection with you. And so it’s really important that they’re expanding their connection to others within the communities that they remain sticky.

I love that so much. And that should be a relief to everyone who is listening of going, it doesn’t have to be all you, right? It’s like you, you’re building a community that should build community and then it’s, it takes the pressure off, right? It’s like, ’cause I, I, I believe, at least for all of the businesses that I know, it’s like no one wants it to be just about them. It’s like they want it to go beyond just my face, my name. But the only way you can do that is if you have systems and processes and people, right? You have to have a community that can do that without you. Um, and I love that so much, that whole group onboarding concept. I literally just wrote it down, I was like, note for team note for BPG , um, this is a, a really important thing because you still wanna have those human touchpoints. And so you said two things I think are really important that I’d like to go back and touch on really quickly for everyone. Where do you see the need for that human outreach? That human connection as you look at the lifecycle of a person, you know, I’ll just call ’em a customer. Like where, where do you actually need that human time versus automation?

Yeah, it, I think a lot of people immediately think about things like losing a customer cancellation process. Uhhuh, that’s where we wanna try and get ’em on a call and save ’em. And at that point you’ve already lost them. You know, if you’ve ever tried to do those cancellation calls, which you know, I’m not against offering them, but if you’ve ever tried to do them, your recovery rate probably isn’t that great . And so my encouragement is that we go way back in that member journey or that customer buyer journey. And the first 45 days is absolutely the most essential time for anybody in your community. I’ve worked with a lot of large scale memberships and when we look at their cohort retention, which isn’t their overall month to month retention, but it’s um, of a particular cohort, how, what percentage of those people are we keeping into month two, into month three into month four?

What that identifies for us are our drop off points. And for 90% of communities, it’s in that first month, that’s where you lose people. Yeah. So crazy, isn’t it? And it’s the easiest thing to really systemize is the onboarding. And so, um, we do recommend to have things like action plan calls, which are those group calls where you walk them through maybe three key steps that then they go into breakout groups to work on. We also recommend, you know, having those personalized video messages. There’s um, a community leader that I work with that has 14,000 members. She has scaled her team in order to do small groups of four, four members and one coach on an onboarding call. And they get, I think four offerings of those in their first 90 days of, of membership. So that those first 45 days are really important because people have bought into whatever you have sold them.

And then immediately they have buyer’s remorse. They’re distracted by whatever the latest Netflix series is. And so our job of selling actually doesn’t stop. It only increases because now we’re actually hitting their pocketbook. So all of the things that we had them buy into before, we need to be res solidifying for them. And now they also need to feel acclimated to this culture. Hopefully we have a strong culture in our community. So we have to really get into, there’s four pillars of community that I teach to build on. And the first one is cause. So we really have to solidify why are you here? And not just why is this community exists, but why is this important for you? And then building the culture, which are the beliefs, the behaviors and boundaries that help you fit within this community. And when people have those, they feel like I know how to show up and they’re more likely to engage.

So if we can really make sure that we’re focused on those first 45 days, that is the most important thing to focus on. And then our next goal is how do we identify people who are no longer engaging with us? How do we identify people who maybe bought our book and never took the next step to do our mini course or whatever that next step is? How do we identify people who maybe participated in the first couple calls but we haven’t seen ’em in 30 days? And then that is the other place where human connection can really be valuable because um, anything automated is just easy for them to ignore at that point.

I mean, my mind is reeling already with ideas of programs that I pay to be a part of our program of going, oh, I see how that was really helpful, or, I see how that was really annoying, even though I know what they’re trying to do. And I think one of those things that you said is if somebody is requesting a cancellation, trying to get them on a call, it’s like you’ve already lost them and the save ratio is gonna be relatively low. So I have two questions. One around onboarding and one around this cancellation process. So I’m gonna start with the cancellation first. ’cause I feel like people struggle with that and they’re like, Nope, I’m gonna make ’em good on calling me and I’m gonna turn ’em around. Um, so in the, I guess like instead of me asking, I’m just like, what would you see is successful when it comes to once someone to cancel, what is the best opportunity to go? How can we turn this around without forcing or mandating a call and any insights for anyone listening? Like, hey, well what do I do when someone says, Hey, I wanna cancel ’cause I don’t want ’em to cancel. What do I, yeah.

So a lot of this comes down to your cancellation process and um, for some of my clients, they use my recommended cancellation process, which can make it hard to track saves. And here’s why. Because we treat the cancellation page like a sales page and we have a cancel video. So when they request to cancel or when they are, you know, looking into canceling, they’re gonna be taken to a page that has a video on it. And that page is going to be really getting them to think introspectively about why they’re leaving. And we say a few things. One is like, hey, if you’ve made the progress that you’ve came to make and, and you’re leaving, you’re graduating, that’s amazing. We wanna celebrate you graduating and we can’t wait for you to share your story with us. Your testimony with us when you, you know, submit the form below, but hey, if you’re leaving because you have stopped participating, you’ve given up on yourself, I just wanna give you permission to come back.

Now you can click the button on this page and you can schedule a quick start call and we will get right back in it with you and find the best place for you to get started. You know, or if you’re leaving, ’cause this isn’t a fit for you, maybe you’re not interested in doing X, Y, Z anymore. So we kind of walk through like the different reasons that we know people typically leave, starting with the celebratory one, right? And then the, oh, I’ve given up on myself one, and then the, no, this just really isn’t a fit for me anymore. So we resell them essentially on the value by relating to where they might be in the journey. And then when they go to cancel now legally, because of all the way all the states and things like that are done, I’m not a lawyer.

This is not legal advice. However, I’ve done a lot of research on this . So, and I’ve worked with a lot of lawyers on this. Um, we can’t require anything other than their email address to cancel. It has to be an easy way for them to cancel. But we can ask for it. So we can have two buttons on a page. One that says click here to cancel and the, or proceed with cancellation. And the other one that says, you know, schedule a call with a team member, schedule my quickstart call or access the quickstart guide if maybe you’re somebody who doesn’t have the capacity for calls and that’s the like re onboarding of an existing member. If you have a member that got stuck, they fell off the wagon a bit, how can we quickly get them an, uh, a quick win right in the next 10 days?

And so when they click that form that all they have to do is enter their email address, but we ask them some other questions as well to get some insight. And we also offer them a call, Hey, if you would like to share more about your experience or if you’d just like to get some additional support to see if maybe this could be a fit for you, then you can schedule a call with a team member. Very few people actually schedule them. And those that get on those calls are usually people who are they, they’re leaving because of self-doubt and they kind of come on the call with that kind of mindset and you are able to recover them. Yeah,

I think that’s really good because I think for anyone who would request a call, they’re going, man, it’s not that I really wanna cancel, it’s, I’m not using it. I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. I’m not sure what to do. I’m not confident that I can do.

Ep 446: Wealth Building Strategies for Entrepreneurs with Rob Luna

RV (00:02):
One of the things that we love to do from time to time is grab clients from our community who have an expertise relative and relevant for our entire community. And that’s what I’m doing today with Rob Luna. So he is a B B G member. We’re, we’re very proud of him. He has his first book that just came out that we’ve been working with him on, it’s called Close Your Wealth Gap. The book is out now, it’s from Wiley, but Rob has two different MBAs, one from UTS D L a, and one from Singapore, which I love Singapore. He also has an advanced management program degree from the Wharton School, so the Wharton Advanced Management Program. And he sold his wealth management practice a few years ago. So he worked with lots of celebrities, sports stars and sold that and now runs the Rob Luna Wealth Academy. He’s the c e o of Real Talk Holdings. And he’s been on national tv, I think like every week for over a decade. So he’s usually on Fox. If you’ve ever seen making money with Charles Payne or Cavuto Coast to Coast or mornings with Maria, he is often there. And anyways, I said, Rob, we gotta have you on the show to talk about some tax strategies and some financial stuff for personal brands. So buddy, welcome to the podcast. Hey,
RL (01:24):
Thanks for having me, Rory. I appreciate it.
RV (01:26):
So I would love to start with tax strategy because we just helped our ninth B b G client grow their revenue more than a million dollars a year since becoming a client. Wow. That’s happened nine, nine times. And it all sounds great. And then what happens is they go, oh, whoa, like They, they get this rude awakening of like, taxes are a real thing. Yeah.
RV (01:54):
And they’ve never been pro, you know, like formally trained on it and have no idea. And then it’s like these huge, these these huge bills. And so, and a lot of, like, the cool thing about personal brands is you can draw pretty high income. It’s very scalable stuff. You’re speaking fees, consulting, you know, courses, memberships, you can, you can have these really big years, but you don’t have many expenses if you don’t have a lot of people and stuff. So I know that you’ve done a lot of tax planning for folks. What are some of the things that you think that personal brands specifically that don’t have huge staffs but might have large incomes, what are some of the things that they sh that we should be thinking about that maybe we’re not thinking about?
RL (02:34):
Yeah, well, I mean, I think the first thing, Rory, that you talked about that you need to be thinking about is tax planning and making sure that you’re understanding all that money is coming in, that tax consequence is gonna build up really quick. And working primarily with professional athletes over my career. A lot of them come to me a little bit too late, and the realization that there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions of dollars in taxes that are due is really quite alarming. So I think the first thing is trying to sit down with somebody and doing projections at the beginning of the year. Hey, what do I think’s gonna come in? What do the quarterly projections look like? And make sure that you have an account that you’re setting that money aside so that it’s not a surprise at the end of the day.
RL (03:15):
The great thing about today where everyone’s complaining about interest rates going up, so the economy’s slowing down. The good thing about that though is that account you could put that money into and money market accounts earning like five, five and a half percent right now. So it’s not a horrible thing. So number one thing I would say is just make sure that you have your arms around what does revenue look like? What do your general expenses look like? And when you take revenue minus expenses, that’s usually your tax liability. Second thing, what I would say though is what people should start looking at is how do I put together a retirement plan?
RV (03:51):
Okay, so hold on, hold on the retirement thing, because I want to go there, I want to go there, but I wanna come back. I wanna come back to the, the money they’re, they’re setting aside. It’s interesting you mentioned the money market accounts. That’s what, that’s what we did, right? Yeah. So first thing is like all the cash in the money market accounts, that’s a really positive side of the, of the, of the interest rates going up. If you’re loaning money, it’s a good time. Like it’s a good time to be, you know, exactly. loaning money to people. So I think there is how much should someone put aside is the big thing, right? That’s the question, right? So if you’re, if you’re a, if you’re a football player or you know, you make a million dollars a year, what, how much should we be putting aside in the tax account, roughly speaking?
RL (04:39):
Yeah, like, like it’s a progressive tax code. So the lower first part of your earnings is gonna be taxed at a lower rate. The last part of that’s gonna be at a higher rate. And that’s why I said what you should try to do is get an estimate of what do you think revenue’s gonna be, review that quarterly to get an idea of what is gonna be left. And so if it’s a hundred grand, obviously that’s gonna be a small liability. If it’s a million or $2 million, it’s gonna be larger. So that’s kind of the more factual thing. If I needed to give a number, I usually tell people back of the napkin, put about 25% away, most high net worth people are gonna kind of fall into that effective rate of what you’re actually paying of about 25%. You’re usually pretty safe there.
RV (05:18):
Mm-Hmm. or, and you can move to Tennessee like you did and not or Florida or Texas, and have no state income tax. And that’s like a big, you’re gonna make tons of money just by moving from California to Tennessee like right away. It’s,
RL (05:32):
It’s, it’s crazy. You know, I, I did pre-ex exit planning for clients for 20 years, but because I had an unsolicited offer, I didn’t do it for myself. I wound up selling my business in California then after the fact move to Tennessee. So that’s another major thing. If you’re ever gonna sell that business or bring in o other owners into the business, be in a no state income tax state.
RV (05:53):
Yeah. Are you are you familiar with, I think it’s, it’s Act 22, the Puerto Rico? Like we, we
RL (05:59):
Always ,
RV (06:00):
We always know when one of our friends is about to sell their business in like four years ’cause they moved to Puerto Rico. And the are you familiar with it? Do you wanna explain to everybody what it is? Yeah, I,
RL (06:11):
I don’t know the exact of it, but essentially there’s almost zero tax if you move to Puerto Rico. It’s something ridiculous. Like 3%. Yeah.
RV (06:19):
Three or 4%.
RL (06:19):
I never had any clients or I personally wasn’t interested in spending that long in Puerto Rico, so I haven’t dove into it, but it is, if you’re somebody who wants to do that, extremely attractive alterna alternative.
RV (06:28):
Yeah. It’s a, it’s a real thing. Like we actually looked at it like, like we, we had young kids and we’re like, gosh, if we were gonna do this now, it’d be the time to go. But you have to live there for a few years and establish Nexus and like, you can’t fake it, but it’s, if you move there, I think it’s like 4% flat tax no matter what you make. And so people will do that then sell the company, pay the taxes, and then, you know, move back or whatever, which you’re not really supposed to do. That’s not the nature of it. But so, okay, so revenue minus expenses 25%. So I like that. Just a rough number. Yeah.
RL (07:01):
You, you
RV (07:01):
Wanna have something you don’t wanna get caught with, with nothing. So then I think retirement planning is a big bucket for entrepreneurs. And I think, you know, most entrepreneurs, especially if you came from the corporate world, you know, you kinda like have money set aside into a 4 0 1 K or something. You don’t really understand how it works and then you start your own business and they’re not really aware of what are the things they can set up for themselves. And a lot of those I think are under retirement planning, like the really aggressive tax saving strategy. So, so yeah. Dive into that.
RL (07:38):
Yeah, so look, I mean, I think you could still do a 4 0 1 k and I know you have a lot of clients who are, you know, have their individual brand, they might have 10 99 people that they’re using. So you could actually even set up a solo 4 0 1 K by yourself. You could do a profit sharing component to that. And so look, you know, a lot of people are surprised. They’re thinking, oh, there’s like a $22,000 limit on the 4 0 1 k I wanna put away more. Well, that’s where the profit sharing comes in. And so if you actually sit down with an administrator based off of how much revenue you’re putting in, you could add a lot more money to that. And so that’s something like you wanna, again, plan out at the beginning of the year, what does my year look like? Because if you start doing profit sharing, there’s some administrative costs.
RL (08:20):
If you think you’re gonna only be putting 15, 20 grand a so of 4 0 1 k, you can open up at Schwab, you can open up just about anywhere for virtually nothing. The great thing about having control of your own 4 0 1 k is you can invest in things like index funds that are super cheap. You don’t have to have this specific plan list that your group give, that your company gives to you. So you can invest just in about anything you want. And you’re gonna get a dollar for dollar deduction on anything that you put into that every year.
RV (08:50):
Yeah. We, we talked we don’t have a lot of financial people on, but we, we had someone that talked about like self-directed IRAs and things, and that was one of the cool, the cool benefits was like, you have a lot more control over what you’re investing in. Right. And then, and then this profit sharing plan that you’re talking about, like we, we had a defined benefits plan, like a cash balance plan. Is that an example of one of those? Is that what you’re talking about? Yeah,
RL (09:15):
You absolutely could have a defined benefit plan. The, the challenge with it is, you know, and the benefit of being a solopreneur, or maybe you have one or two key employees is you can’t discriminate with those. So when you’re just the only person, you could put a ton of money into them, but when you start building 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 employees, you have to incrementally share the wealth with them and it gets not as attractive. Right. That’s when people start to look at things like insurance policies and things like that for savings.
RV (09:40):
Mm-Hmm. . So, you know, obviously, I mean, still always maxing out Roth I r a if you’re eligible or doing a traditional I r a and then doing a conversion to a Roth, I guess at the end of the year
RL (09:55):
Or or a, for a Roth 4 0 1 K, there’s no income limits. So that’s one of the nice things where traditional, and you could put I think it’s 22,000 traditional I r A, you can only put 6,500 and you have to be under 228,000 as a couple where there’s no limits on a Roth 4 0 1 K. So that’s something, again, sit down, talk with your planner, whoever you work with, you could actually do a Roth 4 0 1 K, which is kind of nice if you don’t need that deduction because anything that grows in there, you put 22 K that grows to 300, 400 K in 20 years or more, that’s gonna be tax free, not just tax deferred.
RV (10:29):
Yeah. And that’s interesting. So if you’re doing, there’s limits to the Roth I r a, but you’re saying there’s not income limits to a Roth 4 0 1 K?
RL (10:37):
Exactly, exactly. That’s something you could do as an individual also,
RV (10:40):
But you gotta pay the taxes now, but then it grows forever. And that’s like,
RL (10:44):
Yeah, I, I mean think about it this way, okay, it’s after tax dollars, you’ve already paid taxes on this, but 25 K grows to, you know, 400,000, the taxes coming out of that would typically be a hundred grand. So if you think about $25,000 deduction, what do you get for that? You know, something about like five grand, six grand, so you’re foregoing a five grand deduction for a hundred thousand dollars deduction later on. You know, that’s the challenge with financial planning in general. It’s just like eating well, , you have to think, take a look at the longer term impacts, but it’s those small decisions and sacrifices. If you make now when you’re forties, fifties, sixties, you’re able to reap the rewards of those
RV (11:23):
Mm-Hmm. yeah. So then you got, you, you got IRAs 4 0 1 Ks, that’s, and that’s kind of like pretty, pretty standard stuff. Yeah. You go take, take care of the, take care of the basics. Yeah. Once you’re maxing out IRAs, 4 0 1 Ks, obviously you can be investing in your own business and you’re getting deductions on whatever expenses, but you don’t wanna be wasting money.
RL (11:52):
RV (11:54):
Money. And then at some point it’s the conversation seems to switch to over to investing.
RL (11:59):
RV (11:59):
To go, okay, I have my business. And this happens a lot with personal brands like speakers are a good example of this. We have a lot of speakers who they can make a really high income, you know, they’re knocking down 15, 20 grand of speech. They’re getting that, you know, 30, 50, a hundred times a year or 30 grand of speech, 30 times. I mean, they’re making seven figures in speeches, but well, covid happens, you know, they’re in trouble. It all goes straight to zero and you go, you’re probably can’t sell a speaking business. It’s not, it’s really a job. It’s, it’s a very, it’s a great job and a high paying job, but it’s not a business you could sell. And so we’ve talked to folks to say, well, if you have a high income source that really isn’t a business that you can sell, then what you wanna do is just draw the income off of that and put it into something that is a sellable asset. Which is really, I think where in investing kind of comes into the conversation.
RL (12:57):
Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s super important. And if we have time at the end, I’ll give you three more tax tips we can come back to that are really quick that no one talks about. But yeah, that’s the thing, Rory, I think what you just said is what people fail to realize. When you build a business, an entrepreneur, you’re looking to do one of two things, either number one, build a business that’s an asset that you can later on liquidate and reap the rewards of that asset that you build. As you mentioned though, even brands like Tony Robbins take, I mean, at the end of the day, will it be worth something because he is been able to scale that? Absolutely. Will it be the value that you can get ha if has his name not being attached to it? Absolutely not. And so for smaller influencers and things that people are still making a million, two, $3 million a year, they need to create their own backup contingency plan and exit strategy from day one.
RL (13:47):
So if they’re making a million bucks, they can’t be living off a million bucks because a lot of, you know, look, there’s a lot of influencers, especially today, people that are hot right now today that are very similar. I equated to the world I worked in to athletes. Yeah. You know, they’re making this very big money for a short period of time. They make the mistake to think that it’ll go on in perpetuity and they’re not taking some of that off the table every year, putting it into a portfolio that eventually grows to a size where the distributions are large enough to support their lifestyle. I call that work optional. That’s what they need to start thinking about from day one is how do I invest in assets that aren’t necessarily gonna knock the cover off the ball, but are gonna be able to pay me a consistent, steady rate of income that I can live off of in a short period of time?
RV (14:33):
Yeah. That, that is exa it is really a good parallel. It’s like, it’s the more realistic version of a, of an athlete is exactly,
RL (14:39):
RV (14:40):
Know, personal brands and you get these huge brand deals are speaking. So so what is that? I mean, is it basically real estate and stock market? I mean, is that pretty much what it comes down to? Are there other investments that you’re seeing like, hey, these are things that people can, should do?
RL (14:59):
Yeah, so it is, it’s a, it’s a great thing. Look, if you’re 5, 10, 15 years away, obviously you wanna have some things in growth types of assets. And so when I talk about just stocks are simple for people to understand, Amazon, it’s a great long-term stock, it’s done really well, but the only way you can make money on Amazon is to buy low and sell high. It’s not paying a dividend or any income stream. And so what I would say is, because especially for some of your audience that’s out there, they have enough cash flow to support their lifestyle now. And so what I would say is focus on those assets that are gonna pay a good income. The great thing today, one of the safest out assets out there, fixed income bonds, you could buy good high quality long duration bonds for 15, 20 years and lock in a six, six and a half, 7% return.
RL (15:47):
A lot of people say, well that’s not great. Tell you rule of thumb, most financial advisors will tell you the magic number you could pull off of your portfolio is about four to 5%. So if you can lock in six to 7%, those same rates, Rory two years ago, were one in 2%. So we’re talking about opportunity. Today’s the day you just said it, you wanna be a lender, not a borrower. So I would be b I would be a buyer of credit, meaning you’re lending out versus borrowing today. Buy some of those good high quality bonds, treasury bonds, good high quality corporate bonds. That’s one way to do it. That’s one asset. And then you also said stocks, you know, I talk about high quality dividend paying stocks. The nice thing about stocks is they pay dividend stocks, they pay you an income, but if you buy the right ones, I talk a lot about this in my Wealth academy, like Proctor and Gamble for example.
RL (16:38):
They’ve given you about a, it’s about a 4% dividend now. They give you that dividend every year, plus you get the growth of the stock. And for Proctor and Gamble, even though stock prices go up and down, their dividend for 65 years has increased year after year after year. So you’ve gotten a raise every single year by owning that. So by fixed income, by dividend paying stocks, I like real estate also, but you wanna make sure it’s high quality, not very leveraged real estate you know, a lot of people are buying very highly leveraged real estate and you have to refinance those in a market like today doesn’t work out. So if you could buy things without leverage that are cashflow. Makes sense. What I really like that a lot of financial advisors don’t talk about are boring businesses that you can buy that could be run by other people.
RL (17:26):
I have a couple clients that do do that to supplement their income landscaping businesses, pest control businesses. If you can buy a business today with a good team in place that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t retire and play golf, but you can run from the sidelines, that’ll be your highest R o i sometimes 18 to 22% after paying that staff to run. And it keeps you mentally engaged. So start thinking about what are those assets I can build up diversification’s the key. I say buy all of ’em, real estate stocks, fixed income, private businesses, things that are gonna have a steady, predictable stream of income when you stop earning the kind of money, you know, that you might be earning today.
RV (18:03):
Yeah, the I love that I’m buying boring businesses is is is a great, you know, thing and there’s a lot of ’em can be super consistent and just, you know, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna make yacht money probably. But you, you, I I, I like the way that you’re talking about, the part that jumps out at me of everything you said that I’m surprised I’ve never really heard is you said the magic number you can pull off your portfolio is 4%. So that, you know, I want to, I want to come back to that and kind of like where you said the work optional idea. Yeah.
RV (18:35):
You know, the way that I’ve always thought about it was like if you could have, you know, figure out what you wanna live off of every year and then figure out how much you need to have invested and then what percentage you’re drawing off. So if you had, if, if you had, you know, $10 million invested, you’re saying that 4% is the number that you would go, that’s what you could pull off to where the 10 million never disappears. It’s just throwing off 4% in perpetuity. That’s how you think about it.
RL (19:04):
Yeah, that’s exactly it. I mean it’s kind in a lot of financial journals, it, the number used to be 5% and then when interest rates went lower, everyone said no, that’s more to four. I still think there’s a lot of things you could do to where five, especially today, like I said, you can get t-bills at five and a half. I think five’s the realistic number, but that’s the number that, it’s a reality check to a lot of people. For example, you sell a business for 4 million or 5 million bucks. Okay, the people that sell a business for 5 million, or let’s use a an easy number for everyone, 10 million, the people that sell a business for 10 million bucks. And that could be a business that was doing 2 million net profits a year. You sell it five times earnings, that’s 10 million bucks that you bring in. Well, I just said you’re doing 2 million in profits a year.
RL (19:44):
So this is a business owner that was used to making 2 million. They now sell the business for 10 million. Let’s say they pay 20% in taxes because that’s a long-term capital gain. They bring in 8 million. Rob, I got 8 million bucks. A lot of them never had 8 million bucks in their hand because they were paying taxes. All these things, what does this mean? Well, if we use 5% times 8 million, that’s 400,000. They’re like, wait, like I have a million dollar lifestyle, 400,000 isn’t gonna cut it from me. I just sold this business that was cash flowing, $2 million and now you’re telling me all I can bring in is 400,000. That’s why you need to do this planning before, like I always tell people as entrepreneurs and startups have the exit in mind from day one, you want to be working right to left, understand where you’re trying to go so that it’s not a surprise and you can plan for that. But yeah, 5% on every million is only 50 grand pre-tax. So you gotta figure whatever you save, whatever you sell your business at, you got about 5% number that, because remember, you want to keep up with inflation as we’ve seen over the last two to three years. You gotta be able to raise that about three to 3.5% every year. So that’s all equated into that 5% number.
RV (20:53):
So then what would you do to prepare there? So if you’re saying like, okay, if you have 8 billion bucks invested, 5% off, that’s 400,000. You would either, you would either keep working, right? So then you’d, you’d either have a, you’d either have a, a job there or else you would, is there something you would do on the front end to sort of to prepare for that? Yeah.
RL (21:15):
Yeah. So that’s why someone comes to me, you the young entrepreneur, we, and it’s like a 15, 20 year strategy. Well we’re, we’re putting into that 4 0 1 k that defined benefit plan from day one. So we’re building our portfolio with some of the income that’s coming in. And so traditional financial planning is that go to work save, and then you have this lump sum, but where you’re an entrepreneur solopreneur, you’re doing some of that. But the big point is when we look at 12, 15 years, you don’t have to save quite as much because you’re gonna get this lump sum injection into the portfolio that we’re gonna account for. So you do some saving along the way, but the number that really hits you there is that exit. But if you’re not saving for 15, 20 years, ah, only planning on that exit to come, that doesn’t work.
RL (21:59):
But there’s a combination where you’re like, a lot of times I tell people in, you don’t have to sell the business. Like I, I sold to a publicly traded company. You can do internal succession to where you have a great business, like I said, that’s making 2 million in that example, sell off to some junior partners. You can get outside funding for that, take some of that money off the table, but stay involved five, 10 hours a week and make the other million dollars. So it’s not an all or none strategy, it’s just understanding what are the options, what do they look like, and having extreme clarity and focus on what that is. So there’s no surprises at the end of the day.
RV (22:32):
Yeah. When you say, you know, sell off to junior partners and you can take outside money from that, you’re saying that basically they can take a bank loan to pay you out? Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Um-Huh So yeah,
RL (22:44):
There’s a lot of, a lot of ways to exit, which you should be thinking about from the beginning of your business. And so sometimes it’s internal succession, sometimes it’s just strategic. You’re just selling to a business. If you’re a landscaping business, you’re selling to another landscaping business, you might creating this huge company where you’re gonna go public, whatever it is, just understand that because the way you prepare your balance sheet, the way you put your staff, your technology in place, it’s all gonna be different. I have entrepreneurs where that know from day one exactly the one, two, or three technology companies that they want to sell with. So what they try to do is emulate a model that’s very similar to theirs in a different category. So when they consume that company, it’s the same c r m, it’s the same point of sale system, it’s very easy. And so they get a higher multiple because of that.
RV (23:29):
Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. yeah, I love, I i I love that. So the, the idea right now of buying bonds is, is, is at least for the last several years, I guess maybe since 2008 or something, this has been like the best time ever to do that. And you’re locking it, you’re locking it in. Is that the same about annuities? Like it, what, what is an annuity and when is it a good idea to buy one?
RL (23:59):
Yeah, that I, and that’s the thing I talk a little bit about in my book. So annuities, insurance, these are one of these like really hot topic issues and, and I’ll, I’ll tell you why. I think they’re one of the most oversold overused products. Like a lot of insurance salesmen, you know, they, they’ve got a hammer in their tool bag, so everything looks like a nail. So they do get a bad wrap and unfortunately not everybody, you know, there’s not a, a barrier to entry. You don’t even have to have a high school diploma. You could start selling annuities or life insurance. That being said, like anything else, I think there’s a good time. I just said bonds, there’s a good time to buy bonds, there’s a horrible time to buy bonds this, and they’re gonna actually be in the same situation because as interest rates tick up, annuity guarantees look a lot better.
RL (24:46):
It makes sense because what do annuity companies do? What do banks do? They give you, just like we talked about, money market, a certain rate of return. They have to then take that money and get a higher rate of return. That’s just profit pro being a profitable business. So if a new, if interest and they wanna invest in safe things like bonds. So if insurance companies three years ago were giving you something, they had to get more, well the 10 year bond was like 1%. Today it’s almost six. So the benefits that are available with the annuities today are much more attractive. So annuity is an insurance contract where you hand the insurance company a hundred thousand, a million dollars and they give you a guarantee of a growth, a guarantee of a immediate rate of return for the rest of your life. That guarantee is always gonna be higher and more attractive when interest rates are higher.
RL (25:36):
So I would say I’ve been telling people to steer clear of ’em for over a decade. Now, today though, I’m not these one of these guys where it’s, it’s always this or it’s always that. Today though, there are some that are a lot more attractive. So it makes sense if you’re someone who wants some guarantees, you don’t want a lot of fluctuation, you don’t have a pension fund and you wanna replace that with something, a high quality insurance company might be able to provide you something that’s attractive versus taking in the risk of doing it yourself.
RV (26:03):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it is interesting. So on that note in terms of good times, bad times to do things, I want to hear something about, I wanna hear about debt. Yeah. You know, is there, there’s this, you know, when you’re building a personal brand, it’s like, it’s, it can be expensive. It’s like, I gotta build websites, I need graphics design, I need, you know, video editors, I need copywriters, you know, I need strategists, right? They’re hiring brand builders group that costs something. What’s your, that’s
RL (26:31):
Always a great investment, Rory brand builders group. So,
RV (26:34):
Hey, come on, come on. What, what is your you know, what, is there there good debt? Is there bad debt? Is it no debt? Is it sometimes debt? This kind of debt, that kind of debt? Like, just curious, I’m just curious to your debt philosophy.
RL (26:50):
Yeah, my debt philosophy is there’s good debt and there’s bad debt. I talk a little bit about those in my book. I think number one, I took debt, student loan debt, investing in myself with a plan of how am I gonna monetize that. My M B A, for example, I left within three months. I had one client that paid double , that I got my, from my M B A class, A classmate that paid double over the next two years in fees of what it cost to do my M B A. So what I would say is investing in yourself is an asset that you can monetize later on down the line. Everything that you just mentioned is essentially for someone building a brand, investing in themselves. However, you need people like your team to strategize of how am I gonna monetize this? We talked about this before, a lot of people with millions of followers, but they’re not making any money.
RL (27:34):
And if that’s just you and you’re spending money randomly, you’re never gonna get that back. So I believe investing in yourself, your brand, your business, and this isn’t traditional financial advice. I would, especially people under 40. I would say immediately start now, try building your business. Defer the 4 0 1 k, defer the real estate investments, the Airbnbs and everything everyone’s trying to sell you and invest in trying to make and build a business for yourself. That’ll be the best asset you do. So I would take debt there hands down. However, I wouldn’t take any credit card debt, you know, 25, 20 6% and that keeps going up. I always tell people when they’re ready to invest, if you first of all invest in yourself, have an emergency fund in case things go bad, but then start investing in credit card debt because we talk about eight, 10% rate of returns when you pay off 10,000 in credit card debt, that’s 25% rate of return that you’re giving yourself immediately.
RL (28:30):
So credit card debt is something that I wouldn’t have. Real estate debt. Makes sense. If it makes sense today at these rates on investment properties, it’s very tough. You’re paying eight, 9% on properties that are cash flowing, four or 5%. Not something that I would do. The idea is just understanding how interest rates work. ’cause A lot of, you know, the one thing I’m always talking to my academy members about a one thing in finance, if you can just focus on the correlation of interest rates, how they tie to investments, how they could tie to the economy. You’re gonna understand why I was telling people a year and a half ago, things are gonna get tough. Get your balance sheet right. Pay down debt. If you got lines of credit, pull that out right now, get everything fixed. Make sure you’re not taking floating rate mortgages because things are gonna slow down.
RL (29:16):
The Federal Reserve engineers recessions, booms by, you know, raising interest rates, lowering interest rates, and when you could see that well ahead of time because there’s a lag effect. They started raising rates year and a half, two years ago. We’re just now kind of seeing things slow down. Same thing. People are like, why is the stock market going up? Well, because they’re looking out a year and a half, two years when you feel the worst is the time to buy stocks when you feel the best is the time to sell stocks. But it’s not just stocks, it’s small businesses, it’s real estate in most assets.
RV (29:48):
Uhhuh. Interesting. That is fascinating stuff. So I want to ask you more about that, but before we do I just want, I just want to tell everyone so close, your wealth gap is out now, Rob Luna. You can get the book wherever, wherever books are sold, of course we’ll link up to Rob and his socials and website on, on the show notes and all that sort of stuff. The interest rate correlation thing is something I don’t, I don’t think I have fully understand. Yeah,
RL (30:17):
RV (30:17):
So can you just briefly walk us through super quick, like what the Yeah, because the levers, how the levers move.
RL (30:25):
Yeah, I’ll make it super simple, right? So let’s just think about student loans or credit cards. Let’s say a credit card for example. Well, so the Federal Reserve, you know, Jerome Powell is the chairman. This group basically dictates how high interest rates are so they can raise those or lower those. That’s the only tool they have. They have a dual mandate is full employment and inflation. So just think about that. The government, the Federal Reserve is basically trying to make sure that people are employed and that inflation doesn’t get out of control for obvious reasons, but they only have one tool and that is monetary policy, lowering and raising interest rates. And so when things get too hot, remember Covid, everybody was locked up, they couldn’t spend on anything. The supply chain was closed. Savings rates skyrocketed the highest we saw in 20 years, you couldn’t spend money on anything.
RL (31:19):
We had p p P loans go directly to consumers. So when the economy opened back up, limited supply, a lot of cash, that’s what’s created this inflation. And so what the Federal Reserve is saying, we can’t have inflation, that’ll kill the dollar, that’ll kill the economy. So let us raise interest rates is what they’ve been doing. They’re trying to engineer, not trying to engineer a recession, but nine out of 10 times when they do that, the history shows we go into recession eventually when they raise rates. Now think about that. When rates rise, what happens? It’s harder to buy homes because you had 3% 30 year mortgages before that same home. Now at seven and a half, 8% is 50 to 60% higher payment than you had before your credit card debt. We have a trillion dollars now in credit card debt in the us the highest ever.
RL (32:10):
Wow. So a lot of people have credit card debt. We’re a consumer driven economy, meaning people have to go out there and buy stuff for us to be successful, they have to buy your products, my products, services. And so what happens is people don’t have a lot of expendable income. If you had a thousand dollars in a spendable income and the price to pay, just the minimum interest on your credit card was $400 two years ago, maybe $400 on your student loan, you had 200 bucks left. Well now what’s happening is those interest payments for everybody who has credit card debt, student loan debt revolving mortgages, home equity lines of credit has gone higher. So the amount of cash they have to actually spend on things is lower. So their credit card payments have doubled without any increase in balances and everything else. So what they’ve done, the fed has taken that liquidity out of the system.
RL (32:59):
People can’t go out to eat, they can’t do all these things. The reverse happens when they lower interest rates. Now your balance is even staying the same. The payment you have to make is a lot less. You can now buy a lot more home. And so what they’re then doing is incentivizing people because there’s extra flow that they have. It’s just a perf you know, basically a cash flow analysis when rates go higher. Companies and people, same thing with companies. Most companies have floating rate debt. So their debt payments as a company were six, 7%. Now they’re 12, 13%. What does that mean? They can’t hire more people because they have an extra $200,000 in debt service. So when rates go up, the economy slows down. When rates go down, the economy speeds up. The stock market is a leading indicator, which means it’ll usually move a year in advance. So the stock market started going down the year before last. Now it’s basically starting to try to move back up to say, Hey, in about a year from now, we think things will be okay.
RV (33:53):
So rates go higher. That means cash that people have goes down. So their spending goes down. Yep. Rates go lower. They have more cash on hand, so they buy more stuff. So spending goes up.
RL (34:04):
RV (34:05):
Simple as that. Well there’s a lot here as you could tell, and we are out of time for Rob. We have gotten as much free financial advice as we could possibly fit into one podcast episode. Brother, thank you for being here. We’re, we’re so excited about you and the book Close Your Wealth Gap. Everyone check it out. And Rob, we wish you the best brother. Thanks
RL (34:26):
Man. I appreciate it, Rory.

Ep 444: What You Should Know About Working with Speaker Bureaus with Shawn Hanks

AJV (00:00):
Hey everybody, and welcome to the influential personal brand, AJ Vaden here. Have a long time friend who is on the show today, Shawn Hanks. I’m going to formally introduce him in just a sec, but I want you to know who this episode is for and why you should stick around and listen to it. Number one, this is for anyone who is on the path to desiring to become a highly paid professional speaker. That’s who this episode is really built for. If you want to speak occasionally, probably not the episode for you. This is built for the person who goes, I have a message to share, and I have a passion for sharing it on stages all over the world. I want this to be the primary part of my business, and I wanna be a highly paid professional speaker.
AJV (00:53):
If that’s you, this is an episode you cannot absolutely do not want to miss. Now, what are we gonna talk about? We’re gonna talk about what it takes to become a highly paid professional speaker, and most importantly, how do you get on all those stages that you so desire to be on? ’cause There’s lots of different ways to do it. And working with a bureau is one of those, which we’re gonna talk a lot about today. It’s not the only one, but it is one that definitely helps pave the path. But in order to do that, there’s some things you gotta do before you get on those stages. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the CEO of Premier Speakers Bureau. Shawn has been in the Speakers Bureau world for almost 20 years, if not over 20 years. He was also the most recent past president of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus, which is just a real fancy word of saying he knows a lot about this industry. , he knows a lot about this. But I also love the fun facts. I love that you’re an avid sports fan. But I gotta know, like, who, who’s your NFL team? Like who’s your favorite team?
SH (02:02):
Dallas Cowboys. Oh, Dallas, Tyler and I went to a game last week. We watched them beat the Rams. Hey, it’s, it’s fun. Cowboys are great until they’re not, and it just breaks my heart every year.
AJV (02:13):
Oh, I love that . Also Shawn lives here in Nashville as Roy and I do. So it’s also great to also get to have fellow Nashvillians on the show. And I gotta tell you this before we get started speaking of football, like my two little ones, I have a four year old and a six year old, both boys. And just this year they have discovered a deep passion for football. And it’s like, we love football, but we,
SH (02:36):
That’s fun.
AJV (02:37):
We don’t have a deep passion for it. But my four year old got himself a pair of football gloves, like, you know, like I love
SH (02:47):
It. ,
AJV (02:48):
SH (02:48):
Yeah, probably receiver G gloves. Yeah,
AJV (02:50):
Receiver G gloves. There you go. That’s what they called. I don’t even know. But he sleeps in them.
SH (02:55):
Love it.
AJV (02:56):
He wears them to basketball practice. He wears them to school. He wears them everywhere his goes. I’m like, you’re gonna have the softest, most moisturized hand I’ve ever seen this light of day. They’re obsessed with football and they, they don’t care what the teams are, only what the mascots are. So our house love it. Designated as fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins. So
SH (03:20):
Yeah, they’re two great teams. Eki.
AJV (03:29):
So funny. Alright, well now we gotta talk business. We gotta talk business. So Shawn, help everyone get to know just a little bit about you and premier speakers. Like for those who are listening, who are going what, what’s a bureau? What do those people do? What is a bureau? What is Premier? And how did you get into this industry and how have you stayed in it for so long? Yeah.
SH (03:53):
Well, thank you aj. It’s great. Always fun to see you and your energy comes through the screen. I love that. Bureau is, if you don’t know what a speaker’s bureau is, join the crowd. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was in October of 2000, 23 years ago. Let’s not do the math. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was. That’s an old dusty term. That essentially means we do speaker representation, right? We are the organizations that especially larger conferences, corporate groups come to a speakers bureau to say, Hey, I need to have four slots and these are the types of content I want to fill. This is what I do want. This is what I don’t want. Premier in particular, and you mentioned IASB, which is a great organization, international Association of Speakers Bureaus. I am plugged into that group.
SH (04:39):
So I, I probably know more about speakers bureaus than I should except for doing market competitor research. But we, it’s a small industry. There’s about 120 speakers bureaus. Most of those are very small. You know, one, two person shops that really started doing event management and then event production and then slid into the speakers bureau world. ’cause They really enjoyed being the liaison with the speakers. But, and they’re probably four to five that are significant in size and, you know, would, would own a significant part of the industry. PSB in particular, we, last year we worked with about 2000 events. We have nine agents on our team. They are siloed. So we have one agent who only handles healthcare, right? So when a healthcare client calls or a hospital he can speak with, you know, he, he understands their pain points, he understands their jargon.
SH (05:34):
So we, we have been intentional at Premier. We’ll celebrate 30 years next year. Congrat of building congrat. Thank you. Thank you. Building what we call sectors. So we have one agent that only handles education. We do a lot of work in the K through 12 arena. And if you call from a school district or any kind of education group, you’re always end up talking to Carl because he understands what your pain points are. He understands that in particular, you always pay net 30. Most groups don’t do that. All those little intricacies that, that you can really glean from working with the same types of clients over and over again. Expertise, ultimately. But our job most people assume our job is to just book speakers. And that is the end product. I always say our, we are in consultancy more than anything else.
SH (06:18):
And really risk mitigation. When, when a large corporation calls us or a large association and says, Hey, this is the type of speaker we’re looking for, or often it’s, here are the three types of speakers who want, we need a headliner. Who’s going to capture attention? We’re willing to spend X number of dollars, then we think this is going to be a hot topic. Let’s call it ai. I mean, that’s a hot topic for today. We need someone on the stage who can cover that content. And then we want someone who can do this and, and check these certain boxes. They, and they most often call us with very specific criteria of these are the things they don’t, most often don’t have a name. They’re not calling to say, we want AJ on this date. Right? they’re calling us and the consultancy is really what we’re selling.
SH (07:01):
We’re risk mitigation. They may book four speakers this year. We worked with, we booked 2000 events last year. So they understand we aren’t going to book a speaker for them and with them. Who isn’t going to be literally world class. I mean, just show up, crush it, be amazing, you on stage. So there’s no risk in, I’ll say that ideally there’s no risk in working with a bureau because we’re bringing them the cream of the crop. And we’ve done all of the hard work of selecting from the, the thousand speaker submissions that we’ve seen in the last year. We have found, gleaned the, the 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 that we know are going to be amazing. And that ultimately that’s what a speaker’s bureau is. We’re we are here to service our end clients when we say clients. And that’s the term of art in our industry.
SH (07:50):
We are talking specifically premier speakers bureau. We are talking about an event planner. Mm-Hmm. who has a problem to solve. And we are in the problem solving business. Our solution happens to be amazing speakers that they say, we need to communicate a message this year for this thing. We say we know the person to do that. Now, typically, they don’t want a proposal with one person. They, they require of us a proposal with four or five, six suggestions. And we can dig into that a little bit. ’cause That’s a very different buying process than if they go directly to a speaker’s website, right? That’s a step prior to what most speakers experience when they’re working directly with a client. But our job at that point make great suggestions. The client, they end up in a boardroom somewhere with a search committee or, or you know, a team who’s playing at a conference.
SH (08:40):
They select from that list and probably come back to us. So we massage that ultimately, but at the end of the day, it turns into, is the speaker available on this date? Yes. We go to contract with the end client, go to contract with the speaker. We have nine of those agents. We have five people on our event logistics team. They grab the event, they do all of the event logistics in turn, I’m sorry, they do all the speakers event logistics, airfare, car service, all of the details to get the speaker from home to the event and back. And then we have a full accounting team. We collect all the funds, guarantee all the payment to the speaker. So the, there’s very little risk for the speaker. We do work on a commission structure, so they’re paying for those services. But, but ultimately solving the problem of what content do you need on the stage Event planner, that’s where it starts.
AJV (09:29):
Yeah. So I, I love that you said that ’cause I haven’t heard that. So clearly stated, it’s like we’re risk mitigation for our clients. Mm-Hmm. , we’re the first round filter of all of the speakers out there who fit X criteria of going, Hey, we’re gonna filter these. We’re gonna, you know, mitigate any risk. So someone doesn’t get on stage and say something crazy or this isn’t very good because at the end of the day, that makes the meeting planner look bad and makes the company look bad. But then also that’s a lot of wasted time because these events are very expensive to put on and they’re paying high dollar for these people. Now, what would you say is the benefit of a speaker working with you as a, a bureau?
SH (10:14):
Assuming the speaker is with the, the right bureau. And when I say right, every, every company ha ends up with a clientele that looks like them as a company, right? And whether that’s intentional or unintentional premier has been blessed with a lot of organic growth over the years. But much of that is the, the, the speakers that we select to represent, attract a certain type of clientele, right? So then we go find speakers who are attractive to that type of clientele that that grows. So our client base somewhat intentional, somewhat just by the nature of how business works, we over time end up with a certain type of clientele. And then we are looking for speakers to service the, those groups of, of clients. So it, there is a step there of, I have seen many times, and we’ve been guilty of it, we say, Hey, we, this, this speaker is very interesting.
SH (11:03):
We think it could be a good fit, but we end up misaligned ’cause we don’t have the right clientele to select them. But when there’s a great marriage there a speaker working with a bureau the opportunity there is Speaker X. If you get in front of 10 event planners, and I say in front of, if you’re email, if, if you have contact with 10 event planners and two or three of them book you, right? Let’s say you have 30% close rate, well, we can put you in front of a hundred event planners or a thousand, 10,000 is a big number. But so it at that, it’s just the, the scale of opportunity. Even if that close rate goes down, you still have massive opportunity. There are assumptions with alignment there, obviously, but when it works well, it really, it it’s a scale that most speakers are not able to build on their own or choose not to.
SH (11:56):
I mean, ultimately, I mentioned all of our staff with 24 people on our team, it, for a speaker to go hire someone, okay, I want you on the phone all day, every day talking about me to clients. I need someone to run a business. I need, you know, maybe ACOO so like manage all of this and I need someone, an account like it’s staffing up becomes a significant amount of overhead bureaus. We do sell services and provide services to speakers. But that it eliminates for most speakers the requirement of having a full back office.
AJV (12:27):
Yeah. That, you know, what I’ve always said is just being honest, we’ve always had a love hate relationship with bureaus. Yep. ’cause We are salespeople. It’s like we’ve always found ourselves. It’s like we’re great at pitching ourselves and getting ourselves on stages until you run into a slew of clients that are like, oh, we love you would love to book you. Let me contact my bureau. . Yeah.
SH (12:50):
AJV (12:51):
You need to contact the bureau. I’m talking to you right now. Yeah. And it’s like, but I think that’s one of the benefits for speakers is just understanding there is a whole world of clients who will not book you without going through their bureau because of that risk mitigation process.
SH (13:06):
AJV (13:07):
Right. It’s that they wanna know that you’ve gone through the ringer with the bureau too before they put you on their stage. And I would say that’s, I think that’s, it’s a huge benefit of just going, if you have a great relationship with the bureau, one access is a big deal. Like, you’re gonna get access to people who would never book you direct. They’re just not gonna do it. It’s not what they do. Right. But then two, it’s like if you don’t have relationships with bureaus, even if you’re not exclusive you’re gonna be competing with ’em. Right. Right. That’s true. And those have, that’s that established relationships where even if they like you, they know these other people really well. And so there’s pros and cons to all the things, but I think a lot of people who want to be highly paid professional speakers, they want to do it now .
AJV (13:57):
And there’s a process of how do you raise your fees and how do you get to become that person who is booked on stages where people are calling you, or bureaus are calling you versus you calling them. So I’d love to hear from your perspective of, you know, booking 2000 events last year is insanity. Right? That’s so many. That’s so, I mean, that’s what, four a day for three and a half a day. It’s a time. But also being in the industry for so long, like what are people looking for? And so I wanna talk about this in three different ways. Sure. What are they looking for in terms of the content? Like what’s trending, what’s hot, what’s, and I think there’s just evergreen. Like people are always gonna want leadership. They’re always gonna want culture. There’s always, there’s always some of those things, right? But then there’s new topics like ai, right? Yeah. So I’d love to talk about content. The second is, what are the assets that a speaker needs in order to get booked, right? So we need demo video, but any footage isn’t good footage, right? So like, what type of
SH (15:01):
AJV (15:02):
And then also like a speaker press kit or a website. Like what, what’s the formula of this is the set of assets you need if you’re really going after this. And then the last thing is, what does it take to work with a bureau? Sure. Because I think that’s important. So let’s start with content. Like, just thinking of, you know, some people have great ideas, but are people gonna pay 10, 20, 30, $40,000 for an hour? Right?
SH (15:29):
Yeah. And that’s a great question. You, you, you described it perfectly, aj. There are certain elements of content that will never grow old. Leadership is one of them. Teamwork your right culture and how we see that play out in the market is often a client will call and say, Hey, we need a speaker who I mentioned AI earlier, as we sit here in November of 2023, that’s a hot topic. It, it may not be two years from now, but it is today. And I’ll come back to that in a second. But often they’ll say, Hey, even if you’re an AI speaker, we want you to, to hit on ai. We want you to be the expert. Ideally, you’ve written a book on it. You, you’ve been on tv and they’ve put your name aj a expert in ai, right? But the reality is they also want you to hit on some of those evergreen topics.
SH (16:19):
So event planners will say like, oh, we want that AI speaker to be great. Can they also hit on leadership? And, and so there is kind of this combination of your content. But that isn’t, say you do want to be known for something. Now what that thing is, social media eight, 10 years ago was the thing. And I remember so many speakers saying, I have to overnight reinvent myself as a social media speaker. The problem with that is, the next day, you know, you have, let’s make up a number a thousand speakers who overnight became experts on social media. So there immediately becomes a glut in the market. But there was opportunity there. The problem is, if you’re chasing content in that way, it is really hard to read what’s in the future, right? Like to guess. Okay, where’s it gonna be in a year?
SH (17:08):
I’ve always encouraged speakers, yes, be smart, leadership, teamwork, culture. There’s some content that will never grow old. The thing that you’re gonna care about in three to five years. ’cause We’re talking about what you guys do at brand builders. Like, figure out what you were great at and like, you own it, but you gotta live it, right? So if you’re picking something because you want, you hope, it’ll just capture the market. My my argument is you’re going to hate that content in six months. ’cause You’re, you’re trying to fall in love with something that you don’t love, right? . So, but everyone, if, if you’re, if you’re watching this and you’re passionate and you answered the question that, that you, you tossed out on the very front end or definition of this is what this conversation, this is who this conversation is for. If you’re in that small segment of people, you know the thing that you’re passionate about, Mm-Hmm.
SH (17:58):
And make that your own. Now be smart, obviously. It, it, DEI was a very hot conversation topic and keynote topic two years ago last year. But we’ve seen a number of DEI speakers, DEI speakers start to see their business slow. Because a a lot of companies will say, we had that content last year and they haven’t devalued it, but they can’t do that content every single year. So they, the, the rally the market, there’s less opportunity for that specific content. So you mentioned culture that is an, an evergreen topic, very clever gifted DEI speakers will, will pivot. And they don’t change their content significantly, but you rebrand it instead of DEI, it’s culture. And those are the same things, but how you brand it matters matters in the market over time. So that’s a long answer to what is the hot content out there.
SH (18:53):
You define three that will never go away. And you as a speaker have to lean into those and be able to answer the question, Hey, is there some leadership content in everything you do? Yes. You have to be able to honestly answer that with a yes. And then frame your content. You know, again, if it was DEI last year, you read the room and say, Hey, the opportunities are lessening for that content. Okay, I’m gonna reframe it as culture. The same with social media. You know, like I said, 10 years ago, overnight we had a thousand experts, but today we haven’t been asked about a social media speaker in probably five years. So you have to know that content has faded. And I will say there are, and you guys probably unpack this a bit with brand builders, there’s certain content that is viewed, no one sits down and defines this, I don’t think in a spreadsheet.
SH (19:45):
Leadership content, you can be a $40,000 leadership speaker. You will never find, well take that back. It would be very difficult to find a $40,000 social media speaker. Mm-Hmm. event planners think, oh, that’s like $7,500 content. So there are, there are kinda levels in, in the market’s mind. No one chooses it intentionally. It’s just kind of what the market does with the content. If you’re heavy on entertainment, you don’t, unless you’re a celebrity the market doesn’t pay heavily for entertainment. If you wanna do magic, they use that as a vehicle, as part of a keynote. Yeah. And this sounds like such splitting hairs. You can be a $20,000 magician who uses that as a vehicle to teach great content. Mm-Hmm. , if you do magic and also having to speak, they may pay you $7,500 for that. Whereas flip the description of it, you may get 20 for it. So some of that, and you, you figure out what those levers are over time. But being intentional about how you frame it, making certain there is a market for the thing that you’re doing is, is important.
AJV (20:57):
I think that’s so, so important. As you were talking, I was thinking about speakers like Eric Wall, right?
SH (21:05):
Amazing. Yeah.
AJV (21:06):
Yeah. He’s an artist and does his artistry, but it’s woven into a more articulate message with content. Mm-Hmm. . You know, there’s so many others that I could, I think could think of right now, but there’s one I’m thinking of, it’ll come to me in just a second. Dan Thurman.
SH (21:25):
Yes, he’s amazing. He’s terrific gymnast
AJV (21:27):
Balance and productivity and making it all come together. But yeah, he does acrobats and it’s like, that’s entertainment, but the content is just as good,
SH (21:37):
Right? Yes. Versus if you ask the person when they walked out of that, you know, there’s a thousand people in a conference room in Vegas, Hey, what did Dan Thurman do? They would probably, they would tell you some cool stuff. He can do things that I could never do physically on a stage. But that’s only to capture your attention. It’s kind of the concede or the trick and the thing to teach you something. If you’re leaning on the thing to be the thing, then, then you’re a gymnast. That’s right. If you’re just using that to communicate an idea, Uhhuh then you’re, you’re a true artist. I mean, you, you’ve, you’ve hacked the, that’s the professional part of professional speaking. You’ve found a way to capture people’s attention but then ultimately teach them amazing content that’s, that it has to be the end result.
AJV (22:22):
That’s so that’s such the key part of it in that entertainment aspect. It’s like you’re only using it to catch their attention, to deliver the great message. Now, we talked about a co ’cause I thought that’s really fascinating. Something that you said, it’s like categorically speaking, there is a, you know, perceived price value on certain categories of confidence. Mm-Hmm. . And like, I know that inherently, but it’s good to articulate, like Yeah, like, you’re not gonna find many 40,000 bucks social media speakers. Right? There
SH (22:56):
You go.
AJV (22:56):
That’s true. That’s very true. And so I, I would love to talk about, did I miss any, ’cause we said leadership, we said kind of culture we said teamwork, I threw in sales, but I don’t know, I believe that’s evergreen. Like, everyone’s looking at how do we keep revenues top line high, bottom line high. Are there any other categories that you’re like, yeah, these are evergreen. People are always gonna be asking for these types of speakers?
SH (23:22):
Yeah, I, that’s a great question. I, those, those you just described, and sales is definitely one. And I, I, I would pause for a second to describe the, the types of the buyers that are coming to speakers bureaus most often. Are you, you touched on this earlier, are larger corporations associations. Yeah. There’s a, I think the last number was like 26,000 associations out there. Not, no, not all of them can afford a $40,000 speaker, but they are all required by charter to do a conference. So, right. They’re all doing a conference on some level. So those are the types of clients who are most often working with, with speakers bureaus. So we, we do our, our data points are within a certain type of buyer. There are certainly other buyers out there who, that we don’t, we don’t bump into. But th those that you hit on are, are, are those described really well?
SH (24:14):
And, and sales is corporations will do a sales training or they’ll, you know, they’ll bring in their sales leaders. Associations don’t lean heavily into sales because unless there are a specific type of association, big picture sales would be probably a, a, AB option for them. And there are a lot of options beneath that. But leadership, teamwork, culture, those things that especially in the association world, the only thing these people have in common, the 5,000 people in the Vegas Orlando Ballroom, is that they’re all in one industry together. Mm-Hmm. beyond. And they’re all, but some may run a company, some may work at a company, some people may, you know, they may pick up the trash to the company. So the, the event planners are looking for content that can resonate with the CEO, the person who answers the phone. People in sales, people in logistics associations have to bring in broad content because of the types of attendees that are in the room.
AJV (25:11):
What about customer experience?
SH (25:15):
Yes. That is content that we, that we would book from time to time. That is not I wouldn’t say that would be a content where this is a home run every single time. And customer experience, customer service, those would almost be interchangeable. I do, I like customer experience is a better, it’s better terminology today. Customer service was definitely at five to 10 years ago or some amount of time ago, I would say. That does, if that is your only content, you are bumping up against a, a ceiling on some level. Now what that number is, is a guess, right? But you, you, you won’t find many customer experience $50,000 speakers, but you can find quite a few at 15, right? Or 12 five.
AJV (26:00):
So, fascinating. I love this conversation. Last question because I’m like, whatcha gonna think of, what about like marketing or branding? Mm-Hmm.
SH (26:08):
market, I would, branding is definitely the, the terminology would want to use in the corporate event space rather than marketing. Yes, that is, that’s great content. And I’d probably align that or put that in a similar plateau with customer experience. That is content that event planners will pay for wouldn’t be the top echelon type of, of fee structure. But with the caveat, again, if that’s something you’re passionate about, you can make that you, you can build an amazing career as a customer experience or marketing or branding speaker. Don’t, don’t let anything, don’t let me suggesting there are limits to it. Make you go, oh, do I wanna invest my time in this? If that’s something you’re passionate about and you have the, the, the silver bullet idea that you’ve seen work and you’ve led a team and it works and you taught it to other teams and it works. There’s always value in that thing and every market has a cap. But it, yeah, that’s, that’s the question I would ask. And the answer would be, yeah, that’s probably a 15 to $20,000 keynote somewhere in that range.
AJV (27:17):
No, I think it’s really good because it’s, again, back is like, I’m just kind of like listing these out, like these, these higher level evergreen topic categories, leadership, culture, teamwork and you can differentiate and position within those high level categories that really at the end of the day, it’s like you’re wanna your fees to grow. It’s like, it’s gonna have to reach things on that more general widespread nature of leadership. Sure. But then, yeah, you can have an amazing career in the sales, branding, marketing, customer experience space, but there’s, there’s gonna be a ceiling at some point. Unless you can figure out how do we weave that into one of these more overarching categories, something
SH (27:56):
AJV (27:57):
Or culture leadership. But I think that’s really important because sometimes just knowing that helps a lot of like how you position and if you don’t know those nuances of the industry, you’re stuck before you even get started. Because that’s right, it’s nuanced. And I think that’s really important. So I love that in terms of like content, just categorically speaking. And I think that’s really, really important. Now, let’s talk about assets, right? Mm-Hmm. . So let’s assume you are like, let’s just, right. Barrier to entry. Like you know, you have to have a, a great speech, you have to be a great presenter. So let’s just pretend, but everyone is listening. Yeah. You have great content and you’re great on stage, right? Mm-Hmm. . So like, if you’re listening and you’re going, oh, I’m not sure, then you’re not ready for this conversation. That’s right. Like, we need to go back and go, let’s ensure that your content is tight and your presentation skills are tight. Right? let’s ensure that first, but let’s assume we got that covered. Mm-Hmm. . What are the assets when it comes to websites, demo videos press kits? Like what is really being used? What is necessary, what’s essential?
SH (29:02):
Yeah. Great. Great question. And the s starkest thing you’ll hear me say today, AJ, hopefully is when, when speakers say to me, man, every time I walk off stage, you know, like they tell me I’m the best speaker ever, or I crushed it. I always, hopefully I don’t always say it, but I do think, yeah, congratulations. Like that’s what a professional speaker should do. Like, if you’re a professional speaker, you should never say, yeah, I laid an egg today. I mean, it’s gonna happen, but killing it on stage is the barrier to entry to be a professional speaker. You said that, well, I’m being redundant, but that is, that is the expectation. If you’re being paid $15,000, that that’s a significant amount of money. But also if a company is putting their 500 employees in a room for sitting idle, idle by product productivity standards for an hour, the cost to the company is literally probably another 15.
SH (29:55):
And depending on the size, could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for that hour. So be amazing that we said that be amazing. Assets are the thing that the, I I, I try to frame it this way, instead of just thinking them as marketing, you get to answer questions that you will never get asked because they’re gonna make a decision about you without asking you certain questions. Mm-Hmm. . And it also allows you to put yourself in that conference room that I described earlier where, you know, they, they order pizza and they throw five speakers on a screen and look at them and compare them and know that you’re very rarely being considered in a vacuum. So it’s not just Speaker X, do we like them or not? It is most often Speaker XI like that they did this, but I’ll poke fun of myself.
SH (30:45):
We’ve had three middle aged white guys in a row the last three years. Ah, we don’t wanna do a fourth thing. Like they really do have to nuance and start to compare and contrast. Well, this speaker is 10% funnier. I mean, that they make up, they have to measure things. And the first part of the job is to eliminate options, right? So they’re looking for things to go, okay, well this speaker says they’re the most amazing branding speaker ever, but their video looks like it was shot 10 years ago. Like that, of course. I mean, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t buy a, you know, if, if your person you’re buying a car from drives a, a horrible car and knows nothing about cars, and you go, I probably don’t know what they’re talking about. So if, if you, if you have an expertise, obviously you gotta crush it in that expertise.
SH (31:27):
But headshot I’ll come back to video. ’cause I video’s the, the silver bullet in, in the speaking world. I’m convinced of that a professional headshot. And, and I always suggest to speakers or lean into, it’s easy if you come out of the corporate world or you’ve had success, you built a company and sold it, you’ve always been branded as a certain thing in that space, in the speaking space, what you’re selling is, I can get on your stage and communicate an idea maybe better than anyone else for 60 minutes or 50 minutes, whatever it is. So you have to change your mindset from I built this company, that’s who I am. It being very biographically focused. Think about the event planner who’s sitting in their cubicle considering four other speakers. They’re, they’re looking for something a little bit different in that biography.
SH (32:20):
It’s not just essentially a, your Wikipedia page, right? It, it really is like, how are you bringing your expertise to my room of 500 people who may or may not want to be there and moving the needle for our company? Still not sure about this. Oh, sorry, Siri just heard me. But the, the, so keynote description, so headshot, no brainer, 300 DPI, great high resolution, spend money on that. If you, if it’s a friend with an iPhone that’s not gonna cut it. I mean, you spend money on it. Selfies, brand build southeast, yeah. Selfie aj, you and call aj. She can help you out. I’m sure they can. Brand builders can assist with that. Oh, it’s so funny. The keynote descriptions are something to, to, to harken back to. We were talking about it earlier, own a certain piece of content. But a keynote description is ultimately your describing what your brand is, and one or two words, colon, you know, here, here’s a short description of how I’m gonna move the needle for your team.
SH (33:22):
And then a, a description of what they are buying. I mean, all they’re buying a product. We’re buying, we’re paying you money to, for 60 minutes to come communicate an idea. This keynote description describes how you are going to, what that thing is and how you’re going to do it. The title describes what it is. The keynote description describes how you’re going to do it. Don’t be afraid to have two or three versions of, it’s almost disingenuous to say, okay, sales colon, whatever that thing is, and this is for, you know, it companies and then the same thing. But for healthcare companies, that doesn’t scare off buyers. They want, if they’re a healthcare company and you, you have a keynote description describing your content in their space, that’s a good thing. They, that tells them, you know, enough about the healthcare industry that you have content, that you’ve taken your content and specifically built it for their audience.
SH (34:23):
Right? That’s a, so don’t be afraid to have two or three keynotes that look similar, but are targeted towards different types of organizations. So keynote descriptions are important. Reviews are are crucial because, and I I jokingly say this, often it, you know, if you, if you have a, I’m gonna use Magic Johnson. If you know Magic Johnson and he says, I AJ’s my buddy, she’s the best speaker I’ve ever met, you’re gonna love her. That’s awesome. At a dinner party. And that would impress me. I’m a huge basketball fan. Event planners in the moment that they are buying are not impressed by big names. Remember, risk mitigation, the most valuable thing from a review point of view in that buying moment is someone like me in my chair took, used you as a speaker and you crushed it and they wrote a review saying, Hey, I brought speaker X in.
SH (35:22):
They crushed it on stage. Yeah, they move an needle. These metrics, whatever that is, so big names are great. I would drop one or two on my website. Way more importantly are is event planner. Stacy from Prudential is very valuable when Steve at Allstate is considering you, right? Because these are lateral competitors and they’re saying, we tried it, it worked. So they’re gonna try it. Also video, we touched on it a little bit. I can’t tell you how often I’ll get a video because I’ve got so many friends and buddies that are in the speaking world. They’ll text me a video, Hey, here’s 60. You know, here’s a a clip. Man, this, this joke I told, or this story I told crushed, right? I watched the video. No, it doesn’t because they are remembering. And I, it breaks my heart. I I hate to say no, it doesn’t.
SH (36:13):
But they are remembering the audience reaction. You know, aj, you’ve been on a ton of stages. You, you have a joke or you have a story that you know always works, right? You remember it. But if, if you don’t have video of the audience reaction, so I, as a viewer sitting at my desk watching a video, if I can’t see the audience react, then you just get whatever you get from me and I’m probably distracted. So audience reaction is one element that speakers very well paid professional speakers forget to include that in their preview videos. Mm-Hmm. . And then when we consumers see it, we go, no, that joke wasn’t nearly as funny as you thought it was because in my cubicle it’s not funny. It’s probably funny when a thousand people are slapping their knees. So I would say video it’s a, a constant discussion in the market.
SH (37:05):
What’s the best length of a video? Yeah, probably five to seven minutes. If you’ve got a couple of really killer clips that push it to 10, just know that most event planners are considering, you won’t watch 10 minutes, but they’ll skip through a video. But it needs to punch and it needs to, if you’ve got two or three stories that are your fastballs, include those in there. And I would say one little hack that I always suggest to speakers is, your video is never a finished product. If you know you’re gonna tell that story often on stages Mm-Hmm. , if you tell it in Tulsa and it crushes, get that video and replace that story in your current preview video. So don’t ever think of your video as being finished. Oh, I’m gonna do a new video next year. You should do a new video next year. But while you’re waiting for that, go ahead and keep refreshing those different clips as you’re crushing it on stages around the world for now. And then always be thinking, what’s my next video going to be?
AJV (38:06):
Yeah. So I’ve got a question for you specific to this video thing, which is how much of the video should be you on stages? Because a lot of the videos I see today are more like sizzle commercials and they have mm-Hmm, b-roll footage, or they’re storytelling components. And should there be testimonials in the video? Should there be client logos? Like if you were just like high level, it’s like, if it’s five minutes, I wanna see this many minutes of you just on stage. Yep. The rest of it save it for something else.
SH (38:38):
Right? That, that is a great question because it’s a moment in time question. A few years ago, a couple of speakers realized like, everyone’s videos look the same. And this is generalities, but pretty close. A few years ago it was pre covid, so we’ll call it five years ago, some speakers said everyone’s videos look the same. And they started to do some videos and I can mention names and we’ll talk about ’em offline. I loved it. They kind of reinvented the, the sizzle reel or the preview video world. And it became the videos that we’ve all seen now and been a part of probably helping make, which is you follow them to the stage and they’re standing and they look at the camera and say like, this is gonna be great. And you watch them walk on stage and crush it. That total overnight it elevated the, the, the expectation from the viewer side of the videos because it used to be, okay, I’m probably gonna do some talking head to introduce myself.
SH (39:32):
Here’s three clips of me on CNN and Fox News, like, you know, quick Clips. And then here’s three clips of me speaking. Now we kind of have almost movie production quality videos, right? I I think the market has adjusted to that, where a large number of speakers have that more kind of movie production. So it, it’s like the rubber band thing. I think it will stretch and pull back and event planners, they do, they’re a cynical bunch because we make them a cynical bunch because I always say hyperbole is the, the natural language of our industry. Like everything is the best ever. Every speaker’s the best ever. Like, so they, they could,
AJV (40:10):
Everyone’s an expert. Everyone,
SH (40:12):
Everyone’s an expert. , wor words might have less value and hand up. Like we’re all guilty of that, right? But I, there probably will be a, a bit of a return to, Hey, I don’t want it to be a hyped video for you. Like, I, I need content. I’m making a decision on can you do the thing I want you to do. So as a long way to say, I, I don’t know that that will ever go away because production, the production value expectation has increased. Mm-Hmm. , if it’s shot from a shaky camera or one camera from the back of the room, that’s not gonna cut it for you. If you expect to grow your career you, you do have to invest in an additional camera audience reaction shots that I mentioned earlier. But does it have to be Jerry Bruckheimer, you know, type of camera work?
SH (41:04):
No. but I, I would say if I had $10,000 to invest in my video tomorrow and I was a speaker, I would lean heavily into production. And then do put you, you want to answer the question, why are you an expert? Why should I give you 60 minutes of my people’s time? You wanna answer that in the first few seconds. So if you’re on CNN and they have, they’re holding your book up and it says you’re an expert, definitely include that. But you wanna answer that question in 10, 15 seconds and then get to you on stage speaking and not to dig in to be boring with it. But a couple of basic items are you want more than one camera. You want one more than one scene. So if it’s you wearing the same dress or the same suit in all three clips, the question, you’re, they will, the event planner will never say, have you done this a lot?
SH (41:59):
Right? But you’re, you’re implying to them, I’ve only done it once ’cause all three clips look the same. So that’s why if you’re watching a great speaker’s reel, you’ll notice that they jump around and show themselves sometimes even during the same story. Here’s me on stage at this conference and here’s me on stage. Part of that is just communicating. I do this all the time and I’m amazing at this and here’s a couple of different versions of me doing it. It helps the flow of the video video. So you, you want multiple locations. You want multiple, you know, attire, changes to communicate. This is something I do regularly and I’m great at it.
AJV (42:39):
Hmm. Those are so good. And, you know, to, it’s easy to make long videos. It’s hard to make short ones. And so making sure that’s just a, a key part of that. And I love like just all the s assets that you talk about, like, I think people forget of like how important it is. Like I say this all the time, it’s like, I love your headshot. Who is that ? Who is that? Who is that? It’s like, I wanna be able to write,
SH (43:05):
It’s you in college, .
AJV (43:07):
Well, I be able to recognize you when I go find you online. And I’m like, wait, is this the same person? I don’t know. Did I, did I type the name in wrong? . so I think those things really do matter. And it shows that there’s care and attention to detail. So I know that we’re, we are already over time, but there’s one last question because I think this is really important and you can answer this as succinctly as you can or you want to, but we talked about content, categorically speaking assets again, barrier to entries, you’ve gotta be phenomenal both content and on stage. But at the end of the day, what does it take for someone to be a great candidate to work with a speaker’s bureau like Premier? Like what are you guys looking for?
SH (43:50):
Yep. Great quality, professional speakers. The stuff that we, we’ve touched on multiple times. The two most frequent ways. I get that question a lot. I have a lot of friends who are speakers. Honestly, I have a lot of friends who are speakers that we don’t represent because we aren’t the best home for them. But the two best ways to connect with Premier Speakers Bureau or any speakers bureau at this point is referral from one of their key speakers. We have out of those 2000 events last year, we probably booked about 600, 650 speakers. So a lot of those speakers we booked a couple of times. Mm-Hmm, , there were probably 20 speakers that we booked many, many times. We have a couple speakers that we booked 70 and 80 times in that one year, right? So when, when one of those speakers texts me and says, Hey, this, I’ve gotten to know this person, or I saw this person speak, they are amazing.
SH (44:43):
That moves the needle for me because I know what their litmus test for great is. And so that’s a great way to open a door. The last two speakers that we have, premier has signed exclusively, and we could unpack that another time. Which means all of their business comes to Premier, have been started as referrals from other people that are trusted speakers of ours. So that, that’s a, it’s proven to be the case. The other way is to take business away from a speaker’s bureau. So we, we have that core client base that I told you that, that most often we know like they’re gonna come back to us ’cause we serve them really well. We take great care of them, we answer the phone the first time it rings. We are good at best when we talk to them and they say, Hey, actually, you know, thanks, I’ll talk to you in a month and we’ll do business together, but my CEO saw this person speak and told me to go book them, and I did that that, that happens once.
SH (45:39):
Okay? That’s how life works. And CEOs say, go book a speaker and then they know it’s risky, but the CEO told ’em to do it. When that happens three or four times, that alerts us to that speaker is a, is attractive to the types of clients that we work with, right? So that quite often we will start a conversation with them. And many times over the last 23 years, that has ended up in a very strategic long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. But it started with them proving themselves by the way they proved it was they took business away from us, meaning clients that we value said, yeah, that’s somebody that we’re interested in. Most often, those two things connect up. Yeah. And the speaker we trust says, this person’s great. And we go, yeah, we’ve, we’ve heard that from clients too. At that point, it’s, it’s almost a no-brainer, but that, I wish that the easy answer was press this button and this thing will happen.
SH (46:35):
All of those things are nuanced and they all come down to relationships. Being great on stage is a starting point. Event planners will, being in love with how you do your business, if you’re a great speaker and are pain to work with, you won’t, you won’t make it, you won’t make it. You have to approach your business as Aer with a servant heart. Like I am coming to, to offer something to the people in this room, starting with that poor event planner, Stacy, who’s probably a mom of two kids and has three other jobs and is rolling the dice on this event. And if something goes wrong, she takes all the blame. She’s your first customer, right? Make her life amazing. Take great care of her. You’re gonna be amazing on stage. But if you do that a hundred times, the universe will love you. The market will love you. There’s no easy answers, there’s no easy fixes. It is just hard work, aj you know this, you and Rory did this. It’s hard work. You build a thing over time, and if you do it the right way, you look back in 10, 20 years and say, I’m proud of the things that I built.
AJV (47:41):
Amen. Preach it. I love that. And like, the underlying message that I hope everyone heard is like a part of the path of working with bureaus is that you actually already have to be on stages, right? Yes. Their job is to get you on the first stage or the 10th stage. Their job is to discover you after you’ve already been doing this long enough and good enough that other people are willing to tell other people about you. Which means that it starts with you, it starts with you
SH (48:13):
Perfectly said,
AJV (48:14):
Perfectly said, and you’ve gotta be the one to get on stages. And I, and it’s like back to everything in life. It’s a trusted source, referring someone is how business is still done. Regardless of how many things have gone online and how business has evolved, that has never changed, which is the power of a trusted referral. Mm-Hmm. And this is no different here, Shawn. Perfect. Thank you so much. You’re the best. This is so you and this is gonna be just so rich for everyone who takes the time to listen to it. And for those of you who are listening, if you guys wanna connect with Shawn, it’s Shawn Hanks. You can find him on LinkedIn. But if you wanna learn more about Shawn and his role and everyone else at Premier Speakers, just go to premier speakers.com and again, premier speakers.com. I’ll put all that in the show notes and if you wanna catch the recap episode of this then stay tuned. And if not, we’ll catch you next time on the influential Personal brand. We’ll see you later.
SH (49:17):
Thank you.