Ep 422: How to Build a $300 Million Training Company with Scott Jeffrey Miller

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On our show today is Scott Jeffrey Miller, a twenty-five-year FranklinCovey associate, serving as the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of thought leadership.

He is the host of On Leadership With Scott Miller, the world’s largest weekly leadership podcast, and CSuite Conversations with Scott Miller.

Scott is also the co-founding partner at Gray+Miller, a speaking, literary, and talent agency.

As you join the conversation, you’ll hear from Scott about what led to his recruitment by Franklin Covey, his account of the transition of the company from being privately held to becoming publicly traded, and how the business model changed as a result of the acquisition.

We also discuss the influence of a foundation built on successful books, Dr. Covey’s humility, and his stepping out of the way, and Scott highlights pivotal marketing strategies and the mantra at Franklin Covey.

To delve deeper into Scott’s insights on the viability of embracing and integrating personal and corporate brands, and more on how to build a $300 million training company, make sure to listen in now.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS EPISODE

  • Scott details his career journey and the circumstances that led to his recruitment by Franklin Covey.
  • He recounts Franklin Covey’s transition from a private to a publicly traded company.
  • The business model at Franklin Covey: before and after the acquisition.
  • The keystone that made it all fall into place: The foundation of successful books.
  • Deputizing people in his place, stepping out of the way, and how Dr. Covey checked his ego.
  • Pivotal marketing moments, the magic model, and the mantra at Franklin Covey.
  • Embracing and balancing corporate and personal brands (of executives): Is it possible?
  • Scott talks about his new book and upcoming books.
  • Where to find out more about Scott.
  • His advice to listeners: there are no shortcuts.

TWEETABLE MOMENTS

“People don’t quit leaders who love them.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:05:02]

“I became very aware of the difference between being effective and being efficient. One is not better than the other but they are very different and we sometimes irresponsibly use them interchangeably. Having an efficient mindset is not the same as having an effective mindset.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:05:31]

“I think it is important to diversify beyond your own namesake brand because you are not inhuman, you are going to die someday and you want your company to [be able to] endure that.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:08:00]

“The mantra [at Franklin Covey] is Nothing Sells Franklin Covey, Like a Franklin Covey Experience.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:22:26]

“People don’t follow companies on Instagram, they follow people. People don’t follow [companies] on LinkedIn, they follow people.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:28:26]

“The book business is really about influencing people and being able to monetize it in ways to speaking, courses, and things like that. I like to write books so that I am relevant to the clients I represent.” — @scottmillerj1 [0:35:39]

About Scott Jeffrey Miller

Capping a twenty-five-year career in which he served as chief marketing officer and executive vice president, Scott Miller is currently FranklinCovey’s senior advisor on thought leadership, leading the strategy, development, and publication of the firm’s bestselling books.

Miller hosts the FranklinCovey-sponsored On Leadership With Scott Miller, the world’s largest weekly leadership podcast, and C-Suite Conversations With Scott Miller, a podcast which features interviews with the world’s top executives.

Miller is the author of the multivolume series Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights from Our Greatest Business Minds (HarperCollins Leadership), which features insights from his interviews with the leading thinkers of our time, including Seth Godin, Susan Cain, Stedman Graham, Stephen M.R. Covey, Liz Wiseman, Mel Robbins, and many others. He is the coauthor of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team (Simon & Schuster) and the Mess to Success series, including Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow and Marketing Mess to Brand Success (Mango Publishing). He is recently released The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship (HarperCollins Leadership) in July of 2023, and is launching his 7th book in February of 2024, titled Career on Course: 10 Strategies to Take Your Career from Accidental to Deliberate.

In addition to supporting FranklinCovey’s global thought leadership efforts, Miller is the co-founding partner of Gray+Miller, a speaking, literary, and talent agency representing some of the world’s foremost leaders, authors, and thinkers.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Scott Jeffrey Miller

Scott Jeffrey Miller on LinkedIn

Scott Jeffrey Miller on Instagram

Scott Jeffrey Miller on X

Scott Jeffrey Miller on Facebook

Scott Jeffrey Miller Books

The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship: 13 Roles to Making a True Impact

Great Mentorship

Gray + Miller

Franklin Covey

Franklin Covey Planners

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything

AJ Vaden on LinkedIn

AJ Vaden on Twitter

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden on LinkedIn

Rory Vaden on Twitter

Take the Stairs

Brand Builders Group

Brand Builders Group Free Call

Brand Builders Group Resources

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Stitcher

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Apple

RV (00:01): It’s not that often that someone cold pitches us for our podcast, and then we agree to have them on. But Scott, Jeffrey Miller and his team, when they pitched us, I immediately was like, yeah, this is an easy yes. He was at 25 years, he had a career where he served as the chief marketing officer and the executive vice president for a little company you may have heard of, called Franklin Covey. He even still to this day, is the senior advisor on thought leadership, where he leads their strategy and development and the publication of their, you know, the firm’s bestselling books. He leads a host, their podcast, which is one of the biggest podcasts in the world on leadership. He personally has written seven books. He’s a Wall Street Journal, bestselling author himself. He’s got a new book coming out from Harper Collins called The Ultimate Mentoring Guide. And he also runs an agency, a speaking literary and talent agency called Gray and Miller. So I recognized all of his friends, all the work he’s done, and blown away by who this man knows how successful he’s been, what he’s been a part of. And so anyways, I was like, yes, I want to talk to Scott Jeffrey Miller, and here he is, Scott, Jeffrey Miller. SJM (01:19): Rory, thank you for the spotlight. Thank you for the platform. Looking forward to coming over and swimming in that pool behind you someday, but let’s get it on RV (01:27): . Yeah, man. So I know, I know you’ve got, you know, you’ve got lots of books and you’ve got this, you’ve got this new one coming out, the Ultimate Mentoring Guide. Maybe we could talk a little about, about that. What, what I would love to hear is I would love let SJM (01:42): We get the name right. And Rory, it’s the Ultimate Guide to great mentorship. You, you keep condensing it. Oh, RV (01:48): Well, this is what I got from your team, buddy. So we might wanna, SJM (01:51): Oh, they’re gonna be in trouble. We RV (01:53): Might , we might wanna double check They SJM (01:55): Need some inventory. . RV (01:57): I’m reading it. Well, and here’s what I would love, in all seriousness, I would, I would love to almost treat this as if I were a mentor of yours because at Brand Builders Group my wife and I started a company that we grew to eight figures, and then we sold it. And in that company I was more kind of like the c e o and, and and she was more of the business facing kind of person. And our new company, she is the c e o and I’m more like the C M O. And I’m just totally fascinated and curious about what was Franklin Covey like 25 years ago when you started, what did, what are all the things you did? How did you do that? I mean, obviously you have seven habits of Highly Effective People sells, you know, 20 plus million copies or however many it is. Like 50, is it, is that, is it 50 million now? 55 million? SJM (02:52): Yeah, keep going. RV (02:53): I mean, what’s another 20 million? Yeah, I mean, , so like, I would love to just hear the story of how you got there, how you found them. Yes. What you guys did, how it happened, what you learned, and then, you know, as a, as a young C m O or an up and coming c m o myself in this space. Like, what, what, what should I do? What do I need to know? We SJM (03:14): Are not that much younger than me. I mean, come on, let’s go Now. Wait, are you mentoring me or am I mentoring RV (03:19): You? You’re mentoring me. Uhhuh , I’m mentoring you. Okay. Well, I’m 40, I’m 41. SJM (03:23): Don’t flaunt. Don’t flaunt your good luck. RV (03:25): I’m just, I don’t know how old you are. You look very young, but you say 25. SJM (03:28): You’re I’m, I’m 43. RV (03:30): 43, okay, great. Yeah, so you’re, anyways, you’re mentoring me. Yeah, you’re my senior. SJM (03:34): I’m actually 55, but let’s answer your RV (03:36): Question. Ah, okay. There. It’s okay. SJM (03:38): Let’s see. Born and raised in central Florida. Orlando worked for the Walt Disney Company for four years until they invited me to leave, which is kind of how it goes there. So, , where does a single Catholic boy from Orlando move in 1996? Well, of course, to Provo, Utah, where all the Catholics were. I, I, I’m kidding. Of course, there wasn’t a single Catholic in Utah 29 years ago. But Dr. Covey and his team recruited me out to Utah and I started selling their leadership solutions to K 12 schools, universities. I then did a stint in the UK leading their UK operation for a couple of years, came back, ran their higher ed division, moved to Chicago for six years, ran their largest domestic leadership business outta Chicago, about a 17 state region, came back to mothership, which is in Salt Lake City about 15 years ago, got married, had three sons, became the chief marketing officer. SJM (04:29): The E V P of thought leadership had an amazing journey. This is of course a public global leadership firm. The most trusted leadership firm we think in the world. Never expected to say 25 years, but it was a great culture. People ask me why did I stay? I say, because the c e o loved me. So my advice to your wife is people don’t quit. Leaders who love them. Mm-Hmm. The CEO liked me with nothing in common. Right. I’m a Catholic, he’s a Mormon. He is like a Kona iron Man. I like, I walk past the Peloton and say hi. He’s very reserved. . I’m very impetuous. We’re very different people. But he cared greatly about me and my success and many times even protected me from myself. And I had an I meteoric rise in the company, an amazing opportunity. Met, you know, remarkable people like Stephen Covey, who tutored me for a decade. SJM (05:19): I became very aware of the difference between being effective and being efficient. One is not better than the other, but they’re very different. And we sometimes irresponsibly use them interchangeably. Right. Having an efficient mindset is not the same as having an effective mindset under our team’s leadership. We, you know, launched 10 New York Times. We journal bestsellers, which became the lifeblood of a company that really is at its heart, a leadership development firm. Wow. Books represent about 5% of the company’s revenue, if even that. And so books were the front of the spear, the tip of the spear, if you will. And so learned a lot, got humbled a few hundred times along the way, and had an amazing journey. Retired from the firm three years ago. I think the thing that I’m most proud of is I’m still married to my wife after 14 years, and the chairman of the board and the c e o still speak to me and hire me, and I’m still in good standing, not as an employee. And I’m very proud of my association. Yeah, RV (06:12): That’s really cool. That’s really cool about that. You, you know, you retired and you’re still, you’re still there. So you, you mentioned the revenue. Okay. ’cause and, and Franklin Covey is a public publicly traded company. Yeah. So were you, you were there when it was a privately held company. Was SJM (06:30): I was, when, RV (06:32): When did that happen and what was that like going from We are a small private company to now we are an actual publicly traded company because there’s one of the things that we talk about you know, like we have a, we have a course called Eight Figure Entrepreneur that’s one of the like you know, sections of curriculum that we have. And we talk about how almost no personal brands get to eight figures. Like very rarely they get to seven figures, multi seven figures. We call it the swamp. Between one and 3 million. They get stuck. Very few get to, you know, 10 you know, $10 million or eight figures. But then what you’re talking about are Franklin Covey is way past that. You’re in like Dave Ramsey land and like only a few companies that have ever gotten Yes. Into the nine figure territory. So like, how and why did you guys get there? Like how did you pull that off? SJM (07:24): Sure. It’s, it’s far, it’s a little bit complicated. You know, 300 plus million worldwide global company based here in Salt Lake City. I think I, I’m gonna answer your question two ways. One is, I think one of the reasons why these personality guru, you know, namesake companies don’t scale, is they become too contingent on the person. Mm-Hmm. , they become too guru focused, and you see them implode all the time. Right. You know, Atkins and others like that, that go bankrupt within 90 days of the guru founder passing away or having some issue. I think it’s important to diversify beyond your own namesake brand. ’cause You’re not inhuman. You’re going to die someday, and you want your company to endure that. I mean, look at Peter Drucker. I mean, no one under 30 knows who Peter Drucker even is anymore. Sadly. Yeah. I worry about my friend Jim Collins, right. SJM (08:15): A good friend of mine. And I don’t think Jim has made, in my opinion, all the right decisions on how to make sure his brand endures beyond his passing, like Stephen Covey did. So that idea of diversifying beyond you being the core brand, I think is important. To answer your bigger question, ours happened a little bit differently. So Covey Leadership Center was a private boutique leadership firm owned by Stephen Covey and Seven Investors. The Franklin Quest company, 30 miles North in Salt Lake City, was the planner company. Right. A much larger public company founded by Hiram Smith, but a public firm traded on the New York, New York Stock Exchange. They had a merger known as an acquisition. And so the public company, Franklin Quest, acquired the Covey Leadership Center and came to market as the Franklin Covey Company 25 years ago. Mm-Hmm. , the big difference, of course, was the obsessive quarterly focus, right. SJM (09:13): With revenue goals and cost of goods and margin and ebitda. So for 20, you know, six years we were consumed with ebitda. I think I was responsible for 100 quarters, quarter after quarter. You’re only as good as your EBITDA was this last quarter. That’s probably the biggest difference. The biggest challenge was as a private company, you could focus on top line growth and be a little less worried about ebitda. And as a public company, it was an all consuming passion because we had a fiduciary responsibility to not just individual investors, but to institutional investors that had put their, you know, their retirement funds and their, you know, their, their cash into our company. So we took it extremely seriously. And the stock at its low was, I think, under a dollar. We were threatened with de-listing, and I think a few months ago it hit 54. And so it’s been an amazing journey to be part of that wealth creation for millions of people, not to mention the hundreds of millions of people that access our content in their organizations. RV (10:16): Yeah. That is, that’s amazing. So it really happened then through the acquisition. So this, this company that did planners Yes. Saw the value of what Dr. Covey and the team was teaching, and then they basically acquired the IP and incorporated into their planners. SJM (10:32): That’s a great story. If that were, what happened, I think what really happened is you had kind of two arch rivals in the marketplace. Right? The Franklin Quest company was the world dominator in thought leadership around productivity and planning, planning tools, selling hundreds of millions of dollars of paper planners each year. They had hundreds of retail stores around the nation, but they didn’t have the, the organizational wide impact around leadership development and strategy execution. Franklin or the Covey Leadership Center also had a paper planner, had a few dozen retail stores, but that market was going to go away. The companies knew the future of productivity was not in a paper planner. We knew this, we’re often mocked about that, but I mean, we actually became the, the largest retailer of palm pilots in the world as we migrated from paper planning to digital planning. Although, you know, now paper planning is back with a resurgence. I don’t know anybody doesn’t use a paper planner tool, but it was the Covey Leadership Center that kind of came out on top because Dr. Covey’s brand was still peaking. And his book, the Seven Habits continues to sell, you know, a million copies a year, which is unheard of for a book published 29 plus 30 years ago. Right. Almost 40 years ago, actually. RV (11:48): Yeah, that is, that’s amazing. So if, so take so back in the days of Covey Leadership Center, like, like you said today, I guess you said 5% of revenue is books and I guess is that Well, SJM (12:02): Probably, probably 2%. I mean, books is about maybe three to $4 million a year of a $300 million company. It’s very small. RV (12:10): Okay. Is that what it was? So were you there when it was Covey Leadership Center? It was, I was, you were there. You were there before. Yeah. So what was SJM (12:19): The, I was there always , RV (12:21): What was the business model back then prior to the acquisition? It SJM (12:24): Was still similar. I mean, the books were always meant to be marketing tools. Not now, not, you know, overtly. Right. I mean, you and I share some passions and some business competencies. I’m asked daily how to write a, how to get a bestselling book. And I say, write a great book, . That’s how you get a bestselling book is write a solid book. You can market your way onto bestselling lists, but if you wanna have a great business, write a great book because nothing will get you business like word of mouth followership on a great book. So the book was always a small portion of revenue. The Covey Leadership Center was a, a, a leadership development company, right. Where we certified tens of thousands of professionals in our content to teach it back in their organization. We had a hundred plus consultants flying around the world, dropping down into Chick-fil-A and Home Depot and Exxon and Disney training leaders in the eighties, nineties, and two thousands. That still is the case. It is now a SaaS company. It’s primarily a technology company with world-class IP that you access digitally, but also live in person. Books were always the tip of the spear marketing strategy. And they also drove Dr. Covey to, at the time, the highest paid leadership consultant in the world at probably a buck 50 a day. RV (13:40): Uhhuh. Whoa. Wait, say that last part about per the, the daily rate you’re talking SJM (13:45): About. Yeah. Dr. Covey was earning $150,000 a day after his book became this, you know, seminal leadership book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So the book definitely Dro drove his personal income, right. Which was speaking, but it was mainly a marketing tool for organizations. ’cause What happened, Rory, is, you know, every year 5 million people read the seven Habits of Highly Affected People. And a million of them were leaders in organizations. And they said, oh my gosh, this book was personally transformative. I need my 30 team members to learn these principles. They would call us and spend $25,000 hiring someone from our company to come in for three days and train their staff. Or we had to train the trainer model. So we had, at any given time, you know, eight or 10,000 employees of other companies that were certified in our Train the trainer model. And that’s where the margin was. The margin wasn’t in flying a consultant around the nation. The margin was, you know, certifying 20 people at Toyota or 200 people to train our content and go train 30,000 people in the content where the margin on the workbook was 90%. Right. That was, that’s where the margin, that’s where half of the margin of the company was. And proba no half of the revenue, and probably 80% of the margin was in the train the trainer model. RV (15:03): And that’s because it was in the kits. ’cause You were shipping kit, you’re basically at that point just shipping kits. That’s right. All over the SJM (15:09): World. You’re, you’re taking orders all day long from 8,000 certified facilitators who don’t work for your company. They’re just your brand ambassador. They work for all these major Fortune 5,000 companies, and they’re in human resources and they’re training their people to be effective, and they’re training as many classes as possible so that they can create density in the organization to have a highly effective culture. So for us, it was a genius model where we’re selling world-class intellectual property in the form of a participant kit, digital or print. Now it’s mainly digital, then it was exclusively print. And now we’re growing across the world with 60 offices licensing people to represent us. And now you’ve got content translated into 25 languages. So when Exxon comes and they wanna have a true cultural transformation and train 80,000 employees across 40 countries, we can do it. RV (16:01): Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. That’s, that’s wild. And do you, do you think, was it really the success of the book that, that cascaded down and created the opportunity for everything else? Or was it really like the success of speaking? Or was it more the other way where it was like, no, we had a bunch of salespeople that were selling these train the trainers, and because we had so many of them, all those people started buying the book and it like, or is it, you know, can you look back and say, w what was sort of the keystone that made it all start to fall into place? SJM (16:33): It was actually exactly what you just described. First. It was the book. It was hundreds of thousands of people a month buying this book. And in it was a little paper card you could rip out and fill out and mail back to the company. I want more in, more information. I’m interested in attending a public program at a local hotel for my own personal development. I’m interested in becoming a certified facilitator. I’m interested in a keynote. I’m interested in bringing in a consultant. And thousands of these cars flowed back in the mail, like put a stamp on it and mail it back. Wow. Thousands a week came in. RV (17:13): Wow. SJM (17:14): And then you had Dr. Covey out speaking to every association, every board of directors, every conference out three and four times a day, gin up, you know, thousands and thousands of leads, and the phones were ringing off the hook like they used to do. So then you had to onboard salespeople to take all these thousands of inbound phone calls. There was no email. It was the phone in the mail, and you called people back and said, Rory, we got your inquiry card. Are you still interested? And we were just booking, you know, thousands of engagements every month, not to mention hundreds of open enrollment public programs. So there you, Dr. Covey couldn’t deliver all these, so you had to scale before you know it, you had two Coveys and then eight Coveys, and then 10 Coveys, and then 150 Coveys, meaning certified consultants that worked for our company that were out training our content. And then it just kept growing and growing and growing. And then we, you know, obviously built a massive marketing machine, and it really was based on the foundation of several books. It was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And then his son, Sean Covey, wrote the book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. This book has sold 10 million copies, and now Franklin, RV (18:23): Like teenagers, SJM (18:24): Teenagers, it’s the most successful youth leadership book in history. Franklin Covey now has a $50 million education division where they just simply sell leadership training to K 12 schools to train students and faculty and staff $50 million in the K 12 business. And then his oldest son Steven, m r Covey wrote a book called The Speed of Trust that sold 3 million copies that then became a huge trust offering how to become a high trust leader. Then they wrote books on execution and sales. And everyone became a Wall Street Journal bestseller because we made it happen ethically by having, you know, just having a tenacious work ethic and writing great books. By the way, these books took like five and six years to write these books that did really well. They didn’t write these books in nine months like I do with my books. Right. My books sell, you know, six, eight, 10,000 copies a year. They sell 300,000 copies because they take, you know, a decade sometimes to write these books. Mm-Hmm. RV (19:28): And when, when, how big was the company when you were there? Like when you started? SJM (19:34): Well, it was private, so I don’t know their revenue. It was private. We probably had, you know, 40 salespeople. Now they have 250. And so I’m gonna guess it was probably 50 million or 30 million. I don’t know. I was 25 years old and it was 30 years ago. And it was a private company, so it wasn’t disclosed or discussed RV (19:55): Uhhuh . But they had like, you know, maybe like a hundred employees or so, somewhere like 1500 employees, SJM (20:00): Something like that. Yeah. Now there’s probably about 1200 around the world. And not to mention, you know, literally hundreds of thousands of ambassadors, because what happens is when Rory leaves Exxon and goes to Disney, he brings the content with them. And then when he goes to, you know Twitter or X, he, he go, takes it there too. They could use the content by the way. But it’s what, what Dr. Covey did was he very quickly checked his ego. Mm. And one of his best talents was he was a very humble man. He did not need to be the star of the company. He did not need to be on stage. And he realized if the mission was to impact billions of people, that in order to scale, he had to deputize people in his place. Same character, same competence, and sometimes better competence. SJM (20:47): I, I don’t think Dr. Covey was a great presenter. I think he was a great teacher. But I mean, there’s a hundred people that deliver the content better than Dr. Covey ever did, in my opinion. That has nothing to do with whether he wasn’t a, a person of enormous influence and character. He was. But he realized if I’m gonna change the world and I’m gonna grow this company into a juggernaut, I gotta step out of the way. I’ve gotta recruit talent. He was a, he was a college professor. He wasn’t, he didn’t know how to run a company. He did. And he, and he did it beautifully in the beginning, but what I think he did best was he stepped out of the way and hired operators and marketers and people understood process. And then he was the intellectual property genius, creating new content and connecting with audiences, and then stepped outta the way to scale it with great salespeople and great delivery consultants, presenters, keynote speakers. Mm-Hmm. . RV (21:41): So when you think back over, like in the marketing role, c m o right? That’s a pretty big shift from 50 million to 300 million. That’s a long, that’s a lot of distance that you guys have covered. When you look at like, some of the big marketing initiatives that have, you know, made that effort. I mean, you talked about the pullout mailer card. Yes. Were there any other like really pivotal moments Yes. That you think back on SJM (22:08): One in particular, and it’s kind of a mantra at Franklin Covey where I no longer work or am an officer, but consult externally on a variety of things for the board and the chairman and the c e o and host two podcasts for them. The mantra is nothing sells Franklin Covey, like a Franklin Covey experience. Hmm. If you take Rory and you certify him as a bonafide Franklin Covey consultant, and you put Rory in, you know, a Western hotel room in Miami, and you get 70 chief learning officers, chief human resource officers, vice president of talent development in the room for three hours with Rory pro bono. Right. Serve a chicken lunch, no charge, get ’em in the room. Don’t try to sell anything to them. Just teach them the principles of engagement. Building a culture, how to be highly effective, how to build a high trust culture with where millennials come and stay. SJM (23:06): Eight of them will walk away and buy from you. 24, 22 won’t, but eight will and replicate that model. Get people to taste and feel the experience. It might be reading a book, it might be listening to an audio tape, it might be going to a three day public program at a Marriott with 40 people. You don’t know. It might be a marketing breakfast or a lunch might be a full day program where you invite, you know, CFOs to come and teach CFOs how to build an interpersonal culture where people choose to build their whole career under you. You’re gonna land 10 of them. And that’s what we did better than anybody in the world. Mm-Hmm. , there were years we were holding, you know, six and 700 marketing events, spending 30 and 40, well maybe not that much, but probably $20 million a year, putting tens of thousands of prospective decision makers in an experience free of charge. And then having a very calibrated follow up sales process. How to land them as clients. That’s a model that grew this company to a juggernaut. RV (24:13): Wow. And you were saying that those events might have like 30 people in ’em and typically something like that. They were small. It’s not like you’re packing out arenas, you’re just going No, SJM (24:23): Although we did, oh, we, we, we would have events at 200. But the magic model, honest to God, the magic model was, and this isn’t, you know, sales secret to Franklin Covey, but the magic model was curating the list very carefully, calling, inviting people to a non-sales event, underwriting it. Right. We’re not charging you for it. We’re gonna serve you lunch, you’re gonna be with your peers. There’ll be no sales pitch. We’re just gonna teach you X, Y, or Z. And, you know, you invite, you know, 200 and a hundred say yes. And then you vet ’em out and then 70 Promise they’re gonna come and 45 show up. So you set the room for 52, and then you’d give them just a quality experience where they can talk and you talk and they share, and you share and you share principles of effectiveness that they desperately need in their company. SJM (25:13): They desperately need people that have great skill sets around technical capabilities and hard skills, but most of them lack the soft skills now known as power skills. And you teach these power skills of interpersonal effectiveness. And we know to the precise algorithm who’s gonna buy, how long it will take and how much they will spend. And you get this formula, you tweak it, you tweak it, you massage it. What you do not do is you don’t shortcut it. You don’t invite ’em, pardon the phrase to a country. And in suites you don’t invite them to Ritz Carlton. You invite them to a, a a, an appropriate hotel that matches their culture and their comfortability. You put them in the right size room at the right time of the day for the right period of time, teach them great content, and then you follow up and you have a winning formula, of course, that, that, that contracted in the pandemic. SJM (26:08): Right. Everything became a podcast, a webinar, an email. And now I think they’re coming back to these live person events and they’re seeing enormous benefit because innately people are human creatures that crave connection and interpersonal relationships. And you get into a Franklin Covey room for even 90 minutes. Right. We have C-suite events that are just for the C-suite, 90 minutes. They’re usually breakfast seven to eight 30 ’cause a ’cause you know, a C-level person can do that. They can’t come to lunch, they can’t come to a three o’clock event or a 10 o’clock event. You’ll have an 80% no show rate. You’ll have a 90% show rate if you do a breakfast before the C-suite actually has to be in the office. Just kind of tweaking and playing. RV (26:52): Man, that is so awesome and simple and powerful, right. Of just, just adding value to people’s lives first and then letting it, letting it fall out from there. Yeah. You mentioned ego. I feel like the companies that get a chance to scale a a lot of times start to fall apart because of someone’s ego or a few people’s ego. And it’s interesting ’cause you wrote books while you were there, even though you’re retired now as your consultant. So you guys, you’ve mentioned even in the family, they had several personal brands, but also you had a personal brand that you were starting. What was the philosophy there? Because I feel like a lot of companies are not quick to embrace the idea of personal brands of the executives because there’s this fear of they’re gonna get too big for their britches and it causes conflict and jealousy and all these issues. But clearly you guys have done this. How have you balanced personal brands with the corporate brand SJM (27:49): Was not well received. RV (27:50): Ah, SJM (27:51): I was a pariah. The company’s culture, which by the way, I am an unabashed ambassador for Franklin Covey, if you want to change the culture of your company, Franklin Covey, in my opinion, is the most trustworthy, ethical provider of principles in the marketplace. I have nothing but a positive thing to say about this company, period. I’m an unabashed evangelist for them. They don’t pay me to do that. And at Franklin Covey, there was a philosophy that you can’t have a personal brand. It’s all about the company. It’s Franklin Covey. And I think it was a wrong decision. I think it was rooted in the culture of the dominant population in the state. You can read the lines there, but I think it was a dangerous misstep for the company because people don’t follow companies on Instagram. They follow people. People don’t follow people on LinkedIn. SJM (28:48): They follow people. And I think I was a pariah. I don’t think I was, I know for a fact I was a pariah for the last three years of my career there, where I started to write books. And my books did quite well because I marketed them and I built a brand with myself on YouTube and Instagram and LinkedIn and Facebook and you name it. I was very self-promotional. ’cause I knew that was the formula that was gonna take me. And I thought the company to the next level. I think the company is starting to really realize the benefit of raising up individual thought leaders in the organization. Not that are self-serving, but are in service to the brand, but can build a massive followership. People care more what Stephen, Mr. R Covey has to say about trust than they do what Franklin Covey has to say about trust. They care more about what Chris McChesney has to say about executing strategy. He’s the author of the Wall Street Journal, best history, RV (29:49): Foreign Disciplines of Execution. Yeah. SJM (29:50): Foreign disciplines. Right? Yeah. And so I think there’s a fine balance of not being a grandstander not being an opportunist while still building your brand. And so it wasn’t the case. I I I, there was a cross on the front yard with me and some flames on it for quite a while as I became the Johnny Apple seed of finding that delicate balance and tension of building your brand, not at the expense of, but in service with the overall all brand. And it’s, you know, not everybody gets it right. I didn’t always get it right. The c e o and I are very good friends to this day. He used to work for me, now I work for him. And so we talk a lot about that balance of not having your brand overshadow the company’s brand, but being able to each of you kind of ride each other’s waves in tandem for the service of the company, our clients and our shareholders. It, it’s a delicate balance. RV (30:48): Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. We, we, when we started Brand Builders Group you know, we, when we sold the last company, we had to start completely over on scratch and we had, you know, no social media assets, no team members or anything. And so when we were trying to reestablish our credibility, we conducted this national research study called Trends in Personal Branding. And we hired this PhD led research firm. And one of the whole sections of the study was asking the American population, are they, how much does the personal brands of the executives contribute to whether they re refer, buy, pay, more money work for those companies. And the data, this is statistically valid, right? Empirically validated data is shocking at how much they agree with what you just said, which is that they wanna know who the executives are, they trust the people more than the company brand, even if it’s been around a long time. Even if it’s a, it’s a big brand. Like we, we can prove that factually what you’re saying there SJM (31:52): Over and over and over again. Franklin Covey was an interesting test because we were a public company. There’s very few public leadership development firms Yeah. That were, you know, eccentrically founded on a guy who passed 10 years ago. And the company has grown independent of his foundation. Interdependent. And, but at the same time, rising up thought leaders that may or may not stay. I mean, one of my biggest contributions to the firm has been to judiciously select authors that are employees of the company that aren’t gonna leave two years from now when the book’s been outta the marketplace for a year and have to rewrite the book or extract them from the book or whatever. So we take great care with the people that write our books. Sometimes they leave, sometimes they usually they stay, we’ve only had two leave and like 30 years of authors, maybe three. SJM (32:42): But they’re all in good standing. Right. it’s a precarious balance that takes a lot of care and commitment and non-disclosures and privacy agreements and high trust. At the end of the day, you know, anybody can violate a non-compete and not be sued. At the end of the day, it’s your character to say, I hope, like I have modeled, I wanna build my brand independent of Franklin Covey not on the heels of their brand and not at the expense of their brand and never in spite of their brand. And I always want that company to serve well. And I think it’s why I’m still able to consult with them and earn a nice living with them because they know that I’m not trying to diminish their brand and I care passionate about what they do and who they are. We don’t agree on all decisions, but as I mentioned earlier, I think it’s the thing I’m second most proud of in life is that I’m able to not just peacefully coexist, but work well interdependently with them in the marketplace. SJM (33:39): Mm-Hmm. , let’s face it, we have very different brands, right. I’m a pretty outrageous person. I’m fairly precocious. I say what’s on my mind. I’ll, I’m known to drop a few F-bombs. I like a good four glasses of champagne on a Saturday or Sunday, or both after church. This is a very conservative company, enormously conservative, obsessively conservative. And so, and that, and to their benefit, right? In 40 years, they’ve never had a significant brand slip up. There’s never been a scandal. The company’s enormously ethical on their books, how they treat their people. Phenomenal place. And I think they deserve the credit that they, RV (34:16): That’s really cool too. I mean, they, they, you know, to what you’re saying about Dr. Covey and his humility in the first place, that became a culture of philosophy, the whole company that definitely it is really wonderful that there’s never that they’ve been able to reach the size and the magnitude of the impact and not have a lot of those kind of, you know, things going on at, you know, in a public, in a public sense of scandals and all of that. So well, tell us, tell us quickly about the new book. Tell us what you’re up to these days and would love to just hear a a little bit about that before we wrap up. SJM (34:49): Thanks. the book I just released from Harper Collins is called The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship book. They actually approached me, they thought that the space needed a very practical book on mentorship and had written several books for them called Master Mentors that are books based on the podcast that I host for them on leadership with Scott Miller. And I’m very pleased with the success of the book out of the gates, including a a robust keynote roster that I have coming up, usually about three a week in person right now. So I’m on the road a lot, which is tough ’cause my wife and I have three young sons. I have a new book behind Me in yellow coming out in February called Career on Course from Baker Up in Michigan. It’s 10 strategies to take your career from accidental to intentional. I have two more books in the queue that are will be coming out in, in 2025. That’s RV (35:39): A lot of books, man. You’re cranking out some books. SJM (35:41): I like to write books and speak because as you mentioned, I’m a talent agent. I co-own a fast growing, speaking literary and talent agent. So I like to know what my clients are going through. I like to know how to make a bestseller, how to build a brand, how to build a website, how to build your social media, how to build a speaking career, how to productize and monetize your intellectual property in a book into courses and certifications. No one’s making money on books, but Donald Miller, he’s making some money. Amy Porterfield’s making some money. They RV (36:13): Sell a lot of books if you, SJM (36:14): What’s that? If RV (36:15): You sell enough books, right. SJM (36:17): Enough books. But yeah, the book business is really about influencing people and being able to monetize it in ways through speaking in courses and things like that. And I like to write books so that I am relevant to the clients I represent. Mm-Hmm. . RV (36:29): Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Where do you want people to go if they wanna connect and learn more about you? Scott, SJM (36:35): Champagne Region of France. We can link up and hook up down there in southern France. No you can visit Scott Jeffrey Miller dot com. I like a good glass of champagne, bro. You can visit great mentorship.com. Love to have you follow me on any social platform to my wife’s who I’m on them all multiple times a day. RV (36:55): Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Well you know, if there’s somebody listening right now who has a vision to scale, you know, their personal brand into a real business and, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re thinking to themselves. Yeah. Not only is this a book, but it’s a movement and a mission and a company, and it’s something that one day maybe could become something that would really outlast me and provide job opportunities and, you know, equity for shareholders. What’s, what, what’s the, what piece of encouragement or advice would you just kind of give that person who has that grand of a dream, but who’s starting really small? SJM (37:33): There’s no shortcuts. There’s no such thing as overnight success. Hmm. There is overnight fame and it’s usually Ill-gotten and fleeting. But you look at the consistency behind people like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Liz Wiseman, Susan Kane, Kim Scott, Rachel Hollis, Lewis Howes, Donald Miller, Amy Porterfield, on, on and on. These people were not overnight sensations. I met Amy Porterfield four years ago. We were both speaking at Rachel Hollis and Dave Hollis’s Thrive Business event in Charleston. I didn’t even know who Amy Porterfield was. She obviously was a big name in the, you know, entrepreneurship email world. I didn’t even know who she was. Look at her today. Amy Porterfield owns America. It’s like amazing. This did not happen overnight. Look at Donald Miller’s influence, right? It’s just Rachel Hollis a good friend of mine. I think it took her six books. She wrote six books until her book was finally in a bookstore and became a bestseller. SJM (38:37): You never heard of Rachel Hollis’s first six books? You gotta build your brand consistently, carefully find who your niche audience is. I think Seth Golden is a genius. I’m honored to be friends with him and have him endorse my books. He talks about this idea of this smallest viable market. I think most of us that have been to business school, we think about the total addressable market or the largest market. Know what is your fa, smallest, viable market? How few people can you build your business around? What are their names? What are the things I like most about Rachel at her peak? And I still, like Rachel had a rough couple years, I see her back on the rise. I’m a big Rachel Hollis fan is she knew exactly who her customer was. She knew what her name was, her age, her fears, her passions, her talents, her weaknesses, her traumas, her dramas. She knew exactly who her customer was. Like no one I’d ever met in my life. Focus on your smallest viable market and take your time. Dr. Covey spent 10 years writing the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He was 54 when that book became a bestseller. Take your time. It’ll come. RV (39:48): Wow. I love that. What a word. What a word. Well, Scott, Jeffrey Miller, it’s great to meet you. I’m so glad your team cold pitched me such an impressive career, amazing story. And we’ll be following you closely, man, and wishing you the best. You SJM (40:05): And I gonna have lunch in Nashville. I’m treating RV (40:07): Sounds good. I’m in for it. I’ll see you then in touch. SJM (40:10): Thanks for the platform, Rory. Nice meeting you.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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