Ep 432: Charge More by Doing Less with David Baker

AJV (00:02):
Hey, everybody, welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast. This is AJ Vaden here today, and super excited get to interview a, a fellow Nashvillian today. And also David is a, a brand new acquaintance of mine. I actually got cold pitch pitched him, which I, one out of a hundred times will say yes to those. But I thought this conversation looked super interesting. So I thought this would be worth coming onto our show because he is teaching the business of expertise. And as you guys all know, we talk a lot about the importance of being an expert in your field on this show. So what a better way to kick off today’s show with some conversation around what it means to be an expert and the pros and cons and everything in between. So, before I formally introduce David, I just want to give you a little preview of why you stick, need to stick around to the very end.
AJV (00:59):
I would say these are some of the highlights that I kind of pulled out of this, but I’m like, yeah, I wanna, I wanna know the answers to these things. So if you have a question around why long-term relationships could be dangerous for your advisory practice, then you’re gonna wanna stick around if you wanna talk about productizing your service offerings. ’cause I know so many of us are constantly going, man, like, how do I get out of the business of exchanging time for money, constantly time for money? Then this is an interview for you, and if you wanna just in general talk about how to position yourself as an expert, then this is a show that you don’t wanna miss. So, stick around. Don’t fast forward, don’t hang up early. Listen to the entire show. And then you can also catch the recap episode shortly after this.
AJV (01:49):
So now let me formally introduce you to David Baker. Here’s something that’s fascinating. He grew up with a tribe of Mayan and Inmans Indians in Guatemala. And we were just talking. He said, why is your zoom in Spanish? And I’m like, oh my gosh. I was just in Mexico and I couldn’t get it out. And he was like, oh, well, you know, I speak Spanish. I grew up in Guatemala, but not just grew up in Guatemala. Grew up with Mayan Indians. He’s also a airplane pilot, a photographer. He rides motorcycles. He lives here in Nashville, which is a super plus for me. But his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, fast Company, U Ss a Today, Inc. Magazine, Forbes. I could go on and on and on, but instead of me telling you about him, why don’t I just introduce him? So, David, welcome to the show.
DB (02:37):
Thank you. Thank you. You got me all excited about sticking around for this. It’s like, wow, that’s sounds interesting. And how did I not pick up that? You’re in Nashville too. I, I when you told me that just a minute ago, I thought, well, how have we not met? I know. Yeah. That’s, that’s great. Thank you for having me.
AJV (02:53):
Love getting to meet other people who live in Nashville. ’cause I feel like so many of my friends today don’t live here. So when I meet somebody else who’s local, it’s a, it’s an extra treat. So as we get into this conversation just to help our audience a and b get to know you a little bit better, can you just kind of give us like a high level overview of how did you go from growing up in Guatemala to moving to Nashville, to writing books, to speaking and podcasting? Like how did this all come about?
DB (03:23):
Well, I’m a total fraud, and this is the, I’ve chosen to say that on your podcast the first time. No, I, my parents were medical missionaries. That’s how I grew up in Guatemala. So, lived in Costa Rica for a year while they learned Spanish, very poorly, learned it . And then we lived in Guatemala for 13 years. Dad was a dentist, mom was a nurse. And so I came to live in the US when I was 18. And boy, we could talk for hours about how, how many embarrassing situations there were the first time I came to the us right? I had no idea about anything here. And I went to school before that, basically taught myself. I didn’t really go to formal school until I came to the US High School, and decided I wanted an academic career. So, spent five years in grad school and so on.
DB (04:11):
And then one day, just with a lot of hubris, honestly, I was talking with my wife. I was sitting on the couch and I said, you know what? The ads in this local newspaper really suck. They’re just like, I could do better than this. I don’t know anything about it, but I think I could do better. So I started an ad agency, didn’t know, had never worked at one, didn’t know anybody else in the field, did it for six years. And it was a pretty ordinary, average firm, you know, it, it was successful, but not wildly successful. But as a part of that process, I subscribed to a newsletter. And part of what came with that subscription is that you could ask the newsletter editor questions for free. I think it was, that was his way of just staying in touch with the market. And one day I said to him, why don’t, why don’t you advise your clients rather than just doing a newsletter?
DB (05:02):
Why don’t you do consulting for them? And he gave me his reasons for why he wasn’t interested, but he said, why don’t you do it? And before I could even think about that, the answer to it, I, he said, and I’ll just put an ad in the newsletter, and you just gimme 10% of whatever you make. And I didn’t think much would come of it, but it seemed like kind of an interesting idea. And people started calling, and very quickly, within six months, it just completely took my life over. I think people were hungry for just business advice. And so that it was somewhat accidental, but I embraced it very quickly with sort of a combination of some expertise and a lot of curiosity and willingness to kind of be out in front of my skis a lot. And since then, obviously it’s been, that just really started the process of learning. And so I just, I feel like I’m just learning a lot all the time and helping people in the process process. So that was 30 years ago, next March when I started this firm and worked all across the world with thousands of firms, and just really love what I do. So I, I’m completely irrelevant to most of the world, but I want to be deeply relevant to a small part of it. And that’s small consulting, branding sort of firms.
AJV (06:16):
Well, I love that. ’cause I think that’s all of our challenges, right? If we try to be everything to everyone, then we are nothing to no one , right? I love having that, you know, kind of niche focus now. And also, it’s like in the midst of all this other stuff you’ve been doing, you’ve also somehow managed to write five books.
DB (06:35):
Six, but only four of them were any good, but, so let’s just say four. Yeah. .
AJV (06:41):
So a, a huge part of the audience that listens to this show. It’s also, you know, an aspiring author, aspiring speaker. Mm-Hmm. And so what would you say is like, how have you written so many books? Like what would you say is your inspiration? What’s your process and how do you find time to do that in also the midst of all the other stuff you have going on?
DB (07:02):
Hmm. Gosh, I love that question. Not many people ask it. I, I really, really love that question. You know, I think it starts in my mind with having a business that makes enough money that I don’t have to work all the time. So, a business that delivers enough extra time for me to, without any guilt, spend time working on it. That’s part of the answer. I think the other is that I feel like at my core, I’m an author who happens to be a speaker, and who happens to be a consultant. I’m, I’m really feel like I ha I have to say things, even if nobody’s listening, I have to say things. And so, what really makes me think I love this question is, so I, I’m getting ready to do a talk next week, and it’s a new one. I never give the same talk again.
DB (07:53):
I just can’t do it. I, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying I can’t do it. So I’m thinking about what am I gonna talk about? And the topic is, surely there’s more. And then realize, oh my gosh, do I really have anything new to say? And I, I just, just for fun, I added up all the stuff I’ve written, and it ended up being 2 million, 400,000 words over the last published words. So, and a 10th of those are across all of the books, right? So 90% were in other things, articles or podcast episodes or whatever. And so many things hit me after I realized that it’s like, okay, with a narrow focus focus, you, you never run out of things to say, now you think you’re going to, but the narrow your focus, the more you never run out of things to say, I have more unwritten articles now where I have the idea that I’ve ever had in my life, even after written two, 2.4 million words.
DB (08:50):
That’s one thing. The other is that I, like, not that many people read the articles I write, but the articles create an audience who then are going to buy the books and the articles are how I work out what I think. And those things get shaped into a book, right? So if I’d written a book without all of that, all those years of work writing articles, then I wouldn’t have an audience and I wouldn’t have thought through all of these things. So I feel like there’s sort of this mix, this weird mix. You’ve got to have a blog or something that forces you on a regular basis, maybe it’s a podcast, whatever it is that forces you to keep figuring out what you think mm-hmm. , and then you turn that into a book, which then does so many other things for you. Right? So, to me, and I’ll just end with this, and thank you again for the question. An author is somebody who uses a book to force the process of figuring out what you think about something. So it’s not, the clarity comes in the articulation, not before. So I don’t know what I think until I start writing.
AJV (10:03):
DB (10:03):
I’ll never figure that out until I start writing. So it’s not, oh, clarity. Now, let me write that down. No, it’s like, until I, I wrestle with articulating what I’m thinking, then the clarity comes. So to me, writing is how I figure out what I think.
AJV (10:19):
Hmm. That’s so good. And I loved your comment too about, you know, blogging or even podcasting or just creating content, whatever it is, it’s like, that is the arc of figuring out what you have to say. It’s, it, it takes practice, right? It’s like with anything, in order to be good at anything, you have to do it a lot. And the same thing goes with our thoughts and what we have to say. I love that. Yeah.
DB (10:43):
Yeah. I mean, you’re, so you’re doing this podcast and you’re doing it, I think it’s twice a week, right? Or, you know, it’s regularly. And there are probably times when you think, oh, today I am so excited about another time. It’s like, I don’t know really what I’m gonna say. I don’t know, do I have anything new to add? But this forces you to be on stage and people like you and me and your listeners, we don’t wanna look stupid. Yeah.
AJV (11:07):
DB (11:07):
Don’t wanna look stupid. And we’re trying to, we’re like, I wanna stand in front of a group, and then I want to open it up for questions, and I want to not fear a single question that would come my way. And unless you keep putting yourself on the stage in a light, you’re you, you don’t refine what you think. Right. Because, and what forces you to refine it is you don’t wanna look stupid. That’s just, it’s a natural instinct. Right?
AJV (11:33):
Oh, I love that. It’s the whole concept. It’s like, I love that just that idea of like, you can only refine what you think if you talk about it all the time. Right?
DB (11:41):
Right. Yeah.
AJV (11:42):
And I think that, you know, for most people, you know, myself included, sometimes it’s like we struggle with wanting to be a generalist. Like we struggle with, oh, you know, I just think about the amount of speaker press, Kitts that I review for our community at Brand Builders Group. And it’s like, I can speak on nutrition, health, fitness, mindset, goal setting. And I’m like, no, you can’t , .
DB (12:06):
Yeah. Yeah. I
AJV (12:06):
Can’t. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And I love that too. It’s like your entire thing is that like, like narrow it down, right? That’s the, that’s the goal of expertise, right? Mm-Hmm. , like you can only be an expert in a few things by choice. And so there are two things that you said that I wanna kind of loop back to. ’cause I think one of these is going to be like radars, just like bells dinging, ding, dinging, ding, dinging. Going off for our audience, you said that one of the keys that allows you to spend time doing things like writing books and creating content is building a business where you don’t have to work all the time. Mm-Hmm. . So tell us, how do you do that,
DB (12:47):
? So I think there’s lots of, obviously there’s so many answers to that question, but I, to me, the core to that question is not about us knowing the right thing to do, it’s really more about how do we give ourselves the courage to do the right thing to do. So I know what I should be charging and all that, but if I don’t have enough people lined up, willing to pay that mm-hmm. , then it just doesn’t matter. It’s sort of like, like my dad used to say, it’s like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You get a warm feeling, but nobody notices. It’s like, you know, it’s like, that’s not gonna really fix anything. So to me, you need to have a really tight positioning that then allows you to build a strong marketing plan.
AJV (13:36):
DB (13:36):
That then allows you to have excess opportunity that you can waste some of. So if, if you’ve got two options, two potential clients that wanna hire you, then you just choose the one that’s the better client. That doesn’t take any courage at all. But what takes a lot of courage is to say no to one opportunity that isn’t a great fit. So don’t put yourself in those positions. Put yourself in a position where you don’t have to muster all that courage. It’s not a question of knowing the right thing, it’s a question of having the right courage. Hmm. So I I just added a second person recently, but up for all these years, it was just me. Okay. And Billings were somewhere between 900001.7 million, and that’s taking about 10 weeks off a year. I’m not proud of that. We don’t use all that money. We don’t need all that money. That’s not, I’m not saying that I’m better than anybody that way, I’m just saying mm-hmm.
AJV (14:33):
, you
DB (14:33):
Can, you can make a lot of money. You don’t have to be a big firm to make a lot of money. And what that, what that income allows me to do, what it gives me is the freedom to go out and figure things out and then write books, and then that just layers better marketing on top and more opportunity. I can be choos or, and choos or, and it’s just this cycle that repeats and helps make you better and better. Right. The world is just way too complex anymore to pretend that you can know everything about everything you, I’m feeding back to the comment you just made about the generalist, right? Like, people don’t pay a lot of money for generalists. They just don’t, they want, like, if you’re in a messy divorce or some kind of bankruptcy or whatever it is that’s, or a medical issue in your life, all you care about is hiring somebody that knows exactly how to help you in this situation. And, and the money doesn’t matter. Right. But when it’s like you need something done around your house and you just find a handyman that can do most anything and maybe not great at anything, that’s good enough. Right? Like, this is how we think and that’s how our clients think too.
AJV (15:41):
Yeah. I think, you know, one of the things that people struggle with so much is being afraid to be narrow. Mm-Hmm.
DB (15:50):
, right?
AJV (15:50):
Right. They’ve got FOMO , they’ve got FOMO in the business sense of, well, I don’t wanna say no to that opportunity, so I’ll say yes, even though I don’t really know that very well, but I’ll figure it out. Right.
DB (16:02):
Right, right.
AJV (16:03):
I know that in my previous consulting life, I said yes to all kinds of stuff that I should not have said yes to. ’cause I’m like, ah, if they can do it, I can do it. I’ll figure it out. Mm-Hmm. But then it took 10 times the amount of time and effort and energy and resources to go and do that for the same price. Mm-Hmm.
DB (16:19):
AJV (16:19):
Guess it wasn’t that thing that I could do in my sleep. Right,
DB (16:22):
AJV (16:23):
Yeah, go ahead.
DB (16:24):
Well, I was just gonna say that sort of ties in with the whole idea of packaging productizing your services too, right? Because you want the efficiency that comes from doing, like, you, you should be leading that relationship. You’re not simply listening to what a client needs, and then you’re taking orders like a waiter would and says, oh, you need that, that, that, okay, now I’ll put, I’ll put together the perfect solution for you. No, it’s like, you’ve done this enough that you know generally what they need, so much so that you can put together a package and either they buy the package or they don’t, and if they buy the package, this allows you to be very efficient in how you work with clients. It also allows you to notice the patterns from one client to the next because you’re doing similar things for each of them. So it just, it, it really builds your practice better.
AJV (17:15):
Yeah. And I love that. So let’s talk about that for a second because that was one of the other things that you had said earlier, is this idea of productizing, right? Mm-Hmm. Your service offerings. So what do you mean by that? How do you do that? Like, what advice would you give people out there going Yes, yes. Like, how do you do that? Help me. Help me. Yeah.
DB (17:33):
Yeah. So here, here’s an illustration. So let’s say I’m going under the knife for surgery, and I’m a little bit nervous, and I talk to the, you know, the, the anesthesiologist will come in first, and, and then the surgeon will come in and they’ll ask you some questions. And usually it’s very perfunctory. But what if you just slowed that down a little bit and you said, Hey, I’m nervous. Can you tell me how you do this? Like, what, what are the steps that you follow? Here’s what you don’t want to hear to the dancer. It’s like, well, listen, I’ve done this a lot. You really need to trust me. I’m just gonna cut you open first. That’s the first thing I always do. Then I’m just gonna kind of look around and figure out what seems like it’s in the right place and what isn’t.
DB (18:15):
And depending on, you know, and like, no, you want, you want 17 steps in order. You want to know that they have done this many times before, that they’re an expert, and you’re, you’re putting yourself in the hands of somebody else. Now, a consulting relationship is not quite as important or critical as that, but your clients have a right to know how you think in advance, what, how you think about certain things and how you go about things. Because what they want to know is that you have applied a process in the past, and if you apply the same process for them, it’s likely to result in something good for them. Right? There’s a good result at the end of it. Productizing your service means that you you approach things in a pretty normal way and this in a regular way. And that regular way should be informed by your, your positioning, right?
DB (19:17):
So, my productized service should be very different than yours. And I also use a productized service to protect myself. So if a client comes to me and they’re sort of a hot mess, they just need lots and lots of help, and I wanna help them, right? But they want a fixed price. And I’m thinking, man, I don’t have any idea. I I don’t wanna learn all this on my own dime and figure this out for you. Like with an unpaid proposal that’s 80 pages long or something, I, I want to protect myself. So if I’m gonna give you a fixed price, I’m gonna have to shoot really high to protect myself. That’s not in your best interest either. So let’s start with a diagnostic or a road roadmapping exercise. Maybe it lasts for two weeks. Mm-Hmm.
Speaker 3 (19:58):
, maybe
DB (19:59):
It’s $10,000 or 20 or five or whatever it is. And if you’re gonna start going down the productized path, that’s what you would always start with, is how a relationship begins. Picture that you’re on a plane with somebody, you’re both in first class, you’re just chatting. It turns out that they’re possibly a client of yours, they’re a candidate client, they’re not happy with whoever they’re using now. And they’re so intrigued that they say, you know what? This is really interesting. I can’t believe we just kind of ran into each other here. How would you start with somebody like me? You ought to be able to pull up a webpage and say, this is exactly how we start. We call it this. It costs this, it takes this long. This is what it involves. That’s productizing your service offerings. And that’s how you do it to start with at the beginning. And then you can productize everything else as well down the line.
AJV (20:49):
Yeah. No, I love that. It’s like the first product that you sell is a diagnostic.
DB (20:54):
Yeah. Right. Right.
AJV (20:54):
I said, I can’t tell you what you need until I get in there and know what you need.
DB (20:59):
Yeah. Right. Right. Exactly. And, and this ought to be at least as profitable as anything else you do for the client. This should not be a loss leader, right? This is not, you shouldn’t have on your website. Click here for a free 60 minute consultation. It’s like, no, you’re giving away your very best thoughts at that point. Instead, those early conversations should be about whether it’s a good fit. Like, tell me what you’re, what you’re facing, and let me tell you how I approach things and, and how I think about these kinds of things now. Okay. It seems like it’s a good fit. Now let’s do this diagnostic and really figure out what’s wrong, and then we’ll spend the rest of the money way more effectively, rather than just sort of bouncing around at the beginning without knowing where we’re headed.
AJV (21:47):
Now, would you also suggest when people come back from a, you know, diagnostic research type of engagement, that they also have a, a set suite of offerings? Yes. Or, yeah. So can we talk
DB (21:59):
Absolutely about that
AJV (22:00):
A little bit? Like how do people determine like, what are my suite of offerings?
DB (22:04):
Yeah. In
AJV (22:05):
Consultative arrangement.
DB (22:07):
That’s, it’s really good to think about that one. And so not too far from where you’re, where you live. I think it’s at the what’s the mall? The really big, the Green Hills Mall near where you live, right? Mm-Hmm. , I think there’s a Cheesecake Factory there. Yep. And a lot of firms, their list of services looks like the Cheesecake Factory menu.
AJV (22:30):
45 pages long. Yes.
DB (22:33):
. Yeah. . And it’s because they’re so, they don’t have a marketing plan. They’re so hungry for opportunity. They’re just standing on the corner with wearing a sandwich, board sign saying, yes, whatever you need, I can do it. And so their service offering does list just looks enormous. Right? Instead, experts should have more like the fixed price, sort of that French menu where there’s, there’s six courses and it’s always the same, no substitutes. It’s very expensive. You’ve gotta get on a waiting list to get it. So the theory is service offering design theory, the main theory there is that most of your client should use most of your services most of the time. Okay. That’s the key. They should use most of your services most of the time. So that should lead all the way back to the very beginning. The conversation you have to assess fit, are, do you want to do, are you gonna need all of these things?
DB (23:31):
‘Cause This is the best client relationships mean that we do these things for you. Otherwise, and this is particularly true, if you have a large firm with a lot of people doing different things, if they don’t wanna use this one third of your services, then you’re gonna lose a lot, lot of money because these people are just sitting around, right? So the best advisors lead the relationship and they’re gonna listen to what the client thinks they need, but then they’re going to say, nah this is what you really need. You need this list of services. And so it should be very specific. It should be in order, and there should be less and less variety around them. And if more and more clients aren’t using a particular thing, then just drop it off. It’s hard to be more specific than that. But generally, you always want a first one, like that road roadmapping thing you were talking about.
DB (24:18):
And then you probably want four or five or six other things on there. If people wanna get a sense of how to productize their services, we just released a completely new website. And I like I’m not sure your listeners or clients of mine, I’m not saying it for that reason, but they might want to look at the service offering. So they’re all very specific. They’re packaged in different ways. They’re all priced. That’s how you want to think about it. You want to get away from Cheesecake Factory menu towards the fixed price sort of menu.
AJV (24:45):
Yeah. What’s what, what website should you go to? If you picked,
DB (24:49):
Oh, sorry. Yeah, I didn’t even say right. Punctuation.Com. Yeah, it just released yesterday. So
AJV (24:54):
Punctuation.Com, if you wanna go, just check out what a suite of offerings mm-hmm. could look at, look like. You know, one of the things that, you know, I kind of heard you say without you saying it is charge more by offering less.
DB (25:09):
Right? Right,
AJV (25:10):
Right. A huge part of this, it’s like when you offer less, then you can become better at it, which means you can charge more for it. Right. You can charge at a, a premium. But it’s like when you have 20, 30 things that you’re trying to do, it’s like, then you’re never doing the same thing enough to go, man, I can literally do this in my sleep. Yeah. It doesn’t mean near enough time to complete the same task. And
DB (25:34):
Don’t you think there’s sort of a dirty secret in our industry that many of us in our hearts don’t really believe we’re worth the money?
AJV (25:42):
Oh, yeah,
DB (25:43):
Definitely. And, and so we overdeliver, we, we keep checking in more than we need to. We write reports that are totally unnecessary, and let it, let’s just like, if you wanna report, take notes, I mean, that’s how we ought to think about this stuff, right? But we’re still, we’re so oversensitive about delivering value that we’re undercutting ourselves constantly. And if you are, I wrote a more recent book called Secret Trade Craft, and one of the things I said in there is that as you mature in your particular field, you should deliver less for more. Mm-Hmm. , but you’re not ripping anybody off. What you’re doing is you’re removing the noise that you
AJV (26:27):
DB (26:28):
To clients to justify your views because you were you were not very confident, right? Yeah. And, and, and you strip all that stuff out and you get to the core of what they need to hear. And this is really, really valuable because experts know how to cut to the chase. Right. And they’re not embarrassed by how simple their advice is that, anyway, I just wanna, I I, I wish I could preach that from the mountaintops,
AJV (26:54):
. I mean, but that’s so true. It’s like, there, there is so much power and beauty in the simplicity of things. It’s like the more complex it is, the more overwhelming it feels. Right? Right. It’s like I was just, I just finished reading, I’m like the last person on the planet to read Atomic Habits, but it’s clear it’s been in my queue for years, and I just finally finished reading it last month. And my husband was like, well, what’d you like about it? And I said, honestly, the simplicity.
DB (27:23):
AJV (27:24):
I now know why this book is constantly selling thousands of copies every single week. Mm-Hmm. , it’s simple. Mm-Hmm. , it’s easy to implement, easy to remember. It’s not complex. It’s pretty common sense, but it’s organized in a fashion that makes it feel really easy to do.
DB (27:42):
Mm-Hmm. , and he’s got the right last name. Right. Clear. He’s got the
AJV (27:46):
Right name. Clear . But it’s like, it’s one of those things, it’s like when we present things that are simple in nature, on the one hand it’s like, did I just pay all that money for that? But on the other hand, it’s like, but I can also go and execute
DB (27:58):
Mm-Hmm. . Right?
AJV (27:59):
And there’s power in that. So I love that. I love that idea of productizing it by starting with a diagnostic and then, then you can go, okay, all the things I offer, you need one, four, and five.
DB (28:10):
Right, exactly. Right. Yeah. And I know how to charge for it. We don’t have to waste a lot of time figuring that out. Right. No scoping questions.
AJV (28:18):
I love that. That’s so, it’s, it’s good sage advice for all of us where we feel like we have to offer everything to remember. No, you don’t.
DB (28:27):
Yeah. No, you don’t. It’s motivated, it’s motivated by our own insecurities more than it is. And when you have a client who’s pushing you to deliver everything, they’re not a qualified client. Mm-Hmm.
AJV (28:36):
DB (28:37):
Like a qualified client trusts you to do just what they need and not, and not waste their time with anything extra.
AJV (28:43):
And that’s where that courage to say, no, you’re not of me. No, I don’t do that. That really comes in. I love that. So, so good. That’s such wanted advice. Okay, next question. ’cause I know I’m watching the clock and I promised, you know, 45 minutes. But I would love to know like, what are some of these like, positioning mistakes that people make? So we’ve been kind of talking about, you know, this idea of like, position yourself in a way that you are this expert mm-hmm. . So I’d love to talk about how do you position yourself as an expert, but then I think a lot of people, they get, what they’re really caught up in is they’ve already made all of these bad choices of saying yes to clients. They should have said no to, yes. To stuff they don’t know.
AJV (29:27):
And now they’re like, how do I get out of this? Mm-Hmm. . Because now you’re kind of stuck in it. And even for some people, they’ve become known for something that they don’t even really like doing. Right. And it’s far, far away from their true expertise because they kept saying yes. Mm-Hmm. to the wrong thing. Mm-Hmm. . So I would love to know two things here. One, what are some of the most frequent positioning mistakes? And how do we stop doing that? And then secondly, for everyone who is listening, who is in this, you know, consulting, coaching, you know, kind of training, whatever you wanna call yourself, author, speaker, a world, like how do you position yourself as that expert in blank
DB (30:04):
Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. Some people, for whatever reason, they make the right positioning decision right out of the gate. But I think that’s the minority of folks, right? I’m really talking, you and I are talking about the folks who have kind of wandered this path and things have started very broadly and they just stayed broad forever, right? So the first thing is, we’re not want wanting to manufacture expertise. We, the, whatever our declared tighter focus is, it’s going to emerge from something that we’ve done many times for other people already, right? So we’re not just making up expertise. The the, the difficulty comes, though, in that we have all of these options. So the exercise I usually ask people to go through is, okay, look back over the work you’ve done. Think of all the times where you have made good money, you have moved the needle on the client’s behalf.
DB (31:01):
And if you want, I leave this out, but if you want, did you enjoy the work? So those three things, and you’re gonna end up with this map of maybe five to 20 different options, right? Then the next thing you do is try to draw a circle around the things that you’re going to include in your new positioning. And this is where the tension comes, because your tendency is to want to draw the biggest circle possible so that you don’t waste any of the opportunity that you’ve had, right? Mm-Hmm. , you did this amazing work for this organization, but it’s really the only kind of work you did like that you don’t wanna waste it. So you want to fold it in. And then you end up with this weird mix of stuff. Like if we’re talking about somebody in the medical profession, again, it might be somebody who, that owns a medical practice in a funeral home and they want both of ’em on the same business card.
DB (31:56):
It’s like, nah, you can’t really do that . So you narrow this down and you have to, and, and here you have to muster up your courage to decide, okay, am I going to boldly claim this new expertise? But remember that this expertise is, this new positioning defines the work that you look for, not the work that you accept. So you can still take work for a two-year period or so, and usually then you get tired of it. But you can accept work that doesn’t fit the new positioning, but you don’t tell anybody about it right now. If you can boldly make that claim on your website, then you’re golden. If you can’t, if you’re afraid that making that bold claim is going to lose you too much opportunity or hack off some of your current clients who don’t fit the new positioning, then you create a sub-brand. And this sub-brand is where you focus all, all of your outbound and inbound marketing efforts. And this allows you to retain this sort of, it’s like the best of both worlds. So opportunity that comes in that isn’t a fit of the, for the new focus, you can still do that over here in this generalist stuff you’d mucked around in for 15 years, but all of your marketing efforts are focused on this sub-brand, and you just let this other thing slowly fade away. That’s how you sort of manage your own emotions in the process. Mm-Hmm.
AJV (33:24):
? No, I think that’s really good. ’cause It’s like, I think for a lot of people, they’re trying to get out from underneath all this stuff that they don’t wanna be doing anymore, that they somehow pigeonholed themselves into. So instead of saying, oh, nope, you just need to make a decision and say no, instead of going, no. Create a sub-brand, start positioning towards this and let the other stuff kind of naturally fade away as this other piece takes off. Is
DB (33:48):
That right? That’s a more human approach, right? It’s a more human approach. It acknowledges how difficult it is. Like the, the way you said that just a second ago is like that logically, literally that’s what you should say. But it’s not what we humans do. Yeah. It’s just too hard, right? So, yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think we just need to recognize that this is a hard thing, right? What I don’t wanna do is, I don’t wanna wake up one day and realize it’s like hit myself on the head. It’s like, shoot, my business is, has been shaped entirely by what other people want me to do.
AJV (34:20):
DB (34:21):
Now, in a way, you kind of have to do some of that, right? You can’t just create a business that nobody . You have to be addressing market demand, but your clients may be asking you to grow, and maybe that’s not in your best interest. Mm-Hmm.
AJV (34:34):

DB (34:35):
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, right? Your clients want you to do this ’cause they love you. Well, that would make that client happy, but then what’s gonna happen to your life? I mean, you have, your business has got to serve you the business. It, you, you’ve gotta be in charge of this thing, right? Don’t let the, don’t wake up one day and realize, okay, I started this business years ago because I wanted more time, I wanted more money, and I wanted more control. And now I look at my business six years later and I realize I’m spending too much time working. I’m working harder than I was. I’m making less money and I don’t have as much control that is messed up, right? Mm-Hmm. , that is messed up and it’s your fault. Mm-Hmm. . So fix it.
AJV (35:19):
. It’s so true. It’s like I often have this conversation with my husband, who’s also my business partner about my schedule, and it’s like, why is it so full? And it’s like, the only person I could look at is myself, right?
DB (35:34):
AJV (35:34):
It’s like, well, it’s so full because I jam packed it full. That’s why. Yeah. No one else to blame just me. But it’s that, you know, it’s back to, it’s hard to say no.
DB (35:45):
It is, it is.
AJV (35:46):
It’s a lot of clarity, a lot of courage to go, that’s not good for me. Even though it might feel good when I say yes. Yeah. It’s not good for me, not good for business to be like that.
DB (35:59):
And you’ve gotta make some brutal decisions that are going to disappoint some people, right? I, I’m not a particularly a religious person, but there, there’s this story of Jesus walking through this town, and he had the power to heal everybody. And I’ve, by just touching them, and I’m wondered, you know what, why didn’t he just touch everybody? Hmm. Like, and that’s sort of like you and you, you’re not, we’re not Jesus, but we, we have the power to help a lot of people, and it’s really hard to walk away from that. But, you know, you’ve gotta put your own oxygen mask on first. And some of the things that look really selfish, if you didn’t, if you’d never heard that repeated at the beginning of flights all the time, and you saw parents putting their own masks on first before they help their kids, you’d think, well, geez, that is selfish. No, no. It’s, it’s, it’s how more of us are gonna survive than not. And we have to keep there’s just, there’s so much. When you are good at something and you’re a genuinely good person, you wanna help everybody. But that is sometimes done at the expense of who you are and the other people in your life, and it’s just gotta stop.
AJV (37:14):
Hmm. That is so good. You can say that 1000 more times because we all need to hear it. We all need to hear it. And the, the truth is, and I love that story about Jesus and it as it relation to how we run our businesses, it’s like we aren’t meant to help everyone,
DB (37:31):
AJV (37:31):
Like we are uniquely positioned to help the people that we were meant to help.
DB (37:36):
Yeah. And
AJV (37:37):
If we stay focused on that, we will help more. Yeah. In the right ways that we are, you know, only we can do. And I love that. That’s so good. All right, I’ve got one last question for you.
DB (37:47):
AJV (37:48):
How do you make your, you, your expertise or what I would say your uniqueness, how do you make that more narrow mm-hmm. like in this, you know, conversation of like, it’s so hard to say no, and we’re trying to figure out how to stop, you know, being yes people and saying yes to everything. It’s like, how do you make your expertise more narrow and more unique
DB (38:10):
Mm-Hmm. . So there is some math that can help here. Okay. So you want to develop, so you decide what your area of influence is going to be. A geographically, like I’m, my audience is in Nashville, or my audience is in the south, or it’s in the US or across the world. Whatever it is you should be. You, you should decide, make an initial provisional decision about your expertise, how you’re going to describe it, and then you should look for competitors. And if you don’t find any competitors, you should not be excited. You should be terrified because it, that just means that other people have tried it and failed. Probably you wanna find some competition, but you don’t wanna find too much competition. So it’s somewhere between 10 and 200 competitors. So you should, I, now this isn’t like quite that specific, but you should ideally find about 10 other people at least, who are doing the same thing that you are, but not more than 200.
DB (39:11):
And if you find a lot more than that, then you’ve got to narrow it further, right? If you find less than that, then you’re probably gonna run out of opportunity and you need sufficient opportunity. You don’t want to go into any specialist sort of advisory role, assuming that you can lock up more than about 1% of the opportunity. And so the math is pretty deep, it’s talked about in the book, but that’s how you decide exactly how narrow to go. And so, so you’re broad and you picture yourself walking towards the right solution. And there are two things that will stop you on this path. As you walk from generalist to specialist. The first thing that might stop you is courage. And you just gotta get over that, right? The second thing, the legitimate thing that would force you to stop on that path is running out of opportunity. So you want to be in that special place where there’s not too many competitors, but still enough opportunity. And that math is 10 to 200 competitors.
AJV (40:10):
Hmm. That’s good. I love that. And I think too, it’s like many of us, I think we forget to look around and go, what is everyone else doing? Not that we should do what we do based on what others are doing, but it’s still good to have that comparative analysis of what is out there, what are people doing? Mm-Hmm. What are people charging, right?
DB (40:30):
AJV (40:30):
There enough demand? Is there not enough demand? Not that it would change who we are and what we do, but mm-hmm.
DB (40:36):

AJV (40:36):
To have that comparative analysis of is there enough demand in the marketplace? Is there too much supply? You know, just basic laws of economics. Super.
DB (40:45):
Yeah. I mean, if we, we could apply that to your, your business. So the people who know branding, there are tens and thousands of those people, right? You apply branding in a very narrow way in your business, and that’s personal branding. Mm-Hmm. personal branding. So you’re not doing packaging for, or fashion branding. You’re doing personal branding. And that, that, that’s an illustration for the people who are listening about positioning.
AJV (41:10):
And it’s so funny because we left the world of, you know, corporate consulting and sales specifically in sales when we started Brain Builders Group. And it was a, a very decided decision of we don’t work with companies.
DB (41:26):
Mm-Hmm. ,
AJV (41:26):
We work with people, right?
DB (41:28):
AJV (41:29):
The hardest temptation in the last five years has been to say no to all the people that we work with. They’re like, oh, we love what you’re doing for us. Can you come do this for our company?
DB (41:39):
Right. Because
AJV (41:40):
It would’ve been so easy to go. Sure,
DB (41:42):
Yeah. I’m not,
AJV (41:44):
It applies and it’s been the hardest thing in the, it’s where we’ve been most disciplined of going, we don’t work with companies. We, in fact, we had to put it in all of our branding to hold ourselves accountable.
DB (41:55):
Right, right, right.
AJV (41:56):
It’s everywhere. So that we remind ourselves, oh yeah, we said we weren’t gonna do that.
DB (42:00):
Well, the best, the the best way to understand positioning is that there are a lot more things you don’t do than there are things that you do. Right? So it’s choosing a positioning is, is an exercise in irrelevance. Yeah. You’re becoming irrelevant to more and more people. And in the process you’re becoming more relevant to a smaller group.
AJV (42:19):
Love that. And I’ll say my drop on that comment, that was awesome. Such a great interview. I love also the narrow focus of the interview, which is apropos for the conversation. Y’all, if y’all wanna check out David and learn more about all the things that he does, go to david c baker.com. I also wanna give him a shout out for his I don’t think it’s your latest book, but it’s
DB (42:46):
The next to last book, right?
AJV (42:47):
Next to last book. It’s expertise is. So go to expertise is, I’ll put both of those in the show notes. David, if people wanna catch up with you on social media, is there one place that you would send them?
DB (43:02):
Probably LinkedIn David C. Baker, my middle initial, sometimes help you get to the right place. Or just the whatever, the slash dc b on LinkedIn. Happy to connect with people there.
AJV (43:13):
That’d be awesome. And we’ll put that in the show notes. Again, so check him out on his website. David C. Baker, connect with him on LinkedIn, and then go check out his book expertise Is is the website. Pick up a copy. Read it. David, pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank
DB (43:31):
You, AJ.
AJV (43:32):
And everyone else. Stay tuned for the recap episode and we will see you next time on the influential Personal brand.