Robert Hartline | Email Must Die - Here's Why

EP 96 - Robert Hartline.png

With 400 employees spread across dozens of locations, Robert Hartline has spent a lot of time thinking about how to communicate his vision to his team… and have them communicate effectively with each other.

Robert, a serial entrepreneur who splits his time between Nashville and Costa Rica, has ditched email for the most part… he hates phone calls. And now company-wide they’re using an app that allows them to stay focused, minimizes interruptions, and ensures they just plain get things done.

We also talk about how he deals with employees who aren’t engaged with their work - no, he doesn’t fire them – and much more.

Listen in to find out:

  • Strategies for solving problems, not situations

  • A “scientific” approach to solving business problems

  • How to use data to find out which employees haven’t “bought in”

  • Why the best leaders are like drug dealers

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Robert Hartline Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Robert Hartline. Robert went from selling cell phones from his trunk to having a chain of over 60 stores called Absolute Wireless.

01:40 Robert went to Nashville to study music but found he hated country. It's where he started as a salesman to earn money.

03:026 Rob tells us the story of a guy who came to his door promising to put a peep hole in the door in 30 seconds or less!

05:27 Rob tells us how he has the fasted growing business in Nashville for the past two straight years.

06:58 Rob had a lot of trouble with break-ins at his stores. He tells us how he addressed the issue and how security systems are useless.

10:41 Rob explains how data can explain so much.

13:10 Rob explains how business owners are basically drug dealers!

16:25 Rob tells us about his use of the walkie talkie app Marco Polo.

18:32 Steve tells us how even in the last week Marco Polo has helped him.

20:03 Rob explains how he utilizes the app.

24:42 Rob explains how writing is such a poor form of communication.

28:20 Steve talks about the ease of use of Marco Polo.

30:28 Rob and his staff road tested every walkie talkie app on the market.

33:57 Steve talks about using Marco Polo with his clients.

34:48 Rob explains how people are always resistant to new tech and how Marco Polo reduces your amount of meetings.

37:57 Steve talks about conducting business almost entirely by voicemail with a million dollar a year client.

40:36 Robert tells us how best to get contact with him.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Robert Hartline:

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon, and today I’ve got to tell you, I'm really excited about this interview. We are talking with Robert Hartline. He went from selling cell phones from the trunk of his car in College in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to building a chain of 61 wireless stores called Absolute Wireless. He's built a company, a software company called Call Proof. Dang It, Repair, which is a phone repair business with eight locations and Hitch, a carpooling service which launched in September of 2017.

Robert is, I think, the epitome of a serial entrepreneur. He's built multiple businesses. They now generate over $100,000,000 for him in total revenue. He lives with his wife and two young boys, half the year in Nashville and the other half in Costa Rica. And I’ve been to Costa Rica. Robert, I'm a little bit jealous. I'd love to get back down there more. I want to welcome you to The Unstoppable CEO and you've done lots and lots of things. And I know today we're going to focus on talking about your newest business, Shift Your Time, which I think will benefit everybody listening tremendously. Welcome to the show.

Steve, Hey, thank you. Thanks for having me.

We're going to have fun today. I think some of the things that I know that you'll touch on having now seen a lot of your ideas I think are really going to help the people who are listening. But before we get into all that, can you give everybody a little bit of context beyond the bio for how you kind of got to the stage of your career?

Yeah, man, I was in college. I decided that I wanted to supplement my income while I was going to school. I thought I was going to be in the music business, hence coming into Nashville and I didn't like country music and I don't play guitar so I just totally didn't really fit. And so I decided that there was a job posting to cell phones door to door. And to be frank with you, Steve, I was flat broke and wanted to supplement some income while I was in school. And it was my first venture into selling door to door sales and that's kind of how I got started.

I never intended to be in the wireless business. It wasn't a business I sought out and decided to be in. But I learned that yeah, although I was shy, I'm definitely an introvert. I learned that I could be outside my comfort zone and talk to strangers. And that's, that's how the business started.

It's so funny. I talked to, I don't know, I think we've interviewed almost 90 entrepreneurs at this stage and the number of people that have started in some kind of direct sales role like that where they're belly to belly with people very early in life. Really amazing to see that. I know I had that experience in high school, even and all through college. I think that's key. It gets you out of a comfort as you say and get you to a point where your sort of do or die and you quickly find out if you can do.

What You Can Learn From a Peephole Salesman

I mean it was funny it, the university was working for me at the moment because when I was starting to sell door to door, I had kind of limited success. I had a great sales manager, Rob Thomas, so he was just fantastic with me helping me kind of get over some of my fears. But I'll never forget. It was a Saturday, about two weeks after I had started selling door to door and it was at my house. I hear a knock on the door and I'm like, okay, I don't, I'm not sure who it was. So I answered the door and there's a guy holding a drill in one hand he has a peephole and he goes, if I can't put these peephole in your door less than 30 seconds, it's free.

It's $20 for the peephole. And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking you can go out and buy this peephole and get you and do this yourself. The peephole's only a dollar 50 at Home Depot. And I was thinking the same thing. He gave me the objection right away, but he said the drill bit is $30 and I've messed up 20 doors trying to do this. And I was like, all right. And I'm thinking to myself, I wouldn't even answer the door. Had I known it was somebody soliciting something. And sure enough he puts in the door less than 30 seconds I watched him do four other homes in my neighborhood and he drove away in a brand new 1993 Toyota supra. And it was that moment that I was like, this sales gig is kind of cool. And so that's he was the right time, right place for the inspiration for me to know to stay with it.

That's great. So you, you've gone on from there and you built now a whole kind of suite of businesses. Give us a little snapshot into that, the evolution that I know from watching one of your presentations on YouTube that you've had really tremendous growth in a short amount of time. Talk a little bit about that.

So we for the last two years, we've been the fastest growing business in Nashville, Tennessee. And a part of that was a lot of focus, focused energy and a building our core values some years ago and really be focused on that. We've done some acquisitions and what I'll talk a little bit later about is we changed the way we've communicated with our team members, but really I'm a believer that we as a CEOs, sales leaders or business leaders, we have to be absolutely focused on inspiring our team to win instead of willing what we want them to do on them.

People do not do very well when we impose our will on others to get things done. But you can get people to make and take action when you inspire them to do it. And so that's what we're trying to be focused on with our organizations.

Well, I know you've had tremendous success here, particularly in the last few years. I'm sure it probably wasn't all rosy and it wasn't a straight upward trajectory. There had to be things along the way that didn't work as you had planned. And we're maybe a little bit challenging. What have you learned over the years that has helped you kind of push through those difficult times?

Well, I give you an example of something that happened to me last year. So last year I acquired 19 locations in Alabama and Atlanta. And it was right at the moment when my wife and I had decided that we were going to take the family. We're going to move to Costa Rica for six months and I was going to work on an online course. That was my game plan. And I had everything lined up, do the sale of the buy these new 19 locations. The very next month I land in Costa Rica, I had three goals. I was going to learn to speak Spanish, I was going to learn to surf and I was going to do this online course. I land I'm there a week and I get a break in and one of my locations and they stole every phone in the store. And it was it hurt now, although I had insurance.

So everything is good, right? Well, that next weekend the store right down the street, the exact same thing happens. And I'm like, holy snickers, this is awful. And so literally it became a 911. I needed to change what we did in terms of our security. I hadn't up to that point, did not have any loss prevention department any protection. I don't know if anybody out there listening. If you have a business alarm system, it does not work. Organized crime criminals what they do is they break into the business next door. They cut a hole in the drywall, they find out where your alarm is and they destroy it within 60 seconds. And your alarm company, I don't care who you have, ADT, whoever the alarm is irrelevant. So, Mr. Hartline had to go on this journey to figure out how do I solve this problem. Now, how do I tackle this problem like a scientist?

And I literally spent the next six months building a loss prevention team. I literally have people that watch our stores 24/7 in the daytime and the nighttime. I literally have people watching it. We've actually presented three professional hits as a result of it. So, I mean the answer your question, you got to be willing to attack a problem with tenacity when you have it. One of the things I always tend to do is when we have a problem in our business I treat the problem like, okay, is this problem going to reoccur? And I don't want to solve that problem. I'm not. I'm very disinterested in solving situations. I'm interested in solving problems that reoccur. Reoccurring problems will spin your head crazy and you got to solve them. So one of the things I tend to do is when something goes wrong, I asked myself, well, if it's going to happen again, we got to prevent it.

A “Scientific” Approach to Problem Solving

And tough thing to deal with, particularly when you're dealing with very skilled and organized criminals, but it sounds like you just went after it, like you said built that team. How have you applied that in other areas? I mean, certainly when you've got that kind of loss, it's a big deal, but when you've come across problems that maybe didn't feel as painful right off after that.

Well typically it's funny, I live in a world where the data can tell so much and just giving an example, what a lot of people out there would probably relate to. When you have a sales team and you have sales data there are simple tricks that you can do in your organization to find out who's bought in or not. And the data will tell you, and sometimes the absence of action in the data, meaning, let's think for a moment I've had 10 salespeople and let's say I sent 10 salespeople the sales numbers for the day, and if you had the right technology and you knew who was clicking on those numbers, you could make an assumption just like this, he who doesn't click on the sales data, doesn't care. And selling involves that.

You have to care, you have to have motivation and drive. If you don't even bother to see where you are statistically, then you aren't bought in. And so there's little tells that we have with data that you can easily find if your team is engaged. What they say is you get three types of employees, the engaged person, right? The disengaged, and then that actively disengaged. The only difference between actively disengaged is they're actually trying to get others to join their disengagement. And it's our job to figure out who's engaged and who isn't. And then help those that maybe have lost focus or lost or energy or maybe they got something that they're upset with the company that I haven't told anybody about. But it's our mission as leaders to uncover and help those people find their way.

Have you had success doing that? I with all the people that I've employed over the years, I've found that you can't help everybody. There's got to be this willingness on the part of the other person to at least want to meet you in the middle. And in many cases they've got to have a desire to sort of change their thinking and their behavior to be able to be successful in that environment. I think it's sometimes very difficult to do that. And I'm curious how you've been able to accomplish that.

Well, there's a couple of things that tend to happen. And as leaders, we are little drug dealers. That's why we are. I mean, we're literally drug dealers because when you give someone an attaboy for doing something good, you're releasing a dopamine rush inside of their brain. The dopamine rushes to do it again, hormone. And if you have someone underperforming, what I teach my team is find something minuscule.

Did they, did they iron their shirt? I mean start is as simple as you can. You need them to have little bitty wins. And if you have someone that's actively disengaged and maybe they're trained on the product, they know what to do, but they've become disillusioned or they become bored. And sometimes a boredom is a result of you not giving them big enough projects. You're not giving them big enough goals and when people get bored, they lose the intrinsic motivation to actually act.
And so what I tell people, when you have actively disengaged people give them small little wins so they can get some little dopamine rushes and build up on that. But ultimately what you want to either do is push them up or push them out. Either which way you win. If they leave you when, if they stay, you win but if you have to get somebody new, you're going to hopefully win as well.

Yeah, absolutely. I think that's great advice and I think it simplifies how to deal with those situations. For everybody listening. Robert, I want to pause here. We're going to come back in just a second and I want to talk when we come back about this newest business that you've got a shift your time. I think for folks listening, this can absolutely revolutionize the way that you're communicating with your team and can free up a ton of time and I've gotten into a little bit and I can, I'm happy to share my personal story with it as well. But this is going to be really good stuff you're going to be able to put into action today. We'll be right back with more from Robert Hartline.

Hey everybody. Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I'm talking with Robert Hartline. Robert, you've got a new business and some new training and coaching that you're doing with entrepreneurs and it, if I understand it right, really kind of came out of this period of very rapid growth in your business and you had to begin operating differently as the leader. So can you tell us a little bit about shift your time and really what it's purposes?

Yeah, absolutely. Steve, so several years ago during this rapid growth, I was introduced to an app in the marketplace called Marco Polo. And a Marco Polo is a free app. Anybody can download it. It basically is a video walkie talkie service. And so what does that mean? Well, basically a video walkie talkie is as simple as pressing the start button recording you're very short video, if you like, or longer video if you wish, and instantly share that with people that you're talking to.

And , I was shown this by an employee and you ask any company that has multi locations. Well, it really, every company has problems with communication. They just do. And, but when you have multiple, multiple locations, we have a total of between our phone repair stores and our, in our other stores, we have about 70 locations throughout the country. And communication is very difficult, the open rates for internal communication is almost as bad is marketing communication that you send out to customers or potential customers and so communication is difficult.

Effective Internal Communication With This Walkie-Talkie App

I started using this app to communicate with my team and it was frankly so exhilarating for me because I had a way to rapidly get my vision across to people. And when you are moving in and moving at a rapid pace frankly phone calls and emails just don't work as internal communication. And Steve, most people don't even realize that 80 percent of your day is communicating and we're doing it with archaic tools and it's time that we all get together as a community. Go, listen, this is just ridiculous. There's got to be a better way. And that in Marco Polo was for me.

Yeah. In fact in kind of preparing for our conversation today, I found all of your information on Marco Polo, I know you've got a course on it, actually bought the course because I thought this is something pretty unique and we started using it just a little bit internally and I, and one of the things I really appreciate about the way that you have a kind of instructed people to do this don't just all of a sudden jump in with both feet. Do some do it with some thought and some intentionality. And so we're doing that, but we're already starting to see some benefits. And I'll tell you the thing for me that, that really has made this I think it's going to be a huge game changers that it's there on the phone. I don't have to sort of shift gears I don't have to go to a computer, I don't have to start typing.

I can walk and talk and give a message if I have to or respond to a quick message or a question. And so just really within the last week, week and a half I've started to see all these different uses for it. So I know you, you use this as kind of the catalyst to free yourself up so that the business could grow.


Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and how it got rolled out and maybe some of the things that the people, if they go and download the app as they're listening, what they ought to be thinking about?

For one of the things, I tell everyone a, when we first started using it, I got super jazzed about it, get my whole team on it and about two months into using the tool I go to, I went to our quarterly planning sessions and I had a key executive that was not on board. And he was frustrated and he's like, man I got slack, I've got email, I've got phone, I got Marco Polo, I got instant messenger. And he's talking about all these tools that we as a company use. And it really occurred to me that I did not set the expectations. I did not set an understanding on how to use the tool. And so we basically re communicated how we use Marco Polo and Marco Polo is for our conversations with one another. Now we no longer call each other, we no longer send long emails. Those are rare.

We focus on if we're going to have conversations with each other or maybe someone has a new idea or challenge they need to overcome, they do it in Marco Polo and the expectation throughout the day, we're going to respond to those. Now if a store is on fire or a key employees leaving or putting in a notice and it's urgent, there's an opportunity to call me and call each other. And so we limit those calls. I mean, just to give you an example, in the end of July, since my latest data, I have the end of July. Eight years ago, the month of July, I had 2,700 minutes and phone minutes. This year I had 215. I'm using about a 10th of the phone calls that I used to. Now why is that important, Steve? When your phone rings, you are always tempted to answer it.

And that's just what we the way we're, we're raised to phone is like a slot machine. When it rains we're like, whoa, did I win something? And nine times out of 10 there is no pot of gold at the end of that call. Right? And what happens is it's distracted you to focus on someone else's agenda and a lot of people don't realize that it takes the average person 25 minutes to get back into a state of flow. And so it occurred to me that this the phone is just a terrible way for internal communication and even what makes it worse today is that 35 percent of all phone calls or robocalls or some telemarketer at the other end. So and it's only getting worse for all of us. And so as that, as a strategy, I mean, the best thing I tell people is mute your ringer. Now talk about email for me.

Now you’ve got to understand eight years ago I was about 50 people strong and I have 400 people today, almost have eight times the people. My email back then, eight years ago was 1800 internal emails and if I went back and I just segmented my list of only internal emails, I had 1800 emails. And I had half that with us having Marco Polo, yet I have eight times the number of people on the team. So the time that you save is amazing because really Steve what we have to do. You have to move into move your internal communication for this one core reason. You need to create space to think and when you have space in your day to actually think about the actions we do every day. You have higher quality transactions between your team. You come up with better ideas and you make more money. That's really what happens.

And it's harder I think, than ever to create that space. So have you guys been able to eliminate some of those communication tools? You talked about email and Slack and texts.

It’s Time to Quit Email - Here’s Why

I'm a believer that Slack is great for those that are kind of in meetings a lot or they don't like to talk to people, but it's highly inefficient because you're writing and writing is no different than a caveman writing on a wall and the caveman communicated by pictures and people would walk into a cave and try to interpret what was going on and unfortunately, if it wasn't interpreted incorrectly, he had no language to change behaviors and to get his point across. And so, well that's what happens with the email. When you email someone, you may email 10 people and three people are going to get their feelings hurt, misunderstand you or not even read it at all.

And it's a terrible way to communicate. In fact if video technology was available before email, that's what we would all be using. But we're all using email because that's what our forefathers did in business. We've been using a written language to communicate for a long time and that was only because technology didn't exist. Listen to most beautiful thing you can do when you communicate is look at someone in the eye, face to face communication is what works. Now, the challenge in a lot of people go, well, there's FaceTime and you can video call and we're doing. We're doing a Zoom call right now. It's beautiful technology. The challenge with live is you have to be both at a place where you have good internet, you have to have video, your schedule's got to match mine and you also this is something key to communication.

If you are not mentally ready to have a good conversation, it's not going to lead to a great conversation together. And when you use Marco Polo, you can store and forward. I can record a video and it's sent instantly or I could put my phone on airplane mode and it not send runaway so I could maybe I'm going to practice a conversation or communication like let's say have a big pitch and I get you as a customer and I love using this for customers. Man, it is the most amazing way to build a relationship with a stranger. Someone's interested in your product or service, put the negotiation between client and prospect in Marco Polo. It's an amazing experience and you're going to have a much tighter relationship with that customer more than any other communication tool. Better than face to face. I mean, it just works because it's so quick and easy.

But the beauty of that is you giving respect to others. One of the things that I love about the Marco Polo Journey I've been on is the time I give my team. I saved them a tremendous amount of time by doing this communication through this strategy. But it's certainly been fun and the course has been fun too. I've finally got my course dot. You can certainly download if you want to go check it out and I'm enjoying it there, but the reason you do this is for your team. You need to do it for your family. I built a course specifically to unlock 40 hours of productivity a month. And whether you're going to get healthy with it, spend more time with your kids, whatever. It's just going to increase your quality of life.

So let's play devil's advocate here for a minute because people are going to go and they're going to look up the app and they're going to see it, I mean, it looks like an app that's built for my kids, right?

Yeah, totally.



In fact, I guarantee you they won't use it now because I went and asked them, hey, have you ever heard of this? And they hadn't heard of it. Now I'm sure it's all gone out on the, the local team network here. Now the parents are on Marco Polo. We got to go somewhere else. But it looks like one of those kinds of apps. It's doesn't look like a business app, but this ... The ability to just kind of bounced back and forth with quick little questions. I know in the course you talked about Nextel, it used to be in my first business we were big Nextel users.

The problem with Nextel was it was real time still getting buzzed and interrupted and all of that. And what's neat about this is you're getting those messages and they sort of queue up like email, but they're far easier to respond to. Like, I look at my email inbox, I go, oh my gosh, that's work, right? I got to now think about how to, how do I carefully say this in a way that's not going to get misinterpreted? But with this crazy little app that was probably built for teenagers, you've got the power to now just hold up your phone with a little bit of forethought and get out a message that might've taken you 20 or 30 minutes to write. I'm finding, I can spend with a little, a little yellow, post it note and write down two or three key points and then record the thing. And I've got a clear message that's going to people. They can see my expression, my intentionality and all of that, which is so hard to get through an email.

And I think you’ve got to look past the fact that it doesn't look like a big-time business.

You're absolutely right. when I started, before I started the course, I have a team of 30 phone repair technicians and I sent them on a mission. I said, I want you to go out there and try every video, walkie-talkie type app out there from WhatsApp to Voxer and there's a bunch of other ones out in the marketplace and I want you to wear them out. I want to, I want you to find something better than Marco Polo. Find something out there. And they could not find anything. They could not find anything better, just to give you some idea about the growth of Marco Polo.

I mean, they got millions of subscribers by the way. It's free. Like you don't need my course. They use this app, like just use it. But when I just a literally a month ago, they had a story in Utah that one out of 10 people use Marco Polo because they have such big families. And I have people once a week tell me, Robert, since I've been using this, my relationship with my wife is so much better and that's exactly what happened to me because when I, I hate talking on the phone, I really detest the phone because this as an owner, everyone wants your time, they want, they, there's people wanting to offer their products and services. There's people that just need your time and when that phone rings it really is kind of exhausting. I just don't like being on the phone.

But now I can do Marco Polo's and share stories with my wife, with what I'm doing with the boys. If literally showing the camera, I mean the APP makes it so easy to not only show your face but show what you were actually looking at. And it's something to be said about context that is so important. If you were to call me on the phone and I answered the phone and I'm rushed. Steve. Yeah, what, what do you want? And you can sense that I am under stress. Well, imagine for a moment that I'm walking through the airport and I was late for my plane and I'm going through TSA security. You call me right when I was in line.

Well, not knowing anything or having no context, you're going to think I'm a big jerk the way I answered the phone. But if you were using Marco, you would see I'm standing in the TSA line and clearly stressed because of that, not you. Our body language having good context to good communication is why face to face communication just works. 90% of communication is the body language. And when you have all the data about when you're communicating with someone, you'll learn so much. And what I tell people too, what's killer about this app is using in groups is amazing. So not only can I talk to Steve, but if I want to talk to you in higher sales team, I just hit the button and start talking. And so those things make it extremely beneficial when you're talking to your team.

Now, I'll tell you the thing that we see with it is with our clients. So, we work with, with business owners and it is impossible to get calendars aligned when we need to have a conversation and I think it's going to revolutionize the way we're able to deliver value to them simply by giving them access where, hey, you can send me a Marco Polo at any time you want and set some parameters around how quickly they're going to get a response and really easily. Then now we don't have to worry about time zones. We've got clients in Europe all across the US and Canada and now it all becomes simpler. We don't have to do that whole little Rubik’s Cube exercise.

And one of the things that I tell people that there's always, it's funny, I've watched people resistant to technology my whole career. I mean I literally, when I sold phones door to door, I was trying to talk you into buying a phone just to make phone calls. And I had to convince people it was a safety and security thing. If you didn't have one, and so over the years when the smartphone, when we had smartphones, and again I was selling the pocket pc phone before the iPhone was cool and it had apps and I was trying to talk people into that and it, it was a transition. People are absolutely resistant to things that are new, but once they started adopting it's funny how fast things move. But my favorite thing about Marco for a business leader is elimination of meetings. A majority of meetings are handling issues.

A Better Way to Solve Business Problems as a Team

Now in our organization we started doing Traction about five years ago and in Traction is a way to handle issues and it's called Ideas. Identify, discuss and solve. So what I use in Marco Polo, if an issue arises and let's say a customer's upset with us about a situation, well, if it is a reoccurring situation where I've heard the same complaint for multiple people at the same store, what I'll do is in Marco Polo you can easily on the fly create a group. And so I'll include the store manager. I'll include the customer support person, their district manager, and maybe one other team member and I'll do a Marco Polo and say, listen, this, this customer is upset about this. And the reason I did a Marco Polo with you guys is I'm worried that our process is actually creating the this problem because I know we're asking our reps to do an extra thing.

So what I would like to do is discuss some possible reasons this is causing us an issue. And so what I'd like to have happen is on Friday I like to have a solution by 10:00. And so what happens is you give everyone some space to talk about. Too often we try to solve our issues within an hour period. And if it's a complicated issue, you don't have enough space to find the solution. Now we have all found this to be true. Imagine for a moment there was something you were working on real hard.

Let's say it was an Excel problem or some kind of issue and you were sitting there for hours and he couldn't figure it out. Well that evening you get done working out. You're in the shower, you put your shampoo in your head and you're rubbing your head and then you all of a sudden the light bulb comes off and it's like that's the solution. We all find these little solutions when we have space. And so that's what I like about the Marco Polo. You can create some space and everyone can come up with better ideas to solve those challenges without taking a meeting that everyone has to be at a place at a particular time to solve.

When I first got out of college and went to work, it was about a year before the Internet was in every office company I would work for. Didn't have it yet. We didn't have email yet. And so I got good at using voicemail and I look at this as, as kind of the evolution of that. So I had a client, we did probably about a million dollars a year of business with, for at least 12 years and he and I did most of all of that business by leaving really good voicemails. Oh, wow he'd leave me and we'd have to get together maybe three or four times a year because it just we needed to be face-to-face you, you're never going to eliminate that. Totally. But I mean, this is before Zoom, this is before cell phones. I mean this is literally a phone on your desk and you've got a voicemail and I try and tell our team how great that was because I could just talk now.

It had friction though because you had to dial a number, you had to get through, this was even before everybody had direct dial. So you had to get through the receptionist and get connected and getting his voicemail and you had to listen to his voice message every time. All those little points of friction. So it took a long time with Marco Polo, you get video, which is a great benefit, but you get right to it. That's like one button and you're there, there's no friction. And that's what we've found with it in the last, like I say, we've been using it for about a week and a half and I think it's going to revolutionize the way we deliver service. So, it's, I think it's a fantastic tool and it's crazy. I love to geek out on tools and, and get into things like that, but only if they have a purpose.

And for those of you listening I challenge you to go in and download the app and look for some ways that you can put this to use. I think it will improve your communication and I think it'll absolutely free up time. Robert, you've already experienced that on a tremendous scale. So, I do want to give a shout out to the course that you put together, which takes business leaders through the process of rolling out Marco Polo to their teams. And you've got, I think a wealth of knowledge. It's a huge shortcut. I found it by accident, it's just doing the prep for the call and I was like, yeah, this is a no brainer. I got to go get this. So where can folks find out about that and kind of find out more than that? You've got other information on your site about how you use the app.

Yeah. So, you can just visit the and we can certainly help you through whether the course or maybe just have some questions of how to tackle this. I'd be glad to help your audience with any of those. You can certainly email me at

Very good. Well Robert, thank you so much for investing a little bit of time with me today. Even though we didn't do it over Marco Polo, we had to schedule it live. Any final thoughts you want to leave with our listeners?

Man, I will tell you I really appreciate the time with you today and listen, if you just took a moment and look at your calendar and look at all those meetings that you've scheduled it, look at all that time and energy. You, you and your team actually get in their car and actually come to an office and do work yet. We have a computer at our house. We have some silence there. Maybe there is a better way and you're not going to find it, unless you try something new.

Yeah, absolutely. That's great advice, Robert. Again, thanks for being here. It's been great talking with you and thanks for all you're doing to help free up folks in their time. Everybody again you can find a more from We'll link that up in the show notes and we will see you next week.

Thanks, Steve.

Jay Lucas | What Positive Thinking Really Means

EP 95 - Jay Lucas.png

Jay Lucas’s positivity is infectious. It’s no surprise, he says that the root of success is how you view the world. We explore ways to stay optimistic even when faced with even the most difficult situations.

Jay has used his philosophy to excel in government and business, including his work today with the Lucas Group, which works with private equity investors to grow companies.

But advising and building businesses isn’t his only passion. He’s also involved in a creative community revitalization project that’s very close to his heart.

There are lessons there that struggling small towns across the country could learn from.

Tune in to discover…

  • How – and why – to turn thoughts into things

  • Unlocking potential you don’t know you have

  • Winning the genetic lottery - and how to invest the proceeds

  • The advantages of “distributed” work

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Jay Lucas Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Jay Lucas. Jay is a business leader, philanthropist, a past elected official, and author of the book, American Sunshine.

01:39 Jay tells us about his background where he went to Yale, Harvard, started out in a then small company called Bain before moving on to create the Lucas Group.

06:25 Jay tells us about the power of positive thinking and to always look forward and upward!

10:19 Jay talks about staying positive through the economic downturn of 2008.

14:36 Jay tells us about his vision for America through his book, American Sunshine.

16:26 Steve talks about some of the founding principles of America.

17:59 Jay tells us how we were all joined by a common sense of beliefs and principles and how we have taken them for granted.

21:12 Steve talks about him not realizing until recently the freedoms afforded to him simply by living in America.

22:52 Jay talks his hometown in New England and the revitalization work he is doing there.

29:37 Steve talks about the “retooling” of the economy driven by technology.

31:24 Jay talks about his plans on creating a great bus service to cater for people who want to commute from New England. He calls is the Newport Sunshine Initiative.

35:56 Jay tells us how best to get in contact with him.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Jay Lucas:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon, and we've got a dynamite episode here for you today.

I'm talking with Jay Lucas. Jay is an accomplished businessman. He's an author, a leader, a philanthropist, and he believes in the power of positivity, patriotism and community engagement. He's actively spreading his message through his bestselling book "American Sunshine: Rays Of Hope And Opportunity", and Jay is an example of service. He was an elected state representative while still in college at Yale. He then earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, and his law degree from Harvard Law School. He's now the chairman and managing partner of the Lucas Group, where he and his team focus on working with private equity investors and with their portfolio companies. He's now also actively involved in revitalizing his home town in New Hampshire, and we're going to talk a little bit about that.

He's just got a wealth of experience. This is going to be a different interview than I think anything we've ever done before. I think you're going to get a ton of value out of it. Jay Lucas, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Oh, thank you very much, Steve. It's a delight to be with you today.

Yeah, I'm excited. I think we're going to cover some new and interesting things. Just before we get into the meat of things, I think it'd be helpful for everybody to have a little bit of context for your background, where you've come from through your career to get to this point. Can you give us a little bit of background?

Yeah, sure. I'd be delighted. I started out, I grew up in a very small town up in western part of New Hampshire, and I went to public school in Newport, New Hampshire, Newport High School. Then had the great experience, great opportunity to go for my undergrad work at Yale, and as you mentioned, then onto law school and business school.

My career has largely been around business. I was also really fortunate to be one of the early partners at a fast growing and now global consulting firm, strategy consulting firm. Bain. Some people may know of Bain & Company, B-A-I-N, or Bain Capital. Our most famous alumnus is clearly Mitt Romney. He was a partner in the early days with me.

Thereafter, having been part of an organization that ... I mean, it's interesting. When I joined the company, the firm, about 80 people in the entire firm. When I left about 10 years later, there were about 1,200. So, just a meteoric growth opportunity, basically helping businesses grow. That has been our focus, aligning with one client in a particular industry, and then really trying to help that client win, that company win in their business. An enormous amount of fun.

I decided that I was becoming a little bit of a small cog in a large machine, and then I wanted to set off and become much more entrepreneurial. So, I did, founded the Lucas Group. As you mentioned, Steve, our focus is not so much working with Fortune 100, Fortune 500 kinds of companies, but instead working directly with private equity investors. We analyze and identify good investment, good companies to acquire, and then work with them and work with the management teams to help grow those companies, develop their strategies, to grow the companies, really create great opportunities for people inside the companies and do things that are going to really satisfy their customers.

As you mentioned, along the way, I have been involved in politics, early on government. I was fortunate enough, as actually a college undergraduate, to run for state elective office. Also, in New Hampshire, I served two terms as a state representative. Then, many years later, I felt as though the state was moving in the wrong direction, and I got involved in the ... I actually ran for governor. While my party's nomination lost the general election, but what a great experience that is and was. But, one of the things it taught me was just how behind the times, really, state government really is in terms of being a modern, functioning organization.

I subsequently took many of the skill-sets and business capabilities we have in the consulting firm and began deploying those on behalf of states and governors around the country, to help improve the, some would say the efficiency of state government, but really the ability of state government to use modern business practices to help people do the jobs that they need to do.

Beyond that, I'm more recently involved in a couple of causes that I feel really strongly about. I'm happy to walk through some of those as the conversation develops. But, that's just a very quick sketch of some of the things I've been involved in, Steve.

That's quite a diverse background. It's interesting having, in the past, had the thought of moving towards politics myself. I've got to tell you, the way things are in our discourse right now, you've got to be bulletproof if you're going to do that. So, I commend you for serving in that way. I think it's very difficult to put yourself out in that arena. It operates very differently than the business world.

Over all of that span of experience, I'm sure there were times where things didn't go exactly as you had planned. What are some of the ways of thinking or the habits that you've accumulated over time that kind of helped propel you forward, even when things were tough?

What Positive Thinking Really Means - and How to Use It

Well, I am a huge proponent of positive thinking. Some of the phrases or some of the beliefs I have and the framework I've developed is really around the notion that there's a great power to the human spirit, and if you're optimistic, you're enthusiastic, you're positive, you're going to send out vibes, and those vibes are going to really ... They're going to have a dramatic impact on your ultimate destiny.

When you find yourself surrounded by circumstances that appear negative, hopeless, there's a great temptation to give into the pessimism, to get actually into kind of almost a physical position where you're all crouched over, you're tightened up, and things ... When you get into that kind of a position or that kind of thought pattern, things generally are not going to go well for you because you're not feeling optimistic, you're not positive, you're not making things happen.

So, one of the things that I developed early on was, when you find yourself in some moment like that, this great tendency to be looking back and having regrets, or looking ... Like I say, imagine yourself way up high and looking down. When you're way up high and you're looking way down, it can be pretty scary. Don't look down. Don't look back. But, always look forward, and look up. In other words, look what you can do in the future, look forward, and look up with great optimism and enthusiasm too. Have a vision for where you want to get to, because there's really no ...

There's nothing harder for the human mind to do than to be looking at a set of circumstances, and rather than have those circumstances really influence his or her own world view and opinion, have a mindset that says, "Regardless of these circumstances, I know where I'm going. I know where we're going to get to. I have faith. I have faith that we're going to get there." That's the mindset that I think is so powerful, because it not only has a direct impact on the way you think and on the way your actions will progress, but I really know that in human interaction, people sense it. They can sense the confidence. That positive vibe, there's an energy.

Some people will say, and I do like this, this notion that thoughts are things, that thoughts can manifest themselves into great realities. I think people around you get a sense of ... If you really do have those positive thoughts, they're going to be feeling more positive and much more inclined to be helpful to you, and good things tend to happen. That's been my philosophy, and it's worked for me. It's something I really subscribe to.

I think that's a great way of looking at things. I do agree, that thoughts are things, or at least they turn into, because the thing that you're most focused on is usually the thing that you end up working towards, whether you want to or not, whether you're conscious of it or not. It's the thing that you work towards most.

One of the observations that I've made over the years, particularly with business owners, is when things get bad and they focus on all the negative events that are happening around them, they tend to withdraw and isolate themselves a little bit. When you're really positive and you're looking towards the future, I think it's very hard to do. It's almost like you're driven to go and connect with other humans. So, to me, that's a fantastic way to be.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Your observation, Steve, I think is right on. If you remember going through some of these economically more challenging times, certainly the '08/'09 recession for many people was one of those, you had a couple of different things you could do. One, which was not a particularly successful strategy, is exactly what you just described, where business owners would feel threatened, and understandably threatened, and really kind of withdraw unto themselves.

Here's a story for you. If any of our listeners remember what it was like in that fall of 2008, from a business and economic perspective, it was feeling as though the world was just about to end. Maybe it had ended. We didn't know. Orders in many businesses totally dried up in the months of October and November, 2008. We, being a consulting firm at the Lucas Group, it was a time when new business also was not coming in the door, and a consulting firm with many employees, with a number of employees, have fixed costs, and you really need those revenues coming in.

How One Firm Weathered the Great Recession

So, our choice was either to hunker down and withdraw, or to do what you're suggesting, Steve. So, what I did is, I decided that, and just purely made this up, that it would be a great time to hold a forum. What we'd do is, we'd invite all of our clients and all of our friends, and we'd get a big conference room, and we'd bring everybody into town, and we'd have a forum where we talked about a little bit ... We'd talk a little bit to start the meeting about, gee, things are really tough, but what was really, really exciting is that, as the meeting developed, just having that group of people and the synergy of it, there was a great sense of optimism coming out of that.

I think that optimism literally did, in several instances, help people get through the recession in a good way. As I sit down with some of them today, their businesses are so much stronger than they were then. And, too, I think some small amount of credit does go to that forum and just kind of getting positive energy flowing through those folks, and giving them the confidence that they really needed. It's just a small example of what you were saying, Steve, I think is so, so very true.

What a great strategy. I want to turn our focus a little bit onto some of the things that you're working on now. Before we do that, we're going to take a quick break. But, you're going to want to stay tuned, because Jay is working on some really amazing projects, and I think everything from what it means to be a modern patriot to how to revitalize a community, and all within the context of business, you're going to want to stick around to listen to this. We'll be right back with more from Jay Lucas.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon, and I'm talking with Jay Lucas. Jay, we kind of left off, and I want to talk now about the things you're working on now. You've got a book out called "American Sunshine: Rays Of Hope And Opportunity", and you talk about this idea of modern patriotism. I'd love to understand that a little bit more. I also want to dive into what you're doing in your home town, in Newport, New Hampshire.

Let's start off with the book. Tell us a little bit about the book and what motivated you to write that.

Yeah. The book "American Sunshine", its title kind of does give it away a little bit. But, American Sunshine, it's a vision for America, but it's a vision that says what if we could get past all this political bickering and divisiveness and all the negativity, where we really go back to somewhere of our founding values, and projected ourselves and said, "What could we be as a nation?" That literally is, that's the central theme of American Sunshine. It's a very positive view of our country and what our future can hold.

But, at the same time, it's also got a second dimension, which is, in parallel, is a spiritual dimension. Think of it as just I have a strong belief in the power of the human spirit, of the potentiality of the human future and what we can achieve, and so it has this spirituality to it. It's a very positive book in that respect because it comes back to some of the things we were just discussing earlier, Steve. You can manifest you're future and really create a positive future if you send out those positive vibes.

Then, thirdly, it has one other piece to it, which I think is it's a fun book. It's a fun book in the sense that it has 28 chapters, and each chapter has its own cartoon. So, people can read it, and you get cartoons and it's fun, but it also I think has some very positive messages.

I wrote the book really because at a certain point in your life you've gone through a number of experiences, and you feel as though it's a great opportunity to share some of those insights and experiences with others, and hopefully you'll have a good impact on other peoples' lives.

Living Your True Potential

Well, I'm glad you've shared it. I think tying these ideas together, I mean, if you think about the way that the United States was founded, it really was founded on this principle that there is this great potentiality in human beings, and that there is this growth to come in all of humanity. The country was really created to create a place where that could be allowed to flourish.

Now, have we had our problems? Of course we have. We're human. But, if you go back and read what was observed about this country's founding from people in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe, because they probably had the most contact with us, there's that thought that here's something new and different that had never happened before, and it unlocked something.

I appreciate you shining a light on that, because I think that's missing, and I don't think that the United States has a complete lock on that anymore. Other parts of the world have gravitated more towards the same ideals. But, that line of thinking for humanity I think is important, and it's missing now. I think we've lost focus on it. So, I appreciate you taking the time and the effort of writing a book to point that out.

Steve, you are so right. You are absolutely so spot on in what you're saying. That was the founding ethos and principle of America, was really to create a place, a place where we were joined or united by a set of ideas, where we're not one ethnic group or a group who's come here without homogenization. The reason that we're here, and the reason that we're so special, is that we all subscribe to this common set of beliefs, of things like freedom of speech and freedom of religion and tolerance, and the idea of the great potentiality of the individual and the individual's supreme, and that our government works for the individual, not the other way around.

All of these are just so fundamental to America. Just like you said, in the early 1800s, when foreign European visitors would come ... Notably a fellow named Alexis de Tocqueville who had written great volumes about what he observed by traveling really, throughout America. He was breathlessly taken away by just what an entrepreneurial unleashing of the human spirit that he saw here in America, which was so much in contrast to the Europe of the time. I think the other observation I would have today is that, while all of that remains true in our history, that today we as Americans, particularly if we've grown up here, we've a tendency to take it for granted and not really fully acknowledge or appreciate or recognize just what a special place we have.

Wisdom From a Taxi Driver

But, I do see that. This is kind of an interesting example. I tend to, because I travel, I travel a lot in business, so I find myself in the back of either a taxi cab or an Uber, or whatever it might be, and I get into a ... I love to have conversations with people. Many of the drivers, by the way, didn't grow up here in the United States. So, an initial question often times is, so I'll ask, "So, you didn't grow up here in America. Where did you come from?" They'll tell me what country it is. I might ask them how long they've been here. Then one question I always ask is I say, "Do you like it here? Do you like it here in America?" Almost 10 out of 10 will say, "Yeah, I love it here."

Then I'll ask, "What's so special about America?" 9 times out of 10, if not more than that, the word that'll come ... It's a word. It comes back as "freedom". In America, you're free. You can do anything you want. You can become anything you want to be. It's so recognized by these people who have not grown up here. They see that distinct difference and they just so fully appreciate it, and they love being here in America. That's how it comes to life for me.

It's almost like ... I try and convey this to our kids all the time. I mean, our repeated phrase to them is that you have won the genetic lottery. You happened to be born here. You could have been born anywhere. You happened to be born here. My next question to them is, "Okay, what are your plans now? What are you going to do with it?" I think it's difficult for them to understand. I think it's taken me ... I'm 47 years old this year. It's taken me most of those 47 years just to realize that I'm a fish swimming in water. If you grow up and you have these freedoms, it's easy to take them for granted because it's just the way things are.

I have that same experience in Ubers and cabs, and all the time when I'm talking to a driver and they're from somewhere else, they have an appreciation for all of the freedoms that exist, particularly here, but also exist in a lot of other places in the Western world, that those of us who were born here and grew up here don't have, because they've seen the contrast.

Yeah, totally.

Yeah. It's striking to me, and it's taken me a long time to really come to that realization. One of the things that that freedom affords you is you get to go out and pick projects and choose things. You can look at a situation that you want to improve, and you've got the freedom to go do that. I know that you have done that in your home town, in Newport, New Hampshire. Tell us a little bit about that initiative. I know you're doing some unique things to attract businesses in.

Yeah. I've never done anything as rewarding as what I'm doing now. It's a revitalization project in a town I grew up in.

A Small Town Boy Returns Home

So, picture a town in western New Hampshire, a town of about 6000 people, called Newport. It's unique, but it's not unique in a lot of ways, in the sense that there's so many other towns around New England and around the Midwest, really throughout our country, who have shared experience with what's happened and been happening in Newport, in the sense that over the last say 20, 30, 40 years, what was a bustling main street, very vibrant main street in a small town, wonderful place to grow up, today when you go back and you take a look at that same main street in that same town, is this long, slow economic decline as jobs have left the area, in some cases left the country.

That main street is not that bustling place anymore. It's not entirely vacant for sure, but there's many vacancies along the main street and it just doesn't have the vitality. You get a sense that if you're a young person, you're not looking to stay or some back to Newport because the jobs just really aren't there, the opportunities aren't. Of course, in our area, we've been hit with a double whammy because the opioid crisis has really been a major impact on the region. But, that's true throughout other parts of the country as well, for sure.

Well, earlier this year, back really in about January, February, I decided that ... I just happened to be driving through town one day, and it just came over me, and I said, "You know, I'm going to change this. I'm going to revitalize Newport." So, it began, and I must admit we really didn't have any particular concept of exactly how that was all going to happen. But, I just knew that here's an opportunity, and I've got relationships and resources because I've done a number of things in business, and there's some things I can bring to the community to be very, very helpful, and at least be a spark plug, maybe be a champion, put some energy into this.

So, we began with two people, and then 12, and now we're up to about somewhere in between 150 and 175 people, with our shoulders leaning into this initiative. The whole idea is to bring vitality and economic opportunity, and just a sense of real life back to Newport, so that we can give opportunities to the next generation. They really afforded me some wonderful opportunities growing up and being a Newporter. I'll always be a Newporter. But, you've got to think a little bit out of the box. We're doing some things that are a little bit, I would think, traditional, trying to find businesses to relocate in the town and so forth. But, some really cool things that we're doing.

In addition to that, there's an old mill in town. Beautiful old mill. But, the problem is that it's been vacant or dormant for the last 40 years. While it's been sort of kept up physically, there's just nothing there. So, we're revitalizing and restoring that mill. We're putting in 47 independent living apartments. We're putting in a health center right in that old mill. We're keeping the character of the mill. And also a restaurant, with river front dining. This old dormant mill that people would pass by day in and day out is now going to become sort of an economic center, become a vibrant place for the community. Working with a developer to help get the various tax credits and financing that's required to make this project really work, but that's an exciting project to be a magnet for the whole community.

But, then I'll just mention quickly, Steve, two out of the box ideas that I think can be employed by other communities. Certainly the method of thinking at least, let's say. So, Newport being remote, being somewhat isolated, I was thinking there must be digital opportunities that can really revitalize this community. I began working with three entrepreneurial digital firms in New York City, and they were kind enough to volunteer to put together a program, a training program in digital. So, web design, coding, programming, some java.

What we constructed was a 12 week training program for 20 students in Newport, to be fully trained and certified at the end of this period. They could get their training without even leaving the community. But, even more important, that once certified, they will be qualified to do work for these same firms in New York City, or really any place around the world, and really earn some great income. We're in the midst of that program right now. It's really working.

What's really interesting, and probably one of the most important parts of it to me, is that the people ... We originally thought this was going to be a program for only high school students, but what it turned out is that we have several high school students among the 20 students, but we also have people in their 20s, 30s. We've got two people in their 60s. Because the town and community just hasn't afforded the opportunities, and they see this program as a real way of achieving and improving their set of opportunities, and they're so enthused about the program.

I'm enthused about it for that reason, but I'm also thinking that ... We're doing one 12 week training session now of 20 people, but that's really ... The way to think about it is, it's not the only 20. It's just the first 20. We're going to do 20 more, and 20 more and 20 more. It's really going to change the fabric of the town. So, that's, I think, a real game changer for Newport, and I'm really enthused about it.

Yeah. I think we're in a great retooling in this country, and I think it's happening in others as well, as we move ... I don't think we're moving beyond the industrial age, things need to be made and built and all that, but where that happens has shifted. I think we're in this great retooling of our economy. It used to be that you had to centralize everything because of the need for massive capital, and now we're seeing that the opposite can happen. Because of technology, because of the internet, you can now work in this distributed way. I mean, we're a great example of that. We've got a team that spans both sides of the Atlantic, and none of us in the same physical location.

I happen to live in a little town called Tallahassee in Florida. I didn't grow up here, and it wasn't the first place I lived. I moved here by choice, and I'm able to work with companies all over the world because of technology. I couldn't have done that 15 years ago, or 20 years ago, at least not to the degree that we're doing now. It creates all kinds of amazing opportunities for little communities like Tallahassee, like Newport, like all across the country, these little towns that have been kind of forgotten but are great places to live, where you can find ... hardworking people, and smart people, that have the skills. They don't need to live in New York City or in LA or in Silicon Valley. Just huge opportunities. So, I applaud what you're doing. It's fantastic.

Well, we've got one more ... I've got many more, but here's one other out of the box way of thinking that also can work maybe for some other communities. As we're thinking about trying to attract businesses into our community, a thought bubbled up and said, hey, 30 miles away from Newport, there actually is a much more thriving economic area, around the place really dominated by Dartmouth College. Sort of Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire, and so many communities nearby will have a community like that. They have lots of jobs. There's great educational opportunities. It's a great place, a thriving area.

However, when you have an area like that, real estate prices tend to go up, and it becomes somewhat unaffordable for folks. We said, "Gee whiz, if that's the kind of place that is only about 30 miles away, what if we flipped things on the head and instead let's think about Newport's a great place for folks to live, and maybe we can take advantage of the business and job opportunities that are really only 30 miles away. But, what can we do to foster this?" So, the answer, or at least the answer we're pursuing aggressively right now, and I'm pretty excited about, is a bus service.

Not just an old cranky old bus service, but a really nice one where there's daily commuting capability, where people can get on and get their WiFi and be in a really comfortable location where they don't have to drive and do the commuting back and forth, and several times a day, and be dropped off, and make the commuting a really pleasant experience such that people will not only be able to live in Newport and work 30 miles away, but choose to. There's really those great families locating in Newport and finding it to be a community where they can actually afford much more housing and real estate and just great place to live, and have the best of both worlds.

Finding Entrepreneurial Solutions in Unexpected Places

So, we're in the process of instituting that now. It's just another one of those real game changers that either could happen or would not happen, but with a concerned group of citizens organized, coordinated, really tapping intro resources, as we call the Newport Sunshine Initiative, we're able to make this happen. So, just another idea, Steve, on ways people can break out of traditional thinking and try to innovate in ways that are going to help their community.

Yeah. It's interesting as I'm listening to you describe that solution, it just occurs to me that's an imminently entrepreneurial solution to that problem. The bureaucratic solution might be, well, we need to lay a train track, we need train service and we need all this stuff, and it's going to take us a decade. But, the entrepreneurial solution is, well, let's just go get a bus because we've already got the roads, and let's get a bus that will go back and forth, and let's get a nice bus, but let's see if this'll work without-

Well, you know, Steve ...

... betting the farm.

... you're so spot on. We've kind of lived this, because this same set of issues has been studied many times. But, it has the problem, the governmental or the nonprofit organizational sometimes is difficult to get to action. It can study a problem, and maybe find some resources and maybe not, but tends to build a construct of a much larger solution set that has to be addressed. Whereas, the way I'm thinking about this is exactly as you described. Let's pick a route, get a bus. Let's start it, and then we can build from there.


So, you're absolutely right.

That's brilliant. Well, Jay, I appreciate you coming on today. I know we're about out of time. You've shared a tremendous amount of wisdom with us. And for folks listening, even if you're not in a situation to implement any of these specific ideas, what I love, at least what I gained from this conversation is a different way of looking at problems. Jay, I appreciate you sharing that with us.

Where can folks find out more about what you're doing, and where can they connect with you?

Yeah. Two things. Certainly learn more about the Sunshine Initiative book and everything we're doing at my website, which is It's spelled J-A-Y, Lucas,, so praise upon

The other thing is the book. The book is listed there, but if you want to go find it, it's on Amazon. It's really simple. It's American Sunshine at Amazon. Either of those two ways. Love to hear from you. You can email us at that website. There's some info, a place to send us some comments. Love to hear your comments, and we'd love to get back to you and develop a relationship. Anything we can do to help, in other words.

Outstanding. Jay, thank you so much for being on the show today. It's been a pleasure, and look forward to connecting with you in the future.

Thank you, Steve.

Tina Forsyth | The Cure for Restless Entrepreneur Syndrome

EP 94 - Tina Forsyth Copy.png

These days it’s common for businesses to have “virtual” teams spread across the country… even the world.

But when Tina Forsyth coined the term online business manager back in 2008 and wrote her first book on the topic, she was a pioneer in the outsourcing space.

She continues to innovate, helping business owners find the right people they need to run and grow their business.

We talk about how to find those key people, as well as…

  • Creating a business that doesn’t need you around

  • Where to find (and how to recognize) employees better than you

  • The two mindsets of outsourced employees (one you must avoid)

  • When delegating goes bad

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Tina Forsyth Now

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with the Tina Forsyth. Tina has been working online since ‘99 and is the author of the award winning “The Entrepreneurs Trap” and founder of the OBM Association.

01:36 Tina tell us how she started off in business and how it led her to writing “Becoming An Online Business Manager”.

07:02 Accepting that there will be difficult times ahead helped Tina overcome them when they came.

08:38 Tina always needs a new problem to solve.

11:06 Steve explains his strength is putting together teams and systems.

13:30 Tina talks about having an identity crisis when she found it hard letting go.

19:55 Tina explains how to find the right people to take over from you.

25:40 Steve talks about his virtual business and getting people with expert mindsets.

27:19 Tina tells us how she chooses between the two mindsets.

30:06 Tina tells us why we don’t need big teams, to keep it lean and tells us about her “sigh of relief moment.”

33:36 Tina explains the “Taking Inventory Exercise” for hiring.

36:47 Steve talks about his own experience of moving stuff from his plate.

38:19 Tina explains her zone of excellence.

40:09 Tina tells us how best to get in contact with her.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Tina Forsyth:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon. Today, we've got a great interview for you. I'm really excited to be talking with Tina Forsyth. She has been working online since 1999, and she describes herself as a Jill of all trades, which I love, and really when it comes to running and growing a profitable service based business, she's got this nailed. She's the author of the award-winning book, The Entrepreneur’s Trap.

She’s also the founder of the International Association of Online Business Managers where I know they do great work. I hear nothing but good things about their OBM program from people who have hired OBM's in the past. She has created the certified OBM training program, which is the only training program of its kind for high end virtual managers, and her mission is simple, “To help growing businesses build a team, and a foundation that will take them to the next level.” Tina Forsyth, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you. Great to be here.

I have been looking forward to this for quite a while now, since we booked it, and I'm anxious to get into some of the things that you're doing, particularly around helping business owners higher better, but before we get to that, I'm hoping that maybe you can give us a little bit of context beyond just what's in your bio, so that folks can kind of understand how you got to this stage in your career.

Yeah. I would define my journey as a little bit of following a trail of breadcrumbs, experience over the years. It's actually close to 20 years since I started my business. I started back in 1999, and even at that time, I had no idea I was going to actually build a business. I didn't have any big goals, I didn't have any big plans. I just knew I didn't want to work for someone. I guess that was probably my main motivator. I initially thought, I initially discovered and went down the path of becoming a business coach at that time, and took some coach training, and all kinds of cool things, but very quickly discovered two things.

Number one, I had no clue how to build my business, so that was a bit of a problem. Number two, I found myself in a situation a couple years in where I got the opportunity to work on the backend of a really successful coach training organization, you know, multiple programs, multiple stuff to figure, all kinds of great things going on there. I was hired to work on their team, initially, with some event management, and a few other things that were going on. I thought I would do that until I got my coaching business going, but something actually flipped around.

I found that I loved being behind the scenes, and I loved what it took behind the scenes being a part of a team that would bring the vision together. The owner of the company had a huge vision, and all kinds of amazing things going on, and there was those of us as a team behind the scenes that were working, and working together to bring that vision to life. I didn't know what to call it at the time. The founder of that company unfortunately passed away, and when that happened I was looking around going, all right, what am I doing now? You know?

The Birth of the Online Business Manager

I knew I didn't want to go back into doing the coaching at that time, per se, but I didn't know, I knew what I wanted to continue doing, what I've been doing, I didn't know what to call it. I ended up calling myself an online business manager for lack of a better term, honestly, it wasn't any big aspiration at the time. Started working with other six and seven figure coaches in particular who were building a business online, and working online, leveraging online tools, and resources, and ways to connect. As I was doing that work for many years, there was a couple of things that started happening.

I would have people come to me, other business owners would be saying, “Hey, Tina, I need to hire somebody who does what you do. I need to find somebody else who does what you do. Where can I find them?” I really didn't have anywhere to point them, because there weren't other OBM's out there at that time. There's a handful of us doing that work, working at that level with clients, but not a whole lot of us. Likewise, too, though, I started to have some people from the other side of the coin that were saying, “Hey, I want to do what you're doing. I want to work at a higher level of clients. I want to do that.”

That led me in 2008 to writing a book called, Becoming An Online Business Manager. We just celebrated the 10th anniversary of that book, and came out with a 10th anniversary edition. That was really, the book started another phase of my career that led me into creating the OBM Association that you mentioned, starting a training and certification program for online business managers, and starting to really work with supporting, and mentoring people to become an OBM, to work with clients at that level, and then likewise working with business owners on the other side of the coin to make sure that they were finding the people, the support, getting their own team in place to support the business, and have continued to do variations of that now for the past 10 years.

You're attacking a problem that we all deal with in business, and I had a colleague say to me years ago he said, “The whole game of business is really about people collecting, and if you can collect the right people onto your team, and collect the right clients as well you could build a really great business, but if you don't get the people part sorted out it's really hard to build much of anything, because you only go as far as your own capabilities, and even for the most talented people there are limits to that.”

These are important problems to be tackling. As you're developing all of these things, and we've doing this online since 1999, you wrote the online business manager book in 2008, so 10 years, which is like an eternity in internet marketing.


You know? What were some of the ways that you kind of persevered through all of that, and stayed really true to your mission, and on track when things got difficult?

It might sound funny to say, but I would say probably one of the main things that I've learned over the years is it's to accept that there will be difficult times. I think in particular in the success industry, or the business training industry, et cetera, personal development world there's a lot of expectation put out there that, “Hey, just find what you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life,” kind of thing, but that's not true. I mean, I think that's basically BC.

It's like find what you love, and yeah, you're going to work pretty hard, and it'll be well worth it, it'll be really good.

That it's not all sunshine and roses. I mean, when we accept the idea that, yeah, there's going to be times that are a little challenging. Then in a funny way the expectation that, that's okay is actually a part of that, or has been a part of that for me, and especially today's day and age with social media and everything, you know nobody's posting the days where, oh, my goodness this fell apart, and this client disappeared, or whatever happened with a team member, like nobody's posting that stuff online, on social media. Everybody's posting the good stuff, so it's easy to look at and think, oh, my goodness, I'm the only person, suffering through some of these things.

There Is No Such Things as Overnight Success

You have just crushed my entire world. I was planning on being an overnight success between now and tomorrow, and it was going to be really easy, and I was going to follow my passion, and do what I love, and never have to work again, and you're telling me that, that's not true?

Oh, my God. Were you going to have bonbons and eat them on the beach, or whatever? I don't know.

Why not? Right?

Yeah. You know, by all means I'm all for enjoying our lives in business, and so on, because the other side of that coin is working 24/7, that's not healthy either, that's not a good thing, either. You know, really just, it's meant to be hard at times, and for me, too, it's also been a mix of I thought, I remember back around the boat, 10 years ago now when I wrote my book, and I started the association, and the training, I thought at that moment I had it all figured out. I was like, all right, I've got it all figured out, the rest of my life is set. I thought that was it.

Then, I came to realize that it wasn't, and partially, or in many ways because of who I am, like I'm actually, I'm more of a like started, get things going. I'm sure others can relate to this, you know get things going, create things. Then I have what I like to call about a three year itch. Where it's about every three years, or so I'm feeling like I want to create something new. When I ran into that after starting our certification training for OBM's, and all kinds of amazing things that were going there, I was about three years into that journey, and I was honestly getting a little bored.

I was like, I'm kind of getting a little bored with this, it's all good, I'm getting a little bored with it. Then I felt guilty about feeling bored, like, oh, how dare you feel bored, this is amazing, and all these wonderful things. I had a conversation with a friend of mine one day, and she's like, “You're a problem solver,” and like, “You just need a new problem to solve.” That really hit home for me.

That's what led me to writing my second book, The Entrepreneur’s Trap, which was digging more into helping business owners get the systems, the team, the structure, all of those things in place, so that they can create a business that can run without them. It's also been recognizing myself, my own strengths within my business, has been a part of that. When I find myself thinking that I should be something, or should be happy with something that I'm not happy with, that becomes a roadblock for me. That becomes something that really starts to get in the way.

You know, I've heard people describe building a company as really building a product, which is I think, it's an interesting frame to kind of look at this idea of building a business that, that's really the business itself is the product, and if you do that, it sort of allows you to step back, and kind of look down from above at this product that you're building, which in service businesses it's hard to do, because a lot of the times you sort of view yourself as the business owner, the number one investor, the product itself, and the production line all in one. Right?


And probably the sales force, too. It's difficult to sometimes separate, but I know I could relate to what you just described and kind of feeling like, okay, I've created this part of this business, it's time to move on, and do something else. I know I tend to be wired that way, and the way that I've kind of realized, or that I've kind of recognized that I can deal with that is to look at my strengths, which are kind of coming up with ideas and starting things. I think you would probably relate to that. Right?


**Making sure that they work in the market, selling them, and then having a team in place that's really, really good at the stuff that I'm not very good at, which is taking that idea, turning it into systems, turning it into process, delivering on it consistently. You know? It took me a long time to realize I don't have to do all that stuff, and partially I shouldn't. You know?


Nobody wants to pay for me doing that, because I'm not very good at it, but I can go find some really great people who are excellent at it, way better than I ever would be, serve our clients way better. I think that approach is important. I know a lot of the work that you're doing really is trying to get entrepreneurs to that place. How has that played out in your own businesses?

There was a bit of an identity crisis the first time that really came up for me, so when I shifted from being an OBM, and working directly with my clients, and they were hiring me to shifting my model, fully, to a training, and coaching business model. At that point, is when I started bringing on my own team, and I think especially too with service providers, like the first stage of our business usually is just us doing our thing. You know, it might be a few years, it might be months, it might be however long it is, it's like us doing our thing.

You Can’t Do Everything Yourself and Keep Growing

Then, when the business starts to become bigger than us, and we start to need to bring in team members, it was actually funny, my coach at the time, when I was in that space in my business, it was my coach who looked at me he's like, “Tina, you need to hire your own OBM,” I'm like, “Oh, you're right. I do.” I wasn't even seeing it for myself. I had some great team members come on, including a person who really played that management role, who was working with me to run the day to day, and working with me to grow the business.

We were about six months into working together, and I had what I call an identity crisis in all of that, too, because it was basically like, okay, if everybody else is taking care of this and that, and that and this, and all these things are going really well, then what am I supposed to be doing, here? Like, I was so identified with being the doer, and being the one in the day to day, and being the one that clients would come to, and that team members would come to, and being in the thick of everything that when that wasn't true anymore I really had a moment of, yikes, and that's really when we step into the CEO space at that point. I mean, we can either step into it, or we can step backwards into being the doer.

It's one way or the other with that, but that was a really pivotal moment for me, because I remember talking with my coach at the time, too, and it was a very, I could very much feel how it would have been so easy to slide back in, and be like, “Let me take this, and let me take that, and I'm going to jump in here, again,” and who knows what kind of trouble I would have been causing and probably sabotaging my team, and all kinds of things versus, no, wait a minute I need to redefine who I am in this business, now, and what I am bringing to the table, and what that role actually looks like moving forward.

I think those are really critical questions to be asking, and I think it's hard for most of us to ask those questions of ourselves, or at least know when we should be asking them. Until you get to that point that you do it, once you do it, then you go, okay, well, this is pretty good, I need to reevaluate this maybe twice a year or something.


I think getting to that first instance of kind of having that conversation with yourself, and giving yourself permission to do it is I think that's a little bit of a hurdle to get over. I mean, particularly when we're starting out, because as you say, you're trying to do everything, and-


You almost feel a little bit guilty when you say, “Well, wait a second, no, I'm not going to do everything, anymore.”

I know for myself, that I was very much raised with that blue collar mentality, like you work hard, and good things will happen, so it was all about getting in there, and working hard, and to make that shift, and to continue, like I had a mentor say to me years ago, you know, she said, “Every level of success requires letting go of something else.” I was like, ewe, okay, and I've really found that to be true, like first we let go of the doing, and then we let go of the managing, you know, and then there're various things that we continue to let go of to whatever level we want to be growing our businesses to. It's actually not more work to be done, per se, it's more of letting go, and leading.

Yeah. That's the only way I think it works, because I mean for most people running a business you can't do anymore work. There are no more hours. There's no more energy. This whole thing that's out there now of hustle, and no sleep, and you know pull these long hours, I don't find that to be that productive or to really create much of anything useful. I do think there's a strong case to be made that to really deliver quality to your clients, deliver high value, it is about simplifying, and doing less. I want to pause here for a second.

I want to come back, Tina, and I want to talk about how to take these ideas that hey you need to step back, you need to begin building a team, and I want to talk specifically about hiring and finding that team, because I know that you're very good at that, and I know for everybody listening that's something that they're struggling with right now. If you're listening, we're going to be right back with more from Tina Forsyth.

Hey welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I'm talking with Tina Forsyth. Tina, I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about, now, if as an entrepreneur I've decided, okay, it's time for me to give some things up, to let go as you were saying, how do I find the people who when I let go will catch it? You know? How will I build that team? It's not necessarily and easy thing to do.

The good news these days is there's a ton of people out there to be hired, especially with social media, and internet, and all kinds of things, like we're ridiculously connected these days. I think even back to 10, 15 years ago when I was starting to do some things, and starting to work with people, with clients, with their team or in my own business it was different then. It was just that idea of where do I find people? That parts actually not hard anymore. There's a couple of things I want to give everybody today to help sort of ease the hiring process.

Only Hire Employees With This Mindset

First and foremost, to recognize that there's two different mindsets of people that you can hire, and I'm speaking in particular around hiring outsourced support, so I do a lot of work with people who are hiring say everything from like their first virtual assistant through to online business managers, through to sales support, or marketing support, all kinds of things. It can apply when you're hiring an outsource professional of sorts to work with you through to employees. I mean, the same thing can apply here as well, too, but basically you're going to run into two different mindsets out there with the people that you're looking to hire, and it's important to know which mindset you're looking for when you're actually bringing a person on board.

People are either going to show up with what I call an employee mindset, or they're going to show up with an expert mindset. An employee mindset is someone who they want to great work, they really want to help, they really want to serve, and they're coming from a place of just tell me what you need me to do, so their wanting to help, their wanting to do the work, they can do great work, maybe not all of them, but let's assume they can do great work. Being able to tell them what to do, you need to this person what to do. I call that an employee mindset in the sense that it is often an old habit of theirs from being an employee in some fashion that they've just never gone beyond in their own business journey, yet. Or you can hire somebody who's bringing an expert mindset.

Someone with an expert mindset, they know what their expertise is, they know what they can help people with, they know the deliverables, the results, the impact they can make for a client, and they're going to show up and lead the business owner in that work. Let's say for example hiring an OBM, I'll use that as an example, you know an online business manager they should be able to plug into what's going on in the business and say, “Great. Here's what we need to do.” They're telling you what needs to be done. You're not having to tell them what needs to be done.

A lot of times, you know, this has been, I have a new book I'm writing, it's going to be really based on this topic, and around this piece in particular, we live in a world now where it's ridiculously easy to start a business, which on one hand is a great thing, but there on the other hand it brings up all kinds of challenges. One of which is unless if we were going to go to business school, we really don't know everything we need to know to run our companies. There's a lot, a lot of stuff to know out there. There's a lot of things that are going on in a lot of aspects of business that we may or may not have the time, energy, or inclination to get into and know, and understand, but yet we need them, we need these things done in our business.

If we rely on, I like a little tongue in cheek, talk about the idea that delegation is dead, because delegation requires that A, you know what you need that person to do. Right? Or like you know how to do it, you know enough to give them the instructions, and so on, and to tell them what to do, which isn't always true for a lot of business owners that I work with. B, it also assumes that you have the time to delegate, and manage, and feed things to people that way.

One of the bigger frustrations I will hear from clients, or colleagues, or any conversations with business owners is, small business owners in particular, of course, is when they're saying, “You know what? I found this great person. I just think they're amazing. We had a great conversation, but you know what I don't know what to give them? They're sitting there waiting for me to give them things, but I don't know what to give them, so nothing is getting done.” I'm like, I'm frustrated, and they're frustrated, and et cetera. That's when you hire somebody who brings that employee mindset to the table, that's exactly what happens, they're going to sit back and be told what to do.

If you hire somebody who's going to be able to plug in to what's going on, it actually will take the weight off your shoulders of having to figure out what this persons going to do, and tell them how to do it, and when, and how, kind of thing. Like, I'm really challenging people on the side of the coin of who you are hiring, you know, this comes out in our OBM community, it comes out in other communities, as well, that they need to be showing up as the experts, and to be able to plug in at that level. If they're showing up as the employee, it actually ends up putting more work on your plate, in a strange way, and I think that becomes a lot of frustration for a lot of business owners.

**Yeah. It absolutely does put more work on your plate. I've experienced both of those, and while you can work with someone who has more of that employee mindset, it takes some effort to kind of figure out how to continue to direct them. I've been doing this long enough to, I sort of had a pre-internet, pre-virtual employee business where we had at one point up to almost 50 employees, and all kind of located with us, and very kind of a traditional business structure, and now I've got a business that's a 100% virtual where our team some of them are employees, some of them are contractors, but they're spread literally all over the world. While we've overcome a lot of the challenges of not being in the same place, it's easier to do that when you've got somebody that comes with what you're calling the expert mindset, because they tend to take ownership and figure things out.

When you have somebody that has that employee mindset, boy is it nice to be able to walk over to the desk, and stand over their shoulder and tell them what to do, and how to do it, it becomes more difficult when you're not in the same place, and I think that's where a lot of people get frustrated with that, with working with somebody virtually where it doesn't work out very well.

There's absolutely a time when we want somebody with that employee mindset. Like, if we have a lot of really solid systems, and processes, and this is exactly what needs to be done, and how, and when, then to plug somebody in with that mindset, that's great. That's great, because the systems are there, and the processes are there, and that's all laid out really clearly. That usually comes a little further down the road, like it depends a bit on where the business is at, as well, too.

I think especially when we're looking for people that are going to operate on a higher level in the business with us, like somebody who's going to plug in say from a marketing perspective, or social media, or OBM, or project management, or whatever level of support we're looking at in the company. I want people showing up with their expertise. I don't have the time, energy, or inclination to train someone from scratch to do whatever needs to be done in the business. I want them showing up, ready with that.

There are people out there, absolutely, that have that expertise, but not everyone, so it's part of that hiring process is knowing do I need somebody in the role who's going to have an employee mindset, or an expert mindset, and making the determination upfront, and then making sure as you're going through the hiring process that, that you're very clear, and purposeful to find a person that come in on either side of those coins, or either side of that coin.

Yeah. Absolutely. Kind of knowing what you're getting into is important, and knowing how you're going to use them. I think that insight you shared of really thinking about where you are in the business is important earlier in the growth of a business, I think you tend to want people that come with the expert mindset, simply because they're probably going to be more adaptable, and at that stage of a business everybody does a lot of things.


You don't have time to hold hands, you need people who can come in and be resourceful, and that's one of my favorite words in hiring is resourceful, because-


You want people that can come in and go, and find the resources that they need to be successful. You know? Whether that's going and finding information, figuring out how to do something, you know, reaching out to people who can help them without you having to direct it. I think that's really, really important. That may be, that little piece of what you've shared here may be the most important thing for folks listening, because that's a big distinction.

It's something, too, like you said I mean I want to bring anybody, I have a pretty lean team, I mean this is the other side of things, too, by nature of the internet, and all the tools we have available these days, and so on. It's not like we have to have huge teams anymore in our businesses, we might run a relatively lean team, like I have a pretty lean team, there's three of us on my team, and exactly like you said, Steve, there's a measure of everybody jumping into different things in different ways that comes into play.

Also, too, it's like I need people on my team that can plug into what's going on, and keep up with me. If I'm having to go back, explain, come along, all that kind of stuff, that's just not going to work. That's just not going to work for me. It starts to really, and that's where there are problems, like when I have had problems with team members over the years, and I knew especially this with clients and such I've worked with as well in regards to their team, anytime they have somebody sitting back and waiting to be told what to do like, no, that's not the way this works anymore. That's not the way it works anymore. Another really simple tip I want to share, too, from a hiring perspective, around being able to determine this mindset, if that's okay with you?

Absolutely. That would be great.

I mean, when the flow of the hiring process, it really is you're looking to see how they respond in the sense of you can have a conversation with somebody, here's the role we're looking to fill, here's what we're looking for that person to do, et cetera, laying that out really clearly with somebody. They're either going to respond one of two ways. They're either going to respond saying, “Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I love it. Just tell me what you need me to do, and I'll do it for you.” Or they're going to respond and say, “This is great. I love it. All right. Here's what we're going to start with, here's what we're going to do.”

I want to see that person showing, I want to see and feel that person taking the reins right in that initial conversation when I'm talking with them. I call that the sigh of relief moment, when you literally feel like, oh, this person gets it. I want to feel a sigh of relief in that very first conversation, then it's like, okay, they're going to jump in, they're asking the right questions, or laying things out, you can feel their coming in to take things over, or to take things off our plates, or the business's plate in whatever way shape or form you need it. Whenever somebody says, “How can I help you?” That's a red flag to me.

Yeah. They're looking for direction, rather than taking initiative. For a business owner who's listening to this how do they get themselves kind of organized to be able to go out, and hire effectively? I've always found that if I kind of get clear on my intentions for what I'm looking for, and get as clear as I possibly can that tends to help. What advice do you have for somebody who is looking at this, and maybe they haven't hired a lot of people in the past, or they have, and it hasn't been successful, how can they begin to get some clarity around what they want, and then how to go find it?

An exercise I always will have my clients do, it's a pretty straightforward exercise. I call it a taking inventory exercise. I mean, let's say for example if somebody hasn't hired anyone yet, if it's just them at this moment, and again, this could apply even if you have various people. It can apply at any time. You're looking to bring somebody on board. A taking inventory exercise is just spending for about a week or so, making a list of all the things that are on our plate.

Like, making a list of all the things we're doing, making a list of all the things that are on our plate that we're not getting to for whatever reason. Making a list of things that maybe we would like to do some day, but we don't have the time, or energy, or expertise to get these things done. My recommendation for hiring is always to get, are you familiar with Gay Hendricks' book, The Big Leap, where he talks about the zones? He has the zone's competence, incompetence, competence, excellence, and genius.


Is what he talks about. I really like looking at the hiring flow through that lens, so there's a lot of things, like especially if we're the only ones in our business to begin with. There's a ton of things we're spending time on that fits in the zone of confidence. Zone of confidence is like, I can do this thing, but other people can do it just as well as I can. For me, I geek out on some tech, I can whatever, I could send out a broadcast, or there're all kinds of things like that, like I could do all those things, and to a degree could actually enjoy doing some of those things, but other people could do them just as well as I can, like there's nothing in that, that's zone of genius, or zone of excellence, for me to be doing that stuff.

Those are the kinds of things that need to be coming off our plate first. Then, even as we start to, let's say we're at this space of okay, I've I got a lot of zones of confidence off my plate, that's where we're starting to tap into some of the zone of excellence things, which can be more challenging. I love the way that he talks about it in the book, that our zone of excellence, those are the activities that we're really, really great at. They're the things that other people want from us, and that's usually the space where we end up making a lot of money, too, is zone of excellence activities.

In a way, they can become almost like what's the word, like almost seductive, where it can almost be a bit of a trap to find ourselves still doing a lot of things, like maybe client facing work, if someone has an agency, and they're building out a team to serve their clients, and they themselves are still doing a lot of client facing work, because their clients want them to do it, and they think they have to do, and all of that kind of stuff.

It's a little bit starting to question like, okay, really, do I actually have to be the one to keep doing this stuff? You know? Maybe not. There's a lot of things that can as the business grows, and as the business needs it, and as the budget allows for it, there's pretty much most anything that can be coming off our plates along the way, if we want it to.

Yeah. I think there's even another filter there, I mean it's not just where does it fall on sort of the continuum of competence, you know for those skills, but there may be things that are within your zone of genius, but certain applications that don't really add a whole lot of value-


The Tasks You Shouldn’t Be Doing in Your Business

A great example of that, we used to produce, I used to produce a daily email to our list, and I would write it, and for a while I'd set up the broadcast, and all that, and first thing I did was get broadcast off my plate, and then we worked for another couple of years, and then I realized while the copywriting part of that was within my zone of genius, it wasn't adding enough value for me to continue doing it.

Tina Forsyth: Yeah.

Now, for example when we put these podcasts out, you know, we've got a writer that I've worked with now for a good long while, and he's the one that writes the things that go in the email. There are ways to get that stuff that you think, well, it really needs to be me, and I think you have to question it, is it really adding enough value for you to invest your time in it, are you going to get a return on that investment of time and energy?


There all good questions to begin asking, and use that as kind of the blueprint for what to take off your plate.

I've also liked, I don't remember where I first learned this, but it was a number of years ago of knowing the top three things that we want to have on our plate. I mean, for me it's writing, speaking, and teaching. Those are my three things. If I'm spending majority of my time in those three spaces that's a good flow, that's a good flow. If I'm not, then that's where we know somethings off for whatever reason, but even within that, too.

You know it's funny that you say that, too, Steve, like even within our zone of genius, or zone of excellence space one of the things I've started to let go of over the past couple of years is some of the training, and the teaching that I've been doing in the business. It's like, oh, no, I have to do that, that was my default thinking, I have to be the one leading these trainings, I have to be the one doing all of this. I was like, "Wait a minute. That's only true if I think it's true."


It doesn't have to be true. We've made some shifts over the past year in particular. In particular with OBM training that I have licensed trainers now, and various things going on there. Where I'm actually not doing the training at all, anymore on that side of the business.


It's great. I mean it's great for many reasons. It's also freed me up for other things. It's plugged other people into things that they really want to be focused on, and working on, but for the longest time I just couldn't see that. I thought I had to be the one to do that. We're a training company, I have to be the one to do all that then. No, not so much.

Yeah. It's so easy to fall into that trap, and particularly in certain service businesses, you know I was listening to a dentist a couple of days ago describe how he basically moved from seeing patients all the time to actually building a business in dentistry, and kind of getting away from seeing those patients. You would think, there's an example of a business where the owner of the business has to be in there kind of using his hands, literally. Right?

But there are ways that you can get around that, and then grow the business beyond just you, if that's what you want to do. This is, I could tell you we could keep going, and going, and going on this, because this I such an important topic for people, but I know that we're about out of time, and I want folks to know where they can kind of get in touch with you, and I know you've got some stuff that you want to share, so where should people go if they listen to this, and they say, "Yeah. I need to get more focused on how to build my team." is my main website, so that's, and also, too, I do have a hiring, like a how to hire from the perspective of looking for the expertise mindset, a list of questions and such that I'd be happy to give anyone who wants a copy of that, as well, too, based on our conversation today, so the link for that would be

Okay. Great. We'll link to both the main site, and to those questions in the show notes, so folks if you're driving, and you couldn't write that down, or if you're listening to the podcast like I do when you're working out, and you can't write it down, that's okay, you can find all of that stuff on our website at and just look for the episode with Tina Forsyth. Tina, thank you so much for investing some time with me today. This has been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot. I hope everybody listening has learned a lot, as well, and just really grateful for you being here with us, today.

My pleasure. Thanks, Steve.

Mike McDerment | Escape the Time for Money Trap and Finally Get Paid What You're Worth

Copy of EP 93 - Mike McDerment (1).png

Mike McDerment didn’t know much about accounting – the nitty-gritty stuff, at least – when he started FreshBooks out of his parents’ basement.

He feels that his “inexperience” was an asset as he grew the business. It also inspired his strong views about how professional service providers should be billing for their work.

Too many, says Mike, take an approach that leaves clients unhappy and the provider losing money. He has come up with a simple – yet controversial – alternative.

We also talk about a resource he leaned on heavily when obstacles popped up as he grew his business, as well as…

  • Why billing hours can kill your business

  • The unexpected danger of having one big client (especially if they’re really big)

  • How to get paid the same for doing less work

  • Why expertise can sometimes sabotage your problem solving

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Mike McDerment Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Mike McDerment, co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the #1 could-based accounting software in the world for self-employed professionals.

01:26 Mike tells us how he went from building websites to marketing, to conversion consulting to FreshBooks.

04:30 Mike tells us about how he faced almost every challenge to be had in business!

06:41 Mike reveals that if he had had an accounting background then FreshBooks would not be the success it would be today.

10:24 A part of Mike’s success is knowing what he didn’t know and then asking for help.

18:58 Mike tells us about value based billing and gives us a short book to read.

24:30 Mike tells us how to move from hourly to value based billing.

27:12 Mike explains how if your losing money having moved to value based billing, you’re probably billing to low.

30:20 Mike explains how you become more selective in your clientele after moving to value based billing.

32:55 Mike tells us why you should use FreshBooks and how best to get in contact with him.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Mike McDerment:

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon. And today is going to be a lot of fun, particularly if you like getting paid and hopefully getting paid higher fees. We're talking today with Mike McDerment who is co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world's number one accounting software in the cloud for self-employed professionals and their employees.

Prior to FreshBooks, Mike ran his own design firm and he says he accidentally saved over an invoice, realized that maybe there was an unmet need in the market, and all the way back in 2003 he started FreshBooks from his parents basement in Toronto. Since then over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to really take all the pain out of time and billing, and to look professional. I know we use it as well. It makes certainly my life easier.

And so, Mike, I want to thank you for being here. I'm looking forward to our conversation, and welcome to The Unstoppable CEO.

Steve, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

So I'd love for you to give everybody a little bit more background. They got a little snapshot of where you've been in your entrepreneurial journey, but what really got you up to this point?

Okay. So I'm going to give a more concise version of it. We can dig into any major parts of the story here as you like. But I got my start ... I really want to track it back. I was in business school, left that program in fourth year, and I started two businesses. One of those businesses was an events business, and to promote that I event I had to build a website. Or I chose to and so I taught myself how to build websites, which is like 1999 time frame. And then a couple of years running that event, building that website, but caterer for that event needed a website. So I started building websites for other people. And then once I started building websites for myself and others, I asked the question, "Why build a website if nobody shows up?"

And so I get very interested in internet marketing. And then I asked the question, "Well, if you build a website and people show up, but they don't do what you want them to, like sign up and become a lead or purchase something, or whatever the purpose of your website is, what's the point of that?" So I started learning about that and I developed a thing I call conversion consulting, where we would work with companies, brick and mortar real estate, travel, and help them improve the performance of their web properties.

Saving Over an Invoice Started Everything

It was while I was doing that that I accidentally saved over an invoice, and I said, "You know what. This is ridiculous." I had studied accounting in school, but the software available in the early 2000s was really not built for me, it was built for accountants. So I said, "There's got to be a better way." I had been using Word and Excel. So I decided to build something to bill my clients. They liked it. And I started transitioning from a service company to building a product company.

That proved to be quite a steep learning curve. Ended up moving into my parents' basement for about three and a half years to transition from one kind of business to the other. Today we're about 300 people. Over 10 million people have used the service since we started. It's a really simple invoicing and accounting software built for just folk who ... no retail, no restaurants ... just if you get paid for your time and expertise. That's our core focus in the market. It's a lot of fun. If you invoice, you need FreshBooks is the way I think of it.

So that's the story. That's where we started. And kind of where we are now.

I think quantifying it as a steep learning curve is probably being pretty generous. I know a number of friends who have tried to make that transition from running a service business to building out a product, and I think all of them in the software area where they've almost tried to productize their service into a piece of software, it's really difficult to do. What were some of the big challenges that you had early on?

I don't even know where to begin. I think every challenge. We had every challenge. I knew something about internet marketing and website design. And that's about all I knew. I knew nothing about product management. I didn't know a lot about research but I had some natural proclivities there. But I had to develop a discipline there to really understand it better.

There were parts of marketing that didn't really exist yet, like blogging and it became a big part of how we went to market. There's kind of leading, setting a vision, trying to ultimately raise capital, building a team, hiring people, which I'd done a little of. But you almost can never be practiced enough on that. So yeah, I can go deeper on any one of those, but it was really a whole raft.

I found building a service business is nice in that it is a gratifying thing to serve others and to make an impact for them in their businesses. I loved that about it. And I still have that in my role today. But what's clear about it is you're kind of working on solving problems almost one to one. Like you speak with a client. You understand their problem. And then you go and deliver against that based on your expertise.

Building a product company, I would go ahead and say there's like seven to ten more dimensions to the problem. That's fun if you like to learn but it does make things more complex at heart.

Yeah. I can imagine. So as you're building this, the one thing I didn't hear in there was the "Yeah, I had a tremendous amount of accounting experience" that you drew on to build this. Where did that come from? It's really intriguing. I mean you built a company that does this really critical function, but that wasn't the background that you had. How did you bridge that divide?

Let me first expose to you a bias that I have, which is I think there can be a certain genius in naivety. I'll demonstrate it another way, which is we're really big on culture and customer service at FreshBooks. I have never worked for anybody else. We were able to build ... I don't know if you know the great places to work thing that Google and Facebook and everybody gets into. Culturally our company, in 20, I guess it was 15, we were the number one company under a thousand employees to work for as determined by our employees, and by data. Not just like nice words. Benchmarked against thousands of other companies. And we've been a top ten company since then, so four and seven the last couple of years.

Why do I share all this? It's like I haven't worked anywhere else. But solving this problem of building a company and a culture that scales and matters is something I've been really passionate about and had a lot of fun doing. So that's thing one.

As it pertains to I guess your question with regards to expertise in accounting. I think that same naivety has played a huge role in our success again. Because I think sometimes if you bring a really strong mental model and great amount of expertise to a problem, you will end up ... Frankly when you're thinking about serving ... So this is again different than serving in professional services where you have one client, you want to bring basically the highest level of expertise you can. The funny thing about markets is mostly if you're doing educational stuff the greatest and the largest market is for like 101 material. Not 401. Not 301, if you're thinking about the university or college courses.

It's like the 101 stuff. There's the broadest market for that. And building products is really the same thing. You want to build the simplest, easiest to use thing. And if you're an expert ... Like we have accountants today who say the FreshBooks is not accounting. Except that we're the number two provider in America by revenues for cloud based accounting software. The market would say something different and it's because we built something that was frankly so easy to use. I think if I'd had an accounting background I never would have built it the way we did. I guess that's the punchline.

We came at the problem differently and we focused on, instead of sophisticated accounting capabilities, instead ease of use and efficacy for a certain target customer. And the results have been remarkable.

Yeah, they certainly have. And I think that little bit of wisdom is I think really key. If there's anything for the listeners to write down and take away from it, it's that kind of coming, as you say, from naivety and approaching a problem with fresh eyes. It gives you an advantage. It gives you an advantage that is a little bit unique and one that maybe most people would discount. I love that. That's brilliant.

So as you've built up the business what were some of the ways that when you ran into a brick wall or a road block, the thinking that you drew on or maybe some of the practices that you drew on to push through?

The Mentors Who Will Help Grow Your Business

Yeah. So I think the way I am built as an individual I guess, or something like that, is I probably have more of the push through orientation than I do of necessarily all the tools to solve the problem. And so we encountered many problems, all of which I was wholly unqualified to solve. But I had the desire to figure it out. I will say one thing that maybe was to our advantage is we were very aware that we knew nothing. So a big part of our success, and frankly my success over the years, has been knowing that I didn't know and not being ashamed to seek out help and kind of lay myself bare.

And so I have over the years collected advisors, and that's a little saying I have is "I like to collect advisors." And I would get out into the world in my industry, like going to conferences and things like that, and I would network and I would meet people. And I would turn those people into people who would pick up the phone if I called. Or get on the phone with me if I emailed. And then I would bring them my problems. It's a funny thing about when you're honest and you bring a problem to somebody else, is human nature is largely ... If that's problem is interesting and you're a relatively whether it be kind or forthright person. People want to help.

So I think that ... and that's not a specific example. I can give you examples where that actually became a problem for me. So why don't I go there? So, I guess it's like, "Hey, know what you don't know, and find people to help you think about how to get around the obstacle." Because the will was always there to get beyond the obstacle, but the tools and the know-how, we just simply didn't possess. So we networked our way into that.

And then we also ran into other problems. I think a lot of the hardest problems are the ones that have really squishy long term outcomes. And so when you're building a business, you don't always get direct feedback. Like if you're pitching a client in a few weeks you're going to know whether they're going to do business with you or not. It's not a really long term thing. Whereas in building this product company, we were making decisions frequently that you don't really know whether it worked out for many years. Or an opportunity would be presented to you where, based on if you go through that door, there will be knock on implications that are hard to anticipate.

So I'll give you a specific example. When we were working in the basement, I got a phone call one day. And it was the head of basically, I think they might be the largest bank in America. They weren't at the time, they were like number three. Anyways, but a big bank. So they called me. Sorry, it wasn't the head of the bank. It was somebody inside the bank and said, "Listen. We're interested if you would become our online invoicing" offer. At the time just picture this, I'm sitting in my parents' basement. I'm wearing shorts and a tee shirt. It's all I can do to ensure that they don't figure that out.

So we had a phone call. We always operated with this great level of service, and people didn't really need to know whether we were in shorts or a business suit of whatever to trust to do our job well. So anyways, took the call. They wanted to book another call to follow up. We did that. Fast forward a few weeks and I'm 50 floors up in San Francisco pitching these folks on, "Hey, we should be your invoicing provider."

Fast forward a few weeks. We win the bid. And I'm sitting there and I'm saying, "Geez. I don't know if I want it." And the reason why is because if we go down the path of working with this big bank, we are setting ourselves down a path where we are beholding to one very large customer, right? And at that time we probably had like a thousand paying customers, something like that. And that would influence our product roadmap. Because they're a bank and they're slower to do stuff, we would probably slow down. But, Geez, if we got ... They'd say if we get three percent of our small business customers to use your offering you're going to have a huge business.

And so I was just presented with this choice. So what do you do? I didn't know how to answer the question. I want to my advisor, this great advisor ... I've learned a lot from him over the years. One of the things I learned is, he basically said to me, "Mike, I don't know what you should do, but I know you're going to a great decision." He taught me a valuable lesson there, which is you don't hand people the answers to these questions. Maybe you try and help them think about the potential avenues. That's what he did. And then I had to make a call. My decision was not something he told me to do. I said, "Hey, make the deal worth 10 times as much and I'll do it. Otherwise we're walking." And I said, "No, thank you." And went with somebody else.

And by the way, I think this all was like a huge ... and I'm sorry this is such a long story. I'm probably going to mess with the cadence of the show. But that was a huge turning point in our business. Because if we'd gone down that other door, we would have been in deep trouble. So what is the point? Surround yourself with people who you can reach out to, to get help. Know that you don't know and that you need help. And then I would say don't settle if you feel like an opportunity or a path ... If you don't feel good about it, like trust your instincts. I think I really didn't want the deal and that's why I said make it 10 times as much. But I had to come up with some way that I could walk away from it that I could rationalize as well.

Which brings me to a final thing, which is there's a creative solution to any problem. And I truly believe that. We've demonstrated that time and again over these years at FreshBooks.

That's brilliant. I love that story. I actually think for a lot of the folks running service businesses who are listening to this, who are often finding themselves in that situation where they've got the one big client, or they have the opportunity to get the one big client, just hearing your take on that. And also the importance of going and having those outside folks to question your answers. I think that's brilliant. I appreciate your sharing that.

So we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk with Mike about a whole range of things, but we're going to start off value based pricing for those of you who are looking for a different way to price your services, hopefully get paid more and get out of the hours for dollars trap. We're going to cover some of that. We're going to talk about FreshBooks and invoicing and all kinds of stuff.

So stay tuned.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I am talking with Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks. Mike, let's change gears a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about pricing because for the folks who are listening who are running a professional service business and probably most of them billing by the hour. I've been there. My first business we did a lot of that and I know what a grind it is. And you actually wrote a book, a whole guide on this topic.

So I'd love for you to share with us a little bit of your thinking around getting out of that and moving more towards value based pricing.

Okay. Thanks, Steve. So I'm going to start off with something semi promotional. My only reason for starting with it is so I don't forget to mention it later because I think it'd be helpful for folks. So I wrote a book. It's called Breaking the Time Barrier. It is basically a story of how to move from billing by the hour to value based billing. We'll talk more about why you'd want to do that in a little bit. You can download it for free, okay?, on our website. So search out Breaking the Time Barrier. And it takes an hour to read. So for anyone who's not already doing value based billing, just go to your browser, do the search, spend the hour.

It's written like a fable. So please, if you can get over that format, that'll be great. Is it my favorite format? No. Is it very effective for what that book does? I believe so. It's been downloaded over a quarter million times. The purpose of the book is to help you shift your mindset, to go from a world of how you do billing and pricing and client engagements today to a future state where you can earn more money, basically have more job satisfaction, and actually be more aligned with your clients. So go do that. If not now, after I hit pause go do it.

Bill for Your Impact, Not the Hours You Work

So let's talk a little bit about value based billing and what it's about and why it's a good idea. So the intent of value based billing is to basically divorce your efforts from hours and more closely align them with the impact you deliver for your clients. Full stop. That is kind of the high level pitch. So why would you want to do that? Well, first of all divorcing how much you earn from hours, okay, that's a nice and better place to live. So that's a thing.

But there's a whole bunch of reasons why doing that is a good idea. Let's go to ... I'll start with my personal favorite. If you get down to it, I believe you need two things in business to be successful. Shared values and alignment. And if you bill your clients for time, you are not aligned. And here's why. If you charge by the hour, you are incentivized to work more slowly and charge for more hours. If you bill your client by the hour, what they want is for you to be more efficient and charge for less hours, okay? So inherent in the business model is misalignment. And by the way sometimes that can lead to mistrust. It can also lead to things like, "Okay, we're going to charge you by the hour for this project." You go and do the engagement. And then they get the bill at the end, and they're like, "What the hell's going on? How could this possibly cost so much?" And then they start not trusting you and saying you're moving too slow and all those other things.

So value based billing is a very different approach where you start the engagement in a different place. You first seek to understand what is this client trying to achieve, what is the impact if that is delivered, and am I even able to help them to that. If the answers to those things are yes, you're putting forward a proposal where whatever the impact is, your fee is some percentage of that. Some percentage that makes sense for them to proceed. And some percentage that makes sense for you to have a profitable engagement. We can get into more bits and pieces of it but I think that's a good high level introduction to the concept. How about that, Steve? Does that work?

I think that's a good frame for it. In my experience clients don't like hourly billing, simply because they don't ever really know if they're getting what they should from the engagement. You might charge someone the exact same dollar amount whether you did it hourly or through a value based model and deliver the exact same product. But at the end of the day, in my experience, the client feels a whole lot better about it if you've taken them through this value based process.

I think it is a process. It's not just like you show up and decide this is what it's going to be. I think you've got to go through a process with the client to get them to see the value and to articulate it. Oftentimes they haven't thought about that really thoroughly. I don't know how you find but I know I find in our own business when we have these conversations a lot of times these clients haven't really thought through what is it really worth, what are they trying to achieve. They don't have clarity yet. I find that just going through the conversations that you have to go through to get to that point are usually really beneficial for the client.

Totally agree.

So if somebody is listening to this and they're going, "Oh, okay, that's great. But I'm billing all my clients right now by the hour. I've tried this once or twice before and it didn't go well." What do you tell them as a way to get started down this road? How do they have to begin to think differently about their engagements?

Yeah. So first of all, I empathize, right? Not only is it a new way of thinking and working, but you also have clients who you've trained to expect one thing from you and this could be like changing things up. So what I encourage people to do is forget about your existing clients as you're trying to figure out how to do this, and actually start with prospects. The rationale for doing that is you may lose some deals as you stub your toe and try to figure this out, but at least they have a blank slate in terms of expectations for how you bill them.

How to Start Billing for Value

So that's one approach. So start with a segment of your customers. The other thing could be is you pick one or two customers who you think they're more open minded or what have you, or trusting of you, or whatever the case may be. And as they come back to you with, whether it's next quarter or next year's project, say okay, we're starting to work a little differently here. We want to spend more time with you upfront to better understand your problems and what you're trying to achieve. So it's going to be a process change. We're going to give you a price upfront so that we're aligned, and then you're going to have cost certainty. And by the way to your point of it's a better experience for the client, cost certainty is valuable. I bet people would pay 10 or more percent on engagements with professional services firms just if they could be assured cost certainty.

And so that could be like a bit of an opening pitch. And then try to do it once or twice with some of these firms. You may get it wrong or you may misstep here but that's the learning experience, and if you're not prepared to risk that or try that you're probably not going to change and get where you want to go in life.

You know if you get past that point, the next big fear that comes up ... And I've talked some of our own clients that they need to make this shift. The next thing that I hear from them is, "Yeah, but I might lose money." How would you answer that?

It just broke up a little bit there for me. What if I lose money? Is that the question?

Yeah. A lot of times services providers will worry that if I give a fixed price then I've got to estimate it perfectly and I may end up making less per hour than if I just billed them by the hour.

Then I would say you're probably not having a big enough impact for your clients and their problems maybe aren't big enough to be my orientation. The other one would be you just hung the wrong number on it, which was a mistake on your part. And the other thing I would say is, "Okay, so what? You lost money for an engagement. What did you learn? What are you going to do differently next time." I will say just because you do value based billing I think you can still track time. You should still have some understanding of what your costs are, where your resources are deployed. You may not ever expose that to your client, but for your own internal operational excellence, go ahead and track time still.

I think nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you lose money on one engagement, is that going to kill you? And, if so, maybe now is not the time to be experimenting.

I think that first piece that you shared there around the size of the problem. I find more often than not that's the root of it. I see it happening in two ways. Number one is that when somebody is making this transition, I think oftentimes because they're not good yet at having that conversation, sort of leading that future client through how to think about value. A lot of times they end up assigning the value, the service provider ends up assigning the value themselves. They think, "Well, this is kind of what people pay for it. This is probably what it's worth. It certainly couldn't be worth five times or 10 times as much." Which I think is just something that's just in your head if you're thinking that. You'd be surprised what people will pay for it if you take them through the right process and tie it, get them to tie down what the value is to them.

So I think that's kind of a first place where you see it start to fall apart, is you don't go all the way through the process of getting the prospect to identify the value. So you make some assumptions. And then you kind of assume that well, people have paid me this much before, all I'm doing is turning this into a lump sum of what I got before. And that's not the point. In my experience that's been a big miss.

So, Mike, let's assume somebody gets through that. Now they're beginning to operate more and more from a perspective of value based billing. Now as they're trying to track that and grow that, what are some of the ways that either you've employed or you've seen them. You've now seen thousands and thousands of businesses, right?, bill in different ways. What have you learned that once somebody is billing that way they can be doing and focusing on to grow that value.

Well, I think what happens generally when people take this approach is ... I think this is common of the most valuable and expert firms that are professional service firms out there, is you start moving away from offering services to anyone to more and more specific and consistent industry segments and this kind of thing.

What You Must Do to Charge Clients More

I'll give you an example from my past. It turned out that basically 80% of our clients were in travel or real estate. There's market reasons why that was, which would include they understood the internet, they were spending more money there, they needed more help. So those are some of the factors. Another one was, after I had a client or two in that area, I could speak more cogently in their language about the kind of problems they were facing. So I didn't have customers that were competitive, but I was able to draw on the experience I learned and developed in the prior client engagements and come and apply it to the future customers.

Which is valuable because now I'm becoming not only an expert in my area of expertise, but also an expert in your industry. And so I can bring you value you're not necessarily expecting. And so what's interesting about all that is you're more attractive. People want to buy from you. You can have a bigger impact for the client and you can actually probably get the work done faster. So those three things make for increasingly profitable engagements.

Absolutely. And what I love about this approach is you mentioned get the work done faster. This is how you make more money, right? You get paid the same and you get the work done faster. There's value to speed. So I want to take a few minutes. I know we've only got a few minutes left. I want to take a few minutes and talk a little bit about the work that you're doing at FreshBooks. It's something that certainly has helped our business over the years. It's interesting. I know it'll do time tracking and all that sort of thing, but we don't bill like that. So we've never used those parts of it, but we have used it to run all of our invoicing for the projects, the clients that we work with which is all value based.

For somebody who is listening to this saying, "Yeah, I need some help on the invoicing side." Where do you guys plug in? How does it help them? And where should they go to find out more?

Wonderful, Steve. Thank you so much for asking. So the way to think about us, ridiculously easy to use invoicing and accounting software, again for folks who get paid for their time and expertise. So we offer time tracking. We offer expense tracking, and some project management. So you can have a client engagement. You can track your time on it, understand how profitable you are, if you're over budget. Get that on to an invoice. Get it in a professional way, with your logo on it, to your client. All that good stuff.

So the idea, by the way, in terms of benefits is we find that people spend about a quarter of the time they used to previously on billing their clients, and that was 16 or 20 months ... Let's say you spend 20 hours a month at your firm doing billing and you can take that down to five and you can spend those other hours generating revenue or spending time with your family. Either way those are big benefits in our books.

So that's what we do. You can learn more at And I'll just give a plug for please don't be shy about phoning us. We love speaking with folk on the phone, probably like you do. And you're going to talk with a live person if you dial us up toll free. And that's a beautiful thing.

Yeah. Support's great. Yeah, I'll tell you when we started I didn't overwrite an invoice but I just got so frustrated updating a Word template and sending it out. I think I'd forgotten to do it one week and ended up a week behind on billing, and ended up moving to FreshBooks. We bill on an ongoing monthly basis, a fixed amount to all of our clients. And I was able to set it up and it literally would run through the duration of the engagement. And I wouldn't have to think about it anymore. You guys would send out the invoice accurately automatically every month. And then we got paid, which was really the point. So we've been a big fan for a long time. I'm glad you overwrote that invoice way back when.

Well, Mike, it's been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I know this has been beneficial for all of our listeners. And, again everybody, you can go find out more about FreshBooks at You can find the Breaking the Time Barrier book there. We will link directly to both of those in the show notes if you want to find those. And, Mike, again, thanks for being on.

Thanks for having me, Steve.

Jesse Cole | The “It’s Show Time” Approach to Business

EP 92 _ Jesse Cole.png

Jesse Cole’s motto is “Normal gets normal results.” As the owner of a minor league baseball team, he does what he has to to get butts in the seats for games… leading to record-setting attendance (and revenues) that has garnered national media attention.

And, along the way, he’s discovered a way to create amazing experiences that turn customers into raving fans… and evangelists that become your best marketing team. He packs it all in his philosophy for his company, Fans First Entertainment.

We talk about…

  • How to get buy-in from employees for your “abnormal” policies
  • Why you should put on a “show” for your customers – and how to do it
  • Strategies for drafting the right team for your company
  • Avoiding the “Comparison Trap” when growing your business
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Jesse Cole Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with the Yellow Tux Guy, Jesse Cole. He’s the founder of Fans First Entertainment and the owner of the Savannah Bananas baseball team.

02:01 Jess tell us how he loves baseball, but hated coaching it. He ask what business are you in and what business are you really in!

05:58 Jesse tells us how it's more important to love your customers than your product.

06:42 Jesse explains how he turned around his baseball team by breaking all the rules.

08:31 Jesse explains how he got serious baseball players to dance.

10:31 Jesse tells us that if you’re not being criticized then your playing it too safe.

13:42 Jesse tells us how behind every decision he makes, he asks, “Is it fans first?”

15:29 Jesse explains his very simple core principles and how he instills them throughout the company.

18:48 Jesse explains why he works from the top down.

20:16 Steve tells us about his own experience in repeating his company’s mantra.

21:36 Jesse talks about the long game.

23:42 Jesse talks about the comparison trap.

24:51 Jesse talks about how he works with other companies.

28:05 Jesse explains how to apply “fun” to otherwise “boring” companies.

30:09 Jesse tells us how best to get in contact with him.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Jesse Cole:

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon. And I've got to tell you this is probably the most unique interview we've done, and we've done 80+ interviews. This is going to be exciting, particularly if you care at all about your customers. And I know that you do, so pay attention. If you're not driving go get a pad, a paper, and take some notes as we go through this because I think you're going to learn a lot from our guest today.

Our guest is Jesse Cole. He is the Yellow Tux Guy and founder of Fans First Entertainment. He is the owner of the Savannah Bananas baseball team. And what's really interesting. If you haven't heard of him before, you've got to go look him up. What's really interesting about what they're doing is they've brought more than one million fans to their ballpark. He's been featured on MSNBC, CNN, ESPN. And for a minor league baseball team, they've got sold out games now for two straight seasons, and a waiting list for tickets in the thousands.

And Jesse, I am super excited to have you here. I know there are some NFL teams that can't boast what you can boast. And some major league baseball teams that boast what you can boast. So welcome to The Unstoppable CEO.

I'm excited to be with you. And you called me the most unique guest. I'll tell you, I'm a fan of the show. You've had some great guests. I may be the only one with a yellow tuxedo, so I'll definitely give you that.

Yeah. I think that is certainly true. And I know as we go forward I want to talk a little bit about what you're doing with Fans First Entertainment. I want to make sure we talk about your book because I think that's going to be really helpful for people.

Before we get into all of that, I would love it if you give everybody that's listening just a little bit of your background beyond the stuff that's in your bio. Help them understand how you got to this stage in your career.

Of course. I've been on a wild journey. It's a love of baseball that started when I was a kid. My father bought a baseball facility up in Massachusetts so I could actually go there and practice. And I was there all the time and just fell in love with the sport of baseball and was fortunate to get a college scholarship. Went down to Wofford College in Spartanburg. And by my third year I tore everything in my shoulder. And that ended my whole dream of playing professional baseball.

And so I thought I was going to get into coaching. And I went into it, and I realized something just coaching for a short period of time. That I loved playing the game but I hated watching the game. And I thought the game was too long, too slow, and too boring. So what did I do? I took a job actually working for a baseball team. At 23 years old I became a general manager of a small team outside of Charlotte, North Carolina that was failing. And I realized that we had to turn it into something different.

Fun and Entertainment at the Ballpark

And the question that I ask right now when I'm talking to business owners is what business are you in? Or what business are you really in? And I learned right there in Gastonia, North Carolina with a team that was failing. Two hundred fans coming to the games. I mean there was only $268 in the bank account on my first day. It was the worst, Steve. And I realized that we had to make it all about entertainment. And that was the business we're in.

We started putting on a show. Literally our players started doing choreographed dances. We had grandma beauty pageants. A flatulence fun nights. You name it. We tried everything. And we learned it started to work. And so we built that team up, eventually bought it. Just recently sold it. And then came to Savannah, Georgia where professional baseball had been there for over 90 years but had failed. They couldn't draw fans and so professional baseball left there. And us at the lowest level of baseball, college summer baseball, decided to throw our hat in the ring and give it a shot in Savannah, Georgia.

And what happened was a complete struggle in the beginning. We couldn't sell any tickets. But then we went all in on creating attention, creating the best possible fan experience. And it has been a rollercoaster. But, you're right, it sold out every single game. A wait list in the thousands. They're scalpers outside of games. And it's something based on creating this what we call the Fans First experience. So that is the short, Spark Notes version.

And today, just fortunate to be out speaking with groups, working with them on how to create this amazing experience, and how to create some attention and have fun. So I'm living the dream, having a lot of fun, but still learning every day. It's a journey with a lot of challenges, I'll tell you that.

Yeah. You said something really important. And you kind of went past it really quickly but that may turn out to be the quote of the episode. I don't know. You said that it's one thing to know what business you're in, but you've got to ask the question, "What business are you really in?" And that really resonates for me. My background is I came from a technical field and owned a business in engineering. And it's easy for folks to go to school and get an education and have all that background to say, "Well, I'm in this business."

And one of the key things that I think made us successful in that business is we always elevated that question. We said, "Yeah, we do this stuff, but nobody really cares about that. Nobody buys that. They're buying this other thing over here." It was a little bit different for every client. And I think for folks listening that's a really, really important question. I'm glad you shared it.


So this has clearly not been an easy road. You started with under $500 in a bank account, the company had at your very first job, and you built that up to success, and ultimately sold it. And now you've started again in an area where there was a failing team. And now you've brought that to success. That's not an easy road, I wouldn't imagine.

It was brutal. My wife and I three years ago we were sleeping on an air bed. We had to sell our house, empty out our savings account. It was an unbelievable struggle, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I know when you talk to entrepreneurs it's going through those challenges that made us really go all in on the experience and believe in what we were doing. That's been the road for us. And it's really come into this fascination of loving your customers more than loving your product. And when we shifted that, that's how we've really been able to stand out with everything we do.

So when you were going through those early days, what kept you going? What was it that you said, "Hey we've got something here. We just need to persevere with it"?

I say it all the time, but whatever is normal, do the exact opposite. And we realized we had something that wasn't normal. We just had to create attention. I think normal gets normal results. What we realized is that to many people baseball was long, slow, and boring. Everyone was competing on the same thing. Wins and losses. Well, we didn't want to play the same game. In the beginning I was trying to break the rules, now we're just trying to make our own rules.

And we're competing solely on the entertainment experience solely with ourselves. What happens is when you focus so much on ... I mean during our games our players do choreographed dances. They hand out roses to little girls in the crowd. We have a senior citizen dance team called The Banana Nanas, a breakdancing first base coach who dances in the middle of the game, a pep band. We're so focused on the show experience. What happens is we fill up our stadium and the players end up playing better because of the atmosphere. And then the wins, losses, revenue, everything else takes care of itself.

So we knew we were doing something that was abnormal, that was unlike anyone else. We just had to be able to create the attention and get them to see it. Once they were able to see it, we've been very, very fortunate. We're still learning. We have a 1926 ballpark. I mean it's one of the oldest ballparks in the country. And it has its challenges but people don't notice it. They focus on the fun.

I think every business, put on a show. And you're always on stage. And that's what we try to teach our people, is that it's always show time, every single day. That's what's pushed up to believe in it because we knew it was something different than anyone else was doing.

I'm curious. How on earth did you get baseball players to do choreographed dances? When you went in to have that conversation with them in the locker room, the response couldn't have been, "Oh, yeah. That's the greatest idea ever." I mean there had to have been a little pushback. How'd you convince them to do it?

In the beginning there was complete pushback. I mean unbelievable. I had guys walk away, say, "We're not doing it." But what happened was the players that were doing it were the most popular players, signing the most autographs. Everyone loved them. And so everyone wanted to be a part of it. And then 2009, we had Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, play for us, our team in Gastonia. And even he danced during the game. And when he was dancing, everyone was like, "Wow. If Russell's doing it ... ". It's all about building the culture.

Yes. It was extremely difficult in the beginning. But now people know that's who we are. That's what we do. And I'll tell you, I channeled a little bit of myself playing baseball. You're sitting in the dugout and you're playing a long season. I mean you play college ball then the summer ball. You're playing 100+ games. The games do get long. They get boring. But if you can have a little fun, it makes it all worth it.

And we tell the players, "We want this to be the most enjoyable, best summer of your life. But to make that happen, you have to embrace it. You're going to get uncomfortable." And the guys said, "You were right. It was uncomfortable, but at the end of the summer we wouldn't have done anything different."

And so now they know that, and we train that from the onboarding. The first day, like anything, we onboard our players and teach them the experience and tell them stories and show them videos. We give them the Fans First playbook on who we are. We don't just treat them like players playing for the summer. They're part of our entire culture. So it starts from the first day we bring them in.

Yeah. In talking with business owners what I hear over and over again, any time they're looking at doing something a little bit outside the box or unique, there's always that pushback from their existing staff, their team. Because it takes a leap of faith. It's different. And people often will think, "Well, how is that going to work?" or "How is it relevant?"

Dare to Be Different - Your Employees Too

What kind of conversation had to happen? Because you didn't just have that with players, you had to have that at all levels I would think. How did you get those people to buy in?

You know I believe if you're not getting criticized you're playing it too safe. This is the guy, I wear a yellow tuxedo. I own seven of them. I wear them all the time and I know I get criticized for it, but it's something that we've seen to stand out and be different, that's where you can really have breakthroughs. So to get buy in, it's easier to get buy in now because of the results. Now when you're selling out every game and the only one at this level doing it, it makes it easier.

But it's the conviction. It's the business of belief. In the office I constantly talk about those Fans First moments. And I make sure people understand the purpose of what we're doing. I share ... We've had so many stories about how we've brought families together. We've had tragic incidents where families have lost a special one but the games have kept their family together. And we share those stories.

And we say the only reason we're able to achieve this is because our games aren't like just a regular baseball game. We're creating fun. We're creating memories. We're creating excitement that people aren't used to seeing. So when you share those with your staff, your players, you vendors, everyone you're working with, they want to be a part of it. And they're like, "Okay. I understand. This isn't like everyone else."

So that's big into us. I think every company has their core beliefs. But do they have actually a story, a storyboard where they keep all of their stories? And the ones that really bring the staff together, bring their customers together? Stories are everything for us. We call them Fans First Moments. And after every game we share, everyone goes around and shares their Fans First Moments, that they were either created, they saw or they were a part of.

So when people understand the deep purpose that goes into all of that, they understand, "Hey, we're going to get wild. We're going to do things that don't make sense. We're going to do things that are crazy." But it's all to get these 4,000 people to feel like they're a part of something when they're coming to the ballpark.

That's amazing. So we're going to come right back. I don't know about you, but I've got some notes going on the side. If you're listening you should probably be taking notes, unless you're driving. We're going to come right back with more from Jesse Cole. And, Jesse, when we come back I really want to dive into your book and really kind of that and the great things you're doing with events.

So we'll be back in just a second.

Hey, welcome back this is Steve Gordon. I'm here with Jesse Cole. He is the man in the yellow tux. Jesse, I want to pivot a little bit and talk about the new book that you have out, and talk about the work that you're doing outside the ballpark with your company, Fans First Entertainment, and really the message that you're trying to get out to business owners.

So what's the best place to begin? If somebody is listening, if they've never heard of you before, what should they know first?

You know really I'm just someone that's enjoying the show, is along for the ride, and is just trying to have the time of my life while sharing things. And if you follow, search Jesse Cole the yellow tux guy, you'll find I'm documenting everything. I'm sharing the journey of running baseball teams, but more just running these experiences that we're trying to create.

I try to keep things simple. Our whole company's name is Fans First Entertainment. Our mission is Fans First entertain always. And every decision we make, we always ask ourselves, "Is it Fans First?" So how I'm working with businesses now is I'm just asking those questions. What makes you different? What makes you stand out? And how can you create the best fan experience in the world? And not just think about them as customers, think about them as fans.

So I'm along for the journey. We're learning new things every day. The book has been really an unbelievably rewarding experience, Find Your Yellow Tux. And I share how anyone can be successful by standing out and share the journey. But really, keep things simple. Love your customers more than you love your product. Love your employees more than you love your customers. And just have fun. And when I put those together, you're able to put on a show every day, it's an amazing ride. That's what we're doing. We're having the time of our life.

Well, a couple of things. You mentioned the word simplify. And a couple of things jumped out at me in the book. One is the message to simplify, simplify, simplify. The other is the long game. I would love for you to share with the listeners how those play out, and how they might be able to apply those two ideas to get a better experience for their customers, their clients.

Sure. Well, I think it starts at the top. What's the mission of the company? What's the vision? What are the core beliefs? And that sounds so simply, but my question is how many people can actually know that in their part of the organization? We actually simplified it so much, our core beliefs we go by the alphabet. And it's kind of a guideline for our people. Always Be Caring, Different, Enthusiastic, Fun, Growing, and Hungry. And we reward that constantly, with everything.

Getting Your Team to Buy-In to Your Culture

First, when people get onboarded we actually have them do a Fans First essay on how they fit to all six of those core beliefs. We have them do a future resume, not their past resume, a future resume. We want to know what they plan to do in the future because that will show us, are they actually growing and hungry? If they want to stay at the same position, then that doesn't matter as much and they're not growing and hungry.

And then the final thing, we look for a video cover letter. We want to see their enthusiasm. We want to see how fun they are. We want to see their energy. So it starts from the beginning process when we bring people onboard. And that's for even game day staff, part-time employees, interns, not just full-time employees.

Then we're actually now doing profit sharing where every week we have our people write what was something they did that was Fans First, and what was something they saw someone else do Fans First. So we've kept our vision, our core beliefs, and our mission in our everyday life of how we bring people onboard and our employees that are a part of us.

So we were talking about simplifying. You know, what do you stand for? Who are you? Can you simplify it? Because if you're just trying to bring in revenue or grow, you need to be more than that. We have all millennials on our staff, 22 to 27 years old, and they want purpose. They want meaning. They want to feel like they're making an impact. And I feel we've been fortunate to learn this because we've had zero turnover since we started. And millennials, as you know Steve, they're leaving businesses every 13 months is what I saw, the recent statistic.

So for simplify, I think it starts at the top. What is your business? What do you stand for? And simplify it in as few words as possible. I think Jeff Rosenblum said it best, "Whoever says the most in the least amount of words wins." And that's how we try to keep everything, just a Fans First.

So that's the simplify part. If you want to go into more of that or you want to go into the long game. But obviously that's a big part of what we're trying to do.

You start at the top which I think that's a huge lesson for all of us. It's so easy, particularly with a lot of the businesses that we work with where the CEO, the founder of the business, the principal of the firm, is generally a pretty smart person. They've probably got a pretty lengthy educational background and are highly skilled at something. And it's so easy, and I'm speaking really about myself here I think, it's so easy when you've got that kind of a background to think, "I've got to make it more complicated. I've got to add all these layers in. Because I have the capacity to do it, I've got to add them in."

And I love the message that you have. It's just like, "Strip it down to the bare bones. What are you actually here to do? At the end of the day, what's the result you're trying to create for someone?"


I get that at the top level. Is it difficult then, have you found it difficult to then push that down all the way through the organization so everybody gets it?

Yes. It's certainly a challenge and I think that's why I believe in working with the leadership as much as possible. We have now 15 full-time, about 150 part-time. And I've realized my biggest job, my most important job is to focus on the who and the where. And then bring people into focus on the what and the how.

So the who is the right people, the right place. The where is the vision. Where are we going? We actually worked with Cameron Herold on the Vivid Vision to create our plan for the next three years in reverse engineering. And I'm sharing that over and over again and working on our people where they are focusing on how to implement, and focusing on what to actually do.

I think a lot of times CEOs get in the middle of trying to do everything. They're focused on the what, the how, the who, the where. Well, it's impossible to do that and a great job and be able to actually keep your sanity is what I've learned. And so, yeah, I think the key is being repeatable over and over and over again on who you are, what you stand for, what the stories are that matter most.

When I give speeches I bring our team to the speeches. I record them. I share it with the team so they can hear me saying the same message over and over again. So they embody it and they're implementing it. I think leaders, if they keep shifting on what they stand for and what matters to them, then they're going to have a whole group below them that has no clue where to go, what the next steps are.

I share the same things. I mean our staff can repeat me. Literally. They'll start acting like me. They'll do imitations of me in the office, which I think is actually great because they know what we're about.

Yeah. Anytime you can get the message to that level where they can repeat it is a good thing. In our current company, we've got a relatively small team but my first business we had, at our largest we were just under 50 people. And I was shocked at the number of times I had to repeat myself. I think for a lot of business owners that's the case, that you feel like you've said this 10,000 times already and you're bored of it already. In other words, you've heard yourself so many times. But there's magic in that repetition for your people. It-

The Question You Must Ask Before Any Decision

Sorry. And I was just saying, what's the decision filter? For us, I tell everyone, "Guys, is it Fans First?" If you want to spend $500 on a customer because you believe it's a real Fans First thing to do, I will always bless that and say, "Go ahead and do it." And so when you can make your decisions filter go through very easily, that's when you can have magic and the company can really grow.

When they have to come to you and say, "Steve, what should we do here? What should we do here? What should we do here?" But if you can find a simple filter, that's been a game changer for us.

Yeah. That's brilliant. So let's kind of turn attention and talk about the long game. I think that is something that people really talk about a lot but mostly ignore. How have you looked at kind of the time scale of the way you're playing out all the things you guys are implementing?

This is what I struggle with the most. When you talk about you started the podcast and one of your goals, it was also to help you. And I think a lot of these things that we do can help us. I wrote that chapter about the long game because I know that's something I need to continue to put in my forefront and remember. We are playing the long game. And I think so many entrepreneurs, myself included, are so focused on "What are we doing next? What's next? What's this growth we're looking for? How do we make a jump?"

And I've got to continue to tell myself to be patient. On the back of our Fans First playbook it's says "Be patient in what you want for yourself. But be impatient in how much you give to others." And I believe that so much. But on certain days I'm like, "Oh, we've got to make this jump. We've got to try to change the game of baseball even faster."

So I keep telling myself the three P's: patience, perseverance, and persistence. You put those together, I think that can make you realize the long game. Everything will take care of itself if you continue to put those P's in front of you. And realize, focus on long term values and not short term profits. So many of us are driven by those short term profits. "Oh, we could grab some sales there. We could grab some sales there."

We're focused on the long term values of the company and to be the most fan-centric company in the world. And we're not going to go for short term profits. And we need to continue to repeat that over and over again. Or even me to learn that and share that with our team.

You know it's really hard to make that case though. Everywhere you turn it seems like there's another overnight success. Now they might not all be real. You never know in the world of internet famous. But I think it's really hard sometimes to sort of steel yourself against that, and I appreciate your sharing the fact that, yeah, you've got to check yourself on that sometimes. I mean it's really easy to come on a podcast interview and say, "Yes, you should play the long game and it's really, really easy to do. And it's the right thing.

But the fact that you've got to remind yourself of it. I mean I think that helps all of us understand it's a constant thing. It's like making these decisions.

Yeah. And I think one of the biggest killers of the long game is the comparison trap. Especially today. We're so focused and it's in front of us every single day the success of others. And people in our same fields or others fields just climbing to ranks that we never even imagined. And that makes us want to get there even quicker to see that.

And I keep telling myself, focus more on your customers. Don't focus on your competitors. And stop comparing, because it's so easy to get in that comparison trap and see everyone, the Joneses, that are doing so well. That that'll make you focus on short term growth instead of your long term values and long term plans. So it's a constant reminder. And I think if you catch yourself comparing to others, that's going to be something that kills your focus on the long game.

So you've got huge success with the Savannah Bananas. You've got big success with your new book, Find Your Yellow Tux. And I know that when you're not running baseball games, you're out helping businesses create exciting events and working with business owners.

Tell us a little bit about that work, that part of your world, and how you're helping businesses there.

It was about four or five years ago, I got asked to give a speech at actually a Profit First event, Mike Michalowicz, who I've got to know pretty well. And he had me keynote the event. He wanted me to just talk about standing out and being different, so I called it "Find Your Yellow Tux." And it was a group of about 150, 200 finance people, accountants, people that had never seen a baseball entertainment game.

And I was fortunate. I gave the speech and the reception blew my mind. So after that I said, "You know what? There's a message here that this can work with any field." So the book took off from there. Started writing it, working with the publisher, working with the team. And since then, it's been interesting. The groups that I've worked with ... I've spoken to schools, different businesses, entrepreneur groups. And what has really resonated is the Fans First experience and mapping the journey from the fan, from the first time they interact you on your website, for the first time they come to your spot, the first time the work with you, to the last experience, and whether the last impression leaves a lasting impression is something I always say.

Creating Mind-Blowing Customer Experiences

It's resonated. And I think why I love it so much is you can see like a homebuilder company that I work with create an experience that is just mind-blowing. From literally when the first time someone buys a house with them, they get a iPad; they get a cooler; they get a video set with everyone celebrating. Then they even have brought couples to have a special anniversary dinner in their not even framed house yet, set up with roses and the perfect music. And they have a red carpet when they close the house and have champagne toasts. And they've mapped this experience from the beginning to the end.

That's something we pride ourselves at our ballpark. I mean we call every single person that guys a ticket from us and give them a thank you. Just not calling to say something went wrong. Calling to thank you. And we literally set up our pep band to greet them when they leave. And we have our staff out and our players thanking the fans.

And everyone can do that. You think about every touch point with your customer. Is it wowing them? When they first buy from you, is it a fun email? Is it a video? Or is it just a confirmation? We go attention to detail on all that and it's been a joy to work with these companies because I'm learning every time, like, "Wow. That's a great idea. We should do that at the stadium."

That's what I love more than anything. And combining that with loving your employees more than your customers. We take so much pride. And we say the word 'love', Steve. We're not afraid of it. I think love needs to be used in business more. I really, really love our employees and try to make it the best possible experience for them as well.

Can I put you on the spot?

Of course.

You don't have a choice, right, because I just put you on-

I'm on your show, my friend.

That's right. So you just mentioned two words that I think are not associated with one another very often. You talked about speaking to accountants who raved about the speech you gave and all these ideas. And then you just mentioned the word 'fun'. And it occurs to me that most of us would never equate those two.

Have you seen, whether it's accountants or another sort of traditionally boring business, that has used some of these ideas? It'll help folks who are listening really make it practical and understand how they might be able to put these in place in their business.

Well, some service based companies. So for instance this one company I spoke to, they were called the Geek Glass Cleaning Company. So now he talked about literally having his employees dress up complete like a geek squad, like Best Buy. And now they're washing houses dressed up like these unbelievable nerds, trying to have fun with it and embrace the name of the company.

I mentioned the homebuilder. They, literally the whole staff, did a rap video with them throwing money around a giant pen acting like they're signing the contract with the person buying a home. And they send that video to everybody. So right when they buy the home, they agree to it, they send that hilarious rap video with people in their 50s and 60s in crazy costumes. That's the first impressions, that this group is fun, they're different.

I've talked to landscaping companies and they're thinking about busting out a dance in the middle of the whole landscape area at their retail spot. When people walk in, at the hour the music goes on and they all just start having fun. Some of this is crazy. But the reality is I think that's the starting point. Even an accounting office. You know when you first walk in, is there music being played? Are people being greeted with food and drinks? What is that first impression?

We actually have a director of first impressions, and that is her whole focus. When people walk in to give them this special entrance. And even in the off season, not during the game. So fun is very tough to share, Steve, because some people are really scared of it. But what I say is you have permission to be different. Go ahead and do it. I'm a guy who wears a yellow tuxedo, literally all the time. Seven days a week. I'm in the airport where I'm going to give a speech, and people are looking at me like I'm crazy.

But you know what? Most people just laugh. And if someone has an issue with you having fun and doing something different, it's their issue, it's not yours. And we've got to tell everyone that. You have permission to have fun and be different. And I'll tell you, it's a lot more rewarding when you do that.

All right. Well, Jesse, how can folks find you? How can they find the book? And then they want to connect with you on any of the other things you're doing, how will they best be able to do that?

I appreciate it. I post every single day, LinkedIn, Facebook. Jesse Cole Yellow Tux Guy. And my book's website is I actually have Six Steps Standout, a free handbook, on there as well. But shoot me a note. I love connecting with people in any way I can help.

I tell you, I truly appreciate what you're doing. I'm a fan of the show. You've had some amazing, amazing guests. And you're really making a difference. So thank you for having me on.

Hey, it's been a pleasure. This has been a fun conversation and I'm sure we can go on for a long time on all these topics. But I've got to tell you, there's just so much to unpack out of this.

And for everybody listening, I really think that putting emphasis in these areas all around experiences is one of the most important investments you can make in your business. It's the thing that removes you from all this commodity competition nonsense and gives you an opportunity to really be successful, and frankly have a lot of fun doing it along the way.

I know we've listened. We're talking about how we can do more of this ourselves. And Jesse, thanks for sharing all your ideas today. Everybody go to and find the book. And you'll find all the links to Jesse's stuff in the show notes on our website

Jesse, thanks again for being here.

Thank you so much, Steve.

Jay Baer | The Biz That Doubled in Size with No Ads


Word of mouth can be responsible, at least in part, for 50% to 91% of your sales, depending on your industry. But, says Jay Baer, are you under the mistaken impression that word of mouth is something that just happens?

Jay, digital marketing pioneer and co-author of the new book Talk Triggers, shares techniques for ensuring that word of mouth happens “on purpose” and has a measurable and major impact on your sales.

It’s all about grabbing your prospects’ attention, and wowing them, without gimmicks.

Tune in now to find out…

  • Why customers are your best marketing department
  • When marketing “tricks” go too far
  • How to really think like a consumer
  • The conversations that turn prospects into customers

Listen to Steve Gordon and Jay Baer Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with president of Convince and Convert, Jay Baer. Jay has created 5 multi million dollar companies and helps business “clone” their customers.

01:32 Jay moved from politics to marketing, to working for the government to finally working with the first internet company in Arizona back in 1993.

03:11 Jay tells us how he sold the domain “Budweiser”..for beer!

04:31 Jay tells us a moving story and why we should always keep an even keel.

06:39 Jay tells us about his brand new book, Talk Triggers.

09:23 Jay tells us that it's important to think like a consumer.

12:04 Jay takes us through the framework of word of mouth marketing.

14:10 Jay talks about how being repeatable is so important.

17:17 Jay explains why you shouldn’t go too big with your customer.

20:54 Jay explains the 5 talk triggers in his book.

23:12 Jay gives us some fantastic real world Talk Trigger success stories.

31:04 Jay tells us how and how not to come up with a talk trigger.

35:30 Jay tells us how best to get in contact with him.

37:13 Jay tells us what Steve’s talk trigger is for the podcast!

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Jay Baer:

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon, and you guys are in for a treat today. This is going to be a special interview, particularly if you're interested at all in growing your business. I imagine that's pretty much everybody that's listening. Today I'm speaking with Jay Baer. Jay helps businesses clone their customers. He's created five multi-million dollar companies, and is a seventh generation entrepreneur. He's the president of Convince and Convert, a firm you've probably heard of. They're a consulting firm that helps the world's most iconic brands like the United Nations, Nike, 3M, and Oracle use technology to win customers and keep the customers that they've already earned, which is really important.

He's a New York Times bestselling author of five books, and he is the host of the award-winning Social Pros podcast. He's also an avid tequila collector and a certified barbecue judge. We may actually just change topics and talk about barbecue today, Jay. Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO.

Steve, thank you very much. I would be happy to do that. We're also recording this on a Friday, so I'd be delighted to talk about tequila too.

Yeah, absolutely. It's almost that time.

It is indeed.

I would love for you to give everybody a little bit of context around your background. We've heard the highlights, but how did you get to this point in your career?

I think like everybody else, it's a winding road that makes a little bit of sense in retrospect, or made no sense at the time. I started in politics. I was a political campaign consultant. Ran political campaigns as a young man. Got out of that business. It's not a real excellent family-friendly career choice. I got into traditional marketing, working for a big corporation for a few years. I left there and worked for the government for about 20 minutes as a spokesperson, and I really, really, really did not like working for the government. I ended up having beers with some friends of mine from college who had started the very first Internet company in Arizona, where I'm originally from. They said, "This Internet company of ours it's getting a little big. We don't know anything about marketing." I said, "That's okay, because I don't know anything about the Internet. In fact, I don't even really know what that means." This was 1993, Steve.

Stories From the Internet’s Early Days

I said, "I'll do anything to not work for the government again." I walked in and quit, and started an Internet company having never really been on the Internet. This is the days of Prodigy and AOL copy serve. I've only done two smart things in the last 25 years. One is to convince my wife to marry me, and it definitely required a lot of convincing. Two, to have the good sense to get involved in digital marketing in 1993, and not get uninvolved. Since then, I've had a series of consulting firms and helped a lot of different brands get better at digital marketing. I've written a lot of books and given a lot of speeches, and here we are. I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Wow. 1993. I didn't even know the Internet existed in 1993.

It barely did. Here's a true story to give you a sense of this. When I started, domain names were free. You could buy whatever domain name you wanted, and you didn't have to pay for it because who would want such a thing? It had no practical or commercial value. So much so that my partners and I, in that first Internet company, in 1993, we sold to Anheuser-Busch for 50 cases of beer. That is true. That is 100% true. It was early days, for sure.

That's actually not a bad price probably. I don't know, 50 cases of beer.

I'm not kidding. We're like, "Man, we did great on that. That's a lot of beer."

Right. That's funny. In Internet years, you've got to be like 200 years old or something.

Yeah. I'm like a wizard of some sort.

Clearly, it probably wasn't a perfectly straight line path. All perfect success from that point to today. As you think over the years, when you've run into challenging situations and into even roadblocks, what do you do to push past those? Is there a particular way you like to think about them, or a way you approach those things?

There really is. It's particularly relevant this week. My new book just came out three days ago, and less than a day before the book launched, my father passed away.

Oh, my goodness. I'm so sorry.

Thanks. Just Monday this week. He told me something, and he told me it several times. I rely on it a lot, and especially this week. He used to always tell me that things are never going as good as you think they are, and they're never going as bad as you think they are. That was really useful this week, and it's been useful many, many times in my career. I try to keep a pretty even keel. I get disappointed like the next person, and I get excited like the next person, but I try to not get too wrapped up in the victories or the defeats, because I know that the next opportunity, the next at bat is right around the corner.

That's tremendous advice. When things aren't going well, we tend to take it a little bit deeper than maybe we should. When things are flying high, I think we often believe we're invincible. I don't think either of those states of mind helps push us forward, but I think that's tremendous advice, and I think worth everybody listening, actually taking pen to paper. Write that down. Next time you're in a situation where you need it, pull that out. I think it'd be hugely helpful to you.

Jay, you mentioned that you just had a book that was released. You've done five that have been pretty wildly successful. That's not an easy thing to do. Just writing it is not an easy thing to do. When you think about putting this book together, and the time that it took, obviously, you have something important to get across, otherwise you wouldn't have invested the time. What do you think is most important about this particular book that you want to get across to folks?

Word of Mouth Is the Most Powerful Marketing

Thanks. This is my sixth, and you're right. I'm not going to write one just to write one. I wrote this one with my good friend Daniel Lemon. It's called "Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth." The key lesson here and the imperative for this book, Steve, is that word of mouth is the most important thing in business that nobody pays any attention to. We all want word of mouth, and I think we all know that it is an important way to grow a business, although we probably undervalue it. The data show that word of mouth is responsible, at least in part, for between 50 and 91% of all purchases, depending on your type of business. That's a pretty significant driver of growth and of success, yet it's the only thing that we don't ever have a strategy for, which is such a mystery. It's so important, yet we sort of take it for granted.

We're so laissez faire about word of mouth, it's mind-boggling to me. You've got a marketing plan, and you've got a content marketing plan. You might have a social media plan. You might have a public relations plan. You might have a crisis plan, or an HR and recruiting plan, a customer service plan. Nobody has a word of mouth plan. We are just like, "Yeah, our customers are going to talk about us." Are they? If so, what are they going to say?

What Daniel and I set to do in this book was to give every businessperson, large or small, B2B, B2C, a reliable, practical, achievable framework for doing word of mouth on purpose instead of doing it on accident.

This is a big problem. We hear it from people that we work with all the time. They come to us because they're looking for some system to attract customers. Almost every one of them tells me when we ask them, "What's working now and what's not working?" The answer to both questions is almost always word of mouth. Literally, they tell us, "That's kind of working for us, because we do get customers that way, but it's not really working because we're not getting them enough, and not predictably enough."

When you begin to talk with a business owner about this, the things that I hear are "We don't have a whole lot of influence over it. It just sort of happens organically." I think that's why people are drawn towards some of the types of customer acquisition where they can see this defined process. I put money towards this, and theoretically, I get client or customer out the other end. When you're talking with a business owner, how do you get them to understand that they do have influence?

Later we'll get into how to influence it, but how do you get over that initial mindset where they don't believe it?

The key is to help people think like consumers. We're so good at this in business. We forget how we behave as consumers, and every businessperson is a consumer first and a businessperson second, but we tend to forget that fact. I don't know everybody listening. I probably know some people listening, but I know this for a fact, Steve. Nobody listening right now has ever said, "Let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I just had." Nobody says that, because it's a boring story. Word of mouth is all about customers telling your story.

How to Get Your Customers Talking About You

This idea that if you just run a good business people will talk about it, doesn't hold any water, because competency doesn't create conversation. Nobody says, "It was a good restaurant," because every restaurant is at least good. All your competitors are good. If you want to create conversations and do so reliably, you have to accept the premise that same is lame. You have to do something different that your customers notice. That becomes the propellant of your word of mouth strategy, as opposed to just focusing on not being bad. That's not enough. Competency isn't in and of itself noteworthy, unless everybody else is incompetent, which I don't think you can assume.

I don't think you can assume that, and I think you're absolutely right. We don't look at the way that we behave. We're constantly creating word of mouth as business owners ourselves, but for other folks. I want to dive into the meat of the book. Before we do that, I want to take a quick break. We're going to come back and talk with Jay. He's broken this whole idea of how to create word of mouth down into a process that you can begin to wrap your arms around, and do something practical about, which I think is the most important thing. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I'm talking with Jay Baer. He's the author of the new book, "Talk Triggers." Jay, walk us through your framework. Word of mouth is this nebulous thing that we think we don't have any influence over. Walk us through your framework for creating word of mouth.

It really is a framework. I should say this too. That's the key to this book, and why this book exists. You don't need me and my co-author, Daniel, to write a book about word of mouth being important. There's lots of great books about that already, although not everybody follows that advice, but still, there's a lot of other good books out there about word of mouth being important. We do that too, but I think where we really have added something to the conversation hopefully, is giving people a system where they can actually do word of mouth with intent, as opposed to hoping for the best and buying a word of mouth lottery ticket every day.

The book is structured in a four, five, six system. It's the four requirements of a Talk Trigger, the five types of Talk Triggers, and the six step process for creating, implementing, testing, measuring a Talk Trigger. I should start off and just define a Talk Trigger, which is a strategic operational difference that compels word of mouth. It's something that you do differently that your customers talk about. The fact that it's an operational difference is really important, Steve, because a Talk Trigger is not really marketing. It creates marketing advantages, for sure, but it's not a price. It's not a product. It's not a promotion. It's not a coupon, a contest, a campaign. It's something that you do different. It's an operational decision, a choice that you make in your business, that your customers don't expect, and that they talk about. That's not the same as let's have a sale.

Completely different. I love that you've broken it down this way. You start off with the four Talk Triggers criteria. You list those out, and you talk about be remarkable, be relevant, be reasonable. My favorite one is be repeatable.

My favorite one too, actually.

Talk us through at a high level, those, but particularly with be repeatable because I think this is where a lot of the word of mouth thinking falls down for people, is they think it's all one off.

When we think word of mouth, today, when we hear those words, we often times think some sort of big, bold, crazy stunt. Let's do something to get people talking. That's not the same as a Talk Trigger, or a word of mouth strategy. In fact, it's often called in marketing circles especially, social marketing circles, where I roll around a lot, this idea, and I'm throwing up the air quotes now, "surprise and delight." The notion of surprise and delight, Steve, is that you take one customer in a particular circumstance, and you purposely treat that customer differently. You do something grand for them, a colossal gesture. Hotels try this gamut quite a bit. If somebody checks into the hotel and they realize that there's as live panda bear in the room, and a eucalyptus tree, they're like, "Oh, my God!" They're hoping that somebody's going to share that on social media, and it's going to go viral, and then MSNBC will pick it up or whatever.

That might work, but it's only going to work once. After it's done working, however you want to define that, what are you left with? Not a lot. It also very much might not work, so it is kind of like buying a lottery ticket. It really isn't a reliable strategy. I also feel like purposely treating customers differently can backfire, because the next person who checks into the hotel is like, "Hey, man, where's my panda bear?" That customer then feels less than, not more than.

How to Market Using Cookies

We prefer the reliable, systematic, day-by-day, blocking and tackling approach of a Talk Trigger, where every single customer has access to this differentiator that you are known for. To use the hotel example, one of the most famous and most persistent Talk Triggers in the world is the warm chocolate chip cookie that DoubleTree hotels gives you when you check into the hotel. They've been doing this for 30 years. Today, they bake and hand out 75,000 cookies a day worldwide. That is a tremendous amount of talkable activity. In fact, we did a lot of research for this book, and one of the projects that we undertook was to interview DoubleTree customers.

We found that more than a third of each customer group mentions that cookie to somebody else proactively without being asked. That's what propels the brand forward. On a related note, when's the last time you saw a DoubleTree ad? You probably haven't, because they don't do a lot of advertising. The cookie is the ad, and the guests are the marketing department. That's when you know you've got a word of mouth strategy that works.

It's funny, I stay in DoubleTrees periodically, and our son has stayed with us in one before, our youngest. He'll ask if I'm going on a business trip, "Are you going to the cookie hotel?"

Nice. That's perfect.

It works.

Perfect example. He doesn't know anything else about it. It's the cookie hotel. Yes. You nailed it. That's it.

That's great. The other principle that you talk about in here is be reasonable. What do you mean by that?

Sometimes in this climate especially, and I would say this is true in the last three to five years, more than perhaps it had been true prior. Competition for attention is unprecedented. Consumers of all stripes have the technology and the capability to really tune you out in ways that were really not present before. What happens a lot today is that marketers and business people will say, "Boy, I'm really having a hard time breaking through. What we should do is make it really, really big. Let's have a contest, and everybody enters, and somebody is going to win an island," or some crazy thing like that. If I say, "Steve, you get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car." Who says that?


Oprah says that. Who else can say that? Oprah.

Nobody I can think of.

Oprah is the answer. Nobody else. Nobody else can get away with it. When you deliver to your customers an experience that is too grand, too big, the largesse factor is too much, what it creates is not conversation. It creates suspicion. The conversation that it creates is around your terms and conditions. People are like, "Wait a second. When's the other shoe going to drop here? What are the strings attached to this?" You don't have to make it big. Let's go back to DoubleTree. Incredibly successful. It's a good cookie. As cookies given to me by hotel standards go, it's probably the best I've been given, but it's still just a cookie. They're not giving me a kidney, or a car, or even a popcorn popper. It's a chocolate chip cookie. Your Talk Trigger doesn't have to be big, and it probably shouldn't be big. It just has to be something that people notice.

I think that's really important. I'm so glad that you put that into the book. I've written a book on referrals. I've read probably every book on referral, and word of mouth, that I could get my hands on. In some of them, they advocate for this over the top experience and go and create that, but I love to boil things down to what can you actually implement. If you can't implement it, it's the greatest idea ever that is worthless to you. If you can actually take it down to something that now, in your business, wherever you are, at whatever stage you're at, with whatever team you have, you can implement it on a consistent basis. Then you've got something. I think you address both of those with be reasonable and be repeatable.

Thanks. Again, I just want to make sure people understand. I'm not suggesting that approach of taking the home run swing is a failed idea. It's just that it's not a reliable strategy.

I don't necessarily think it's a failed idea, but for the average, everyday business in America or in the world, it's not as accessible as something like what you're describing here is.

Completely agree.

What can you do day in, day out? I think that's really critical. I'm really happy that you see that approach. You talk about these five different types of Talk Triggers. I think this is probably one of the most important parts of the book. Can you walk us through those?

We wanted to make sure that people could understand that it's not just one way that you can execute on this. Again, it's an operational choice. That operational choice can be implemented in a lot of different elements of your business, depending on what makes sense to you or how you're structured. We thought it would be useful to have a taxonomy of these, so that A, people can find their own easier, and also so they can notice them in the wild. Now that you go through the book, you're like, "Oh. That's a Talk Trigger, and it's this kind." People will start to see them.

Figuring Out What Talk Triggers Will Work for You

The one that we encounter most often, because it's the easiest to implement in a business, is talkable generosity. That's when you do something more generous than your customers expect, i.e. a free, warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in at DoubleTree. That is talkable generosity. There's other kinds. That one is definitely the most common. There's other kinds. There's talkable empathy, where you're more warm and human and kind that customers expect. You have talkable speed, where you're more responsive than customers expect. You have talkable usefulness, where you're more useful than your customers expect. You have talkable attitude, which is where you're just a little different than customers expect.

Usually it's funnier, or just more carefree than they anticipate. All of those can work, and we've got examples, of course, of companies large and small from all over the world in the book. We are really careful to try and use examples that people haven't heard before. We're not trotting out Amazon or Zappos or Apple, or all the usual marketing tropes. We really tried to find stuff that people haven't thought of before.

You've done that very well. In my mind, the reason I said this is I think the most important part of the book, is it gives people a really concrete way to think about this. Instead of just saying, "Oh, God, what am I going to do to become more talkable to create this?", you've given them boxes to work in. I'd love if you could share a few examples from the book and-

You bet.

Illustrate how this has been applied by some businesses.

I'll give you a couple. On the talkable empathy side, small business example, professional services, my friend Dr. Glenn Gorab. Glenn is an oral surgeon in Clifton, New Jersey. He operates in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tristate area. There's hundreds, literally hundreds of oral surgeons in his region. He is the highest rated among them, and also the only one out of all of them who's never been sued. Despite the fact that by his own admission he is not the best surgeon. He says, "Yeah. I'm quite good. I'm not the best, but I do have the best relationships my patients." Here's why, Steve. It's his Talk Trigger.

Every Friday, Glenn's office staff gives him a list of names and phone numbers. Every Saturday, he calls the people on that list. He says, "Hi, I'm Glenn. I'm your oral surgeon. I understand that you're coming into the office for the very first time next week. Do you have any questions before you get here?" People can't believe it, because if you've had an oral surgery procedure, you may have had your surgeon call you afterwards, like, "Are you bleeding to death?" Is usually what they're checking on. That's nice, but that's expected. You have never had a physician call you before you ever set foot in the office. It's simply not done. Why isn't it? It makes such a statement about your desire and your values.

Glenn says that every single day he gets patients making an appointment who say, "I have to drive 12 miles out of my way. I have to pass up dozens and dozens of other oral surgeons, but I want to visit you because you're the doctor who called my friend Shirley before she ever came to the office."

I love that. You could take that story and translate it to almost any industry, but particularly in medicine. They don't even call.

Or law. Any professional service. Law, accounting, real estate agent. Line them up. Everybody should do it, but nobody does.

They've built a system that's-

It's an operational choice. They choose to call customers before they come in.


Every Talk Trigger is that. It's an operational choice. I'll give you another one in business to business. This is one that really tickles me, because I think the strategy is so smart. It's a company called WindsorONE, which is a manufacturer of high end wooden trim. They make crown molding and baseboards, and wainscoting, and chair rails, and all that jazz. Their customers are carpenters, master craftsmen.

Like a lot of manufacturers, they create a bunch of different products, from sizes, and shapes, and colors, and trims. One of their challenges as a business, as is true for a lot of manufacturers is making sure their customers understand the full breadth of the product line. What they used to do, Steve, is they would spend about a half a million dollars a year on magazine ads in the trades. Carpenter Today or whatever. I don't know what it's called. Each of those magazine ads was essentially a mini-brochure, a mini product catalog. "We make this one, and we make this one. This one is in the new golden oak stain," or whatever.

They were spending all this money, and had a tracking phone number on all the ads. Didn't get any calls. They were never getting any calls, but they were like, "This is just what we do. What if we instead used a Talk Trigger?" Now, every single WindsorONE board that they manufacture, on the reverse side of the board, has a stamp. The stamp says, "Prime all of your cuts," which is good advice when cutting something. Then it says, "Call Kurt for a shirt. 888-779-2700." You're there with your saw, and you then you look down, you're like, "Huh. Who is Kurt?" Curiosity gets the best of you, as it does, and you call the phone number.

First ring, pick up. "Hey, this is Kurt." You're like, "Whoa. A real person." He's like, "Hello? This is Kurt. Who's this?" "It's Jay." "Jay, what are you doing?" "Well, I'm working on a church renovation in Indiana." "Are you a fat guy, Jay?" I'm like, "Excuse me, Kurt?" He's like, "I got to figure out what kind of shirt to get you." I'm like, "I'm like an XL." He's like, "You got anybody else working on your crew?" I'm like, "Yeah. I got five other guys." "How fat are they?" "It depends." Takes down all the orders for the shirt sizes, then says, "Jay, what kind of products are you working with?" "We're working with the 816 trim board here, and a 142 crown molding." He's like, "That's cool. Did you know that we also have this new one? Blank, blank, blank, blank, blank."

Kurt is the head of inside sales for WindsorONE. He has a whole conversation about the products I'm using today, and the other products I might want to consider. Finished the phone call, FedEx's to the job site all the t-shirts and samples of every product we discussed on the phone. Company has doubled in size. They now don't do any ads, but they have printed out in the last two or three years, 50,000 t-shirts that say, "Got wood?" On the front.

That's brilliant. How many Kurts do they have to have?

They just have one Kurt. Dude is one guy. He is one guy. That's all he does all day. One guy.

Every time I hear these things, what's always so striking about them is they are so simple.

Every good one is simple. I got a new one. You'll love this. It's not in the book. I heard about it later. That's the thing that's so frustrating because I'm doing keynotes about this all over the world and stuff, and every time, someone comes up to me afterwards the Q&A and is like, "Jay, I got this great idea. Have you heard about this?" I'm like, "No." I wish I could rewrite the book because there's all these new ones that keep popping up. I think I might have to start a podcast, where each week I talk about a new one.

I'm already laughing because I like it so much. A guy comes up to me, and this is three weeks ago in Seattle. He's like, "Jay, have you heard this one?" "Tell me the story." There's a doctor in Seattle. He's a surgeon also, but he only does vasectomy surgeries. His name is Dr. Snip. That in and of itself is great, but that's not the Talk Trigger, Steve. Here's what happens. On the way out the door, every single patient is given an engraved silver pocket knife that says Dr. Snip on it. You can imagine three weeks later, you're playing golf, you're on your boat, you're watching football with your fellas, and you open a beer with your knife and your friend Billy is like, "Dude, that's a sweet knife. Where did you get it?" "This knife? I got this knife from Dr. Snip, the vasectomy surgeon." That is gold.

That's hilarious.

Isn't that great?

That's awesome. What I love about it is you can actually be creative, and you can be human with all of these, particularly you talked about talkable empathy. I think these things can probably overlap one another. In other words, you combine some of these ideas.

Some of them end up being in a couple of categories, for sure. That's totally fine.

You can be totally human with it and have a little fun with it, and give someone something that is just the perfect thing to get them talking about you. It's brilliant. Now that we know all this, we know that there are the five types of Talk Triggers and the four different qualities of a Talk Trigger, how do we create them? How do we come up with them?

Here's the wrong way to do it, which is to get everybody in a conference room and riff. I hear this all the time from people who may be familiar with the Talk Triggers concept, but maybe don't know the process part. We're going to get everybody together and we're going to have a brainstorm, and come up with our Talk Triggers. I'm like, "No!" If it was that easy, you already have one. If all it required was everybody in the conference room and buying pizza, you'd already have one.

What we have to do instead is really understand customers in a way that most people frankly, don't today. What we recommend, and this is the exact same process. The process in the book is the same process that my team and I convince and convert you when we create Talk Trigger strategies for companies all over the world. This is the exact same process. We just gave it away.

What you do is you first document all the different touch points, inflection points that you have with the customers. You create a customer journey map, it's often called, of all the different things that the customer interacts with you. Then, what you want to do is interview three sets of customers. You want to do telephone interviews, ideally, with new customers, with longstanding long term customers, and with lost customers. People who bailed recently, or maybe never signed up at all. For each of those groups, you want to ask at each of those touch points, what did they expect would happen. You're trying to map customer expectations to the customer journey. Once you know that, Steve, once I know what the customer expects, I by definition, know what they don't expect. The difference between what they expect and what they don't expect is where the Talk Trigger lives.

One of the things that you could do in a business like mine, I don't do this, full disclosure. We don't do this, but we should. Maybe we will. It's very common in a consulting business like mine. One of the key inflection points is the customer gets a proposal. You send them a proposal. If you asked customers, you said, "What do you expect when you get a proposal?" Typically, they would say, "We expect that you would take a proposal, maybe save it as a PDF, attach it to an email, and email us the proposal for us to look at." That's the typical perfunctory way that step in the process is handled.

What if instead, Steve, that you, every time you're in that situation, sent that prospective customer a sheet cake, and the frosting of that sheet cake was made to look like the cover of your proposal? The proposal itself was printed out and put in a laminated sleeve underneath the cake, so that in order to get at your proposal, your prospective customer had to eat an entire sheet cake. Would that create conversation? Would that be a Talk Trigger? Would that customer tell their friends about your proposal?

Without a doubt.

Yes, they would. Could you do that? Hell yeah you could do that. You absolutely do that. You could start doing that tomorrow. It's just an operational choice. In order to figure that out and to do it the right way, it really helps to understand what your customers expect at each of those steps. They're like, "Oh. That's boring. What could we do that's not boring?" For example, my business card, the actual business card that I carry and hand out and have for 10 years, is a steel bottle opener. It's an actual metal bottle opener. I've given out thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of them. They cost me $3 a piece, which is more than a typical business card. All the time people come up to me and say, "Jay, I got your business card at a conference seven years ago, and it's in my golf bag," or "Jay, I still have your business card. I keep it in my boat." I'm like, "Man, I don't care where you keep it, but if you can see me and on site tell me where my business card is amongst all of your worldly possessions, that's a Talk Trigger."

That's awesome.

You just take something boring and make it not boring.

Exactly. Absolutely. Such great insights.

Jay, where can folks find out more about the book, find out more about you and the work you're doing? Where should they begin discovering more about you?

Go to, because we have tons and tons and tons, probably too much, frankly, of totally free information there. We've got a six step process summary for doing your own Talk Triggers. We have a PowerPoint presentation about Talk Triggers you can download. We have a book club discussion guide. We have infographics. We have a 30 page research report. All of that for free at That's definitely the best place to go. You can find more about me at Quickly Steve, I'll mention this. It wouldn't be a book about word of mouth if we didn't have Talk Triggers in the book itself. That would be kind of absurd.

Two things. One, the cover of the book includes a giant picture of two alpacas talking to one another. If you see a business book, and on that cover is alpacas, it's almost assuredly the right book. You won't see any other business books that look like this one. Second, on the back of the book, Steve, it says this, "Satisfaction guaranteed. If you bought this book and didn't like it, go to and send the authors a note. They will buy you any other book of your liking." And we will. If you buy this book and you don't like it, and you want, I don't know, a first edition Bible, we'll figure it out. We will get you whatever book you want, so there's literally no reason to not buy this book because you have quite literally no risk whatsoever.

I will tell you, you'll like it. It's a good book.

Thank you.

It's going to be one that if you get it, you're going to hang onto it. I know it's one we're going to be dissecting, and just fantastic stuff.

We got to tell people about your Talk Trigger before we go, Steve.

What's our Talk Trigger?

I have been a guest on hundreds of podcasts in my career. I have hosted a podcast every week for eight years. We're on episode 350, or some darn thing like that. Steve sent me, in the mail, before this show, an entire printed out kit that says, "How to prepare for your interview on The Unstoppable CEO Podcast" with tips on how to make this a good conversation, questions that he might ask, how the show is formatted. It was absolutely extraordinary. I've never, ever, ever received something like this in my entire life. It is a perfect example, and one that I will be sharing everywhere of talkable usefulness, which is one of the five types. Steve, bravo to you and the team. It is extraordinary. Thank you.

Thank you. We actually do that. For many of our clients, we produce podcasts for them as a way for them to connect with the people that we want to do business with. That's really where that came from. We wanted to create a situation for our clients where, when they were connecting with someone, that it was a memorable experience, that it was unlike anything that they'd ever experienced before. We certainly will continue to enhance it, but I appreciate you sharing that. I know that's something that the team will enjoy, because they've worked hard on it.

I'm going to start talking about it in my presentations, so well done.

Thank you very much. Thank you again, Jay, for investing some time with me. Great book, "Talk Triggers." We'll be linking to that in the show notes. Hope everybody enjoyed this. This is one you're going to want to talk notes from, and go put into action in your business. Go create some word of mouth for yourself. Jay, thanks again for being here.

Thank you.

JV Crum, III | How to Hit the Magic Million-Dollar Mark


You don’t have to sacrifice money to be fulfilled and make a positive impact in the world, says JV Crum, III, bestselling author, podcaster, and founder of Conscious Millionaire.

JV specializes in helping business owners go from six figures to seven figures. It’s not about working more… or taking on more clients. It takes a personal transformation and also requires a whole new way of providing your services.

We explore what that means and how to do it. It’s well worth the effort when you can work less but make more money… and even have a business you can sell for top dollar.

Listen in to discover…

  • The profit potential of the world of “one to many”
  • How to build an asset, not a business
  • Something you can create once… but sell again and again
  • What many entrepreneurs have forgotten about themselves
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and JV Crum, III Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with JV Crum, III. He is a 34 times bestselling author, speaker and high performance coach.

01:37 JV talks about his background and how he knew early on he was going to make money and it led to building Conscious Millionaire.

06:19 JV believes that you can learn from everything, good and bad. He gives his old trucking business as an example.

08:15 JV talks about the power that we all actually have.

09:56 JV talks about the importance of being committed to a strategy and positive mindset.

12:10 JV talks about the $1 million goalpost.

15:33 JV tells us what it looks like to take a 6 figure business to a 7 figure business.

20:47 JV talks about Rhonda Britten and the importance of only doing the things that you love to do.

26:30 JV explains that you can’t be taught to be a resourceful person, which is needed in order to get to 7 figures.

29:05 JV explains about getting into ”The Zone” and how he can train you to think that way.

34:38 JV gives us 3 ways to get in contact with him.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews JV Crum, III:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. My name is Steve Gordon and I am here and excited this week to be talking with JV Crum, III. JV was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 13 business shows in 2017, the host of one of the top 13 business shows of 2017.

He's actually the host of four shows on the Conscious Millionaire podcast and radio network. He just told me he's launching a new show soon. He is a 34 times best-selling author, speaker, and high-performance coach who is known for his live, on-camera trainings where he helps coaches and entrepreneurs find $50,000 or more in hidden revenues and then helps them develop steps to go put that into the bank. He is the founder of Conscious Millionaire and the High Performer Bootcamp. JV, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Well, thank you Steve for having me. And just a huge hello to everybody who's listening. I am so excited to be here and to be able to connect with you and I hope I'll be able to hear from you. So Steve, thank you so much for having me as a guest.

Absolutely. This is going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to this conversation. And before we kind of dive into the meat of things, I always think it's good for everybody listening to have a little bit of context. So can you give us a little bit of context beyond just what's in the bio? Help us understand how you got to this stage of your career.

Well, that's a great question. Steve. I'm going to give you a little trilogy so that we don't have to make this into an eight hour show. So the first piece I'll go, is I grew up out in the country and by the country, I mean like 200 or 300 people on a four by five mile lake in Central Florida. Nobody had any money, including my family.

And so, I ended up feeling very motivated early on that I was going to make some money because I knew our family didn't have any. So my first little entrepreneurial endeavor was I got a pup tent for my fourth birthday. I lived in a household that was three generational. I didn't have any siblings, but my grandmother lived with us and we had a tangerine tree. So, one day she and I spent the day squeezing tangerine juice and putting it in egg cartons that we had collected, saved over time.

And I set up my little pup tent where the high school kids got off the bus because I had figured out they had jobs and they had money. So Lucy had nothing on me with her five cent psychiatric help. I sold my eight carton of tangerine juice for a dime to the high school kids. And that's where this all kicked off at, really. And I was always selling something. Door to door. I was the only kid in town that did any of that. I had a little lawn mowing business.

So, if we kind of skip forward, when I was 23, my father had a trucking line, but it was basically about bankrupt. I was finishing my first graduate degree, which was a masters in clinical psych and he said, "Will you come help me?" Well, I didn't know anything about business but I loved my dad.

So, I became kind of the accidental entrepreneur, although you could look back and say, well I was headed that direction. I just didn't know I was. And I very quickly turned around the business and by the time I was 25, bought the four story home, had the Mercedes, made my first million, and really when I wrote my books and I'm going to skip forward, ultimately sold that, because I wasn't fulfilled. But that was an 18 year journey.

Ended up really with an inspiration called Conscious Millionaire coming into my mind. Wrote the book Conscious Millionaire and when I was writing it, my editor said, you've got to explain how you were able to turn around, you know, basically a bankrupt business not knowing anything about business and become really successful, quickly. And I realized it was all about systems. It was all about having the right strategies, looking at everything from a standpoint of how do the pieces fit together and how can we duplicate, find something that works and duplicate it.

So, we ended up with 50 trucks and that's really how you scale and take six figures, turn it into seven figures and keep growing it, is that you've got to put it in the right systems and have the right strategies and get the model right and then you can build it. So I ended up selling that and going off, looking for what was a way that I could help people?

Because I had realized, I wasn't that fulfilled. I had figured out how to make money, but I'd been fortunate enough to make just enough money that I realized that wasn't the real answer. And so I said, "Well, how can I help other people be of service, make a difference with my life?" And out of that came Conscious Millionaire and helping business owners and coaches and service professionals build businesses that are based on making an impact and turning that impact into money so they get to do what they really love, make the difference, create a mark in the world, play bigger. As I like to say, make a big wave, and make big money at the same time. And that's what I do now.

It sounds like what most people want in business, right? Have that big impact.

But that's really what I've discovered is, you know, people, at least the people I talk to you and listen to my podcasts or I get on the phone with or a Zoom call, they all want to make a positive difference with their life and they say, I want to be fulfilled, but I'm not making the money that I want to make. How can I bring the two together? And that's really what we do at Conscious Millionaire is bring those two pieces together.

I love that. Well, you clearly started your business career in probably less than ideal circumstances. At least challenging circumstances.

But I sold those egg cartons with tangerine juice.

The Systems a Business Needs to Survive and Thrive

That's right. If you count all the way back to there, but I'm thinking that taking, coming in and working with a trucking company that is almost bankrupt and figuring out how to turn that around? That had to be a challenge.

It was a challenge. But you know, there's a blessing in everything that we do. I mean, I say this on almost every show that I do. I don't think there's any accident that you're listening to this show. I also don't think there's any accident that everything that's occurred in your life has occurred in it. Even the stuff that you might say to yourself, "Wow, I could have done without that."

Well, here's what I've found. Every time I start to say that, I go, "Wait a minute. Actually, there's something that I'm learning here." So in the trucking business, to give you a relative understanding, it's a really hard business, because when we were doing it for 18 years, the national average at that time was a 4% profit and we were able to crank it up to 8%, which is why I was able to sell it.

So, you're working in an environment where there's no forgiveness, everything has to be done right. And that was one of the best training grounds I ever could have had because of the precision that I watch my numbers, that I think about systems, that I'm concerned about customer service. I know that every piece has to work well. So when you're in a business where you're doing something like coaches or doing anything that's a service, there's usually a pretty good margin. I didn't have that margin and I'm actually grateful that I learned business in that kind of an environment.

You couldn't be sort of fast and loose with things.

No. Everything had to be precise. You had to have a system. If three different people in the company did it, they all had to do it the same way and you had to design things so nothing fell through the cracks.

Wow. So, I know that getting that business turned around over the course of 18 years and then going on and building another one, that was not necessarily a perfectly-paved, golden path for you to follow. There were probably some potholes here and there-


And some bumps in the road.

There's still potholes.


Yeah, because I like to say, you know, we're all in this entrepreneurial journey together and I think at the core of this journey is something called personal growth. I really think that's what it's ultimately all about. It's about our personal transformations and you know, some of those potholes, I was thinking about this before the show Steve, is maybe one of the biggest ones because I do it and everybody does it, is at times we forget how powerful we actually are as human beings.

What our reference points are, how much success we've really been able to create in different ways, and we get lost in the drama of something not going well and all of a sudden, we forget that actually we're very powerful that we are all high performers inside. But we can forget that at times.

I love the way that you articulated that. That we're more powerful than we think we are. Interesting. I was having a conversation with our oldest son who's 17 and along those exact same lines, in fact, I used very similar language with him, challenging him. He was trying to, you know, do something athletically. It just wasn't quite getting to where, you know, I thought he could easily perform and he was getting in his head. And I think we do that in business as well. We kind of get in our own head. We don't understand really what we're capable of and we're capable of more than I think we give ourselves credit for a lot of the times.

Adopting a High Performance Mindset

Well, everything I do at Conscious Millionaire is centered on helping people become a high performer and helping high performers go to their next level and what I've discovered is so much of that is being committed to becoming better, to showing up at a higher level and then ultimately, having strategies executing correctly, and then internally ... That's the external part. The internal part is connecting a mindset and mindset is more than beliefs.

Mindset is about state as well and having a positive state that's really about "I will achieve what it is that I want" and being on fire that you're going to get there. That's what high performance is all about and that's when you take your six figure business, you start figuring out the systems and the right business model, because oftentimes what got you to 100 or 200 or 300 isn't exactly the model that'll get you to seven figures.

Because oftentimes, especially when we have service-based businesses, it we've designed a business that we're kind of maxed out at 200 or 300. Right? So you're going to have to redesign, how are you going to deploy your knowledge and make your impact so that you can get a revenue called seven figures. You're going to have to redesign that sometimes.

Yeah. So, this idea of going from six to seven figures, I hear this all the time, I mean, almost every service business owner that I talked to is somewhere in the from 100,000 to 600 or 700,000. Somewhere in that range. And the thing that they're all looking at, they're looking up and they see this goal line of a million dollars a year in revenue as if it is, you know, if we get there, we're in the promised land. What do you think it is about that as a goalpost that gets everybody so excited or anxious to get there?

Yeah. I think that's not only a great question, it's kind of fun, is that I think all of us, and it doesn't matter how much a million dollars is worth on an absolute scale compared to what it was worth 10 years ago or 50 years ago. I think in our culture, especially in our culture, that being a millionaire or having a million dollar revenue, owning a million dollar business has a certain wow factor to it, right?

Because we attach, wow, I want a million dollar revenue business, I want to become a millionaire, which, which by the way, most people who are service providers who have never thought about what's the value of their business or about selling a business, you know, a business is of some multiple of your cash flow and the speed at which you're growing that cash flow. And so very often in a well-designed service business, especially if you're doing coaching, any of those kinds of things, if you've got a million revenue, you probably have a company that's worth a million dollars because you've got a multiple of the cash flow. I just like to throw that out because a lot of people wonder, well, when am I a millionaire?

Right? Well, your company, if you design it as something that's separate from you, so it's an asset that ultimately can be sold, so you don't want to call it Joe Brown's Coaching or Consulting or whatever service that you're providing. You want to call it something because ultimately you want to design it so that you at some point could step away and sell this asset and the sooner you come to terms with what you really plan to do with this business, the sooner you actually are building an asset that you can now put on your balance sheet in a very valid way and that you can turn into a million dollar asset, which is a huge payday for most people.

Huge. And one I think a lot of people imagine, but very few realize. And I want to come back and I want to talk about how to get there. I want to take a quick break, though. We're going to be back with more from JV and we're going to dive into this whole idea of how you take ... If you're in a situation where you've got a six-figure professional service firm and you're in good shape, but you really want to get to that next level? We're going to talk about what that journey looks like when we come back. Stay tuned.

Hey, this is Steve and I'm back with JV Crum III, and JV, we're talking about making this transition from a six-figure service business up to a seven figure service business and what it takes to get there. And so I guess maybe first, you know, just kind of lay out for us what's that transformation look like for a business owner?

Building a Business Beyond Yourself

Sure. Well, you know, Steve, there are multiple ways you can do this and I think one of the threshold questions you need to ask yourself is when I get to seven figures, at that point, do I also want the company to be in some way separate from me? And separate means that if you can sell it and you're not there anymore, it's still a viable business. So, it's not all dependent upon you. So, those are two separate questions.

So do you want to tackle both of those in the way you design your seven figure model or do you want to get to seven figures and you could still be the core piece and then once you're at seven figures, you want to make another transition? So, you’ve got to make that decision upfront. And really that's a question about how much direct involvement you have, not on a management CEO, owner level, but on a delivery level, right? And how much the business is connected directly to you and what you're delivering.

So, let's say you just want to get to seven figures and then you're going to figure out the piece about how to totally separate it from you later. That's a valid way to do that. So, now you've got to go from whatever you're doing that can work for let's say one to 300. You can make that one to 300 and it's still mainly a one to one type of transaction that you're doing with your clients.

But if you want to go up to seven, you've got to enter the world of one to many and you've got to enter the world where you create something once and now you can sell it multiple times. So one way to do that as you move to a group or different group programs. So that's a way that you can add a much more revenue for every hour of your time and get known for these group revenues.

Another way to do one to many is that you add on doing once or twice a year an event or you add on the info product and you can add on more than one of these, the info product so that you've got some kind of a tier of info products that you're selling. And those can sell 24/7 and start having a business that's got internal assets that are no longer dependent upon you, even though you might be the one that records it.

Or you could say because it's service business, I want to add two or three people and that's how I'm going to get to my seven figures. And those people aren't going to be owners, they're going to be either independent contractors, or they're going to be employees, but they're going to be people who are delivering the service and you've created a model that they're going to utilize to deliver that service and you go, that's the way I want.

But however, whichever one of those decisions, or you may choose more than one of those, they're all about moving from a one on one model to a one to many model because that's where you've got to go.

But then, that's about the model. But scaling is getting pieces of your business working. It might be the marketing piece is all a system. Let's just say system is just a set of steps. You have a starting point and you have an end point and the end point is the result that you want from that system. The system can be manual, it can be automated. It's still a system. It's just a set of steps that has a starting point and has a result and it automatically, by going down the steps, will reach that result and then you can duplicate that. You can teach that to other people.

So, that's the core of how you scale, is you've got to change the business model and you've got to build systems, so everything that you do that is really major in the company is systemized. And then you can teach those systems to other people or they can be automated. And that's how you get scalability.

Well, I appreciate that you've laid out all of the models for everyone. In service business right now, like the big popular thing is let's do the group program or the info product or something along those lines.

I've seen lots of people try that and have a lot of trouble making that work. And oftentimes I think one of the easiest ways to take an existing service business ... So if you're, you know, solo or it's you and you've got a little bit of a support staff, and get something that will multiply itself is just to take what you're doing and almost turn that into a product. The delivery of that service into a product, so that you're not the one having to deliver it all the time. Depending on the business, in some businesses it's easier than others, but I appreciate that you shared that as well because for a lot of people it's hard to see how they're going to do a group program or how they might do an info product.

Well, I want to throw something in here and actually want to give a shout out if I can to a friend of mine has been on my show several times, Rhonda Britten, who's perhaps the best-known life coach in the world. She won an Emmy for her reality show, which was one of the first reality shows, for three years. She did a total of 600 television episodes out of Chicago.

Figuring Out What You Love to Do… and What Works

And one of the things she said on my show was that you don't have to do everything, you find the things that you do well and really enjoy. And I think one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is trying to do 10 different things at once. And I am a strong believer in what is called lean design. So the least number of things that you can do to get to that result that you want is, in my opinion, always the best business model, the least number of things you can do to market to bring in the leads so that you can sell them whatever it is you're selling is always a better business model.

And I find that people who get to the six figures and then flounder are often doing way too many things and then they can't do them well. Plus feeling an internal pressure or belief that I think is just outright wrong. That you've got to have the blog, you've got to have the podcast, you got to, you know, do the videos. You've got to be on Facebook, you've got to be on Instagram and you don't, you know, and I'll use myself as an example.

My book came out, it became the number one book on Amazon, not in one category, 34 categories, at one time. I'm really proud of my book. And next year, I think it's time for another book, but here's what I learned writing my book. I'm an excellent writer and I hate it. Oh, my gosh. It was like the worst experience of my life, because I want every sentence right, so I'm a slow writer.

Interestingly, the book came out the same time my podcast launched four years ago. We now actually have six podcasts, over 1600 episodes and the moment I got on the microphone, which I had no idea ... I had no previous experience in this. I went, "Oh, my gosh." Within three weeks I said, actually sat back and said to myself, I think I found my Oprah moment and that just blurted out of my mind, you know, after doing I think four shows that day? Four shows, interviewing as a host, and then I sat there for about a minute Steve and I said, what did I just say? And I realized I was in love with the microphone. So now I have people go, "Hey, will you write an article for my blog?" And I go, "There's not a chance. I don't like doing that, but I'll be on your show or I'll have you on my show." We can do something with the microphone or a video.

So you've got to find what is your groove. What do you really love? Because the truth is, and that's what Rhonda really said that was so important, is that your people are in many places. You don't have to write blogs if you don't like writing blogs. Do what you love and they're going to find you in those places. Shine because you have such passion and love for what you're doing. I would say that's true in how you build the business, which model you build.

I love doing group programs, I love doing laser coaching. I love doing masterminds, but if you don't like that, you don't have to do that. There are other ways to get to seven figures, do this stuff that you feel so on fire about that people are naturally going to be happy with it and so will you. Don't do anything that isn't going to bring you joy, because I can tell you that's a recipe for disaster.

You know, I think the last three minutes, that last little bit that you shared, may be some of the best advice we've ever had on this podcast. Thank you for sharing that. There is so much wisdom in that and if you break that down and apply it to every part of your business, I think you begin to get a lot of forward momentum. You know, we see it.

I call it the five figure trap that people get in. So, they start a business, they're paying the bills, barely. They're trying to get over the six figure hump, right? And they're taking anybody that meets the two fundamental criteria for most businesses, when they describe their ideal client, they have a heartbeat and they have a lawn. And they'll do anything for anybody, right? And then they get enough of those and they get over the six figure hump and they think that they have to continue to do that.

But that at that point, you know, you have to make this shift to where, and JV, I think you hit it on the head, you've got to do the things that really light you up, that at the same time pay you, and get focused so that you can move on.

So, thinking about the people that you've worked with that have made the jump, you know, they worked past that magic million dollar mark and then thinking maybe about the ones who didn't make it. What's the difference between the two? What do you see that separates those two groups?

That's a fabulous question. I think one of the big differences, and I love coaching clients and I have a good sense when I start with somebody who is this right or not? And if it isn't, I don't do it. It has to do with internal resourcefulness. You know, there's something about being a high performer that is intrinsic to the person.

In other words, I don't think that I can train someone to be resourceful by nature. So some people just naturally go, "All right, how can I solve this?" And they're just resourceful in that. That to me is one of the hidden factors in being mega-successful is your level of resourcefulness, that you're willing to try ultimate variety of things in order to figure out something that's going to work and talk to a multitude of people at times in order to find out who has the right resource or who knows your right client or who's right for you to collaborate with as an affiliate partner, but you're resourceful in doing that.

And some people just are so busy getting in their own way that they can't actually move forward. And I think the difference is whether they're willing to be open to possibilities that right now you can't see. I think one of the things that is trainable is to learn to live.

One of the things I love talking about is being in the flow, being in the zone. It's just an area that I'm so enamored with and I teach people about how to do it. It's how to live. And when you are present and you're open to possibilities and you're taking steps that feel authentic to you, it is amazing how the right things begin to occur for your life and your business and how much easier it is, because you really are quite frankly in the flow of life and people who are willing to do that and that's totally trainable, are going to be much more successful than people who for a multitude of reasons, are always seeming to try to row upstream. And they're not going where the opportunities are.

You say that it's a skill. It's something that's teachable.

Yeah. Being in the zone as a state, it's a skill. I could literally teach to anyone. It's one of the things that I do and it makes such a huge difference because when you're in your zone, you're in your state of ultimate high performance, you're in your state of competency.

But you're also quite literally vibrating on an energetic level with the exact opportunities that you're looking for because you're in this positive state of expecting life to work. And when you enter your day that way, you will make connections. You will have insights. You'll go, "Oh, I should email Judy," and you email Judy and it turns out you have a conversation and you end up doing a business deal. That's just an important part of being a high performer, being highly successful.

You know, just sitting here listening to you. And I'm thinking about the people that I know that just look like they're always in the right place at the right time. And it just occurred to me that the way you described it as the way that they exist.

And by contrast, the people who I know who would describe their experience in business as one of frustration, like they can never seem to get anything to work and they're always just sort of making it. You've painted a really clear picture here I think for those people as well, and not that there's anything wrong with them, but maybe that they're approaching this process, this idea of aligning their business with the flow the wrong way. They're swimming upstream.

Yeah. I think oftentimes that's the case. And what is wonderful is that we all are on this path. It's really about bringing our kind of cycle back to what we were talking about before about getting in connection with what is that big purpose, that big impact we want to make? And then realizing, well, based upon that, what are the most important goals that I can have?

Getting in the Zone

And then staying hyper-focused on those, in that state of being in your zone, in your flow. You will magnify the speed, magnify the connection to opportunities and your life will be really miraculously almost, different because of how you've chosen to approach your life.

And that's where that whole area of mindset comes into this. I don't know, you know, I've been interviewing some people on my show that are Olympic athletes that medaled and digging down into their mindset and both of the people I'm thinking of right now who've been recent guests, you know, said they were outright not the top athlete, but they decided to win and that deciding to win made the difference.

So the question isn't, do you have the right degree or do you think you're the smartest person in the room? I never want to be the smartest person in the room, personally. I want to surround myself with smarter people. But you know, you're saying, "Oh, I'm just a little fish in this big pond."

You know, a lot of times being a high performer comes down to making a decision that that's who you're going to be. And when you make that decision in things that you were calling failure and then, oh my gosh, the person didn't buy, you made a sales call. Well, welcome to the real world. Most people you call will not be buying. It's about reaching the person who will and just understanding that everything, every experience, is a learning opportunity and that the real question is, did I fail to get the result in one instance?

The real question is, did I fail permanently or was this the journey where I've simply decided I'm going to win? And so no matter what barrier comes up, what obstacle comes up, you're going to figure your way through that and if you're listening today, I believe you were supposed to hear that, because I know that whatever it is that's most important that you feel you're on the planet to do, and that includes the impact you want to make and the money you want to make, I know it's all possible. The real question is, are you ready today to be 100% committed to that outcome and nothing will stop you? And if you are, you will get there.

JV, thank you. I'm grateful you shared some tremendous wisdom with us today. Really, really good stuff. In fact, I can't wait to go back and listen to this one again once it comes out of editing. Some really important ideas that you've shared today.

I want to make sure we take an opportunity to let everyone know how they can find you, where they should go to kind of get in touch with you. So what are the best places for them to get started?

Sure. Well, I'm going to give you three ways, which violates my own rule for my own show, but there are three very different ways. I just feel ... I don't normally give out my cell phone on an airway, but I'm feeling like this is the group of people I want to connect with.

If you want to connect with me and you really want to take your business and your life to a totally different level because those are the people I work with. Here's my cell. You can text me, please put your name in it so I know who texted me and we'll set up a time to talk. It's 303-641-0401 and I'm in Denver, so it's mountain time.

If you want to become a high performer and you want the high performer formula, I want to give that to you for free and here's how you get it.

Go to and if you'd like to take a look at my main show, it's and I'd love to have you come over and take a listen because there's room for you listening to a lot of podcasts and the Unstoppable CEO podcast is amazing. So I want to thank you, Steve, for letting me come and be with you for this time and I want to thank you for listening because we're all here together and it's about taking an entrepreneurial journey that matters to other people, makes a difference, and creates the wealth that you want as well.

Absolutely. I love it. JV Crum, III, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and I'm sure we'll talk real soon.

Kim Butler | Is Everything You Know About Money Wrong?


Kim Butler, co-founder of the Economics Prosperity Movement, is passionate about helping people keep their finances as efficient as possible and spot opportunities to grow their wealth.

Often that means taking an unorthodox approach to investing and financial planning…and going against what mainstream financial advisors will tell you to do with your money.

So if you take your money out of the stock market and your 401(k), where should you put it?

Kim shares strategies using little-known investment vehicles, as well as unconventional ways to use traditional investments for better returns.

Tune in to find out…

  • Why you shouldn’t pre-pay your mortgage

  • The morning ritual that will put your whole day on track

  • A little-known danger in your kids’ school

  • The biggest but easily avoidable risk in alternative investments

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Kim Butler Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks Kim Butler, the co-founder of the Dynamic Prosperity Economics Movement.

01:31 Kim started off in business in the 4th grade when she sold milk from her own cow.

03:33 Kim talks about how she deals with a male dominated sector.

04:45 Kim talks about how her mindset is the inspiration that she turns to overcome obstacles.

07:12 Steve talks about the difficulty of getting past doubt.

08:49 Kim goes through her daily schedule and explains how she finds inspiration in the middle of the day.

13:30 Kim tells us exactly what Dynamic Property Economics is and how it turns standard financial planning on its head.

16:13 Kim talks about her 7 principles and her opinions on 30 year mortgages.

20:06 Kim and Steve talks about building liquidity though life insurance.

21:27 Kim talks about income, growth and alternative investments.

29:35 ”Become your own bank.”

29:41 Kim tells us how best to get in contact with her.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Kim Butler:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon and I have to tell you this is an interview I have been looking forward to for weeks. I have on with me today Kim Butler, and Kim is the Co-Founder of the Dynamic Prosperity Economics Movement and she's going to tell us all about that. She's a reformed financial planner and she asks, "What if everything you knew about money is wrong?", which I think is a fantastic question. She helps her clients build optimal wealth in a sustainable manner without big banks and Wall Street. It's a really unconventional, out of the box approach, and every time I'm around her I just learn something new. We're in a for a treat today, and for all of you who are running businesses you're going to want to pay close attention to all the things that we're going to talk about. There's going to be some great stuff here for you. Kim, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you, Steve. Always a joy, you're a class act in the sections of Strategic Coach that you and I connect with, so I too am looking forward to this.

Yeah, absolutely. This is going to be fun, thank you for that. Just to give everyone some context, if you could give us a little bit of background, what got you to this stage of your career? How did you become this maven of finance that you're described as?

Well, it probably starts in fourth grade, literally, when my dad got me a milk cow and I started milking the cow. I learned how by hand, and sold the milk to people in our church. And so as a little fourth grader I had a lot of money. I literally had cash that was cash to buy grain for the cow. As times progressed I just was always involved with money. I was involved with 4H my entire childhood. And I always had jobs as well. I drove combine, I hauled hay, and I got paid. And well for some of those jobs. So that enabled me to put myself through college, which was kind of cool. And then I started working at a bank right out of college.

So obviously always involved with money, helping people with money. And then the rest of the story I'm sure we'll get to as we progress, but in case anybody wants a little more detail in that there is a book that I talk through my whole progression of the typical financial planning that I was trained to do onto the more traditional prosperity economics work that I do now. So it's been a fun road.

I know quite a number of women who came up in the banking and in the financial world, and it's an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. The thing that I hear from these very successful women is that you don't understand it was never a forgone conclusion that I could be successful in this. How did you push through all of that and really be unstoppable, because you are? I mean, you're creating amazing things with the Prosperity Economics Movement, but that couldn't have been easy. There had to be a lot of roadblocks. How did you push past all of those things?

For especially the female, male thing, I just ignored it. I was a tomboy anyway and every group that I went to, every conference that I attended, it was just all men. And I just never made a big deal about, and I don't today. And it's still all men, and it's fine. To me, that's a non-issue. And I agree, maybe women listen a little better or provide advice a little better, whatever. I just choose to not pay any attention to that at all. So being unstoppable just enabled me to be unstoppable. It didn't matter that it was all men, or that I was young, or blond, or whatever.

So what are some of the things that you've pulled from over the years? I know you've been involved in Strategic Coach for a long time, that's how we know each other. And either outside of that or within that framework, what are the things where you run into a roadblock and you say, okay well here's my go to, this is how I'm going to think through it, strategize around it, and move past it?

Mindset, which thankfully in today's world is something that's talked about all the time, and at a very high level, and with seriousness, has always been something that I've worked on. And of course I started my career in 1988, back then the whole positive mental attitude movement, if you will, had just been completed. And people really sort of poo-pooed the whole mindset thing, or the attitude thing, as guru space, or oh you're just putting on rose colored glasses. And I don't really think people to it seriously, but I always did. And I really can't identify why, probably something that my parents did. I know my sister, because she and I have a podcast together also, she's always had what I would call a very entrepreneurial mindset, which is just something that I adopted. I figured out really early on that how I was thinking made a big difference in the results that I was getting.

An Impactful Daily Ritual

And so, every morning from very early on, again thinking about my career and the first few years of it, I made sure that I had what I'm going to call spiritual time in the morning. You could call it inspirational time, it wouldn't matter. But whether it was a Bible lesson, or a good book like Think and Grow Rich, or some other ... of course we didn't have podcast then, but some radio show, although I really wasn't ever a fan of talk radio, because I sought inspiration and to me a lot of the talk radio stuff was depressing and argumentative. But the point is that I always was conscious that I had to feed my brain or my mind very positive, very good, very unstoppable messages from day one, starting in the morning, and sometimes throughout the day, especially when things were challenging.

And I used that mindset to overcome challenges. I mean, everybody's got challenges. You never know what kinds of challenges people are dealing with. And I've had numerous challenges throughout my career, my personal life, my professional life obviously, I mean everybody has. A way to get through those is with mindset.

I agree completely. I love the fact that you have this sort of dedicated time for it and you turn to that. I honestly think that is such an overlooked little strategy. It's little in terms of the time and the energy that it takes, but I don't know about you, I talk with clients all the time, sometimes I feel like I'm more a therapist than a market. Because the thing that holds them back a lot of the times ... and I'll never forget one client we had he was with us for years, and we'd create all this great marketing for him but he just would hesitate sending it out. He was like, what are people going to think? And getting past that stuff, getting past that doubt is not a trivial thing. And I think it holds up an awful lot of people.

And one of the things that I've tried to focus on, like you, is how do I get good inputs in? And I think it's ... I love that you shared that that's a daily thing. I think that's so critical even throughout the day because you can get side tracked. You can have a client call and be angry, or something negative happen in this part of your life or that part of your life, and it's so easy just to immediately snap and go off in that direction. That's a great reminder. And you're living this out in practice, what's the practicality of it? So you have some morning time, do you just sort of say to yourself, oh wait my thinking's getting off track, I need to stop, I need to go find something? How does that work?

That's a great question. What's interesting is just in the last year or so I've added an additional, maybe 10 minutes. It's tiny amounts of time at noon. So here's an example, I'll have my morning time and then breakfast, workout, start my day typically around 9:00. I tend to have either a 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 meeting, or sometimes some half hour ones along the way, where I'm pretty much booked clear through. And then I try to keep my 12:00 to 1:00 hour free. So at 12:00 I make an effort to walk away from my computer. I try to go outside, now that's not possible for everybody obviously depending on where you live and what the weather is, but I think being outside really gives us a different perspective, literally, which is helpful.

Sometimes I will read something. I might pick up just a little inspirational quote. It literally might be a paragraph out of a book or something that is maybe again from whatever I read that morning, and I'll try to just hold on to that. You could say I could meditate with it. Again, that's a term that people are using very consciously now within business, and even five years ago it was like, don't say that. But now I think people are realizing.

Then as the day progresses there might be another time during the day where I just have to stop and walk away. And it might only be two minutes, maybe it's to go get a drink, maybe it's even just to go to the restroom. But I pay attention to what is going on in my mind during that time and I make sure that I'm filling it with all the good that I want, and that I'm focusing on what I want out of the next two or three hours. And then sometimes again I'll do it again, sometimes it's two minutes on my walk down the hall. I work out of my home, so on my walk down the hall from the office area to the kitchen for dinner, instead of either being mad or just letting my mind go to whatever, I might bring in a conscious quote or thought that is positive, and uplifting, and unstoppable, so that it enables me to then have a good evening aspect of my life as well.

I love that. And really what you're describing, I think the perfect work for it is mindfulness, being aware, being mindful of your thinking. And that's a practice. I've found over the years that it's not something that necessarily comes natural, particularly in our culture where we're all so busy all the time. But it's something that you can develop and with practice you'll find that you just go there. I think that's fantastic advice. And I'm going to guess that as we turn to begin talking about money, that there is probably a pretty direct linkage between mindset and money in your perspective.

Absolutely, I'll look forward to that.

Well, let's go there next. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to be right back with more from Kim. We're going to dive into her approach to building wealth, and this is going to be something different than you've likely heard before, so stay tuned for that. We'll be right back.

Welcome back. I'm talking with Kim Butler. And Kim, thank you so much for sharing everything you did on mindset. I want to change gears a little bit and talk about the work that you're doing with the Prosperity Economics Movement and how you're helping people get a handle on their money. And as we said before the break, I'm going to guess that there's an inextricable link between that and the mindset stuff that we talked about earlier.

Absolutely, I think there's probably a quote from somebody that money is mindset, and mindset is money. They're absolutely connected. And it's a joy to be able to help people with their money because it does have a big impact on our lives.

Absolutely. So what is the Prosperity Economics movement? Tell us about that.

Why Traditional Financial Planning Limits Your Opportunity

The movement is something that my husband and I started about six years ago, and it's designed to help both financial advisors and clients understand that there is a better way of dealing with their money than what is typically taught. The typical financial planning environment is very 401K, stock market, buy term and invest the difference, prepay your mortgage. That space is what I'm going to call typical financial planning.

And what Prosperity Economics is, is more about learning opportunity cost and how to reduce it, learning about how to have your money work for you in more than just one way. In other words, instead of just having your money be for retirement, let's have it be for retirement and educating the kids, as an example. It's more about control of your money and not giving up control into things like 401K plans that you cannot control. And it's more about certainty of your money, instead of the whole roller coaster ride of the stock market and the inefficiency of the banks.

So again, this Prosperity Economics movement, it's a 501(c)(3) organization that enables us to put out education about money. Because as you know, it is amazing how little we are taught about money. There are high schools and colleges all across this country that if they have a personal finance class, most of them don't, if they do it's about how to invest in the stock market and how to pick stocks. That's it.

Yeah, and as we've seen over the last decade or so, that can be a dangerous thing. The market, as we record this, the market is roaring and things are going really well. But we all know that that can change on a dime, and oftentimes people aren't prepared for it. In fact, I'll never forget having a conversation with a friend of mine who just absolutely panicked back in 2008, 2009 and started changing his retirement portfolio. Mind you, he was in his 30s. He didn't need any of that money. And ultimately ended up locking in a bunch of losses and it was really difficult to watch that fear set in.

What is this different approach that you've got? All the things that you describe I think are all things that everybody wants. What the different approach? How do we get there?

Well, it often starts with mindset. We have Seven Principles of Prosperity that we go over that are available on our website, anybody can grab them. And we strive to make sure that in somebody's personal economy every one of their dollars is as aligned with the Seven Principles as possible. And you're not ever going to hit all seven for every single dollar, but that's the goal. Interestingly enough, the first principle is think because you need to have your brain on, number one, and you need to be thinking from a prosperous mindset number two. So that's the first principle, it has those two parts. We can get into the others later if it's appropriate, but like I said they're on our website so anybody can grab them.

Then the other thing that tends to be slightly different is strategy. Clearly there's no different products out there. The products that are available in the marketplace are the products that are available in the marketplace. It's how we use them that is different. I'll give you some examples. On a mortgage, we recommend a 30 year mortgage, not a 15 year mortgage. And there's a lot of people that recommend one or the other, but we're able to prove numerically, absolutely positively, and I've got this all written out in a book so if somebody's really curious they can find it, that the 30 year mortgage is the most efficient way to own a home. There's a mortgage that's the product. Then the strategy, how you use that product, is what we can impact. The choice of a 30 year mortgage and no prepayments is our strategy. I'll say that again, the choice of a 30 year mortgage and no prepayments is the strategy that we recommend. It's the way that we have people work with a mortgage. So that's one example. Should I go ahead and share a second or did you have another question?

No, go ahead. Go ahead.

A New Way to Look at Life Insurance

Another example, of course you have life insurance that people get involved with at some point. And a very common strategy in the typical financial planning world is either buy term and invest in the difference, I think we've all heard that little saying if you will, or using a product like Universal Life, and frankly that's very similar to term insurance. So that would be what I would call typical financial planning.

Prosperity Economics absolutely helps people with term insurance because we espouse something called human life value. And again, that's a strategy. So the product is term insurance, the strategy is human life value, as opposed to needs analysis on the typical financial planning side. In other words, only buying the amount of insurance that you need, while on the Prosperity Economics side we recommend human life value, which is the maximum amount of term insurance that the life insurance company will give you.

And then we also work with whole life as a preferred product. And again, there's a strategy. It's not like anybody can't buy whole life. Of course anybody can buy whole life. But it's what you're doing with it that's the difference. So we add paid-up addition riders, we add extra cash to the whole life, and we mixed it in with the term insurance so that the client is still getting to human life value. That may have been a little more of a deep dive than you wanted, but those are two examples, both the mortgage and the life insurance arena, where we use the same products that everybody else does, but how we use them is very different.

Having worked with a number of financial professionals, if I understand what you're saying, you're using that life insurance product as a place to accumulate cash in a pretty protected way?

Absolutely, and I want to stop you and congratulate you for saying it that way because people immediately want to make life insurance an investment, and you chose the word cash, accumulate cash. In other words, your liquidity. Whole life insurance is for your liquid cash, it is not an investment, so thank you.

And I think that is a very important distinction, and many of our clients have pounded that into my head so I've learned the hard way. But these are strategies that you don't hear everywhere. You hear the talking heads out on the big radio programs saying that you absolutely shouldn't ever buy whole life insurance. And I love your approach because the way you started, and whether it's on the topic, or the mortgage, or any of the other things that you'll share with us today, what I want everybody to understand is you've got to move away from this thing, this particular product is good or bad, and look at what are you trying to achieve.

If I've learned anything from all of the consulting we've done with financial professionals, it's what are you trying to achieve? Which I think, Kim is your point. Think first. So those are the first two examples. What are some other areas that people can be looking at?

In our work we focus on three areas with money. The first is cash, which we've talked about. The second is to create income, and the third is to get the money to grow. And you know, there's so much conversation around all these fancy things that people can do with their money, but I think it really boils down to those three things. You either need money to be liquid, or you need money to create monthly income, or you need money to grow. And so, in the income and growth categories we've developed relationships with what I'm going to call alternative investments. And a lot of people say that they work with alternative investments, but to me an alternative means something totally and completely different. And in this case, we're talking about being totally and completely different to the stock market.

It always cracks me up, you'll hear some money guy talk about doing a REIT as an example, a Real Estate Investment Trust, and that's an alternative investment. No it's not, it's still in the stock market. To me, alternative means really, really different. As an example, in the growth category we use life settlements, which is where people buy other people's life insurance policies, death benefits, as an investment. And we also use oil and gas, direct investing in oil and gas. We try to do it in funds where there's four or five wells, but it's still direct investing. You're talking to the people that are actually doing the work. So that's some alternatives for you in the growth category that fit into the work under the Prosperity Economics movement.

And then on the income side, and I said to somebody the other day, the hardest thing for you to do with your money is to get it to create cash-flow. Nobody knows how to do this very well, me included. I'm always seeking better ways to get an asset to create income. Because people have figures out how to get money to grow in a whole bunch of different ways, but to get it to create income is a lot more challenging. So, our favorite current way to get money to create income on a monthly basis, think about typically people in their retired years are going to want this, I really like people to think about it even earlier, you need to be practicing getting your money to create income long before it's critical time.

Our favorite way is to use what are often known as bridge loans, where you're lending money to somebody that already owns real estate and they are paying you an interest every month. And it's typically short term, maybe two the three years, and then they're giving you that principle back so that's why the term bridge is used. You could call it hard money, or mezzanine financing. There's a variety of terms and they all point to pretty much that same thing where you're lending money to somebody that has the real estate and they're paying you a monthly income, and then they're giving you the principle back. And the critical piece there is that the asset ideally is secured so that you can be assured of getting that principle back.

Now, it's real estate so things do go wrong with it. But obviously we're looking for environments that our principle is protected. And as you're well aware, in the stock market I don't know how you protect principle. There are certainly some methods, but it's definitely not as easy.

Reducing Risk While Maximizing Returns

As you describe all of these things, they are alternative. And I think the natural reaction for most people is, if I don't know very much about this it must be riskier. How do you address that?

That is a great question, and I like to always send a question back which is, what is risk? For me, risk is losing principle. So we make it a goal that all of our investment work does not lose principle. Now, we're not perfect. We make mistakes. And yet if we're seeking environments that do not lose principle, then it makes for a much less risky environment. Now, there's also all kinds of different risks, so you do have to talk to people about that. And frankly, one of the things that I say is one of their biggest risks is going to be talking to their friends about this alternative investment that they have that nobody else has, that people find very confusing and they haven't heard about, so they typically don't know anything about it.

And my husband has a great saying. This is Todd Langford of the Truth Concepts Calculators. He says, "If something sounds too good to be true, don't just stop there. It might be too good to be true, but shouldn't you look a little bit further? Shouldn't you dig a little bite more? Because anything of value sounded too good to be true before it was in common use." I mean, think about the cellphones we wonder around with these days. Your mobile phone, that sounded too good to be true 20 years ago. And the capacity that it has sounded too good to be true five years ago, and yet here we are with them as they're a completely normal part of daily life. So don't let not knowing about something cause you to shut down. Enable it. Use it to enable you to dig in and learn a little bit more about it.

Yeah, I think this is particularly important for those of us running businesses because we often have the opportunity, particularly in good economic times like what we're seeing now, to create cash. And a lot of people will just let that cash kind of sit on the sideline and not do a whole lot. Others will, boy have I seen it, go after some really crazy things that they don't understand, and they don't get the advice that they need. So you're speaking to a bunch of business owners now, I know you work with a lot of them, what would you say to that business owner who is seeing some success right now and creating some capital? How should they begin thinking about what to do with that to make sure that they're accumulating permanent wealth?

Save first is my absolutely number one recommendation. And everybody wants to go straight to investments. And I guess it's human nature, we all want something for nothing. We want an awesome body but we don't want to go to the gym. We want to be healthy but we don't want to eat right. And we want our money to grow first, and yet a business owner's best investment is usually either their business or themselves. And so that's where they should be focused on, and yet you and I are well aware that they also need to be building assets outside of that business and they need to be building liquid assets outside of that business first.

How to Become Your Own Bank

I talk to people all the time that have amazing net worths and literally very little, if no liquidity. And that's scary, because it's liquidity that gives up opportunity. So one of the things that I do is I won't let our clients call their emergency money, emergency money. I ask them to call it their emergency/opportunity money, because nobody wants to get overly excited about funding an emergency account, but people can get very excited, and motivated, and consequently they'll do something about funding an opportunity account. And so we talk with business owners about the importance of developing an emergency opportunity fund personally, and then also for the business. Because when the business does have challenge or opportunity, you want the business going to itself for taking advantage of that opportunity or solving that emergency. And so ideally, you build that emergency/opportunity fund on both balance sheets.

Essentially you want to become your own bank.

Absolutely, that is a term that we love. Because if you can have an asset where you can borrow against that asset without anybody's permission, then you are truly free. And most people own a business because they want to be free. They seek the freedom that entrepreneurship enables. And so let's have our money be free as well.

A second mistake I see all the time is just having way too much money locked up in retirement plans. And for a 30 or 40 year old, 59 and a half is a long way away. And then furthermore, to know that this box of 59 and a half to 70 and a half is going to dictate how you handle that money, entrepreneurs don't like being put in boxes, so why would they put their money in boxes? It just doesn't make sense.

And more and more there are so many different ways to approach this and so much good information out there. Kim, talk a little bit about who you work with, for those who are listening how they would know if they're a fit, and if they should maybe reach out and get in touch with you?

Thankfully, due to the internet, we work in all 50 states. I live in a tiny little town in east Texas a couple hours north of Houston and I help every single client over the phone and the web. And it's interesting, as our web capacity has increased, Zoom calls are totally normal these days, and we grab the camera and the microphone and stare at each other over our computers, I've actually gone to using less technology because I think sometimes all of the fanciness is either a distraction or could be intimidating if somebody's not used to it. So sometimes I'm literally helping a client through our entire process all just on the phone.

Now, we do have calculators that I like to use from the True Concepts suite of calculators, so I will often do a screen share so that they can see those, because I do want to prove numerically every single thing that I'm talking about conceptually if the client needs that. Now, as we know, not every client needs all kinds of numerical proof. In fact, I find that once I've proven one or two things then we're good to go and I don't have to prove every single thing numerically. But it's kind of good to know that I can. And I'm not super analytical myself, but when I have a client that is analytical I want to make sure that they know that I can prove numerically absolutely everything, every single thing that I'm saying. Which is important because what I'm saying, back to the strategy discussion that we had earlier, is going to sound foreign to them, it's not maybe normal.

So because we work nationwide, I've found it very valuable to have a lot of collateral out in the marketplace. On Amazon I've got seven or eight books. They're physical books, they're Kindle books, they're audiobooks, however people want to consume the information. I have a podcast that's specifically dedicated to our clients. I have another podcast that's specifically dedicated to advisors, because we do have a lot of advisors that follow our work and my husband's work as well. And of course heavy social media activity as well on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. So, there are tons of ways for people to check us out, which is awesome because you're not going to work with somebody with your money and never see them, and feel comfortable, unless you have a really thorough way to check somebody out. So there's all kinds.

In fact, the mortgage discussion we had earlier, my book Busting the Interest Rate Lies goes in depth into the 15 versus 30 year mortgage discussion. I'm not a mortgage broker, I don't get paid to help people with their mortgages. But I do absolutely get paid to have people's finances be as efficient as possible. So I think those are all really important things.

The other thing that I find very interesting about our practice is we have a very wide clientele. I have entrepreneurs that are literally in their teens, and I have entrepreneurs that are in their 70s and 80s. And like I said, they're in all 50 states. And we don't have a minimum. A lot of financial advisors have a minimum, and we've just chosen not to. If you can save money, I will help you. So some clients they already know a little bit about what they want because they've maybe listened to all of our podcasts or something. And they'll call in and they just want a product, and that's fine. I can help them with that and I can help them with the strategies.

Other clients want more of a deep dive. So as you know, inside strategic coach all businesses are taught to have a process. We have a five step process and there's information about it on our website. And we charge a fee for that process, and we are able to stand on the fiduciary platform around that process. What that means is that we represent our clients. We do not represent any company, I don't have any sales quota that I'm trying to meet, or any trip that I'm trying to qualify for, so that enables us to help clients truly where they are today and help them get their money, be more efficient for them, again on both balance sheets. The personal is where we do most of the work, but that business balance sheet is equally important and as you're well aware has an equal amount of opportunity.

Absolutely, and it's the one that often drives the personal balance sheet so it's important to pay attention to it if you're in charge of both, absolutely. Kim, what's the best place for people to find you and reach out to you if they're looking for more information?, that's our website. And on the side and at the bottom is an eBook that's available called Financial Planning Has Failed. And in that I tell my entire story of getting my certified financial planner designation and then choosing to drop it. Getting my Series Seven license, and then choosing to drop it. And Series Seven is the stock broker license, and why and how I went about that. And it goes back very much to the mindset part that you and I talked about earlier. So that's kind of a fun read again, Financial Planning Has Failed on, it's the only place that book is available. It's not on Amazon as all the others are, and it's a fun read. And then from that, they can also get the Seven Principles of Prosperity that I referred to earlier. So again,

Great, we'll link that up in the show notes. And Kim, I thoroughly enjoyed getting together again. It's always great to get together and share ideas with you. Thank you so much for everything that you've shared with the community today. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Absolutely. Do I get to close with go be unstoppable?

Absolutely, I love it.

Thank you Steve, it was a joy.

Maddie Brown | It Could Be Time to “Breakup” with Your CPA

You became an entrepreneur to achieve financial freedom. But, says CPA and financial advisor Maddie Brown, too many business people have a mindset about money that ensures that will never happen.

If you neglect your financial records.

If you’re not sure how – or how much – money flows from customers to your pocket.

If you blame the economy or other “outside forces” for problems.

If you’re always on the lookout for IRS letters.

If you’re afraid of looking at or even thinking about your finances.

Then you need Maddie’s advice…now. (It’s a judgment-free zone.)

In the interview, we discuss…

  • The E+R=O equation for achieving your biggest goals
  • How to know if you need a new CPA (many businesses do)
  • The only way to overcome setbacks
  • Using “proactive” accounting to boost revenue
  • The question you must ask yourself about your business now
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Maddie Brown Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with one of his clients, Maddie Brown. Maddie has been a certified public accountant for more than 30 years.

01:44 Maddie tells us her background and how its her mission to help small businesses be successful.

04:43 Maddie tells us which book helped her overcome obstacles in business and create the life she wanted to live.

07:49 Steve talks about how he now deals with challenging outcomes.

09:09 E+R=O

09:51 Maddie explains the process she goes through to help her clients.

15:05 Maddie explains how your accounts tell a story.

17:17 Maddie tells us how most accountants are bad communicators.

18:41 Steve tells us how your accountant should be a part of your growth team.

21:53 Maddie tells us how to work out your debt with the IRS.

28:16 Maddie tells us about the type of clients she helps.

29:41 Maddie tells us how best to get in contact with her.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Maddie Brown

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon. I’ve got to tell you, this is going to be a fun one. Today, I am interviewing one of our clients, Maddie Brown. Maddie is a certified public accountant with 30-plus years working with small businesses. She's got a passion for helping business owners fulfill their dreams and create the real business they were meant to share. Maddie's services save time, stress, and money and give people wings. By helping business owners fulfill their place, she fulfills hers, and that really is her gift, and I will tell you it is a gift. I've gotten to know Maddie quite well over the last few months of working together, really gotten to understand what her gift is and how she helps business owners.

If the thought of listening to an interview with a CPA might have you wondering, let me tell you this is going to be different because if you care about how the money is flowing through your business and how much of it flows into your bank account and your pocket, you're going to want to stay tuned. Maddie has a very unique perspective on how to get a handle on all of that, and we're going to dive into that today. Maddie Brown, welcome to The Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you, Steve. I appreciate the opportunity to sit down and visit. I always learn something new.

Yeah. We're going to have fun today. Before we dive into all of your expertise and your wisdom, I think it'd be helpful for everyone listening to understand a little bit about your background. How did you get to this stage of your career?

Well, I tell you, I graduated from college in 1980, and I passed the CPA exam in 1981, so that dates me a little bit. For the first 40 years of my life, I wanted to have my own CPA firm, and I wanted to do it in a way that I thought was healthy, wealthy, and wise, and it was not how a traditional CPA firm was run. It took me until the year I turned 50 to develop the nerve and the guts and the wherewithal to leave my employment and buy an existing practice. I can honestly say that the only regret I have is that I didn't do it sooner.

I became self-employed at age 50, and I have had to learn about marketing, and I have had to learn about managing employees. I’ve worked with small businesses my entire life, and I want to see small businesses succeed because the reality is 96% of the businesses in this country make less than a million dollars. 4% is what's making over a million, so you really want to help that small business person, which is the backbone of this country, be successful. I see far too many that are working for money ... that they'd make more money if they flipped hamburgers at McDonald's, and I ... That just makes me crazy, and so I want to help small business owners be successful, meet their goals, and live the lives that they really want to live.

What's most interesting to me about your story is you did something that requires tremendous courage, I mean, to leave the world of employment. For most people, when they get into that situation, there's a lot of, at least, perceived stability and security there. Giving that up, particularly after having been in that kind of a situation for so long, I really admire that because you did that, and you had to break a lot of habits, I'm sure, and probably stretch your thinking a good bit. To be able to make that leap, it's not an easy one. What were some of the challenges that you faced and, I guess, more importantly, what was it that you found most helpful to push you through when things got a little bit difficult?

You Must Own Your Outcomes

Well, I have to attribute a tremendous amount of my beliefs and my perception to Jack Canfield who wrote a book called The Success Principles. I was in a program in 2009 that led me back to his work and to become aware of this book, and I will say that it framed up the previous 10 years of my life, and following the principles that he uses in that book enabled me to create a life that I love and a business that I love. I would have to give credit to following the principles in Jack's book.

What were some of the most important for you as you went through this transition?

The first thing that you have to accept and you have to understand is that you are 100% responsible for whatever is going on in your life. When you take ownership and take responsibility for what's happening in your life, that informs the fact that you have the right to choose whatever you want happen, and you can control the results. You just have to make a decision about what it is that you truly, truly want. So many people go around doing what they think they should be doing and what people are telling them to do, and they don't listen to their inner guidance, and they don't listen to their dreams, and they don't follow through.

One of my pet peeves is when people blame the economy, or people blame the president, or people blame their woes on someone else. The reality is that there are lots of people making a lot of money, and there's plenty of money to go around if you just make it happen. I don't mean you have to work hard at it, but you have to believe and understand that you're responsible. If you're broke, Larry Winget says it's because you want to be. The reality is, everywhere I go, there's signs that people are hiring, everywhere I go, and so what that tell me is, if somebody doesn't have a job, then they're not willing to do what it takes to get a job, and that's a hard reality. If you're not willing to do what it takes to run a business and to invest the energy and the time, you're going to find it very difficult to be successful.

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Years ago, I had someone share with me the phrase you have to own your outcomes. At the time, I was ... honestly, I was sitting there kind of owning an outcome I didn't like very much and that I had really ... I didn't have a tremendous amount of control over. I had control over what I did, but there were some external forces that created some unwelcome circumstance. As I dove deeper and deeper and deeper into that statement, you have to own your outcomes, it became very clear to me that the circumstance that I was in that I started out viewing as the outcome, and I was not happy about having to own it, really wasn't the outcome. The outcome was what's going to happen next?


When you can flip, in your mind, that ... If you're dealing with a challenging circumstance, if you can flip in your mind this idea that, "Okay, well this isn't the outcome, this is just a temporary circumstance, I'm going to own what happens next," now, all of a sudden, you got the power back. I think that's exactly what you're getting at. It's such a powerful mindset.

One other equation that Jack always talks about is E plus R equals O, so the event, whatever the event is, and then the next step is your response, and those two things control the outcome. You can't control the event, but you can control your response always.


That's going to impact where you land on the other side of the equation.

As you've gone through building up your business, how have you taken those ideas and made them practical?

What Do You Really Want From Your Business?

Well, when I work with a business, I like to get them as early in their formation as I possibly can, and then we sit down and we look at what their goals are, and what their intentions are, and what they want their life to look like, and we frame up the business in such a way that it supports their personal goals, and their life goals, and the things that they want to have, because everybody's in a different place. Everybody wants different things, and so you have to know what's important to someone to make sure that the business delivers on the outcome that they want to have, and so when I work with people, that's the first place we go is, "What do you want? How do you want it to look? What kind of money do you really want to make? What are you willing to do in order to make that money?" When you take your guide from your desires and your intentions and where you want to be in the world, you're far greater likelihood of actually creating that and having it be the way you want it to be.

Do you find it hard, as you're working with people through this process, to get them to really, excuse me, to really open up, be honest about what they want?

Well, most people have an astounding amount of guilt and shame and fear that surrounds everything they believe about money, and you have to work past that, and you have to be able to open it up and look at it and say, "Well, yeah, this is kind of ugly. This is kind of a mess, but this is where I am, and this is where I want to go, and this is what I have to do in order to make that happen," and so when people work with me, it's a safe space to look at if they owe the IRS, if they can't pay their bills, if they are scared and on a money roller coaster. Okay? If you face it and look at it, the knowledge is the power to change it.

Yeah, absolutely. I want to take a quick break. When we come back, Maddie, I want to talk about the flow of money through a business because I think you've got a very unique approach, and we've heard just the very beginning of it, starting with really getting clear, as a business owner, what you want, but I want to dive into the flow of money and how you help businesses sort of wrangle that because, as you and I have discussed, so many business owners, I mean, they may look great on the surface but, below the surface, there are problems. There are lots of problems. For folks listening to this who are thinking like, "Oh, my money situation isn't really where I want it to be," stay tuned. When we come back, we're going to talk about how you can tackle some of those things and get in a much better place with the flow of money through your business. We'll be right back with more from Maddie Brown.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon, and I'm talking with Maddie Brown. Maddie's a CPA and she specializes, I think, in not so much accounting but, really, counseling you on how to deal with your money. The accounting is important to that but, really, she takes a much more holistic approach. Maddie, we talked before the break about this idea of beginning with getting clear and being honest about what you want your business to deliver for you financially. You mentioned some of the guilt and the fear and all of that that most of us carry with us around the idea of money.

Once you get an entrepreneur in, as you called it, the safe space, they're in working with you, and they've sort of gotten to the point where they can articulate what they want, now you've got to deal with their current reality, I would imagine. I know you deal with people who are in all kinds of different situations, and you help them kind of get out of that to get to where they want. Once they've gotten clear, what's the next step? Where do you take them from there, and what are some of the challenges that you've seen people deal with and overcome?

The GPS for Your Business

Well, the reality is they call accounting records books, and they tell a story about you and your business, and you are writing that story with every decision and every choice that you make. When you're writing that book, that is going to create the outcome that you get from your business. It's important to, number one, have accounting records, number two, look at them, learn from them, and make decisions and take actions as a result of that review. If you start off with a goal, you have your accounting records, you see what really happened, and it's unequivocal. The numbers do not lie, and they tell a story about the choices that you have made, and then you can make new choices, choices that support the goal that you have a head of you, the goal that you have in your mind, the goal that I hope you have written down and put somewhere clear for you to be able to see it.

If the accounting records are a tool to use to get you to where you want to go ... In the world we live in today, almost everybody has a GPS, at least on their phone they have a GPS. Before you leave home, you program the GPS. You tell it where you want to go, and then you follow the instructions. The instructions come from your accounting records. The instructions come from your tax requirements. Those are the tools that an accountant should use in helping steer a successful business.

I totally agree, and I think that, for most businesses, they're not getting that from their accountant.

No, they're not. When I said back at the beginning I've worked in a number of public accounting firms, and what I found ... that most of them were very limited thinking, very fearful thinking, very looking for the other shoe to fall kind of mentality. Then the other thing is they were working astounding numbers of hours every week and delivering bad news to people, and it was all after the fact, and it didn't really help the business the way that they can if they work with the numbers and look at the story.

I think there's a lot of accountants that miss the boat because accounting is, at its core, communication. Most people do not think of accountants as great communicators, and they're not because they generally get into it for reasons that they think they're not going to have to communicate. Every time you read a financial statement, you're helping someone that's less financially literate than you understand their finances so that they can make smart choices.

As I sit here and listen to you, I think about all of the interactions that I've had over the years with accountants through a couple of businesses now and even in volunteer situations where we've had accountants advise organizations that I was involved with. That, combined with an article I read a couple of months ago which predicted, very soon, the end of the accounting industry as we know it because of artificial intelligence now ... We could debate that all day long. We don't need to go down that rabbit hole, but I'm sitting here thinking that what you just described is really ... it's the model for an accounting to entrepreneur relationship of the future, that compiling the numbers is easier than it's ever been, but making sense of the numbers is not an easier than it's been. It might be more complicated now than it's been because businesses have evolved.

For those of you listening, if you're not getting that with your current accountant, you want to be looking for somebody who can give you that kind of value because now that person becomes a strategic partner on your growth team rather than just somebody who's kind of showing up and reporting what happened last quarter. To me, that's a fundamental shift in the way that we, as entrepreneurs, look at the relationship that we have with our CPA.

I agree completely. My beliefs come from a life of commitment to looking for the good in things. I've got bumper stickers that say, "It's all good," and every one of my employees has that in their office at all times so that they keep the perspective, right, that it is all good, and they're there to take care of the clients, and we're there to take care of the clients so that they can deal with a stressful situation with grace and ease.

Now, I know you've dealt with a lot of very difficult situations. I'd love to touch on some of those because I know that there will be some businesses who are listening, business owners listening to this that are in great shape. Maybe they've got the perfect accounting relationship and everything's all fine. I also know that there's probably a large number who have ignored that side of the business, maybe haven't kept records the way that they needed to, maybe have ... they've not gotten in big trouble, at least, sort of walked up to the line with the IRS, and so they maybe have this challenging relationship with their books and their records and things like that. I'd love for you to describe a few of the situations that you run into frequently, and maybe some folks can kind of see themselves in those situations and what the answer is if somebody's listening and they find themselves in trouble financially.

What to Do If the IRS Comes Calling

Well, the first thing that always comes to everyone's mind is the Internal Revenue Service. It can be a scary place to think that you owe money to the IRS. The reality is I've worked with lots of people that owe money to the IRS and the bottom line is you call them up, you talk to them, you set up a payment agreement, you live with the payment agreement, and you pay it off, and they don't take you away and put you in jail. They just want you to work with them to pay the bills. If you keep in mind that they're just people doing a job, it helps, but that doesn't change the fact that people get a letter from the IRS ... I have a lot of people that bring in unopened mail because they're scared to death of a letter from the IRS. The first step is to open the mail, read it, and see what it says, and then take an appropriate response.

You can get help to deal with the IRS. Any CPA can do it. Most attorneys, a lot of ... there are a lot of tax attorneys. You can drop a whole lot of money into something that can be handled with a simple phone call, and so I always hate .... I hate to have a client come in and say, "I paid a debt resolution company $5,000 to settle my debt with the IRS, and they didn't get it done." That breaks my heart because those people are preying on the fear that people have and taking an exorbitant amount of money to do something that generally can be resolved in a couple of phone calls. The IRS is one major fear.

The other major fear is that there isn't enough money. There isn't enough money. I talked to a client, actually, earlier today that said, "I haven't brought in any money in my business. I'm broke. I can't afford to do anything. I don't know what I'm going to do. I want to fix up my website. I want to hire a coach. I want to do this. I want to do that." The reality is what she needs to do is get on the phone and sell what she has to offer, which is a valuable offer. She says, "Well, what am I going to do when I file my 2018 return?" I said, "Well, you're acting like the year is over. You've got four months. You can make a lot of money in four months’ time, so get after it and make it happen." She was a little dumbfounded, and she said to me, "When I hired you, I had no idea that I was going to get this kind of coaching," but the reality is that's what your accountant needs to do.

I dismiss the idea that she can't make a lot of money between now and December 31st. It's not true. Getting a handle on cash flow and making sure that there's steady money coming in is a matter of getting on the phone, for the most part, and making a sale because nothing happens until you make a sale. The whole world revolves around the transaction of selling a service or selling a product. When a sale happens, then cash moves and energy moves from one area to another area, and you get motion. Any time you constrict the motion, then you get in a stuck place, and there is no movement.

I got to tell you, I don't think I've ever heard ... I'm thinking back to all of my meeting with accountants over the years, I've never heard anybody give that kind of blunt and direct advice, and I think you're right. That's not the kind of coaching that people expect. However, really, what you're delivering is the advice that they need around their finances. Sometimes it requires you to be a little bit blunt and be a little bit straightforward and-

But it's always a safe space.

Of course.

It's a safe space. I'm not judging anybody because I have been in their shoes. I have been there. I know how hard it is, but I also know, deep in my heart, that they can choose a different path.

What Your Accountant Must Be Able to Do

Yeah. I think that must give your clients a lot of hope that it can be brought back onto the rails. For folks who are listening to this who may be thinking ... because I know you work with people all over the place, and I wrote-

Your CPA does not have to live in your town anymore. Your accountant, your CPA needs to understand your business and talk to you about how to enhance that business and expand it. They can be anywhere on the planet because the internet resolves any communication issue you could claim to be a detriment.

Yes, absolutely. For folks listening, who do you really specialize in working with? Who's in your wheelhouse?

Maddie Brown: Small businesses, and when I say small businesses, I mean small businesses, people that are starting and growing and mostly coaches, entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, people in the service industries. We have a lot of coaches that we work with, and that's kind of our ... We don't specialize in restaurants or manufacturers, and I don't have the expertise to advise them in a way that would be meaningful, so I shouldn't specialize in those things, but I do have skills in the coaching arena that make what I do different, and we can help a coach to really design a life that is what they want to live, and what they want to do, and the impact that they want to make in the world. People that care, people that care about what they're doing and what kind of effect they're having on the planet.

I love that. What's the best place for people to go who might want to find out more about what you're doing? Where can they connect with you?

Our website is, and that's what we do. We smash numbers. Some people crunch them. We smash them.

I love that. You have a new podcast that we're really excited about being a part of called Smash the Bottom Line over on iTunes, lots of great stuff there, so folks can check that out, and you just recorded what I think is a really powerful presentation. You did a webinar this week as we're recording this, and I think we ought to make that available to folks as well, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they can go find that at We'll link all that stuff up in the show notes so you guys can find it.

No matter where you are in your business, I've always believed that this is one of the things that you've got to get taken care of. If you don't have a good handle on how the money's flowing then, frankly, you don't have a business, and so you've got to get this taken care of. If you don't have it taken care of, find somebody. Go talk to Maddie. Wherever you go, find somebody that is a fit for you and get it squared away. If you're facing some of those scary problems that we talked about, get that ... I mean there's no time like the present to get that nailed down and resolved and on a path so you can get it off your mind and actually get back to building your business because that's the purpose.

Maddie, thank you so much for investing some time with me today. It's been a lot of fun as always. I love connecting with you, and I look forward to the next time we're together.

Thank you, Steve.

Nina Cooke | The Cure for Imposter Syndrome

When you’re struggling in business, whether you’re having trouble getting started or you’ve plateaued, the tendency is to blame yourself.

But that way of thinking could be the root of the problem, says business transformation expert Nina Cooke.

Until she adopted the right mindset, Nina struggled in her corporate career and as an entrepreneur – even though outwardly she had “made it.”

She reveals the switch she made that allowed her business to thrive and for her to be much happier on a personal level… and how you can take steps to experience the same transformation.

We also talk about…

  • Why everybody isn’t going to like you – and that’s okay
  • Avoiding the fake beliefs that hold you back
  • How to listen to yourself to discover what you really want
  • A simple technique for eliminating self-doubt
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Nina Cooke Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Nina Cooke. She helps business owners whose businesses have plateaued to increase their income by changing their way of thinking.

02:02 Nina tells us her background in business and how she overcame her crippling lack of self-confidence.

09:28 Nina talks more about how a lack of confidence and intimidation to authority held her back.

12:04 Nina talks about how now her confidence means she doesn’t take it personal when people tell her “no.”

16:05 Nina explains how its your thinking that causes your fear and how you should deal with your “limiting thinking.”

20:31 Steve talks about creating great perceptions in your mind and how the world is a more friendly place than you think.

22:07 Steve underlines the importance of having a vision.

23:51 Nina uses deep thinking and her curiosity to find things in her clients way thinking which could help them.

26:51 Nina explains her specific technique in helping her clients.

30:11 Steve talks about how limited belief is widespread in business.

32:05 Nina tells us how best to get in contact with her.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Nina Cooke

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon and today I've got a special treat for you. This, I think is going to be probably one of our best all time episodes, and I have the privilege of speaking today with Nina Cooke. She helps business owners and experts whose business has plateaued to increase their income by changing their thinking.

She's worked with hundreds of stuck and frustrated clients to bring them to the point where they've mastered their mindset, so that doubling their business becomes really an effortless and automatic response due to their confident and courageous new thinking that they've developed after working with Nina. She does this by showing them how to remove their fears and self-doubt so that they can take big action to create the business income and freedom that they want. And Nina is coming to us today all the way from England near Cambridge and Nina I am excited for this. To give everybody a little bit of background, you and I met about a week ago and you took me through your process and so I can't wait to share what I gained out of all that with everyone so welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you so much Steve and it is such a pleasure to be here.

Yeah, this is going to be fun and I think this is such an important topic because at the end of the day the real limitation for all of us running businesses is between our ears. It's our own thinking, and so I think dealing with these issues even though sometimes it's a little bit uncomfortable, I think this is the most effective and easiest path forward, even if it is a little bit uncomfortable. So, I'm excited to dive in. Before we get into the meat of things though I would love for you to give everybody some background so we kind of know where you're coming from and what got you to this point in your career.

Absolutely. My background, I started off working in the corporate world for Time Life Books, we had an office in Bond Street in London, and I had very big budget. I had lots of book clubs that I took care of, and then I left that to have children, I took 10 years out. Then I started my own business. I started a personal shopping business working from home, and I did all the sales and marketing, all the sales calls, I booked people in and then I had a team of personal shoppers, make-up artists and we very quickly grew and became a nationwide business. I started in London and the Southeast of England and a client phoned and said, "Do you do this in Manchester?" I thought well I don't but I said yes and thought well I'd figure out a way. And the business was really, it was a good business, it was profitable, I was able to combine it with my family because I was at my desk you know making sure everyone was at the right place at the right time and my team were out there doing all the shopping and the make-up lessons. Even though it was a good business I wasn't happy, I wasn't confident in myself and I knew deep down this was having a real impact on how I could grow the business and how big it could be; and I always…

Since a child I always felt very uncomfortable with myself I never liked myself, I had very little confidence. I always hid away in the background I thought I was boring, I had nothing to say, people wouldn't be interested in me, and I really stayed under the radar and I know this had a huge effect on my career. I missed out on promotions because I wasn't able to show myself and show people how good I really was.

Looking Inward to Get Unstuck

It was really when I had children and I saw how I had this wonderful self-confidence, and I realized I wanted some of that for myself and I was very good at faking confidence and people would say, "oh you seem really confident." I thought well I may seem it but I don't feel it and there was a real disconnect within me, and I'd always been interested in self-help books and I've read a lot, I've tried certain things out you know courses online and going in person to training, but nothing had ever shifted significantly for me.

It was in 2012 that I realized I wanted to seriously invest in personal development for myself because I knew that I could change things but I didn't know how to do it. I wanted to change how I felt about myself and I started training in NLP and hypnotherapy. I liked the results I was getting, they seemed to be ... my thinking seemed to be changing I was feeling more worthy and then I came across some training just by chance, a friend sent me an e-message, "you might be interested in this it's about limiting beliefs." I explored this and I started having sessions and I'm not exaggerating but it changed everything for me and I was very skeptical, I had the mind frame that nothings really going to work or it'll work temporarily, and then I'll go back to how I was. And it was only when I started realizing that actually I feel okay about being more visible, it feels okay to put videos out there and to have a bigger presence online, and to start telling people about what I do. And I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me and whether they would reject me or criticize me or judge me. That just seemed to fall away naturally.

I catch myself with my thinking every now and then I think wow that's different. And I didn't have to use any willpower or determination or say any affirmations to start feeling this new confidence, and the best way for me to describe it is I felt as if I had to take a very small space in the world before and suddenly I felt more expansive as if I could move my elbows out a bit more and I could ... my shoulders could be broader and I felt I'm okay I can take this space and this feels good. And I stopped hiding and I started speaking up more and it was a huge, huge change for me, not just professionally, because it's helped my business hugely as you could imagine helped me to reach out to people to connect with people, feel an equal. Even if this is someone more successful than me, that didn't bother me anymore.

After I did all this training I realized this is what I could do to help other business owners who felt stuck, who felt that they didn't have enough value, who were worried about telling people about their businesses, worried about taking big action, their fears and insecurities. And I started working with business owners exclusively, with thought leaders, experts who were having a big impact by leveraging their thinking they could have a much, much bigger impact by getting out of their own way and working on their thinking.

This is what I do exclusively now and I love doing this work because for anyone to share their thinking with me is such an honor and a privilege. And I give them that safe place where they can do that and we were talking about this before weren't we, where so many entrepreneurs, they rush by their thinking, they don't pay attention to one of the most, probably the most important asset they have, their thinking. And they're spending time on new strategies and building their team and processes and this stuff is so important. But if they can spend that time on those external things then what could they gain by spending time on their thinking and becoming aware of where they're thinking small, where they're limiting themselves and doing some work on that, so they can really start playing big within their heads, and that would translate into taking really big, bold action in the world.

You know, you said one word over and over again as you described your journey, and I want to spend a little bit of time exploring that word a little. I think it's an important one, and the word you used was confidence. I have come to believe that, that is probably the most important word, and one of the most important assets for any human and really certainly anyone trying to build a business, is having that confidence. And of course my wife jokes all the time that I never have a confidence problem and of course inside somewhere there's somebody saying but wait you're not in here with me. How did you, kind of, you had a successful business, you had a successful corporate business prior to that, to get to that level you had to at least give the appearance of confidence on the outside, so that people would do business with you or bosses would promote you through the organization. How did you come to understand that, that was sort of a root problem?

How a Lack of Self-Confidence Can Impact Your Success

It was the disconnect I had inside of me. And there were times at work for example when I worked at Time Life Books, I had a very senior role and I remember there was a guy who had a similar role as me and we were both for level pegging if you like within the business we were probably earning the same sort of salary. And I remember one day he came to me and he said, "I've just been promoted, and I've got a pay raise." And I looked at him and thought I didn't know there was any promotion going and all that happened was that he'd been networking if you like with some of the more senior people in our office and he got this promotion. And I thought this is the difference between me and him, he had the confidence to chat people just to have a laugh with them, a joke with them, get on with them, just be himself with them. And I never had the confidence to that.

I was so intimidated by authority and by senior people in the business. And I knew that I would never be able to do something like that, I didn't have the confidence, I was just too full of fear that they wouldn't like me, they wouldn't find me interesting enough, I wouldn't be able to sell myself if you like to them and showcase what I could do, my results were brilliant but I didn't, I wasn't able just to talk to them, you know off the cuff if you like. And that really hampered me but not just within my business but socially as well. With very close friends and family I was okay with them, I could be myself, but I couldn't be myself with other people, and I was so worried about how I was coming across that I couldn't focus on the other person. I couldn't really listen to what they were saying, I couldn't hear them.

Now that I don't worry about what people think about me because I know, well not everyone's going to like me I can't please everyone, and that's okay. Now I can really focus on the other person without worrying about what they're thinking about me.

So, once you identified this as something you needed to overcome how did you go about resetting and creating a situation where you felt confident? If not all the time at least most of the time.

Do you mean naturally or having to fake it?

Well, I don't know what's your experience now? Are you naturally confident now?

Yeah, my experience now is that I, it just feels absolutely fine for me to take up the space I'm in. And for me to reach out to people. So, for example within the business realm I reach out to people, I think I reached out to you, and I want to connect with people. I like to build relationships with people, this is sort of marketing I really love doing this plays to my strengths and now I don't worry about getting a no.

So, you know if I had reached out to you and you said actually I don't think it's worth us talking. That would have been fine because I don't take things personally anymore. And I think this is key for me, once I stopped taking things personally I was able to feel much more courageous and confident about talking to people and feeling, and now I feel like an equal with everyone. It doesn't matter how much they’re earning. It doesn't matter if they're more or less successful than me, I know it's a level playing field. We all come with the same amount of amazing stuff within us, we leave with that as well.

Some people have skill sets that other people don't have. That's okay because it all equals out in the end. So, my confidence comes from not taking a no personally, because I know it doesn't mean anything about me and who I am. It just means it's not a good fit for that person in that moment. So, sales conversations, I don't feel fear around sales conversations, they're just an opportunity for me to talk to someone and see if we're a good fit to work together. Because I don't take things personally it makes it much, much easier for me to ask and to build relationships with people and also to give back as much as I can as well.

You know, I'm hearing everything you're describing, and I'm sitting here trying to put myself into the position of one of our listeners right now who maybe is saying, "Well that's all well and good, but when I have sales conversations I don't feel confident and I don't know how to get to the other side." So, what I'd like to do Nina is I want to take a little break right here and when we come back from the break I want to dive into how you work with people to get them to the point where they could feel confident, where they're seeing the world a little bit differently. This is important work and I want to make sure we can give it the time it needs to be. So, we're going to be right back with more from Nina Cooke. We're going to dive into how you can systematically develop your confidence.

Welcome back this is Steve Gordon. We're talking with Nina Cooke today. Nina, before we broke, I love what you shared this whole idea of the importance of confidence and how you were able to go from feeling as though you were faking confidence and now to this experience that you have of true authentic confidence. You're confident in a lot of situations or maybe in all situations. What was that process like for you or if you don't want to go there what was, what would the process look like for someone that you might work with, to take them through that transformation?

Looking Inside Yourself to Create Fundamental Change

The process is so simple it blew me away. The main, the big insight I had was it's not outside stuff that's making me feel fearful, it's not when someone says no to me, it's not feeling the fear of giving someone, telling someone how much I charge or putting or launching a product. None of that is causing my fear it's all been caused by my thinking about putting my course out there, about having that sales conversation. And if it's my thinking that's causing my fear then I can do something about that.

I can't change what the events are going to be in my life. I can't change people, I can't make them think differently, I can't make them like me, I can't make them by my products, but I can do something about my own thinking. So, that was the first big ah-ha moment I had. Okay, so if it’s down to me, if it's all an inside job then I can do something about that. And it really gave me back my sense of control and power. And the main, the foundation of the work that I do, and the training that I've received is this, that we makeup stories about everything that's going on in our lives, and the stories that we make up about ourselves as the result of maybe our childhood or something a teacher said to us, or a boss said, or whatever it is; the stories that we make up about ourselves we believe to be true.

So, for example, if I had a sales conversation when I worked my personal shopping business and I was at the end of the sales conversation the prospect said no they didn't want to buy my service, I would come off the phone thinking I'm a failure, and if I launched a campaign and it didn't work well then I was a loser and there was something wrong with me, and I was never going to make it, and I just wasn't good enough and I was never going to be good enough and I wasn't the sort of person who was going to earn big money. So, all of these stories kept me very, very limited and they kept me in fear and when I was in fear I wasn't able to take big action because the consequence of that action might be that it wouldn't work and therefore I would feel bad about myself again.

So, this work is looking at all those stories we tell ourselves which are also our limiting beliefs. Things like we say I'm not good enough, I'm never going to make it, I'm a fraud, that's a big one with business owners; I'm not smart enough, I'm not competent, all of these limiting beliefs that we believe to be true, the process challenges each and every one of them. So, simply we're looking for the truth and we're getting rid of the lies and the lies are all these beliefs you have because they're just thoughts you made up in your head, they're not actually true about you and I know that they're not true about you or about any of our listeners because I have eliminated a lot of my limiting beliefs, and they were never true about me. Because if they had been true I wouldn't have been able to replace them with more positive beliefs. And I've done this many, many times with my clients.

Eliminating Fear Provides a Business Breakthrough

So, for example, I worked with a very successful business owner, but he was having inconsistent income, and we worked together and one of his beliefs, fake beliefs was I don't matter. And three little words I don't matter once he released that limiting belief the next month his income went up by, I don't know something like 30% or so. And then every month after that his income kept going up, and he put it down to working on his limited thinking. Nothing else changed, just that one thing. It's incredibly powerful, and this is why I said a lot of CEO's and really successful business owners, entrepreneurs they sometimes by pass this part of their business. They don't look at their thinking, and it's so, so important, because once you can have unstoppable mindset then actually you can achieve whatever you want, because it becomes much easier. Once you get rid of the fear, and the insecurities then actually there's nothing to stop you.

One of the things that we talked about on our first call last week as we were preparing for today was the idea that our perception of the world is largely a grand illusion, that we create for ourselves. We sort of create our perceptions in our minds, and the good news about that is that because you created you have the ability, the power to change it. And so many of, I think, particularly for those of us who are trying to build businesses and we have to go out and make sales, and a lot of people who are going to listen to this are in businesses where they went and got trained to be an attorney, or an accountant, or an IT professional or something like that because they really were fascinated by that work and then they came out into the world and realized, uh-oh now I've got to go sell this because the reality of this is that it's a business first and if I don't sell it I can't do the thing that really fascinated me about this.

And so, often times they're uncomfortable with that process, and a lot of that comes from, I think this perception that the world is a cold and dark and unfriendly place and there are an awful lot of places where you can read or hear or be told that, that's the truth but I think that if we all sat down to really recount our experience in the world, I know for me at least personally I have a very different experience in the world, it is generally a very warm cooperative and friendly place. And so, it's so interesting how we will attach this perception to something that is, in reality completely false. And yet, that'll drive our behavioral drive, our fears and it'll keep us from doing the things that we want to do.

And I love the process, you took me through your process last week, and I've done a lot of this kind of work before and when I, we got on the call I was really unsure about where we were going to go or what we were going to end up with, and in almost exactly an hour, I think we've run an hour and four minutes or something, you were able to take me to a new level of thinking, and I'm so grateful for that. And I was frankly shocked at how just the few questions that you asked as we went through that hour together really got to the heart of the matter right away, you don't beat around the bush at all. And you're very good at really diving in and picking out for people where their thinking really lies.

I'd love to understand a little bit about how you take, you know you took me through that process, how you, when you're meeting with someone how do you know where to go? How do you know where to find these false perceptions that they've got?

That's a really great question. I've never really thought about that before. I say the two things I bring to every conversation with a client, listening, deep, deep listening and curiosity. I'm always curious about why anyone thinks why think. How they created these stories? Why they believe those stories? What brought those stories into their mind in the first place? And I don't actually do very much, I'm just a guide. The client is actually doing all the work in talking things through and this is because you gave yourself the space, you put that space in your diary that you were going to work on your thinking.

When you have that space, you knew you had that hour blocked out and you weren't just thinking things through out loud, and I was just asking the questions, you know question here and there just to maybe go in a little bit deeper. But as you were thinking things through you were getting insights and you were linking things together and maybe picking up patterns of thinking which you hadn't been aware of before.

That's where this journey takes you. It takes you deeper into your thinking and then you start finding these patterns of thinking, and then once you find those patterns of thinking you can find the limiting beliefs which put those patterns in place. And then when you start taking out those limiting beliefs the patterns automatically start unraveling. When they start unraveling you think ah okay, so now I can think a new belief around that.

So, for example when I let go of a belief I'm not good enough I came up with a belief well of course I'm good enough, you know, of course I am, how can I not be? And it just became a complete truth for me, so this such a simple process and it's really, lots of questions to really find out where the client is, what they're thinking about, what they want. And then once we have them place we find the limited pattern of thinking, then we find the limiting beliefs, and then we eliminate the limiting beliefs and that pattern collapses.

You describe it as a simple process, it's simple and you make it look easy, but I will tell you it wasn't easy to go through, although took an hour, you know it really stretched my thinking on things, and I think that's really valuable. You did it in a very focused way. I'm curious though, the skeptic in me and on behalf of our listeners is thinking, well is it really just as simple as sort of saying if I believe I'm not good enough I just let go of that and say okay now I'm good enough. How do you make these things stick? It seems just too easy to just change like that.

There is a process, it's a technique that I learned, I trained in, and this technique I walk the client step by step through it. So, first of all we find the limiting belief they rate out of ten so we can come back and measure it at the end. I like measurements. And then I take them through a very logical series of steps to find out, what's the earliest memory associated with this belief because we're not born with limiting beliefs. We acquire most of our self-esteem beliefs by the time we're around six which we're not questioning, we're taking on board everything the adults in our lives are saying.

How Rid Your Mind of Limiting Beliefs

So, for example say a child wants their parents to play with him or her and the parents are busy doing other things and this keeps happening so the parents don't get around to playing with their child. Well, after a while the child will start thinking why are my parents too busy to play with me, oh it's because I'm not important. So that limiting belief is created within the child and then the child will carry that limiting belief into that adult life and keep looking for evidence to support that belief, I'm not important because we always like to be right.

Once we've identified the limiting belief and the earliest event associated with that then we go to a place where can they see it in the world, and then we make sure that, if they think they can see that belief out there in the world actually it's never been out there in the world it's only been in their head. So, that's a lie.

Then we talk about the feeling part of their belief. Can they feel their belief? Well, of course we can all feel our beliefs. And then it's just a very easy logical sequence of steps for them to realize, actually this belief has never been a truth about them. And I don't think we have time to go through the whole sequence of steps here. And by the end of the process I ask them to rate their belief again out of ten, and if it's gone down to a two or a one or a zero then that belief is not going to bother them. If it's gone down by a few, you know, gone down to a five or a six then we just go through a few of the steps again until it's completely gone, and they can replace that belief with a new empowering belief. One that they completely belief to be true about them.

So, it's getting rid of the lies and replacing the lies with the truth of who they really are, and it is, it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to release a belief which, you could have had your whole life. And it's almost like you know, with the Wizard of OZ. Dorothy thought that the wizard was all powerful, all knowing, and then the curtain was pulled back and she saw the wizard for who he really was, just an ordinary man. Once you pull back the curtain on your limiting belief and see it for the lie that it really is you can never make it into a truth again. So, it's a very logical way of releasing beliefs, and this is why it appeals to people who are intellectual, or people who don't use there intellect so much. It's just a very logical way of going through this process, and then once we've got rid of that limiting belief we move on to the next one, the next one, the next one.

So, any challenge, any problem that client comes with, it's like a house just sitting on stilts each stilt is a limiting belief and once you pull out enough of those stilts then the house, the problem just collapses.

You know, I use to think that these sort of issues were really just a sign of weakness. You know, that I'm a big strong business man and I should not have these kind of challenges, and then the more I got, the further I got into running businesses and creating things, and the more I got around people who had been very, very successful who are very, very successful, I realized that this is at a fundamental level this is sort of the game. In American football, we talk about blocking and tackling as sort of the fundamental skill you've got to have in the game and I think in business this is one of those fundamental skills that really leads you into being able to be successful at everything else.

But I also know that a lot people resist this. Now at the same time I've worked with an awful lot of business owners over the last eight years, helping them with their marketing. In almost every case, in almost every case before we could get to the point where they had successful marketing we took them through sort of the counseling and therapy process. And I’ve got to tell you I'm not nearly as skilled at it as you are. And that's how I know that this is a wide spread challenge in business because I can only think of, out of the dozens of clients that I've worked one on one with I can only think of one or two that, where this really wasn't something that we had to deal with.

Often times if we want to translate this into marketing, often times the reason that you're not marketing effectively is because there's something in the back of your mind, there's some part of your thinking that is keeping you from putting out the message that's going to have the impact, because there's risk involved in that.

So, it's one of the reasons that I was so excited Nina, for you to come on to the Podcast, because I really think this is kind of a foundational skill. And I think it's a skill to be able to do this, not only to work with someone like you to be able to kind of take, take someone through a process, but also to always be aware of your thinking. That, to me that's a skill that you build up over time, and you get better at over time. And so, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. Before we wrap up would you please share with everybody where they can find out more about what you're doing?

Of course, it's been such a pleasure to be here with you, Steve. They can find out more about my work at and the training is how to leverage your thinking so you can smash through your income glass ceiling.

Yeah, and I highly recommend you go take a look at that. It will help you, and if you look at that and you feel like you want more one on one help definitely reach out to Nina and take advantage of the good work that she's doing, and you'll, that was a long URL I know we'll have that linked up in the show notes. So, if you're listening to this on iTunes it'll be in the show description there, if you're listening to this over on our website it'll be in the links in the show notes there, so go find that. Connect with Nina. Nina thanks again for being here today, this was so much fun.

It's been wonderful. Thank you Steve.

Molly Grubb | The 2-Week Vacation Business Check-In Strategy

You start a business… you run it successfully for decades. But, asks Molly Grubb, what’s your exit strategy?

The nightmare scenario – you get to the end and don’t have a sellable business or one you can pass on to the next generation.

Molly helps people avoid that situation.

Try this exercise: If you took a two-week vacation with no contact with your business… what would happen?

If the prospect has you running scared… you won’t be able to sell. But Molly has some solid tips for creating an exit plan, which you should be working on right now.

We talk about…

  • How to minimize your tax obligation when selling your business

  • Avoiding tasks that waste time and suck energy

  • Solving the two problems business owners struggle with most

  • A painless process for delegating

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Scott Beebe Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Steve introduces the Dynasty Builder, Molly Grubb. Molly is one of only a few certified business exit consultants and can help you plan your exit strategy.

01:57 Molly explains the heartfelt story that led her to do what she does today.

06:14 Molly talks about being a recovering actuary and how she moved into business.

09:35 Molly talks about systems and delegation.

12:28 Molly helps us understand how to plan our exit strategy.

15:33 Molly tells us to quit being so in love with our bank accounts.

17:32 Molly explains why most business exits fail, emotional attachment.

20:19 Molly explains her how her business focuses on the owner rather than the business. Molly explains how she helps quarterback your exit.

25:10 Molly talks about the two major issues with and insurance.

26:53 Molly tells us about her book, Build Your Dynasty, and the 4 things it will do for you.

28:23 Molly talks about the utilities on her resource page.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Molly Grubb:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon, and I’ve got to tell you we're going to have an interesting interview today. I've got Molly Grubb on the line with me. She is a dynasty builder. And if you've owned a business now for a few years and maybe you're thinking about what you're going to do next and how you're going to turn the business into your big payday, at the end of the line, this interview is for you. She's just an expert at helping plan exits for business owners.

And so, Molly's story, which I think she'll probably get into, is that she saw her family's business really torn away from her parents and watched them kind of lose their identity and walked away with almost nothing. And she decided she wasn't going to let that happen to other entrepreneurs and other family business owners.

Now she helps build, protect and maintain a family business owner's dynasty. And she's one of only 200 certified business exit consultants. Less than seven percent of advisors have that designation, and she really will help you utilize all the fundamentals of wealth management to prepare for your business payday.

So, welcome Molly. Great to have you on the Unstoppable CEO.

I am super excited about helping your audience continue to do great things and be even a bigger success than what they already are now.

Well, I know they like to hear that. And, I have to tell you, this is an important topic and we'll get into all the reasons why in a few minutes. But before we get into the details, I always like for people to get a little sense of where you came from, how'd you get to being an expert at business exits?

Sure. Well, you gave me a little bit of my bio, but really I'm a recovering actuary, that's what I went to school for, but what I do is not really as exciting that I'm told as to why I do it. Who we focus on is the story of my family, you know, losing their business, because they didn't work the people they knew. They worked with the people they knew versus the experts they actually needed, and they treated their exit as a transaction rather than a process.

But, the reason why I do what I do, it goes back even further. I'm the youngest of six kids, and when my sister was two years old, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. And for four years my family invested all of their resources, everything they had from their business to help Mandy get better. So just imagine what you would be thinking if you poured your blood, sweat and tears into your loved one to get them better and nothing's working. And even worse, they were told they weren't going to make it. That's precisely what was told to my parents. And I sat there in the hospital room as a young four year old, trying to understand what those words really, really meant.

So, my parents did the only thing that they knew to do. And, they took her to church and over a thousand people prayed for Mandy that evening. You know, the next time they took Mandy to the doctor, what the doctor said, she didn't need any more blood transfusions. She didn't need any more treatments. She had been completely healed, I mean it was truly, truly a miracle. Then just imagine you had this amazing miracle happen to you, and you still needed one more.

You see the four years of investing in my sister's health, combined with the insurance defaulting on my family, we were going to lose everything, our home, all six of us kids were going to be split up. A story about our situation was picked up by a local news channel, and the night that it aired, a local business owner named Bill was so touched by it, that he went to the sheriff auction and bought that house back for us. He even drove in a brand new blue minivan, stuffed with three Mickey Mouse's for my oldest brothers, and three Minnie Mouse's for us girls. He handed the keys to my dad and said we're going to Disney World on his private jet.

Wow. That's exactly why I build dynasties. It's because when my parents could not build their own dynasty, Bill took the time to be able to do that. And so, I want to be able to empower others to protect their family from that type of situation, but also to be able to help others and be empowered by that. And that's truly why I do what I do.

It's a powerful story. And, I think it, it really illustrates the power of owning a business, what you can do, if you build it the right way.


Because Bill built a business that provided him with means, he was able to come in and do something very generous. And, I'm not naïve enough to say everybody aspires to that, but I think an awful lot of the people who are listening today, the kind of people we attract, aspire to building that kind of business.


And I love that you call them dynasties, because I think they really can be.

Absolutely. Why not? Why can't you have your own dynasty?

Yeah, absolutely. So, you have this experience in your background and at a very young age too, and then you go off and you get into business. And so, what did that look like? What was sort of the first place that you started and then how did you end up doing what you're doing?

Sure. Well, I was a recovering actuary, I did that for a couple of years, but again, I just had this internal calling that I needed to actually be able to talk to people. And if you know any actuaries, the communication department may not be one of their fortes. So ...

I love that you call yourself a recovering actuary.

Yeah, who else?

I call myself a recovering engineer. Same problem, right?


**And you can't talk to people either. So-

No, no.

We were the ones that could talk to the humans.

Right. Yeah. So, about 10 years ago I believe, yeah, it was about 10 years ago, I broke off and went into the planning industry and I tested my model out for about four years at two different banks and became the top advisor in both of those banks, Nationwide. I was the top producing advisor, so at that point I'm like, "Okay. I now have a pilot that I can generate it and have it be my own." And I cultivated the clients and nurtured them in a way that it would be a natural transition. So I, it would still make my non-compete and everything would be still be compliant. So I wasn't totally starting from ground zero.

But it was really, when I truly left and formed my own firm, it was a pretty dry well. And so, there was a couple of things that are going with me, because I had those relationships in place. I then began to just try to spread the wings. We used ... I did a ton of speaking, a ton of event planning, and went around and helped a lot of displaced workers, and it was really just working with the masses, at a certain point, and became extremely successful to the point that last year we broke off from our independent broker dealer, sold 70% of our firm, so those clients could still be managed, but it allowed us to just focus on family business owners. Which obviously has a very personal spot in my heart, to really be able to just focus on that and help them prepare and transition over this thing that they created.

Whether it's maybe a situation like I am now, where I just needed to realign the focus of our business, or maybe it's I need to start thinking about giving it to the next generation, or I want to work on a new project. So that's kind of what's led our success, but really it's about, what it's allowed to expedite was, all the systems and delegation that we created and made apps ... I mean because you have to practice what you preach if you're going to advise business owners, you got to act and think like the model business owner. And, that's been kind of the core belief system in our firm.

Thank you. I love that. We believe the same thing. We see so many people in our world, in marketing that they'll say one thing but they're doing something different and, you know, we have from the very start made sure we were also kind of eating our own dog food, I love that you do that.

Overcome Your Two Major Business Pain Points

You mentioned two things there. Systems and delegation. In my experience, those are the two things that business owners struggle with the most.


How do you get them to overcome it?

Well, actually in my upcoming book Build Your Dynasty, that you can sign up for on But in that book, what I say in there is that, the success or failure of any business is their ability to create systems and to be able to delegate. If not, you're going to be that E-Myth version of just constantly wearing 10 different hats and not being ... If you're in the service business industry, you end up just serving business owners, but you don't act like a business owner. So, it's just being able to really operate and not be a practitioner of your business, and actually think and act like an owner, and have the business serve you, rather than you serving the business.

It sounds so enticing. We all, whether you call it work in the business or work on the business rather than in the business, or have the business serve you rather than you serve it. It sounds so enticing. And it's easier said than done. And, I want to dive into that a little bit more.

Before we do that, I want to take a quick break. We're going to be back with more from Molly. And we're going to talk about how you can set up your business for a successful exit. And I’ve got to tell you, I've seen lots of businesses that had really unsuccessful exits and were really not helping that business owner achieve their goals at the end.

So, we're going to talk when we come back about how you can fix that, how you can plan ahead for that.

We'll be right back with more from Molly Grubb.

Welcome back to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. This is Steve Gordon and I'm here talking with Molly Grubb. And Molly, we left off and you talked about this idea of having the business serve you. And, you know, we hear that a lot and I think sometimes it is a really difficult thing for business owners to be able to do. And I'd love to lean on your wisdom, as you've taken business owners through that process.

Can Your Business Survive Without You?

Sure. Well, that's a fantastic question and lead in, because so many ... A good exercise for business owners is to go on a two week vacation, away from the business, have zero access to it. What's going to happen to that business? Are you going to lose money, is the company going to fold up, or is it going to run seamlessly and the revenue still be generated? And if you can't be the latter, then you need to start really just setting down and creating a mind map for yourself. And start, just start grading what you're doing. You can use resources like Toggl, T-O-G-G-L, which again is on the resource page on

Those type of resources, you can then start measuring your task of what you're doing and then at a certain point, you need to then calculate what is my true hourly rate? So many business owners, they just don't even, they pay themselves a salary, but that's not really what their true hourly rate is. And then once you're able to calculate that, then it becomes very clear as to what you need to delegate. And then don't just stop with you, all of your employees, anybody that supports you, need to do the same exercise. Because, it's, you know, especially if in the service industry, there are so many individuals out there that they don't have an appointment calendar, they don't have a reminder calendar, so they're constantly chasing their appointments.

And, it's just so time consuming and they pay their secretary too much to just do what a system can do for you. So, we use things like and to basically funnel all this and allow us to run faster, because that's the name of the game, it's how fast you can run.

And, you know, things like InfusionSoft, so all of our leads are funneling through there, they're getting an automated drips campaign, and for us to just even like book a stage, a week that we're doing, that would normally take four or five hours for most, and for entire week, it takes us 20% of that time to do. And so, that's exactly, the name of the game on no matter what industry you are a part of.

Yeah. I think, you know, figuring out what it is that you're doing, that you can begin to get off your plate and begin to systematize is really the first step. I've had people tell me over the years, you’ve got to do it, a timed inventory, you know, where you carry a list around for two weeks and write down everything you do. And I've never been able to do those. But, I have found that I get about 80% of the result from just sitting down periodically with a cup of coffee or, you know, better maybe a good bourbon and-


And just making a list of, "Okay, what do I think I did over the last week or two?" And sometimes that's the short cut.

Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

You're doing stuff that totally irritates you, because that to me, that's the first stuff you want to get off your plate, because it's usually you get the stuff that's not only taking time it's sucking the energy.

Right. I mean, do you get paid to do taxes? If the answer is no, then I'll do it.


The Tasks You Must Delegate

If you don't get paid to do payroll, then don't do it. Have someone else to do it. There's so many that can do ... Quit being so in love with what's in your bank account, because by you sharing that love with others, you'll be replaced back within an abundance, because now your time is going to go towards the two most important things that your job as an owner's to do. Make money and do things that are going to make you money. If you're doing anything else, you're losing money for your company.

Yeah, absolutely. So, the first I guess step in this is to get your business to a point that, that the team is running it. And, that's really the purpose of putting together the systems and the delegation.


**And that's also critical because, I've had business owners come to me and ask for advice around, you know, they're getting close to exit and sometimes it's hard to look at somebody and tell them, "You know what? You don't have sellable business."


Because it doesn't operate without you. And so, what are you going to do? And, if you can't get your arms wrapped around this thing, the rest of it's going to be difficult. But, let's say you've got a business owner, you've worked with them, they've gotten the thing systematized. They can go away for a month and the business, they come back, the business grows while they're gone. At that stage, what do you do next to help them kind of make that dynasty really permanent?

Sure. When it comes to exit strategies, we like to get in at least three to five years prior, to make sure that the business truly is independent of the owner. Because the more independent it is of the owner, the more the value of the business is actually driven. That seems counterintuitive, but it's a nice concept.

But, the one thing that we really like to, that we focus on, that is what is the number one reason why all business exists fall and in are just crushed, is getting the owner ready to exit from an emotional aspect. Because, I'm emotionally attached to my business. Even me, and I know that I just can't pull myself away from the business right at this point because I'm too in love with it. And you'll find that with different business owners.

So, designing an exit strategy based off of the emotional needs of that owner, so it might need to be something that's done over a five- to seven-year period, or maybe they're just absolutely just sick and tired of it, and they want out from underneath it. Or maybe they are sick and they can no longer function. So, just designing different exit strategies for them. I mean the financial gap, you know, that's very logical, we solve it to make sure that their life out post-exit is going to be the equivalent if not better than during while they owned the business. But nothing is more important than getting the owner back to their true self, getting them to have their hobbies back in place, and reprioritize them before they're even crossing that finish line, is I think just vitally important.

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. So much of this is, it's not just the money side of it, there's such a mental aspect to all of this, and an emotional one. You've built this thing, it's your baby, and now there's the part of it that you're giving up this ... I mean for most of us who built businesses who aren't in the Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur world, you've probably put your heart and soul and a good chunk of your life into building the thing and probably have some pride around that. And it's, it can be a difficult thing to let go of.

And so, as you're working with them in that three to five years prior to the exit, is there a process you take them through, like a series of steps that you look at to get them ready?

Absolutely. The first, you know, don't tell Mr. Compliance Man this, but the way we really describe the process, is that, we're kind of the insurance that you take out before you go to talk to any sharks. Because if you go to ESOP attorney, you're going to get an ESOP, if you go to an investment banker, you're going to end up selling your business. And I'm not saying any of those are right or wrong answers, but again we’ve got to go back to the owner. No one focuses on the owner, everyone just focuses on the business.

And so, the process that, you know, you as an owner really need to go through, is to sit down with someone that can quarterback and has really no direct transactional attention or conflict of interest let's say, towards that exit. And, be able to really just assess you and what your needs are and design that plan and that will quarterback that entire process from beginning to end, bringing in the right transactional individuals, I call them sharks, to make sure that the proper plans will actually be executed.

Reducing Your Tax Obligations During a Business Sale

So, if you choose to an ESOP, well then, you're going to get the best ESOP attorney in town. If you choose to do a Popeye plan, well, you're going to get the only attorney in the nation that does that. But it's going to be that entire process. And then we just went through that with a client that owned a car dealership. And he went to his business attorney that he's been working with for 30 years, just as my parents did, and his attorney said, "Well, why don't we just do," he wanted to give it to his, the next generation. So the attorney said, "Well, why don't you just do a 20 year note on this thing?" Well, the unfortunate thing is now my client would've been liable for this 20 year note, hoping that the next generation can really fulfill this thing. Meanwhile, all he is doing is amortizing out a 20 year tax payment to Uncle Sam, because the most expensive thing you can do is sell when you exit.

And, it's about up to 60% in taxes. So, what we did with him was just, we did a complete tax free restructure on the real estate, spun out the real estate, had the real estate be its own exit, that was tax free for them. And then, also did the same thing for ... We did a five, we did stock redemptions for the actual owner over five to seven years. So what it ended up doing was maximizing what the client got, but minimized what the employees had to pay. So it was really, it was just a home run all the way around and the attorney was even extremely ecstatic, he's never seen anything like that.

So, just being able to think outside the box for your clients just as a whole, because as business owners, that's what you need.

Yeah. I love that. There are so many ways to structure these things. And I've seen some creative stuff done in the past and you really do need someone who specializes in kind of creatively developing the exit plan. Because if you don't get that right, you're going to lose a ton of money.


I mean in all seriousness, for those of you who are listening to this, I mean I have seen mistakes made by friends of mine that have cost them seven figures. And you don't want to be there, because the damage to the ego is real when that happens, not just to the bank account. And so, you've got to find somebody that can bring some creativity to this, because the way the tax code is written, there are lots of options, and I think every business is pretty unique. I mean, you talked about real estate.

If there's real estate involved, there's all kinds of interesting things that can be done to do that. And this is all, you know, I've always said for most small businesses, oftentimes the best sale is an internal sale, but the trick is to figure out how do you get the cash out if it's an internal sale. Because oftentimes it's going to be worth more. Particularly if you haven't done ... I'd love to hear your take on this, because you see a lot of more of this than I do. But particularly if you haven't done all of the work you should have done to do the systems and kind of extract yourself, the next best operator of that business are all the people that are in it right now, most of the time, because they know how to do it, you know?

Right. Yeah.

They're closest to it. And so, but you’ve got to make it something that they can actually accomplish without putting all your eggs in that basket.

Yeah. Yeah. So two cautionary tales, you know, that you need to be careful of as you're thinking about your exit is, one, what about Uncle Sam? Because he's going to, you are basically going to go to bed with him if you don't address it, 60% of taxes will be dedicated towards that, on average.

Is Your Business Advisor Qualified and Certified?

The other issue that you need worry about is if you are deciding to sell your business, now only 20% of business actually sell externally, but let's say you're part of that 20%, making sure that you're working with someone that has the proper errors and omissions insurance, as well as the proper security license. Because if you go to the closing table, and something goes wrong, and they don't have that in place, your deal could be undone. And there's a lot of business brokers out there that are representing clients that really don't have it, because it's a gray area, and it's not a very highly regulated area.

So, that's why these deals are getting done. And then, sellers are really in a bind when things don't go their way.

Yeah. And you don't want to be at the closing table trying to sort things out, because you're always going to lose in that situation. Value is always going to go down if you introduce any uncertainty into the deal. And that can be a really difficult thing.

Molly, I know you have a book coming out, and you mentioned earlier the URL, which I believe is


Tell us a little bit about the book and what people can expect.

Sure. When you're done reading the book, you will have an outline of what your dynasty looks like, or maybe the improvement if you've already built your dynasty. So, at the end of each chapter, it's going to have steps for you to execute on. So, it's going to help you design out your why, it's going to give you hacks to ... So, basically, it's going to do four things for you. And it's going to absolutely change your life. It'll help you create more time, move faster, maximize your exit and free up wealth. And that's really what encapsulates the entire book.

That's great. And I know you're still putting the finishing touches on it, but if they go to that page and they give you their email address, you'll email them when the book is available, correct?

Absolutely, yeah. They'll just go on our wait list and we're super excited about making sure that they do get this as soon as they can, because we really want to be able to help as many business owners avoid what my family had to go through, but also to be like Bill, and create their own dynasties, so they can continue to bless the world.

Awesome. And I think you mentioned before we started recording that if they go there, you've got a whole list of resources that will help business owners, everything from kind of beginning to figure out how to get the systems and the delegation in place to more advanced stuff, is all there.

Right. We have a resource page, so if you just plug in your email we'll make sure that the resource page gets emailed to you, that's really an advanced copy to our resource page that we're putting for our book, that you can just go on and ... Some of the resources I was mentioning earlier, it's all going to be on that page. So it's all on how to work faster. You know, all the systems and things that you need to, that you can utilize to help delegate and push down the work that just bogs you down and stops you from being as successful as you really want to be.

That's great. Molly, I appreciate you coming on today and investing some time with us. This is such an important topic, and we all want to push it off and not think about it. And I'll never forget I was in a CEO peer group years and years ago, and one of the first rules when you came into that group was you had to, in the first meeting explain your exit plan to the group. And I'll never forget, because my first meeting I didn't have an exit plan.


And that was the point, was to get everybody thinking about, "Okay. We built this thing or we're building this thing, how do we get out?" Because if you don't do that intentionally, you're not going to enjoy the way that you get out.


I appreciate the good work you're doing. Thank you so much for being here.

Well, I'm excited to help in your community and let's go out there and make it a great day.

Awesome. Thank you.


Scott Beebe | Setting Your Business GPS to Profit

You have goals for your business (hopefully). A good first step.

Let’s kick it up a notch, says Scott Beebe, and create your vision. It’s the only way to get what you really want out of your business and your life.

Scott, founder of My Business on Purpose, outlines seven things that you must consider when putting together your vision. All these elements work together to create a plan for you to follow and give you the motivation to get it done.

You already have your vision, Scott says. You just need help pulling it out of your head.

To that end, Scott offers up a free Vision Tutorial during this episode.

Tune in to find out…

  • How to be realistic but ambitious with financial goals

  • The North Star you need when things get tough

  • What you should be asking yourself before work each day

  • The unexpected value of outside perspective

  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Scott Beebe Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Steve introduces Scott Beebe, the founder and head coach of

01:02 Scott gives us his broad background from college football to working for both big and small organizations.

03:02 Scott talks about the differences and similarities between small and large organizations.

04:11 Scott goes in depth about a particular obstacle he overcame in business.

09:59 Scott talks about the importance of having a vision for your company and how to implement it.

14:20 Scott gives us 7 grand steps that when implemented methodically, will get you your own vision.

18:09 Scott breaks down hot to get the financial number for your vision.

22:07 Steve underline the importance of having a vision.

23:02 Scott talks about the amazing moment of clarity people get when their own vision is realized.

25:18 Scott talks about systems and processes and his Master Process Roadmap.

28:05 Steve talks about how clients of his don’t know about their own marketing metrics.

29:19 Scott talks about reading the correct metrics.

30:59 Scott explains Principle Based Coaching.

33:39 Scott tells us how to get his 7-step vision for free!

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Scott Beebe:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon and today's going to be special. I've got with me Scott Beebe. He's the founder and head coach of He's also the host of the Business on Purpose podcast and he and his team liberate small business owners from the chaos of working in their businesses, and help them get their lives back by articulating and implementing intentional vision, mission, and values along with systems and processes. Scott, I love the word that you used there "intentional" one of my favorite words. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO. Great to have you.

Steve, thank you so much. I'm excited to dive in.

Yeah. It's going to be fun. I guess before we really get too deep here, I'll love for you to give everybody a little bit of background so that they understand where you're coming from.

Yeah, certainly. I tell people, Steve I’ve got kind of a fragmented blueprint of a life. I grew up all over the United States. Literally kind of circling the continent. Ended up doing high school in South Carolina, which led me into attending the University of South Carolina. I'm an alumni there. Actually had the privilege of playing football there in the mid 90s. I know you're a Gator. We never beat the old Gators. They had Danny Wuerffel. They had a couple of key elements during that time. We also never beat the Tennessee Volunteers because they had a guy named Peyton Manning.

It was a tough season to be in football for that four-year swing while those guys were there, but it was a delight. Ended up going to theology school after I graduated from university. Graduated from there in '01 and then went on a pilgrimage. Half of my time since that point has been in large, global multinational organizations and the other half of the time, Steve has been in really small faith-based non-governmentals.

I've seen a really broad spectrum, not only of the country here in the US, but also of organizational life here in the US. Ashley and I been married just over 20 years. We have three really fun kids: 17, 15, and 13 of the time of this recording. That's a little snapshot of who we are and a little bit of my background, and whence we have come.

What Big and Small Organizations Have in Common

Diverse background for sure. I can imagine kind of living in the large organizational world and then the very small organizational world. Probably a lot of differences, but maybe more similarities that we might imagine. I think people in large organizations think they're very, very different. People in small organizations think that the large organizations are full of bureaucracy and all kinds of things that they can't relate to, but I imagine you probably found some parallels between the two. Go ahead.

Well, I was going to say if you take a speedboat and one of these mega tanker ships that are on the open ocean. They both got propellers. They both got rudders. They both got some sort of powerhouse that actually drives the propeller. If you look at organizations from a principles' standpoint, there's load of similarity. In fact, one of the biggest differences is really just speed and agility. Outside of that you're going to have a lot of the same systems and processes, but the speed is going to be a lot different. Now, capacity obviously is very different, as well. A larger organization can carry a lot more capacity, but at the end of the day it's really about speed and agility between the two.

So Scott, I imagine you been in all sizes of organizations and I'm sure in all of the places that you worked, things didn't go perfectly all the time. There probably were obstacles, things you had to overcome, problems you faced. What are some of the ways that over the years that you've found have worked best to kind of push through that?

One of the biggest challenges I faced and I layout the story, and then wrap it up with the thing that I think I learned from it, and hopefully used through it. One of the organizations I was a part of, I was actually kind of the executive leader of day to day. It was really small organization and I was the international administrator. We did a ton of work in Nigeria and so I was back and forth to Nigeria a bunch.

It was my first role, Steve that I was answerable to a board; full nine member board. Very professional group of men and women. We were based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For a number of years, we actually volunteered as a family for this organization. I'm going back and forth to Nigeria. Well, when I had helped them and led them through the process of articulating a vision, mission, values for the organization they realized that it was going to need some day to day leadership.

They asked if I would leave where I was, which was a big, large, global multinational and come to this really small non-governmental. It took us about a year to make that decision because it was a pretty big jump for us. Ended up doing that and a couple of years in, Steve there was some serious, serious board of directors issues, and one of the things that it had taught me is you better button up the details on the backend even in a very small organization. A lot of times small agile organizations had the mindset of "we just cross that bridge when we come to it."

The reality is at some point the bridge is going to come and unfortunately a lot of the bridges that you come to are very unforgiving for people who are very unprepared. So going ahead and buttoning up a lot of the details, for instance, in board situations with the guiding documents and sorts of things. Having that laid out with great clarity is really, really crucial to be able to do, not only that, but open communication. There's got to be set times and flows for that communication.

So that really happened at about two and a half years in. Man, you talk about just imploding. It imploded at a director level. Nothing I could do about it, but my role was directly answerable to those boards of directors. I literally walked into a boardroom on a Friday at 9:00 AM and walked out three hours later at noon with no job. I'm 39-years-old and for the first time in my life I had nothing to wake up to and go to the next day. The thing that I found through that, Steve is the articulation of a vision. If you don't have your vision articulated out, when those sorts of thing come, chaos is the default.

There's nowhere else to go because you have nothing written down. You got no picture in your mind of what things could look like and so when chaos comes and it will come, then you got to have this articulation of vision down so that you can begin to walk towards that when the chaos is all surrounding you.

Sort of gives you a north star to remain focused on even when things are getting difficult.

How to Make Sure You Aren’t “Flying Blind” With Your Business

Yeah. Absolutely. You’ve got to have that. The best metaphor is probably the metaphor of a pilot. If you got instruments on your dashboard, then the clouds might still make you a little nervous, but you're much better set to be able to fly through the clouds when you can't see anything. Visibly is zero, but if you don't have instruments embedded on your cockpit and you're just literally flying blind, it's not going to end well.

Yeah. It's so interesting because the point you bring up that most of us in smaller organizations tend to kick the can down the road on some of these things. I'm sitting here thinking of a few companies that I run. All of the organizations that I've been involved in and it never occurred to me. You articulate in a way that I hadn't heard before. How important it is to have all those things nailed down because I've seen all ... Probably all the different types of issues that could crop up. I mean and things go sideways in a hurry sometimes, and I love this idea of having kind of this one overarching vision that you keep working towards that kind of keeps you on track.

I know you spent a lot of time with organizations trying to help them develop that vision and I really I think what I want to do is dive into that next. Before we do, we're going to pause for a quick second. We're going to come back with Scott. You're going to love what we come back to, too. He's an absolute expert at helping pull that vision out of people's heads. So we're going to go through that exercise with him when we come back. Stay tuned.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I'm here with Scott Beebe. Scott, you had a great point about vision before we took the break. I love for you to kind of now guide us through your thinking on vision and the process that you take people through to find that vision in their organization.

Yeah. Steve, the foundation for this is we’ve got to realize that vision is not a novel concept. This is not a novel 21st century just the latest, greatest kind of technological splurge. Vision is very, very ancient. It's very uprooted and it's not a Peter Drucker thing. It's not a Jim Collins thing or Harvard Business Review thing. They all use it, but it existed well before the modern business philosophers that were all very well-aware of. It goes way, way, way, way back into Jewish tradition. There's a great quote. It's a Jewish prophet named Habakkuk it says, "Write the vision down so that those who read it may run." Write the vision down so those who read it may run.

So let's take that pragmatically. If we were to literally with a pen or pencil and paper, or a Google doc or whatever you want to do. If you were literally articulate and write your vision down, now what happens ... Let's go to one of the modern prophets, Michael Gerber, the guy who wrote "E-myth." A classic small business book if you've not read it, it's crucial that any small business owner read that book. In the book he says, "If you don't write it down, then you don't own it." If you don't write it down, then you don't own it.

Let's go back to that Jewish quote, "Write the vision down." Once it's literally written down on a sheet of paper, you own it at that point. Recently Ed Sheeran got into a little bit of hot water because one of his beats sounded like a beat from somebody. I believe it was Barry White of all people from a couple of decades ago and this beat sounded like how do we know that? So we got a historical precedent and say, "Okay, Barry White kind of owns that beat. That rhythm, that timing, those sorts of things." Now we can go to modern day and go, "Okay, we're going to tie that back there."

When you write it down at that moment you begin to own it. Now, by the way, this is for a whole other discussion, Steve, but I think that's one reason a lot of people don't like to write things down. It's because they're not sure they want to own it, but if you write it down, now the second part of that quote is, "Write the vision down, so that those who read it may run." When you got your vision articulated, documented, however that looks. Whether it's on a painting canvas. If it's on a document. If it's however. If it's recorded in audio or video. However it looks, once you got that documented you set all of us up to be able to make a choice to do one or two things.

We can run towards your vision and say, "Wow Steve, I really like your vision. I want to come with you," or we can run away from your vision. Because I look at your vision and go, "That doesn't resonate with me." I'm not mad at you. It's not that I don't like you. That vision doesn't resonate with me. So Steve, if you told me, "Hey, we're going to go to Ames, Iowa or Hey Scott, we're going to Riomaggiore, Italy." I'm going to go with your second vision, not your first. Not because I don't like Ames, Iowa, it's just I really love like Riomaggiore, Italy. That vision hits with me. So I rather go there.

Steve, does that make sense with a foundation before you even get into the vision. We’ve got to understand the even point of actually documenting a vision story and why it's so important just to get it written down.

Finding Your Vision and Using Its Power

Yeah. I appreciate the fact that you brought in the kind of historical context of this. Because the idea has been around forever. The ancient Biblical quote that I'm familiar with is "Where there is no vision, people perish." I think those two together really give you a picture of the importance of this. At really all levels of your life. This is something that I became aware of as I was running my first company and I think we did a horrible, horrible job of trying to articulate it because at the time we were really tapped into kind of the big business approach to this, which is to put often very lofty and meaningless words around what a vision ought to sound like.

I have come to learn that the more practical you get usually the easier it is to understand it. How do you take people through this? Because I think that's kind of a natural inclination is to make this a really lofty thing.

Yeah. Let's make it super simple. In fact, the most basic thing we could do is take a pen and a sheet of paper. So, anybody listening just take a pen, sheet of paper, and I'm going to give you seven categories that you can think through. Number one, just write the word "term." T-E-R-M. So what the term is, is how far out do you see this vision. So if we see a snapshot and a definition of a vision story is a detailed snapshot of the future of your business. We want to create a detailed snapshot. So how far out is that snapshot?

If you have no idea where to start usually what we say is start with three years. Because in three years that's still close enough to be touchable, but not far enough to where you are just totally clouded at that point. For some people it's going to be about 18 months to 2 years. We recommend not going any sooner than 18 months. That becomes more strategic at that point and not as much vision. 18 months or longer and usually around a three-year period is where most people can kind of reach out and grab that. That's category number one.

Category number two is family and freedom. Just write down the term "family and freedom." You might be thinking, "Well Scott, I thought this was my business vision." It is. We have a very thoughtful and mindful conviction. Family and business and life and commerce, they all interact and they interject each other. I've not met a human being yet who emotionally can segment and separate what happens at work from home and what happens at home or work. Now, I realize that there's a cliché statement that says, "I keep work at work." It's just not true. We say that to make ourselves feel better, but the reality is if what we're doing at work does not fuel and fund what we're doing at home, then it's really a less value than just having a work by itself.

We want to write down and when I say write down details of what you want your family to look like in three years and what you want your personal freedom to look like in three years, be specific. So in my vision it says, "Ashley and I will go on a date night every other week." That's our goal. It's literally written down in our vision. We stick to it pretty well. It also says in there that "I want to coach my youngest son's football team." That's part of our family vision and it's also part of the freedom part of that vision.

So, write down specific things that you want to see within that next period of time, that term that you wrote down as it's specifically relates to your family and your freedom. And the third section and I'll pause that for this one, Steve. You got any thoughts or questions to add to this is the financial section. So, we get into the finances before we get in the products or team or clients we're going to be working with or the culture. Because the finances will tell us how we can fund our family and freedom in that amount of time. You can start to see them kind of build on each other and when you're coming up with the finances really what we're looking at is what is the amount of profit that you want to see the business yield in that third year? What's the amount of profit, not total revenue. I'm not as interested in your total revenue as I am in your bottom line.

What's the amount of profit that you want that business to yield in that third year? So it can help fund your freedom and your family section that you put down there. Steve, does that make sense so far?

Yeah. It makes complete sense. The temptation is to look at this and just kind of put down dream numbers, right? Do you have a method that you use to kind of help people come up with realistic, but certainly stretch kind of numbers for this? I could probably write down a 100 million dollars in three years. That may be difficult, not impossible, but difficult to create.

Creating Financial Goals that Force You to “Stretch”

Yeah Steve, this is where the other categories come in because the vision story will begin to self-correct. So let's say you put a 100 million dollars down and your yield profit on that, let's just ... Let's just be really tight and say it's 1%. You want that of 100 million dollars. You want a million bucks. I think that's right, a million bucks in profit on 1% of 100 million dollars. So, let's say that you put that down there and your expenses are going to be 99%. So we're simply going to do revenue, expenses, and expenses include everything, all in. Even if you're doing accrual accounting and then you're left with a million bucks of profit at the end.

What happens is we then go into the next section. So in the financial section, give your best shot. If you don't know where to start, look at your historical numbers and that'll give you a starting point. If you don't have historical numbers, then start with your profit. What is it going to take to fund that family and freedom section? Let's say it was 20 grand. Start with 20 grand and then on a percentage of profit you can fit out your revenue. So once you got some numbers in there, then the numbers will begin to melt down and self-correct because of the next section.

The next section is your product and service section. What you want to do is you want to write down within that three-year window what are the products and/or services that I want to be offering in my business to generate that top line revenue, which would generate the bottom line profit to fund my family and freedom in that amount of time. So Steve, let's go back to the self-correction in the finances. If you are a marketing consultant and you're selling marketing service packages for $3000 a year per package, and you only have capacity to work with 50 people throughout the year you can do the math and you will quickly realize that a 100 million dollars is simply not in your wheelhouse.

Then you start to look at your products and services and it'll start to educate your top line revenue number. It'll start to self-correct what goes on there. Now, what you may find out is, you know what? I'm more in line to have a million dollars in top line revenue rather than having a 100 million top line revenue and if that's the case I'm going to yield because I need a $100000 for my profit from my family and freedom section outside of my salary. So I'm going to need to run the business all in, hands down to $900000. Can I do that? Can I have costs of goods and deliverables and everything else. Run a business on a million in revenue, $900000 in expenses so I'm left with a complete triple netted out bottom line of a $100000 in raw cash sitting in a bank account.

You begin to maneuver that, then you go into the next section after product and service, and you answer the question personnel and team. What team is it going to take to deliver that product and service to get to that level of finance to fund this family and freedom in that amount of time? That will begin to re-correct your finances, as well. You may be a high knowledge business and realize, "Oh my gosh, I’ve got to have 70% personnel overhead just to run the business. I'm not going to be able to make it on a million in revenue. Therefore, I'm going to have to go a million four. So, I’ve got to go back to my product section and either increase my prices, come up with more unique products, or whatever."

Hopefully, you're starting to see where your family and freedom is now educating every other section within the vision story and the last two are real simple. The client, who do you want to work with and who you not want to work with? Both questions are equally as important. Who do you want to work and who do you not want to work with? The final section is the culture section. If you were to ask somebody in three years in that term, "Hey, tell me about my business." What would come out of their mouth? You want to start writing those statements down, which you want to hear in that three-year term. That'll start to build your culture and will educate how you want to spend time with your team to build that in.

I love that. That is such a straight forward, methodical way to get to the vision. I love that it starts with what do you want to get out of the business. I think that is an underutilized question for most business owners. Most business owners wake up and they go to work because there's work to be done. They probably start out that way because at some level they’ve got to pay the bills and they started this thing and stopping and asking what do I want, and then figuring out the rest of it really is just figuring out what do you think it's going to take to create what you want. I love that. I think that's brilliant.

Yeah. Well, what we found Steve is so much of business can feel so kind of pie in the sky and just out there, and it's not tangible. We know a lot of business owners. They're drivers and so a lot of times even that deep level of thinking they'll go, "I don't have time. I don't have time. I don't have time." Well, one of the reasons they feel like they don't have time is because they don't know what to write down. Instead of just saying, "I don't know what to say." Typically, a driver is just going to go, "I don't have time. I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go." We try to take the confusion out of it to make it very methodical and at the same time Steve when people get down with this exercise you can see the clarity in their body language.

They sit back from it, it's not perfect. We tell people that your vision's only ever 90-95% complete. It's never 100% complete. It's always tweaking that's going on, but for the first time for many of them Steve, they sit back and they've got images of their husband or their wife in their head. They've got images of their kids in their head. They've got images of these kind of dreams and desires in the head. They've also got the reality that's swimming in their head of all the chaos that they're currently living in.

For the first time, they've got something written down on a sheet of paper or on a document where they can look at it and go, "Okay, I can start to see through the chaos just a little bit. I can see a little bit of sunlight and just that little bit of sun." You know what it's like when it's rained at your house for seven days and that first glimmer of sun you're just like, "Oh. Bring that on me. I want to feel that." That's what this is like when people start to get in and really articulate and write down their vision story.

Yeah. I can see that this would be hugely powerful and I can see already just from thinking through as you're talking the way I might answer some of these questions. The clarity is almost immediate. I think the question in the mind who is listening is going to be, "Okay, now that I've got the vision and let's say I'm three years from the vision, now I'm a little bit scared because I've laid this thing out and I don't know how to get from A to B."

Yeah. That's where we dive into the systems and processes of a business. So Steve when you think about this and I'll keep this at a very high level because systems and processes are a deep well. And again, it can intimidate a lot of people, but let's go back to our pilot metaphor. Get up in a plan, I never met a pilot by God's grace. I never met a pilot who when they want to start the engine they run outside really quick outside the cockpit. They lean on the jet and they turn the jet, then they run back inside, and then they run back outside. Make sure the wheels are secure and then they start pushing the plane. I mean this sounds ridiculous. Sounds totally silly.

They sit in a cockpit and they push buttons and they pull levers. They push buttons and they pull levers. For a long time, they don't do anything. Just kind of monitor the cockpit. Things are going on. A lot of the reason that small business owners are in chaos is because they've never taken time, A. To set the destination, the GPS of where they're going. That's what pilot does before they got a flight plan. Then, they don't have a cockpit to be able to fly their plane with to where they're looking at the four major systems of any business. Your lead generation, your marketing system. Your sales and conversion system. Your operations and deliverable system and your accounting or admin system.

The 4 Cs That Must Guide Your Decision-Making

Those are in every single business, those four systems. You can imagine they're four segments of a cockpit. Your lead generation segment, your conversion segment, your operation segment, and your accounting or administrative segment. You got key elements or processes within those segments within your lead generation you got the dial on your dashboard that says "website." You got the dial on your dashboard, which says "social media advertising." You got all these dials and so you're monitoring these dials and the easiest way that we have found to do it is something we call the "master process roadmap." It's where you layout those four segments. We call them our "lead segment."

Actually, we call it the "captivate." We keep it within the Cs. Captivate, conversion, coaching because that's our business, and then collections. The only "C" I can come up with that had anything to do with money and so those four and then our team got together and we put down every single major process that we could think underneath those four sections. I literally got it on my computer right now. We got our dashboard, it's a heads up display so our team can see this during our team meeting every Friday morning and during our daily huddle. This guides us through our decision-making process.

This is a key element to be able to fly the business by a cockpit rather than trying to flap your wings, which is most small business owners have relegated themselves to do.

Well, it gives you data. Having worked with dozens and dozens of clients and ask them questions about their marketing I can tell you that most of them don't have many facts to go on. There's lots of estimation and anecdote. In fact, I've got one client that famously every coach he would come back and this sky is falling. Our method of getting leads has stopped working and he was expecting it to stop work; stop working at some point. And then we go through the numbers. Every time, the numbers looked good. It goes to show you that the feeling that you get from experiencing something like that very rarely reflects reality and getting it down to numbers is important. But brings up another challenge.

Coming up with numbers for a lot of the different parts of business and figuring out which ones are meaningful isn't always an easy thing to do. I imagine when you're doing this with your clients it's some iteration that goes into it. How do you kind of paired out the right numbers to be looking at?

Well, it's amazing when ends up happening, Steve is the client knows the metrics. A. They've never been asked and B. They never pause long enough to think about it. It's just like the processes. People say, "You help me build process my business." We say, "Of course we can't." I don't know your process in your business. What we'll do is put you in a situation to be able to capture the processes that are already going on and we're capture those. Now, we'll tweak them. We'll give you insight on how to tweak those and all those sorts of things, but we're going to teach you the principle of capturing process rather than the actual process to capture.

If I bring you a process for your digital marketing agency I don't really know anything about digital marketing and running a digital marketing agency. I know the principles of a business and part of that is capturing process. When we finally get to the opportunity to take a small business to a point to go, "Hey, don't worry about somebody else coming in and building your processes. Let's simply capture the processes that are already happening and then once you do that, you'll know quickly what metrics are important and what metrics are not important."

Yeah. I think that's a fantastic approach. The challenges is just being aware I think sometimes for those of us in business, which where it helps to have an outside perspective. Have outside eyes come in because you come in, I imagine with your process and your system for looking at all of this stuff, but you also come in very importantly with outside eyes, fresh eyes.


And you can see it from that observer's perspective that it's very difficult in your own business to get to that thing.

Yeah. Yeah. Secondary for us is always strategic coaching. Primary for us is principle-based coaching. So principle-based coaching is vision, mission, value systems, processes. Strategic coaching is let's do Facebook ads this month instead of Instagram ads. That's strategic. Those are things that are going to be here today, gone tomorrow, but the principle of marketing is different. Let's build that out from a principle base and then you can plug in whatever strategy kind of du jour. Whatever the strategy of the day is. There are a lot smarter people around that than we are.

What we're here to teach is the principle and quite frankly as a heroic small business owner, that's what business owners need to be. We just had a guy this morning, Steve. This happened this morning about probably five hours ago. It's a guy who owns a home building here locally and we've been working for three and a half years to build up something that is so powerful. It's just incredible who he has been able to touch and how he's been able to engage his team and he looked at me this morning and he said, "I finally realized that my only job, my only job is to lead and coach my team."

I said, "You got it like you're there. You've got it." Now he's investing principle into this team strategy when he needs to, but principles on his team to fly the business by metrics. So he can spend time with his sales guy. So he can spend time with his payables person. So he can spend time really drilling down and leading. So he's not talking about a lot of strategy anymore. He's talking about leadership with his team putting them in position to be able to lead.

I heard another business owner this morning, It's actually been a rich morning now that I think about it. He just onboarded a new person. The new person asked a specific question and he said, "Hey, I want you to go talk to so and so and so and so about that question. They are far better equipped to be able to answer that question for you." It was a pricing question. You would think the owners have to hold on to that pricing question. No, he let it go. He delegated it a long time ago when he's empowered his team to be able to do that. That's what he spends his days doing.

That's awesome. I think that's what we call aspire to when we start businesses. Obviously, challenging sometimes to get there, but at the end of the day that's what we're all aiming for is to get to a point where the business is really serving us and we're doing that we're best at. I appreciate what you shared with us, Scott. Where can folks find more from you and your company and more about this vision idea?

Steve, I'd love to extend an invitation. We actually taken our entire vision tutorial, everything. Those seven categories we walk though. It's the same tutorial we actually walk our clients through. It's up online along with the templates. If you need help with that, you want to articulate your vision. No strings attached to it at all. Just go to

So and you can put your email address. You don't have to wait on emails to come back to you. It'll just popup automatically and you set aside the time and willing to put in the work, you'll have an articulated vision faster than you can think of. I think it's possible.

That's awesome. That's very generous. Thanks for sharing that. Again folks, go to

We'll link that up in the show notes so you can just get it with one click there and Scott, it's been a real pleasure. I've enjoyed the conversation. You shared some great stuff. I love your framework for developing the vision. I'm going to go. I'm going to go this afternoon and go through the exercise. I hope everybody listening does, as well. Thank you so much.

I hope you will, Steve. Hey, I know it's a lot of work to put on a podcast. I just want to tell you thank you for allowing me to be here and share the stage with the folks that listen to you and these heroic small business owners that are really fighting to true to do something great. So thank you for that.

Yeah. Absolutely. Great having you on.

Thank you.

Jason Hsiao | The Best Way to Stand Out on Social Media

It’s clear that if you’re marketing products or services online (and who isn’t these days), video has to be part of your strategy, says Jason Hsiao, co-founder of Animoto, an intuitive video creation platform.

And here’s why…

Market watcher Tubular Insights has found that 64% of consumers make a purchase after watching a branded video. And 51% of marketers surveyed by Insivia say video is the content with the best ROI.

Video boosts leads and sales for every type of business.

Sure, it can be intimidating. But Jason has some simple tips to create professional looking videos with content you already have. He also shares some great free resources - so stick around until the end.

We also talk about…

  • How to stand out in social media with your videos
  • The 5+ most effective video formats
  • The 2 most intimidating things about video – and how to conquer them
  • Taking advantage of the “humanizing” effect of video
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Jason Hsiao Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Jason Hsiao, Co Founder of Animoto, a simple to use video creation platform that anyone can use to make great marketing videos.

01:52 Jason tells us how he developed Animoto.

04:03 Jason explains the obstacles he faced in developing Animoto and how staying focused on providing just one service was key.

07:31 Jason talks about being laser focused on that one service keeps everyone at the company moving in that direction.

09:39 Jason explains because he started the company with friends, heated boardroom debates aren’t personal.

11:55 Jason explains how to implement video into our marketing. He breaks down how Animoto works for you.

15:14 Jason gives us some great examples of messages we can incorporate into our videos.

17:33 Jason explains how you can great a great video with out you or even images being in it.

20:20 Jason tells us how video really focuses on getting to the right clientele.

23:38 Jason loves to talk to customers, follow this link to get in contact with him,

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon & Jason Hsiao:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon, and today is going to be a lot of fun. We are going to cover a topic that we have not covered before on the podcast. And, for those of you who are looking for a new and effective way to market, you want to stay tuned and probably take some notes as we go. I'm talking with Jason Hsiao, he's the co-founder and chief video officer of Animoto, an award-winning online video maker that makes it easy for anyone to create professional quality marketing videos.

And, I got to tell you I've used their service before, it is ridiculously easy. If you think video is hard, this is for you. They really bill it as the tool that allows you to create professional quality marketing videos, even if you have no technical skills. Even, if you've never created a video before, which is why it's the perfect tool for me. They've got a mission of empowering everyone to create powerful videos, regardless of age or experience. Jason founded Animoto with his high school and Dartmouth College friends back in 2006, and they have just had tremendous success ever since then. Prior to that, he was a producer with MTV, and with Comedy Central, and just got a wealth of video experience. I'm excited, Jason, to be talking to you today and looking forward to some insights, hopefully you can share with folks on how they can better use video in their marketing.

Absolutely, thanks Steve. Thanks for having me on the show, this is a real privilege.

Yeah, this is going to be fun. So, I know we touched on a bunch of things in the bio, but why don't you give everybody just a little bit of background on what got you to this stage of your career.

Video Is an Essential Part of Marketing Today

Sure. Really our whole world is about trying to empower people with the power of video. I've always been obsessed with video, since I was a kid, just the magic and the power of video. So, this is probably, maybe like 15 years ago, when we were working, on TV and film, which for us was kind of, a dream job. But, we saw how fast everything was changing around us, with the internet, and these mobile devices. And, mind you, this was before the iPhone, right? So, like these things are getting smaller, and smaller, and seems like they're going to fit in your pocket and might even have an internet connection and maybe a camera on it. And, it just seemed with cloud computing and all these social networks, it just seemed inevitable that the landscape was going to change quickly, and that video had to be at the forefront of that at some point. And, we just couldn't stop thinking about that, and we wanted to be a part of that. So, long story short, we spend nights and weekends trying to prove out this technology idea of rendering video real time in the cloud. It was very nerdy, but we were so obsessed with it.

It was basically about 10 years ago, that we launched the company. Along the way, we got super focused and realized that probably the biggest need out there, is businesses, particularly small businesses using video to drive awareness and credibility for their business. So, here we are today, we're about 100 employees, we're based in New York City, and we're doing everything we can to help businesses embrace video, and really realize the potential and value of video.

Yeah, and you guys really were into video, and into video for the masses, before the technology was as easy, as it is today. That could not have been an easy process. I imagine there were a lot of frustrating late nights trying to figure things out. What did you do, to keep going and push through? I imagine in a lot of ways, you were developing technology along the way that didn't exist.

Absolutely. I'm going to address that in a couple of ways. One from kind of, a business strategy perspective of somethings that we learned the hard way. And, then maybe a personal story that I think was a part of all that. From the business perspective, you can tell from the way I set that up. But, we were technology and product nerds, and I think maybe, not unlike a lot of entrepreneurs and folks starting businesses. They're in love with a particular product or idea. But, I think what we realized along the way is there's a difference between being in love with technology and products, and really understanding the market and your customer. And, as it kind of, turned out in the early days, we had a lot of faux success. We actually had a lot of, a little bit, of everyone using us. Which you think would be super great, but as it turned out, we realized, it actually was really difficult. Because, we had 50 different masteries. We had all these different people trying to pull us in different ways. We didn't really have a focus, we had a lot of different people using us. It became really hard to understand how to prioritize our efforts.

And it had other negative impacts, I'd say. When you're trying to do a little bit of everything, for a lot of different people, your service, your whole customer experience becomes muddled, and even confused. I think, at some point our big learning, was like, "Listen, would we rather be best in the world at one thing, or just kind of, good at a lot of things?" I think obviously, we decided to let's get really focused and be best in the world on one thing. Like, what's the one challenge in the world that we think, we can be best in the world, at addressing. So, for us, as we got really focused, it was really all about businesses needing video, particularly on how to stand out on social media. But, that was certainly an interesting learning along the way.

You know, everyone talks about being customer centric, but what does it really mean to go from talking the talk, to walking the walk. Really being focused on your market opportunity and your customer.

You Can’t Be All Things to All People

Getting that focus is not a trivial thing. We work with businesses all the time, and that's almost always the number one thing, that's holding them back, is that they're trying to be all things to all people, or at least all things to all people who will pay them, right?


And, look, I get why you want to do that, because people are paying you and probably your number one problem in business is cashflow. And, you need the cash. So, it's totally understandable, however, I also think it's the number one thing that holds businesses back. Smart of you and your co-founders to figure that out, and pick one. It takes a lot of courage to do that. Because, as you said, you had customers in lots of different areas, that you all of a sudden, even if you weren't going to cancel their accounts right away, all of your outbound communication was no longer going to speak to them.

Yeah. If, you're looking at things by the numbers. Let's just say for example, there's 10 different types of customers, each making up like 10% of your revenue mix, or whatever. You're not going to just turn your back on 90% of your revenue. And, the math wasn't really at all like that, that extreme. But, if people are paying you, why would you ignore them, but I think what we learned, was just because you have a focus on a customer, doesn't mean that ... Let's just say, for us, there's a bit of an umbrella. Even, though we're laser focused on a particular type of customer, by doing what that person needs really well, it doesn't mean that other folks aren't going to find value in that. So, there is a bit of an umbrella effect.

But, I think one of the best things for us, in terms of, the service and the product experience, that we've been able to deliver, really feeling much more cohesive and focused. Even, with our team here, I'll say the culture and moral of things, for everyone to feel like they're all pointed in the same direction and contributing toward the same goal. There's just this real feel of empowerment here, whereas I can remember back in the day, everyone was doing all these different things, but no one really knew whether, what they were working on was actually, the most important thing. The fact, that everyone here, all 100 employees feel like we're laser focused in the same direction, it both feels empowering, and then we know by definition that we're having maximum impact in that one area versus 100 people slightly pointed in the general direction, but maybe not exactly in the same direction.

Yeah, it really is an extreme shortcut in business. And, for a lot of different reasons, and that's actually a really good one, that I haven't thought about before, it focuses and consolidates the effort of everyone on your team. As you were grappling with that decision, was there anybody on the team, that was like, no, this is a crazy idea?

Oh, certainly. For every decision we make, there's always healthy discussion and debate. Sometimes those types of strategic discussions can get pretty heated. I think for us, one benefit we've had and maybe in part because we started the company with friends, is we have a culture of we can get into things, we can get into some pretty heated debates, but at the end of the day, we know it's not personal. Someone has to make a decision, and it's our responsibility to make sure we lay out the various options and really discuss things thoroughly. But, at the end of the day, we have to choose a direction. We might not get everything right, but in general, if you're making most of the decisions as best you can with the best information you have, you're going to be making forward progress.

Yeah, absolutely. I want to take a quick break, and when we come back Jason, I want to really dive into how the listeners can take advantage of video today. And, what some of, the trends are, that you're seeing with video marketing. So, we'll be right back with more from, Jason.

Welcome back, this is Steve Gordon, and I am here with Jason Hsiao, and he's from Animoto, and we're talking about video marketing. Jason, for our listeners who are mostly in service businesses, a lot of them are in professional services, where maybe they need to be a little bit more buttoned up in the way that they present the business. I'd love to talk in our remaining time, about how they can begin to think differently about using video, where they might be able to plug it in to what they're doing marketing wise?

Creating Videos Is Easier Than You Think

Absolutely. What we basically see, I think we're all seeing, right? Is that video is just everywhere right now. It's really changing everything, and in some ways it's clips in things at a faster pace now that mobile has taken over everything. But, a lot of folks, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs we talk to, they're basically saying, "I kind of, know I should be doing this, I mean, I see video everywhere, but how do I catch this wave? And, oh, by the way, I have no experience, no time, and I don't have extravagant budgets, like these big companies do."

So, really that's where Animoto comes in, we provide folks tools, to make it basically like, drag and drop easy to create professional videos. And, the biggest need that we're, hearing today from businesses, is they're trying to figure out how to stand out on social media with video. Because, that's kind of, where everyone is. Basically, at Animoto, we're a video making tool, on web and mobile. We have this drag and drop interface, that's like using building blocks. You can't actually screw up a video, it's almost like a toy, right? It's almost fun, right? You're just kind of, moving around these blocks.

And, that's pretty amazing, yes.

And, the other thing, I think where we've been able to help businesses out a lot, a lot of them just don't know where to start, or what type of videos, to even start making. We created this whole collection of starter templates, that we call story boards, and essentially we've been able to core everything we've learned about what makes for a successful video, into these starter templates. And, so you can open one of these story boards up, you can tailor it to your business, you can swap in your own photos or video clips, change some, of the text. You can make it longer or shorter, you can change the fonts, and color, if that's important to your brand. You can include your logo anywhere in the video, or in the corner of the whole video, and really make it your own.

So, that's been really good, because a lot of businesses, are like, "I'm not one of these creative professionals, I don't know how what to do, or what story to tell." So, we just have all sorts of different types of videos, whether, it's company overviews, or how to's, or interview testimonials, or announcements, or teasers. Any type of video, that you kind of, see out there to really engage with your audience.

I think the most intimidating thing, that I hear about video, well, there's two really. Number one is, what do I say? That's, I think probably the first big barrier, but then once you decide that, the next thing that comes up, is how do I capture the video? It's one thing to be able to go and edit it, but how do I capture it, so it looks good. Because, it seems like the bar keeps getting raised on the quality of video online. A few years ago, you could get away with a really poorly shot video. How do you help people get past both of those obstacles?

Leveraging Existing Content to Create Pro Videos

Great question, and we hear that all the time. One thing I like to impress upon folks thinking about how to get started with video, in many ways video is actually not a whole new type of marketing. I think that's what makes it feel real intimidating to a lot of folks, or create a lot of anxiety. It really is just kind of, a way to amplify what already works for your business. So, in terms of what to say, if you think about as a business owner, or entrepreneur, there are things that you are saying over, and over, all the time. And, they often have to do with, what is I that you offer, tell me more about your service. How are you different from other folks doing this? Why did you create this business in the first place? Which often, kind of, translates into what are the benefits? There are certain messages or stories, that we as business owners, are always telling. And, those are the perfect place to start. Because, you already know that message is important, what you do, why you're important, the benefits that you offer. You could start with that.

Sometimes I say, imagine this, "Someone, literally just walked right into your office, and wanted to know more about what it is, you're doing, what would you say to them?" Another, kind of, interesting way to start is, as I said, what already works for you? I know, some businesses, for example, have a bunch of great content or thought leadership content, or blog content. So, this one business, I was chatting with, they were like, "Well, we're trying to figure out how to get into video." And, they have all this great blog content, that they're known for. They just sorted their blog content by the most popular, and they just started making videos that either, captured what that blog post was about, or it created a video, that was a teaser to that, to point them out.

So, if you're in the business of producing any kind of content, or if that's part of what makes you successful, whether, it's written content, or audio content, or anything. You can certainly leverage what content is already there. And, then I think you know, it's certainly there's this anxiety about, "Well, how do I actually capture this video? Oh, and then by the way, I actually am terrified of being in front of the camera." Well, when you look at a lot of the videos on social media, or if you go to Animoto and you look through the collection of story boards. A lot of these things, don't actually even feature, any people, or the actual business owners, these types of videos. You can certainly capture the benefits of your business, or why you're different, without having to actually be in the video.

You can use the photos or images that you already have on your website, or that you already use as part of your marketing. You, don't even have to use any imagery, there are certainly a lot of videos out there, that are all text. Like, three ways you want to consider 401k, or whatever it is that you offer. So, you don't have to actually produce any original assets or video content, to create some of these marketing videos. Of course, it's great, especially for folks that provide a service. We definitely encourage folks to put a face on their marketing, because when you humanize your marketing, I think it really contributes to that sense of trust and authenticity.

There's this great quote, "If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust, they'll do business with you." And, I love that quote, and I think part of that is just making your marketing more human, and there's no better way to do that, but with video, right? But, that certainly is not a requirement to get started. So, yeah take what you have, start with what works, whether, that's a specific message, or content, or certain images, or stuff that you already have. Once, you start seeing how easy it is to make these videos, I think you'll quickly have that confidence to just try doing more.

Yeah, and that's one of the things I think you guys do particularly well. I found it hard to find anywhere else, you can go onto Animoto, and you can create a video just with images, and put text on, and do all this other stuff, and actually end up with a finished product, fairly easily. Whereas, I run a Mac, which is pretty media creation friendly, but even on the Mac, if I wanted to do that, it's a bit of a project. So, you've made that kind of thing easy. What you just said, is really brilliant, because it's a great way for a business owner, who hasn't done any video before, to get started. Often times, I think that, that's the most important things. If you can just figure out the easiest possible way for you to get started? Once, you get in the flow of it, you'll begin to see, what the other possibilities are.

Harnessing the True Power of Social Media

Absolutely. I think one of the big benefits of video on social media right now, is, as business owners, I know we're wearing 20 different hats, we have so many, different things to do. It's like where should video fall on this list of things, that I'm supposed to do. In terms of marketing, and really driving awareness and sales, The amazing thing about social media right now, is the ability to get super targeted of getting your video out there to the exact audience that should actually be interested I your world, or your service. Because, they all provide these tools, that you can get really focused on the exact audience, that you want to target.

So, if you think about, the old way, it's not really the old way, because it still happens, but like traditional marketing, where it's much more hope and pray. It's almost spray and pray, or playing by the numbers. Like, "Maybe, for every 10,000 emails I sent out, X percent will open it and read it, and X percent will click there. Or, for every 100 of phone calls I make, maybe, three will pick up. That's a lot of wasted time and effort. With video, you can, not only allow that video to do a lot of the work for you, because, it gets seen all over the world and shared. But, you can really get laser focused on the folks that care about what you have to talk about. As I kind of say, you don't have to wait for people to come and discover you on your site, you have the opportunity to really take the conversation to where it's happening, and that's on social media.

Well, yeah. And, you bring up such an important point, for those of us who've been in business for a little while, it's hard to get out of that mindset, that I need to get this in front of every possible person, who might even remotely be interested. One, of the things that ... You know, it's interesting, we made this shift a couple of years ago, to really focus on very small markets, both on social media and on email. Kind of, subdivide, so that the people who are getting a message, hopefully if we've picked right, are the ones who are most radically interested in that particular message. And, I think for everybody listening, the take away is, with a tool, like what Jason and his team have built, you have the ability to really easily create variations of messages. So, if you've got two or three different types of ideal clients you go after. You can test, and tweak, the message for each one and then laser focus it. And, that's going to work way, better, than trying to get the least common denominator message across, all of them. And, you need an easy tool, if you're going to do video, you need a really easy tool, to be able to that. Yeah, I think that's the right thinking, Jason. And, I appreciate you sharing that.

Of course.

So, if folks want to get started in video marketing, or if they just want to take what they're doing and find out how your tool can help them? What's the best place for them to go? Where should they go to learn more about Animoto?

Animoto is at But, what I thought I'd do in case folks want specific information about how to get started in some, of the stuff I talked about. I set up a page for folks too, it's at, and I'll have my contact information there, and some links to some useful information. Whether, you're just getting started, or trying to figure out how to take your marketing effort to the next level. Don't be shy about getting in touch, I'm happy to chat, I love talking to fellow business owners, and entrepreneurs. So, I put all my contact information there, so don't be shy about getting in touch. So,, we’ll set that up.

That's awesome, thank you for doing that, very generous offer, too. We have used Animoto for quite a number of years. I think maybe even, going back to, I think we used it in my first company, back in '08, '09, somewhere in there. And, I've always been impressed with what you guys are doing. So, I'm glad we finally got you on the podcast, and had a chance to talk about these things. This is a huge, huge trend and for a lot of businesses, can be a really effective way to get the message out there. Jason, thanks for investing some time with me today, this has been a lot of fun.

Absolutely Steve, thank you so much for the opportunity, it's been a real privilege.

Crazy (but simple) strategy to turn forgotten prospects into clients

In all of our work with clients, there’s a theme…

And I believe it extends to virtually all businesses…

The theme? That you’re sitting on, and ignoring a valuable asset in your business.

Your existing database of prospects.

The story of leads generated, then forgotten is an epic tale of missed opportunity and lost profit in business.


Because it’s damn hard to follow-up consistently.

In fact, three big barriers tend to freeze most people before they ever get started…

  1. Writer’s Block - As the kid’s say…The struggle is real! Trying to figure out what to say in a newsletter, a simple follow-up email, a LinkedIn message, or even a voicemail keeps many professionals from ever following up.

  2. Being Boring - Boring follow-up is almost the same as not following up at all… ‘cause your boring follow up won’t be read. :-(

  3. Being a Pest - We all know that it’s hard to annoy a prospect into become a paying client. And you run the risk of being mightily pest-like if you show-up with self-centered, ill-conceived, or salesy follow-up.

So, most business owners just punt and do nothing.

Yet, they’ll work tirelessly to fill the pipeline with new leads. (The single most difficult and expensive activity in business.)

Today, in Part 3 of our podcast “mini-series” on escaping the curse of being “the best kept secret in your market” we bring it all together…

Today, I’ll show you how to take what we covered in Part 1 and Part 2, to create “forever follow-up” that does the most important thing you need to have before a sale is made…to create trust.

And I’ll explain how to do it without ever putting quill pen to parchment or even mousing-over the Microsoft Word button on your laptop.

Listen here…

After you listen to this episode, take a deeper dive into this topic so you can get it working in your business over at our new mini-site:

Episode Transcript:

Announcer: You're listening to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast with Steve Gordon.

Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon, and today we're back with part three of our series on getting out of obscurity and escaping the curse of being the best kept secret in your market. Today, we're going to bring it all together and we're going to talk about how to package up the ideas that are in your business and use those to consistently market your business, to stay in front of prospects, and we're going to show you how to do it in a way that is actually really, really easy to do and I promise will be mostly painless. 

I'm excited to share this. We've shared this with a few folks in our new e-mail course over at and had just tremendous feedback on it. I think you're going to get a ton of benefit out of this. Really what we're talking about, and if you haven't heard either of the previous two parts of this series, you're going to want to go over to, or excuse me, and listen to part one and part two there, where we set the stage for what we're going to talk about today. 

Today our focus is really on how to take what we talked about in the last episode, which is coming up with big ideas in your business, and every business has them. I mean that sincerely. Every business has them. We've gone through this process with dozens of businesses, and I have yet to find one where we can't uncover big ideas that are important to prospects. The truth is, if you didn't have any big ideas that were important to prospects, you wouldn't sell anything. So they're there. They're out there. Sometimes it takes an outside eye to be able to recognize them, because often you're too close to it, but they are there. 

We're going to talk today about how to package up those ideas and more importantly, once you package them up, how to use them to give you a reason to show up and to follow up with your prospects, with the people that are in your network that can refer you, and with your clients over and over and over again. Follow up consistently and follow up over the long haul. For months and for years. Because in our types of businesses, we all know that sometimes it takes years for a client to get ready. Maybe they've got an incumbent provider in place, I mean the story in professional services of, “Yeah, I've had to work with my sister's brother for 15 years and he finally retired from the business. Now that I don't have that family obligation, I can pick whoever I want and I really want to do business with you.” We've all heard those sorts of stories, right?

They're real, and sometimes there are obstacles in the way of prospects coming and doing business with you that you can't overcome. You can do all that you ... you can try all that you can to overcome them, but sometimes it just takes time, and you've got to find a way to be there over the long haul. This, what we're going to cover today, is going to give you the ability to be there over the long haul and I'm going to bet money that right now, you're sitting on a list. Might be a big list, might be a small list, it doesn't matter. You're sitting on a list of people that have contacted you or that you have been in touch with that you've failed to follow up on. What we're going to cover today is going to give you a very easy way to follow up with that asset that you've already created and to reignite that asset and do it in a way that isn't going to annoy them, it isn't going to aggravate them, it isn't going to make you feel salesy. 

That's where we're head today and I'm looking forward to this. It's just going to be a lot of fun to go through this. All right, so again, you want to start with a big idea, and a big idea ... a lot of people think that, "I’ve got to come up with all of these ideas," and over time you will. But really, you want to come up with one idea to begin with. That idea can really act as a theme for your communication with the marketplace. It's interesting, because that idea doesn't necessarily have to be about what you do. 

Let me give you a couple examples. If you look at this podcast that you're listening to right now, The Unstoppable CEO Podcast, the big idea there, which is really what we've built all of our different media platforms on, is the idea of the Unstoppable CEO, which is you as you listen to this. It was built out of a conversation that I had with a good friend, who recognized as I described, he asked me, "Who do we really want to do business with?" And I said, "Well, really, you know, the person that I have in mind," and I had some specific people in mind that were our ideal clients at the time. They were business owners who had built a successful small business. Not a micro business, but a successful small business. They had a team in place. They were doing well. They had scratched and clawed and they had been through hardship and difficulty and success to get there. 

I kept coming around to this idea of perseverance and the friend that I was speaking with at the time said, "You know, I think the word you're looking for is unstoppable," and that was it. That's been the theme. That's been the big unifying idea behind everything we do is that we show up to serve the Unstoppable CEO. The business owner who has pushed through and despite all of the adversity, hasn't quit. That not only drives all of our media platforms, it drives why we all get out of bed in the morning. 

That's an example of how you can use the big idea, and we'll get in a minute to the point where we talk about how to package that and then use it to create content over the long haul that you can use to stay in front of people and not be annoying. Another example, a client that we've just started working with here in the last few months is an IT consultant based out of the Boston area, and part of what he wants to do is reach out to other Boston area businesses. Those are his ideal clients, and particularly in a few different niches. We've crafted a title and a theme that we've plugged into his media platform, which is a podcast. That theme is all around why it is awesome to do business in Boston. It's not about the five things you've got to do to be a cutting edge business when it comes to technology, which is what he sells. It's really something that is going to capture the attention of and hold the attention of his ideal clients. Because in this case, it's about them. 

With the Unstoppable CEO, it's about you. When you start with a big idea like that, that is really focused on your ideal client, now it gives you a lot of power and it gives you a lot of room to maneuver within that and create content. If you want to go deeper on how to find that big idea, I really recommend you go over to, because before ... there is an e-mail course there that you can opt into, but before you even get to that opt in, we've got just a whole series of pages that will help educate you on how to come up with these. And then if you want to, it's totally optional, there's a free e-mail course where we actually go in even deeper on some of these ideas and so if this is something that's interesting to you, that you want to figure out how to put into your business, I recommend you go over there. Again, that's is the site where we've got that. 

Once you've got this big idea, this theme, now we need to use it to create content because we need to show up in the lives of our prospects again and again and again over time, for the long haul. In the past, the idea of that has been pretty intimidating for businesses, and I know that because we've talked to many of them and the story of the newsletter that got created with a great deal of fanfare and motivation and after two months suddenly disappeared is epic in small business. Because it turns out that having the idea to create the newsletter is a whole heck of a lot easier than actually creating the newsletter every month and coming up with the content that you think will be interesting to your prospects every month. 

There's a big difference between knowing that you need to follow up and then actually being able to execute on it. We've been beating this drum for almost eight years now, or a little over eight years now, that the single best thing you can do for your business is come up with a way to show up in front of your prospects every month or multiple times a month. Over and over and over again. That puts you in the best position to win. You can do all kinds of other things that are really great, but if you don't have that piece in place, everything else that you're going to do is largely going to be wasted, because you have a giant hole in the bottom of your bucket. You're pouring leads into it, but without this piece in place, it's all really a waste of time. 

The big limit that people have run into with this is the writing. For a long time, I just thought, "Well, just write it. It's not that big a deal," and then I began to realize that that's actually something that I both enjoy doing and have some skill for, but not everybody has that. And that's okay. It's not required. We've spent a long time trying to figure out a way to create really compelling content and have our clients be able to create really compelling content without them having to write. I think that's a really important distinction here, because that's the Achilles heel for most business owners. What we're not talking about today is how you can go create a newsletter that you're going to hate that you created very shortly thereafter, because now you don't know what to write and you're staring at a blank screen. 

No, what we have found is that the most effective way to do this, that I have yet to find a business owner that can't do it, the most effective way to do it is to use conversations. It's so easy to use these conversations and record them and then let the world eavesdrop. The technology to do that is very accessible. There are some moving parts to it, but it's pretty accessible right now, and I've yet to meet someone who has conversationalist block. I haven't heard anybody have a talking block. Most everybody can sit down and simply go back and forth. 

You know, we used to call these things interviews. In fact, we called them interviews in the exponential networking book that we put out earlier this year, and what I quickly discovered is that even interviews create too much tension for most people. Because then they think, "I've got to have these great questions and I have to do all this preparation," and that's really not what it's about. It's about having a topic and a theme and having a conversation. When you have a conversation, particularly with another business person who has some expertise to share and is intelligent and interesting, it's really easy to have that conversation and have it be compelling. 

If you look at what we do on this podcast in normal weeks, when we're not doing one of these special series where it's just me, when you look at our regular interviews, those are just conversations that I'm having with somebody that I wanted to have a conversation with anyway. We just happen to record it and I get to have conversations that I probably couldn't have had conversations with otherwise if I wasn't recording it and if I didn't have a media platform on which to publish it through the podcast. But the act of having the conversation is simple. It's easy. And it's fun, actually. It's a hell of a lot of fun. It's amazing the energy that comes out of that and the relationship that is created with that other person. The recognition that is there. 

We do all of these remotely. Most of them over Zoom with a video conference, and so I go to conferences now and we've interviewed some fairly reasonably well known folks in the marketing and business world, and when I run into them at conferences it's like we're old friends. They saw my face on the video conference and they recognize me from across the room. Before that, before I had that interview, I was just another face in the crowd to them. But because I had that conversation and I used my media platform, which in a lot of cases with the people we've interviewed, our media platform is infinitesimal compared to theirs, so size isn't that important. The important thing is that I went out of my way to help promote them and help share their ideas with the world and have an interesting conversation with them. And usually that's enough to get a relationship started. 

It's really powerful from that perspective, but it's so easy to do. Now, we publish that as a podcast and one of the things that I've noticed in talking with business owners who have read the Exponential Network Strategy book or who have attended one of our webinars and then get on a call with us, is that there's a lot of focus on the podcast idea. Thinking, "That's the main focus." But the podcast is just the means to an end. It's just a distribution channel, and the thing that is sometimes difficult to get across to people is that this strategy is like an onion, and there are so many layers to it that you have to just keep peeling and peeling and peeling. The podcast piece is really the least important strategy of all. The least important layer of all. It's necessary, it's foundational because it creates a media platform. 

When you go to have these conversations with people and you tell them, "I have this media platform and I would like to talk to you, have a conversation with you, and record it and publish it on this media platform and use it to help share your ideas out with my network," now you have a powerful way to invite them to that conversation. Far more powerful than, "Hey, can we get a cup of coffee?" There's now a reason for them to come and show up and bring their A game, and you're telling them right off the bat that, "I want to have this conversation with you, but more importantly, I'm committed to developing a long term relationship with you. And I'm going to prove it from the get go. I'm going to prove it by going out and going to the trouble of recording this conversation and publishing it to everyone that I know, so that they now know about you." 

That's a powerful way to open a relationship. So that's the first little layer to this. Now, you need the podcast to be able to do it, but it isn't about having a podcast. You know, one thing that people believe with these podcasts, they get focused in on, is that this is really a lead generation strategy. But it's really not. Yes, you will generate some leads from it, but way more important than that is that it is a lead nurturing strategy. Because it gives you the content in a very easy way, and it gives you very interesting content most of the time. It gives you an easy way to create that content and then follow up with and send that to all of your prospects, your clients and your network of referral partners and nurture those relationships over time. And actually increase your authority in the minds of all of those people over time. 

Most businesses get so focused on going out and getting new leads that they ignore the asset that they already have. For most of our clients, they have enough people within the database that they've already created, and in many cases it's a pretty small database. But in most cases, they have all of the leads they lead, at least to hit their goals this year within the list that they already have. Within the database they already have. But they're doing nothing to stay in front of that database on a regular basis. 

This is really the best way to get back in front of those people again, and again, and again, and again. And every time you get in front of them and you hold their attention for a little while, you get the opportunity to move them to a next step. That piece, that middle piece between, "I've created a new lead and now I’ve got to stick with them until they convert," that piece in the middle is what's missing in virtually every business. Because we all get so focused on generating the leads and closing the sales, but there's this middle gap that if you invest a little bit of time and energy into building that, everything else becomes easier because you quickly eliminate the waste in your business development.

We talked about the lead nurture quality of this. In addition to that, there is a huge networking benefit to doing the, having these conversations and doing it this way, built on a media platform. And it far surpasses going and having lunch or going and having coffee with someone, because again, you're going out of your way to promote this person. To share them out there. It requires that they come to that conversation at a different level. They can't just show up like, "Oh, I'm just going to go have coffee with Joe." No, "I've got this conversation with Joe and he's recording it for this podcast, and then it's going to be published out to all these people and I want to be in front of them." They're coming with their A game. You're coming with yours as well because you're going to share them. 

It's just a much stronger way to network and an easier way, frankly, to network. I went cold turkey on the old shaking hands and kissing babies approach to networking back in 2012, and I was largely able to do that based on the networking I did with our first podcast, which, and I've told this story over and over again, I mean that first podcast, though we didn't get a huge number of listeners to it, I made 50 fantastic relationships. We ran it for a year. I made 50 fantastic relationships and 15 of those relationships turned around and a year and a half later helped me promote my first book and helped drive over 5,000 leads to us in a week. 

That wouldn't have happened had I not gone around and built those relationships through those interviews, and that's the next little layer of this onion. You set yourself up to have these big wins. I'll talk more about those wins later. I call them lead generation landslides. 

Now, as we dive deeper into this, so you're following up with these conversations and you're sending them out to your prospects. Something else really interesting happens here. They're hearing your voice, just like you're hearing my voice now, and there's just this amazing quality of the human voice. You can convey so much more information, unspoken information, about your nature. About your character. About your demeanor. When you're able to do that with all the people that you want to do business with, you build trust rapidly. It's amazing how it happens. You build familiarity rapidly and at scale. 

I go to conferences now and because we publish this podcast and we've been publishing it now for over a year, almost a year and a half. Or over a year and a half now. I go to conferences and people will walk up to me because they're listeners to the podcast and they begin having a conversation with me as if we're long lost pals. Which I love, I think it's wonderful. I don't mind that at all. So if you see me at a conference, please introduce yourself. 

What I find funny about that is that just like you and just like the folks that walk up to me, I'm in business. I just happen to have these conversations in a way that we share them with the public, and because these people have heard my voice week in and week out, they feel like suddenly that they know me because I've shared stories throughout these conversations, and they recall that. They know a little bit about my life and that is a powerful way to create that familiarity and to create relationship. And it's real. It is very, very real. The feeling that those people have in their minds is real. It's not just a perception, they really feel that they know me.

I'm not the only one that's experienced it. I've talked with other folks who publish a lot of audio content. The same thing happens. It gives you a very powerful way to deepen relationships with your market at a scale that you couldn't otherwise do. Now, I mentioned a few moments ago this idea of lead generation landslides, and you know, I said earlier that the podcast medium is not a great lead generation medium. It's not. Let's just be honest about it, but the relationships that you create with other people in your network who are selling to the same audience that you're selling to create the opportunity for you to go and give value to their network. Now that you've given value to them and shared them with your network, you create opportunities to go back to them and to offer to deliver a higher level of value. 

Maybe it's to deliver a presentation to their clients or to the people in their network or a webinar. Maybe it's to have them interview you on your expertise and have them share that with their network. And at this stage now, because you've given so much and so freely right up front, they're open to it. Reciprocity kicks in and you're not just hoping that it's going happen. You know, in the old days, when I would do this, I'd go around and network and I was part of one of those strong contact networking groups where you show up for a breakfast meeting once a week and you're supposed to bring referrals to people and they're supposed to bring referrals to you and all that stuff. Those were great. But it takes a lot of time and I found that often the reciprocity didn't flow my way. Even though I was going out of my way to give into those networks. 

Our experience with this approach is really very, very different. Now, do we do a webinar or presentation with every guest that we have a conversation with? No, of course not. But often times when we have those conversations, we'll either get a reciprocal interview on their podcast, which is fantastic. It means we're getting referred to their entire network. Or they'll refer us to a podcast that they're aware of or that they've been on before. Or we'll do a presentation. In fact, in one of the webinars that we present, an example that we give is just from the first part of this year. Just out of three of the interviews that we did in the first quarter of the year, those turned into two different webinar presentations to audiences, and in the course of two days, we generated 2,600 leads. 

Now, is everybody going to generate 2,600 leads? It depends on who you're interviewing and what their audience is, but chances are you don't need 2,600 leads. We don't need 2,600 leads. But it's really easy to go get 20 or 30 or 50 of exactly the kind of leads that you want when you follow this process, and really what you're doing is you're training the people in your network on how to refer. We talk about this in the Unstoppable Referrals book and I talked about it again in the Exponential Network Strategy book. You have to train the people in your network how to refer and you do that by example. This is a really unique way to do that and it's a very powerful way to do that. 

Now, I've talked about this idea of focusing on the asset that you have. And I want you to think for a minute, I want you to think about the prospects that you have touched over the last two years. Think about how many of those people you've actually stayed in contact with. And if you want back and warmed them up with something really interesting around a big idea that they might care about, and if you went back and warmed up those relationships, I want you to think about the value that might be hidden in that group of people. 

Chances are there's tremendous value there, and often what we see with our clients when they come into our program where we do all of the behind the scenes marketing for them and set their podcast up and create their webinar for them and do outreach for them, when they begin that process, often what they find is that just the simple act of going back out and warming up the people who were already in their world stimulates new business right away. Because there are a bunch of people there who once upon a time had the thought that they might need your help, but they either got busy or they forgot about it or you just didn't follow up. Maybe they're still sitting there and haven't done anything. 

Chances are, some of them are still sitting there and haven't done anything, and they still have a need. It's up to you to show up. This approach, for folks in professional services, I mean I grew up in this business. I literally grew up in the business. My dad had an accounting firm from the time I was, I don't know, eight or nine years old. Grew up crawling around the floor on his office, so I feel like I've grown up in professional services. My first business was a professional service firm. My current business is a professional service firm. I get the challenges that we all face. You need a way to market that is comfortable for you, that's not salesy, because that's going to ... if it gets salesy it's going to eliminate your authority and you need authority to sell at premium prices. To get the fees that you really deserve to get. You need an approach that's relationship centric. 

There's a lot of noise out there about going out and getting cold traffic or having people cold call for you and do all this lead generation for you, but the fact of the matter is that when you're dealing with a transaction as large and complex as most of us are dealing with, the biggest limiting factor is trust. If you think that a Google ad or a service doing cold calling for you is creating trust that will support someone hiring you, I think you've got to question that because most of the time it won't. 

Trust is actually I think a bigger issue than, you know, a lot of people say sales is a numbers game. I disagree. At least for our types of businesses. If we're selling hot dogs, yes, it's a numbers game. You talk to enough people, you're going to sell some hot dogs. But in our types of businesses, this is really more of a trust game and everything that you do needs to create trust and it needs to create relationship, so that when you get the opportunity to be in front of a prospect, that they're already pre-sold. That they already feel like they know you. That they already feel like they trust you. That they already will say that, "Yeah, Joe's my guy or Mary's my gal. That's who I want to do business with." They've already made that decision, because if they've made that decision, you don't have to sell and everything becomes easier. 

That's how you package up this big idea. That's the simplest way we've ever found to do it. Are there other ways? Yeah, absolutely, there are other ways to do it. Lots of other ways to do it. This is the simplest, easiest to implement way that we've found to do it, and I think it's very accessible to really everyone. I would love for you to go, if this has made any sense to you whatsoever and you want to explore a little further and get in to some of the details that because of time we just weren't able to cover today, go over to We set that site up for the specific reason, for educating everybody that's in our world on these ideas. 

We think they're important, and based on the feedback we've had from folks that have both gone through the site and then gone through the e-mail course, they seem to think that these ideas are important and are worthy as well. I hope you go over there, and we'll be back next week with an awesome interview and it's going to be amazing. In fact, it was one of my favorite interviews and it's a little bit different. I'm not going to say any more about it now, but we've got a great interview coming up next week that I know you're going enjoy and thanks again for listening to the podcast. We're just really grateful that you're here and so happy to have you as a part of our audience. Take care. 

How to create momentum in business development

New Resource: A complete blueprint for landing more and better clients (without having to become a master salesperson). It's 100% free and will simplify how you attract new clients. Get it on our new mini-site

This is Part 2 of our podcast series on escaping obscurity. Today, I share the 3 secrets to creating momentum in business development.

Most people look around and see the overnight successes that are popular in the business press and on the web, and think that's normal.

The truth is that there is no such thing as an overnight enduring success.

All enduring successes in business have a foundation under them, built up over years.

The foundation acts like a flywheel and creates momentum that becomes unstoppable!

The trick is creating the momentum.

In today's episode I share how to do that (and the one key ingredient that's hiding under your nose).

Listen now...

And, if you've not gone there yet, you'll want to visit a new site where we've collected our best thinking on, well selling professional services. We cover more than what I could share on today's podcast.

-Steve Gordon

P.S. If you missed Part 1 of this series get it here.

P.P.S. Stay tuned next week! I'm going to show you how to package up everything from the first two episodes and use it in your firm.

Why “obscurity” is the real enemy in business

New Resource: A complete blueprint for landing more and better clients (without having to become a master salesperson). It's 100% free and will simplify how you attract new clients. Get it on our new mini-site

An old friend once told me there are two types of prospects…

The ones you know, and…

The ones you don’t know.

While that’s trite, and true, I think it’s better said this way…

There are prospects that know you, what you do, and when to call you…

And ones that don’t know you exist.

The fundamental problem in business is figuring out how to move people from “don’t know you exist” to “know when to call.”

That’s the escape from obscurity.

And, if we’re honest, very few businesses make it out of obscurity.

They don’t die. They stay in business (often for decades), but never reach their potential.

They stay “the best kept secret” in their market.

Today’s episode begins a 2-part deep dive into creating your own escape plan from obscurity.

Listen now...

P.S. We’ve created a new mini-site where we’ve published our blueprint for escaping obscurity. Check it out at

Jordan Goodman | Secrets of the 12-Year-Old Entrepreneur

Whether you’re in startup mode or trying to get to the next level, personal and business finance expert Jordan Goodman has some solid advice what to do and what never to do with your money.

There are some funding sources out there that would have been unheard of just a few years ago, including some that you must stay away from.

It might surprise you to learn you can also contact creditors, ask them to reduce your debt, and… they’ll do it happily. A perfect solution when you’re going through a rough patch.

Tune in to find out…

  • The best place to put your cash for an 8% return – it’s definitely not the bank
  • The unique way crowdfunding works for small businesses
  • An easy process to make debt “disappear”
  • Why you might qualify for Storybook Lending
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Jordan Goodman now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with “America’s money answers man” Jordan B Goodman, an expert in personal finance.

01:15 Jordan talks about how he got into business at age 12.

03:13 Jordan tells us about some of his pitfalls in business including a disastrous joint venture.

09:18 Jordan tells us how long it took him to bounce back.

09:47 Steve and Jordan explain how important it is to keep moving forward through adversity.

12:40 Jordan gives us great advice on how helping struggling businesses by accessing lesser know finance options like Story Book finance.

15:13 Jordan talks about the dangers of Merchant Cash Advances.

16:36 Jordan explains the problems with “Slow Pay”.

18:37 Jordan talks about how to prioritize debt and how not all creditors are equal.

21:47 Jordan talks about personal & business credit and how to separate them.

24:39 Jordan talks about investing in secured real estate.

26:48 Steve talks about investing and spreading the risk around.

27:51 Jordan talks about the benefits of the Jobs Act of 2012.

29:03 Jordan talks about how to refinance your car loan using

30:58 Jordan gives us listeners our own landing page at

Mentioned in this Episode:


Steve Gordon interviews Jordan Goodman:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon and today I've got a special treat for you. We're talking with Jordan E. Goodman. He is known as America's money answers man and he's a nationally recognized expert on personal finance and business finance, a regular guest on all kinds of radio shows and television call in shows across the country. He's appeared on the View, Fox News Network, Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC, and CBS Evening News. I will tell you, I've had a chance to dive into some of what he does and he's the breadth of experience around finance as it relates to your business and as a business owner to your personal life. I think you're going to find pretty refreshing. I'm excited to bring him to you today.

Jordan, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Great to be with you, Steve, really appreciate it and hope we can bring a lot of value to your folks.

Oh, I know we can. I guess, before we kind of get into the meat of things, I'd love for you to give everybody a little bit of background beyond just the bio, how you got into your career.

Well, I've been an entrepreneur/journalist since about age nine, actually. You want to go way back to the beginning and kind of get a sense of what happened later. My family had a place in Cape Cod in summers and at age nine, I started delivering the Cape Cod Times, the daily paper and I was kind of hanging around the paper. By age 12, I saw a business opportunity and that was they used to print many more papers than they would ever sell and they would just pile up.

I asked the pressman, "What do you do?" "We just throw them away." So I said, "Do you mind if I take them?" And he said, "Great, that would be great. You can get it off our hands and we don't have to throw them out." So I would take the newspapers from there and go down to the docks where the ferries go down to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket and I would sell the papers on the boats. By the time the boat left, whatever 75 or 80% of the people had papers. I had zero cost of goods, 100% profit margin, my hands were filled with ink by the end of the day but it was great. I'd make 75 or 100 dollars per boat and just kept doing that.

I saw supply, I saw demand, I put the two together. It was kind of journalistic. That's what my mantra has been. See what the demand is, what people need, and then come up with solutions for them. Both in their personal lives and their business lives and it's worked very well. My whole model is kind of an affiliate model to bring great resources to people who wouldn't know about them otherwise. They benefit, the provider of the service gets customers, I get a little something in between and it counts as a win, win, win. That's kind of a brief how I've gotten to where I am.

I know just from the information that I've seen and what I've read about you, you've got solutions for everything. We're going to dive into those as we get further into the interview but going through from that level of entrepreneurship to where you are now, there had to be some bumps along the way, right?

Oh, yeah. There's always bumps. It's never smooth. People may tell you it's smooth but it's not smooth. I'll give you two examples.

Please do.

Bouncing Back From a Big Setback

These were more than bumps in the road, these were ruts or crevasses, I guess you might say. I'll give you two. One, I've done 13 books on different aspects of personal finance. I did one in 1992 called, "Everyone's Money Book." 970 pages on all aspects of personal finance. This is when I was at Money Magazine. I did it so called co-authored with a guy named Sunny Black who was a major radio financial personality. He had been on the radio in all these major stations. 300 stations a year for 20 years and I had been a regular guest on his show for a long, long time.

He had kind of done seven other books. He never wrote a word but he had kind of been co-authored, I guess you might say, on seven other very successful books. He said we should really do kind of a broad based personal finance book. I wrote the thing 100%. We took a picture of the two of us on the cover and then soon after it came out, all kinds of bad stuff started coming out about him. He bought several radio stations, he was selling shares in those radio stations to the listeners of the radio stations, and the SEC went after him for selling unregistered securities without a license.

He then escaped. He divorced his wife of 25 years. He escaped to the Dominican Republic. He married a printing baroness who had this whole printing empire. He was there, he was broadcasting his show from the pool and he said, "FBI, you can't come and get me because there is no extradition treaty." Well, it turns out there was an extradition treaty with the Dominican Republic, they went and got him, he went to the Tombs, which is the jail in New York, splashing all over the New York Daily News. Sunny in jail, this financial guy.

I didn't do any of this stuff but here's a picture of me and him on the cover of this major book and it was not great for my reputation, let's put it that way. This is while I'm at Money Magazine, so I'm getting internal heat as well as external heat. So what did I do? I found out where he was in jail, I found out how to get a note to him, and he scrawled with whatever pencil he could get, "Yes, it's okay," and we did another version of the book with him completely expunged. Kind of like the Soviet days when the guys just kind of disappear. We came up with another edition of "Everyone's Money Book" with him off of it.

It was not good for my reputation, I must say. Even though I didn't do anything wrong. That was a major downer, I guess you might say.

How do you recover from that? I can think on many levels, first, the business hit and the publicity and all of that but it had to be personally, it had to just crush the confidence.

I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong but what I learned from it is if there are signs of things not being quite right, pull out before it collapses, basically. I've gone to some of his seminars where there are some things I was not too comfortable with what he was selling and the people around there. It just didn't feel classy, let's put it that way. I should have pulled out then but frankly, it was too late. The book was already out. It was too late to kind of pull the trigger on those kind of things. I remember telling him, I remember when we were going to the shoot for that cover photograph and I was saying, "This really isn't good, you shouldn't do it." He's a multi-millionaire, he had a huge Brownstone on 63rd Street, wife, kids, radio, network. I said, "Sunny, you don't need to do this, just don't be greedy." And he just couldn't stop. He had people coming to him and you'll make so much money if you sell this thing and he couldn't stop himself.

When you get powerful like that, you think you're untouchable and that's what happened with him. He was down in the Dominican Republic and he was broadcasting saying, "ha ha, you can't get me," and it's like, yes, they could get him. It kind of goes to your head when you're very powerful. That's what I learned from it. I admitted it. I was on the cover with him. I wrote the book 100%. The book content was completely fine. Sorry, I had nothing to do with it. I got rid of it as quick as I can. But you take a reputation hit when you're aligned with somebody when things go wrong. That's what I learned.

How did you rebuild?

Again, the book came out with me alone. The book did very well. I stayed at Money Magazine for a long time and quickly got it behind me as quickly as I could. Some people still remember and they joke with me about you and Sunny. You just kind of keep moving on and be persistent and don't let it drag you down.

Isn't that the answer for so many things that we come across? Just keep moving. Keep going.

Keep going. Don't let it drag you down. In particular if I didn't do anything wrong, which I didn't, really. Don't let it drag you down. If I did something wrong, that's different, but I didn't.

It's interesting, that's a reputation hit on a pretty grand scale but I hear all the time from business owners who get into a situation maybe with a partner or they get into a joint venture deal or whatever and it all sounds great in the beginning. It's going to be wonderful for everybody, all this opportunity in front of them, probably don't do all the due diligence that they should and then they get into a conflict. It might not be what you just described but it may just be that they don't ultimately see eye to eye and what happens at the end of that is they almost both end up having to go start over, not completely from scratch but they both take a hit in time, in energy, in money to kind of regain the ground that they loss or the time wasted during that whole process. How long did it take from when all of this hit to where you felt like you were back to where you were before?

Maybe six months later. Something like that. I still continue to do what I was doing at Money Magazine. I still did my radio shows and my TV shows and I didn't lose any of that because I didn't do anything wrong. It was like by association, basically.

Exactly. That's just it.

There are a lot of other people he brought down. He had them invest in all kinds of things that fell apart and all that. I didn't have anything to do with it or any knowledge about it but it's guilt by association, I guess you might say.

I love the advice to stay persistent just to keep pushing through.


**I do think, there is this kind of under appreciation for time as a healer for all of those challenges that we come across. Just keep going. Sometimes things will just work out and you keep pushing forward. Even when you're out of your control -

Keep integrity. Keep doing the right thing and when you've done something wrong, change it or get it behind you somehow. In this case, I wasn't going to keep the book with the two of us out there, even though it was a beautiful picture, and I changed it as quickly as I could so I could move on. The book sold very well and people got a lot out of it. Most people don't know Sunny was ever on there. You're one of the few that's... and remember, this is going back a long time. It's a bump in the road that you have to deal with.

Clearly you've been very successful since then. I want to take a quick break and I want to come back because you've got a whole toolbox for business owners. Particularly in dealing with their money, with cash flow, how to best handle debt, credit ratings, all that kind of stuff. Those are things we've never covered on the podcast before but I know that they are an issue. So we're going to take quick break. Hang on, we'll be right back with more from Jordan.

Welcome back to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. This is Steve Gordon and I'm here talking with Jordan Goodman. Jordan, I think you described it best before. You're sort of the connector.


You go out and find all these really great resources that can help business owners on the money side of the business which we know is important.

I'm very careful to make sure that anybody that I talk about is actually delivering and doing a good service.

Sure, yeah and for all the reasons we just talked about, right? I'm sure you're much more careful. You've got these resources and I know that there are people listening that have that need. We talk to them all the time. I would love for you to just walk us through. For a business owner that's having issues, where do they normally start from your perspective?

Effective Alternatives for Financing From Traditional Banks

First, it's financing. People have a hard time getting loans from traditional banks these days. Banks want assets. They want widgets. They want stuff they can seize if you... they want collateral. And many businesses, they don't have collateral. It's intellectual property. It's apps. It's videos. It's virtual stuff so there is nothing to seize so they have a really hard time getting traditional bank loans. That's the bad news.

The good news is there's a whole bunch of new financing sources that have come up that understand that and they'll make loans based on cash flow not assets. They'll look at your bank statements, see what you got going, and make a loan based on your ability to repay as opposed to what they can seize as collateral.

These kind of clearing houses have come up where you as a small business person can go there, they vet you, then once they figure out that you're a legitimate business that's got good cash flow, they will present you to the right people that will fund your specific business needs. My favorite one is called They've got a phone number as well, 800-261-6478.

For example, connect to hedge funds. Hedge funds are willing to invest in small business. There's just all kinds of places out there that you wouldn't traditionally think you could get a loan from and there's different kinds. There's payroll funding, there's equipment leasing, there's accounts receivable, financing, factoring. There's a bunch of different ways of getting small business loans and they're going to see what appropriate for you. Before they present you as a business to somebody, they're going to have gone through the whole vetting process. They call it story book lending. That's what they call it. Understanding your story and why you need the money and how you're going to repay it.

That's a resource that could help an awful lot if you folks get financing that have been turned down by traditional banks.

You know, early in my career, the mid 90s, the only real option you had was a traditional bank or there were some of these other things like factoring and receivables lending and all that. It always seemed a little bit shady and it seems like that stuff now has in large part kind of come out of the shadows. There are places now where you can go, like you say, there's a clearing house where you can go and see your options. More transparency to it all.

Right. These are the good ones. There is a shady side which I'll just tell you about which I would tell people to avoid if they could. They are called Merchant Cash Advances or MCAs and that's where the companies, often with hedge funds behind them, will lend you money, unsecured in a day, very quickly, based on your receivables. They'll take over your credit card processing and every time... say you're a restaurant and you're having a lot of credit cards, they'll take a little piece out of it every time. Seems like a small amount but the interest rates can be 40, 50, 60%.


And you kind of get on this treadmill. It's what I call the pay day lending of small business, basically. Last I heard there's about 600 billion dollars’ worth of Merchant Cash Advances outstanding. Those are the ones I would warn people against because it's very high interest and very high fees and I would go toward the legitimate clearing houses like

How to Deal With Slow Paying Clients

One of the things that I know in my first business we always had to balance - thankfully we had some clients that paid us very quickly but we also had some pretty large government contracts and we knew that we would get paid, but it was going to take a really long time. We were essentially financing all the work for the government at the time, the agency that we were working for. That comes up a lot.

Oh yeah. Slow pay. Yup. What it does is it gets people into real debt if they've got cash flow issues. One of the things they offer is payroll financing, for example. You've got to pay your people and you might need short term pay roll to keep everybody working until you get paid by your clients. This is true particularly in the medical field, for example, where insurance companies will pay very slowly and you need medical receivables help. It's a problem, particularly if you're a small business. You don't have a lot of leverage to tell the government to pay you faster. It's not going to happen. Or even big companies. It's hard to get paid from Walmart, or Apple, or big companies. They can push little guys around and they do it all the time. You need a credit line or ways to get through those rough times and that's exactly what these people did.

Don't do the Merchant Cash Advances, which is very tempting because you can get the money real quick but it's extremely expensive and what happens is it's like a two week loan and after two weeks, you don't have enough money to pay it off so you take another one, you kind of dig yourself deeper and deeper and that puts down an awful lot of companies.

I've always thought that the way to look at these things are they are really temporary solutions to get through a period of growth. You want to ultimately grow out of the need for it and create your own cash but there are those times in business where to get to the next level of growth, it's going to take all the cash you have and then some.


I've always kind of seen that as things that fill that gap. You want to approach it from the perspective of, I'm going to pull this in. I'm going to have this plan to get it paid off and then move on. What are some of things that people are really successful with this, how do they approach it and -

Get it in advance so they're not scrambling at the last minute to get financing.

So you mean Thursday, day before payroll, they're not calling and saying, "Hey -"

Some people probably do but that's not the best way to get it, yes.


They can move pretty fast but not that fast. Anticipate what you might need before you actually need it. I always say with a loan, if you actually need it, you're not going to get it. If you don't need it, they'll give you all you want. It's the same thing. Apply for it when you don't need it so when you do need it, it's there. That's the best way to do it, for sure.

Then if you get into an awful lot of debt, there are ways to help you... the next resource I wanted to talk about helps small businesses that have a huge amount of debt that don't know how to prioritize debt. There's a whole science of what I call debt prioritization. What most small businesses do is they respond to the creditor who screams the loudest or is the most threatening somehow. But, now all creditors are equal. They have different leverage over your business. The electric company can turn your lights off and put you out of business in a second. Some lawyer that you did a contract with three years ago that you never went through with, has no leverage on you basically but the lawyer screams really loudly, maybe he'll get his money before the electric company and that's not a wise way to do it.

You can try to do this on your own but there are companies that will do this. My favorite one is called Corporate Turn Around and their website is They've got a very sophisticated system of prioritizing your debts. They've done this for 30 years. They've done thousands and thousands of small businesses. They know each creditor and how much leverage they've got over your business. They've ranked them from one to ten, one being a lot of leverage, ten being no leverage. They rank all your creditors by how much of a threat they are to you, basically. How much leverage they've got. They make different offers to different creditors based on the amount of leverage they've got.

The guy with a lot of leverage, you'll offer him 50 cents on the dollar in a month and the guy without much leverage will get ten cents on the dollar in a year. They don't all get the same offer. Then they negotiate back and forth and in the end, all your creditors agreed and you make one payment to them and they pay the creditors and you can actually think about doing your business. When you're in that circumstance, you're like hiding under your desk, not wanting to answer the phone or not opening the mail. You're just worried about creditors attacking you all the time. That's not a way to run a business.

Again, there's a free website to help you: They've also got a phone number which is 877-377-3669. They've been doing this for small businesses for about 30 years. They say about 75-80% of the businesses that they take on, they actually save that otherwise probably would have gone under.

Separating Business Credit From Personal Credit

Wow, that's a big statistic. In talking about credit, I think the one thing that business owners ignore, particularly small business owners, is the linkage between your business credit and your personal credit.


Having had to sign a number of personal guarantees for various businesses that I've been in over the years, you've got to pay attention to that stuff.

Some don't but you're correct, in theory your business credit should be completely separate from your personal credit but in reality -

It never is.

No. You want to manage your personal credit and your business credit. A lot of small businesses don't really look at their business credit very much. You have Dun and Bradstreet report and if you don't pay attention to it, it could be a lot worse and therefore, either you don't get credit at all or you get it on worse terms, smaller amounts, higher interest rates than you really deserve. What you want to do is manage your business credit separately, separate tax payer ID, separate bank accounts, and over time, build credit with your vendors totally on the business side. That's going to make a big difference to your situation because when you need credit, you've gotta get it. If you can possibly separate the two, that's really the best way to go.

So, you can establish it and then stay on top and get errors off it as many times as there's errors on these things. A place that can help you there is called Better Qualified and they're website is They've also got a phone number, 888-533-8138 and they work with small businesses to improve, establish their business credit, get errors off there and get your Dun and Bradstreet report score up so you get much better credit.

The best score you can get, which is called a Paydex score, is 80. If you have an 80 Paydex score, you'll get all the credit you want. It's how you pay your bills on time, the amount of credit you got. It's kind of similar to the personal side, but it should be... Dun and Bradstreet as opposed to the Equifax Experian TransUnion.

I think, importantly too, you don't want those business things bleeding over on to your personal.

Which they do in many cases. Particularly if there's a personal guarantee, they will bleed over to that. That's correct. The more you can... A lot of people start in small business as a self-proprietorship and so it's all mixed up. Their personal and business accounts, you can't tell a difference at all.

As quickly as you can, if not from the beginning, set it up as a separate corporation, sub chapter S, LLC, Limited Partnership, some kind of separate structure. Get its own tax payer ID, its own bank account, its own credit cards. That's really the best. It's really hard to untangle it once you're running.

Absolutely. So, we've talked about debt, we've talked about credit, and all that but I know you also have resources for business owners that maybe have some access to cash sitting around and sticking it in a bank these days is not exactly the best.

Securing an 8% Return in One Year

Correct. You will get zero and people just keep their cash there. It's ridiculous. Here's a solution. Something I'm involved in myself which is a way of getting an eight percent yield on your money over a one year time frame. You can get checks automatically, you can reinvest it. What are called secured real estate funds. The website is again

They are lending money, short term, like over a year or so to commercial real estate projects all over the country. Like, 30 different projects at once. Things like apartment buildings, medical offices, assisted living, student housing, parking lots. Just all kinds of commercial projects that have a hard time getting loans because they are probably too small. Banks want to do a 50 million, 100 million dollar project. This is like one million or less. They have a hard time getting financing. They're probably going to pay maybe ten percent, something like that, and they are going to pass eight percent on to you in something that's called a preferred return. Meaning, you, the shareholder, get the eight percent before the management gets anything. They get the two percent out of the return of the fund. The full amount you invest gets the eight percent. Minimum is 5,000 dollars. One year minimum hold. No commissions of any kind.

There's a way of getting yield and on top of the eight percent, when the buildings that they are lending to are sold at a profit, they share that profit with you, the shareholder. So it's a quarterly profit sharing distribution, as well.

For example, last year, 2017, the actual return on the fund was eight point seven, eight percent on the interest, point seven for the profit sharing. Over time, as there are more buildings and more projects coming to fruition, there will be more profit sharing distributions. The price of the shares doesn't change. It stays at ten dollars a share and that adds up value.

You can order as a business owner, you can order as an individual, you can do it in yourself directed IRA. I'd much rather get eight percent not have any volatility then keep my money either as a business or an individual sitting there earning zero.

Absolutely. I think one of the things that often we don't think about as we are running our business is taking money off the table. I see so many people taking all the profit and reinvesting it thinking that that's the thing to do. While I agree that it's important to reinvest, I also think that you reduce risk when you take money off the table whether you put it in something like this or put it somewhere else. When you take it out of the business, you immediately reduce the risk that you have from the business.

Oftentimes, we don't think of it that way. We don't think of our business as creating financial risk for us from an investment standpoint just as if we bought shares in GE that could go up and down.

The difference is it's not liquid for the most part.

Exactly, yeah. I think looking at something like this and whatever other options are out there is just a great way to spread out your risk a little bit. Take some of those profits and have them work for you elsewhere. The name of the website again?

It's called They've got a phone number, too: 888-444-2102. I'm in it. I'm on the board. I'm totally in this thing and it's been fantastic. This is a new thing. In 2012, Congress passed what's called the Jobs Act of 2012 which authorized what's called Crowd Funding, basically. These are kind of crowd funding funds. Technically, the SEC calls them regulation A plus funds. It's allowing the average individual in business to get into things that in the past you would have had to have 100 million in a pension fund to do it. Here you can get in for as little as 5,000.

That's on the investor side. On the other side, it's allowing small businesses to get funding for projects that they wouldn't have gotten done otherwise. It helps the borrower and the lender and it's a win-win for everybody.

Absolutely. I know we're running out of time but you've got one more resource and it has to do with that big fancy car that... You've got that big client, you went out and bought the car and now you're stuck with the payment. What do you do?

A lot of people are running into trouble, they are either getting repossessed or defaulting or coming delinquent with their car loans because they took on these bigger car loans than they can really afford and it's definitely an issue. What people don't realize is you can refinance your car loan to a much lower interest rate or you can change the maturity to a level that makes the payment more affordable.

Say you're at 500 dollars a month for three years. If you moved it out to six years, you might go down to 250 a month, for example. There's a free website that will help you do that which is called You put in your current car payment, how much more you have to go, how many more months you have to go, the interest rate. Then it actually gives you a little dial where you can choose where you want your payment to be, what interest rate, and what maturity. You move it out on the maturity scale or you can go in for... You figure out what payment and maturity you want, you click submit, then a bunch of credit unions compete for your business.

That's a way of online within about three minutes, refinancing your car loan, both individual and a business car loan.

Wow, that's amazing. This has been like lightning round for business finance and it's been very different from anything we've done before.


I'm glad we've done it. Again, if you're listening, do your due diligence and figure out if you need any of these resources or which ones you need but when I found out about Jordan and the resources that he has, I thought, definitely worth making those available and sharing them with our audience because these things come up. Sometimes you need it to push the business forward and get to the next level or get through a rough patch.

Jordan, thank you so much for sharing.

I've actually created a landing page specifically for your people. I just want to mention briefly.

Absolutely. That's right, where is that?

Landing page is On there, they'll see some of my resources, they can sign up for my free newsletter which comes out every month. Just get access to all kinds of stuff. I'd love to help you. This is just a small sample of the resources that exist.

Look at what we've done. We've helped people earn eight percent on their money, we've helped them get out of business debt, we've improved their Dun and Bradstreet credit report, we've helped them refinance their car loans, and we've helped them get the bar in the first place with the Corporate Lending Solutions that people don't know where to go to get loans. Hopefully some of these resources will make a difference in their lives.

We'll link to that page in the show notes so if you want to find out what those resources are and get linked up with Jordan, you can go there. Give them the website one more time, please.

My website is but the specific landing page related to your show is

Perfect. Well, Jordan, thank you so much. It's been great talking with you and thanks for sharing all these resources.

Thanks so much, Steve. Appreciate it.

Brian Greenberg | How to Sell Without Selling

Too many professional service providers feel uncomfortable selling, says Brian Greenberg. But you can be a trusted advisor and do right by your clients – and still market yourself effectively.

For Brian, that means selling without selling. We unpack what exactly that means and how to do it so you land more new customers and make more money while marketing more efficiently (that means you get to focus on what you love to do).

Stick around until the end – Brian gives away a free audio version of his book… and there’s a contest (closely linked to this episode’s topic) to win another great freebie.

Check out the interview to find out…

  • How to do business ethically and transparently – and leverage it
  • The question you must ask yourself when making any decision
  • The single best way to secure the right reviews for your business
  • The power of “barnacle SEO” and the best way to implement it
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Brian J. Greenberg Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Brian J Greenberg “The salesman who doesn’t sell”. Brian’s companies have created over $50m in and collected over an incredible 10,000 reviews from customers.

01:31 Brian tells us how he started in business. He explains his love for passive businesses.

02:46 Brian now sells insurance. He tells us why.

04:40 Brian tells us how “the best way to become a billionaire is to serve a billion people”.

07:44 Brian talks about why he takes the long view.

08:48Steve talks about imperceptible growth.

09:57 Brian talks about doing real company stuff..

13:08 Brian talks about focusing on customer satisfaction and teaches us how to leverage it.

15:19 Brian explains how best to get reviews….ask for them!.

17:10 Brian explains how reviews aren’t bragging and how to ask for them.

19:44 Brian talks about the importance of having reviews on 3rd party websites.

21:36 Steve breaks down what reviews do.

22:55 Brian talks about dealing with negative reviews.

25:13 Brian explains why you have to use

26:55 Steve talks about enabling the buyer to just buy.

28:36 Brian talks about the benefits of automated answers.

30:56 Brian talks about how just 10 reviews can increase business by 20%.

32:30 Steve explains that the majority of the companies out there don’t employ reviews.

33:46 Brian explains what “Barnacle SEO “ is.

35:02 Brian give the UCEO listeners a great prize!

35:21 Not to be outdone Steve gives us his own great giveaway!

Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast, I'm your host Steve Gordon.

Today, we've got a great interview for you. If you are in any kind of service business and you've ever felt like selling, was something that made you feel a little bit uncomfortable and maybe got you out of the position of being a trusted advisor. Then, you want to pull the car over right now, pull out a notepad, and take some notes, because I'm talking with Brian J. Greenberg.

Brian, he's got one of the most interesting financial services businesses I have ever seen and we work with a lot of folks in that industry, so that's saying something.

He's generated over $50 million dollars in revenue from his businesses, collected over 10,000 reviews. Stop for a second and think about that. 10,000 reviews from customers and he's been one of the most creative people in financial services, and he's been called the salesman who doesn't sell, and he has a book by that title, and we're gonna dive into all of that today.

So Brian, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Oh, thank you so much for having me Steve.

I'm excited about this, I love talking about sales in the context of professional services, because I really think it's a little bit of a different animal, and I'm excited to dive into that.

But, before we do, can you give everybody a little bit of background so they understand how you got to this stage of your career?

Of course, I started promoting businesses on the internet, back in 2004. What really interested me was the marketing. I loved ranking organically in Google and Yahoo, and running the business that way.

Now, the other thing I really loved about internet based businesses is that I can run them passively. So, I spend a very long time learning how to sell somebody strictly without talking to them. Some people in the insurance business call me the salesman who doesn't sell. I love that title. I pride myself on being able to sale somebody and build up their trust and close a sale, while I sleep.

In the past, I've owned an internet organic marketing company, I sold it back in 2012. I decided to focus on my own businesses. And I've just been having a lot of fun and you're right, my main business right now is a life insurance website that I sell insurance directed consumers in all 50 states.

So, you've been in a lot of businesses, why life insurance? Why did you settle there?

The insurance market online, is one of the most competitive niches that you can get into. Besides that, it's one of the most profitable. I think insurance is definitely one of the top four most difficult niches, it also has the highest paper click values.

So, all the insurance keywords, if you were gonna buy them in Google AdWords, it'll cost you $30, up to $50 a click.

So, what I found is I'm able to rank in Google for pretty much anything, and if I want to play the long game, and compete against the big guys in Google, I'd might as well pick the most profitable niche.

So, I'm able to bring in close to $600,000 worth of organic traffic value every month, and for the amount of work that I'm able to do and put into it, and the amount of employees I have, it's a profitable business, so that's why I chose it, and I like it, I feel like we're serving people.

That's awesome. I've often said that life insurance is the most difficult thing to sell on the planet because you're selling something that and collecting the money today the benefit and I know the clients we have in this business correct me on this all the time, you can use some of the benefit while you're still alive, but for the most part, your prospects believe they're gonna give you money and there's no hope of them getting any benefit until they're gone.

And so, that's a pretty hard bargain. You've entered a difficult industry and I can't imagine that given the competition that you're up against, that building this machine online to where you're ranking for these high value keywords, that couldn't have been an easy thing to do.

I'm sure it didn't happen over night, I'm sure there were times when you thought, "God, are we ever gonna get there?"

How did you deal with some of the bumps along the way and the challenges as you built the business?

Good question.

The Question You Must Ask Yourself When Making Any Decision

You know, I think as entrepreneurs we get a little bit too focused on the profits, on a quarterly basis, on a daily basis. The one thing I always like to go back to, is that the number one responsibility I have as the CEO of the company is to serve the customer.

So, any decision I make, I always want to go back to, does it serve the customer? If you focus on that, it's the best way. I love the quote that says, "The best way to become a billionaire is to serve a billion people."

So, as the CEO and I run a smaller company, I don't have to worry too much about shareholders, or quarterly profits. I play the long game. And the long game I know that the good guys usually win, I hope that they always win, and that there's a piece of karma in business.

So, if I stay honest, ethical, and I run business the right way, I'll get satisfied customers and that actually kind of spins that whole marketing wheel and I have customers coming to me. Which is important.

Now, see real quick, life insurance. Many people say, life insurance is always sold. Right, you always have to convince people to buy insurance. I kind of took the opposite view. I think insurance should be bought. So I like to get people when they actually want to buy insurance and I get them to choose me as their agent.

So, most of the time, I'm able to sell them and we're able to start a good relationship and I can avoid all the negativity that's involved with other people that are pushy that sell life insurance.

I think that's really key, and it's prevalent in the insurance industry just because of the way that new agents are brought into the business and taught.

Build your list of 100 people that you know and then go chase them. And you've clearly taken a different approach.

I'll tell you, the thing that you just said that I think is most important is, I think is missing in a lot of the business media today is the idea of the long view.

Even in small business, I used to be big business, you know you're on Wall Street, and you've got to deal with the quarterly, or earnings report and that kind of drives everything. I feel like with all the chatter of social media and all the craziness of the marketing gurus and all that, that are out there that tell you if you put a dollar into Facebook, tomorrow you're gonna be a millionaire ... millionaire by Friday, you know.

It gives us this perception of instant reward, instant result, and I don't think that, that's really the way a strong solid business is ever built. How hard has it been to push back against the world and stay focused on the long view?

How to Do Business Ethically and Transparently – and Leverage It

It is difficult, it is a challenge. I think an important word that always kind of rings around with me is relentless. From a young age, I've always been relentless. I know Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, he prides himself very strongly on being relentless.

And if you actually go to it redirects to Amazon. He bought that domain a long time ago. As far as playing the long game, yeah, I mean that's what you need. You need to have faith that if you do business the right way, you're gonna be the last guy standing.

So, look I've been online and I've been in business for a long time, and I've definitely seen the guys that run businesses unethically and just focused on getting that money, they don't survive.

So part of it is if you just keep doing business the right way, you're gonna be the last guy standing and my belief is that if you don't quit, you can't lose.

Yeah, it's such a critical perspective to take. I often look at the growth line of a business. I mean most people look at it as a relatively straight line up into the right.

And I look at it a little bit differently. If you've ever looked at an exponential curve, where it's almost imperceptibly going up at the beginning, but you get to a tipping point where then it just rockets off and I've seen that happen in both of our businesses and they were times so frustrating because you felt like you were making no progress at all, but the progress just wasn't visible yet.

I would imagine for you in building out what you've done, knowing what it takes to do all of this online with organic traffic, I mean have you experienced that in the current business as you've built it out?

You mean as far as being able to stay focused on the long term, Steve?

Yeah, and have you had times where the growth was maybe almost imperceptible but you know you've got this choice. Do I stay the course, or do I try something else?

You know, look in organic SEO, you have ups and downs and it's not necessarily your doing. Google and the search engines come out with new algorithm changes all the time.

So, back in 2012, just to go back a little bit on the history of organic search. People that were kind of scamming the system to rank organically, they got all wiped out.

Wil Reynolds the owner of SEER Interactive, he did this great speech and it really hit home with me, he says, "Look, from now on you have to do real company stuff." He used profanities, real company, real company stuff. So do stuff that real companies do and only do it.

So don't pay somebody overseas to build private blog networks. So I guess some of it has to do with faith that if I'm doing it the right way, and I'm doing it per the guidelines and I'm doing everything that real companies do. That every time Google comes out with an algorithm update, my sites do better. Hey knock on wood, but that's how it's gone.

It does take patience, right. I think that it's important to grow as your business grows. To keep everything, I don't have any investors. Some of my competitors have $50 million dollars of investments and they just burn through money, and that's a lot of stress.

I've run my business and invested off profits, so I've grown slowly. That's the kind of trade-off. So it's just about faith that if you're doing everything right, that you're gonna get paid in the end. It's very much business karma.

Yeah, I think you've got a really great philosophy and what I'd like to do is we're gonna come back in just a second. We're gonna dive into Brian's strategies all around selling without having to sell.

Brian, I'm looking forward to getting into that and going deep. We're gonna be right back with more from Brian Greenberg.

Hi this is Steve, I hope you're enjoying this interview, we've got more to come in a minute, but what I'd love for you to do right now is rate this podcast. Leave us a review, rate us on iTunes, it'll really help others discover the podcast, and help us, help other CEOs, other business leaders become unstoppable.

So, if you go to, you can find instructions there and links that will take you right to where you need to go to review the podcast. Thanks so much.

Now back to the interview.

Welcome back, this is Steve Gordon, and I'm here with Brian Greenberg.

Brian, you've got a new book, and the book is by the title that I guess you've been called in the industry, The Salesman Who Doesn't Sell.

I'd love to hear your approach to sales and how you think it differs from what's common out there in industry today.

You know the thing that I love the most about how things are going, especially online and in how people choose the businesses that they choose to do business with is reviews.

So a big part of my book is I preach very strongly that you should do business honestly, ethically, and transparently. But then, the question is, how to leverage that?

So if you focus on customer satisfaction and you know how to leverage it, you're gonna grow your business faster than anybody. There's been studies that companies of the highest net promoter score.

Steve, I don't know if you see this on a lot of the software you buy, they'll say on a score of 1 to 10, how do you like the software? Would you recommend it to somebody? That's net promoter score.

Now, the companies that have the highest net promoter score are the ones that experiences the quickest and the most revenue growth. Now we're talking about Zappos, and Amazon, and USAA, Nordstrom's.

So what I like to teach people how to leverage it. If you focus on reviews, my goodness Steve, reviews are so persuasive. Reviews are like the new references. If you're gonna choose a service provider, well give me three references, right? You don't have to do that anymore, you can show them 100 references, and they're sold right then and there. People go onto Yelp and they see somebody has 15 five star reviews, it's a done deal.

So, part of what I like to teach people is to focus on reviews, if you focus on reviews, you're gonna be focusing on doing business the right way and focusing on the customer, and what I've experienced is exponential growth myself, the more reviews I get. More social proof I can show any potential customer.

Yeah, and you've got an insane number of reviews on your website. I don't think I've ever seen so many on a site. Particularly on a site that's selling a high-end service.

So, how would if a business owner is listening to this, how would they begin to focus on reviews? What should they start doing to collect the reviews. What are some of the things that they can begin doing right away?

The first thing is the mindset, I think that so many CEOs don't know the value of the reviews. That's why they don't focus on it.

Now, I'd like to go ahead and put a value on reviews. I value a review I get on my own website that I control about $100 each. Now, besides that $100, every year I get about $25 dollars out of it. That just has to do with the increase and conversion rates.

If I get a review on a third party website, a website that I don't control, like The Better Business Bureau, or Google Business, or Yelp, or TripAdvisor, depending on what you focus on. I value those reviews at $250 each, and $50 each year after that.

Now it's not a science how to measure that. I just know that I close so many more sales, my conversion rate compared to my competitors is about 1000 times higher.

The Single Best Way to Secure the Right Reviews for Your Business

So, the first thing is focus on it. The next thing obviously ask for it. I think so many people don't ask for it. The time to ask for it is when you finish the service and you ask the customer, "Are you happy?" And that's the time to ask.

All you have to do is ask.

For folks who are in a service business. I mean you do a lot of what you do online, but for an attorney or an accountant, or somebody like that who is working in close counter proximity with their clients and has a really tight relationship with them. I know from talking to them that sometimes they feel a little bit uncomfortable asking for stuff like that.

What would you say to somebody like that in terms of A. How to have the mindset to get over it, and B. How would you approach that if you were in their shoes, how would you ask?

I like giving them a value to the reviews so they know it. You know it's not just a favor, it's something that they can do for you. Almost reciprocal, if you do a good job, they want to help you.

Please know that it is not a form of bragging. I think so many people think it's bragging, it's not. I almost think that it's an ethical responsibility for the people that can get good reviews actually get them and display them.

That way it proliferates that the best businesses will get the business and that's where I want to see everything go. I want to see more and more businesses focusing on the customers, being ethical and the way to display that is with the reviews.

Now, let's say you have an attorney or an accountant, I know they're not comfortable asking for reviews. You don't necessarily have to verbally ask. I use email. Email is by far the best way to get reviews. I like to ask for a review first that I control. So I built a program, there's tons of software out there. Just ask them for a review on five stars and a comment, you control.

If it's a bad review, you don't have to display it. If they give me a five start review, I send them another email with the exact comment that they gave me with a direct link to the exact URL on the Better Business Bureau where you submit a review.

Make it incredibly easy. Even on Google, I'll give them the exact URL that'll give them the popup and they'll see the stars. Make it super simple. But, utilize email, and send it more than once. It's so easy to automate, I send a review email in the 3rd, 7th, and 10th day. If they give me five stars, I'll send them three more emails asking for reviews on those third party websites.

That's fantastic, and I think that's a great approach to do it.

Now, how important do you think, I mean certainly the traditional way of doing this particularly for the types of business we were just talking about is to get a review or get a testimonial. I mean in the old days, what used to get these things and stick them as letters-


In the three-ring binder, right, and the client would be the brag book that you have on your coffee table in the lobby. You'd hope they'd come through while they're waiting.

So, it seems really natural if I'm in one of these service businesses to get it and put it on my website.

How important for these types of services do you think it is to have it out on third party sites?

I think it's very important and I think people know if it's on the company's website that it can be manipulated, right? They'll look at those reviews and they'll decide how legitimate they look.

On a third party website the businesses have no control. If someone gives you a bad review, you can't get it down. You can say, "Oh I'm gonna sue you, I'm gonna call Google, I'm gonna call Yelp." You cannot get it down.

So, people trust those, and I think the more people use those services and fine that they work, they build up more and more trust for those services.

I also want to say how to organize your reviews, so they look legitimate, okay. Yes, somebody might send you an email saying how great you are, thank you so much. It's not really usable on your website. Use the Amazon internet standard type of review to display. Now, for that you're gonna need to the customer's name, you're gonna need the date of the review, you need stars. If there's no stars, it doesn't do it.

I like putting the city and the state of where the person was, because I do business in all 50 states. Then I get comments. I require somebody to put in 20 characters of a comment. Those are incredible reviews. People look at those they get the similarity affect because they can see where they are.

I even take a step further, Steve. I say what product they bought, so I say what company insurance policy they bought and whether they bought a 20 year term, or a 30 year term. The more details, the better.

Use the internet standard please. Those are the ones that are really gonna tip the scales for you.

What I like about all of the different details that you're getting there, is that for the next customer whose trying to figure out what do I buy. For them to be able to see that there's someone in my state or in my city who bought the same product and here's what their experience was like.

Now, that gives me a lot of comfort, and-

Oh yeah.

One of the things that I believe as a fundamental product that ever business sells is confidence. You're transferring confidence from your business or from the other customers in your business to the new customer so that they can feel good about this new little journey of trust that they're going on. Because they're taking some risk coming and doing business with you and obviously you can have guarantees and all that sort of stuff in place, but that risk is still there and I think ... you see a lot of people do money back guarantee and all that stuff. That's wonderful. That's great.

But, I don't think that removes nearly as much risk because they still have to trust that you're gonna honor as 10 or 50 or 1000 or 10,000, like you have comments from other customers who have already had success it's hard to ignore that.

I think that you're exactly right. Those reviews build trust and they build confidence. If they do business with you, they're gonna be one of those people that had a great experience.

One other thing that reviews are so important even when I'm choosing businesses, it's very important for me to choose a business that has reviews because that business has accountability.

If something goes wrong as a customer, I know what to do. I'm gonna try to get them to fix it, if they don't fix it, I'm gonna give them a bad review.

In my goodness that is an unbelievable negotiating tactic for anybody who's a customer for any service. Now, I can put a negative review and then if they say, "oh", that'll get their attention.

Now, almost always they'll fix the issue and then I'll remove the review. And I've done, I've had people give me bad reviews although I've always had the opportunity to fix it and they'll take it down.

So it's very important, I don't see that we haven't touched on this yet, but what to do if you get a negative review. Don't react, don't fight it. Fix the problem immediately, apologize, play the victim. Please let them know that it hurts your business so substantially, give them a refund, be willing to take a loss on it.

A negative review, when I put a value to positive reviews, a negative review could cost you $10,000 plus. I've seen so many businesses have to close their doors and rename their business and start all over again.

Yeah, and the power cuts both ways.

We've talked about reviews and the approach that you've got really put your customers in the salesman's position for you by letting them get out there and say, your future Mr. Customer, you're in this position I was in, here's the problem I faced, here's what I did, and I got a really great results. So they're doing all the selling for you, which is really, really powerful.

Beyond that, how have you over the course of building this business earned that moniker of the salesman who does sale, what are the other things that you're doing?

You know I think you touched on them. So, I used something that I think that everyone should use. It's user experience testing. So I like to use for $50 you could have someone go through your website, they usually almost about an hour, you can see their screen and they're talking while they're going through your website and what you want them to do is act like a normal customer.

From that, I can find out all the questions that I'm not answering from the customer. If the customer has to call you to ask a question. I basically caused a big problem for myself. So some companies don't list prices, that's a barrier, like you said a money back guarantee, a free trial, all these things to make things easier.

What is the return policy? What is the shipping? Tell them right up front, don't make them ask. Because any questions that they have that don't have an answer, they're gonna leave your site. They're gonna go to your competitor and if they're doing it better, you're gonna lose them.

So, I like to just address every complaint, and I ask my sales people too, what are the questions that you get most often? And then I will head them off through the sales process. I'll answer those questions. If I answer every question, then you'll get sales. Even for products that don't normally sell without a sales process or a face to face interaction or a phone call. You'd be surprised that people will just go ahead and buy and put their credit card down or sign up just like that.

You know for most of us this is all about looking at something that we want or that we need. And really being enabled to make the purchase. I think for a lot of businesses we haven't really thought through what it takes to allow somebody to enable that future client, to make that purchase. They've got all these questions and I know sometimes I talk to business owners, and it's like they get a little bit offended when they're asked the questions because they're maybe not prepared to answer them. Or they don't understand why the customer has that question.

When you can address all of those up-front ahead of time, you eliminate the need to sell in the way that most people go, "I don't wanna be sold." You're now enabling that person to actually make the buy. They can come in and they can purchase, but doing that requires ... it doesn't happen overnight, it's not like you sit down one day, I mean maybe you've got a better system for doing this than I do, but I've never been able to sit down one day and just think about all of the questions and they come up. They come up over time, they change over time.

It sounds like you've got some feedback loops there, when you get that, where does that go into the sales process? Does that plug into content on your website? Do you plug it into educational webinars or videos? How do you find the right place to put it in the sales process?

For my particular businesses, it's kind of through the sales process on my website. So I'm kind of directing people, the process that I want them to go through.

So I'll have them run a quote, I'll give them all the reviews, I'll let them choose, I'll let them do all the research.

Webinars of course are a wonderful way to do it. The whole goal is to have them being sold and they want to do business with you without you having to sell them.

Now, I agree, if people keep asking me the same questions, especially why should I do business with you? Or why should I trust you? Yeah, those can get under the skin a little bit, that's why I love answering them on my website, or like you said in a webinar, or however your sales process goes.

Sell them there. Take it off your plate. That's my motivation really is the more questions I answer, the easier I make it on myself and my sales team and the less resources and time I need to put into it.

I ran, I still run a drop ship business and it was tracking information, what's it like tracking? When is it gonna arrive? Well when I automated it and I sent them the tracking information automatically, it cut down like 30% of my customer service time.

Yeah, when they come up, please yeah do it knowledge based, make sure you answer it because then you don't have to, answer it once on your website or in your sales process and then don't do it again.

Yeah, going back to this idea of transferring confidence, if they see that you have thought through all of these things and you've been proactive about it and you've put the information out there. It elevates trust so much I think, they can now feel confident, okay these people have a process. They've thought through everything. They knew what all of my questions were.

I don't know how much you're on the phone in sales, it sounds like you've got a sales team who is probably on the phone with prospects. Do they ever have the experience where a customer is kind of quoting your stuff?


Oh and I read this and I read that, and so I think that we're ready to go.

Like the sales people love it, right, because people will read the testimonials on all these places, more than you could even think. So a lot of times they'll call and they'll be speaking to my sales person Jenn, right. And they'll say, "Jenn, I'm so happy I got you, I'm so happy you're the sales person because I read all these beautiful reviews about you. That's why I chose you guys." They were just so impressed. This happens every day and that's wonderful.

Now, another thing I wanted to bring up, these review sites, if you offer reviews, not only in your service but all the other products involved and all the different options. People want an opinion and that's how they do their research.

Yelp, and Amazon, and TripAdvisor, they just have an unbelievable amount of traffic as search engines. People go there to do their research. So especially if you're in a business that you have the ability to do that, I mean people come to my website to do the research, to find out what are the best companies to find out what most people are buying.

So, it is such a strong sales tactic that people really should be using if they're not using it to its full capacity, just keep doing it. They've done studies where if people get 10 reviews on Yelp, and it could increase their business by 20%. It's just so powerful.

Well and for a business that is local in scale, or even regional. I mean most of the time, you know I look for reviews all the time, and it's often very difficult to find a business that has more than a couple of reviews. A lot of times what you'll see in a local area is everybody's got like one or two.

It's their mother and their aunt, you know, Aunt Betsy came to the restaurant and left their review-

Those are good too.

Yeah, those are all great, but then there's the one that's got two dozen.


And I know that they get the lion share of the business but the good news there is they probably only got two dozen and it's not that hard to get twice that many or four times that many over the course of a year or 18 months, and now you're in the driver’s seat.

This is a tactic that really you don't hear a lot of people talking about and I think there's a big opportunity right now for the big brands are doing it already, but most businesses aren't the big brands.

If you've got a business where you can kind of look around and see none of your competitors are paying any attention to this at all it is a really quick way to get ahead.

The Power of “Barnacle SEO” and the Best Way to Implement It

You know, these review websites. Yelp, TripAdvisor, is such an opportunity for local business, local services, everybody.

Now, it actually has a funny name, it's called Barnacle SEO. Barnacle SEO is the process of attaching yourself to a larger entity that's gonna bring you in the resources. If you're a local service business and you have a lot of Yelp reviews or Google business reviews, I mean that is gonna bring you a tremendous amount of business. I think so many people would be surprised, people can build very large businesses from just bringing in traffic from these third party websites.

I mean, Amazon Merchant services, people just sell on Amazon or Etsy. But, definitely these local review sites are such an opportunity.

Wow, this is such a fascinating and refreshing approach and I appreciate you sharing it with us today. I know folks are gonna be curious about how to dive into the details of this.

So, for those who want to find your book and really start implementing things, where's the best place for them to go?

You know what Steve, I'd like to give all your listener the free audio version of my book, The Salesman Who Doesn't Sale: A Marketing Guide to Selling While You Sleep. I go into very much detail. I try to give away as much as possible and they can get it at

That's awesome, and we're gonna do one additional thing. So if you're listening to this and you go to and find this episode with Brian, for the best comment that's left over the next two weeks after we launch the episode, we're gonna go get five copies of the book and we're gonna send it to the five best comments, up on the website, and so we'll send a paperback copy.

You can get the audio book on Brian's website.

Brian this has been fantastic and thanks for sharing the book, thanks for your generosity there and for sharing this approach I think it could be a real game changer for a lot of businesses.

Thanks so much for having me Steve, I have a lot of respect for you and your business as well. Thank you for having me on.

Todd Palmer | How to Build an Inc 5000 Business

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You might love your business, says Todd Palmer, but it doesn’t always love you back. Todd, an entrepreneur and business coach, says that it’s what you do when faced with tough times that counts.

First, you have to come to grips with a mental block most entrepreneurs have. Second, you can’t be afraid to get help (from the right people and in the right way).

Todd almost lost his business about 10 years ago… and went on to have the six-time Inc. 5000 business he has today thanks to completing those two actions.

We talk about how you can apply what he learned to your own venture, as well as…

  • How to get clarity when faced with challenges you don’t understand
  • The responsibilities you didn’t know you signed up for as an entrepreneur
  • The power of the Fail Forward Mentality
  • Two sources of help to get through the toughest business problems
  • And more

Listen to Steve Gordon and Todd Palmer Now:

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with renowned thought leader, CEO and Coach, Todd Palmer.

01:16 Todd talks about how he started off in business with a loan from friends, family and fools.

03:20 Todd explains how by hiring a coach helped him steer his company back from near ruin.

05:09 Steve talks about how he got advice when his business was in trouble.

06:15 Todd talks about the “Imposter Syndrome”.

09:15 Even though he is a very successful coach, Todd still has his own coach. He explains the importance of their outside the business clarity.

14:32 Todd explains how your business is like a child, how the best idea should always win and how the coach can’t do everything for you.

17:23 Steve has 4 coaches. He explains why.

19:21 Todd talks about improving your business incrementally and to celebrate your success.

21:21 Tom explains who the perfect person for coaching is and how confidence is good, ego is not.

24:19 Tom tells us how to get in contact with him and he also gives the UCEO listeners a chance at a fantastic prize!.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Todd Palmer

Welcome to The Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host, Steve Gordon. Today, I'm so excited. We're talking with Todd Palmer. I got to tell you, he's got some incredible stuff. He's a renowned thought leader, a CEO, an executive coach, and an author, and he's really committed to improving lives. He works with successful entrepreneurs, and he is a successful entrepreneur multiple times over now himself. He's got a lot to share with you today about how to push forward and get to that next level. He is the CEO of a six-time Inc. 5000 company, so he understands more than just how to work with and coach and advise business owners. He's built his own very successful business, and I think that gives him a really unique perspective. Todd, I'm really excited that you're here today and excited for what we're going to share with everybody. Welcome.

I'm excited to be here. Thanks for having me, and let's get started and see if we can help a few folks today.

Absolutely. Well, to give everybody a little bit of context, can you kind of give them some background so they really understand where you're coming from?

Sure, so yeah. I started my company, Diversified Industrial Staffing, in 1997 for a little bit under $20,000. It was one of those situations where I went to my three favorite funding sources, friends, family and fools, and I was able to borrow some money to get off the ground and, by day 72, we had turned a profit. That gave me a great sense of accomplishment and a great sense of pride thinking, "All right. I've got this business owner's thing licked. I'm 27 years old. I'm profitable. Life is pretty good." We were basically providing people in a state here in Michigan where things were going, at that point, really well. Country was at full employment, so if you had bodies, as a staffing company, you could get people to work tomorrow, very similar to what it is today.

Fast-forward to 2006, we had some tough times ahead of us not knowing what I didn't know. By mid-2006, we were $600,000 in debt, 60 days away from running out of cash. That's when I went out, and I reached out to my network, and I hired a coach. He helped me make some very difficult and tough decisions, and we were able to turn that business around and make it into that six-time Inc. 5000 company that we're enjoying today.

Wow. It's so interesting when I talk to business owners who have been through that part of the cycle. You're up, up, up, and then catastrophe hits. For almost everybody that I talk to, it's 2006 to 2008, and for obvious reasons. Figuring out how to deal with that and move beyond it, and there are a lot of different ways that you can do that, but it takes some real grit to move through that. When you were faced with that, and now when you're faced with challenges, what do you do to really kind of stay focused and keep pressing on and moving forward?

The Power of the Fail Forward Mentality


Well, in 2006, I didn't know how to do that. It was a really difficult time. Like a lot of entrepreneurs probably listening today, I had personally guaranteed the money to the bank. I didn't have it. I had a dysfunctional team in my organization, people that I had hired, people I had chosen. I was really kicking my own butt, suffering from an immense, immense state of imposter syndrome. I just didn't know what I didn't know, and I didn't know where to go. One of the first things I did, like I said, is I hired a coach. Now what I do when I have tough days is I reach out to my network. I'm part of EO, the Entrepreneur's Organization, and I talk to other entrepreneurs and CEOs in that group and get their feedback on some of the struggles I'm faced with.

I look in the mirror. Ultimately, I'm accountable and responsible for the company. It's my baby, and if it's not going well, what can I do differently? Then I really figured out that I have to have a fail-forward mentality, that failure is part of the process. Sometimes that failure means you've hired some of the wrong people, and you have to make changes like, in 2006 in September, I fired my entire company. I started over because I had hired the wrong people. I had to learn from that, and it's a very painful thing to admit. However, had I not made that difficult decision, we would not have turned the business around. We probably would have gone out of business. Potentially, I could have lost everything.

Being the leader, for me, I reach out to my network. I look at my contribution to the situation. I realize that failing is part of the process and, sometimes, in that whole ball of wax, is difficult decisions that need to be made, and heavy is the head that wears the crown of leadership within an entrepreneurial organization. There's no way around it. Entrepreneurs sometimes have to do things they don't want to do.

Yeah. There's no doubt about that. You said a ton of valuable stuff in there. The first one you said was, "Hey, I went out, and I got help," and then you repeated that about three times. It's really interesting. Having been through a similar process at about the same time, I couldn't have made it through had I not been in ... I was in a CEO peer group at the time. Without being able to walk into that room and confidentially share with some other entrepreneurs, "Hey, here's the hand we've been dealt. I don't even know what to do. I don't even begin to know where to start asking the questions ..." Without having that, I couldn't have gotten through it. What I see a lot of entrepreneurs do is they will ... You get into a situation like that, it's embarrassing.

Oh, for sure.

It's like, "I'm not supposed to be here. I'm the successful leader of a business." You want to retreat inside yourself. Was that something that was hard for you to overcome?

Two Sources of Help to Get Through the Toughest Business Problems


Oh, I think we lived the same life, my friend. I definitely retreated within myself. That's where the impostor syndrome really significantly rooted itself because I thought I should have all the ... did a lot of shoulding, "I should have all the answers. I should know what to do. I should be able to do this. I should be able to get my staff to do what needs to be done," all those different things.

A really good friend of mine said to me, "You know, an entrepreneur alone is an entrepreneur at risk, and you are isolating yourself, and you are thinking that you should be embarrassed, where this is all part of the process." That's the challenge I think a lot of entrepreneurs don't know. You don't typically go to college or high school to get a degree in entrepreneurship. You don't typically learn these things when you work for somebody else.

I often explain to the young entrepreneurs that I work with that you got to understand that we are in a very unique position. We're taking a lot of risk hoping for a lot of reward. With that risk comes a lot of fiduciary responsibilities that I didn't even know about. The government gets paid first. Employees get paid second. Vendors get paid third. If you're lucky, you get paid fourth. That's the early startup stages of being an entrepreneur, typically, and I didn't know that. I thought you started a company, and it just worked.

Now you watch TV shows like Shark Tank and different programs like that where they take a four-hour presentation pitch meeting, cut it down to 12 minutes for TV content, and people think, "Oh, wow. These really successful people will just give me money, and I make more money for them." It doesn't typically work that way, so that's ... Like you're saying, the CEO peer-to-peer learning environment, trusted advisors in your back pocket can kind of help guide you because there's so much, as entrepreneurs, that we have to take on, responsibilities we didn't even sometimes know we signed up for but, nonetheless, we still have them.

Yeah. Again, sometimes you just don't even know where to go and what the right questions are to ask. I know I remember feeling like that. It was clear things were going in a bad way economically. Much of that was outside of our control because it had to do with larger markets, but figuring out, "Okay, what is in our control, what can we influence that can start to move us forward?" I couldn't see it, and so that's where that outside help, for me anyway, really came in as somebody who could see the things that I was blind to, and so, yeah, I know the value of that.

Now, clearly, you're a big believer in this. You're now doing this for other businesses. Does it change when you're working with another business owner, and they've come to you, and they've got a situation that is beyond what they're ready to grasp at the moment, and now they're turning to you, and you've got to give them that advice? Is it more difficult? Is it easier?

Well, it's really interesting because it's like sports. You can play the game really well, but can you coach the game really well? Not a lot of people can do both, and that's certainly what I want to do with Extraordinary Advisors is I want to coach people just as well as I've been coached, and I still use a coach. The first thing I say to entrepreneurs that want to potentially engage my services is when it will be ... I drink the Kool-Aid. I still have a coach. I believe in it, and I know I don't know everything.

The other thing that really differentiates between working on my current business, Diversified Industrial Staffing, while coaching people through Extraordinary Advisors is it's so much easier to look at someone else's house and say, "Oh, well, if you just move this furniture around, you're going to have great flow." Within your own business, there's a lot more blind spots sometimes. Hence, that's why I still have a coach. I was just working with a client a couple weeks ago, and we had to have the conversation that, "You revenue is strong, but your margins need to be improved." Within about a two-hour conversation, we moved his margins four points. He had never even thought about it. He didn't see the opportunities.

That's, I think, what coaches can do for people is ... It's like you're renting someone else's cerebral cortex because we get so fight-or-flight and, as entrepreneurs, we get so fear-based, at times, that we just don't see that route through the forest. We just keep running into that same tree. I seem them, really, as two different roles. That's why, for Diversified, I still use a coach to help me, sometimes, navigate those treacherous waters.

I would imagine, too, that it's a little bit easier to look objectively at a business from the outside. You don't have the emotional baggage of having built it all. When you've built it, as much as we all want to say there's no pride of authorship, and I like saying that a lot, well, sometimes there is, I mean, if we're really honest.

Absolutely. It's one of those situations where it's much easier to sometime ... These are our babies, like it or not, and these are ... I often say to entrepreneurs who have struggles in their marriage, I say, "Have you talked to your significant other about your mistress?" "Well, what do you mean?" "Your business is your mistress. It's your pride. It's your joy. You love this thing, and it doesn't always love you back," as you and I both have attested to today. It's a real ... really a valuable thing to take a look at. Why are you doing this?

Don’t Apologize for What You Charge


One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek, and he talks about the power of why. For us at Diversified, but also at EA, we do it to improve lives. If we're improving lives in what we do, the money will come, but we can't also work for free, and we shouldn't apologize for what we charge for, because people need to understand that companies are hiring us as entrepreneurs to solve problems, and they're paying us for our knowledge, not always just for our time slot. You can certainly go, "I'm sure what Warren Buffet's going to charge you per hour versus what Todd Palmer's going to charge you per hour is going to be a little bit different, but I think, with Warren Buffet, you're going to have a different set of expectations."

When people come to me and they go, "Show me how to be a six-time Inc. 5000 company," well, there's a fee for that. This isn't just something that's going to permeate through an organization without blood, sweat, and tears, and the definition of that is put your money where your mouth is. That's were entrepreneurs, I think, can really get lost is they sometimes focus on the cheap and focus on free. We focus on those other things. Well, even the peer-to-peer learning groups that I am part of, there's still a fee of, gosh, $10,000 a year. You got to pay to play sometimes, and you got to spend money to make money.

I think that's the quote of the episode is, "We shouldn't apologize for what we charge." I love it.

Well, we're going to take a quick break. We're going to be back with more from Todd, and we're going to dive into really what it takes to work with a coach and how to be successful with a coach. We'll be right back with more from Todd Palmer.

Hi. This is Steve. I hope you're enjoying this interview. We've got more to come in a minute, but what I'd love for you to do right now is rate this podcast. Leave us a review. Rate us on iTunes. It'll really help others discover the podcast and help us help other CEOs, other business leaders, become unstoppable. If you go to, you can find instructions there and links that will take you right to where you need to go to review the podcast. Thanks so much. Now back to the interview.

Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. Today, I'm talking with Todd Palmer. Todd, you've shared with us kind of your journey and how working with a coach, with a trusted advisor, has kind of shaped your journey. I mean it sounds like, in your first business, it really was the catalyst for rebuilding that business in a really difficult time and turning it into a six-time Inc. 5000 company. In addition to running your main business, you're working and coaching entrepreneurs. With the ones who are really successful with that relationship with you, what do they do that the others don't do?

Well, I think, Steve, that the real differentiator is entrepreneurs, by and large, need to understand that, as a coach, we should vet you just as much as you're vetting us. It's got to be a good relationship because, at the end of the day, we're just two people or me and the CEO and their leadership team working together. You can talk about the four pillars of any kind of business, whether it's cash, strategy, execution, or staff. All those categories are influenced and all those decisions are made by people. The people have to have a certain sense of connectivity.

The Right Way to Work with a Coach


The worst thing you can do is go out and set up a coaching relationship to impress your friends or go to the country club, "Hey, I've got a coach," because, really, the coach's job is to get you where you want to go, and you have to do the work. I can help you see a different vision. I can help you lay out a strategic path. I can help you talk about some bottlenecks that you have with your execution, but I'm not at your business every day. I can't come and do that work. That level of authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability from the CEO to the coach and then back into the organization, I think, is where I see the most transformative change.

Where it typically doesn't work is when the CEO is thinking, "Well, I'm going to hire a coach to help me solve this problem," but really they want the coach to come in and solve the problem or change out team members or put a different direction in. There is no silver bullet with any business I've ever seen. It requires the level of commitment, dedication, and the willingness to be uncomfortable.

One of the things that I find works really well and when with a leadership team is I always make sure the CEO agrees to speak last. Most of the CEOs that I know, we're usually the smartest kids in the room, or we think we're the smartest kids in the room. Sometimes the best ideas are squashed by the CEO and their personality because the team, like children, want to please the CEO. The team want that person, the person who signs their check, to be satisfied and happy. Well, but they may not always have the best answer, so if the emperor has no clothes, it's the team's job to go around the table to figure out, well, what works and what doesn't, and what's the best idea?

That's why I always say to the CEO, "All you have to do is say, 'I really like George's idea,' or, 'I really like Sue's idea.' It could have been your idea, but maybe it wasn't as good as your idea, but you'll never have to own that. Just let the best idea win in the room," because, at the end of the day, there's the owner, the leadership team, but also there's that third entity, which is the business. The business is like a child. It needs tender, loving care. It needs structure. It needs discipline. It's the responsibility of the leader and the leadership team to drive those things, and if the best ideas aren't shared and the best ideas aren't heard, then that third party, that business, doesn't get the tender, loving care it needs.

Yeah. It's funny. As you're describing that, I'm thinking back in my own experience, especially when I was young. I became CEO of my first business at 28, and I didn't know what the heck I was doing. Thinking back to how I would operate and run meetings was awful. It was terrible. I was doing all the things you just described.

The thing that jumped out to me in what you just said was the idea that a business owner may bring in a coach and want kind of the coach to do it. I've always viewed it, and I ... Believe me, I drink the Kool-Aid. I've got four coaches right now for different areas of my life, from fitness all the way through the business and other things, because those are strategic areas that I want to improve. I always look at the role of a coach in two dimensions. Number one, it's to really provide an outside perspective and some outside thinking on the problems that you're facing every day. Number two, it's to hold you accountable.

One of my coaches, which I saw this morning, is a fitness coach, a personal trainer. Okay? She can see things that I can't see. She knows what exercises I should be doing based on me telling her what my goals were, right? She sure as hell holds me accountable, in fact, probably more so than I'd really like some days. What I love about the fitness analogy is that allows you to break it down to something pretty simple that everybody can understand, and that's the way ... If you're going out to work with a business coach, I think that's the approach, as a business owner, you ought to take is, "I'm bringing somebody in because they've got fresh eyes, and they see a lot more businesses than I see, and they're going to have some unique approaches and, once we decide on a plan, they're going to keep me to it."

Right. That's a great comparison. If you think about a fitness program, if you want to drop 20 pounds, you're not going to lose 20 pounds in a week. If you lose 2 pounds a week for 10 weeks, it's a successful program. A lot of times, when businesses are in crises or they've reached that glass ceiling, they want instant change, an instant quick fix. I always say to my clients, "If you can change your business 1% per week over a 52-week period, you've made a 50% turnover in your organization, whether it's with strategy, execution. If you've got cash problems, how do we get more cash in the door? How do we improve your margins?" That stuff's not going to occur over night. No different than if you want to get into, like you said, a fitness program. You want to be able to lift ... go from benching 200 pounds to benching 300 pounds. It's not going to happen in a week, but those little, small, incremental steps need to occur.

I think, as leaders, one of the best areas of opportunity that we have during that iterative process is to celebrate the victories with the team because so many entrepreneurs don't do it. They're all focused on the end goal. Those little steps along the way, you'd be surprised what kind of loyalty and what kind of team environment you can build when you celebrate those small victories.

Yeah, I can imagine, and particularly when you're trying to transition through challenges, even if they're not like 2006-to-2008-type challenges, but even just the little stuff that comes up. It's so easy for us, as entrepreneurs, to focus on the negative, the bad stuff. We rarely pay enough attention to the successes. I know I'm guilty of that. In fact, I try and be really proactive now of writing that stuff down. Otherwise, I forget about it.

You work with a lot of different types of business. Who's kind of in your sweet spot? If somebody's listening to this and they go, "Yeah, I really ... I need to get a coach to get to that next level," who's sort of the perfect person for your firm?

Well, for me, the perfect person is an entrepreneur who has that lifelong learner mindset, the entrepreneur who recognizes, "I know I don't know everything. I don't know, necessarily, where I need to go, but I recognize that I need help." So many entrepreneurs are very ego-driven. I was ego-driven. Sometimes I'm still ego-driven. It's just part of the deal. It's part of who we are. You can have a strong sense of self, but pride and ego don't care about anything else. So it's clear, confidence is good, having too much ego typically doesn't work.

I use a vetting tool to find out if I'm going to be a good fit because hiring a coach is an acquired taste. My style is not going to work for someone as well as someone else's style might work, so it's a very individual choice, but first and foremost is are you coachable? Are you willing to make change, and are you willing to roll up your sleeves? Because my style is very different than a lot of coaches.

One, most coaches have never owned a business, by and large. Two, we have attained a nice track record of success, so that means I'm about being accountable. You just got to be that way. If you're not accountable, it's not going to work really well. Three, I want to walk the path with my clients. I have a very strict program. I do four quarterly meetings, but I do twice-a-month calls with either the CEO or the CEO and their leadership team to check the pulse. Where are we? Are we on track, or are we off track? Are we hitting our KPIs?

A lot of coaches just kind of fly in, fly out on a quarterly basis. I think there's so much that can be accomplished with quicker touch points, shorter durations between connections, and that's, for me ... I just absolutely get jazzed. I had a call with a client this morning. The movement they've had in three weeks is phenomenal. One, I'm so proud of the entrepreneur because he's sticking to what he said he was going to do even though he's had tough times. Two, his team now believes in him, where maybe they had some doubts before. Just to hear this group of people try to go in the same direction, on the same path, even with some stumbles along the way ... One person's off track, the team's now bringing that person back on track with his rocks. It's so incredibly rewarding.

If someone wants to do the same as it ever was, to just kind of just slowly bump along and really wants to be not goal-focused and not willing to be vulnerable and transparent about why they're not hitting things, then I am definitely not a good fit for them.

Yeah. I could imagine they wouldn't last very long with your approach to things.

Where is the best place for people to go and find out more about what you're doing and your approach to working with entrepreneurs?

Yeah. The best place to find out more about us would be at We've got a lot of our information up there. I do keynote speeches. I'll come in and do a workshop if that's required or, certainly, the CEO and executive-level coaching. In fact, what I'd like to offer to your audience today, Steve, is anybody who mentions, on the website, that they want to meet with me or talk with me, and they mention that they heard me on your podcast, I'd be happy to give them an hour of my time for free.

To me, that's really an opportunity to pay it back to the people who have paid it forward through me. So many people, whether it's been the people in my EO chapter or just great conversations with other entrepreneurs around the country who have just given me their time, this is the least I can do to help pay it forward, that mentality that an entrepreneur alone is an entrepreneur at risk. Let's not have that. Even if it's just somebody I talk to one time, you just never know. That one message from one person could change the course of things, and that ... so I'm happy to offer that to your audience today.

Oh, thank you. That's really, really generous, and I appreciate that. I know there will be some folks that will want to take you up on that. Where will they go? Where should they go on your website to take advantage of that?

Just go to the Contact Us page of My assistant, Kelly, will get you put onto my calendar, and we can have a conversation.

Very good. Well, that's a really generous offer. Thank you for sharing that with our audience. Todd, it's been fantastic talking with you. We could go on and on for hours, but I know time is precious. It's just been a blast getting to know you a little bit and talking about your approach today on the interview.


Thank you for being a guest.

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Philip Morgan | The secrets of leveraging "specialization" to win higher fees


Tired of getting beat up by low-ball competitors?

The truth is that every business and profession is commoditized...

That's the market reality...

But it doesn't have to be your reality.

In fact, I love this quote from Seth Godin...

Commodities are in the eye of the producer. If you don't want to sell something that's judged merely on price, then don't.

My guest on this episode of The Unstoppable CEO Podcast is Philip Morgan, and he's an expert at specialization.

He's got a great process that will help you figure out how to specialize, and how to escape the commodity trap...

In the interview we cover:

  • Why you should specialize
  • How to overcome the fear of losing out on opportunities
  • Why specialization actually speeds up client acquisition
  • The importance of frequent communication with your market (and one unusual side effect)
  • How to use specialization as a launching pad for increasing your fees and reducing the complexity of your business

And so much more...

Listen to Steve Gordon and Philip Morgan Now

Episode Timeline

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Philip Morgan. He helps businesses make better positioning decisions and is the author of The Positioning Manual For Technical Firms

01:03 Philip tells us how he got to be an expert in positioning after becoming unemployed in 2008.

05:14 Steve talks about the pushback he gets when he advises companies to reduce the number of clients.

05:58 Philip explains the immediate benefits of reducing and specializing.

08:28 Philip explains how publishing to his email list 5 days a week helped his business more than anything.

10:18 Philip explains how he is an “unlicensed professional” and talks more about email marketing.

13:36 Steve and Phil talk about the difficulty of coming up with new ideas for email marketing but also the benefits that that difficulty brings.

16:40 Steve talks about the self taught skills he achieved through publishing frequently.

18:40 Philip talks about the importance of having a point of view.

22:34 Philip explains how he approaches his clients about positioning.

28:32 Philip talks about how we tend to focus on the loss rather than the gain and rappelling clients you don’t need.

31:11 Philip explains how you should take the chance and make the decision when the opportunity presents itself.

34:08 Steve talks about the benefits of learning on the job when going in a new direction.

36:17 Philip and Steve talks about the negative thoughts such as Imposter Syndrome.

42:21 Philip gives a great example from his own podcast of someone who specialised down to just 6 clients.

45:48 Philip tells us how best to get in touch with him.

Mentioned in this Episode

Transcript: Steve Gordon interviews Philip Morgan

Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I'm your host Steve Gordon and today, I think you're just gonna get a ton out of this interview. I'm talking with Philip Morgan and Philip helps small development shops make better positioning decisions and he's also the author of the Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. Now, whether you're running a software development business or not, the things that we're gonna cover today on positioning are going to apply to you. I know we've got a diverse audience, but I know this is gonna be very, very important for you, if you're running any kind of professional service business. Philip, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. Great to have you on.

Thanks so much, Steve. Really happy to be here.

I guess, maybe give everybody a little bit of context. How did you get to this point in your career? What makes you an expert in positioning?

I think the short answer is a lot of pain. I got into self-employment accidentally. I was recently looking at a Bureau of Labor Statistics graph about employment numbers and the self-employment landscape seemed to change dramatically right at the time I got into self-employment and if I made you guess, you'd probably guess right. You'd say 2008 because that's when a lot of companies downsized and a lot of things went wrong that were going well, so I became unemployed in 2008 along with everybody else that I worked with at this particular company. I said, very arrogantly at the time, I was like I can do better than that. The company I was working for had the classic whale client problem, so their whale client stopped spending money in 2008 and things just dried up very quickly for them and I was like, I'll never make that mistake again. That's such an easy mistake to avoid. Classic beginner mistake. I'm gonna go out and work for myself and I'll get it right. Of course, I made the exact same mistake a few years later, myself. It's intoxicating to have one client that seems like they can support your whole business and you feel like, oh, I don't need to do business development. I don't need to figure out how to get other clients. I've got this one great client.

The Danger of the Whale Client


You can trick yourself into thinking it's gonna last for forever. I did that and then the pain came in when I said, well ... I didn't say it can't work. It just didn't work and what happened next was a lot of on the job learning about how to do business development and eventually, I got the message that narrowing your focus in one of what turns out to be five different ways, you can do it, is really effective. It's like there's things you can do that have all these secondary side effects and this has a lot of positive secondary side effects, so marketing started to actually work for me for the first time in my life. Before that, I would write blog articles because I heard that's a great way to do marketing and nothing would happen. I would go to networking events and nothing would happen. After that change of narrowing down my focus, specializing, otherwise known as positioning yourself, lots of things got better. I don't want to portray this as a magic bullet because it requires other things. It requires work, it requires time, it requires courage, it requires discipline, but in terms of a single decision you can make for your business that has all these cascading beneficial other affects, it was a big one.

I did that and it was revolutionary for me and so I wrote about it and it was a book that people responded to well, a self-published book called The Positioning Manual and then it was a really wonderful virus that took over my business because not a lot of other people ... There's Al Reese. There's others. That David Baker you interviewed not too long ago. There are others, they've all talked about this subject, but nobody had talked about it for self-employed software developers, so I said well, I'll do that. The book is two and a half years old, now. It's been selling steadily since then and it's become what I do. it's the main part of my business, is I help self-employed software developers decide how to specialize, which sounds super simple, maybe but it's a decision that comes with a lot of fear and emotional baggage.

How Focus Accelerates Success


The amount of fear. I don't think it's a simple decision at all. We go through the same thing with our clients who are maybe a little more diverse in terms of their industries, but the look of panic in the eyes of business owners that I see when I say, look you're serving 15 people. You need to pick one. It's just incredible to watch. I know why it happens. You feel like you're giving up opportunity. I don't know what your experience has been, but ours has been that every time that a client makes the decision, all of a sudden their results immediately accelerate and it's really fun to watch.

Yeah, there's a part of it that works like an investment. You don't get a return on investment right away. Then, there's another part, which I think is the part where you're identifying. It's an immediate thing. It's like when you quit a job that you hated. Some of the effects take a while to accumulate, but then there's this immediate relief of, in the case of quitting the job, I don't have to go back and keep doing that thing I hated. In the case of deciding how to specialize, the feeling is, oh my gosh, I finally am out of this realm of uncertainty and trying to understand 50 different dance moves and I can just do the one that I know is gonna resonate with this type of client that I've chosen to focus on. That's not the only way to decide to specialize, but you're right. I've seen it multiple times, this immediate freeing up of, oh things are simpler, now. Things are easier and the things that I'm talking about are what do I say to my client to get them interested in my services? Well, not my clients, but my prospective clients. What do I say to them?

Yeah, I always equate it to the, hey I'm about to buy a brand new car and once I decide what the car is gonna be, I see them everywhere. I never noticed them before. The opportunities to go after any particular market are all around you all the time, but if you're not focused on any market and you're just broadly going out looking for any client that you can find, they're all invisible to you, but the minute that you make the decision and say, okay I'm going out for that type of car, now you see those opportunities everywhere. I think it's the biggest, most important change you can make in a business. Now, before you got to this point where you got all this clarity and this direction, we're in 2018 and it sounds like the watershed event was in 2007, 2008, somewhere in there. Over the course of the last 10 years, I'm sure it wasn't a straight line path or an easy path to get to the point where you're at now and to build the business. Sounds like you had to discover this whole process of positioning for yourself. What was that like and how did you stay persistent through all of that?

I think it took me a while. I'm gonna say something that maybe doesn't seem like the answer to your question. What I'm gonna say is publishing to an email list five days a week. I'm gonna say daily, but I really mean five days a week, not seven days a week. I think people are gonna say well, if you're publishing five days a week, I think you've earned the right to say daily, there. This is a little later. Ultimately, I would credit that ... Now, it's a habit. It did not start out that way, but I would credit that activity with more of ... That's done more to make my business what it is, today than almost anything else other than specializing. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I think that's great. In fact, maybe we can have a support group for daily emailers. I did it for four years and finally backed away a couple of years ago. You can say daily when it's five days a week. That counts.


It's a big commitment. I know when I first started, I had all kinds of people telling me this was the stupidest idea I'd ever undertake, that I'd drive people away and they wouldn't want to hear from me. I also know that building that habit and communicating like that with your audience gives you the opportunity to discover much more quickly what really works and what doesn't. What causes your audience to move closer towards doing business with you.

The Secret Power of Frequent Communication with Prospects


There's definitely a trust building and marketing aspect to it and I think one of the more profound things about it is ... Let's take a step back. I am an unlicensed professional. You might be, too. I don't know anything about your background, but if you don't have the letters MD or CPA or what is it? JDA for attorneys. If you don't have letters like that behind your name, you're an unlicensed professional. I don't mean that in a dismissive way. If you think of it as a tribe or group, that's the group I'm a part of. I'm specifically trying to help people who are also part of that group and in that world, how expertise is developed is different than if you're a medical doctor or a CPA. There's usually not much in the way of formal training for us unlicensed professionals. What do you do to develop expertise? This is so related to specialization. If you're gonna specialize, I think what you're doing is saying I'd like to be valued for my expertise ultimately. Maybe not on day one. On day one, it's I just want to know who I should be trying to connect and build trust with. Who am I marketing to, in other words.

That's the day one benefit. Maybe the day 600 benefit or the day 900 benefit is I have expertise that can command a premium price because I've focused on this type of client or this type of problem or whatever it is. That's where you want to get and so I'm very interested with how you get there. How do you get to that point where you can credibly claim to have expertise that is super valuable. You can do on the job learning, of course and we all do that anyway, but I think if you commit to a daily publishing habit, I don't say a writing habit because you might not write. You might stick an iPhone in front of your face and record a short video. You might have a podcast that publishes at high frequency. It could be any kind of media, but publishing daily to an audience, email is wonderful because you, to an extent know who your audience is. You've got a list of email addresses at least and you know that at least some of them are opening and reading and paying attention to what you have to say. That's different than publishing a blog where it's anonymous tracking, essentially.

Doing that daily, I think gets you quickly past what I think of as the superficial level of expertise, which is I know a little bit about a lot of things and it quickly gets you to the point where ... Here's where I want to ask you a question, Steve. When you were emailing daily, did you get to a point where you thought you said everything you had to say? I don't know if you were just relentlessly selling something or teaching a little bit. I'm not sure exactly how you did it, but I'm curious if you got to a point where it got real hard to come up with new idea.

I actually did and I was about four years into it, so in the neighborhood of 1,000 emails. We weren't selling something on every one of those emails. Most of them were pretty short. 250, 300 words, just a thought, an opinion, an idea that hopefully would help the reader and also transmit a little bit or convey a little bit of my expertise, but I will tell you that the act of writing and the thinking that is required to write something with a reasonable amount of clarity does more to, I think this is the point that you're trying to make, is it does more, at least it did for me, to hone and develop my craft for lack of a better way to say it, than just about anything else I've ever done.

I have the same experience. If your point of view on something and there are experts who don't have a point of view, and there are experts who do. The ones who do have an advantage in the kind of business that I think some of your audience has. If you have a point of view that's flimsy and not well thought out, you will plumb the depths of it in 90, 120 days. Very quickly you'll reach the limits. If you have a ... If you feel like you have something to teach, but you've never actually taught it before, you'll find out what you don't know very quickly. That's when it gets hard. For me, it was brutally hard for the first 90 days to publish at that frequency and then it became easier, but the other thing I like about it is it's a sort of accelerator for your expertise. You'll find out where your limits are and then if you commit to doing it even though you feel like you're tapped out, you'll go beyond those limits and that produces this growth of expertise or you talked about insight into understanding an audience, it can do that too.

Let me tell you, when you start publishing daily, even if you're writing stuff that's not very good you'll hear from people because you'll worm your way into their lives in a way that's different. I call it high frequency publication and I set the bar at three times a week. Just different than anything that's not high frequency publication. Now, you can do that also with really powerful, insightful stuff that's published less frequently, but I think if there's one thing that's accessible to anybody, it's publishing daily. Now, I feel like I'm on a rant about this, but your question was what's kept me going? That's one thing that has for sure kept me going. There are other things, but I can point to that because it's so easy to understand. You just publish something five or seven days a week.

I will tell you it is so easy to understand. It's so easy to commit to. I don't know how it is for you, but it was really hard sometimes to keep it going.

Oh, for sure, yeah.

A lot of other things want to get in the way. I will tell you, though I've written two books. We've now committed to doing a book a quarter and the skill that I developed in writing that frequently, which was getting ideas on paper quickly that were coherent enough for people to understand, is what now has allowed ... I mean, I wrote the first book in two months. I wrote the last one in eight hours. Not a long, long book, but enough. Having that skill, today I think is a huge competitive advantage and that's one of the things that publishing frequently allows you to do. The other thing that you mentioned, which I think is really, really important is this idea of your point of view or your world view. This is the way things should be done in my profession. I think the one really cool thing about being in the types of businesses that we're in is that you get to have a world view. If you're in the product business, yeah, you can have that and that helps with the differentiation and certainly there are businesses that use it over there, but in my mind it's the killer app for professionals.

I've been, as you described it, I've been both a licensed and an unlicensed professional over the last 25 years. Different industries, but the one common denominator through all that, that made both of those businesses successful is that we have really strong points of view and we shared them. Instead of the crowd's all together huddled around, we were way outside the crowd.

I'm very interested in this question of ... Some folks who are listening to this, I think I would bet money, say that sounds great. In fact, I know what that looks like because some of the people I look up to or I admire or follow, they have that.

Without a doubt.

Then, if you don't have that because you have been operating more as a technician, let's say, like my clients tell me what to do. I just do it for them. My clients tell me what to build. I build it for them or I feel like I am an expert at whatever; software development, SCO marketing, but I just do what other people say are the best practices. There's gonna be a portion of listeners who lack a point of view and that's the first thing, is to not be happy about that, to be dissatisfied with it. The first step is awareness. I'm not saying everybody has to have a point of view, but like you, Steve I agree that it's this huge X factor. It's a super power. It's an accelerant. The question probably becomes, well, have you developed a point of view? I think one answer to that is you don't try. You do something that forces you to do it as a secondary side effect and I would contend that high frequency publication will force that to happen, if you stick with it.

There's lots of reasons people maybe started and stopped and I think that one of them is they reach a limit and they're like, "I don't have anything more to say. I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't really have much more to say about this." You can either stop or you keep going, be uncomfortable with that for a while and you create the conditions under which you develop a point of view, I think. Maybe it seems crazy to folks, but again, that's all my long winded answer to what's kept me going.

I think it's a great answer. Let's pause here. We're gonna be back in just a second with more from Philip. I want to dive in, when we come back, into the really nuts and bolts of positioning your business, so stick around. We're gonna be back in just a few seconds.

Hi, this is Steve. I hope you're enjoying this interview. We've got more to come in a minute, but what I'd love for you to do right now is rate this podcast. Leave us a review. Rate us on iTunes. It'll really help others discover the podcast and help us help other CEOs, other business leaders become unstoppable. If you go to you can find instructions there and links that will take you right to where you need to go to review the podcast. Thanks very much. Now, back to the interview.

5 Ways to Specialize Your Firm


Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I'm here talking with Philip Morgan. Philip, we got off talking about high frequency communication and talking about developing your point of view, which I think is a really good lead in to the whole idea of positioning because I think it's essential to position. Maybe, not so much the high frequency communication. I think that's the method that I think is most effective to get to the point where you've got that really well defined point of view. Now, if we turn a little bit and start talking about how to put it in place, this idea of positioning in someone's business. How do you approach that with your clients when you're working with them?

I was gonna say the glib answer is, well you just decide to focus on it. One type of client or one type of problem you solve and you're done. That's it. I think we can do a lot better than that, though. There's this idea of positioning and I think of that as your reputation among a group of people. I have a reputation as someone who helps people with this process and that's my marketing position. How you get there, I think is you decide to specialize. I'll give a little bit of a mini lecture on the options. I think that might be a good place to start out. Just as we do that, you have to keep in mind that I'm gonna make this sound very clear and very simple, hopefully and I recognize 100% that it is rarely that clear and simple in reality for most people. Although, there's a segment of the population I've noticed that they can hear how to do it and they can just go do it. I don't know what to call them. Super achievers. I'm not quite sure. They're usually very risk tolerant and they usually trust themselves a lot.

I wouldn't hazard a guess as to what percentage of the population fits that bucket, but there's a bucket who are like, "Don't make it so complicated. You decide, you do it and you get the results." I commend you, if you're in that bucket. There's five ways you can specialize. I know that folks who have been listening to your show will have heard David Baker at least talk about horizontal versus vertical specialization and within each of those two, a lot of this is gonna be a little more particular to people who work in technology. There's some sub options, so you can special vertically in an industry. You can say, I want to work with cosmetic dentists. I want to work with additive manufacturing companies. I want to work with management consultants those are all pretty specific verticals and you have to do your due diligence on things like, first of all, do they need what you provide? Is the market the right size? Some things have to check out. Something else that you might think about is what credibility do you have? That's the first way you can specialize.

The second would be to specialize in an audience. A good an example of an audience of companies would be mission driven organizations. You're gonna have mission driven organizations scattered across different verticals, but that's way to group together companies that share something in common and say, we're gonna go after those kinds of companies or we think we create the most value for them or we have the most in common with them, so we're gonna pick that type of company. Horizontally, you can specialize in a business problem. We help companies for whom their lunch is being eaten by Amazon, fight back. That would be an example of a business problem that cuts across different verticals. The other option is what most software developers naturally are inclined to do, that turns out to be the least effective option for building a business and that is they specialize in a technology platform. I'm gonna get really good at developing software in Rails, for example. That's picking a technology platform and that's actually a very vulnerable market position because there's this real boom bust thing that happens with technology platforms. Right now, you say I want to help people implement and customize Salesforce. It's high cotton for you, if that's what you're doing.

Five to seven years from now, maybe Salesforce is not doing so well. Maybe the platform is not as healthy. Maybe they do like Twitter has done and made it really hard for third party developers to integrate. Not saying they're likely to do that, but something like that could happen. That makes your market position less valuable because of stuff that is completely outside of your control. I tend to discourage that fourth option. The fifth option for specialization is to customize how you deliver your services. Sometimes, this looks like productizing your services or sometimes it looks like a really unique service delivery model. I think of Pia Silva who runs this company called Worst of All Design. She does a branding and website package in two days. It's repellent to people who want this high touch, really, I'm gonna say inefficient, but I don't really mean that. I just mean this high touch expensive process for branding, but it's absolute catnip to people who are like, "I just need something simple and it needs to be done, so I can move on and focus on something else." That's the fifth way you can specialize, is customize how you deliver your services.

You're less concerned about narrowing down your focus to a particular vertical or a particular horizontal and you're more concerned about a service deliver model that you know is gonna be catnip to a certain type of client. Go ahead, Steve.

I was just gonna say, you said a really important word there and the word was repellent. I think we're all sometimes way too afraid to go out and do anything that we know is actively going to repel a certain type of client because they might show up. They might. There is the slimmest of chances that someone might show up with a bag of money and give it to us.

I'm gonna interrupt you and say real quick, I'm gonna hasten to say ... Sorry for the interruption, but we all want to repel clients that pay late, that are a pain to work with, that don't take our advice seriously, that hire us to build something and then never launch it or never take it to the next step. We all want to repel those kind of clients, so to me you're already used to thinking about doing that. Now, you're just thinking, well you're just extending that idea to I would like to repel clients. We focus on the loss without focusing on the corresponding gain. You touched on this earlier when you mentioned opportunity. We're just afraid to miss out on any opportunity.

I think that attitude is forged in the fires, if you will of scarcity and a lot of us do start our business with a scarcity like we don't have enough clients to be busy and we maintain that attitude of clients are scarce and hard to find way beyond its useful lifetime. That all relates to what you're talking about, which is that if you can embrace this idea of repelling clients in service of attracting the kind of clients you really want, then it's not about repelling clients. It's just about attracting clients and the repelling clients is just gonna happen naturally. I'm not sure I'm being super clear about that, but I agree. It's a very important idea.

No, I think you're very clear. I always tell our clients, like you want to create this experience in the future client that you're communicating with, that when they see anything that you send to them, they go, "Wow. He's talking about me," or "She's talking about me." If you can give them ... I very literally mean that experience. They look at it and they go, "Oh, wow. That is exactly me."

Yeah, they're looking for the hidden camera in their office that you've placed there.

Yes, and that's easier ... That's not the right way to say it, but it’s actually easy to do assuming that you have made the decision to specialize. Sorry, if I took us down a little bit of a rabbit hole there, but I think it's a really critical topic.

I agree. There's a perfect segue to the next big question. How do you make that decision? I have just described the five decisions you can make in general terms, but how do you actually decide? That's where a lot of my work over the last year or two has been. The mistake I made years ago was to treat everybody the same and to say anybody that's considering making this decision, they just need to pick something and go with it or they need to go after the biggest opportunity or they need to look at their roster of previous client experience, their previous life experience perhaps and find a head start and then build on that head start. I've just described three ways you can go about making that decision. One is, find a head start. One is delegate it to chance. I have jokingly suggested that if you're having trouble deciding, go to the website, print out a list of industries, throw a dart. It'll land on something like finance or manufacturing. Go back to the website, drill into that vertical and find a sub vertical. Print that out, throw a dart at that and now you've made your decision.

Of course, I'm joking. Most people would not take me seriously for good reason, but yet if you refuse to make the decision, I think things are gonna go worse for you than if you delegated it to chance. In a way I'm not joking, but that would be the second way is delegate it to chance and then the third way would be to look for an entrepreneurial opportunity and say something like, I really see a lot of life coaches and these other independent small businesses wanting to create online courses because that's currently a hot topic and I'm gonna help them do that. By the way, I don't really have any experience doing that, but I'll just learn how to do it on the job because surely, I can do a better job than they can if I'm focused on it full time, and they're focused on it part time. By definition, I have more resources to figure it out. That would be going after an entrepreneurial opportunity, which is very risky and beyond the risk tolerance of most of the people I work with.

Most of the people I work with are gonna look for a headstart and that's gonna be the appropriate way that they decide. That's, to me another very interesting aspect of this is there's a know thyself component of understanding how you manage risk in your business and your life and then there's another aspect of, based on that, which opportunities should you exclude from consideration because they're too risky?

I think for most people, there's something that within an hour at the bar or an hour at Starbucks having coffee or something stronger, they can draw on in their past and whether it's an affinity or a particular skill, I think in either of those places, there's something there that you can take and you can move forward with. I know that you feel the entrepreneurial opportunity approach is maybe a little more risky or most people perceive it as being risky and the reason that I think that is, is that they think, my goodness, I'm supposed to be a professional. I'm supposed to have practiced my profession, honed it and developed expertise. While all of that is true, I'm surely not suggesting you go out and do something you're wholly unqualified for. If you're someone who is in the technology world, taking your example of setting up online courses, by the time you get to doing that, the second round for someone, you've now done it 100% more than every client you're every gonna get from here on out.

In other words, you're twice the expert they are. Getting to that point of having enough expertise to deliver a competent service and at the end of the day, provide value for that client, which for most of us in any kind of service business there's two levels of value. There's the value they get from the results, but there's also tremendous value that they get in the time that they have now not had to invest to go create that result on their own. Even if you maybe deliver them a result that isn't the absolute most optimized thing in the world. If it's good enough and still gets them a result, it tends to be a really good value for them because they haven't had to invest in time.

Yeah, I think there's a couple of interesting things there. You described a process and there's making the decision. Let's say you get to that point. You decided, I think I have a head start here or I've always been pretty risk tolerant in terms of spending money and speculatively spending time and energy. Maybe that means I'm a pretty risk tolerant person, so I'm gonna go after some entrepreneurial opportunity. What almost immediately happens is a buyer's regret about the decision. I want to spend a minute talking about that because you haven't had a chance to implement. You've not had a chance to start. You're not changing a website. You're not changing your approach to business development. You've not got to that implementation stage. The decision is not real, yet. You can easily start doing what I've seen a lot of people do, which is entering this recursive loop of self-doubt and questioning the decision because you're lacking any kind of feedback from the marketplace about the decision. You're stuck in your head. Imposter syndrome maybe is a problem for a lot of us. That comes out of nowhere. You have a bout of imposter syndrome and you say, "Gosh, who am I to do this," or "Who am I to claim to be a specialist?" Not even an expert. Just a specialist in some area.

That's a common one or you start to question the basis upon which you've made the decision. You're like, "Well, I don't have any real evidence here. Maybe I just got lucky. Yeah, I've had 10 clients in finance and they were all great, but maybe those are the only 10 good clients out there and I just happened to get them." We start having this almost magical thinking that your decision is somehow flawed or based on bad evidence. That's something people should be aware of and the best remedy I have for that is to have an intermediate stage before you implement the decision for real and maybe you just reach out to some companies that are in the space and you have conversations and you see what it feels like it depends on the person. I can't really give a universal prescription here for what to do about this illness that flares up except that if you're pretty detail oriented and you're not a big risk taker, the main thing that will help at that point is some evidence to get you out of your head and get you in conversation with people in this area that you decided to focus on.

Then, you can move more, I think boldly and with less reservations into implementing it, which is making it real in the world. That takes time. It's not an overnight thing. We've talked about some of the things that happen very quickly, this clarity about who you're focusing on and so forth, but like you said, Steve, it takes time to build up the confidence in your own expertise unless you're just one of those rare people who just seem to not question themselves that way.

It's so funny you mentioned that. I'm listening to you, sitting here thinking, yeah okay. I'm eight years into building this business and I remember about six years ago thinking, boy did I pick the wrong direction. I was almost drawn back to that time when I felt really unsure of things. I think it's a natural part of the process.

If I can jump in, it's a mark of intelligence, that whole Dunning Kruger study. It's a mark of intelligence if you question your own capability. It's usually a good thing, but it can also be a self-defeating thing if you give it too much air time in your own thinking.

I think for most people, and you mentioned it a moment ago, the idea of getting caught in your own head. For most of us, we get caught in our own head, get in this echo chamber going around in our brain and there are very few markets that are truly limited. I have a good friend who sells training software to all of the states in the United States. He's only really got about 50 potential clients. Probably not that many. I think there are a couple of states that actually don't use this type of training. He's got fewer than that. That's a tight, scarce market. For most of us, though we're dealing in markets where there are so many clients that even as we specialize, they're more than we can ever serve in not just one lifetime, but in 10 lifetimes. I think it's useful to remind yourself that. The way that I went about that, because I gotta tell you it really hit me hard about two years into the business thinking, I've overspecialized.

I was having a conversation with a friend and she said, "What are you worried about? There's seven and a half billion people on the planet. There's plenty of people out there and enough of them do what you need to do that you probably wouldn't have to leave our little town." I lived in a pretty small town in Florida. You'd be just fine. I started thinking about that, so I put a little thing up on the wall behind my computer monitor that I could see and I left it up there for about six months that said, "Remember, there's seven and a half billion people here. You're gonna be okay." Just having that little reminder to get yourself out of your head will help you get through that, I think and keep going and that's the trick, because you've got to figure out how to get out of it and keep moving forward because it can become paralyzing.

There's plenty of evidence. It's not always easy to interpret, but it's not that hard to find. At least here in the United States, US government has lots of data on how many businesses are there in manufacturing that have between this number of employees and this number of employees? That's in what's called the American Fact Finder. Again, navigating their interface is not a joy. Quite the opposite, but it's there. It's there if you look for it, but we have all these cognitive biases that cause us to under appreciate the amount of data that's out there that can help us make these decisions and we do that because we can't spend an unlimited time thinking about every little aspect of the world. The world is a very big complicated place, but that general idea that it's probably an iceberg, you're probably seeing the tip of it and there's much more of it under the service, tends to hold true and I've only seen a few people who can just trust that idea to be true. I know a guy in Turkey who, here's what he does. He helps executives at a certain type of investment company give better presentations.

That's very specific in terms of what he does and he decided he was just gonna focus on the market in Istanbul. This is a person I've interviewed, so you can hear more about this in the interview I did on my podcast, but that was a market of six clients for him. That takes real courage and real trust in this idea that the market's actually bigger, but that's inevitably what happens. You get into it and you say, "Oh, wow. I didn't realize ... " I mean, it's a number of ways it could go from that point. "I didn't realize what I do is equally valuable for not just this type of investment company, but this other type of bank." Sorry, I meant to say bank there and my voice cracked. "What I do, there's actually 500 of these companies worldwide. I'm happy to get on a plane, if they'll pay my rate, but there were only six in Istanbul," or "I thought there were six, but there's actually a few that don't really advertise, so I didn't know about them." Anyway, I'm not trying to bore folks. I'm just saying it's almost always a bigger part of that iceberg, if you know where to look for it and if you are terrified of this decision, then I recommend that you get on a diving suit and see what the underneath of the iceberg looks like before you decide.

If you can just trust yourself and your instincts, then the chances that you will choose wrongly are vanishingly low. Just make the choice and go for it. Sounds like that may be what you did, Steve.

Yeah, something like that. Well, Philip we could probably go on and on for hours and I know we're about at the end of our schedule time and I want to be respectful of your time. For folks listening, whether you've recognized it or not at this stage, there is some real gold in what we've just talked about. I encourage you to go back and listen to it multiple times and I also encourage you to go and connect with Philip, particularly if you're in any kind of technical business. Philip, what's the best place for people to go and find you?

I like folks to dip a toe into this idea at There's a free email course they can sign up for. I feel like that's a good starting point. It's not so much about me as it is about this idea and whether now is a good time for you to make these changes to your business. If you've been in business for more than a year or two, it probably is, but the best way is to learn more about it at

Perfect. We will link that in the show notes, so if you're listening to this and didn't catch that, just go to You'll find all of that in the show notes and it'll be linked there. You can find it easily. Philip, it's been an absolute pleasure. Like I said, I could go on and on this topic for hours with you and have a great time doing it. Thank you so much for investing some time with me today and I know that for everybody listening, I know they got a ton of value out of it, so thanks again.

My pleasure, Steve. Thanks for having me.