Helping people is one thing. Committing your life to inspire others to help more people succeed is another. Nancy J. Spotton is someone who is living what her heart is singing for—helping people succeed by building champion teams that build future leaders who will change the world. In this episode, Ben Baker sits down with Nancy to talk about how she started on her inspiring journey and how she goes about instilling people the belief that they too can be a leader. She goes deeper into what makes a good leadership training program, what makes a good leader, and what makes a team better. Putting that into the business context, Nancy then shares what companies and CEOs need to do to enable the cultural changes that allow leaders to become true leaders and not just managers of process.
We have a special treat coming to you from Toronto. Nancy Spotton has decided to join me. We have been talking online for it seems like forever. Nancy, welcome to the show.
Ben, it's nice to be with you.
We talk all the time over LinkedIn and we never get to see each other. I've been a passionate follower of yours for a long time. I love how you elevate people. I love how the fact that you reach down, rise up, give people that hand, elevate them, and inspire people to be better than they understand that they can be. Why don't we start by letting people know a little bit about who you are, what you do, what are the things that you're passionate about, and then we can get into where you’re going.
I had a luxury and privilege of working inside some of Canada's best companies with some of Canada's best leaders. That was many years of my career. During that career, what I did was at the same time on the side of the corner of my desk, I would always use the privilege that I had access to and help other people. Whether it was Laura who cleaned the bathroom mirrors or whether it was a kid who was an intern, it would always be something that I would actively proactively do. If people would lean in and ask for my help, I'd always help.
What I realized was that many years into my career, I got diagnosed with cancer. I came out the other end after 2.5 years of fighting. I'm standing there out of the hospital, I turned my face to the sun and I asked myself my own question, “What makes my heart sing?” I said, “Helping people,” so I made this whole commitment to helping other people succeed. I set a goal to help 100 people succeed. That's where the journey started. I went back and I got my Master’s. I tried all of these little tests and how can I do it and do it effectively? My vision comes down to this. I like to build what I call HOPS communities. That's Helping Other People Succeed.
I work and invest my time, effort, and money into a generation of new leaders, that are people both from a profile but also from their values and their beliefs. Those people actively proactively turn around and help another person. That's where I put time and effort. We'll commit forever to do this because it makes my heart sing. I was lucky enough to have a generous career where I learned a ton from good people and good companies. It's my opportunity to give back and I call them the network that I've built to help me help other people. It's like this live learning ecosystem where I help you, you help me, and we help one another. It's like this Avon calling multi-marketing, but it's a learning and leadership development process. That's what good leaders do. They help each other succeed.
I love the Avon analogy and that's phenomenal. Using the in-sync attitude about the leadership I do. Leadership is an attitude. It's not a title. It is that leaders can be built at every single level. It doesn't matter if you're an intern within a company or the CEO. I want to get you into that thought process. How do you go about instilling people that believe that you, too, can be a leader? Because there are few people out there that believe enough in themselves. They say, “Leadership is for somebody else. It's not for me.” How do you get people beyond that point? Because it's important, especially youth nowadays, to say, “Your opinion matters and what you do matters. You can do great things, too.”
This is how I'm going to answer that question. It is a structured program thinking process that I use, but I am a leader who CARES. I intentionally say the word CARES because that's the framework that I work in. C stands for Coaching, A stands for Accountability, R stands for Respect, E stands for Expectations, and S stands for Strengths. I’ll use teaching as an example. I'll walk into a room with 50 grad students and I am the teacher or the leader who CARES. What I do is provide clarity through coaching. I set out what my level of accountability is personally as their teacher. I set out their level of accountability. I extend respect immediately. I set their expectations, I set my expectations, and then I always see the strengths.Good leaders help each other succeed. Click To Tweet
It's a thinking process and what it enables me to do is extend warmth first. That's what Dr. Amy Cuddy talks about, “Work hard as a leader to extend warmth first.” There are two things happening here, Ben. One is I am modeling the way of what good leadership sounds like and looks like for these impressionable minds. The second part of this process is I extend belief in them immediately and there are no biases. I have no biases. I extend the same amount of belief to every single person in the room, and then I systematically work through every single person to share what I see in them from a strength’s perspective.
It’s like how I see your strengths. You're smart, curious, happy, and an excellent communicator. In four seconds, I can elevate your belief in you, and that is where I'm consistent with that type of feedback. It's genuine. I can see this, and that's a gift that I've been given. I can see people's strengths and I share with them what their strengths are. We are together for sixteen weeks in the classroom and if by the end of that, they have not burrowed my belief that I have in them and put it all inside in a concrete foundation in themselves, then they probably need a counselor, not a coach.
You're with them. It's not a one and done type of thing. It's not walking into a room. You're there for an hour, you have a conversation and it's one and done. It's the fact that you're there for sixteen weeks and modeling it day after day, week after week, and if they're seeing you emulate this, not only with them but consistently across all 40 or 50 people or whoever in the room, that's where the modeling occurs. It's showing up. I'm a big believer that it's a leader’s job to show up every single morning and say, “How can I make my team better? How can I give people the tools to be better themselves?” You and I were talking that we train our leaders to lead the way too late. I want to let you talk about that because we need to be training our leaders to lead sooner.
I completely agree that you have to be present. You believe that leaders should show up and ask, “How can I help?” If you look at Dupri’s work, it's extending your hand. How can I help? That's the leader’s role to be present to ask to support a coach. What I hear from many different leaders is that they will say, “I don't have time.” Let's zag over to the conversation that you and I are having about when do we train leaders? I'm a great salesperson and I'm selling. I'm a great writer and I move all the way up to be the VP of communications. Lo and behold, as the VP of communications after 10 to 12 years, I am good at a functional skill, but nobody taught me how to be good at a foundational skill, but because I'm good at writing press releases, I'm now the VP of communications.
Back to what we talked about, I am now the person who needs to be coaching for writers or coaching the salespeople. Not writing the press releases or making the sales. That's where we take too long to build leaders. We should be building a leader at their intern stage and that’s we talked about how. Teach them how to talk, how to think strategically, and how to be self-aware, but we are teaching leaders to lead too late. Ten to twelve years, the way the limbic system works is it's too late. You've codified habits that are the wrong habits. The habits of me, the habits on the functional skill, but they're not the foundational leadership habits that you need to lead. You end up writing the press releases and that ultimately comes down to the comment, “I'm too busy.”
That's the scariest thing in any company. I'm too busy is a terrifying thing because your job, as far as I'm concerned and hopefully, you'll agree with me, is to make your team better. It's not to manage the process. It's not to do the actual things. It's to inspire people to be better at what they do. Your job is to take care of your people as a leader. It doesn't matter if you're a frontline manager, director, vice president, and executive vice president, or whatever. Your job is to make your team better. If you're not taking time to make sure they have the training, coaching, mentoring, modeling the skills, giving them the room to fail, learn from it, and get better, what else are you doing? That's a question that always fails to get a great answer from people. Maybe you've got a good answer from somebody. What else are they doing if they're not inspiring their people to do better?
They're writing press releases and they're selling, but understand that when you get promoted to a leadership position, but nobody taught you how to leave. What are you going to do? Your natural inclination is to protect and hide. I work for a guy who spent more time in the cake bar. There could have been a cardboard cutout in his office and I could have gotten more of a cardboard cutout but it wasn't his fault. It was that nobody taught him how to lead this entire gigantic team. What he did was he hid. The next thing you know, he's drinking too much, losing his hair, gaining weight, and feels terrible about himself. What happens is we teach people to protect, hide, not open up, and ask the questions, “How can I learn? How do I do this? How do I grow?”
Until they've made multiple mistakes, then all of a sudden, we throw a coach in there to start to train them. Ultimately, that's the root cause of the problem. We got to take those people earlier before those bad habits sit in or the habits of me or habits of getting the job done at the functional skill level. We've got to take that all the way back to training them early and training them with the right habits. How can I help by extending my offer to my teammates around me? The people that you should be promoting are the people that help each other. Not the people that are the best at the functional skill because you've got an army of functional skill experts, but you don't have an army of leaders.
It's interesting that you say that because never is that more important than in sales. I have seen many salespeople that have become sales managers and are miserable. They're miserable because they want to be out selling. They want to be out doing what they do best. They want to be talking to the customer. They want to be creative and innovative. They want to bring that job in and they want to do what they do best. They said, “I've been here long enough. I should be the sales manager.” Somebody else says, “I've been good, so I should be the sales manager,” but they don't have the skills to do that.
What they do is they go out and they micromanage. They go ahead and usurp the leadership of the people below them. They make the people below them feel inadequate where those are the wrong people to have in the sales. If you've got a great salesperson, let them sell. The person you want to be promoting is the person that goes out to the other salespeople and says, “How can I support you?” Companies need to change their culture. My question to you is, what do you think are the things that we need to be thinking about as companies and as CEOs to enable those cultural changes? Also, to be able to make that shift to enable leaders to become true leaders and not just managers of the process?
That's where I am clear in what I have tested and what I have done personally in four different organizations, that it's about informed intuition. What we're doing is we're saying, “Ben Baker, you're the best guy. You made us bonuses. You sell and you’re an awesome guy. I'm going to pluck you and put you into a VP manager's role.” That's not the right decision. If you look at the profile of somebody who is an exceptionally strong sales guy, they are high control, high physically competitive, high self-confidence, and low self-critical. Those combinations are awesome. They will plow through to get the job done.
They're motivated by the thrill of the chase by the million-dollar goal. They are proud and strut around like peacocks when they win the game. That type of person, high control, what does that mean? They strangle the people on their team by micromanaging them if you don't train them on how to lead. In fact, I would question whether or not that profile is the profile that we want to take as a leader of the sales team. I was watching The Last Dance, Ben, and they had a reference in there, something about Dennis Rodman. There was a coach that said something about Dennis Rodman like, “You can't put a donkey coaching a stallion.”
Dennis Rodman is an amazing, strong, talented player, but you needed to personalize how you were going to bring the best out in them. What you would see in a typical sales guy is you don't have a lot of intuitiveness and empathy. What you ultimately need to do is you need to be able to personalize how you're going to lead a Ben Baker and personalize how you're going to lead a Nancy Spotton. They have to be strong enough to lead the stallions. Phil Jackson was strong enough to figure out the enormous profiles and personalities of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman.
Those are three enormous personalities but different.
That's the type of leader that you need to be intentional about when you put them in a leadership role. When you decide who that person is that you're going to move up to lead those stallions, they too need to have a specific profile that has that ability to see and pull out in a personalized way the best of the people on your team. Those stallions unite and don't compete against each other. They come together to win the war.
Where do you think the challenges are? The challenges are huge in terms of communication and listening as a leader because those are the two skills that are going to make a good leader great or point out how poor a leader is.The most important thing that you can do as a leader is to learn how to listen. Click To Tweet
Communication skills are the most undertrained area within our communities, our businesses, and within the world. That's what I see. People think they can talk and I say that because I am 98% expression of ideas, which means I talk too much and listen too little. It was back in 2015 when the college called me and asked me if I wanted to teach in this grad program. It's the sport and event marketing program with George Brown and I was laughing, “Me? Communication prof?” I swear all the time I worked in sports and I honestly then I've learned so much about communication teaching this program.
One of the areas that I learned so much about was how to listen with the intent of hearing. When I teach this course back to what you do, I teach it from a personalization perspective and I teach it that you are a personal brand. You are a brand, Ben Baker, Inc. and Nancy Spotton, Inc. What does that brand look like and sound like? When you're communicating, what does communication look like? You bring it all the way back, even the body language, how communication is important, and how you project your brand forward with how you stand and what your face looks like.
The most important thing that you can do as a leader to your point, Ben, you got to learn how to listen. There are people out there that do not know how to listen. I do this in the first class. I say, “Everybody, stand up. Who is an extrovert and who is an introvert? Extrovert over here and introverts over here.” The purpose of that Ben is easy, but it's important. I say, “Extroverts, you're going to learn how to listen. Introverts, you're going to learn how to talk. Here are the three questions you're going to ask each other. Get together in pairs. You have 30 minutes.”
What do you do? You get one introvert to talk to one extrovert?
They ask specific questions that are heart-centered. They're like, “What did you love to do as a kid?” There's a structured questioning system that I put up so that you don't get into a diatribe like, “I grew up in Toronto and I had a dog.” All that stuff is neat but I want to get to the meat right away and faster. The introvert needs to learn how to speak and the extrovert needs to learn how to talk because often we talk about communication and listening. In fact, if I looked at my class in a semester, 40% of them were introverts. We're getting gamers coming up. We're getting single-family kids coming up, and they're more of an introverted. They have to learn communication, how to talk. Extroverted athletes need to learn communication, how to listen. Putting them together is game-changing.
That's from a psychological point of view. I love that because we need to understand that people think, act, and react differently than we do. It’s because I'm an extrovert doesn't mean that everybody's an extrovert. It’s because I think this way, it doesn't mean that everybody thinks that way. It doesn't mean that everybody on my team thinks in a homogeneous way at all. There could be different viewpoints, stresses, and challenges. As a leader, our job is to understand people, not a team.
We have a team and our job is to make sure the team functions as a team, but we need to understand the people inside the team to be able to make them better. It's Dennis Rodman versus Michael Jordan. Two different people, one more offense and one more defense, but together they were magic with Pippen. It was understanding each one's nuance to be able to make them work together as a team. That's a skillset that many leaders and people that call themselves leaders don't have and they need to up their game. It’s being able to sit there and ask, “Why?”
If you've spent 10 to 15 years in the junior levels of your career, fighting for yourself, making your dollar, writing the press releases, getting it in on time, and being the hero and win, all sudden you're supposed to turn around, lift your head, and realize that you've got a team. Also, you need to learn how to understand what other people are like, you don't think like that. Those aren't habits. Unless we build an understanding of what other people are, who they are, what they look and sound like, I see many people coming into these programs. It's a great example within a school system because they're there and they're nervous, uncomfortable, and lacking a little bit of confidence. They're in an environment that they're not sure about.
Instead of getting them to protect, I get them to turn around, open up, and listen with the intent of hearing. Hearing who Ben Baker is and not making judgments, not saying and thinking with stories in your head that maybe the wrong stories in your head, but asking the right question so that you understand the person. That level of emotional connectivity by asking the right questions is game-changing. Kristen Stewart, I had her on this little thing that I'm doing. Kristen Stewart said it well. She was like, “You're scary to some people.”
I get that. People say, “Ben, you're scary.” I’m like, “Really? I'm a pussy cat.”
Sometimes, you scare people and that applies to everybody. I married an introvert and he's awkward to take to a party because I'm the one who's talking and he's the one who's quiet. People make judgments because he scares them and they don't understand him. What do good leaders do? They turn around without bias and they help people that are different from them. They help people that are coming up the ladder, regardless of what they look like, who they are, what they sound like, and where they're from. That, for me, is imperative. When you can turn around and help people who don't look and sound like you and if we look at soccer, every single senior-level soccer position or every senior leader looks and sounds the same.
Sixty-two percent of most people in senior-level positions were hired because they are strapping extroverts, good-looking dudes. How can we learn who looks different than us, who sounds different than us, and who came from a different background? We don't, as leaders, have a bias. We don't have that lens. We extend our hand to everybody and help everybody. It’s a game-changer and a stake in the ground. I will not be biased and I will extend my belief in everybody. It makes it richer and funnier. I learned more as a result.
One of the things that I learned most from is 3 or 4 times a year, I go up to Simon Fraser University and they have a third-year marketing program. They do a day where they bring professionals in to help the students network and interview. We’re put in a room. There are 200 of them and maybe there are 10 or 12 of us. They have to approach us and it's usually in groups. They have to ask questions, respond, and negotiate their way in and out of conversations. If we feel that they've done a great job, they get a sticker. They have to have three stickers or else they’ll not have a particular thing.
It's always fun to watch the room and say, “Who are the ones that want to gain everybody's attention? Who are the ones that are a little standoffish? Who are the ones that are confident and the ones who aren't confident?” I said, “I want to talk to this person.” I try to bring everybody into the conversation. It's interesting to watch people all of a sudden stand a little brighter and stand a little taller. They get that little self-confidence because somebody is paying attention to them and somebody is listening to them. It's neat when I get them to listen to each other. All of a sudden, the conversation elevates. I find that fun because it's never about me and I do everything I can to make sure it's not about me.
I want to make sure it's about them because when they learn that they get the confidence and skills that they need, learn how to articulate better and how to tell people who they are, what they do, and why they do it. Those are skills we all need to be teaching to help the next generation become better leaders. If we wait until they're 12 or 14 years into their career, we're in trouble as a country, let alone everything else. Nevermind individual businesses. As a country, we're in trouble because we need to be building the next generation of leaders now. It’s not twelve years from now, when they reach a senior position.
Your last statement summarizes everything that we've had this beautiful conversation together well. It's not about you and it's not about me. It's about how we can help other people succeed. That is a game-changer and it's extremely important. It's nice to meet you, Ben. You are a person with a good heart, soul, and mind.
Nancy, thank you for being on the show. I appreciate it. Take care.
I build champion teams that build future leaders.
Teams that win are teams that unite. All kinds of teams. Young teams & Old teams. New teams & Cold teams. Inside those teams, I build champions. Champions who inspire others. The real leaders. Leaders who lead. Leaders who WILL change this world.
Runner, dog lover, alpine skier, water skier, mystery solver, friend, engaged parent, 2x cancer survivor, scotch drinker and someone who learns everyday.
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It may be counterintuitive to think of kindness as it relates to business because we tend to think of it as a vague, amorphous concept. The economics of kindness philosophy, however, shows us that kindness can and does mean more revenue for businesses. Randy McNeely, best-selling author and founder of Kindness Hunters International, LLC, joins Ben Baker in this episode to talk about how kindness creates prosperity for businesses. By sharing the concepts laid down in his best-selling book, Randy stresses the need to create organizational cultures built on respecting and valuing every member. He explains how this can translate to better employee engagement, increased productivity, increased customer satisfaction, increased revenue, and better market opportunities.
I appreciate my audience. You are amazing. Every single week my audience grows and it's because of people like you. You are sharing my information, liking my stuff, and subscribing. Go to YourLivingBrand.Live Show, there's a subscribe button. It will take you to your favorite audio file. You can go on SoundCloud, Spotify, or iTunes if you're a Mac person. Subscribe where it's best for you. We're everywhere and I'm taking my RSS feed. If there's somewhere that you are that we're not, let me know. Send me an email at Ben@YourLivingBrand.com and we'll set it up. I want to be where you are and be able to let you listen in the way that's good for you. In this episode, I've got an amazing person, Randy McNeely, The Kindness Giver. What we are going to get into this because kindness is not something that is a nice-to-have. It's something that business makes sense. I want to talk to Randy about it. Randy, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Ben. I sure appreciate the opportunity to be here. I'm excited to have a chance to talk with you.
You and I met through mutual friends, online, and through a Zoom chat. You're one of the few people I haven't met through LinkedIn. The people that introduced me to you, we met through LinkedIn, but you and I met on a Zoom chat. We connected and had a conversation afterward. I hit it off with you. I figured that we’ve got to get your story on tape. We’ve got to get you on the air and tell your story to the world.
I look forward to sharing whatever you'd like me to share. You can fire away. Ask whatever questions you want and hopefully, I can have a good answer for you.
If you don't have a good answer, there's always the answer, my favorite answer is, “I'm not sure. Let me figure this out and let me get back to you.” Those answers work for me too because none of us can know everything. None of us are experts on everything but it’s an expert of where we're an expert in and we say, “These are my people. These are the people that I can truly help. These are the people whose lives I can change and focus on them.” That's what this story and show are about. I want to start with what's your story. Where did you come from? What led you to become The Kindness Giver? Take me along that journey.
For years, I've been working in the information security and cybersecurity world. I worked in the DOD for a long time. I didn't work for the DOD. I was a contractor for various companies. I've been doing HIPAA security and privacy for the last several years doing consulting and traveling across the country. I've been to every state in the country in the lower 48, that is.Now is a time when kindness is needed more than ever. Click To Tweet
Is HIPAA for healthcare?
Yes. I should know what it stands for. It's been years and I can't even remember what the acronym stands for, but HIPAA is healthcare for security and privacy. I've been doing that for a long time. We talked a little bit previously. You’re the information security guy. People know who you are and they know that you're the guy that writes the policies, processes, and procedures for information security. You're the guy that does risk assessment and risk analysis. Also, you're the guy that has the authority to enforce the policies and procedures related to security. You can be the nicest guy on the planet but nobody wants to talk to you.
Everyone looks at you as the guy who says no. You're the guy that says, “You can't do that.”
I always tried to find ways to be able to say yes. The challenge was when people didn't take the time to bother to talk to me before they started doing a project and implementing a project. We found out about it back door and I'd have to put the brakes on, “You're talking about doing what? Are you kidding me?” It has interesting challenges. I'll be honest, Ben. I'm a people person. I love people, working, interacting with people, and being around people. I'm a social animal. It's interesting now, the most social I can get is these kinds of conversations during this crisis. Because I'm such an extrovert and like interacting, this has been an interesting challenge for me.
Getting back to it, all those things I've wanted for a long time to be doing something where I can have a more personal impact on people and their lives than being a security guy. I've helped a lot of organizations to be able to meet their HIPAA requirements, both from a security and a privacy standpoint. I met some amazing people and had some impact. When you interact directly with people, I was traveling to their offices and spending time with them. If you're treating them with respect and doing the things that you should be doing, you're going to have some impact even personally on them because otherwise, they won't have you come back.
I want to have a more personal impact on people's lives. For the longest time, I've been trying to come up with ideas and ways that I could do that. In 2019, I broke away and formed my own consultancy as a cybersecurity guy. In the middle of that, I came across the profile of a friend of mine, a guy that I've known for a long time, but we hadn't connected for years. I saw and I was reminded that he was an executive producer for a reality TV show. I'd have this idea in the back of my head for a kindness-driven TV show for a while, “I'll reach out to him and see what he thinks,” so I did. I reached out to him and I shared the premise of my TV show called Kindness Hunters. We wanted to share the stories of individuals and showcase organizations that they've created that are blessing other people's lives and individuals who have overcome some tremendous challenges and use those challenges as stepping stones.
I shared that with him and he's like, “I love it. I love the idea. Let me talk to my director and see what he thinks.” His director loved it and thought that we could do something with it. We formed a partnership and formed a company called Kindness Hunters International. This is while I was still working on being a cybersecurity consultant. All those shootings that happened in 2019 came to pass. We had the shooting in California, Texas, and El Paso. I cannot sit back anymore and not try to do something, not try to make a difference in impact for good. It was shortly after that, that I started writing my book The Kindness Givers’ Formula.
We hear all the time about climate change. We talk about physical climate change. It's constantly on the news. It's an important thing. We are stewards of this planet. We should be doing what we can to take care of it because we're all part of humanity. We need to take care of each other and take care of the place we live in. One of the things that we don't hear about that is happening before our eyes and it's even more vital now is what I call Societal Climate Change. We have many avenues of entry into our lives now via the news, social media, internet, and all these different tools that are out there. There are ways for messages to reach us.
Light, love, hope, unity, and peace in many ways are being eroded at an exponential rate by darkness, hate, doubt, contention, and divisiveness. It's been readily displayed on the news on a 24-hour buffet of downer fodder. You get that all the time. Interestingly, that was the message I shared before this Coronavirus started to happen. While that is still there, it's been an interesting thing with the Coronavirus situation. We're seeing more people turn to think about kindness. We're seeing more people start to think about what matters most and we see a little bit of restoration of the light, love, hope, unity, and peace.
If there is a silver lining, not treating this situation lightly because it's serious. I can't say how my heart goes out to all the people who have suffered, not only suffered loss of loved ones, but who have been ill themselves and recovered, but still have these challenges. All the people who are isolated people who had mental health challenges and other things before and this isolation has got to be challenging for them. My heart feels for parents, who are now working from home, both sets who may not have ever worked from home before, plus they have their kids home.
They're becoming educators on their own.
They're trying to figure out how to do all this stuff. Now is a time when kindness is needed more than ever. I'm grateful that I'm seeing and hearing about so many wonderful people who are being kind. That's a $5,000 answer to your question.
I'll take the $5,000 because I got a $10,000 question for you behind that.Kindness equals prosperity. Click To Tweet
Let’s go with that.
It's funny because I take the advocacy of some of my readers and they're going to say, “I know kindness. We need to be kinder, gentler, and nicer to each other,” but this is business. If you take a look at kindness, from an ROI point of view. Never mind that it’s the right thing to do. Never mind that the leaders that are kind become better leaders and become more empathetic of this. There are true benefits to our society as a whole in the companies within it from being kinder and better individuals. I want you to dive into that because I want people to think of this. This is not a nice-to-have. Being kind is not a nice-to-have. It's imperative for business and personal reasons. That's something we need to dive into.
I appreciate that and it's interesting. I talked to our mutual friend Damon Pistulka and he pointed out, and you pointed out this to me when in our previous conversation. When you hear the word kindness, you think of this fluffy, nebulous, squishy thing. It's a cloud. It's cottony and soft and everything.
It has no edges and you can't define it. It’s all that wonderful stuff.
If you think of that and you think business. How do those two go together? How do they work together? The thing is I can sum it up in a simple sentence. Kindness equals prosperity. Not only individually but professionally and organizationally. How? If you think about it, when you establish a culture in your organization with kindness at the top of the agenda, what does that mean? That means your employees feel like they're important, valued, heard, have a voice, and they feel that management cares. Part of feeling management cares is the management being able to articulate a cause. You read the Gallup report that came out. It's talking about how only 33% of employees are engaged at work now. 33% in the US.
In the most successful companies, they're about 70% engaged but only 33% in general, on average. Here's the key thing, the big part of the workforce now are Millennials. We know that. They don't want what's been the norm in the past. They have specific expectations. They want to work for a company that has a cause. If leaders can articulate and say, “This is our company's cause, how we are making society better, how we're improving humanity, and why our products are important. Here's your role in that cause.” If they can articulate that and employees feel like, “I have an opportunity to be part of this cause. I can use the talents and abilities that I have to make this better.” Think about what that's going to do for the employees? When they have that combination of things, “I'm heard, important, and able to use my talents and abilities to make things better,” their productivity is going to go up.
They understand the purpose. Not only the purpose of the organization, but they understand their purpose within the organization.
Exactly. When they have the autonomy to try some things, come into work and feel like they're part of a team, their productivity, loyalty, and their ability and desire to do the best they can for any clients that the organization has with people that they're working with go up. We're not only talking about employee satisfaction. We're talking about employee engagement. We're talking about employees wanting to be there, to make a difference, and looking forward to coming to work. Here's another key thing to go along with that, what I'm talking about is what I call The Economics of Kindness Cycle. You establish the culture, the employees are happier and more productive. When that happens, the customers are more pleased. Before I get into the next one, I want to go back a step. One key thing to remember is if I asked the question, how many of you are human? We all are.
Hopefully, everybody's raising their hands.
We don’t have the Martians here. We’re human and because we’re human, we have human needs. We have emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs. We all do, every human being. Whether you're religious or not, spiritual doesn't necessarily mean religion. We have those needs and we have them all the time. Something that organizations don't remember is, when you walk in their doors, you don't dump your human needs at the threshold.
You don't dump your personal life at the threshold of the door of the business either.
You try hard not to let your personal life come in with you but those things are still there. That's all impacting you. Don't dump those needs and here's the key important thing to remember. Everybody that's in that organization from the janitor, the cleaning people up to the CEO, have exactly the same needs. Part of working with your employees is treating everybody like colleagues. It's not like, “I'm your boss.” “You're my employer.” “You're my drudge,” or whatever. It's treating everybody like colleagues. When that happens, customer feedback and satisfaction goes way up.
When you’re giving and listening to what your employees need, they're going to treat the clients the same way they're treated. Clients want to know that they're heard, valued, and important. Otherwise, they're not going to come to you. If they know, like and trust you, their satisfaction is going to go up. If they know the work that your product you're going to give them is good, their satisfaction is going to go up. What's going to happen to your opportunities? They're going to go up. You're going to have returned business and they're going to talk. You're going to have other people and other organizations that hear about you via word of mouth. Your opportunities are going to increase. The final step in that cycle is your prosperity is going to go up.Treat your employees like your colleagues, and they will do the same with your clients. Click To Tweet
It’s Seth Godin, “It’s the people like us that do things like this.” If your customers are satisfied and provide them with amazing customer experience, because your employees feel listened to, understood, and valued, they're going to turn around and tell their friends who need the same things that they do and the cycle is going to perpetuate itself.
You noticed not once did I have to say anything about the bottom line there. I didn’t say anything about the bottom line because that’s an automatic result that's out here that comes. The company named Weave and the CEO is Brandon Rodman. I love reading his stuff on LinkedIn like his posts and things. They are a company that is among that 70%. He treats his people colleagues. His tagline is, “People before profits.” His company has grown exponentially because of the way that he treats people. They even went so far as to give everybody in the company a coach and there are 500 people. That's another key component. Gallup came out with this report on employee engagement stuff. I can't remember if it’s January or February of 2020. One of the things they talk about is going along with treating everybody as a colleague. You’re moving away from the performance management to coaching and all training your managers to be coaches and mentors.
You’re training them to be leaders. It is getting people away from the managerial mindset and getting them to be leaders of people.
Also, knowing how to treat them so people will want to work with them, engage with them and do the things that we all need to do inside an organization in order for the organization to be successful. One of the things to think about is, for example, if you do a cultural kindness assessment or corporate culture kindness assessment or something like that. If you have any toxicity in your organizational culture, it's going to be exposed. When I go in to talk to people about doing a risk assessment from a security perspective, you go in if you do a proper risk assessment, those areas where you're vulnerable are going to be exposed and you want that exposure.
Why? Because the only way you can take care of it and address it is if it's exposed. If it's not exposed or brought into the light, it's not addressed. It's the same thing in a culture where there's toxicity. If you're striving to establish a culture where kindness is at the top of the agenda where people are valued, heard and things like that, that toxicity that we hear about far too often still in many organizations is going to be brought to the light and people will be able to deal with it. They’ll be able to address it. You're not losing people through attrition because of toxic situations.
It's interesting because I look at it and I agree with every word you said. The work that we do on leadership is along those lines. It's taking a look at it from a CEO's point of view. They're sitting there going, “What is all this going to cost to have coaches for everybody and this other thing?” Gallup says it costs the US economy $500 billion every year in lost productivity due to disengagement. Every employee that you lose is to cost you $100,000 to replace. Your toxic employees within your organization cost you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. If you can find and fix those gaps, you're saving money by spending money. For every dollar you spend, you're probably saving $5 or $10 if you do it right.
One of the things that came out of that report is that Gallup said that 16% of employees are actively disengaged and here's what they're doing. They're miserable, miserable in the workplace, and they end up destroying the work that most engaged employees are doing. They kill the culture. I worked for an organization a few years ago and I'm not going to say the name. I came into that organization and it was great. When I first came in, it was almost like a family-like culture. We had great meetings and those feelings of camaraderie and that culture came across in the meetings in everything we did. There was an overarching thought that if we treat our customers right, yada-yada. They got bought by an equity firm. That culture went down the tubes and out the door went.
I know there are some great equity firms with good people and I'm not trying to dump them all into the same bucket but in this particular case, all that came across was, “What are your hours? What are we going to do to increase the bottom line?” It’s HARP on the bottom line all the time. The customer service went out the window and started charging higher prices. In an equity firm, why do they buy a company in the first place? Within 3 to 5 years, they want to take it and turn it around. They want to sell it at a profit. In that process, a whole bunch of good people ended up leaving that company.
All that knowledge, process, value, and relationships, walked out the door with those people.
I've worked in another company where we would go to management meetings with the CIO. The CIO had a reputation for not being the nicest man on the planet. It was interesting, the first thing we did when we got into those monthly meetings and most people showed up 5 or 10 minutes early before the CIO ever came in. Everybody's like, “We wonder who’s so and so going to chew out or eat for lunch today.” The same thing happened. A lot of people left because it was a toxic environment. When you're talking about losing $500 billion in a year because of attrition and other situations, that's a big deal. Think about the opposite.
If you have leaders, who are people, “We're going to do this meeting and I get to sit with so and so. I know I'm going to be heard. I know my ideas are going to be considered. Even if they're not used, at least I'll be heard and things will be considered. I'm excited to have a chance to be part of this.” Think about that. There's a huge difference. It’s night and day. I'm not naive. I know nothing's going to be perfect inside any organization because none of us are perfect. We're a bunch of imperfect people but we can be doing everything we can to make it. The idealistic side of me is coming out. We should be working to do everything we can to make it as ideal as possible. When we have challenges, we work through them and improve.
It's creating something that's ideal for that organization. Cultures are like fingerprints. No two are the same. They are absolute snowflakes. A culture that works for IBM doesn't work for Apple and it certainly won't work for Netflix or Google. They're all unicorn billion-dollar corporations but their culture is completely different and those cultures work well within that organization and have allowed them to be successful or it can be perceived from the outside. It's up to organizations to, first of all, understand what the things that matter to them are and live it.
That's defining your value proposition. It’s defining what you value within your organization. You're right. Every organization is different. Some have 10, 50, 1,000 or 100,000 employees. You expect that the culture is going to be a little bit different. They're producing different products and doing different things but at the same time, there's a bit of foundational layer that's the same. It doesn't matter what company you work for. Everybody within that organization has the same needs.Think of and plan ways to be kind, act on them, and encourage other people to do the same thing. Click To Tweet
They all want to be listened to, understood, and valued.
You build your story. I like what it says behind you, “What's your story?” Every organization has the opportunity to write their own culture story. They have the opportunity to create their own culture and if they can build it around with those basic human needs in mind, keeping those things in mind and aligning it with, “Here's what we're doing as an organization, why we're doing it, and what your part is.” They're going to be successful. The key is having that have the courage to stand up and champion that. I talk about kindness from a kindness giver perspective. All I'm talking about there, and this is a foundation for any organization, every day determines that you're going to be kind. Every organization out there can put kindness at the top of their agenda every day.
They can determine that they're going to treat their people with respect, which is a component of kindness. They're going to promote emotional intelligence, which is a component of kindness. It’s being aware, alerted, and watching for the things that are going on and aware of the things that need to happen in order to make things run successfully. There's a foundational step to determine every day, that it’s going to be on the agenda. The second thing, foundational individual easy steps, think of and plan ways to be kind. Every organization has different things that they're doing. I can make sure I give recognition to my employees. I can make sure that if Joe so and so did a great job on his presentation. I can let him know. Every organization can come up with ways to give recognition.
A boss or colleagues can come up with ways to recognize each other. You can think of unplanned ways to be kind. The third way is to look for an act in those ways. Not only the things that you plan but look for an act. There are opportunities that come up every day. I'm talking as if we're going into the office still but in this situation, what are leaders doing to reach out to their people that are at home? How often are they contacting them with a voice, not only a text message or an email but with a voice and letting them hear and know that there's somebody thinking about them and care about them? There are multiple ways you can still get in touch with people. The final thing is inviting and encouraging other people to do the same thing. That's the basic foundation for The Kindness Givers’ Formula. That's it right there. Those are four steps.
It truly is simple stuff in that. In the end, it's thinking about people first. How do you wake up in the morning and how are you going to make other people's lives better? I don't care whether you call it kindness or leadership. It’s putting other people's needs first. It's all about sitting there going, “How do I support my people to make them better?” How do we make people's lives better? How do you help other people achieve their goals and meet their aspirations? Kindness is embedded in that but it can't be a word and that's my biggest pet peeve. People create these mission, vision, and values statements. They put these wonderful pithy words into these statements and nobody lives by them. If you're not going to live by them, don't create the purpose because all you're doing is you're putting yourself in a position where people are going to sit there and say, “They're talking about it. They say all these things, but they don't do it.”
In other words, you're saying if you're going to talk the talk, walk the walk. That's why I say The Kindness Givers’ Formula is a foundation for any organization with kindness in their culture. It's looking for acting. Kindness is an action verb. It’s an implied action verb. If you're going to get to talk about having that culture, then you have to be engaged. We see all this stuff about social responsibility. We hear about that all the time. Corporate social responsibility is a great thing. The biggest concern I sometimes have when I hear that I don't think it's this way, the majority of organizations that are trying to do good things in the community have a fairly good culture inside. The other side of the coin is hearing people and putting up the front that we're doing all these good things out in the community. I was talking to a guy who says, “My company does that but if you work inside, it's the most toxic culture I've ever worked in.”
I’ve heard enough of those stories.
It needs to come from the inside out.
That's a great place to leave things because people need to realize that you need to walk the walk and talk the talk inside the organization, outside the organization, with vendors, employees, and customers. You're one organization. If we take a look and sit there and say, “How can we make people's lives better? How can we add value? How can we treat people with respect, listen, understand, and value each other?” We're all going to be better off. Am I summing up well with what you’ve said?
You nailed it.
Randy, what's the best way people can get in touch with you?
They can go to www.RandyMcNeely.com and fill in the contact information there. They can get a copy of my book. On the front page, there are links to the eBook and to the paperback or I put a link out there, you can get a free audio version of The Kindness Givers Formula. I'm giving that away for free. For anybody who wants to download, it can do that.
That's all available through your website?
Also, I noticed that access to your podcast is there as well.
I do need to put a plug for that. I do have a wonderful partner Dr. Elia Gourgouris. He's my partner for Kindness Hunters and he's also my partner in the podcast. We do a podcast called The Kindness and Happiness Connection. He's the happiness doctor. He's the driver behind an organization called The Happiness Center, a super good guy. The whole purpose of that podcast, The Kindness & Happiness Connection, is to inspire people to carry on and remember that if you want to be happy, be kind. You can't have one without the other. Every day we provide various topics on physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, humor, determination, staying centered, and various coping mechanisms. This whole situation is what inspired me to jump on the bandwagon for podcasts. It's a simple ten-minute show that we do every day. We’re talking about simple topics and things people can do to take care of themselves now and to thrive and prosper in the future.Kindness is a verb. You need to act on it. Click To Tweet
I’ve got one last question and asked you that may lead you out the door. When you get off the stage or you get out of the meeting and you get in your car and drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
He's kind and cares. If people come away thinking that of me, I succeeded because I have a religious drive behind what I do. I’m not trying to promote my religion or anything like that but I strive to be like Christ. He's my model. If anybody comes away thinking, “He's kind and good,” that means I'm being him for me. That's for me. I'm not trying to convert anybody but that's my personal driver. That'll make me feel like I'm doing something right.
Randy, keep living your mission. Thank you for everything you do. You've been a wonderful guest and thanks for contributing some great insights.
Thank you, Ben. I sure appreciate you. Thank you for having me on. You're a kindness giver and I appreciate you.
I appreciate that.
Randall D. McNeely, "Randy”, is passionate about and driven to share kindness as a way of giving back for life changing kindness shown to him throughout his life.
To that end, Randy recently Founded Kindness Hunters International (KHI) in partnership with world renowned happiness guru, Dr. Elia Gourgouris, and the extraordinary director and producer Elgin Cahill.
KHI is dedicated to inspiring audiences to engage in kindness giving by sharing heart-warming stories of triumph, showcasing amazing organizations helping others in need and showing how service and kindness can be a lot of fun.
Randy is the author of The Kindness Givers' Formula - Four Steps for Making a Transformational Difference for Good, a simple four-step formula for ingraining the habit of daily intentional kindness that will, when implemented, change lives and transform the world.
Randy is committed, heart and soul, to the cause of spreading a message of kindness throughout the world to help restore light, love, unity and peace and to inviting and encouraging others to do the same.
In addition to being an author, Randy is also a singer/songwriter. He and his daughters recorded and released Everybody Speaks Smile to remind everyone that a smile is a simple act of kindness that knows no language barriers.
Randy is married to a lovely "Angel" as he calls her. They are blessed to be the parents of five children—four daughters and one son.
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Grabbing opportunities, preparation, personification, and time management are leadership essentials. With these aspects, leaders can thrive and businesses can grow bigger and better. Today, Ben Baker chats with Dr. Billy R. Williams, the Founder and President of Inspire a Nation Business Mentoring Services and the CEO of the Williams Family Investment Group. Dr. Williams introduces us to the reality of business and highlights five reasons why a business should be a business. He also talks about how companies should be focused in this pandemic to move forward in this new normal. Learn how you can grow your business from a leader’s perspective in this timely episode.
I love having you guys come with me each and every week. Keep emailing me, keep asking me questions. I get questions every week at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com. I get wonderful comments. People comment on Spotify and iTunes. If you go to YourLIVINGBrand.live, you are going to be able to hit a button to subscribe. Subscribe where you are. Tell your friends, join the community. We love having you on the show. In this episode, I have a phenomenal guest coming to you from the Texas region, down in Dallas, Billy R. Williams. Billy, welcome to the show. What a great way to bring you on board.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I'm honored to be here. I know your guests are specially selected, so I appreciate the fact that I was one of the selectees.
It's great because you come from an amazing background and I'm going to let you tell your own story. The background itself is fascinating. We'll start off with your military going into business and your laser focus on the insurance business is amazing to enable you to have the success that you are. Why don't we start off by you telling the audience a little bit about you, where you came from? What drives you? Where are you now? Where do you want to be going?
I came from a military background. My dad was military for 35 years. I was military for a little over twenty years. What drove me was the fact that I was a product of the ‘60s. I was a product of race riots, affirmative action, and everyone trying to be equal. Everything that happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s. What it did at that time was it galvanized my family to say, “The only way that you're going to not get caught up in all of this, not let it hold you back and not become a statistic is you have to have more education than everybody and you have to work harder.”
My dad was the smartest man that I ever met in my life. He was into these little sayings and all those little sayings used to stick in my head. I used that and leveraged it. When I said work harder, I don't mean to work physically harder. For him, it was about working mentally harder and he had this one saying, “Wealthy people make complicated things simple. Poor people make simple things unnecessarily complicated.” That's something that always stuck in my head. From there I leveraged that. I've always had a lot of ego and tried to minimize the arrogance. Ego is what we do. Arrogance is what we refuse to do. I tried to be one of those people that I wouldn't refuse to do anything valuable.
There are some people like, “I won't clean a toilet or I won't do this.” I will do anything if I thought I’d learned from it. If I had a lesson from it. If it put me in a better situation. I also had that ego, which is what you do that said, “I cannot work you. I may not be as smart as you, but I'm intelligent so I can figure it out.” I took that and drove with it. I'm not a very smart person. Meaning, I don't remember things well. I don't read it and instantly get it. Some people, jumps off the paper at them. I'm not that person. I may have to read it 5, 6, 7, 8 times before I get it, but I have the work ethic to read it 5, 6, 7, 8 times until I get it where most people don't have that work ethic. What some people would call a weakness or shortfall, I've tried to leverage that into a strength. That allows me to go deeper into learning things than most people do because I have to learn it so deep just to understand it where most people can skim it and get by with it.
It does because it gives us a good understanding of the mental space that you came from. I'm like you. I grew up with a father in the construction business. We owned a commercial renovation company. From the time I was 11 or 12, I was on the job site sweeping up, cleaning up, getting coffee and cigarettes for the guys, hauling drywall and pulling wire. My dad's attitude was, “You don't work for me. You work for the onsite foreman. If they fire you, you're fired. If they tell you to do something, you do it.” I learned at a very young age what real hard work was. Digging a ditch that was 6 feet deep, 3 feet wide, 120 feet long so we could lay a pipe down there. I did that by hand more than once.
I learned that I don't want to do that anymore. One of the amazing lessons that my father taught me is that you have a brain, use it. There's nothing wrong with working with your hands. There's nothing wrong with being a person who is in the construction of your entire life. They do amazing things but you need to sit there and say, “What am I destined for? What am I capable of? What do I have the true skills to do?” Be able to take the time and the effort to figure that out and work hard to make it happen. Because like you, there are times I need to do things 5, 6, 7 times over. My son can read something. He's got it. It’s in his brain for the rest of his life.
My wife is the same thing. Me? You have to tell me something 5 or 6 times. I got it but I don't internalize it until I've actually physically done it. I love that about you. What I wanted to dive into because you're focused deep and hard on the insurance business. That's your jam. I want people to find out, first of all, a little bit of context about what exactly you do in the insurance business and I want to dive into the process. I think that we're at a stage where we need to be starting to talk about what's next. What are the next things that the business owners need to be thinking about? What are the next things that are going to make business owners successful?
Over the last several years, there have been a lot of lazy business owners out there because they've just gone from success to success. We've been in a great market. It's kept going up and up. The Dow keeps going up and up, unemployment was down and we've reached a stage where that's not the truth anymore. We need to sit there and say, “Now that things have changed and we have a new normal, what's next?” Give me a little context about what you do and then let's get into the process.Your business should allow you the time and resources to give to your family, passions, community, and religious institutions. Click To Tweet
What I do is very simple. I'm an investor in insurance agencies, not insurance companies. I do have some company stock, but I primarily try to invest in insurance agencies. I'll paint a scenario. This is the easiest way to understand this. Let's say I go into an agency and the agency's been around for years. They don't have good processes, good accountability, good staff or good whatever. I can say, “Let me buy 10% or 15% of your agency and let me bring in my management system, our processes that we've proven to make over $1 billion in premiums, and let me help you to take this agency to a whole new level. That way, my 15% share becomes more valuable. At some point, you may want to sell this thing, and when you sell it, what I bought into it for maybe $100,000 for 15%. When I sell it five years later, that $100,000 investment is now worth $250,000.”
I'm an investor in the insurance industry and insurance agencies, which means that everything I look at is about revenue. If it doesn't increase the premium, increased policies, increased retention, increase referrals, or make customer service easier and more effective, it has no place in an agency. That's the way I look at things. I'm looking at it not as the end-user or as the day-to-day operator. I'm looking at it to say, “Does that task, does that process, does that operation, does that person generate revenue?” If they don't, how do we get them to generate revenue or how do we get rid of them?
Let's dive into that step-by-step. When you first go into a business and we all know this is going to vary from business to business. No two businesses are the same, but there's got to be trends. What do you find are the number one things you're seeing within the companies that you see that you're sitting there going, “They could be doing this so much better?”
Number one is why they're even in business. I use a lot of numbers, acronyms, and all that stuff. I feel like that businesses are in business for five reasons. I call it The Five Ps of Business and this is in my eBook ICECREAM: Lessons Business Owners Learn the Hard Way. Your readers can go to IceCreamLessons.com and download a copy of the handout and the eBook if they want to. It’s free. I feel like a business should be in business for five reasons. Number one is passion. Your business should either be your passion or fund your passion.
If you're in business just because you need a job because no one else would hire you so you decided to hire yourself, but it's not your passion, I don't think you're going to do well in that business. People quit jobs, we don't quit our passions. Number two is a product. Does your product add value to people's lives? Does it make them feel safe, secure? Does it make their life easier to free up more time? What kind of value does your product add to people's lives? If your product doesn't add to people's lives, it's a waste of time. Next is profit. Are you being responsible for earning your profits and managing your profits?
I know some people would come in and say, “Billy, I'm going to look at the P&L. I'm going to look at this and I'm going to look at that.” I'm going to look at your profit and loss statement, but I'm also going to look at what's driving the profit and loss statement, and what are you doing with the profits once you make those profits? Are you just making profits to fund your boat? Are you making profits for the pool boy bimble account? Number four is philanthropy. Your business should allow you the time and resources to give to your family, your passions, your community, your religious institutions. If you're not doing any of that, then that tells me that you're very self-centered or very selfish. Those are things that I'm going to be aware of.
Finally, does your business personify who you are? Can I look at your business and see you in your business? If you're telling me you're quiet, you're humble and you know all this other stuff, but your business is loud, boisterous. If you got $20 million in ads bragging about how wonderful you are but you're telling me you're a humble person, that doesn't fly because that's not the personification. I look for those five Ps, Passion, Product, Profit, Philanthropy, and Personification. Even though I'm looking at reports and I'm looking at other things, all those reports are doing are breaking those things down into the five Ps for me.
It's interesting because you and I look at businesses slightly differently because the businesses that I tend to come into are the businesses that have gone through either rapid growth and they've lost their purpose. Where they're in mergers and acquisitions and one culture is killing the other culture, where there are communication issues. For me, it's the Cs. It's not the Ps. The thing is a lot of it comes down to what is the purpose. Why did you get into business in the first place? Who are the people that care about your business and how do you help them? It's amazing how many companies can't answer those questions. They got into the business because they were, they wanted to do X. In your particular business, they wanted to sell insurance. A one-person company became a 15-person company, became a 25 person company. In their heart, all they want to do is sell insurance. What they've done is they've put people around them to help them do what they want to do, but they haven't built a business.
I see that all the time. What happens is the insurance industry, someone will say, “I want to be an insurance agent.” They realize they get so busy that they have to hire someone to help them to run their insurance agency. They bring them in but they don't train them for that person to actually be a value add. They train them for that person to take over stuff they don't want to do. They don't want to answer the phone or they can't answer the phone. They don't want to send out the different emails. They don't want to knock on the door so they hire people. Before long they don't realize that they just built a company in their own image and all of their weaknesses have transferred over to the other person. Because even though you don't like knocking on doors, if you don't hold the people who are supposed to knock on doors accountable, they won’t knock on doors either.
A lot of businesses end up winging it and what happens is they get lucky. They'll get 2 or 3 people who get what the business is all about. Those 2 or 3 people are the rudders that run that business, that guide that business. That's why you'll see a lot of businesses shut down or are diminished if one of their key people leaves because the owner didn't have the vision. It was the key person who had the vision and was keeping the ships straight. When that person left, everything went to hell in a handbasket.
Eventually those 2 or 3 key people, like law firms, insurance brokerage and everybody else, they’re going to say, “What do I need this honor for? I'm the one who's bringing in all the revenue. I'm the one who's got the relationships with the clients. I'm the one who's doing all the hard work. Why am I doing it for this person? Why am I not doing it for myself?” If companies aren't built with culture, purpose, and vision, that's exactly what happens. Those key people leave and then all of a sudden, a $10 million company becomes a $2 million company almost overnight.
In the military, we have this thing that says, “Culture eats plans for lunch.” It does. You can have all the best plans in the world, but if your culture is not where it needs to be, then all those plans mean nothing. That's just the way it works. You had asked me about the process.
The process is a good conversation to have.
Let me take you into an insurance agency. I walked into an insurance agency. I'm looking for the five Ps. I'm looking at different reports. I'm looking at different activities. I'm looking at different actions. What I don't do is I don't talk to the people at first. I let the numbers and I let the reports tell me the story of the agency because people will paint whatever picture they want to paint, but if the numbers don't line up with the picture you're painting, I'm going to believe the numbers. I will look at revenue per producer. I will look at how many leads you generated. I will look at how much revenue you're generating per line of insurance that you write. I will look at which salesperson is writing what line. I look at all the reports and numbers.
If you can't give me those reports or give me those numbers, then I know you're winging it. The agencies are just running itself. The first thing I look at is, what are the numbers telling me about your agency? From the numbers, I'll sit down and I'll look at the technology. I still haven't talked to the people. Seventy percent of your numbers are driven by your technology. Whether you are a, “No. Billy, I'm not a tech person. I still got files, file cabinets, and I still got whatever.” How are you using the phone? A phone is a piece of technology. How many outbound calls are you making? How many inbound calls are coming into the agency? How many emails are going out? How many emails are coming in? How many actual packets are we generating and sending to the carriers?
Even though you may not be heavy technology, we all still have to have some vision of technology. It goes right back to what I was saying about the other things. If your technology doesn't tell me the story that you're telling me, I'm going to believe the technology. An agent will say, “Billy, my people are generating $5 million in premium a week. We're sending that up to the carriers and we're closing deals left and right and we're doing this.” I was like, “That's great.” Your reports reflect that. Your reports say that you are sending up $5 million in business. You’ve got ten people that are doing that. Let's look at your actual issue. How many of those $5 million that you're sending up to write is actually issuing?
They’re converting from quotes to policies.
That tells me right then and there may be something broken in your paperwork. There may be something broken in your sales cycle. Each number tells me something about your business. In the simplest form, I look at leads, quotes, sales, and revenue. Each number tells me something different. If you've got a bunch of leads coming in but they're not turning into quotes, then that tells me your people are not following up on the number of leads that you have. They're either following up at the wrong time or you’ve got a bunch of crappy leads that you're paying for and stuff is falling out of the crap.
If your lead to quote ratio is good but the quotes aren't turning into sales, then again, that tells me something about your agency. People are talking but they can't close or they're talking to the wrong customer. You're talking to a lot of people but you're not talking to qualified prospects, so that tells me something about your agency. If you're quoting and selling but the revenue per sale is low, then that tells me your people are price-driven. It tells me that either your people can't sell and so you're just throwing enough stuff at them. That stuff is falling out though you've never taught them how to actually close a deal.
They don't know the difference between someone researching and someone ready to buy because you've never taught them from a sales standpoint. At its simplest level, the numbers and technology tell me the culture of your agency. Once I've got what the numbers and the technology say, then I'll start talking to the staff and see if it lines up with the culture that the numbers and the technology are telling me, or if the staff is just repeating what the agent says because they know that's going to keep them their job.The basis of all of the problems that we run into is time management. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of people like that out there. I laughed because we deal a lot with marketing and sales. Marketing says, “The sales guys, we give them all these leads and they're not following up with it,” and the sales guys turned around and says, “We get all these lousy leads from the marketing department.” A lot of it comes down to nobody talking to one another and sit there going, “What do we need as a company to move forward as a company?”
It's always a communication issue. Even when we look at the numbers, the technology, the culture, everything, it's always a communication issue. Because if I know that I'm getting a bunch of crappy leads and they are not turning into quotes, I need to communicate that to somebody. Whether it's the marketing department or whomever. If its quotes to sales are the problem, I need to communicate that. Even with my technology. My technology, the way I look at it is it has a KPI or Key Performance Indicator, just like a normal staff person would have a KPI. If my technology is not being utilized in the best way possible and it's not driving the KPIs that it's supposed to, that's a communication issue. Somebody set up this technology without communicating what the real KPI for the technology is supposed to be. At the end of the day, it's always a communication problem. It's just people who don't look at those different things as communication issues.
What's the biggest challenge you find with leadership?
Weak leadership. By weak leadership, what I mean is they don't have a vision. They don't train. They don't hold people accountable so they don't set the culture. I know you hear all the time, “It's the culture,” but something has to establish the culture. Leadership is supposed to establish a culture. In the insurance industry, what I run into most of the time is, again, most insurance agents wanted to be salespeople. They didn't want to run an insurance business, they wanted to do sales.
Now, they're forced to do HR, counseling and training stuff they never planned on doing. They were just hoping to hire someone who would already know how to do it. That's why we have so much recycling in the insurance industry. You hear people go, “I'm going to hire this person who just came over from State Farm,” or “I’m going to hire this person who just came from Travelers,” or “I’m going to hire this person who used to work at Safeco and hire this person who used to do that.” I'm like, “Why are you hiring them?” “Because they've been in the business for a long time. I got to teach them anything. They already know everything.” You are going to rely on someone else teaching your revenue stream.
You're getting somebody else's bad habits.
Because it's a luck of the draw, now and then, 1 out of 10, 1 out of 20, you'll get someone who can pull their own weight. Most of the time, 8 out of 10 or 9 out of 10, they could pull their own weight if you trained them and held them accountable and made them understand what the KPIs are that are going to make their job effectively, but most agents won't take the time to do that. We talk about everything being communication. The basis of all of the problems that I run into is time management. They don't make the time to train. They don't make the time to hold people accountable and spot check. They don't make the time to counsel you. They're so busy doing all these other things.
This goes back to one of my dad's saying, “The denominations that you think in will determine the quality of your life.” Some people think that answering a $5 phone call is more important than making $1,000 sales call. The denomination that you think determines your quality of life, but the denomination that you think in also determines how you utilize your time. That means if I think that my time is worth $100,000, I'm going to make sure I'm doing $100,000 tasks with my time. If I don't know the value of my time or I think I'm just lucky to be here and have a job, I'm going to do whatever falls in my lap. I'm not going to have a plan to utilize my time. Most agents don't have a plan to utilize their time or their staff's time. It still boils down to time.
It's a story that I tell on stage that years ago, there were two of us in the office that were selling about the same amount of money. Say we are each selling $750,000 worth of printing material but I had twenty clients and he had 300. The size of the job that I was doing was twenty times the size of every job. I may have done fewer jobs but there was far more revenue. The ROI was because less of my jobs went wrong. As 1/10 of 1% of the jobs I did went wrong where his job went wrong all the time because he was trying to manage small jobs at the same time. I get exactly what you're saying that it's how we spend our time and what we think is important dedicates us to how we drive ourselves moving forward.
I hate leaving things generic for people. The first thing that I would tell your readers to do, number one, write out where your time is being spent right now in a day. I spent two hours here, I spent an hour and a half year and it's not going to just be one day. You're going to have to do it for all the weeks so that you can get a real picture of what's going on with your life. One day as a snapshot. I don't need a snapshot. I need a portfolio of what's happening with your life.
Would a month be better?
It doesn't turn out more. I've done it for three months, but I can get people to write out a week. Sometimes it's about what they will do, not what they should do. If I can get them to write out a week, I can get a good picture. It's the same thing with your finances. If you will write down for one week, everywhere you spend your money and what you're spending your money on, of course, you're going to have outliers. Maybe this is the week that you bought new computers. That's not average. You're not going to buy new computers every week, but the little things that you do, the little habits that you have about your money, about your time, about all those things, that's what putting it on a calendar will show you. It will show your habits and your habits are the foundation of your culture. Your habits determine your actions and your actions determine your culture. By taking that time to write it out all out for a week, you're coming up with a time budget just like you would a money budget. Once you see what your budget currently looks like, then you can start to modify it and put the higher denomination things on the calendar that maybe weren't on there before.
It’s a big rock philosophy. You put the big rocks in the bucket first, then you put the pebbles, then you put the sand. The big rocks are the things that are the most important to your company.
It’s another way of saying the same things.
You came up with a phenomenal quote and I'm trying to remember what it was off the top of my head, but I needed to get it in because it was so poignant. Do you remember what it was?
It was something my dad had said, I'm sure.
My challenge is with most companies and I'm sure you see this. I want to talk to you about it just a little bit. Companies moving forward, what are the things that you think that companies need to be focused on in the next six months, a year, two years as the economy has changed, gets tighter, as we move into a different type of business cycle. What are the things that you think are going to make companies successful and thrive in this new normal?
This is all my opinion. I don't think we need to do very many things differently. I think we need to do more things consistently. Going back to one of my dad's sayings, “Consistency always looks like success from the outside.” In 2008, 2010, I was able to get into more agencies as an investor than any other point in my investment career. That was because agents had lost the consistency of marketing, technology, and training. They had lost all of that. I came in and they were like, “You're a godsend because you're getting us back on track and you're reminding me of all these things that I used to do.” We need to get back consistent.
What does that mean? For a lot of businesses, they didn't have to market. They didn't have to prospect. They didn't have to pick up the phone. They didn't have to do podcasts. They didn't have to do anything. They could basically throw out a YouTube video and business would roll in because that's what people were doing. They weren't following up. It takes five times on average to follow up with a prospect. They had so much business falling in their lap that 1 or 2 follow-ups and they had moved on. They forgot all about it. I think that the real change is to go back to what we know that works and do it consistently.
Do we need to add new technology? Are we going to use technology differently? Yes, but understand, this technology is nothing but a version of what we have always done. Instead of being on the phone, we're on a Zoom call. Instead of putting out a huge, a yellow pages ad, I put out a Facebook ad. Instead of knocking on doors, I do postal mailing and drive you to my website where before when I knocked on your door, I left my card if you were interested, you go to my website anyway. I'm not a big believer that we need to do anything differently. We need to do things consistently and we need to understand that the things that are supposedly new are a different variation of what we've always done. I grew my insurance agency starting in 2004 April 1st. I grew it from a scratch agency to now we have over $1 billion premium under management.The denominations that you think will determine the quality of your life. Click To Tweet
I use conference calls. I would go out to the parks on Saturdays and I'd give out my business card to the parents that were watching little Johnny, a little Suzy play soccer, baseball, football whatever they were doing out there and say, “I'm going to sit in my car and have a conference call in fifteen minutes and talk about heart attack, cancer, stroke, disability and things like that. While you're sitting out here, why don't you just jump on your phones, listen to me as I do this?” Now, people do webinars. They put out a YouTube video. In order to finish watching the video, you've got to put in your email address.
What I would do, I was using a free conference call back then. I would get the people's phone number who called in and I'd call them back. Maybe I had 30 people call into that free conference call. It captures their phone number they're calling from and I would call them back and say, “I want to touch base with you one-on-one. Because we were on the conference call, I couldn't answer a lot of questions. What questions can I answer for you?” Obviously, you showed up. There was some interest and then I'd go from there. I want businesses to understand yellow pages is now Facebook, telemarketing is now conference calls. Yellow pages ads are now a version of YouTube videos. Conference calls are still conference calls, except now there are Zoom calls.
In the end, it's all human to human marketing.
Instead of any of this is brand new. The reason why I want to stress this because a lot of people think of this as so new that they forget how to relate it to what has always worked.
We need to go back to realizing that you're right, how people buy is from human beings. The more we can know, like, and trust the people that we work with, the more that we can see them as human beings that are going to be there for us, that are going to take care of us, that we can rely on, the more business we're going to do with them. The rest of it is just technology, but it's how we relate human to human.
It's just technology and technology is there to help you enhance your job, not replace your job. As an example, whenever I was going after a bigger deal, I always did my research. I would go out and I'd go to yellow pages, look at their ad. I go to their website and see what I could find. I'd go out to Manta and see what was listed out there. I'd go out to Dun & Bradstreet. I did all my research before I would call that company and I would know you've got seven partners or you've got this or that. You acquired or you hired a new general manager. I would know so I could have that conversation. Now it's so easy to do that research, but people don't take the time to do it.
Now, I could go out to LinkedIn and pretty much find everything about you, your network, who you're dealing with. I can go out on YouTube and see what you guys have out there. I can go out and look at your Facebook and tell a little bit more about your business. It's so easy to do research nowadays, but again, it goes back to what I was saying about time. If we don't take the time and make that a high denomination task, it's never going to happen. We're left cold calling and putting our videos and reacting to people who come to us. Let's be honest, usually, your top prospects don't just fall in your lap. The people who call me are the ones that have problems that I probably don't want to deal with. The ones who are my preferred customer don't fall in my lap. I have to go and engage with those people.
Because we engage early and because we engage in a far more digital format, by the times you're aware that somebody is aware of you, they're already 60% of the way through the funnel. They've already done their research on you. They've already Googled your company. They've always done the Yelp reviews. They've already been through your social media. They already have compared you to four other agencies. By the time they want to talk to you, they're ready to talk to a human being and take things to that next level.
I love it when people have already done their research. What I hate is when someone comes to me and they haven't done any research because now it’s like I have to back them up and go through the research with them where I was hoping they had done the research before. One of the first questions I always ask is, “When you did your research on me, what stood out to you?” If someone says, “Billy, I'm interested in you mentoring me,” or “I'm interested in you enjoying your mentorship for insurance agencies or investing in me.” I said, “When you did your research on me, what stood out to you?” If they can't tell me anything, then I know this is not a person who’s even close to the buying phase because they haven't even gone through the research phase.
It's the same thing if somebody applies for a job at your agency and they can't tell you anything available out there on the internet. If they don't have information at their fingertips when they walk into the interview, why are you hiring them?
Most people hire for availability, not actual ability.
That's what they should be looking for. People with incentive, people who can think critically, people that can look at tasks and figure out how to work around them. Those are the people that we need to be hiring. Not people that can answer a phone.
This goes back to what we were saying upfront. That's the best practice. Yes, you should hire for this or hire for that. If no one's ever taught you how to lead, if no one's ever taught you how to hold people accountable, if no one's ever taught you how to be a leader because we learned to be a leader from other leaders. If no one's ever taught you how to do that, even if you read it, you won't know how to do it. It's important to me that leaders understand that it's leaders that create leaders. It's reading to your blog and getting those ideas and listening to my podcast, The Fix My Insurance Agency podcast and getting those ideas. Talking to two people that are part of a networking group and being part of mastermind groups because that's how we learn to lead is from other leaders.
Most people won't take the time to do that. They don't think it's a high denomination task, even though it is. They won't take the time to do that or they feel like that it’s not worth it financially. I've spent a lot of money going to a lot of leadership conferences and being a part of a lot of masterminds. I've spent thousands of dollars because to me it's an investment in leadership. Most people don't. They only want to hear their own message. If you only want to hear your message, that's a cult, and most cults don’t do well.
That's probably the best place to leave it. Let's stop being cults and start being leaders. That's why I created the Developing the Leader in YOU. It's important to have great leadership. Billy, it has been an absolute pleasure. How is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Go to my website, www.InspireANation.org.
I have one last question I ask everybody as they walk out the door. As you leave a meeting and you get your car and you drive away or you come off the stage because you're like me, you're a speaker, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
It goes to number five of the Ps, Personification. I want people to walk away and say, “This guy is doing what he says he is. He's not full of crap. I can see in his practices and all the things he does that he's just not talking, he does it.” If they can walk away and take that genuineness with them, then they'll listen to other things that I say that can help them to improve.
Walk the walk, Billy. It's probably the most important thing that people need to think about in their life and their business. It's not what we say. It's how we do it. Thanks for being on the show, Billy. I enjoyed the conversation.
Thank you, sir.
Billy R. Williams, Ph.D. - CEO of the Williams Family Investment Group and President of Inspire a Nation Business Mentoring Services.
Dr. Billy R Williams is the founder and president of Inspire a Nation Business Mentoring Services, America's best insurance agent and Small Business coaching and mentoring company, and CEO of the Williams Family Investment Group; a group of more than 150 partner agencies that produce over a billion dollars a year in new and renewal insurance premiums.
Inspire a Nation Business Mentoring works with many of the top insurance agents/agencies in North America and some of the World’s largest insurance carriers and companies.
Dr. Williams also provides expertise and wisdom to non-insurance based small businesses through his "ICECREAM For Business Leaders" training program.
“I started Inspire a Nation because I was sick and tired of all the b.s. that was being served up as "the best marketing hacks, tools, or services available." Agents and small business owners need to get back to the reality of operating their business both today and in the future.
The reality is that there are 5 Best Insurance Prospects, 14 weekly tasks and 23 Core Processes that must happen in an agency.
If you want to be a top-level agency you must to master them.
We all know that Luck = Opportunity + Preparation + Time Management. I created Inspire a Nation Business Mentoring to help agents and agencies prepare to take advantage of as many insurance agency opportunities as possible by giving them an exact schedule to follow and step-by-step instructions on which processes, tools, task, and technology they should have working in the agency. This is the “Keep it Simple” method at it’s best!”
- Billy R. Williams, PhD
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True leaders make a difference in the people they lead. Ben Baker is joined today by Dave Robens, a personal development specialist who coaches people around the world and helps develop leaders within businesses. With a background in occupational therapy and the experience of working in geriatric care, Dave has such a profound insight on personal development, which he uses in this episode to define his concept of leadership. Seeing the need for every person inside an organization to be a leader, he emphasizes the leadership skills that really matter in an organization’s drive to succeed.
It is exciting to have you all here. Week after week, I am amazed by how loyal and how wonderful my audience is. You email me at Ben@YourLivingBrand.com and send me comments. I'm up on every single listing device that you can think of like Spotify or iTunes. Pick the device and the platform that you love and follow and subscribe. The more subscribers I have, the more that we can spread the word. The more conversations that we can have, the better it is. It’s all about getting the word out, what makes you unique, valuable and how do you communicate your value to others. It's such an important thing, especially in today's world. I have the honor and the privilege of having Dave Robens on my show. Dave is a life and executive coach. He's an OT, so he's an Occupational Therapist, a group facilitator and an open and honest person. This is coming from his platform on LinkedIn. Dave, welcome to the show. My open and honest friend, how are you?
I'm doing well. Thank you so much, Ben. I'm not surprised that you have the following that you do because you're such a lovable guy. You're so cheerful and happy. I always see you with a smile on your face. You’re warm, welcoming and it's always great to be in a container with you for sure.
It's fun. You and I broke bread. I can't remember exactly how long ago it was but we had such a good time. We sat there for close to two hours and laughed. It was a great conversation and the breadth of the subjects was wonderful. I got to get to know you so much better. I consider it an honor and a privilege because that's what my life is all about. It's getting to know people and finding out who's got a different viewpoint than mine, who sees life in a different, skewed way than mine and what can I learn from them? I can learn from everybody. I can sit there and say, “There are people out there that know a lot more about a whole range of subjects that I know nothing about.” It's up to me to find these people and bring them into my life and say, “I know nothing about X. Can you explain it to me in a simple way?” I love the fact that you do that and you're able to take complex thoughts and make them simple. That's a real gift.
Thank you so much. It's not limited to you but one of the things that you and I have in common that is the source of energy in a lot of the work that we do is curiosity. Curiosity about others, how things work, “truth” and how to help other people be their best.
It's true and it's fun. We look at it from a different point of view but it's important. It's all about leadership, communication and helping people be better. It's about helping people achieve their goals and helping them lead other people in an effective way. That's what I'm about. You're sitting there on the executive coach side and we attack the same problem but from different viewpoints. That's neat because we each come from it from a different point of view. We each have a different history, set of intentions and a different clientele but there's so much to learn from each other.
I come at it all through an occupational therapy lens, which is maximizing somebody's ability to function. Let's say a CEO hires me to not only work with himself or herself but also with a number of people either on the leadership team or even throughout the entire company. In that venue, it's about turning every single person in the organization into the leader that they can be. If you are sitting on the executive leadership team and all of the people working with you at a different level are leaders, it makes it much more possible for that team to focus on ingenuity, creativity and where they want to go next. There's so much less management needed when everybody in the organization is a leader.
You use two words and these are one of least favorite words and one of my favorite words. My favorite word is leadership and my least favorite word is managerial. I look at things and thing that you're right. Leadership is an attitude and mindset. It's not a title. There is no one out there that I know of who has on their business card leader. It's that mentality that thought that we get up every morning and say, “How do we make the people around us better?” That's a leader. It doesn't matter if you have 5 or 5,000 people that you're responsible for. That's a leadership mentality.There’s much less management needed when everybody in the organization is a leader. Click To Tweet
When I used to work in the public healthcare system, I had this one person whose title was manager and she was absolutely fantastic. At her retirement party, I remember saying, “Thank you so much for being a leadership island in a sea of management.”
Do you want to get into that? I know where you're going with that. What's your thought process behind that?
I have this sense that many organizations lack the ability to train people to be what they want to see from them. They train them to do tasks, rather than train them into the entire mentality of the organization. When you train somebody to live the brand of the organization, then you're creating leaders. When you're training them to manage tasks, then you're creating even a hierarchical system where you're in charge of this task somebody is in charge of making sure that you get that task done. Everybody ends up busy managing that there's no actual room for each.
It's the, “I need to document my entire life to justify my life to somebody else who's going to document their life to justify their life to somebody else and up the food chain it goes,” instead of taking the time I'm rolling up your sleeves. I call it you're leading from the middle. I'm a big believer in leading from the middle. It's not a hierarchical format. It's being down there with the people that you're working with the team. Some people you need to give a little bit of a push, some people you need to grab a hand back and pull some people forward. The majority of the people want to see you marching with them arm and arm and be part of the process.
People call it frontline managers. They graduate to directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents and whatever. You're all leaders. The people that are sitting there inspiring others, trying to get the best out of others, giving people around them the opportunity to grow, make mistakes and learn from it and are coaching and inspiring and mentoring are leaders. The people that are sitting there going, “You were late five days in a row. If you're late tomorrow, you're fired,” are the managers. It was Simon Sinek who said, “A leader says, ‘You're late five days in a row. Is everything okay?’”
I love the way that Simon Sinek transitions all of these little stories into inspirations. There was a client I had and I was talking with her. She was telling me about why she missed many appointments with me. She was trying to create some reasoning because of some under underlying guilt that she had. I was like, “There's no reason for you to feel guilty. In fact, I'm the one who's guilty here. What should be going through my mind at this time is not any resentment toward you whatsoever. I'm trying to figure out what's missing from what I'm doing with you that has you missing our appointments. Why is what I'm doing not so inspirational to you that ten minutes before we start, you're almost bouncing because you're excited that in ten minutes, you and I are going to be working together?” It’s pushing it onto them, recognizing my role in and taking responsibility for it.
As leaders, it's our role to sit there and say, “Maybe it's not them. Maybe it is me. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. Maybe there's something wrong with the process. Maybe there's something wrong with the procedure. Maybe it's the way that I'm couching something. Maybe it's the way that I'm not communicating in a language that's effective to that particular person.” Those are the important things. We're going to get into this because we're in a COVID-19 world, where there is a new normal and I want to get into that and what all that means in terms of leadership. I want to go back and I want to do a Genesis story for you because we're already into this, but it's important for people to understand what got you to where you are. Everybody's got a Genesis story, a brand story and also a, “This is where I was. This is where I am. This is where I'm going.” Dave, what is your brand story?
Everybody takes their own trajectory. The most interesting piece for me is that I had no idea where any of it was going. We have these ideas of what our future can and would look and the universe keeps on surprising me all the time. I was in acting school. I was convinced that I was going to be an actor and the interesting piece for me was that every other actor I was in school with, they would come to me with their stuff and they would talk to me. I was able to hear and listen to them. I didn't even recognize that was going on or that that was the case. Partway through my acting program, my father had a stroke unexpectedly.
It totally changed the trajectory of my life. Shortly thereafter, I decided I'm not going to go back to this acting program because I'm going step up to the plate and help my dad take care of himself and also help my mom adjust to that change. In doing so, I was basically either working with my dad in a hospital or rehab facility or working at my mom's home helping her adapt the home for his upcoming physical needs. I discovered that there was this gap in the market. I created a company called Helping Hands Family Care Management in order to help seniors adjust to changing abilities or to help persons with disabilities adjust their lives in homes to what were inabilities.
It's so needed, even now.
As I was developing that and marketing it, I made a presentation to a group of occupational therapists saying, “Refer to me and I'll help coordinate all of this for people.” They said, “If you want us to refer to you, you need to be an OT.” At that point, I went back to school and got my master's in occupational therapy. Halfway through that, I had my daughter, my first child. When I came out of the program, my wife said, “JOB.” There wasn't a lot of space at that point is to continue to grow my company. I started working in brain injury out in the valley and I switched from that to taking care of people in their homes on the east side of Vancouver. After that, I switched into a specific home visiting geriatric program that was working with people who were facility level care, but who wanted to stay in their homes. The focus became about their goals and what they want their life to look like.
The number of physicians were like, “I don't know what to do here. Call Dave. He's the function guy. How can we get this person to stay at home?” I was working with people in their 80s, 90s and 100s and absorbing a ton of wisdom, but not only the wisdom that's gifted to me by somebody who's been on the planet for that many decades also witnessing how narrow their thoughts had become. I went into work with this one guy I love, Mike. He had had nine strokes. He was paralyzed on one side, but he was so determined to drink his iced tea. He would go to the fridge with his one, more functional side and he poured the iced tea and he'd be walking as best he could with only one functional side, back to his chair in his living room with ice tea in his hand. If he had it in his hand, he couldn't walk or without holding on to something. He was falling up to four times a day.Leadership is not a title; it is an attitude, a mindset. Click To Tweet
Every time he had to hit this alert button that he had, the fire department would come and he'd get picked up, put in his chair, his iced tea would be on the floor, but the firefighter would give them a cup of iced tea and he'd be sitting in his chair, happy to have the iced tea. I said, “There's a whole number of things. You have a little pass-through, a little window. Why don't you take the ice, put it there, walk around holding on to something and slide it along the table?” He said, “No.” I had an ongoing joke with the physicians. You create the anti-stubborn pill and we're going to succeed with every single client we've got.
It was such a narrow thought that I said, “I'm not going to let this happen to the next generation of people.” I developed a curriculum and started running Men's Group on the beach with a fire. If it was raining, we would build a shelter together and it was a ten-class curriculum to help people open up their minds to all possibilities. After working with him weekly for eight months, “I've got this idea, Dave. Why don't I take the ice tea and I put it on the counter, I push it through and I can walk.” As long as it was his idea. Eight months later, it was great and no pressure on him. I was never putting pressure on him but I was like, “What are your ideas? What can we do to help prevent you fall from falling?”
Somewhere along the lines, we've misinterpreted what we want, which is autonomy and we've labeled it as independence. We fight for independence when what we want is autonomy. Mike was a great example of that. What he wanted was autonomy, but he was risking his autonomy by fighting for his independence. Let's say he falls, he hits his head and now he's in a facility. He's lost all of his autonomy. Maybe not all of it. He's working by their schedule, “Meals are at this time. You need to be in bed at this time when there's a worker to help get you into bed.” He's lost a lot of his independence and his autonomy by fighting for his independence. His autonomy would have been more likely to be maintained if he had taken that iced tea glass and put it through that pass through. After working with him for that long, we went from falling four times a day to falling once every 8 or 9 days.
I developed this curriculum and in this curriculum, one of the men in the Men's Group was like, “You've changed my life. I'm the COO of a company. I'm bringing you in-house. I want you to be an in-house coach for everybody in the company.” My more typical occupational therapy work moved into more life and executive coaching. I started coaching his executive leadership team as well as him and his entire working team. I was working with him. I was there each hire, now they're at 22. They've grown exponentially since and he's the CEO of the company. That's the origin story or as I like to call it the superhero origin story, not that I'm any more of a superhero than any of us but it's nice for us all to think of ourselves as some form of a superhero with some form of superpowers.
It's an interesting journey because it led you to believe that there's always a different way. That's an important thing for anybody to think about. Especially in today's society. There is a different way of looking at things. We all get trapped into, “We've always done it this way. We're always going to do it this way,” because that makes sense. That makes sense based on our current thought process and the fact that we haven't stepped back and said, “What are some different ways of thinking about this? Let's talk to a bunch of people and say, how would you handle this situation?” That's not a sign of weakness.
Everybody seems to think that it's this horrible sign of weakness as leaders to gather opinions. It doesn't mean you have to take everybody's opinion. There's no law out there that says you have to take everybody's opinion but when you gather opinions, you may say, “There are parts of this that are that I like.” What if we put them all together and we can create something that’s from good to great? That's an amazing thing about what I'm hearing that you're doing. You're opening up people's minds to possibilities and getting people to have those conversations that what always has been and doesn't mean that's the way it always has to be moving forward.
That comes from Einstein's idea around not being able to solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them. That speaks to a lot of the work that I do around people's ideas and how so much of what we do and the way we think is trapped in automation. It's based on all of our past, which is what I call our training. Everything that's happened to me is my training. Other people call it past, I call it training. With that training, it's led me to a number of automated ways of thinking. I like to talk to people about their internal boardroom. In your head, you've got a boardroom, it's got as nice a boardroom office as you want.
It's got as nice a boardroom table as you want. The ceilings can be high or low, depending on what you like, but most of us have a boxed-in and enclosed full board room with lots of board members. We're standing at the head of the table as CEO and have no idea that we are standing at the head of the table as the CEO. Here comes my little hurt, Davey, that's always been anxious since he was made fun of in the playground. He's the one who sits next to me in the boardroom and he's like, “You’ve got to be cautious. If you say something bad or you say something, you're going to feel stupid. You're going to get caught with your zipper down and somebody's going to make fun of you.”
That's my automated thought. That automated thought has the closest ear of the CEO but if as CEO, I can say, “Davey, I love your input and I'm grateful that you've given me this memo. What I need you to do is stay in your beautiful corner office with an incredible view and I will call on you when I need you. I appreciate your input. I'm open to everybody's input in the room but I need to remind myself that I'm the CEO. Even though that thought is crossing my mind, I don't need to invest in that thought.” It’s like right now. I might invest in N95 masks but I'm not going to invest in a swimming pool.
That thought that's coming in saying, “You’ve got to be cautious, scared, worried and you need to keep everybody in line.” I don't need to invest in that thought that's the public swimming pool. That's not the N95 mask. The N95 mask is like, “Gather the ideas. Figure out which components of those ideas are the ideas to live your brand and to live as the CEO of you. Amalgamate them, throw them away, choose them, whichever you want but be intentional with your decision and your investment as you move forward.
Being intentional is important because you're right we all have self-doubt. We all have that nagging little voice that goes on in our voice in our minds. The question is, how loud do we allow that voice to get? I love what you say because I always say that we are a combination of the experiences and the thoughts that have gone on in our minds so far. Where have we come from? It doesn't mean that's where we're going to be. It only means that these are our experiences to date. This is the set of tools that we have to help us make decisions moving forward.
As we make those new decisions, it adds to that toolbox. I love what you're saying is the fact that we need to gather new and different thoughts around us and not be threatened by them. The reason is every leader should hire people that are smarter than they are in certain particular places. You're not going to be the CEO, the CFO, the CMO, the CIO or all those things in one company unless you want to have a company of one. If you want to be that solopreneur and grow your company to $250,000, $350,000, $500,000 and hit that ceiling, you can be a company of one.When you train somebody to live the brand of the organization, you’re creating a leader. Click To Tweet
You could have every skillset that you want inside of one person, but you're only going to go so far in life. If you want to grow a company and want to be somebody that takes it and build something that is, at one point viable, sellable and scalable, you need to gather as many different opinions around you that have skillsets in areas that you don't and not be threatened by them. It's the culmination of those experiences, of those 10, 15, 20 people and the people that they hire and train below them that make your company better and grow.
An excellent thought because this is a tendency amongst some coaches. A number of coaches think that they need to be the guy who has the answers for other people or it can guide other people into their own answers but don't necessarily translate that into needing their coach. I have a coach. I love that you brought up the self-doubter in us because he taught me an incredible lesson around what both he and I label is the negative self-talker. I remember, he and I were having a conversation. It was casual land he says to me, “You know that employee that you've got.”
I'm lost here. What are you talking about?
I don't get it. He's like, “You’re a negative self-talker.” I was like, “Yes. I know that guy.” He said, “How long do you think he's been working for you?” This was a few years ago and I said, “Thirty years.” He said, “Has he ever had a break?” I said, “No.” He said, “You're telling me you've got a guy who's been working with you 24/7 for 30 years. Dave, that guy needs a break. He needs a vacation.” Immediately I said, “Where's my motivation going to come from?” He said, “Wouldn't it be nice if your motivation came from a good place?” I work hard for my coach. It was interesting for me because, for about three weeks, there was no negative self-talker but I didn't notice it until after that three-week period when the negative self-talker came back.
There he was making fun of me for saying something that got an eye roll, where I thought that I lost somebody because they weren't making eye contact anymore or whatever the story was in my head, where he thought he knew what was going on for them. Instead of having my negative self-talker labeled as the negative self-talker, I call him the jester. When I have these thoughts, I think it's hilarious, “I've lost Ben. He's not laughing as much as he was at the beginning of our conversation.” I laugh at that thought because, how does he know? Who is he to make that judgment? That changes the role of the negative self-talker from a soul eroder to a comedian.
I truly and absolutely love that analogy. I also look at it, sit there and say, “What are the cues that are missing from the other person?” While we're thinking about our own self-doubt or jester with anything, what's going on in their mind? They may be sitting with you and talking to you about leadership issues and their wife or their husband or whoever could have been having this enormous row that morning that's completely distracting them that you haven't brought to the surface, but it's totally undermining the entire conversation. It has nothing to do with you and the current situation but it's reflecting through the conversation, in the fact that you can see that they're disoriented, disorganized or whatever. If you're not picking up on that and sit there and say, “Is there something else going on? Is there something else we should be talking about? I know we've got this on the agenda. I know we created this agenda and this agenda is important but are you okay?”
That's beautiful because that's what happened when I switched from soul eroder to comedian. All of a sudden, I wasn't distracted by the thought. I could pay way more attention to my idea or philosophy in a lot of the work I do, lives in that all of the answers are there. They're all in the room already. If you pay attention, you will pick up on them. The less that negative self-talker plays around in my head as a soul eroder and the more it plays around as a comedian, the less distracted I am and the better attention I can pay to the individual to figure out what's going on. Plus, if I'm not eroding my soul, it's easy to step into a question that’s saying, “Are you okay? Is everything all right with you?”
It allows you to focus on the other individual. I'm going to bring up the Peter Principle because it's one of my favorites is, we're so focused on ourselves because we haven't been given the training to focus on others. Too many people become managers, vice presidents, presidents, directors, whatever within a company without being given the training of how to do it effectively. There are many people out there, the Peter Principle for people who don't know what the Peter Principle is. You are promoted to the level of your incompetence.
It's a sad thing to say but we're all given the opportunity to fail. We're given the opportunity to fail because people do not give us the support that we need in order to achieve our goals. I stress this with every leader I know. Give the people that on your teams, the ability to achieve their goals. Understand what their goals are and help them achieve their individual goals. Help them grow to the next level of leadership. I love what you said about being a coach and having a coach. You cannot achieve your next level until you have somebody out there who's been down that road and hole who can help you out of it.
You can only take people as far as you've gone yourself.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of people that call themselves coaches now that are two steps in front of the people that are trying to help and they're trying to call themselves experts. That's the real danger. I asked everybody out there to sit there and say, “Make sure that if you are hiring a coach or somebody, dive into the have a deep conversation about goals, wants and needs and make sure you're comfortable with this person.” A coach that's good for me is not going to be the coach that's good for Dave and it’s not going to be the coach that's good for you. We all need to find somebody that resonates with us that we trust and we're willing to be open and honest with. That takes time.
That's exactly why I offer to anybody an initial coaching session, that's 90 minutes. It’s a bilateral interview. Do they want to work with me? Do I want to work with them? Am I going to be able to help them? Am I going to be able to take them to where they want to go? Are they keen and inspirational? Are they ready to be inspired? For them, am I that inspirational guy? Am I the person who can help them get there?Leaders need to gather new and different thoughts around them instead of being threatened by them. Click To Tweet
I offer that same 60 minutes free of my time and it's bilateral. Is it good for me? Is it good for you? It's got to be good for both of us because if it's not good for both of us, it's not good for either one of us. Why am I charging you from day, one from minute one until I understand whether I can help you or not, whether we're simpatico, whether we're able to have open and honest conversations with each other and be able to work with each other? That's so important.
I agree and mutually beneficial relationships are the best ones.
This has been an amazing conversation and I want to finish it off with a couple of things. The first question is what's the best way for people to get in touch with you?
People can get in touch with me through my LinkedIn profile or they can get in touch with me through my website, DaveRobens.com. If they're more interested in men's group work, they can check out MensGroupVancouver.ca. Those are probably the best ways. If they’re followers of yours, you know how to get in touch with me and I'm happy to receive any contact through you. I would appreciate being in touch with anybody. The number of people I get to work with also help me grow.
The last question is because I know you want to talk about the ever-adjusting brand and this is going to allow you to have that question. The question I always ask people and this is something I asked, when you leave a meeting when you get in your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
Particularly for creating your brand story, I feel like I'm always on the cusp of creating my perfect brand. That is because my brand is me. A great example was at the peak of my company, the work that I was getting and the income. My wife and I decided that we're going to move to Bali. There was this opportunity for our children to go to an incredible school that focuses on developing leaders around sustainability. It's called the Green School and we decided to shut everything down. We called it our pretirement because we want to get used to being with each other without a lot of stuff to do at a great point in our lives, while we could still race, run, engage in things that were quite active.
We took a year to do exactly that and to step into either bravery or fearlessness depending on how one likes to see it and for me to live my brand. Make brave choices to live the life that you want to live and live the life that you want to create. I'm always pushing my envelope to do what is best for me and my family and what I want to create for myself and my family. I feel blessed that I have a wife who's on board with that and who I can support with her living the life that she wants to create as well. Making decisions like that are part of me living my brand. That makes it so that I'm always on the cusp of creating my perfect brand. Most people call it walking the walk instead of talking the talk.
I call it creating a living brand because your brand is also evolving. Let's ask that question one last time because it's important. When you're when you walk out of the room and drive away, how do you want your customers to think about you when you're not in the room?
I want them to recognize that I'm inspirational. When I talk about creating my own personal mission, vision and values, my mission is world peace. My vision, in part, is one person at a time and another part of that is through inspiration. Ultimately, I want people to see me as inspirational and that component of that lives in some of the work that Viktor Frankl did historically and it's maximizing that moment between stimulus and response. Quite commonly, we react to a stimulus rather than respond to a stimulus. Reaction lives in automation response lives in intention.
If we expand the moment between the stimulus and response, we can respond rather than living in automation. Viktor Frankl talks about that's where our power and freedom lies in the moment between stimulus and response. A lot of my work lives within that moment and it's quite difficult to not feel inspired and inspirational when you're being intentional with that moment. It’s when you're continuously taking that moment between stimulus, response and living it doing exactly what you would consciously. Intentionally choose to do, so you're responding each time in full alignment with your mission, vision and values.
Dave, keep living an intentional life. Thank you for being an amazing guest and thanks for giving us such great insights.
Thank you so much for the opportunity, Ben. You're such a lovable man. I appreciate anytime that you and I get to spend together. I appreciate this opportunity as well.
We'll go break bread again soon. Take care and we’ll talk soon.
Thank you. Be well.
Dave Robens is a function expert! He completed his Masters degree in occupational therapy many moons ago, and this propelled him into the world of maximizing one’s ability to create the life they want. His career started off collaborating with persons with brain injuries, then he transitioned into working alongside people aged 80-100+. The wisdom he gained from his clients transformed his life. He created and facilitated personal development courses and ran them for men and women separately.
All classes in Vancouver were held outdoors by a fire. If it was raining, the group would build a shelter together before leaning into the growth-focused material. He was also blessed with the opportunity to run a condensed version of the program while living abroad, in Bali. His return to British Columbia landed him on the Sunshine Coast where he continues to coach people from around the world. He also helps develop leaders within business, refurbishes company cultures, and creates conduits for effective communication in the workplace.
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For one reason or another, people tend to view their financial situation from the point of view of scarcity, always with the thought that they don’t have enough for this thing or that. The abundance mindset is the direct opposite of this mentality. It sees money as a friend and focuses on acquiring it rather than being fearful of scarcity. Today’s guest, Olga Kirshenbaum, founder of Rags to Riches Consulting, asserts that when you think in terms of abundance when it comes to money, abundance will trickle to everything else in your life. Olga joins Ben Baker in this episode to talk about working with creative business owners, financial management, making money decisions, money coaching, and the abundance mindset.
Every single week, we are amazed at the number of people that email me. Email me if you like at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com or join our merry crew of men and women. We love you everywhere that you want to be. If you go to YourLivingBrand.live show, click on the subscribe button. There are a million different ways to subscribe. If you're a Spotify, iTunes, or a SoundCloud person, subscribe to the channel that you love. If we're not there, tell me and I'll get us there. It's fun being everywhere and anywhere and letting people listen in a way that's good for them. Thank you all for being such an amazing audience. In this episode, I've got Olga Kirshenbaum. Olga and I met I don't even know how long ago on LinkedIn. We have been LinkedIn buddies for a while.
It must have been on the second start of my LinkedIn journey. I had two. We met in late 2018. That's when I was starting to pick up my second journey. My first journey was five years before that. I was in a job where I wasn't happy. I started networking, and someone asked me for a cup of coffee. I was like, “Why not? What's the conversation?” We ended up having a conversation. He’s like, “You’ve got to get out of where you're at.” He also says, “I host a BNI event every week. Why don't you come? I have one amazing recruiter. She does admin replacing. I'm sure they have a finance person in the group and she'll introduce you.” I went to the event and I met her. I sent her my resume. She put me in touch with a finance person. After that, I was working with them for a good several years. Had I not had that coffee, I'm not sure I would have had my second go at LinkedIn.
That's awesome. BNI is such an incredible organization. I was a member years ago. I've been on LinkedIn for years. I have to go back and take a look and see exactly what I joined. We had Ivan Misner on the show. For people who don't remember, Ivan is the Founder of BNI. It’s an incredible story. BNI allows people to connect. You're right. It's an amazing organization that it's a giver’s gain and it allows people to get to know people, build trust, and relationships. It's amazing the things that come out of those conversations.
I think it was the LinkedIn instead of being virtual, it was the original LinkedIn, where people were creating connections with people outside of their area of expertise, circle and meeting new people. The idea was, “We're going to refer clients to each other because we know each other. I know you do great work.” It's interesting how they're similar.
It's about trust and getting into what you do in the finance industry. Trust is everything. “I'm not certainly not going to give you my money if I don't trust you. I'm not going to let you take care of my money if I don't trust you.”
Especially when it comes to the abundance of work that I do with my clients, sometimes it’s digging into personal conversations. Things that have scarred people from their childhoods. If you don't have that trust, they're not going to come to you.Most people are not financially literate, and it is hard to teach financial literacy when you don’t understand it yourself. Click To Tweet
Before we get into that, why don't you give everybody a history about who you are, what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for? Tell me the story, Olga.
A short summary is I am a money coach and I help creatives. I empower creatives to get comfortable with money. On the way I started, I knew I wanted to be an accountant when I was in high school. I was one of those people. I was like, “I'm going to be an accounting major,” before I even knew what school I was going to. I always had a knack for solving money puzzles. My friends and family always came to me for advice. When I started the accounting degree, it was natural for me. I enjoyed it, which not many accountants can say. I went with that and I always thought, we always hear about companies doing so well. People are always living paycheck to paycheck. I wanted to see where the differences were. I realized that companies have budgets and manage their cash. Most people don't because they don't know how. I spent several years working as an accountant. I spent a couple of years in a CPA firm and the rest was corporate accounting. It wasn't fulfilling for me. I loved the work, but there is no joy.
Early in 2018, I found myself let go from a job where I was already unhappy. I decided to do some soul searching. Part of it was, I was getting into jobs that were great on paper, but something at the end was never satisfying. I wanted to find out what that thing was so I wouldn't go into another job. I end up in the same unhappy situation. I landed on money coaching, mostly because I get so much joy in following up with people and hearing what progress they've made. This goes back to when I was in high school. I graduated knowing I wanted to be an accountant.
One of my friends says, “I have this part-time job and it’s going to be full time in the summer. I want to manage the cash and not have to worry about shifts and focus on school. How do I work around that?” We talked about mindful spending on how to forecast personal spending. She called me back five years later. She's about to graduate and says, “I saved the entirety of my student loans. Do I pay it off the day after graduation or do I piecemeal it?” I said, “Are you crazy? How many of our friends would love to say, ‘No student loans and I'm starting fresh?’” I started piecing together a lot of these stories that I was taking for granted the impact that I was having on people's lives. I decided to go for it.
It goes back to my second journey on LinkedIn. I wasn't sure what I wanted that to look like but I knew that LinkedIn was a great place for testing and getting feedback. I started putting money posts out there writing money blogs. That's how I started piecing together what it was going to look like. I now work with creatives because they have the most interesting puzzles. There's always something different. I help them make friends with money in their lives and their businesses. Once they get a foundation of good money habits, we begin to go into the abundance work that I mentioned, which is more mindset work. We start with money, but the way I describe it is, money is my in. Once you begin to apply the abundance mindset to money, it begins to trickle to everything else.
I want to explore the abundance thing because I love that. I'm curious about the creatives because they're an interesting group. If there's a group that has ups and downs, and times where they're flashing and when they're dead poor, creatives are who you think of because it's not one of those types of lifestyles that lends itself to regular paychecks. For a variety of different reasons, I'm thinking of friends of mine that are in the theater business. I’m thinking of artists and sculptor friends of mine. I've watched them sell $100,000 pieces, and not sell anything for 1.5 years and everything in between. Helping that part of society, with people that are fascinating and creative, but money is not something that's in their DNA for most of them. How did you first get into that? How do you get them to see the fiscal responsibility where they're used to starve and steak?
I was working with creatives pretty much the entire time I was working corporate outside of the CPA firm. That’s seven years out of the ten years that I worked in companies. They were advertising companies, visual effects, and eBook publishing. I was already constantly surrounded by super incredibly talented people and I would see this lack in financial literacy. The reality is, once I started doing my money coaching work, I realized the actual truth is they’ll know that they need to be better at it. This is also why I started getting into the abundance work because a lot of the time, they know they need a budget. They know that they need to manage their cashflow, but don't have the tools to do that. For creatives, they're telling themselves stories that make it seem that this is how it's supposed to be. For example, starving artists. That's the story we hear all the time. A lot of kids get talked out of going to art school because their parents don't want them to be a starving artist.
They don't want to support them for the rest of their life or what they perceive that they're going to have to support them for the rest of their life.
What I started noticing another pattern with creatives is, they believe that because they love what they do, they should be getting paid either less or they should be doing it for free. They should be doing something that they dread to make that happen. When your creative business owner, what ends up happening oftentimes is they dread the money part. They don't do it and they’re in a hamster wheel all the time. They feel and explain to themselves that, “It's okay because I'm an artist. It's supposed to be hard.”
I've got a graphic designer that I've worked with for years. It's gotten to a point where I send her monthly amounts of money because getting her to invoice me is painful. I know that I owe her $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 but I keep saying, “When are you going to invoice me?” She’s like, “I'll get around to it.” I'm like, “No. You don't understand. I have the money. My customers paid me. I need an invoice from you in order for me to invoice my client.” I’m like, “How much do I owe?” She’s like, “I don't know what's about your $200.” I'm like, “No, I need to know these things.” It's getting people. They are some of the most genuine, creative, wonderful people that I know but you're right, money is something that's like, “I can't talk about it.” “It's beyond me.” “It's embarrassing to talk about money.” How do you move people beyond that? That's a challenge, not just for creatives. A lot of people are embarrassed because they think that they need to know everything about money to talk about money. You don't. You need to be able to ask intelligent questions.
That's the key there. My approach to teaching, especially creatives, is you don't have to become an accountant overnight. My approach is I teach them with my mistakes. I may not have an example of everything that you can make a mistake with money in but I always lead with my downfalls because I'm an accountant. I know many accountants who know better on paper, but they will still make those mistakes. I can resonate with what you said and not wanting to invoice your clients. I hate doing my books.
I would have thought you would be the first person that goes, “It's the fifteenth of the month. I’ll sit down and invoices go out.”It’s okay not to know everything about finances; it’s not okay to ignore it. Click To Tweet
This is my other approach to it. I am quite a creative person for an accountant. Once I became the business owner and no longer the financial controller, the management person, that's when I started seeing how easy it is. It's simple. A month goes by so quickly and you're having fun doing what you're doing. You don't want to sit there creating invoices, but here's the thing, because I have the accounting background, I'm able to work around that. I remember my first year in business. It was less than a full year. I was like, “How many expenses could I possibly have? I'm going to catch up in a month.” I did this to myself for three months. In the last three months of the year, I had to sit there catching up for three months of transactions to be able to get my taxes done.
First of all, I should know better. What are you doing? I knew why it happened. In order for it not to happen again, I was like, “Let's put things in place. When I do invoice people, it's automated.” When I have expenses coming in, it's all automated. I have everything set up. I get that receipt in my email. I will forward it to an email that's connected to my QuickBooks file. I have the app on my phone that if it's actual receipts I'm getting I'm snapping them. I don't have to think about it. I have to set times to review. In reality, that saves me hours. That time that I was catching up on the three months of not heavy traffic for my business because it was my first six months, it took me six hours. It didn't have to.
I remember my first year going out on my own and this was years ago. I made many mistakes in setting up and maintaining my books. All that probably cost me an extra $2,000 or $3,000 in bringing in a bookkeeper at the last minute to explain to me what I did wrong, what I needed to do right, and helped me set up a process. If I'd done it a year earlier, it would have been so much simpler and easier. Twice a month, I get my receipts together and I go through them. Quite honestly, I do a lot of them. I don't do a lot of work. Because of the type of work that I do, it's a lot easier to do it on a bi-monthly basis. What you're saying is creating the systems is what makes it easy. If you can make things systematic and you don't have to think about it, it probably makes people feel more comfortable and say, “I can do this.”
What’s interesting is for you, it makes sense to do it every two weeks. There are businesses who should probably be doing it once a week and having that knowledge of how it works. Someone explaining it to you simply in the beginning. First of all, if you do it from the beginning, it's going to be so much easier to put together and make sense of it. That way, when your transactions and your business grow, which you would want to happen, it's going to make sense to you how it's growing. You can tell yourself, “I don't need to do it every week.” Some companies can do it once a month because that's how little transactions they have, but you need to have someone explain it to you in the beginning.
That’s my thinking but that's also not to say, because I've worked with people who have neglected it for five years, that it's better to have someone come in and get it all together, fix it, and you'll be able to move forward. What I can promise you, regardless of how you may think that it’s a painful experience and that's why you're not looking forward to it or you're going through it, you're going to feel so much stress lifted off your shoulders. I had a client describe it as she was walking around with her best clench. She didn't even realize it until she had these money epiphanies, essentially. That's what it is. We always underestimate the stress that it causes and we overestimate how scary it's going to be to face that situation.
We fear the unknown. I don't care what it is. As we're moving into a new stage of the economy, people are thinking, “What's next?” It's those dark rooms and corners that you can't see around. It's that type of thing that people are scared of. You're scared that you don't know what you don't know. It's the things that we don't understand that make us feel foolish and say, “I should understand money, how to handle my books, and balance a checkbook.” Everything needs to be taught in life. When we were born, we know how to communicate, but we don't know how to speak. There are certain things that are innate, but most things in life need to be taught. The more we can align ourselves with people that understand things and can teach them in a way that resonates with us, the better life is.
That’s the other reality that we're living in. We are not taught financial literacy anywhere.
We are taught poorly.
That’s true. They teach you how to write a check. For example, in the US, they're starting to pass financial literacy mandates in states that say that the students need to have minimum requirements of financial literacy taught to them. I have read some of these curriculums and frankly, they're terrifying. They don't get to a budget until the fourth module. Knowing how public school is, I'm a public-school kid, it probably takes months to get to that fourth module. By the time they got there, they taught them how to be good consumers, how to spend that money before they made it, and what a job is. I'm not sure that it's preparing students to be able to manage anything and in their financial life.
It's also the fact that people who are teaching them, I don't mean to belittle it, could be the gym teacher, shop teacher, or whoever. They're not dealing with finances for a living. It's not somebody that has that as their main job. Their job is to make the understanding of financial literacy easy to understand and make it relevant to people. That's not their job. It's an extra course that has been thrown on somebody. It’s like, “Somebody has to teach this. This is your job this month or year,” because of that, a lot of the kids are being short-changed. Instead of bringing somebody in for a month, say volunteers from the major banks, accounting firms, and financial institutions to come in and talk about these types of things within the school system. Schools would be far better served because every one of these organizations is looking for places to volunteer.
The other truth is most people are not financially literate. It's hard to teach financial literacy when you don't understand it yourself. That's why most people can remember that the only thing most people say that they learned in school was how to write a check. That's probably because most people write checks in their day-to-day life. Nowadays, the reason why people don't get taught how to balance a checkbook is because no one balances checkbooks these days.
Nobody writes checks anymore. I'm looking at my checks. I last bought 500 checks a few years ago. I might have 100 checks left. Think of the number of checks. Those are my business checks. For personal checks, maybe I write 1 or 2 a year. Those companies don't want checks. They would much prefer I give them a Visa card or I do an e-Transfer.
Using checks is such an outdated system. The US ranks the highest in how many checks get written per month, but it's also one of the number one groups for financial fraud. Most people don't know how to also write checks safely, which is huge. For example, now that it's 2020, it's a good idea to write 2020 as the full date in the year because it could also give someone an opportunity to write in 2019. Going back to, however, some say banks won't cash checks past six months, but they've done it before I've seen it.Money is your friend. The more money you have in your life, the more opportunities it can give you. Click To Tweet
When was the last time somebody asked you to give you two pieces of ID when you get a check? It used to be when you went into the grocery store and gave them a check, they asked you for two pieces of ID. They get so few checks that people wouldn't even think to ask, or wouldn't even know to ask for that.
A lot has been taken for granted when it comes to how many times do you pay with a debit card or credit card? With a debit card, you have to put in your PIN number, at least. I haven't had my ID tracked with a credit card with all sorts of amounts that I'm paying for.
Nobody checks the signature anymore. Nobody does anything anymore because it's all pin pad-based or tap systems. You’re right. As we digress a little bit, it's important. It's about getting people to understand the nuances of their finances and getting people comfortable with the understanding of it's okay not to know everything. It's not okay to ignore it.
Most people that are frustrated that I work with tend to be people who have been putting their heads in the sand for years. I've seen it happen with business owners that have had businesses for over ten years. It's ruined their lives and marriages. It takes a huge toll on you. It could be something that's even profitable, but because you've ignored it for so long, it's an avalanche. It begins tiny and it can snowball out of control quickly.
Let's move from there because we’ve handled that. People have got to sit there and have a good understanding of their finances and finding somebody that can help them with that. Let's move into that wonderful word that you came up with at the beginning of this, abundance. How do you help people move from the day-to-day understanding of how much money they're spending today, weekly or monthly to get them into that abundance mentality? It’s going to be important, moving forward to get people into a mentality of not needing to spend every penny that we make.
I have to go through the process of building a foundation with these people because few people come to me already with good habits. The good habits are about cash management and understanding where it's going. For me, that's the first piece. It's great to manage your cash and know where everything is going. Unless you move from that place of fear and into an abundance mindset, you're not going to be able to get the most that you can out of your money. For example, I worked with someone. We put the systems in place to make sure that the basics are put together and they're not difficult. When he gets paid, he knows where everything needs to funnel out and business and personal are taken care of. It’s not that much work for him.
To get into the abundance mindset, we started doing exercises. It's things like going to the coffee shop in the morning and you love a pastry, but you can't afford a pastry. Can you though? What benefits will that pastry have on your day? For example, an extra $5. This person who has their money all taken care of is still thinking, “I don't have enough.” It's a story that they're telling themselves. Once we talk about how much that pastry can add joy to their lives, as a coach, if I'm not feeling great, I can't coach my clients as best as I can. As business owners, sometimes that means if I start my day with that wonderful pastry maybe on Mondays. Let's say you start the week or you have some important meetings that day.
You’d love a pastry and go to the coffee shop as you normally do. If you get a pastry, sit there and enjoy it, it puts you in a mindset where you're feeling so much better. You had a little bit of pleasure already for the day. If you're having five sales calls that day, you're going to be in a better mood. You're already setting yourself up for more abundance in your life. Sometimes the trick is to switch that thinking. If you're thinking that $5 is a lot of money and you have everything put together usually, it's asking questions like, “If you spend this $5 for the week on a pastry, is that going to make or break your rent this month?” I don't think so.
If it is, we're having a different conversation.
For me, that's why I love the work so much. It's personal. The pastry example may not work for everyone but what I like to do is finding patterns in people and connecting it with the joys of their lives. A pastry for this person is something that they look forward to. They light up when they talk about it but for someone else, it could be not including anything about money. You can have fun for free and look for those opportunities. This goes back to what I said earlier. We start with the money piece, but the abundance work begins to bleed out to everything else. Once you have abundance in money and you begin to appreciate that, you begin to see it everywhere else in your life. I've seen clients and their kids beginning to pick up these abundance mindset habits, not even realizing why that's happening.
It's because their parents are also feeling so much better about themselves. They're not feeling that stress of money. I've had money blogs, and a lot of it has to do with my immigrant upbringing. My parents grew up in Communist Russia. There's so much money talk there about how everyone's supposed to be equal. You're not supposed to have a lot of money. The reality is, the more money you have in your life, it gives you more opportunities. It's switching those mindsets and seeing money as a friend. That's what I'm trying to do at the end. No matter if I'm working with individuals or business owners, it's to get them to see it as a friend.
For me, it's not a Danish in the morning. It's a box of Danishes and bringing it to the office or a client’s office, and seeing the joy that it brings other people. Not only does that make me feel better, it brings joy into my life, but it also spreads the joy into other people's lives. It makes their days better, more effective, and allows them to connect with each other and me on a different level and it spreads. I'm a big believer in dropping the pebbles in the water and watching those ripple effects. You’re right. It's how we think about money and how we view money, whether it's a stressor for us or something that we use to be able to achieve goals.Money is a tool to be used to live a life. Click To Tweet
It’s that thought process. I love the fact that you bring that up because too many people live their life going, “I can't afford that.” “I can't do that.” They don't do anything because they're saving up for when they're 65 years so they can retire, do things and they're dead at 68. They never did anything. It's a matter of understanding that money is a tool to be used to live a life. It's not whoever dies with the most toys win. It's how you lived and built your life with that abundance and using that money as a tool to be able to live your life effectively.
One of my biggest articles that did well was I just need enough money to..., it goes back to the stories that we're telling ourselves. If you switch the wording in that sentence and say, “How can I get the money to afford that?” It already begins to change the framework of what you're saying. It's powerful because I wish I had enough money to get it. You're already coming from a place of scarcity. You're acknowledging that you don't have it, which perpetuates the not having it but when you say how can I get enough money to buy that thing? It begins to train your brain to think, “How do we get there?” We may not be there, but it's possible.
I like to think of, “What we need to do to make that happen?” That's a great thing for the business to look at it and people say, “It's not in the budget.” “What do we need to do to make that happen?” Yes, there's a budget. There's a pile of money, but it is not absolute. It's sitting there saying that every single penny is not earmarked for a specific thing. There’s $100,000 for marketing. If I can give you a better way to spend that $100,000, maybe we can take something out of this in order to be able to afford that. It's a matter of giving people the opportunity to be able to be successful. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you?
The best place to get in touch with me is on LinkedIn or you can check out my money blog at RagsToRichesConsulting.com. I share money insights and that includes the article, I just need enough money to.
The last question I asked everybody, as you walk up the door, leave a meeting, get in your car and you drive away or bus or whatever you do, how do you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
The word that I came up for 2020 for myself when I was doing some intention setting for the new year. It's Moxie. I have lots of tattoos. I am not your typical accountant. When people think of another accounting book or personal finance book, they think it's going to be a dreaded and a snooze fest. I'm not that type of person. That's how I like for people to think about me when I'm not in the room.
Olga, you are a ray of sunshine. I love having you on the show. Thanks for making money understandable because it's desperately needed in today's world.
Thank you, Ben for having me on.
I love to have you on.
Olga Kirshenbaum is a published author of "Shmoney Guide: Making Money Choices Doesn't Need to Be So Scary" focusing on personal finance advice. Olga is a Money Whisperer and Founder of Rags to Riches Consulting. Olga empowers individuals and creative leaders to make money choices with confidence so they can unleash life’s full potential.
“Dear Olga” column is a weekly money advice article series answering readers’ written-in questions. Readers get to ask questions they have always wondered about and are intimidated to ask about. The answers are in layman terms without making the reader feel inadequate or stupid which most find refreshing. Money Mondays articles covering all the broad money topics out there including student debt, budgeting, having conversations about money with your partner, facing financial setbacks and more. “Shmoney Guide: Making Money Choices Doesn’t Need to Be So Scary” is available on Amazon and Nook.
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Customers are, without doubt, the center of every business. Thus, giving people true customer experience shows your dedication to scale your ventures. Today, Ben Baker talks to Jeffrey Victor of Luminary Learning Company about the importance of customer service in all aspects of your buhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreyvictorsiness. Going back to his humble beginnings, Jeffrey shares how he managed to move his way up the ladder from being an actor, a concierge, and eventually owning his own company. Keep in mind, it is critical to spend on training your staff how to value their positions as front liners - those who put interactions above transactions. After all, creating the most incredible experience for our customers is what keeps our business thriving.
I'm going local. We're going to a local buddy of mine, Jeffrey Victor of LLC, Luminary Learning Company. He is all about customer experience, so let's get into this. Jeffrey, welcome to the show.
It’s nice to be here. Thanks for having me.
We haven't been having conversations for years. You and I met through BNI a few years ago, Business Network International. We're going to have Ivan Misner on the show, the Head of BNI. I am so excited about the fact that we're going to have you on the show. We're going to talk about customer experience because it's something that most businesses pay enormous lip service to, but don't get into the nuts and bolts and make it happen. I want to talk to you about where did you come from? Where are you now? Where are you going? Let's start with the life and times of Jeffrey Victor.
One thing that I want to point out right away is that I appreciate you supporting a local business. This business has been founded right here in beautiful British Columbia out of Vancouver. I appreciate our conversation, our friendship and being here. Thank you for supporting local.
This is the best-dressed man you're ever going to know. This guy has got more suits in his closet than the next three people combined. He always makes me feel underdressed wherever he is. The man knows how to dress sharply.
You of all people, I appreciate that because you know what it's all about and your brand. That is one of the things that's become my thing. When I go out to networking events or meetings and whatnot, that's one of the first things people notice right away is my attire, which is fantastic. It's a great way to start or spark up a conversation because people right away say to me, “You're the best-dressed person here.” In Vancouver, everyone's wearing sweatpants and Lululemon to networking events.
What you're saying is that the bar is not that high? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?
I always like to wear the pocket square to match.
You’ve got to have the tie and the pocket square to match. It's an important thing. One of these days, you're going to get me back into my suits and ties.
I always have to ask clients too like, “This is Vancouver. Every company has their different dress code. I want to make sure that I'm not overdressing or underdressing.” It's one of the first questions I usually ask when I'm going to come in. If I show up to a young tech starter upper in my suit and pocket square, that could set a tone that I don't want to set. It's something that I'm always asking right away. How do you people dress?
I'll tell this story and this is going back years ago. I'm on the golf course and I had forgotten to turn off my phone. It’s my fault. Somebody slapped my wrist and my phone rings about the seventh hole and it's one of my top clients. I was like, “Sorry, guys, I’ve got to take this thing.” I answered the phone, “Bob, how are you doing?” He says, “Where are you?” I said, “Do you really want to know?” He says, “You're on the golf course, aren't you?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “How quickly can you be here?” I said, “What's going on?” He says, “I can't tell you. How quickly can you be here?”
I said, “I can finish at 9:00, go home, shower and change. I could probably meet you in the office in 2 or 3 hours.” He says, “Forget about it. Drop the bag, get in your car and get here. I'll pay for the round. I don't care.” I show up. I hadn't shaved in two days. I’m wearing a pair of golf shirt and shorts. I was wearing flip flops because all I had with me was either flip flops or my golf spikes. I didn't think I wanted to wear my spikes into his office. I get there and the entire board room is full of people. We fixed the crisis.
We take care of it. We take care of the customer. A couple of days later, I called him up and said, “I was embarrassed. Everybody else there was properly dressed and I'm sitting there. I hadn't shaved. My hair is a mess. I got a ball cap on. I'm sitting there in golf attire.” He says, “I needed you right then and there. I need you to help me take care of a problem. I could care less what you look like. Do you ever see me in a suit and tie?” That was the last time I wore a suit and tie in Vancouver on a regular basis.
It’s an awesome story. I get it. I can relate to it.The greatest plunges or leaps can turn out to be the greatest and most incredible experiences in your life. Click To Tweet
It’s taking care of the customer. Let's get into this because that's what you're all about is taking care of the customer. Where did you come from and how did LLC get started?
When I look back at my origins, I'm very proud of being from Cleveland, Ohio. I know nobody's perfect. Believe me, I've heard all the jokes. The mistake by the lake, everyone always brings up Drew Carey and LeBron James. I get it. It’s an amazing city and amazing people. I'm so proud of my roots from there. When in high school, my dad was fantastic for me. One of the first things he did when I turned the right age to get a job, he said, “You're going out and get into a job. That's what people do.” I got a job at a movie theater. I became the ticket taker, the popcorn guy, all these different things. Right away, I started to enter this world of customer service and customer experience as a sixteen-year-old kid.
It was through popcorn and Twizzlers, but it was a start. As I gravitated through my career and what I wanted to do, I always go back to my roots. We started right there in the movie theater. I moved to New York City when I was eighteen-years-old and ended up going to an acting and musical conservatory there. For the next 13 to 14 years, I dedicated my life and my professional life to being an artist and performing in Broadway musicals, in and outside of New York City. I got a chance to travel all over the world doing Broadway musicals. I know we've connected a little bit on that in the past. I'm not going to sing for you, only if you ask me to. That can be one of the bonus takes.
In and around my shows, you've got to pay your rent sometimes in New York and a show will open and a show will close. A lot of organizations, especially customer-focused ones like to hire performers and actors. We're outgoing. We can speak and engage well. We're comfortable in front of a crowd. We can handle conflict in improvisation and go with the flow. Those are skills that I developed in acting school that now I'm very much using in my profession. My first job in New York City when I was not performing was with Disney. It was with the Lion King that had opened up on Broadway. I was immersed into the Disney customer service world. When I look back, that training and that foundation changed my life.
I was being trained and mentored by some of the greatest customer service people in the industry in the world. I’m so fortunate to have had my roots come from that experience. I met a Canadian girl and ended up after thirteen years of living in New York City and living that actor lifestyle. Meeting her changed it all and I was ready to hang up my tap shoes because I had checked all that lifestyle off the bucket list and achieved so many things that I ever could only have dreamt of. I ended up moving to Vancouver, British Columbia. She was from here and immigrated here in 2008. The first position that I found here in Canada was in the luxury hotel world. I started out as a concierge, which I absolutely loved. It was so fantastic. I was being trained by amazing people, great mentors, wonderful trainers and excellent hoteliers and immerse myself for the next ten years in the luxury hotel world.
In the hotel world, you can climb up the ranks pretty fast. If you've got passion, if you're coachable, if you believe in the organization, the brand and the values, you can move around quite fast. They welcome people like that and they can groom fantastic leaders out of that. Luckily, I had people that recognize all that in me. I had a chance to move in and around the hotel world in many different positions, ultimately ending up in training and development. That's where I found my true passion at this stage of my life and at this stage of my career.
It was an a-ha awakening moment for me. I started working in hotels as a training and development manager and worked within certain brands and joined a pre-opening team, which was a phenomenal experience. Ultimately, I had many people, many mentors and people like yourself saying, “Jeffrey, you should start thinking about flying your own flag and doing your own thing.” It wasn't on my radar. I was so comfortable. I loved the hotel industry. I loved what we were doing. Slowly but surely that whisper started to get louder and louder. I started to see what I could bring to organizations that are not hotels.
Hotels are one of my main passions and I absolutely adore it, but I started to see the world from a consumer buying a car, going out to dinner and buying a house for the first time. I was seeing myself as the customer and seeing like this interaction could be so much better if the person had a little bit more of this or a little bit more of empathy or a little bit more of understanding of what it's like to apologize when a mistake happens. My wife was my biggest supporter. She was like, “Jeffrey, this company needs you. We're buying a car right now and there have been a couple of hiccups. They could use some of your expertise and some of your tips and knowledge.” I was like, “That could be something.” Ultimately, in a series of events that occurred, I saw the light. I was like, “This is it. I'm ready to do this.” There is a niche for what I want to do and what I want to achieve. In my style of training and development, I'm ready to do this. The idea had been workshopping in my mind for several years. Finally, all the skies opened up and Luminary Learning Company was established in July of 2019.
It's a culmination of things. We are a culmination of our experiences. We are a culmination of the things that have brought us to a certain point in time. How I started my company, how you started your company, and how many people started their companies. There are a series of experiences that have brought you there that have given you the learning tools, the relationship and some of the challenges. It's given you that a-ha moment that sit there go, “There could be more. There could be something here where I can help people. I can make other people's lives better. These are the people that I can help. This is how I can help them and this is how I can make their lives better.” It's a scary moment and an exhilarating moment at the same time starting your own company.
I'm also going to challenge you to touch on that only because I almost didn't know what to be afraid of.
There is that too. We don't know what we don't know. Every entrepreneur has that exactly.
When I moved to New York, I didn't know what to be afraid of. I took the plunge and did it. Moving to Canada and not knowing too many people. When I look back at my life, I say this all the time to people that are about to take a leap or a plunge into something or take a risk. Personally, when I look back at the biggest plunges and leaps, I've made in my life, those have turned out to be the greatest and most incredible experiences of my life like the big leaps, the ones that are risky, challenging or scary. When I look back, those are the ones that brought me so much joy, learning and struggle. I just took the plunge. I didn't even necessarily know what I didn't know, which made it easier to do it.
We all have to sit there and say, “It's not going to be perfect.” There is no perfect launch. There is no perfect inception of a business. We don't know everything at the start. We can't know everything at the start, but you have to be able to jump across that chasm. You have to sit there and say, “I can do this. Here's the best knowledge I have. Here's a good place to start the rest of it. I have faith that I'll figure it out or I'll find people along the way that will help me figure this out.” It's an amazing thing.
I couldn’t not do it. This is my calling. This is what I am supposed to be doing. It started as a whisper and it got louder and louder. I ultimately said, “I cannot not do this now.” There are many people that could benefit from working alongside me and I could benefit from working alongside them. This is my calling. This is what I'm supposed to do so I couldn’t not do it.Your brand may be lovely and your products fantastic, but they're going to keep going back to your people. Click To Tweet
Let's get back into customer experience and customer service because the story I love to tell is I learned how to hire salespeople because I started off in fine dining. I was a waiter. First of all, anybody who's worked in fine dining, you start off as a busboy. You become an apprentice waiter, then you become a waiter. It was almost a year and a half before I had my own set of tables working at this restaurant because they were so maniacal about their culture and their training. They’re making sure that their customers had the most incredible experience. They didn't care which restaurant you came from. You started off as an apprentice. You started off figuring out their way of doing things.
I always found that later on in life when I had to hire salespeople, I went into the best restaurants in town and watch the best waiters work. I'm sitting there and say, “If you ever want to make a change, here's my business card.” A couple of people did. Some of those were some of the best salespeople I've ever met because they know how to take care of people. They know how to listen. They know how to engage. They know how to interact. They know how to think on their feet. It's an amazing thing. I want to talk to you about how do you help customers with their customer experience? Most companies give great lip service to customer service. They say, “We're all about our customers. We're all about customer service,” and then they put you on hold for 30 minutes.
You sparked an incredible experience that I had at a restaurant. I'll be able to dissect your question and maybe move through it and help you understand how we go about it. There is a pizza place out by where I live. My daughter and I, she's four and a half, that's one of our places we like to go. We've been there several times. Each time we've had a different server. When we go, usually it's a regular experience. The pizza is good. There's nothing too mind-blowing about it. The food is good and service is fine. In an occasion, we had a new server. I'd never seen this person before. Right away, she was super engaging with us. She was connecting with my daughter and connecting with me as a dad. I could tell that there was something going on for her that was genuine and authentic.
This is like an idea that she had to help our experience become even better. She said, “Do you think your daughter would like some pizza dough to play with before the pizza comes out?” My daughter, her name is London, her eyes lit up like she was seeing Mickey Mouse and so did I. I said, “Sure, absolutely.” She went back. She brought this ball of pizza dough and a plate. She even brought this like mini roller so my daughter could sit there and make the pizza while we were waiting for our own pizza to be made. I was like, “This is it right here.” When I compare and contrast servers that we've had there in the past and this particular server, I go back to a few different things. I had spent several years in HR. Human resources is one of my company's branches. It's a passion for me.
The employee experience is at the root of what I do. I think about this person and how they were recruited. How did this person find this company and what were the questions that they asked her? Who is she as a person? She has got a wonderful boss that allows her the creative space while on the floor to be who she is and to be fully expressed with the customers. I don't know if this person is a mom, loves kids, a preschool teacher or something. She was totally authentic and genuine. She was connecting to me differently versus how she was connecting to the couple that was sitting next to us. The couple next to us didn't get pizza dough, but our table did. There were many things that we could dissect about this experience.
I'm sure she gave them an incredible experience on their own right, but it was different from the experience that you got based on who you were.
It's genuine interest in the customer. She was seeing the scene, who we were, and adapting to that. She’s using perhaps her personal experience to then connect to us in an absolutely authentic and genuine way. Here I am talking to you about it and I will talk to every client and every customer. This will be a story that I share forever all because of a tiny little simple gesture that she probably didn't think was that big of a deal. She thought about it. She hit a bullseye and nailed it. When I think about a customer experience, she was providing the service and going about all those things. What I appreciated and what I do is I talk to frontliners.
That is one of the purposes of my business. I work with people like her. I'll work with the leaders and all that business but what I'm doing, I work with the frontline. I share stories like this. I help businesses bring that out in their people. How are we going to get Ben to be fully expressed while out on the floor? Following the standards of the company you're working for, aligning with the mission and the core values and all those things. How can we get him to be himself so he feels like he can be fully expressed with his customers? Once that occurs, that's where the magic happens. It becomes a genuine and authentic interaction even when things go wrong.
It's the Maya Angelou. People don't remember what you say. They don't remember what you did, but they certainly remember how you made them feel. It's that how do we make people feel. I honestly think to bring it back one step and bringing it back to what we do. It's when you engage, retain and grow your employees. When you make them feel empowered and you give them the opportunity to be themselves within the corporate and provide that amazing customer experience, the people within your company feel fulfilled. When this woman brought the pizza dough to your daughter and she saw the sparkle in this kid's eyes, the feeling inside her must have been incredible.
That's where the magic happens. Not only are you making your customer's lives better and you're building up that engagement, loyalty and everything that goes along with it, you're also enabling your employees to be their best. You’re empowering them to do amazing things to be able to make that experience better. You started off with the Disney experience. I am a Disney fanatic. We go to Disney, Disneyland, Disney World, one of these things, probably every eighteen months as a family. I'm the marketing and branding guy. I've been on every backstage tour. I go on all the tours. I do all the technical stuff and I'm looking to see what's the experience that they provide to individual guests.
What are the little magical moments that came up? I remember walking into a restaurant. It was Tuskers restaurant and at Disney World in the Animal Kingdom. I said to the waitress, “I'm lactose intolerant.” She goes, “Hang on a second.” Red Seal chef comes out and said, “Can I walk you through the line?” It's a buffet. He said, “You can eat this. Do you like this? I can make that for you. I'll make you a custom one without the butter.” He made me these incredible beans that were absolutely phenomenal and delicious, but with a substitute for the butter so I could eat them. They made up a special dessert for me that I could eat. You remember these things as a customer and it's what makes you loyal to a brand. I love that that's what you do.
He was making sure that it doesn't poison you. No one wants to be poisoned while at Disney. However, what he was doing for you and what this server was doing for me is he was treating you like one of his own. This is one of the tricks of the trade. Whether he sees you as his dad or his brother or his uncle, you remind him of his uncle who is also lactose intolerant. Who knows what was occurring for him in his head other than doing his job? What he's been enabled and empowered to do is treat you like his own. When I talk to groups of teams and employees that are facing the frontline, even dealing with difficult customers, when things go wrong and people are screaming at you or throwing stuff or breaking a hotel room, there is a moment where you can see someone as your own and be like, "That's someone's grandma or that's someone's dad. There are people that care about them somewhere in the world to make sure that Ben doesn't get poisoned while at Disney. I want to make sure that does not happen.” When you can get your team doing that and treating people like family, that's where the authenticity and the genuineness can come from. That's a way to get people to get there. That's one of the strategies that we use to help people along that are having a hard time making connections or finding genuine feelings with someone. That's a way to do it.
Let's get into the ROI of this because people are sitting there and say it's nice. It’s touchy-feely and a nice to have, but it's way more than that. There is enormous ROI, the Return On Investment for the training, the opportunity and everything that goes into creating that experience. There are amazing dividends that come out of it. I want you to talk about it because a lot of CEOs don't get it. CFOs look at this as a dollar and cents and go, “Why should I spend all this money to train my people?”
I'll go back to look at us talking about this pizza place. You and I are going to get all these emails now after people read this and being like, “Where is that pizza place?” That could be your answer right there. I could list off all the return on investment possibilities and things that this could all bring, but that is a place that I will now recommend for the rest of my days to everyone I know that has kids or doesn't have kids. It doesn't matter. They have gained me forever. I am a super fan of this place. Loyalty 100% is there and it's real. It will be something that I’ll talk about all the time. That's the thing. When often talking about return on investment, we could easily go down the road of this is going to increase your overall sales right away because people are going to want to buy from you. They're going to want to buy a house from John. The brand is lovely and your products are fantastic, but they're going to keep going back to your people. They're going to come back and check into the hotel and say, “Is Sam still here? He's my favorite front desk agent. We stay here because of Sam.” I often go back to it's all about the people. If you've got customers that are wanting to make human connections with your people, this is a step to find it.
It's funny you're talking about going back and asking for Sam because I had that experience. There's a restaurant that we go to, an old-style Italian restaurant on the south side of the Vegas Strip called Bootlegger. If you ever get there, the food is phenomenal. It's old school Vegas. There was a waiter there that was there for 40 or 45 years. We were in Vegas once or twice a year. Whenever it is, we would sit in a section. He always knew what we wanted to eat. We were only there twice a year. He always knew what we like to eat. He always knew that my friend loved a certain sauce on his pasta. We both drank scotch. He remembers these things and it was an experience every single time we got there. The last time we went and we asked about him, we hadn't been there for six months or so, he had retired. I sat down and wrote a handwritten note. I gave it to the maître d.
I said, “Are you still in touch with him? Please give this to him.” It was, “We wish you well and thank you for eighteen wonderful years of taking care of us.” We'll still be back. We'll still go to the restaurant. We'll still eat at Bootleggers. We'll still have a good time. He made us feel like family. It's that feeling of family. It's the cheers, where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. It was more than a pithy statement. You knew when you walked into a certain place that you were welcome and that you mattered. You weren’t just dollars and cents walking in the door. You were a person. That's what most companies miss, whether they're retailers, manufacturers, business to business. Most companies missed that their customers are so important to their survival because they're their best marketing for them.
A lot of people don't realize that your competitor down the street is interacting with people, not just transacting. They're having interactions, not transactions. That is something that I often talk about with CEOs, GMs and whatnot, “Your competitors are doing something that you are not.” What can happen is that a lot of people that are on the frontlines can go into autopilot mode. They're going through. We were at a restaurant where we ordered chicken lettuce wraps and the lettuce wraps came out without the chicken. They were not chicken lettuce wraps. They were lettuce-lettuce wraps. They came out and offered us a free dessert, but it was the most stale interaction. It was like we were another guest, another customer in and out. My wife and I were like, “We'll probably not come back to this place because they didn't care.” You can tell right away whether an organization does or not. That's the big thing. People want interactions. They don't want to be another transaction.
I had a situation where by mistake, one of my suppliers sent a sales confirmation to my customer instead of me with all of my pricing on it. Thank God, it went to her junk file and she sat there and goes, “Do you know this company?” I said, “Yeah. Do me a favor, can you forward it to me and delete it?” She never saw it. I called the company up. I said, “What did you do? How does this ever happen that you would send my wholesale pricing to my customer?” Their thing is, “We'll give you a $50 discount.” I took the $50 discount and I will never do business with them again ever. I've done hundreds of thousands of dollars of business with these people over the years. The fact they made me feel like, "We don't care,” prove to me that it’s time to go and find somebody else.
Give him his $50 gift card and hope for the best. There's a story that I often share. There was a very expensive wedding that happened at a hotel. It was like a $75,000 wedding. It was a three-day extravaganza. If you've been married, things go wrong on the wedding day. There are all sorts of things that can happen. In this case, the outside heater lamps didn't work. That created chaos for the bride and groom. They were upset because the heaters weren't working and people couldn't go outside on the patio. The wedding happens. Checkout is happening at the hotel and the front desk agent says, “How was your wedding? How was everything?” The bride said, “It was good. Thank you very much.”
The front desk agents said, “I can tell that there was something wrong or is there something that happened?” The bride said, “The heating lamps didn't work and that was a big disappointment.” The front desk agent then looks at this $75,000 bill and says, “I can see that you had breakfast this morning. On behalf of the hotel, I'd be happy if I could take that off your bill for you.” The bride said, “Sure, thank you very much.” Off she went. Three days later, a review shows up on TripAdvisor. It’s pretty scathing saying that she was totally offended by the fact that she had dropped all this money on this big wedding and at the end of the stay, the front desk agent took off this breakfast.
She said, “I feel like the front desk agent did it for her and not me.” I think about that story and I tell it often because it talks a little bit about what you were saying about how people are so scared and nervous. They sweep it under the rug and hope for the best that this person wasn't inclined or empowered to dive deep and ask the simple questions like, “What could I do for you that would make this better for you?” Instead of the visceral reaction of, “Let's take off $50 breakfast,” when you're dropping $75,000 on a wedding.People want interactions. They don't want to be another transaction. Click To Tweet
You shouldn't have to pay for that breakfast the day after anyway.
You're nickel and diming someone is a big mess there. We could dissect that, but it's one of those things that I always think about that, "The front desk agent did it for her and not me.” She’s hoping for the best and hoping that everything is peachy keen.
Jeffrey, you and I could tell stories on bad customer service and challenges with customer service for the next few years. There are great customer experience stories too and we've told those as well. I want to ask you two questions. How do people get in touch with you because they need to be trained by you? The dynamics that you do and the things that you do to be able to empower teams and give the teams those skills to do things the right way are incredible. How do people get in touch with you the best way?
I'm doing all the right stuff the entrepreneurs need to do in this era of 2020. We're building the website. We're still polishing it up. When I look back at doing this, I often say, “I would rather build the house with a solid strong foundation and do it right the first time than build something out of toothpicks and paper-mâché.” When I think about how to be available for people, we're all on the social media. You can find @LuminaryLearningCo on Instagram. We're on Twitter, @LuminaryLCo. On Facebook, Luminary Learning Company. LinkedIn is a great way to reach me almost immediately. I have an email address at Hello@LuminaryLearningCo.com. I've made it pretty easy to get ahold of me.
I appreciate what you said about what I'm doing and how I do it. When I describe what I do for people, I often talk about the definition of the company itself, Luminary Learning Company. When we are trying to establish a name, the purpose and the mission, I am a lover of language. It's probably the artist in me and the lover of dialogue, reading plays and scripts. For me, language is important and how you're getting your message out. A way that I often describe the company is through the definitions of the three words, Luminary Learning Company. If you don't mind, I'd like to give you those definitions.
It describes so much of who I am, what I do, what I believe on, and what we're up to. The word luminary, the definition of that is a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere. The word learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience study or being taught. The word company is one of my favorites. It's the factor condition of being with others, especially in a way that provides friendship, belonging and enjoyment. When you put all three of those words together, it can make for exceptional training experience. It’s the core of what I want to do and what I'm achieving with people.
I was going to ask you the final question, but you've already answered it. The question I always ask people and I'll let you maybe augment it, is when you leave a meeting, you get in your car and drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
I want them to think, “That was so different from anything I've ever experienced before. I am so inspired to now go out, meet our customers, be with our customers and bring our mission and core values to life in a way that we've never brought them to life before.” If I can achieve that with people and get them so fired up and inspired to be the best that they can be and to flourish in whatever position they've got, that's my calling. That's what I'm here to do.
In this environment, you do both live training and online training. You have the ability to be where people need you. Jeffrey, thank you for being you. Thank you for inspiring others. Thank you for helping build amazing customer experience and thanks for a great chat.
Thank you so much. I’m honored to be here with you.
As founder of Luminary Learning Company, I bring over 20 years of experience as a customer service educator; specializing in luxury hospitality, adult learning and human resources. I take a holistic, allencompassing approach to staff training, which results in the delivery of a high-end customer experience.
Mentored and educated by leading experts in the customer service industry, I’m extremely fortunate to have had my foundation and training come from my employment with Disney Theatrical in New York City. Relocating to Vancouver, BC in 2008, the last 12 years have been the most rewarding of my career. I enjoyed various front line and leadership roles ultimately serving as a Training & Quality Manager for two luxury hotel brands. Both in which became 5 Diamond Hotels and one becoming the first hotel in Canadian history to achieve a Forbes Travel Guide 5 Star Award rating within its first year of operation.
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and proudly became a Canadian Citizen in 2019. I’m also a husband, a dad, and have a goldendoodle named Tootsie. Fun Fact:I come from a theatrical background, having trained professionally as an actor/singer, which I enjoy incorporating into my training sessions.
Connect with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ask yourself this: When was the last time you went and met up with somebody without actually going through their LinkedIn first, even for just a perfunctory glance? Using LinkedIn is an important skill to hone nowadays because so much of your professional reputation sits there in black-and-white, and people can see it, even rely on it, to determine if being in a professional relationship with you will be of value to them. Paul Higgins is an author, lead generator, and CEO of Build Live Give. He shares his love of building relationships using LinkedIn with Ben Baker. Are you going to let yourself stay behind the curve on using LinkedIn? Let Ben and Paul's conversation enlighten you about the best ways to build relationships using this unique form of social media.
I have Paul Higgins coming from Australia, from Build Live Give. Paul, welcome to the show.
It’s great to be here, Ben. Thanks for having me.
It's great to have you on the show. You and I have been talking. We have been in the same circles and seen each other on LinkedIn and Twitter and wherever. It's nice to finally have you on the show because I love what you're doing. You help a lot of people. You've come up with a simple, engaging and valuable program. I want people to know a little bit about it, let's get into that. Tell me a little bit about Build Live Give. What was the impetus that said, "I’ve got to start this program, I’ve got to start this company?" Tell me a little bit about where you are now and then we'll eventually get to where you're going and the people that you serve.
I worked for Coca-Cola for eighteen years. My father worked there and I was told I'd never get a job there. I did uni, etc. I got desperate, they threw me a set of keys and eighteen years later I was still there. I had a brilliant career. It was an amazing company to work for. It’s 128 years old. It's made Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man in the world. It was an incredible company but I've got an inherited condition. Around 2011, my nephrologist or my kidney specialist said, "You've got two choices. Stay working for one of the best companies in the world or live to see your grandchildren, which one do you want to do?" I'm like, "The latter." In 2011, I left and did some coaching, I did some consultancy and managed my health. Several months ago, I got a brand new kidney from my best mate and things couldn't be better. That's a little bit about my back story.
Before we get into the Build Live Give, I want to get into eighteen years at Coca-Cola. Eighteen years anywhere in this world is almost unheard of. The fact that you started as a young man right out of university and built into the company. I'm sure you probably had a pretty interesting career within the company, what are the things that you felt kept you there over the years? That's important. Starting with a company and working for a company is one thing. Staying with a company for eighteen years, there had to be certain things that enticed you to stay, which made you feel you were wanted and needed. You didn't think you were even going to get a job there. What kept you there and what were the things that you learned along the way?
The great thing with Coca-Cola is that it made lots of profit. It was an incredibly profitable business. What that meant is they could hire the best people in the world to help them. We'd get someone from Stanford and Harvard. You're always having some of the most intelligent people in the world educating you on how to be a bit of a business person. That was enormously beneficial. I'm a curious person by nature. I love to learn and I’m constantly trying to develop. That was brilliant. The other thing that I loved about the Coca-Cola company is that it's end-to-end. One day you'd be with the global CEO talking about a twenty-year strategy for the company. That exact afternoon, you'd be out facing bottles up in a little cafe. It was a brilliant wildest day. They used to say, "Think global, act local." We are a global business, which I loved and I suppose the world has caught up with that. It is one of the first truly global businesses and it was also practical. You could sit, strategize and you'd see the implementation, which was quite a unique blend.
The last thing is they kept giving me roles in particular where I was an entrepreneur. They would say, "Paul, we've got hotels, restaurants and cafes where we need to improve our brand. Our brand has disappeared. Go on a month, tour around the world, pick the best practice, then come back. We'll give you all the money you need to implement it." It was like you're running your business with the support of the giant backing of Coca-Cola. To be honest, it was those opportunities that kept popping up. I completely changed the juice market here in Australia. I had these amazing opportunities. You also learn from some of the best companies in the world because you go and spend time with Walmart or McDonald's. You're always looking at the best companies and their market as well that you're learning from. It was a great experience. I could see the writing on the wall around their results because sugar became a bigger issue. I don't think I would've left as soon as I did if it wasn't for my condition.
I want to reach out on that entrepreneur type philosophy because that's an amazing thing. The fact that not only did they train you and support you, but they also said, "We want our people to learn from other organizations and to go out there and find the best practices and we trust you. We're going to send you on this learning tour. We're going to get you to find the best insights. We're going to get you to extrapolate on what's happening out in the market and be able to build those best practices into the future of this company." Those are amazing qualities that you don't see in a lot of organizations. Many organizations are thinking of the end of the week, month and quarter but that tends to be about it. They're not thinking 5, 10, 20 years out. Did you find that allowed you to be able to move because of your health? What were the lessons that you took out of that? When you went out on your own, it made you a better entrepreneur and be able to start where you are.
The first thing is understanding the consumer, the customer. I was privy to what Nike and other companies did from a customer research point of view, but the Coke company will bring in at it. They always started with what is the pain point that the customers are dealing with and all the consumer they speak. What are they dealing with? We'll then find a product to solve it. Often I see people build it and then hope they will come. Whereas the Coke company is ingraining to you to say, "You've got to do your research. You've got to understand the consumer and then you make the product." That was a perfect thing for running my business.
I'm not saying I always did it, but I at least knew what I did wrong. The other one is the sales training that you had was sensational. They believe in, if you improve the customer's business you were dragged along. Even back in the early 2000s, we were taking all the data of major foodservice companies and mining all their data and working out how they could make more profit as a total business. We knew if they made more profit, we'd sell more and we also knew they wouldn't come and ask for a price discount because they had already met their profit targets. This is the stuff we're talking about now. They were far ahead of the curve on things like that because we had the best experts. For me, sitting on the customers' side and what does my client want to achieve not just from a business perspective but also personally was another great lesson that the Coke company taught me, which held well for bringing my business.
That's such a great lesson that every entrepreneur has got to live. Many people would say, "I've got this great idea. I have this wonderful idea. My mom thinks it's a wonderful job. I'm going to go out and build it. I'm going to spend all this money. I'm going to create whatever solution it is." They go out to the market and realize that what they built isn't what the market needs. It's amazing to me that Coca-Cola’s thought process is, "What does the customer need? What do they want? What are their desires? Where are their pain points? What's frustrating them? Let's go out and solve those problems.” I love that philosophy and that's something that needs to be hammered over and over again into people. The “Let's build it and they will come” mentality is not realistic. You have to look at who's your audience and what do they truly need.
The other thing that backed that up is data. The Coke company effectively for a lot of our business, sold to each outlet and we had all of the sales histories. Having clean data and using that data to make better decisions. Any decision I went to make, I had my gut intuition, but I'd go to my analysts and say, "Come back to me and either prove or disprove this hypothesis on this decision I'm about to make." Using that data around with AI and the use of data is becoming topical now. The Coke company was a real key leader in that space. I see many business people got it as a starting point, but it shouldn't be the endpoint. You need some data to prove or disprove that based on fact. If you don't have the right data points and the right claim data, then that's going to make it hard.Incredibly profitable companies like Coca-Cola get the best people in the world to help them. Click To Tweet
Let's get into that because it's not the data, it's the interpretation of the data. It's asking the right questions to get the right data. That's where it is. There are a lot of people collecting data on everything, but they're not asking the right questions. They're not interpreting the information, therefore, their decisions are confused. What you're saying is if you look at the data and you ask, "What is it telling us?” To be able to interpret that against your gut reaction, against what you're seeing in the marketplace, it allows you to make a far more intelligent decision.
The other thing which I learned at the Coke company too is not to go too far the other way, which you don't trust any of your gut decision and you only based on the data because sometimes the patterns in the data aren't always accurate. It is a blend but I completely agree, using that helps and especially for a lot of mid-market. It used to only be available for people that are at the top of the market like Coca-Cola, now it's available in mid-market right down through. That's a great thing with technology. It's accessible and SaaS, Software as a Service has completely changed the game. Often I find smaller companies are quicker and faster to adopt technology because they don't have the big legacy systems that some of the large guys do.
That's important to be able to be nimble with that data. You don't need a supercomputer to be able to analyze it unless you're the size of a Coca-Cola, a Visa, a Nike or something where you’re looking at millions of data points. The average company, you’re looking at 10,000 to 15,000 data points. You could almost run it on an Excel spreadsheet or Microsoft Access. For most companies out there, the amount of data that you're analyzing is enough to get intelligent information, but it's not big that it's going to cost you millions of dollars to interpret it. It's a brave new world.
A great example of that is LinkedIn. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and helping people with LinkedIn. There's a product called ShieldApp.ai. It's like Google Analytics for your LinkedIn. It gives you all the data so you can go back over the last twelve months and work out which were your best post. Why did you get certain engagements? It's a low-cost item that can be added to a platform like LinkedIn to give you incredible information. There are lots of those tools out there that people can use rather than saying, "I'm not happy with my results and keep repeating that." The Coke company taught me always that you've got to grow. We constantly have to grow our profits and the way that we do that is constantly get better and using that data to make a better decision for us and also for our consumers and customers.
I'm not happy with my results, what can I do differently to change this? A lot of companies need to be able to say, "What's the line in the sand? Where are we versus where do we want to go?" They then build that roadmap. Unless you've got the right data, unless you understand what's holding you back, and what's your Achilles’ heel, it's difficult for you to get a point to move forward. I love that software. I didn't even know about it. It might be the next purchase that I make. Having the ability to take a look and go, "Where were you in the last twelve months? Which were the successful posts?" Be able to look at it and say, "Why were you successful? Why did these posts take off?" I've got one post that I did that was 250,000 views. I've never had that before. I may never have it again, but it was interesting diving into it and trying to figure out, what made this thing go viral?
It was a couple of key people that resonated with and shared it. It was those key people with large communities all over the world that happened to see this. It was the right time of day. It was the right thing that hit people in their inbox at the right time. They shared it and reshared it. This thing snowballed. I don't think it was anything to do with the actual article itself because if I remember it correctly, it was a leadership article. It was not that much different from anything else that I've ever written. It just happened to resonate. Those were one of those things that it was lightning in a bottle. I've had lots of posts that I've had 8,000, 10,000, 15,000 views, but to have 250,000 views was an amazing thing.
We had one of the ladies in our group that had 500,000 views. Before she joined our group, she was lucky to get 1,500 views. It was an outlier but that made a significant difference to her business. It is around that you'll always get the outliers, but how do you get those consistent views? There is a certain way to guarantee that you're going to get that so the bell curve is a lot tighter and you'll always have the outliers. What you'll never have are the large view posts.
Let's get into that because that's your business. With these LinkedIn groups and the different things that you're doing, that's what you're helping people to do. You help them build their business more effectively on LinkedIn. What do you do? How do you do it and what differentiates you from everybody else that's out there proportioning systems on LinkedIn? God knows there's enough of them.
It's like the old saying, "Everyone has a bomb." It's a little bit like that with LinkedIn. Everyone's got a different opinion. In March 2019, I had my kidney transplant. For the first time in ten years, the doctors said to me, "You're okay." Up until that point, in November 2018, I almost passed away. I had a bad experience with operation and going into the transplant, I was nervous. I worked right through the hospital. I'd set up my business to work from the hospital and that was fine, but I hadn't marketed myself. The doctor gave the green light and my first thought was, "What do I do?" I was petrified. It's like, "I can't use my health as an excuse here. I've got to get off my bomb and do something."
I joined a little local group and they helped me a little bit on LinkedIn because I knew that LinkedIn is my thing. I love it. I've always been on it. I'm a relationship guy. I've got okay results but then I said, "I've got to step it up. I've got to remember what I learned at Coke. I was going to get the best people in the world and learn from them." I went and paid a significant amount of money to get the best people in the world tell me what I should do. Three people told me different things. I went to practice and iterate it and all of a sudden, I was getting views for the first time in my business. People were coming to me. I got 640,000 views in ten months, which led to 112 new clients. I could nearly say for my eight years in business that it was about the number of new clients.
It wasn't quite that but it was an extraordinary year. At a time when I had a few challenging years with my health, it was a God-send. It was Remington that used to say, "I enjoyed the shaver that much, I went and bought the company." It was a little bit like that all I wanted was to solve my problem. My core business is still mentoring business owners and they come and say to me, "No one's finding me. I can't be seen on LinkedIn or any social platform. No one's reaching out to me. I can't get any leads." I'm like, "I'm getting a little success over here. Maybe you should try it." The snowball went from there.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” It truly and absolutely is where we find ourselves in a corner somewhere and we go, "This isn't working. What do I do now?" You had that epiphany moment where you said, "I don't have the excuse of the kidney transplant anymore. I got my health back. I have a life to live. I'd probably have another 40 more years of living. I better make some money. I better get some clients to move forward." To be able to sit there and say, "How do I do this? How can I do it in a way that's meaningful to me? How do I do this in a way that is going to build the type of lifestyle that I want and be able to do it?" You build something specifically for yourself, but you realize that it was working for yourself and it started working for others. It's an interesting thing that you need to sit there and say, "How do you move from getting to a point where all of a sudden other people are realizing that they should be paying you to be part of this, to be able to learn what you already were learning from others?"One of the best ways of creating B2B relationships is by doing content on LinkedIn. Click To Tweet
I tried other things during that time. I still to this day don't understand how, but my Facebook account, I hadn't done any ads for three years. We go to set up to do an ad and it got banned. There was no reason for it. You can't talk to anybody. I was all ready to do Facebook ads. I did some LinkedIn outreach, which was good, but I was doing it myself and I was getting no replies. That's when I realized going back to my Coke lessons, which was you've got to give value first. What I said is, "The value I can give is posting great content on LinkedIn and if people like it, then that will lead them to be more engaged with me." Whether it's 37, 40, I don't know how many touchpoints we're up to make someone buy. If only 3% of people are ready to buy at any particular time, how are you giving value and nurturing them through that process? For me, LinkedIn for B2B and doing content on LinkedIn is one of the best ways. Gary Vee was quoted saying, "You have to be on LinkedIn if you're a B2B marketer. It's the place to be."
It's true because all I do is B2B marketing. I am seriously considering dropping my Facebook account. I have a Facebook account. I'm rarely on it anymore. I find that it's not a medium that works for me because that's not where I am and it's not where my customers are. We need to understand who we are, what we're about, what's an important lesson. More importantly, where our customers are. The people that you are looking to influence are on LinkedIn. The question is how did you go from that point of saying, "We're going to start engaging with people. We're going to start building things out like that." All of a sudden you start getting 650,000 views. You start getting a bunch of people that are engaging with you. How did you convert that into a process where you were helping other people do the same thing and be successful with it? How did you take it from a built for your type of solution to a built for other people and helping them achieve their goals?
What I worked at is there are three key things. The first one is you've got to get the views. The second thing is you get people to engage in your posts and most importantly your ideal clients engage in posts. The third thing is the relationship. How do you follow up? How do you build that relationship? On the views, I quickly learned that it wasn't a solo sport. You need the 50, 20, 60 formula. You need 50 likes, 20 comments in the first hour or your post is how are they going to go anyway. It doesn't matter how good of a person you are, to try to coordinate 50 people to like or 20 people to comment on your post in the first hour is pretty difficult. I quickly realized that you need a support group. That's when I went and through a lot of hard work, I convinced 30 people, “Let's get together and help each other.” That was the first point to get the views sorted. Instantly people went from 200 views of posts to 2,500 just by following that formula. We use a little bit of tech to help with the likes. It's not as manual.
The other thing that people started to realize is, “I'm learning a lot from reading these other people's posts as well.” It became a knowledge plus you’re also adding value to others. The other great thing is accountability because it's easy not to do sales or marketing. You have lots of clients that get stuck in delivery that I don't do that. It was a great way to say, "By contributing and turning up every day to help others, I am helping myself because I'm doing what I'm meant to do." That was the first golden moment that happened from me doing well as an individual to making sure that I helped others, but it was also helping me.
It's interesting because, with these circles of people, there are about 30 people in each group. You've got groups in different time zones around the world. If I'm in Canada and you're in Australia, I'm probably going to be part of a group that's going to be on a North American time, not on Australian time. The key thing that you said is within the first hour. Do you have a dedicated time of the day that you find that says, "Everybody posts at this time and everybody has to read each other's articles and deal with everybody else over this time as well?" Is that what it is? "Between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning on this time zone, we're all going to post them, we're all going to comment on each other?”
For the US, Canada time zone, it's 7:00 AM Pacific. At 7:00 AM Pacific, 10:00 AM Eastern time, you post. You want it in the hour, but the software we use, the closer your post to 7:00 AM, the more likes you're going to get. It's a dedicated time and people don't have to post every day of the week. Some people, the minimum is three times. It's not hugely time-intensive. The other thing is not all 30 people are going to post on a particular day. We run 30 to get the minimum. To get the twenty comments, you only need fifteen for the group and then other people will comment in the first hour. Having that discipline around it makes all the difference in how the algorithm works.
Let’s say there are fifteen people, I know that for me it's easy to hit the like button, but to write a meaningful comment and think about it times fifteen is 3 to 5 minutes per article. You need to be able to say, "I'm going to dedicate this hour of a day, 5 or 3 days a week,” or whatever you're going to dedicate yourself with. You need to block off that period to realize, “This is my marketing time on LinkedIn.”
What we say is for most people, it takes 30 minutes to write the content. Some people batch it. Whatever we give a great format on how to do it and we tell you how to create ideas. Also, we make it easy. Let's say it's 30 minutes, remember we're only doing posts, not articles. Our post is only 200 words roughly. What we say is it should take you between 1 and 1.5 minutes to read the post and comment. Therefore, in the worst-case scenario, you might be spending another fifteen minutes. It's 45 minutes and that 45 minutes is probably three times a week, as an example.
You're not getting people that are doing the 1,299 characters and linking to an article that's ten minutes long to read. You're thinking about everybody creating short posts that are insightful that tell a specific story and create a certain amount of value but are easy to read, easy to digest and easy to respond to.
What we've got is in the engagement that's to trigger the views, and then the engagement is getting your ideal clients. We've got seven key steps. What we do is make sure that people are following those seven key steps to get the structure right. That also makes it easy there to comment because we always have a question. Always make sure you have a question because a comment is worth twice a like on LinkedIn. The other thing is if someone comments on your posts, then you can go and thank them so you can comment back, but you can also direct message them and refer to that comment. You're not going in cold anymore. You're going in warm because I've already read your posts. I probably looked at your profile, they already know about you.
That's what the key thing is, it’s the engagement. When people comment on my posts, I look at that as far more valuable than the people who hit the like button. I appreciate the people that hit the like button. It's nice. They looked at the article. They thought it was nice. They hit the like button. In LinkedIn, you have 5 or 6 different choices, which is great, but the people that take the time to write those 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 words that are insightful and have meaning, that start those conversations. That's the key thing. It's the conversations that we're trying to start that build the relationships. That's where the know, like, trust comes out of. That's where you build relationships with people.
Going back to Coke and I'm sure you've heard the old saying many times, “50% of your marketing works, just don’t know which 50.” Coke was a similar thing. They constantly marketed. People say, "You are the biggest well-known brand in the world. Why are you continuing to invest 10% of your revenue into marketing every year?" They're like, "We've got to always stay top of mind." It's a bit like this. You've got to stay top of mind with your existing clients. Your existing clients want to get constant value from you, not just from the one-on-one sessions. Clients that are in your pipeline want to know that you're adding value. Being that authority and being known for something is important and getting good engaging comments behind it certainly helps.Your clients want to get constant value from you, not just from one-on-one sessions. Click To Tweet
Not only that, but you also become a thought leader. You become somebody that's offering ideas, solutions and things for people to think at. Somebody told me that less than 5% of the people on LinkedIn or any social media platform are creating original content. The amount of original content that's being created of the 400 million people or how many ever people are on LinkedIn, only 5% of those people are creating original content. There are a lot more people that are sitting there and grabbing something and sharing it out, but creating something that's personal and on their own, it's a small percentage. When you're doing that, you're setting yourself apart from your competition.
It helps you because you are being clear. The classic example for most of us and I've been through this trying to market to everyone. LinkedIn is powerful. For most people, if I searched your name, your LinkedIn profile will come up on Google before anything else. A website is important, but think the last time you went and met or spoke to somebody that you didn't look at their LinkedIn profile first. It's powerful. I can give you a download at the end on how to improve your profile. If you've got a great profile and you’ve got active posts, it's building that social trust in an area, where unfortunately there's a lot of people out there that are using social media in the way that it was never intended.
Most people on social media just look. They're gazers, they read stuff, they look at stuff, but they don't post, they don't comment, they don't like, they don't do any of that type of thing. They read information. They're gatherers of information. You never know who those people are because there are people that have told me, "Ben, I started reading your stuff years ago." All of a sudden they started calling me and they said, "I've been reading your stuff for years and I'd like you to come in at our office and do some training for our people." I had no idea this person even existed because they didn't engage with me in any way, shape or form. I didn't know they were happening, but they were reading my posts regularly. They were telling other people about it, but they weren't sharing it. They were copying it from LinkedIn and sending somebody an email and saying, "Here, you should look at this." They didn't want to be seen as sharing it within LinkedIn.
Different people have different thought processes of how they're going to use social media. I'm not sure there's a right way. I'm not sure there's a wrong way. There's a right way for you. The key thing we have to look at is, who is our audience? My audience is certainly not the 400 million people there are on LinkedIn. My audience is specific. I'm looking for senior executives in HR operations and sales. The CEOs, the founders, those are the people that I talk to regularly. If we can put our comment that sniper attack the people that we're trying to communicate with and build relationships with, it's going to resonate with them far better.
You've got the views and you've done the engagement. The next one is, how do you build that relationship? You've spoken and articulated that well. For me, how often do you get someone to connect with you and then they send you a sales pitch the next time. I don't know what the percentage is, but it's a high percentage. I've got a VA that will delete those but not everyone's got that. What do we do? We've got scripts that we know work that you can customize. We've been doing it for long and we've got many people, we know what works. The greatest gift I could give anyone is hot potatoes. Does that translate into Canada when I say the hot potato?
You're going to have to explain it.
If you're at a barbecue and you've got a hot potato, you don't want to hang onto it too long. You want to pass it to the next person that they might pass it back to you. You want the same thing on LinkedIn. All you want is someone to reply to you 4 or 5 times because then you know that they are interested, but also you're learning more information. It should be a short question. Often, I'll look at someone's profile and I'll say that they're using all the wrong techniques, etc. I'll go back to them, what's your key focus? They'll say, "Getting more clients." I'll say, "How important is LinkedIn in your overall marketing mix?" and then I'll come back. He is constantly asking open hot potato questions and then there will be an opportunity to say, "Would you be open to a call?" You never give them the link straight away and use the word open. Open is one of the best words ever invented that gives them the choice. It's amazing the difference it makes. They're all the things that we've learned on how you build relationships off the back of people that have already viewed your post. They've already liked and commented and now it's like, "Let's take this further."
There's much more we can get into. You could add much value to many people and the program that you have is reasonable in cost and the value is much there. The best way to get people to get in touch with you is through BuildLiveGive.com. If anybody goes to the website, people are going to see the value there and get in touch with Paul and see what he's doing. He can help you create a pod of people that are like-minded people, that have similar viewpoints that are going to be able to get you out to the same type of people that you're looking to meet and be able to build those relationships. They do amazing things that way. Paul, here's the last question I ask everybody before they walk out the door on my show. When you leave a meeting or you hang up for a call, or you finish up an appointment and you get in your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
For me, it's living my brand values. My brand values help someone build their business. Is Paul there to help me build my business? The second is, you build your business to fund your lifestyle. Once again, is Paul understanding what lifestyle I want to live and is he helping me get that? The last one is to give. How do you give back? Once you've built a great business, you've got your right lifestyle, how do you give back to others and how is Paul contributing to that? I want people to think, is Paul living his brand values but also, is he helping me live the same values?
Help me help you. You live that day in and day out. How do I help the people that I work with be better? I love that about you, Paul.
I've got five tips on how to improve your LinkedIn profile. Go to BLGDownload.com and they can get that as well.
Paul, thank you for being such an amazing guest. You have provided more than your shared value. Thank you for everything you have done.
Thanks for having me on. It's been a blast.
Paul Higgins is an Author, Lead generator, Mentor, Podcaster and lover of building relationships on Linkedin.
Paul has 26 years of experience in Sales & Marketing, finishing up an 18-year gig at Coca-Cola driving Marketing strategy for a $700m+ Business Unit.
In 2011 he left to manage his inherited kidney condition and had a successful transplant in February 2019.
With his newfound energy, Paul loves to run his business and spend time with his teenage children and play sport. He is always looking to give first.
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When you have your eyes set clearly on a goal, regardless of what hindrances are presented, you will always find ways to achieve it. In this episode, Ben Baker talks to Maxwell Ivey, a totally blind man from Houston, Texas known around the world as The Blind Blogger, who does not let his disability stand in his way when it comes to conquering life. Writing a book called Leading You Out of the Darkness into the Light, Maxwell shares how getting out from one business and pursuing your true goals paves a way for a better version of success.
Wherever you're accessing the podcast, whether you're on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart or whatever platform you are on, subscribe. Enjoy the show and send it off to all your friends. Let's create a bigger community and I hope that you're enjoying it. If you've got any questions, send me an email at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com. I love to hear from you and find out what's going on. Find out what guests you would like to hear from and we'll go out and we'll find them for you. Thanks for being part of my amazing audience. In this episode, we have The Blind Blogger with us. We have Max Ivey. Max, welcome to the show. What is The Blind Blogger? Where did you come from and where are you now?
I appreciate it, Ben. It's good to talk to you because I had the pleasure of having you on my podcast on the What's Your Excuse Show? I'm looking forward to this.
I love doing these back and back things. You and I met through social media, which is amazing to me, the number of people that I know around the world through connections on social media. You and I met through our mutual friend, Maura Sweeney. She's an amazing woman and she's been on my show. You've been on my show. I love the conversations that come out of when you get offline with people. When you sit there and say, "I met somebody on social media, but let's get them onto a phone call. Let's get them on a Zoom chat. Let's get to know the person, find out a little bit more about them." That's what that social media is amazing because it gives you a way to reach out, build a layer of trust, understanding each other, but then you'll talk to one another and get to know what the person is about and what they're passionate about. Let's get into it.
I couldn't agree with you more on that because of a lot of people that are in business online or that are creative entrepreneurs, they are missing out on huge opportunities to connect with people. To not only move friendships further faster but also to maintain and support their mental health to avoid those feelings of isolationism. By saying, "I met this person on social media, why not get on Zoom or Skype or Messenger with them and have a real conversation?" Some of us have a podcast, those conversations end up getting recorded too. There are many people with content to do messages, tweets, emails and they have no desire. Some of them are even scared to have an actual conversation with people and all of them are missing out big time.
I find that things get misinterpreted quickly online, whether it's an email, whether it's a tweet, whether it's a text message or whatever because it's not real-time because it's not back and forth. After all, you can't sit there and say immediately, "What did you mean by that?" You're waiting for an answer and all of a sudden somebody sends you a message and you go, "What do they mean by this?" They'd go offline and all of a sudden, it's 1 or 2 days before they respond. All of a sudden, you've lost that whole level of trust, that whole level of understanding. When you get on a phone call or a Zoom chat or whatever, you can have those conversations. Thanks for being part of my conversation.
Thank you, I appreciate it. As far as your first question about who is The Blind Blogger? Where did he come from and how did you get here? I started in a family of carnival owners and I was lucky enough to help run the business alongside my father for about fifteen years before his death to cancer led to the closing of our small traveling carnival. We were able to join up with my uncle's carnival and become part of his business for a few years, which gave me a little time to think about what I was going to do next. I had done the bookings and operated some kids' games and they weren't interested in having me help them with their bookings.
On a bigger midway, my kids' games were failing. I said, "What else do you know that you could do?" I thought, "I can probably help other people sell their used rides because I've done that." I started a website called The Midway Marketplace. I had no idea how to build a website and what is an online business person or a business person, in general, would look like. I had to learn many things including I ended up having to hand-code HTML, recruit clients, set fees, right copy, manage media, record videos and then eventually, social media and emails, much stuff. Some of it was challenging and some of it was curious and interesting and exciting. I did that for 6, 7 years and I'm still doing it.
People came along and they said, "Max, what you're doing the way you take on these challenges with joy is inspiring. We want you to share more about those experiences." I said, "What the heck? I'll do that." I started TheBlindBlogger.net where I share the more personal aspects of being a blind entrepreneur. Through the fact that people keep challenging me to try new things. That has led to three books. The fourth one’s on the way in April, over 200 podcast interviews, traveling the country, solo, public speaking, helping other people get exposure for their creative work and my podcast the What's Your Excuse Show? If I would say one thing that's got me here, it's been good friends who have seen things in me. I didn't see myself or who challenged me to try stuff that scared me, but because they asked me to do it, I tried it anyway.
I want to give back and get people to understand this. You are legally blind.
No, I am totally blind. Technically I have light perception, but that means I can look at the light fixture and tell if it's on or off. That's because I have no peripheral vision. That's the extent of my vision.
People need to sit there and think about this. When you were saying, with creating The Midway Marketplace and The Blind Blogger and everything goes with it, you're doing this without the opportunity to see. Creating websites, building relationships, building companies and doing that. It's hard enough for anybody. I'm not going to say perfectly healthy because you are perfectly healthy. It's dealing with something that is a challenge and it's amazing how you've overcome that challenge to be able to sit there and say, "This is who I am. This is what I'm about, these are the things that are a reality in my life and it's not going to keep me from succeeding." I want to get into that as where did that mentality come from? That came from when you were a lot younger to be able to sit there and say, "Yes, I can and this is how." How did you get there? That's a magical thing that a lot of people should truly understand.
Part of it has to do with the decision you make when you get to a point in life where things are not the way you wanted them to be and will probably never be the way you wanting them to be that way again. I would say the beginning comes from the fact I grew up in a family of carnival owners and in the carnival industry business, whatever the proper term is, it's an unforgiving way to make a living. Nobody cares what happened to you. All they want to know is on Thursday or Friday night or Tuesday afternoon, “Can I buy a funnel cake or a cotton candy? Can I ride a Ferris wheel? Can I go win me a stuffed animal?” Beyond that, they could care of us if you've got three tracks on the sides of roads or you broke your wrist and one of the pieces of equipment.
When you grow up in that business around those people, there aren't a lot of people in that business who are self-pitying what was the people? Generally, we don't have the resources we want. We're short on time, we're short of money, but there has to be a solution and we're going to find it. Those are the people I grew up with, my grandmother, my father especially. My dad was one of those people who always would tell me there was nothing I couldn't do if I set my mind to it. I was creative and sometimes he would even say shrewd but his point was that if you decide you can do it and you're willing to put in the effort, there will most likely be a way to make that happen.
I was part of a scout troop for visually impaired people and over four years with the help of a lot of other people, including the Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, other Scouts teachers, I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, which is something only 3% or 4% of people in America have done. If you talk about the number of blinds with Eagles, it's an even smaller group. Those were times when I learned the lessons. Working in a family business alongside my dad, there were a lot of creative problem-solving. My dad was most famous for this line because we would get to towns, a lot of times me and him, we would go back for the last load.
With me being blind, I could do the work as far as setting up and taking down rides. They always felt like it was a little dangerous, not me endangering them, but them endangering me, maybe letting something fall on me or into me. A lot of times I would make that trip and we would get back to town. We would make opening and people would go, "Max, how did you all do that?" The one thing he would always say to him, he'd look at him and he'd smile and he'd go, "What? Did we have a choice?" Those were the people I grew up around that I live with. I went up and down the road with for years before I started this other stuff.
I love that, “Do we have a choice?” A lot of times the answer is no. A lot of the time is we're put with stuff in front of us and I don't care if you're blind, I don't care if it's money issues, I don't care if it's the economy, I don't care if it's competitors in the marketplace, it doesn't matter. We're all going to reach a point in business somewhere where we're going to look at things and go, "What do we do now?" There are two different types of people. People that are going to solve the problem and people are going to figure a way around it. People who've ever going to be better because of the challenges that they are. The people that crawl into a little ball and rock their knees and go, "Whoa is me." That's a lesson that every single entrepreneur needs to learn is that there is no straight line, there is no easy button. There is no hack for success in business and we're all going to run into challenges and we're all going to get to things that seem insurmountable.
The question is when you look at something that you think is insurmountable, are you going to sit there and go, "I can't do that and throw up your hands?" Are you going to sit there and say, "How do we fix this?" I love the fact that you're a part of the second. I want to know how did you go when your father died and you moved to your uncle's carnival and you realized that there might not have been a place for you there? What led you to sit there and say, "What's next and how do we move forward from there?"
It was simple. I wasn't happy. I was showing up on a Midway that wasn't mine, where they didn't want me there, with games that weren't making any money. Without the money to purchase new equipment or to update the equipment I had, I thought this is not sustainable. It got to a point where my mom and my brother had to take money out of their food trailer to buy the stock to put into my game so I could stay on the Midway. That was when I finally convinced them. I came to the decision myself a year or more before that it wasn't working, that I wasn't happy. That I would be much happier if you all would let me quit and go home and do what I'm doing, which at the time was The Midway Marketplace and growing that business, let me focus on something that's growing. It's mine that I could do something about. I would show up on the Midway and be there because there was the attitude, "He's part of the family. He should be here."A good question you can ask yourself is can you be happy even if you're not financially successful? Click To Tweet
It was next to impossible to get them to that point of should and should not. "No, he doesn't need to be here just because he's part of the family doesn't mean he needs to be here and be miserable." Finally, they let me and my crazy dog Penny spend more time at the house. I was able to get more work done and spend more time focusing on things that were positive that I enjoyed doing, even though they were challenging and less time around people I didn't like being around. It got to the point where I was unhappy enough to do what I had to do to get the time and space to do something that made me happy.
I grew up in the construction business. My father owned a commercial renovation company for 35 years. Probably about the time I hit about 19 or 20 years old, he and I had to have a conversation and sit there and say, "Is there truly a room for me to succeed within this company?" The answer quickly was, "No." He didn't want to grow the company to a place where there would be room for me to succeed and room for me to grow, room for me to do the things that I wanted to do. I realized it's his company. He started it. It's his baby. He has the right to run the company the way that he wants to run it. We shook hands and I went off my way.
There are a lot of people that feel this obligation to be part of the family business, whether I'm miserable, whether I like doing it, whether I don't like doing it. Whether I'm successful at it or I'm not successful with it, I have this obligation to be part of the family because it's the family. I want your opinion on this. We all need to sit there and say, "Can we be successful? Can we put ourselves in a position where we know that we're going to succeed and we're going to feel good about ourselves?" That's why I left because the answer was no. I want your opinion on that, in terms of being part of that family business because that's always a challenging place to be.
You were blessed in being able to have that conversation with your dad because I wasn't able to have that conversation with my uncle or my cousin. I still haven't been able to have that conversation and probably never will because my uncle was passed on and my cousin is not one of those types of people you can have that conversation with. I did the next best thing in my first book, Leading You Out Of The Darkness Into The Light. I discussed this whole idea of deciding to finally leave the business and do something on my own. I thanked him in the book because if it wasn't for him and others making me uncomfortable where I was, I'd probably still be there and I would be unhealthy if even alive and probably still struggling. At least, I'm still struggling. I still worked every day trying to get to that point were making more reliable, sustainable income than I am but I enjoy the struggle.
I would say, "You have to have that conversation about whether or not you can be successful in the company, but I'll take it a little bit differently." Even successful may not be the total decision-maker. If you can determine that there's a way for you to be satisfied in the business, then you could stay. If you can never see yourself rewarded by the work you're doing or feeling a part of the business to the point where whatever small parts you're doing, whatever amount of money you're making from it that you feel like you are investing in something and that you're part of something. That was how me and my dad were able to continue going up and down the road all those years is because we weren't making a lot of money. We weren't seeing a lot of big progress in the business but it was us against the world. We were working every day to be as good as or better than the other guys to grow the business so that next year we'd make more money. I'd say, "Can you be successful?" is a good question but the other question is, “Can you be happy?” even if you're not financially successful.
That's determining success on your terms. I love that you said that, is that success is not always money. Success is rarely money. We all need money to survive. We all need to buy a house, put our kids through school and put food on the table. There are givens that we need food. I'm far from being a socialist. However, to me, success is determined by you. You can't live by somebody else's level of success. You need to be successful on your terms. You need to say, "These are my goals, these are the things that are important to me. These are the things I want to achieve in life and these are the things that are going to make me a better person." The question is, you can sit there and say, "Am I doing this? Great." If I'm not doing this, maybe that's a kick in the pants we need to sit there and say, "It might be time to go look for something else."
Coming from this world from the point that you come at it from somebody who's into developing brands and creating them or growing them. One of the biggest reasons for failure among a lot of entrepreneurs is because they have set themselves to goals if they see other people achieving. I honestly think that one of the most dangerous presences on the internet are people like the Kardashians because they are making millions of dollars from their online efforts. They invested in things. They appear to be happy. We don't know if they're happy or not. You can never tell what's going on in the mind of the other person. There are way too many people who've got into the online world thinking they were going to be Kardashians or whatever the next name after them is. When they either can't reach those 6, 7, 8-figure levels or they can't reach them as quickly as they expect it to, then there's a lot of disappointment, frustration and even depression.
That goes beyond your life. You're right, people look at the internet and they said, "Look at somebody succeeding," but you never see the B-side of those people's lives. For people to remember the 45 with the B-side, when you flip the record over and you play the opposite side, the record was never quite as good. The song on the B-side was never quite as good. If you look at a lot of people online, all you see is their hero moments. All they want to show you is how wonderful things are and how great things are. The beautiful homes that they have and the cars and the clothes and all that stuff. You never see what happens when the lights go off and you never see the challenges that they go through. All of these people go through challenges but the problem is when we look at social media, all we see is the limelight and we can't sit there and judge ourselves by somebody else's highlight reel.
I remember the B-side. You brought back a great memory of mine. The B-side of Otis Redding's The Dock of the Bay, I can't remember the name of the song, but the lyrics were offensive. We can only play that side of the record when the parents were out of the house.
I can't remember what the name of the song is, but I'm going to have to look that up.
A lot of curse words on the B-side of Otis Redding's The Dock of the Bay. That was true and it's true on social media and it's a great reference. One of the things I get quite often from coaches and from people who are sharing their thoughts about me online is they'll go, "Max, I know your brand is authenticity, but could you maybe be a little more positive in your language about your authenticity? You've seen my stuff." If stuff happens, people are going to know that it happens. I'm not the person that's going to hide the bad stuff because I've read great novels and if you go back to The Hobbit with Bilbo Baggins, they had to drag him out of his hole at the beginning of that book. At the end of the book, he helps kill a dragon. There are lots of bad things that happened along the way in a great novel. I'm trying to live a life where it’s along those same lines and say, "The bad stuff happens but did I learn from it? What can the people following learn about me or themselves from it? What positive did maybe come out of it?”
I don't know if you were at MAPCON in 2018, they lost my luggage and people said that the way I handled myself, it was as if I was wearing a new suit from Armani or something. I spent a week with four-day-old jeans and a t-shirt. Earlier this year, my flight was late. I had to spend the night in a hotel with nothing and because I stayed positive throughout it, I sold one of my books to the guy pushing the wheelchair, helping me get through the airport to my next destination. The bad stuff that happens in my experience is out there. It's in my books, it's in my podcast. I've turned down people for my show because as I told more than one person, “I don't know that you've ever struggled.” If I don't know, you've struggled, how are people watching my show know that you're struggling? If you've never struggled, we're sending them the wrong message.
That's it, we all struggle and we're all better off because we've struggled. If our life goes from one highlight reel to another highlight reel, if we go from being hired to our dream job to all of a sudden become the Vice President to become the Senior Director, to become the CEO of the company, the end and die. How interesting is our life? We made a lot of money. However, it's the things that happen along the way. It's the people that we meet. It's the challenges that we have, it's the challenges that we overcome and the lessons that we learned from it that make us better. If you look at the hero's journey, you look at The Lion King, Simba did not become king without challenges. We all have challenges in our life. We all have days where we wake up and we go, "What do I do?"
If we all realize that and realize that everybody around us has those same feelings that we do, we're all going to be a lot less harsh on ourselves because you alluded to it earlier in the sense of depression that goes on. It's amazing in the world because everybody thinks that the world should be perfect. Nobody’s crap stinks, but it all does. We all have these days where we get up in the morning and we sit there and say, "I don't know where I'm going or how I'm going to get there." It's how we get through that day and we get onto the next day.
All of a sudden you moved a little bit forward and you've gotten beyond that depression and you've gotten to a point in your life where you can sit there and say, "What's next?" That's what makes us better people. That's what makes us more interesting. That's what makes people want to follow us. That's what makes people want to listen to us because we have that tapestry of life. It's the tapestry that we all go through that makes us the people that we are and makes the successes that we have in our life that much sweeter.
While people often wonder why an author would recommend somebody else's book, one of my favorite books on this subject is called the Adversity Advantage as written by Erik Weihenmayer, who's a visually impaired, a blind person that summited Everest, had done a lot of other crazy things. He is bonafide crazy. In my opinion, that book is better than the adventure stories about the places he's been, the stuff he's done because it gets into the struggles he had as an elementary and junior high school student. As a school teacher in Arizona before the other stuff happened. He talks about the value of our diversity. My book also gives, techniques and exercises you can do to get to where you can understand it, appreciate it and use it. It's our struggles that make us who we are. I agree with you that if everything went well, it would be boring. Think about this too, if success is a drug and people who start off where nothing goes wrong, you have to wonder at some point what will they do next? What will be good enough? We live in a country or a world where a millionaire is no longer considered the ultimate in the financial world. We have millionaires and billionaires and we're soon going to have people worth over $100 billion. Beyond the fact that adversity helps us, I wonder about people who never have struggled if they don't also have the problem of having to continually find more success.
We all need goals. I don't care if you're worth $100 or you worth $100 billion. We all need to get up in the morning and say, "What's next? What are we going to do?" It's not chasing the rainbow. It's not looking for the brass ring. It's motivating yourself to sit there and say, "What else can I achieve?" I wake up every morning and say, "Who can I help? Whose life can I make better?" That to me is a great day. If I can go to bed at night and say, "I made three people's lives better and they can achieve their goals because I was able to lift them and help them move forward." To me, that's a great day and it's not about me. My life is a lot of respect is not about my success. I get paid. I make money. I do amazing things and have a blessed life.
My motivation in life is watching other people succeed and that's why I podcast, I write books, I speak life and I consult. It's to sit there and say, "How can you make other people's lives better?" The more we as individuals can sit there and say, "What motivates us individually? What are the things that motivate you? What are the things that get you up in the morning and what are the things that keep you going all day long?" If more people ask themselves that question honestly and stop saying money, stop saying fame and money because those are dividends. What do you want to do to make your life and the life of people around you better? If you can figure that out and figure out how you can achieve those goals, you're going to live a better life and other people's lives are going to be affected because of that.One of the biggest reasons for failure among a lot of entrepreneurs is they have set themselves to goals they see other people achieving. Click To Tweet
It works best longest term and it reminds me of what most of the great homerun hitters have always said. I understand you're from Canada so I don't know if you all get baseball up there much.
We've got the Blue Jays.
Most of the great hitters have always said. They never tried to hit the ball out of the park. They only tried to hit the ball hard and let the homerun take care of itself. Doing the work, as you're saying, helping people accomplish their goals, which is something we both have in common, that's the objective. The money, the fame and the pats on the back are the dividends. That's a great way of explaining it and I do wish more people could get past the idea that the only measure of success is money, jewelry, cars, houses, boats, etc.
Let's get through this. What took you from The Midway Marketplace, an industry that you knew? You knew the buy and sell. You got comfortable doing this to move you to the point where you're a public speaker, an author and a blogger. What was the transition and what caused that transition to occur?
It began in 2013 because at that point I was frustrated with the fact that I wasn't able to attend the major trade shows for the industry. I didn't have the facility to go meet people face-to-face, not even here in the Houston area because I live in Conroe, which is a suburb. Transportation options were nonexistent. They've gotten a little better, but still no real easy way for me to get around the city. In 2013, I answered an ad on LinkedIn to appear on a radio show call hosted by Brian “The Hammer” Jackson where he was wanting to feature small business owners. I signed my name up. They picked me and I went on the show. The first week was horrible, but he asked me to come back. The second week went great. I end up doing his show every Friday morning for six months. I got accustomed to sharing my experiences, doing interviews, asking questions, answering questions. It was a great learning experience.
What it did was, it started to open me up to the possibility that I had more in me. I was capable of more things than salary or amusement equipment. I had friends, there was a lady named Adrian Smith who I refer to as my blogging mama, who had been telling me for a long time that I could inspire others. That the fact that I had a built-in The Excuse and didn't take advantage of it was inspiring to other people. There are lots of people that don't have a good reason to keep them from going after their goals and dreams and yet they sweep, walk through their lives and don't take any actions.
She said, “That's what makes your story compelling, what's makes you inspiring and sooner or later you're going to realize it.” At the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, I won a competition for a guest blog post and somehow in the middle of the night exchanging emails between me and the blog owner in India, there came out this blog post, Life Lessons from The Blind Blogger. It was things that I had learned along the way that it allowed me to build a website, to grow the traffic, to get comments and that stuff. That post appeared. It got over 100 comments and the things people said to me after reading that post, the emails I got, it finally made it click inside me. "Max, you are doing well at this equipment stuff you do know the industry." There are lots of other companies in the industry that are bigger than you, but you're still succeeding. I've made several sales where I angered a couple of the big dogs because they thought they had exclusive rights to the equipment I sold.
Between those various events, it finally sunk into my brain that I was capable of more. To me, this is where the most important part of your community, whether it's online, in person or both, comes into play because of great people in this world, the true friends. The people that have your best interests at heart. The ones who will say, "You're hiding. Your BS-ing yourself. There is more inside you than you are letting the world see. I want to be there when you finally accept this." Because I had these talented, qualified, successful people telling me that this was in me. That my message was inspiring other people, whether I wanted it to or not. Because of all the time spin on the radio with Brian and with some of his team, it all came together. I wrote the first post, which was titled, Think I'm Ready to be an Inspiration.
It's that Aha-Now.com and the site are owned by Harleena Singh. She's an amazing woman who managed to get stuff out of me that I hadn't. Even that I was nowhere near ready to say to myself, much less to the rest of the world. That was the final moment. The thing that pushed it over the edge. Of course, it was the heartfelt replies to the posts that I got after it went live. Let's not forget the important part here. Every person that's listening to this knows at least one person or maybe they are that person that needs to hear that something special about themselves. If you know this person and you know this thing about them and you haven't told them yet, then when you heard his podcast, I want to hear that you've told them. That you've explained it to them. You've made the case that, "You are this. Whether you realize it or not, you're an excellent baker. You do great parties. You sing great thank you notes." Whatever it is, tell them because it may not only be something that will improve their day or maybe something that will change their life and start them on a path towards something that they never thought. Something they never saw inside themselves before. If you don't tell them.
We all need champions of our brand. We all need people that boost us up and show us what makes us special because sometimes we don't see it in ourselves. Sometimes we don't see our unique purpose, our magic. Sometimes having somebody that can sit there and tap you on the shoulder and tell you, why you're special and why you're valuable, that not only makes us feel good, but it gives us purpose and it might point us in the right direction.
Don't forget the explanation because a lot of times you will tell somebody they're special, but you don't tell them why. Sometimes, we have this natural inclination to disbelieve those things about ourselves. The explanation is what it will take to make it sink in.
Max, I need to let you go, but I'm going to ask you two questions before you go. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Here's the last question I ask everybody. As you leave a meeting, you get off a podcast, you finish off an article and you hit send, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
I would say that I am not anything special. I'm not the most talented, prolific and consistent, but I am the guy who shows up every day and works his butt off.
There's a lot to be said with the person who shows up. Part of the thing is if we don't show up, the magic can't happen. Thank you for showing up, Max. Thank you for being an amazing guest on my show.
Thank you, Ben, for having me. I always appreciate and enjoy these conversations. I look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Maxwell Ivey, known around the world as the Blind Blogger is a totally blind man from Houston Texas.
He grew up in a family of carnival owners. He also grew up knowing he would eventually lose his vision.
Having become legally blind when entering junior high school his determination and help from family, teachers, and other mentors he was able to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, graduate from a traditional high school and college, and work alongside his family for over 15 years until his dad’s death forced their small carnival to close.
Needing a new outlet, he started an online brokering company for surplus amusement rides. This was before WiFi, word press, or social media; and he had to learn so much including how to hand-code HTML, recruit clients, set fees, write copy, build an email list, use social media, and start a blog.
People were inspired by the way he took on difficult challenges and encouraged him to share more about being an entrepreneur who happens to be blind.
That lead to him becoming the blind blogger, writing three books so far, traveling the country solo, appearing on over 200 podcasts and radio shows, helping others get exposure for their work through storytelling, and starting his own podcast the What’s Your Excuse? Show.
He continues to take on scary challenges and unexpected opportunities. He loves an adventure, so who knows where he will have been or what he will have been up to by the time you read this.
One thing is for sure if you have questions, just ask. The overriding theme of his brand and his life is that everything we do is an opportunity to learn and to teach others.
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Email once revolutionized the way people communicate, but people exploited the ease of email giving it a bad reputation. Today, people are trying to master and relearn how to connect through an email campaign, making sure it reaches a prospect’s inbox and not be ignored. The Cofounder and CEO of Autoklose, Shawn Finder, talks about email marketing and shares his knowledge and know-how on making sure your email campaign becomes successful. Don’t miss this episode to learn more about what a great email content should have and what you need to do for people to engage with you through email.
I've got a great guest for you. His name is Shawn Finder. He is the brains, the Founder, the man behind Autoklose. We're going to get down to email marketing. Shawn, welcome to the show.
Ben, I’m very happy to be here. I can't wait to talk to your audience about different tips and tricks for their email campaigns.
The email has gotten a bad rap. It truly has. The spam artists are out there sending out millions and millions of pieces of mail. Let's face it, it's cheap. I came from the old school of direct mail. Many years ago, when I got into marketing and communication, we killed trees and we killed the forest. I would send out 250,000, 500,000, 750,000-piece direct mail runs and we would do these sequences and send them 6, 8, 10 pieces of mail over a six-month period, driving them to whatever sequence we were looking at. There has to be an ROI on it because you got paper, stamps and everything that goes with it.
People all of a sudden go, “Email.” We can do the same thing with email because it's new and exciting. Everybody is sick and tired of getting stuff in their mailbox, so we're going to email them. All of a sudden, email marketing became this huge, enormous thing, clogging up people's email blogs, sending them everything left, right and center. We've gotten to a point, at least I have, where my spam filters kill 95% of this stuff. I want to get into this with you. How do we email better? How do we create an email that people want to look at, they see value in, think is authentic and want to engage with it? Welcome to the show, Shawn. Let's have a conversation.
Touching up on what you mentioned with the spam, one of the biggest mistakes people do is they don't look at the content they're sending, even try and test to see, is there any spam words in there? If you're writing an email and you have the words, “Free trial, discount, great,” even the word “great” and “get” are all spam words. What you want to do is to try and get out of spam filters, make sure you're emailing from your personal email but also make sure you're eliminating all those spam words that you could easily get out and reword and edit inside your content to make sure that you're giving yourself a better chance. You can't guarantee it, but you're giving yourself a better chance of heading into that inbox.
Let's get into that first because I didn't even know that was possible. Is there a database or something that you could run against that will take your copy and say, “These are spam words?” I use Grammarly every day. I want to make sure that when I'm sending out a letter, an email, with the copious amounts of magazines that I write for, that it's intelligently written. It's grammatically correct and all the stuff that goes with it. I put it into Grammarly and it tells me where I missed the comma. It tells me that I used the wrong tense, all those wonderful things. You go, “That was a dumb mistake. Let's do that.” Is there that same type of software that will take a look at your marketing copy and sit there and say, “Don't use this word, don't use this phrase, maybe use this instead?”Any email you send should not be about you. It should be about your prospect. Click To Tweet
I used to have clients call me and say, “Shawn, I keep going to spam.” I look at their subject line, I'd be like, “Email back for a free $100.” You have the word ‘free’ in your subject line. Strategically, what we've done now is when you're typing out your email sequence, we highlight the spam words going against a database. We've taken a database with over 1,000 words that Google, Microsoft, all these firewalls say are spam. You typed the word “discount” highlighted in yellow. You type the word “free” and it’s highlighted in yellow. “Millions,” highlighted in yellow. That way, before you click that button send, you can take those 5, 6, hopefully less, maybe 8, whatever words, and reword those words so that you give yourself that higher chance to get in. The problem is if you look at the list of spam words, 40% of them, I would never even believe were spam words. It's very interesting to see. You can target a list. You can look at that list and obviously look up to your content. I strategically think it's something that email marketers should do.
This is within the Autoklose software itself?