Author, speaker, and consultant Kathryn Hamm, this week’s featured guest on the Game Face Execs podcast, hasn’t just made a career bringing people together; she’s made a difference amplifying voices of the overlooked around us. As an educator, former account executive in professional women’s sports, and an LBGTQ wedding expert, Kathryn has been an industry innovator and is now a strategic advisor for individuals and business leaders seeking a transformational understanding about their assumptions, habits, and blind spots. As a pioneer of online wedding planning resources for same-sex couples, our game face exec gets personal and shares how her experiences informed her work as an advocate and educator supporting the unions of all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Watch the episode here:

Kathryn Hamm | Building Bridges Over Troubled Waters

How often do five passing words uttered by one acquaintance to another turn a normally brief encounter into a decades-long mutual business relationship of mutual respect? That’s what happened to me many years ago when I first met the very talented Kathryn Hamm. She was then the account executive with the WUSA’s Washington Freedom, 1 of the 8 teams in the first women’s professional soccer league. Though I’m a straight man and Kathryn is a lesbian, this episode’s conversation provides more proof that as equal members of the human family, there are certain outcomes to all friends you’re in to find, embrace and celebrate.

If you have read my book, The Sales Game Changer: How to Become the Salesperson People Love, you’re going to love our guest. In that very first chapter, I tell a story right at the outset. That story involves my guest. Her name is Kathryn Hamm. She is someone that I have long admired and respected. I’ve wanted to have her on our show ever since we began. Finally, welcome to the show, Kathryn.

Thank you, Rob. I’m glad to be here. It’s fun to have this little reunion.

I’ve had many people comment to me about that story that I tell in the book. They want to know more about you. I was tired of telling them myself. I thought, “Let’s get Kathryn on the show.” As you say, it’s a great reunion. You and I first met many years ago. We were in a different place in both of our careers. Let’s go back. I was working with a women’s professional soccer team called The Washington Freedom where you were a leader. Take it from there. Tell us how you got into that job in Washington DC.

Professionally, it was a window in time that was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. I had been working in independent schools in the Washington DC area in the lead-up. I experienced some burnout at a school and was looking for something new and different to do, and to take a break. My wife and I were season ticket holders of the Washington Freedom. I played soccer my whole life. I went on to college to play soccer. I am as the same age as a lot of the girls of summer of 1999 class, and I wasn’t as good. My career had ended. Yet there was this entity that I felt passionate about and connected to. I thought, “Why don’t I send a resume?”

I know soccer and I love being a part of it. It would be such a tremendous honor and pleasure to support this team, and to support women’s professional athletics, which when I was a kid, it wasn’t an option on the table for us. It so happened that the day I sent that resume in, they had to let go an account executive. I got a call from the sales operation saying, “We’ve got this position. This is an entry-level position. It might not be your deal but if you’d like to come in, we’d love to talk to you about it.” As it may be obvious to your readers or anyone who follows soccer, one of the fun pieces is I had the right last name since our marked key player was the great and incredible, Mia Hamm. I like to say that I played right cubicle while she was out scoring a lot of goals. She’s the penultimate player, and such a wonderful asset for the club and for women’s soccer.

I always thought that you got her a position on this.

It feels fulfilling to have a career that is part of something meaningful. Click To Tweet

Is that how it went? Maybe. I’m sure that I must have set up the one-shot that she needed to make to advance to the national team. I had so much fun, and that is what led me to meeting you. The league was looking to enhance, develop, and support the skills of its account executives. We all loaded up into our cars and headed down to North Carolina, and you were running a workshop on sales. I’m a total dork. I love to learn and sit in class. I was one of those kids that thought school was fun, both for the academics and the athletics.

To sit in a workshop and get skills that were new or were being taught to me in a different way, I was a young professional at that time. It was great to get this concrete articulation of skillset to help me do my job and hit my marks. I remember it well because you’re such a fabulous storyteller. You’re such an energetic teacher and I was completely enthralled by the educational opportunity. The anecdote, which I was surprised and pleased to find at the start of your wonderful new book. I do remember talking with you after, and feeling moved and connected to what you were saying and teaching us.

There was a mutual connection because during the workshop, which lasted a couple of days, you were always engaged, asked great questions and challenged me. When you came up at the end and we said our goodbyes, thinking that we would meet again, work again together, what you said to me opened up a whole new perspective of what I do for a living. I’m not going to steal my own thunder, I want my readers to read that first chapter. I’ve been forever grateful for that. As I say in the book, I’ve shared that story numerous times with other clients. When they hear what you said, they all nod affirmatively like, “She’s insightful.”

That must be our chemistry and dynamism because it was something that was very clear for me. It was organic at that moment. It felt like a light bulb moment. I love those moments. I like them more when they’re comfortable, which your workshop was. I liked the last one. I felt like it’s blood, sweat and tears, lots of kicking and screaming to get through it. I love those light bulb moments that provide some of insight, which like turning on a light switch and it sheds light, which helps everything that you’re doing next to be that much easier.

I have to ask you though regarding your start with the Washington Freedom, which the league did not last too long, unfortunately. It’s since been reconstituted now, but you went from education when you were in the classroom, is that correct?

At that point, I was a high school administrator. I taught but I was doing a little of everything on the school side.

For many of my readers, sales and the whole topic, even taking a sales job would be the last thing on earth they’d ever consider doing because they’re not “cut out” for sales. I’m interested to know what was going through your mind coming from an administrative position, from a coaching standpoint to accept the idea that, “I’m going to take an account executive position. I’m going to become a salesperson.” Most people won’t touch sales with a 10-foot pole. For you, what happened? Was it, “This is something I’ve got to do?” Is it a necessary evil to get to something better or is it something you aspire to?

It’s neither or none of the above. There were two parts to the answer. The first around what I was doing was this was an extension to participate in something that mattered. This was part of being a member of a team and a sport that I cared about, and something I wanted which was professional women’s sports. We forget how much it’s changed in such a short amount of time, but there weren’t professional sports. I was a young kid who was a sports junkie that grew up in a time where my sport wasn’t in the Olympics. It now is. It didn’t have an opportunity for professional athletics as a choice. To me, this was a piece of that story. That part was easy.

GFEP 25 | Gay Wedding Expert

Gay Wedding Expert: Not a lot of people were out in the 90s. Nobody talks about LGBTQ communities and families.

 

I was happy to do whatever. I’m sure part of my comfort with something that involves sales might be connected to that I was totally that kid in your neighborhood. If you live in a suburban neighborhood situation where the school was asking us to do a readathon, a swimathon or whatever athon, and I was out there to go and raise money. I was the kid that nobody wanted to see coming because while I did come trick or treating for candy which was the easiest exchange we had, I also came to your house asking for you to sponsor me.

For the families who underestimated the number of books that I would read or the number of laps I would swim, sometimes we had to negotiate what the donation would be. I’m fortunate in being an extrovert and seeing it as an opportunity to be connected to something meaningful. To me, that’s not sales. While I understand your point from what I’ve read in your book so far, you’re dead-on right. It’s being connected to something, to a mission, and to an opportunity that’s meaningful.

When the league did fold, no fault of yours, Kathryn Hamm, but when it was not in the cards at that particular time, women’s soccer has resurrected and is doing well in a variety of markets, more markets than the original league enjoyed. Nevertheless, when the Washington Freedom folded for a time, you had to move on professionally and you’ve talked already about following things that are meaningful to you. Where did your career go next? I’m assuming you were not looking for a paycheck, you were looking for something that was meaningful to you. Could you describe that path for us?

By that time, I was in my third iteration of a career from education to working in professional sports to working in the wedding industry. As I was reflecting on what is this common thread, I realized that I was always connected to something that had some connection to social justice. The education, teaching of kids, supporting women’s professional sports, and bringing empowerment for women and girls to the forefront. My mom started a business in 1999 called TwoBrides.com and also the companion site, TwoGrooms.com. It was an outgrowth of her response to struggling to find products for my wedding to my wife in 1999. It’s not legal. Those were the days of commitment ceremonies and there were commencement ceremonies certainly happening. There was a market to be served, but there weren’t companies embracing our community in other ways, serving couples who were looking to have ceremonies and celebrate their commitments.

My mom was in the early years of having launched that business and needed some support. In the course of the things that I have done professionally and as a person, I love things that involve marketing, writing, sales and strategic thinking. I’m a natural entrepreneur in a lot of ways. I want to help my mom launch a business that is groundbreaking of which I felt proud of her, and which I saw a need for. I joined her in 2004. I started helping a little bit part-time. In 2005, I became a full partner in the business. That’s the time in which we acquired and rebranded as GayWeddings.com. We’re moved from being a boutique where we offered products for people planning their weddings, to much more of a comprehensive resource site so that people could come and find vendors, and vendors could find couples.

This is what moved me into the wedding space. Relatively quickly, I found myself referring to what I did as I’m a gay wedding expert, which I find hilarious. It still makes me laugh to this day. Truly my expertise somewhere is I have spent a substantial chunk of my time as an LGBTQ wedding expert, working within the wedding industry, trying to support couples, trying to support wedding professionals, and trying to shift the space. There are lots of fun stories that we can talk about within that, but I would say to you that I found my way accidentally into it, and yet in hindsight, always being 2020, I can see the path and understand quite clearly why it was a great match. Let me add one more little thing that I did along the way. I had gotten a Master’s in Social Work when I was teaching. There is a piece of clinical work, communication, and thinking from a community organizing standpoint. There were some ways in which my graduate-level studies were also well connected to this business opportunity.

I don’t think it’s too unusual that an entrepreneur would fall into a business. We’ve often been told that you should follow your passion, but if I look around the world and see successful entrepreneurs, with apologies to those who have been able to turn their hobby into a career, and I love what I do, let’s be clear on that. You love what you do, but many entrepreneurs do what they do. They start the business they do, not because they’re passionate about that particular product or service, but because they do see an opportunity. There is a void in the market, they want to fill that void, and recognize that it would be financially fortuitous if they did, and more power to them. In your case, as I’m hearing it then, two things collided or intersected in a good way. You do have a passion for social justice and social issues. You had a mother who is in need of your expertise and abilities, and then you had the desire to be your own boss. Is that a fair characterization?

I do tend to be my own boss. It was perfect timing to solve that, “What am I going to do next? Who am I as a professional?” It fit the bill to help me figure out the question of what’s next.

Being LGBTQ-identified isn't that different from being straight-identified. You’re still a person who has feelings and connections. Click To Tweet

I have to ask you about the need that your mother initially saw and she was working to fill at a time when gay weddings were more ceremonial than official. When you joined her, had you already gone through the experience yourself or had that yet to come?

My wife and I had our wedding, which we called at that time a union, the language was still evolving. What we were doing was relatively new. We got married. We had our wedding union in 1999. To this day, that is still the ceremony that we celebrate, even though we’ve since made it legal. I had been through the process and understood what some of the challenges were, not just from saying, “We’re going to do this thing,” but we planned a wedding and encountered wedding professionals. We understood what our challenges were. We recognized how hard it was in making choices to say, “Here’s who we are. Will you help us?” It’s what was happening at that time because any phone call could lead to hanging up, a polite decline, or some unkind words said.

Rolling back the clock for anyone that can go into the ‘90s, a lot of people weren’t out. We didn’t talk about LGBTQ communities and families in the way we do. We were often closeted at work. We weren’t all running to get married. Many people in my community didn’t even see weddings or unions. It’s such a beautiful relationship and an important relationship statement and ritual. We didn’t even see that as a possibility because it wasn’t anything that was part of what our experience could be. That’s a whole other topic that I’m incredibly passionate about and it has changed my life. The shorthand context of it was that I came out thinking I was making a choice where my family may reject me. Marriage, which is something I’d always imagined I would do and having kids, was not an option for me. This is who I am, this is what it is to be authentic and true to myself, and feeling like, “There may be these costs to accept that truth and to live authentically.”

As you were talking, I’m reminded about a gentleman who has since passed away, who was a dear friend of mine. His name is Dennis Richardson. He was a politician in the State of Oregon where I used to live and work. He was a state legislator when first met him. He became Secretary of State, which is a Lieutenant Governor, the second in line to the governorship of the State of Oregon. He fought against same-sex marriage. Many people, his followers, and those who are that ilk fought hard against it. You’ve encountered many people in your life and your career who at one time were may maybe political enemies.

The reason I bring up Dennis is I was impressed with him after gay marriage became legal throughout the country. He was asked a question on television during his last campaign, “You lost, Dennis. What do you think about that?” Rather than digging in his heels and saying, “The Supreme Court made a bad decision,” and those types of things, I was impressed with the grace in which he answered the question. He said simply, “I congratulate them that they now could enjoy marriage like my wife and I have been enjoying it for years.”

I want to say that because we’ve talked about this. You and I are the same on every issue and policy. There’s a mutual respect that we belong to the mutual admiration society. I love that about you and I hope that’s true of what I said. That’s the way I feel about you. I have to ask you though, some of the hardships that movement has experienced, can you give me some insights? I’m not in that constituency. My wife and I have been married for many years so I don’t understand the things that you’ve lived through. Perhaps you can give us a little bit of a peek into the issues that you faced back then versus now. How is it evolving? Is it better in your world? Is it still challenging in your world? I would like to learn from your experience.

It’s a mutual fan society, for sure. When you use the phrase, political enemies, maybe it’s because I live in Washington and we think about politics differently. I live in an industry town and my wife is a non-partisan analyst. There’s a different way we approach this. There are people with who I might have policy disagreements. Particularly in my work when I was working in the wedding industry, trying to support people and understanding why this mattered, approaching things from a standpoint of, “Are we enemies or friends?” It’s how I am. It’s not how I roll. I also find it doesn’t serve a higher purpose of how we take care of each in our immediate communities, our families, or our broader city communities to our national community.

I’d love to try to answer your question through my professional experience. It’s one of the easiest ways to tell that story. To me, it’s one of the things that is intriguing about watching a group that has largely been disenfranchised, sometimes treated unkindly, still being on the receiving end of hate crimes, losing jobs, losing housing, not having access to medical care, losing family, struggling in accepting a parent’s love or receiving that. The wedding space was interesting because the whole conversation is about love. Being LGBTQ-identified isn’t that different outside of being straight-identified. You’re a person who has feelings and connections. One of the differences between when I was coming up versus now is it was rare for a parent who would say, “I see you. How can I help you? Are you interested in boys or girls?”

GFEP 25 | Gay Wedding Expert

Gay Wedding Expert: How do we provide space if someone feels disenfranchised from an institution or a community?

 

Many kids growing up now are given the space where they may have a preference for what they want, but the parents aren’t setting the table in a way that means there’s a course correction down the road. There are ways to be more inclusive in general in language so that the kid can be who they are. To give you a personal example, which my parents know that I use this example. Not long after I came out with them, one of them said, “Secretly, we were afraid it was true.” As a young person, I was 21 so I was relatively late coming out.

While the parent side of me and the compassionate daughter’s side understands what they were saying, there is a deep part of grief I have about that because I asked myself, “God, what years were lost? If you understood this about me, in what ways did you unconsciously or without intention help to construct a reality that you hoped for me, a way that I might be, or what my life should look like? If there was a truth that I couldn’t articulate, but that was speaking to me from a place of my heart, it’s hard to describe it and understanding what it was then, what did I lose in that process?” Fast-forwarding back into the wedding industry and conversations I’ve had with a wide variety of wedding professionals, event planners, photographers, caterers, you name it. One of the most interesting groups to speak with would be the officiants. Some of whom were religiously affiliated. Some of whom were not.

I was involved in this business my mom started. It was the first of its kind. We were the first in having this conversation. In the earliest days, the wedding professionals who wanted to advertise their business and find same-sex couples, very few or some were happy to be out there with it. The majority were like, “I want to do this. I’m open to it, but I don’t want people to know because I’m afraid of what I’m going to lose. I’m afraid of the business and the clients I’m going to lose. I’m afraid of what people are going to say to me.” The work in those early days was helping people to understand the opportunity. They may feel like there’s a risk but recognize that there is a goodwill, feeling aligned with your values, and an opportunity to have customers who are going to be happy about the choice that you made to serve same-sex couples.

As the tide with what was happening from an advocacy standpoint and from a legal standpoint began to turn. People felt much more comfortable. I framed it to people like, “Your wingman has arrived. You’re not going to be the one who’s standing out there alone doing this. You’ve got an industry that saying this is okay.” One of the things that as an educator and consultant that made a big difference for me was I had a national company, WeddingWire, which now has acquired The Knot and is known as The Knot Worldwide. It had me on their main stage, front and center, teaching what I had to teach about understanding same-sex couples and LGBTQ people, and what they might need.

When you have the validation from a nationally accepted brand, it changes the game further. For those who still feel some fear, afraid or aren’t sure what to do, it helps bring the temperature down. I had this interesting perch as a business owner, educator, and a person who personally was invested in this, watching how opinions and comfort levels changed. One of the things that made it easiest was we were talking about love. When I spoke with some professionals or officiants who had some fear that was grounded in some of their religious teachings, it was easy for us to find some commonality around, “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,” around love, respect and relationship, that there is plenty of both to be had in the conversation.

I don’t mean to be too Pollyanna about it either because many days, it came at some cost to me. People say some hurtful things to me. I was good enough as an educator and as a listener that they weren’t recognizing that some of the questions they were asking and things that they were saying were deeply dismissive, hurtful, and less fun. I would say it was in my commitment to say, “I want to have this conversation and figure out how I can help you understand me more, which helps me hang in because I understand that you’re afraid. How can we continue this conversation? There are plenty of rooms for me to get married and for me to support love, commitment, all these values that I know most religions are about at their core.”

I cannot anticipate the questions that my readers may be having now. Perhaps you could identify or even predict their questions better than I can. Can you help me understand what are some common fears or questions people have about the gay wedding industry that you have had to overcome? If you had a chance to speak one-on-one with them and when you do, that fear is quickly overcome or never realized because they have more information, more insight from you. Can you give us an example or two of the things that you’ve encountered along the way?

I went from being in the gay wedding industry, which was more of a niche market into the wedding industry. One of the things I do professionally now is I’m a wedding pro for The Knot Worldwide, which means I provide education and support. It is built around marketing for small business owners, which many wedding and event professionals are. I like to talk more broadly about inclusion. The LGBTQ community is part of that story, but there are also many other non-dominant groups and oftentimes that’s nonwhite for example. In the wedding industry, it might also be non-female. Many of them are men who are routinely disenfranchised and shut out from conversations. They are brought up to believe that weddings are about the bride or the woman. They’re not about the couple or about him, which I spend a lot of time talking to wedding pros about.

Never assume you understand what someone's reasoning or motive is. Click To Tweet

In some ways, the question you’re asking is about the old days. There are so much that have changed. I went from my first wedding conference where I said what I did, and this woman who was based out of Richmond turned on her heel and walked away from me. She couldn’t tolerate the audience I was looking to support, to being greeted and people excited to tell me about a wedding that they’ve worked, a friend of them who’s got married, or something that they’re doing that is cool. We exchange tips around, “How can I work on the marketing practices in my business? What are the relationship things I need to be aware of? How do I work through some of this cultural competence?” It’s a general framing I use.

In other words, we try to do as much as we can to know what we don’t know so that we can be more open and available to support the client who needs our services. Maybe they found us and maybe they haven’t. For me these days, it’s much broader than that. With that said, service refusal was a big contentious issue. I would suggest that even with the Marriage Equality legislation that was passed in 2015, the service refusal question was a can that got kicked down the road. I don’t have an answer about that. Personally, I had days of more grace and space to hold the conversation than others, depending on how tired can I feel.

It feels like we’re in the place of somebody has to win this fight. I’m not sure that we’ve come up with a creative solution to figure out how we provide space for everybody. The bottom line is it’s something that is true that same-sex couples still wrestle with. Not in larger urban areas but in certain smaller towns or some areas. They may say, “I’m looking for your services for my wedding.” The vendor will say, “I refuse to work with you. I don’t believe in same-sex marriage.” We can talk more about embracing and upholding where people come from in that. There is a piece of, “This is what my church tells me. This is what our community believes and supports. This is what I’ve always thought.”

It’s linked to, “I’m afraid of what might happen if I question this or I’m curious about it.” What I have come to find is never assume you understand what someone’s reasoning or motive is, but in the end, it’s hard to be someone who comes in and is like, “I’m looking for flowers,” and someone says, “Your relationship doesn’t count.” As an LGBTQ-identified person, as someone who has a wife, and we have a son, who I don’t want to know that there is the stuff out there. He does know. He understands it, but the thought that there would be this one side detail about us that might lead to being refused services or told we’re not enough, we’re not okay, or we don’t count, which is how it feels and I’m speaking personally, it’s hard.

Jumping ahead to where the question is, and that’s the unfinished business, which is about service refusal and how we coexist and how we empower each other. How do I feel about that now? With the last few years of what’s been happening, it’s even harder than ever because I’ve seen people circle up wagons and we have lost communication. We have struggled to find the bridges. We have struggled to build a relationship and to listen to one another. We’ve struggled to remember the art of compromise. There is a responsibility for those of us who are in a dominant identity group.

For example, me being a white person, how can I approach my relationships and understanding the experiences of someone who identifies as black or African-American in our country? How do we provide space if someone feels disenfranchised from an institution, community or belonging? We’re in an era where this is hard work, but this is the work. Thank you for the time to answer that. What I would say is there is a piece of advocacy, or some might say sales in that. There’s a piece of relationship building, engagement, and how we get to the end of the conversation together without hanging up on each other.

Another side of this discussion for me is the anticipation that there will be families that are coming together in a union. Let me use a simple example which may be stereotypical in nature, but one family is more traditional, as you might say. They may have religious beliefs that are ironclad. That’s admirable. For me, there’s nothing that should be dismissed about that like values. I am a traditionalist when it comes to religious beliefs. The other family though that may have more of this free spirit where, “We want to make it up as we go. We want the ceremony or the union to reflect the persons who were being married rather than the institution of marriage.” I’m asking you as an expert, how would you counsel individuals or families that are coming together because of a marriage who may have different viewpoints on how it should be executed?

It’s an interesting question along with the setup to it, which feels like there are a lot of bunny trails that would be fascinating to talk about. The shortest point from A to B on that would be my experience, what I’ve come to understand, what I valued about my wedding and that ritual. I’m a big believer in ritual. I think ritual matters. The question I heard you asking is, “Does the institution get to determine the ritual? Does the family get to determine the ritual? Does the couple get to determine the ritual? Does another family get to determine the ritual?” I’ve talked to a lot of straight couples who tell me that what’s been hard about their wedding planning or what they wish was different were the ways that the family engaged, fought and laid expectations.

GFEP 25 | Gay Wedding Expert

The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography

I realized when I heard a few couples sharing these stories with me that one of the great benefits and opportunities I had in designing a same-sex wedding or a wedding with my wife was we had to figure out the ritual parts that mattered most. What is this union about? While we’ve developed shortcuts to represent sacrament, we have had an opportunity to build one that would be ironclad in all of what a permanent lifelong union and commitment look like. We built it around who we were as individuals, but informed by our own experiences, traditions, and understanding of why some institutions might introduce certain rituals. A lot of same-sex weddings often look like the greatest hits of various religious wedding traditions, whether it’s the stomping of the glass to a father giving away a child, to who officiates, and what the language is around who is bearing witness.

If some of your kids have got married, you’ve wrestled with some of this question. My counsel generally to the couples is to listen to what your people have to say but to remember that the union or the ceremony is about you. In my day, parents didn’t even know what to do and they weren’t paying for it so there was no tension. Whereas if you’re a couple that says, “We want to do it this way,” but one family is like, “We’re paying for it so we’re going to do it our way,” you’re not having an authentic meaningful conversation that’s about what matters. That gets into family communication. That gets into what the couple wants. I would even challenge the couple. Sometimes couples rushed to the altar too quickly. In an era where we spend less time in communities and institutions that might support how we consider lifelong commitment and what that means, we get too fast. That creates problems down the road. This is the social worker in me. There’s a multifaceted answer to that. I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer other than as a professional, I tend to lean in protection of the couple because I think it is a universal issue that comes up for all families.

I recognize my question was broad and every situation is idiosyncratic. There’s so much nuance and personality to it. I appreciate your answer. It’s very fair. Let’s turn to Kathryn Hamm, the businesswoman and the business owner. You’re in the wedding industry. As I understand it, the pandemic did a number on the wedding industry.

The hospitality and services industry, for a relatively resilient and constant industry, it’s taken a big hit. I have done less consulting and have been less involved. I still do a little bit around small business consulting but haven’t been under the hood in the same way that I was before. In 2008, we struggled economically and it was very interesting, that was with the rise of popularity and openness to same-sex weddings. At that time, there was a way that there was this interesting economic storyline around this market that was interested and had dollars to spend because there was pent-up demand from couples who hadn’t yet got married. I don’t know yet how this is going to turn out for the services industry.

There are a lot of people who do this part-time and I’m not sure that it would be sustainable for them. It may be that there’s a whole new batch of young professionals who enter it because they lost their other jobs. There is a difference if you’re an officiant, a wedding professional, photographer. For the people that are in catering and event rentals, it’s complicated. From a standpoint of people who are looking to think about the bottom line, it’s going to be challenging. As someone who thinks that weddings quickly get bloated and are more expensive than they need to be, this is a beautiful opportunity to help people get back to basics on what weddings are all about.

I believe that a wedding is organized from the ritual, ceremony and out, not from the reception, and then you do the rest of it. That comes from my experience specifically as an LGBTQ person. It is about my belief as a social worker around ritual and thinking about spaces. It’s wildly unpopular with a lot of people, but this is one thing that I hope becomes a good change. I want the very best for all of my colleagues in the industry. I also want weddings to have meaning. I don’t want them to be just empty exercises and money machines. That’s not the work I do.

I haven’t told you this before, but one of my sons, among his many talents and one thing he does on the side is he captures weddings through video. I recognize and he does as well that everybody who has a camera phone thinks they can do that. He is a real artist. One of the things that impressed me most about his work in 2020 was how he was able to capture the intimacy of these small scale weddings with the couple, perhaps their parents, maybe siblings at most, and the officiant. They were beautiful stories that he was telling through a video that to your earlier point, you don’t necessarily see when there’s a reception of 500 people. Tell us a little bit more about the other consulting that you do and areas of expertise that you have. I know you’re certainly an author. We didn’t talk about the book that you wrote about wedding photography. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about that. My audience would like to know what you’re doing and what’s capturing most of your attention now?

After my days with the Washington Freedom, I’ve been in a period of trying to figure out what is it that I do. You’ll appreciate this, Rob, too. I was reading chapter two of your book and it occurred to me like, “This describes intuitively some of the processes that I’ve been going through. That is trying to understand, who am I and what is it that I bring? What is the value proposition that I bring?” I found it hard to define what I do because it’s many things. The three categories that I’ve come up with are educator, strategic thinker, and partner and empowerment. I ended up doing that in any number of domains.

Weddings should have meaning. They shouldn’t be empty exercises or money machines. Click To Tweet

I’m on the board of trustees for a school. I’m interested in doing leadership work that’s strategically oriented. I do a lot of small business consulting. I’ve been doing some mentoring with people who might not otherwise have had the same access to resources that I did as a young person, graduating from school with no college debt, and with the network I have, how can I help promote and support them in achieving their entrepreneurial dreams? I do a little bit of consulting in the wedding industry as a wedding pro through The Knot Worldwide. I’m a parent and I also do some work supporting my wife and her business, which is a little bit of a Jill of all trades. We’ve got a couple of things cooking that will be interesting in 2021. What I realized was in this interim phase as I was doing less in the industry, I needed to explain to people, “If you want to work with me, what does that involve?”

If I want to answer the question, “What do I do for a living?” How do I answer that? It is both a work in progress. What I understand is there is still a connection to social justice. I’m interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion work. I now have had some corporate clients that are interested in having leadership-oriented conversations around cultural competence, about recognizing their blind spots, about figuring out how can they be efficient, responsible, and ethical business owners, which I love. That’s a little bit of the value of being a little older. Part of it is I have some wisdom from the various hats that I’ve worn, and having the opportunity to connect with people that are interested in engaging in conversation around that.

You talk about being a little older, you don’t look that older. I am interested in that comment because hopefully with age comes wisdom. I’m interested to know the difference between Kathryn Hamm of 2021 and Kathryn Hamm of 2000 when we first met. What would you tell the Kathryn Hamm of 2000, if you could speak to her now, that you’ve learned and experienced over the years?

There would be different nuggets of advice from the concrete to the general. As you can tell, I love themes and at that time, I would have benefited from understanding a little more of how to engage more deeply in my listening to understand experiences outside of my own. I always knew that adversity could be an advantage, but what I didn’t understand was how I was collecting all these different experiences, relationships, professional moments, and challenges that would come together and lead to the next thing. One example is you referenced my book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. I’ve loved writing my whole life.

As a kid, I was writing journals and poetry. I loved my English classes, the whole nine yards. There was a part of me that always wanted to write a book. I thought that would be cool to be an author. There is no way that I ever would have thought that what I would be writing would be a book about same-sex wedding photography. That would have struck me as completely cray-cray. There’s no way. As it turns out, my Social Work degree, my experience as an educator, my involvement in the wedding industry, my ability to recognize what small business owners needed to help them, my desire to make a difference, my desire to support marriage equality, becoming something that we stopped thinking about or arguing about, and accepted as an opportunity for dignity for all couples to participate in these unions, it was natural. I don’t think in 2000 that I would have understood that possibility.

I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d said I was going to be in the wedding industry. I would have thought that was crazy. One of the things that helped me is I delight a little more in what the universe provides in front of me and I look for what is it that sparks my interest and passion, and feels like it connects, that it’s time to show up, and here’s a great outlet for me to do what it is I do to be of benefit to my community and the people I’m engaging with. It’s also deeply satisfying for me to be able to exercise authenticity in personal challenge and growth. That’s probably the easiest way to answer that question.

Speaking of themes, you know that this show is centered around the game-changers out there such as yourself who have the ability demonstrably in influencing, persuading, and inspiring other people. I have to ask you, who inspires you now?

I have to give that honor to my son. There’s a multifaceted answer to it, but let me give you a nugget. This can be our next conversation, whether on or offline as a parent. Our kids bring great lessons to us and they also bring forward-looking lessons. When we’re in our 20s and 30s, it’s easy to look ahead and see the impact we can have. As we get comfortable in ways in which we’re empowered and the wisdom we have, it becomes easier to stay in that space and to lose sight of what the future can look like. My son has brought me many gifts, both in how he sees the world and thinks about it. He’s got this incredibly creative mind.

GFEP 25 | Gay Wedding Expert

Gay Wedding Expert: The value of being a little older is having the wisdom born out of wearing various hats and connecting with various people.

 

He says and thinks things that are opposite of the way I think. That’s a delight. As any parent will know, he also holds up a pretty hard mirror. I hear me coming out of him sometimes. Sometimes I’m proud and other times I’m not so proud. I have to go back and do a little work. The other thing that has been important in my growth is we’re an adoptive family. Beyond understanding what it is like to be an LGBTQ-identified family and parents. Our son is adopted and he is mixed-race. My growth experience has been learning a lot about adoption. Some of which is wonderful and a lot of which has some hard truths connected to it that involve a lot of grief, involve a lot of trauma, and calls me to figure out how to hold some hard things that sometimes are in competition.

As a white parent of a brown son and as a white friend to many brown and black people, it has forced me to take a look at the world differently in ways that as a white person, I never had to be conscious about. My experience as a lesbian coming out helped to inform some of that. There have been some deeper lessons that have been important to me. Through understanding what I believe my role is as a responsible parent and what my son’s experiences in the world I want him to live in, he has been an incredible teacher to me in that regard. It inspires me to do work that is uncomfortable a lot of the time.

Your son is a teenager.

I’ll call you for some advice.

I’d love that you call me but maybe call my wife.

I believe that you are an intentional parent as you are an entrepreneur and business owner. I know that’s a credit to your wife as well. We’ll have a different conversation if you weren’t as engaged as I suspect you were.

I have three sons and I am fortunate the way that they were raised and the way that they turned out. I’m sure you’re experiencing that now. I appreciate this conversation that you’ve had with us. I appreciate your honesty. As I said at the outset, you have my utmost respect and admiration. I love what you do to make the world better. I’m grateful that you’re my friend. We’ll have to do this again. I have these kinds of conversations offline and not wait so long to get your thoughts and your perspective out to my little world. Thank you for making us better through this conversation.

It has been a pleasure. I’m appreciative that you’ve carried with me all these years and that we’ve been in contact. It’s been one of my favorite professional relationships. I have a few where no one else knows this person who I enjoy connecting with. Congratulations on all that you’ve done, the way you’ve grown your business, this book that you’re launching, and this show that you’re doing. I’m proud of you and the work that you’ve put out there. I’m grateful that you’re in my world. I’m glad that fate has brought us together. Thanks for having me.

All the best to your family.

Thank you, Rob.

Curious what this diversity, equality and inclusion specialist might understand about being a sales game changer? I invite you to join us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform for the rest of this conversation. Kathryn describes more of the means she’s involved in for those who have historically felt unheard and undeserved.

Important Links:

About Kathryn Hamm

GFEP 25 | Gay Wedding Expert

A dynamic small business development consultant and marketing advisor, Kathryn Hamm is an Education Expert and Diversity & Inclusion Specialist for WeddingWire and The Knot. She is also co-author of the book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014).

In 2004, Kathryn joined her straight mom in the family business, GayWeddings.com (originally known as the two websites, TwoBrides.com & TwoGrooms.com) – the pioneering online wedding planning resource for same-sex couples since 1999. In 2015, under her leadership, GayWeddings announced its acquisition by WeddingWire, the nation’s leading technology company serving the $100+ billion wedding, corporate, and social events industry. Shortly thereafter, she and her mother, GayWeddings founder, Gretchen Hamm, celebrated news of full marriage equality on the steps of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015.

A natural educator, Kathryn Hamm writes, speaks and consults with wedding professionals about same-sex wedding trends, best practices when serving today’s couples, and how to think ‘outside the box’ when considering the modern market. From 2005-2015, she managed day-to-day operations and the strategic vision for GayWeddings, and she’s been interviewed by sources such as MSNBC, the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, NPR’s Tell More, The Diane Rehm Show, the Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, and the Los Angeles Times, and a column for The Huffington Post.

Kathryn has a Masters in Social Work from the Catholic University of America and an Undergraduate degree in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Princeton University. Prior to becoming the President of GayWeddings, Kathryn spent 10 years as an educator and school administrator in the Washington, D.C. area. She also worked for Discovery Communications and the WUSA’s Washington Freedom. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at The Lab School of Washington.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

 

Many of us understand the value of sales in any company, but there has not been a lot of focus on sales management in the last decade. Sales management expert Jason Jordan saw the need to tap this area of sales and wrote the book, “Cracking the Sales Management Code,” which has since been a staple on the reader’s lists of MBA courses in major universities. Jason is a bestselling author and sales consultant who focuses on sales management best practices, sales metrics, pipeline management, CRM, leadership development and more. Joining Rob Cornilles in this episode, he shares the important realizations he had in his sales career that prompted him to write a book about sales management. He also sheds light on the critical role of frontline sales managers in ensuring smooth processes in all aspects of sales.

Watch the episode here:

Jason Jordan | Cracking The Sales Management Code 

I want to thank Jason Jordan for joining us on the show. Jason, it’s great to have an author and an educator like yourself to participate in these conversations. Welcome to our show.

Thanks, Rob. I’m glad you’re having me.

Jason, as you and I have spoken before I am a fan of yours, the books that you’ve published and the articles that you’ve written. You have a very interesting career path because most people either want to be an author from day one or want to get into business and then authorship comes down near retirement. In fact, I had a conversation with an executive, who’s nearing the end of his career. I asked him, “What’s the one thing you still want to do?” He says, “I want to write a book.” It’s not an easy thing to have a bestseller as you have and to be an influencer in the sales industry like you have been. Tell us a little bit about how that started. Did you intend to be a researcher and an author, or did you just discover things in the sales industry and recognize that you’ve got to share some insights and some discoveries with the rest of us?

Thank you for the compliments along the way. It was an interesting path. I don’t know that anyone has a path in their career, but I started out in sales right out of college with 100% commission, hardcore sales. I went to business school. It’s funny. This was before the dot-com boom. When I was coming out of business school, you went to banking or consulting. Those were your two choices and there was no idea of being an entrepreneur. I went into consulting.

In every management consulting firm I went to, I was the only person who had any sales experience. Anytime there were sales discussions, it’s like, “Go get Jason. He can talk about sales.” Most of my career was consulting. Anything you can do in a sales force, a comp design, territory design, process design and CRM implementation, all of it. I was going down that path and I had respect for authors. I didn’t necessarily have the intention to be one.

It was like my life’s thing, but when I was in sales, throughout my career, I was reading Neil Rackham. He was very influential. I got fortunate enough to work for him and consider him a friend now. The SPIN Selling and Rethinking the Sale are all legendary books. He is a great guy. Solution Selling, all the classics and Miller Heiman’s books. I respected people who could create content. What Neil told me one time about writing was very interesting. He said that, “Writing forces clarity of thought.” The best authors are good at presenting complex things in very simple ways. While most authors try to present simple things in complex ways to make it seem more than maybe it is.

The way the book came about and I’ll be brief with the story because I know we want to go on to other things. I was at American Express’ headquarters in Manhattan, and this has got to be several years ago. I don’t even remember what the project was but during break and coffee and stuff. One of the guys said, “I was in the room believe it or not with the global head of sales of American Express.” I’m sure he’s 1 of 500 people. The head of sales asks an interesting question. He said, “How do I know if my salesforce is any good?” He went on to say that, “If my European revenues are growing faster than North American, does that mean I’ll have a better salesforce in Europe?” “I don’t know. What are the regulatory environments? What’s the competition like? Give some more examples.”

He’s like, “How do you know if salesforce is any good?” As a sales consultant, I felt that I should have an answer. That’s one of those things that when you’re driving around by yourself and those moments where you reflected, I started thinking about it and I said, “Let’s look at some sales reports, some management reports.” If people are bothering to gather and report data, this must be what they think is the definition of good. Measuring ourselves against good. The book came out with this interest and understanding of how people were using CRM and what reports, what measurements they were using. I played with the concepts for a while. I put it into a presentation and some folks had hired me to go do roadshow stuff because they were interested in the industry.

I was giving a presentation at a random conference and a guy from McGraw-Hill came up and said, “I thought that was interesting. Here’s my card.” I thought it was a sales leader, trainer or something, but he was just looking for fresh content. He said, “Would you like to give a proposal?” I gave him a proposal, they accepted it and then I wrote a book. I avoided all of the writing a book and having to shop it and no agents were involved. I fell into it in all the right ways, but I did fall into it. It was a good experience. People ask me, “How it is to write a book?” My only response is, “It’s long.” I spent about a thousand hours just writing the book. Not counting all the stuff that went into it, but that was a good process. It was fun. It definitely clarified my thinking. That’s what my people have been drawn to the book or at least that’s the feedback I get is it’s approachable. It’s nothing engineering about it. It’s common words and common concepts. I’ve been very fortunate in that way.

In trying to implement change in sales processes, implementation success always comes down to the frontline sales manager. Click To Tweet

As I’ve told you before, Jason, I teach an MBA course at a major university and Cracking the Sales Management Code is on our reader’s list. It’s required reading within our course. My students have always benefited from it. It spurs conversation and a little bit of debate, but they walk away, grateful that it’s on that list. It’s one of the few books that focus at least that I have appreciated. It’s one of the few books that focus on management. We have a lot of sales, methodology books. I’m coming out with a book on sales methodology. Sales management is one that I think we’re all scratching our heads constantly trying to figure out. I’ve got to ask you a couple of questions about the origination of the book. The title itself, Cracking the Sales Management Code, it suggests something has been hidden from us. What was the thinking behind that? What did you discover that caused you to put that title on it?

There are a couple of things to talk about there. You’re right. There’s not been a lot of sales management-focus. At the time that book came out, it was late 2011. I went on to Amazon and looked for sales management books. They weren’t there. Since there’ve been several good sales management books that have been written, whether the time was right or maybe I spurred some interest in the area, but that may be a little overly ambitious and indulgent. Understanding my career, I was a management consultant. I came at all of these issues from a management’s perspective. I didn’t spend my entire career in sales.

I had a career in sales, but I didn’t go straight from being a salesperson to writing a book. I’ve been studying management issues. What I realized in trying to implement change and this is a truism that people have come to realize. If you’re trying to make any change in a Salesforce, whether it’s implementing a new training program, new process or implementing CRM, in my experience managing those projects, the implementation success always came down to the frontline sales manager. The frontline sales manager understood it and bought into it. It would at least get done 75%. If the sales manager didn’t understand that it wasn’t behind it, it became the third priority and it just never happened.

It’s a truism. That was the interest in particularly frontline sales management. The title, I have to give credit to my co-author, Michelle Vazzana. I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. I live on an old farm situation. In here, any property over 5 acres has outbuildings that have been converted into cottages or whatever. I have my cottage out behind our house with the guest cottage and that’s where I do my work. Michelle was down, she lived in the DC area, we had outlined the book and we put the poser together. We got to have a name, we need a name for it. I said, “The name is obvious. It’s Focused Sales Management because that’s what this is all about.”

The entire book in focusing sales management and salespeople on doing the right things. She said, “That’s stupid. No one is going to buy a book called Focused Sales Management, how about Cracking the Sales Management Code.” That’s where it came from. To your point, it did crack open some ideas. The standing idea that we manage outcomes. If you could manage quota, everyone would make their quota. It shifted the focus to the activities. Since I’ve had many people say, “We’ve been running our Salesforce like that for years. I can’t imagine running it any other way, focusing on the activities and what people are doing and what we’re providing by way of enablement.”

The last ten years have been transformative for the sales management discipline. I think that maybe the time is just right. Maybe people have gotten as far as they can with the existing training, methodologies, and all the stuff that they’ve poured at the sales team. Technology has definitely changed and has been a huge enabler and that’ll continue to change in the salesforce for a while, but the fundamentals of management and coaching are immutable.

I certainly would like to talk about that with you. Let me go back to the chicken and the egg question if I could, what does come first? Is it great management, a great sales leader or a great salesperson? What would you rather have if you had to pick one?

I take a great sales manager every time. Neil Rackham would say the same thing. He’d say, “If I had a choice between having ten rockstar salespeople or one rockstar sales manager every time because that gets replicated.” The scenario people describe is, “We take our best salespeople and we promote them into sales management.” We lost our best salesperson and we created a shitty manager. You have done double damage. The question is, “Can you take someone who’s not a great salesperson and make them a great sales manager?” My response to that has always been, you can’t take someone who’s incompetent at sales and make them a sales manager, because they don’t know what good looks like, or they can’t look at something and go, “This is wrong.”

There’s also an issue of credibility to promote someone who is a peer who’s not respected into a management role. You can’t promote bad salespeople into management positions, but I think you can promote average and better than average people that have management capability. If I was given a choice between having ten great salespeople or two great sales managers, I’d take the sales managers every time because I feel that within 24 months, we have twenty great salespeople instead of ten. There’s a span of control of 10 to 1, which is maybe a little high, but not unrealistic.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance

In one of your articles, you talk about a 30,000% ROI. I love that article. It came out in 2017, 2018 if I’m not mistaken, I could be wrong. Could you talk about how a salesforce or an organization could get a 30,000% return?

You could still get that vantage points website if you look. You have a choice. You can train your entire salesforce of salespeople. Let’s say you have 100 salespeople and 10 sales managers. You can train your entire sales team of a hundred people and spend a bunch of money and maybe you’ll get some lift, or you can spend 1/10th of that train your sales managers. I believe you get an even greater lift because the research that vantage point has done over time has shown that sales managers are the leverage point for improving sales performance. It’s a simple observation and simple math that I’d rather train the ten sales managers before I trained a hundred salespeople every single time. That’s a dividend that is going to keep giving. As more salespeople rotate in, the sales managers are still there. It’s a much better and much more leveraged model of focusing on improving a sales team.

Excuse me for the fundamental nature of this question, but I want to make sure that our audience is following what you’re saying. When we talk about training sales managers, are we talking about making them better salespeople themselves? What do you mean exactly by training them? If I’m going to invest that money in 10%, where am I directing it specifically?

Let’s look at it this way. The sales managers are trying to change the behavior of the salespeople and the salespeople in turn are trying to change the behaviors of the customers to obviously buy from us. I’ve reversed-engineered the question. Plenty of people will say, “Here’s what we need to be doing in front of the customers. Therefore, here’s how we need to train the salespeople.” I don’t stop there. I say, “If this is what we want, the salespeople would be doing, and this is how we train the sales managers.” For instance, if we wanted the sales team to make better sales calls, and we even defined that. Asking better questions, or having a specific agenda beforehand, or maybe communicating that agenda before you get into the specific practices of what you want the salespeople would do.

You can train the salespeople to do that or you can train the sales managers to train daily. We reinforce that constantly, sit down and coach them to, “We’re going to sit down and plan this call and you write them an agenda. You’re going to email that before to the person you’re meeting with, and then we’re going to record it or I’ll join you.” That sales manager had that same conversation ten times. It’s more powerful than training the salespeople to do it because the sales manager takes ownership of it. They can oversee it. As I said, salespeople are coming and going, management is a little more stable than salespeople. That investment is a little stickier than another way. I always reverse-engineer it from the behaviors you want in the field. I don’t stop with a sales salesperson. I take it back a level to the sales manager because if the sales manager understands and motivated, the sales manager can make it happen.

Do you find in your experience then, Jason, that sales managers are as receptive to coaching as frontline salespeople?

I think more so even. They want it and they don’t get it. There have been times in my career when we train sales managers and then we train the sales manager’s manager to coach the manager. That’s an interesting thing. You’re a salesperson and you get coached. It’s an expectation, particularly the younger generation, the more they expect it. It’s part of the value proposition of working for you is that you’re investing in them and their development. It’s pretty common to think, “We coach the salespeople and the sales manager does that,” but it’s weird to think that once a person’s a sales manager, we don’t need coaching anymore. We need them to make the reports and do the stuff.

What we found is not only when you engage the coach’s coach, not only does the manager like it, because it’s an investment in them that they’re not typically getting. Oftentimes the coaches, the coach likes it as well. The VP of sales is like, “I haven’t coached anyone in fifteen years. This is pretty rewarding. I like this.” I had a real job of managing people. All the way to the CEO and the CEO has executive coaches. He or she has people that are working with them to keep them home. It’s a weird thing that we think once we take a great salesperson and promote them into a management position, then we’re done. Magic is going to happen.

Jason, you know Game Face, the company that I lead started in 1995 in the sports industry. Our clients were a lot of the teams right around your area in the DC Virginia area. When we began the notion that you would train or coach executives for a sports team was a head-scratcher to most organizations. It’s like, “Why do we need coaching?” Just put out a better product on the ice, the field, or the court and we’ll sell more, whatever it is, sponsorship, tickets or suites. This is several years ago, I had convinced sports teams as they train players the best in the world at what they do.

You can't take someone who's incompetent at sales and make them a sales manager, because they don't know what good looks like. Click To Tweet

They’ve probably should also devote resources to training their executive team. Now, thankfully, it’s just a given in our industry of sports. I don’t work entirely in sports anymore but it is still a large part of our business. That was just an expectation people like you said, young people expect it to be a part of the value proposition. Why they will say yes to a potential employer is because they get coaching from it. From that experience, that employment and more managers are asking us, “What about us?” It’s interesting. Some industries are way ahead of this and you probably have been a catalyst to that. In other industries, there’s still that same old view that as seasoned veterans, we don’t need the training and the coaching. Just help those young folks. That’s a sad commentary, but it’s still out there, maybe not so much with the large B2B enterprise companies that you work with. I still see that in a lot of small businesses. I don’t know if you have any opinion on that.

Someone once said or I once read that, “When you’re in your twenties, you learn the trade and in your 30s, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade. If you don’t keep learning, by the time you’re in your 40s and 50s, you’ll only have the tricks.” It resonated with me that at 35 or 40, you can’t know everything you’re going to need to know. Some people come to that with disposition. People just liked her and people are driven. They like to read. Now, the websites, YouTube and things that you can develop yourself. Other people get to 40 and they’re like, “We’re good.”

I think you’re right that larger companies are more focused on executive development. They’re focused on succession planning and things like that. Whereas in smaller companies, it’s not part of the game because it’s expensive bringing people in to deal with the executives and the time it takes and trying to find the right person because there’s a lot of personality stuff that goes on at the executive level. Finding the right person to train or coach. It’s time-consuming and resource-consuming to continue to develop people. It’s easy to get a sales training course for 1,000 salespeople.

You’ve noted in your writings that it’s even more expensive not to develop your people.

Yeah.

Let’s go back to Cracking the Sales Management Code. You did a lot of research. You pulled from your own experiences. I’m sure you pulled from your own mentors if you will and people that you learned from. In that research, as you were writing the book, was there anything about your findings or your conclusions that surprised you when it finally went to print? When you began writing it, you didn’t think you would have discovered this particular point or truth about sales management, but after concluding it, you had converted yourself almost.

I don’t think so. In that book, we’re on a quest for reality. We were trying to define what we saw around us. What are sales processes? Why do you measure and what do you measure? We were trying to find foundational components. It’s like discovering math like, “One plus one equals two.” That’s surprising. You’re like, “No, we just didn’t know one plus one equals two until we wrote a one, a plus sign, a one and an equal sign and a two.” Now, it’s obvious. That’s why some people gravitate toward the book and why it ends up in universities. I’ve used it when I teach at university and other professors use it as well that I know because I think it’s foundational. Other stuff that I’ve done, I’ve been surprised because I was on a quest but in this case, we were just trying to write it down.

A word that you’ve talked about a lot in your writings and one that is the core word in the work that I do is the word, results. You mentioned that a lot in your book and you make a very clear point that you have to be able to define the results you want in order to be a good sales manager. Do you find and have you found over the years that in your work with various organizations that it’s not clearly defined because it seems so basic? Do you have to start with the result in mind before you can go to activities and tactics, but do some not get that or do some get it backwards?

People understand the desired outcome clearly, which is to hit your quota and to hit your budget or your target, but that’s where a lot of people stop. I don’t think there’s any shortage of people knowing what the outcome is they want. It’s a shortage of people knowing how to get there. In reality in salesforce, you’re given the outcome. It’s called a quota and remarkably you’re often not guided on how to get there. That’s what the work we did at VantagePoint was all about it.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Sales Management: There is no shortage of people who know what outcome it is they want. There is a shortage of people who know how to get there.

 

You talk a lot about tools that sales managers must use. The one that’s become in vogue over the last many years is CRM. I like how you beat it up though. By that, I mean we assume that we need a customer relationship management system. You talk about how that’s wrong and we’ve let it get away from itself. Can you share with the audience how you view CRM and maybe where we’ve lost track of what its original intent was?

It’s funny you say original intent. I was a consultant in the late ’90s and Siebel became a thing. In the early 2000s, when everyone had to have it, customer relationship management started out as exactly that it was like, “Marketing customer relationship management, software sales used it.” There was a piece in there’s a module in CRM called Sales Force Automation, SFA. Their SFA practices started popping up and we don’t talk about sales force automation. We don’t use those terms anymore, but it’s funny because I think that’s what has become, has never evolved far beyond that. If you look at the core of CRM the way most people use it, it’s a way to track opportunities and contacts.

We took Act! which is everyone’s favorite software who’s ever been in sales, who has been around since the ’80s and ’90s and it took Act! and put opportunities in it. That’s what we now have and we call CRM. Now we have marketing automation that does a lot. The terms are a little bit convoluted in the way that it’s evolved. What we have is sales force automation and the thing that we called it that it would be a little clearer exactly what the scope and reasonable expectations are for that software that is sales force automation. People treat it as a strategic advantage. It’s funny because we still hear people talk about, “What’s the ROI of CRM?” No one talks about what’s the ROI of email.

CRM is infrastructure. You don’t need to justify it anymore. You don’t need to talk about the ROI of your cell phone or the ROI of Outlook any more than you don’t need to talk about the ROI of Salesforce.com. It’s just there. The challenge is, now that everyone has it, how do we use it? The fundamental idea that it’s a tool there to support better selling is lost on a lot of executives. They see it as a pipeline and reporting tool. If I’m cynical, if it weren’t for forecasting, I don’t know that a lot of sales leaders would give a damn about CRM. We need a forecast, we need a pipeline because we have a pipeline, we need CRM and then that’s where a lot of it stops. It’s a shame because it’s the backbone. It is the plumbing of the Salesforce and it’s not a free-flowing.

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to elaborate on that a little bit more. How are we using traditional CRM incorrectly in the sales world?

It’s a tool to enable salespeople. It’s not a tool to enable reporting. It’s viewed from the top-down, not from the bottom up. I’ve talked to people over time and they’ve said, “When we started putting activities into the system and tracking things that were correlated to productivity, then CRM became useful. Using it as a pipeline and reporting tool is not all that great. That’s why salespeople don’t like to use it. All I’m doing is giving this machine data, then the machine gives that data to someone else in a different form. Salespeople get some value out of reporting. It’s so funny, you don’t have to make people use Outlook. You don’t have to make people use their cell phone because it’s inherent to them what the value is.

You have to make people use CRM because it’s not inherent what the value is. That tells me that we haven’t valued engineered CRM or sales force automation in a way that says, “How could the users of this find it useful?” Also, I say that quickly, “That’s overly complicated.” I had some sales operations person said that as soon as he implements a new CRM tool, he envisions himself as the mechanic, under the hood of a car, just pulling out hoses and wires. They try to sell it so feature-rich and they sell that as the value proposition. Whereas I think, the value proposition should be there like four buttons and three reports and six things that you need to do in this, but they’re the important things. It’s grown beyond its usefulness, ironically, at the same time, it’s not proving itself to a user.

Thus, the lack of or the low number of adopters in most offices is it’s a constant struggle, a tug of war to get your salespeople to use the CRM. Because they don’t see an inherent value, how is it going to help them make a sale? As I’m understanding you describe it, they think it’s simply a mechanism to provide reports to the people upstairs, but for them, they have more important things to do. They got to make a commission and that means they got to get back on the streets or back on the phone, you get to interact with customers. They’re not seeing how CRM helps them get there. Is that a fair summary?

That’s very fair. It’s a database of records. That’s what CRM has become in most sales forces. I will say that this whole industry, particularly around Salesforce.com because they sell a very rudimentary product. It doesn’t have a lot of great reporting. They know they know this. They put the AppExchange in place and they want people to build all these extra capabilities around what is this simply defined CRM tool. There are many great tools out there that do add value. They’re expensive. If you mapped out what salespeople do and thought, “How could we enable this?” That’s where you started building CRM, you’d have a different CRM. We go in and go, “We need a forecast and new management reporting. Now, how do we get that?”

A CRM is a tool to enable salespeople, not a tool to enable reporting. Click To Tweet

That’s how you backed into CRM. It’s not, “Here’s the sales process.” If we have strategic account managers, what in there is helping them manage their accounts more strategically? Are their data feeds bringing in alerts to their strategic accounts where every morning when they log in, like, “Some new executive at this division over here. I need to call that person.” If it’s lead generation, you’re pursuing opportunities. If you log in to CRM, “Are there opportunities there? Are there leads? I’d log in to see that.” If we could just map out what salespeople do, identify the places they need to enable that, and enable that through CRM, then people would love CRM. That’s not the way, it’s an architect and that’s not cynical, but I’ve seen it many times in my mind it’s become reality, in a form. Maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic.

Another term that may get you up on your hind legs as well. We talk about it constantly. I want to get your reaction. When I use the two words, pipeline management, what does that mean? What should it mean in your experience?

Pipeline management is not what takes place, what takes place is data management in most cases. When we’ve all said in these meetings where there’s a salesperson and there’s a sales manager, and they’re going through the pipeline and what they’re doing is they’re updating close dates. They’re updating dollar amounts, they’re updating probabilities, that’s forecasting. They’re scrubbing the forecast. Pipeline management is when you’re doing something to improve the effectiveness and productivity of the sales pipeline. Good pipeline management looks like coaching. Pipeline management in most people’s minds is just keeping the data clean and making sure that as deals get at the later stage, they’re treated a little bit differently.

I would use pipeline management and coaching almost interchangeably. The pipeline is the nexus for almost everything in most sales forces. It’s where we keep the activity like, “What are people doing?” They’re working on these deals is where we keep the deals is where we generate the forecast. The pipeline is the centerpiece and most sales. When you see what meetings are taking place, salespeople and sales managers talking about stuff in the sales pipeline. The pipeline report is what they go through. It’s mostly viewed as a stage along the way, it creating a forecast. It’s seeing what deals are coming in the near term, which is another way of saying forecast. It should be a coaching tool.

With these best practices and perhaps some inherited worst practices, I’m interested to know if you’re able to share with us, who are some organizations that you admire for the way that they are managing their Salesforce and their sales system? Any companies that you can illustrate that they’re enabling people properly and exercising these principles on a day-in and day-out basis?

I see good practices in almost every salesforce. I’ve never seen a salesforce that I would hold up as perfect. I’ve worked with very large companies that are held up as operationally excellent companies and they are, but there’s always something. I’ve been in various small companies that were innovative and thought about things in the way that you probably should because they had probably 1 or 2 leaders. If those 1 or 2 leaders had a square head on their shoulders, then things went well. We’ll get into a big company and they’re pockets of things that are going very well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one company that I said, “This is it,” but I’ve picked best and worst practices along the way. You probably had some experience I would guess.

A couple of more questions, if I could. If someone aspires to be in sales management, whether they’re young or middle of their career, what advice are you going to give them if you’re mentoring them? What should they be doing now so that when the opportunity is presented to them, they qualify and when they get the job, they excel?

There are two different things. To qualify, you to have to be a good salesperson. Probably demonstrate some interpersonal and some political skills. There’s a way you get to be promoted to sales manager, which is through success. If you wanted to think about, how do I become a good sales manager? I had the same advice I’d give to existing sales managers who want to become better sales managers. As a salesperson, I would ask myself the question, “What would a great sales manager do for me? How could a good sales manager make me better, more effective and successful at my job?”

If you think about it as like, “You spent some time helping me go through deals, but not just to scrub the data but to point out, to test me, to push me on how might I do this?” Perspective is what’s lost. People become sales managers and they think they need to be in this headspace of sales manager, but what they’re going to be is in the headspace of the salesperson and understanding what they need to succeed. If a sales manager got up every day and thought, “What can I do today to make Jason a better salesperson,” rather than get up and think, “How am I going to get to the quota?” I think they’d be more effective at their job. As a salesperson, thinking through how I send you to succeed, you get the opportunity and then you become the sales managers that you wanted to have that you never, ever get.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Sales Management: Over time, we’re just finding better ways to do the fundamental things that salespeople need to do.

 

Jason, as a thought leader within the sales space and as one who has obviously been a part of innovating good practices for sales management and the like, where do you think the industry is going in the next few years? I know that’s a loaded question because the economy is in an uncertain space and we’ve got pandemics. We’ve got some communities and industries that are a bit in unrest. If you were to put that thumb out there, where are you seeing us a year from now, five years from now and what should we be doing to prepare for the future as sales managers?

I have what’s not a typical view for someone who’s supposed to lead thought and things. Change comes very incrementally in sales. We think the internet came and everything changed in a day and CRM came and everything changed in a day. The internet, the CRM or sales force automation was very rudimentary when it came. What we’re seeing is we’re just getting better and better at what we’ve always been doing. I had this idea that we have no new problems in sales. We just have unsolved problems in sales and the data point I like to use. It was a book called Birth of a Salesman. It was written by a Harvard professor years ago and it’s a great story.

It’s a little bit academic in the way that reads, but there’s a quote from a salesperson. It says, “My sales manager is gone about systematizing sales. Now, I spend all day chained in my desk doing reports.” It’s in 1927. I don’t think things have changed as much as we think they have changed. The internet and LinkedIn, but LinkedIn when it started wasn’t LinkedIn than it is now. What we’re doing overtime is we’re finding better and better ways to do the fundamental things that salespeople need to do, which identify opportunities, qualify them, demonstrate value through the sales process and shepherd the buyer across the finish line. If you’re managing accounts, the things that you do when you manage accounts.

I don’t think the sales motion has changed in 100 years. The tools we have and the way we viewed it has gotten sharper over that time. That’s going to be a trend that continues. I don’t see many revolutions. In fact, I’ll give you one final comment on the question. When the internet came about everyone said, “This is the death of the salesperson.” This is a cynical way. I can’t believe I’m saying it out loud because it’s so cynical. Like, “Why would someone interact with a salesperson if they didn’t need to?” That was the thing is, “Salespeople will be replaced by websites. We’ll never need to see a salesperson again.” People that I respect in the industry was like, “Half the salespeople will be gone in ten years.” That would be devastating to the sales career.

I did this several years ago, but I went back to 1999 and I looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States and looked at how many salespeople there were. What percentage of the workforce was employed in sales? It was 2015 or ’14. Several years later, I went back and looked at the percentage of the workforce that was in sales. It was exactly the same. It was like 14.1 versus 14.3 or something. It was negligible distinction in the composition of the workforce. We need salespeople. Now, what has to happen, salespeople will evolve. The salesperson, of now is much more valuable than the salesperson fifteen years ago because they had this realization like, “My salespeople know as much about my products as I do because they can go to the website. They can read reviews.” The internet pushed salespeople into a different place but again, it’s been incremental. We’re getting better at our craft.

Can you give us any peek into what you’re writing next? What topic you’re particularly pursuing now or is that something we’ll just have to read about?

As you and I were chatting about, in fact, some of it. I wrote a book and I published it in 2017 under a pen name. This 2020, I republished it under my name. It’s called Sales Insanity. I don’t know if you’ve come across that one. It’s twenty stories of the stupidest stuff I ever saw in my career of sales. I love that book. I’m as proud of that book as I am of Cracking Sales Management Code but in a very different way. It was a lot of fun to write and people have been inspired but the topic that I’m intrigued with now is very timely is video conferencing.

Sales certainly, but any profession who uses video conferencing in the way that we are now. This is truly unprecedented with the amount of video conferencing is taking place for obvious reasons. I’ve got a couple of research instruments and surveys I’ve put out trying to understand, what are best practices, what we’re doing now, and how should a professional interact with the camera and the background. If you have an important meeting coming up with another executive or whatever, how do you orchestrate that? In the same way that Cracking Sales Management Code was driven by curiosity, I’m genuinely curious in this. This is different than we would have been doing before. There’s going to be some writing coming out of that. The research is coming in and I think it’s timely, but we’ll see what’s after that. We’ll see what other questions I can’t answer.

That particular question about video conferencing, it’s a wonderful area to pursue. I think it would be very valuable as you and I have discussed previous to this, I see a lot of bad examples of salespeople trying to sell through video conferencing and their intent is good. Their heart is in the right place, but their presentation, their professionalism is suspect.

We have no new problems in sales, only unsolved ones. Click To Tweet

I’m not on sales calls anymore in the way that I used to be. Every morning, I watch the financial news during the day. You see the folks reporting from their houses, their homes, and this is on national television, global television. I can’t believe this person thinks this is a good idea. There’s no reference point. Maybe I’m going to foundationally define the way you work with a video camera. We’ll see.

I know exactly what you’re referring to. I’ve said to you with someone who’s sitting underneath a ceiling fan and it looks like a helicopter is descending on their head or they’re they look like they’re in their hallway. Granted, I like the rawness and the authenticity that this has forced us to adopt and customers like it too. It’s fun to talk to a salesperson when they’re in their kitchen or when you can hear their kids playing in the background. It makes everything more human.

We’re trying to establish credibility, but I was talking to a professor who also teaches sales. He was saying, “That’s a fascinating idea. Do you mind if I take this idea and start putting together some research and do some academic research on this?” You’re not only there, how do you have a first interaction where you’re trying to build credibility and establish that you’re right? He said, “What about three months later at the end of the sales cycle, do people still have the same expectations? You probably wouldn’t be in the kitchen and your first call with your kids in the background. Maybe it’s endearing once you have a relationship to have that personal view.” This is such interesting idea. Until people started bringing their business into their homes like an earnest, these issues never popped up. That’s where my head is now just because of the nature of my life.

I encourage my audience to be following Jason Jordan, see what’s coming out next. Jason, how could someone find you if they wanted to pursue more, the things that you’re sharing with us?

LinkedIn is the best place to get in touch with me.

We’ll encourage everyone to do that. I’m sure I appreciate you spending the time with us. It’s fascinating, the work that you’ve done and the work that you’re going to be doing in the future. We at Game Face appreciate the relationship. We will encourage people to reach out to you then, as questions arise, not only in sales management but even this new topic that you’re now raising. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to provide great instruction to the sales world.

Thanks, Rob.

Take care.

Important Links:

About Jason Jordan

GFEP 24 | Sales ManagementSales management expert focused on developing sales leadership effectiveness in large B2B sales forces. Clients include GE, 3M, Tyco, TIAA, Essilor, Aon, FedEx, Sungard, Gates, and other global organizations.

Best-selling author of Cracking the Sales Management Code and Sales Insanity. Conducts ongoing research to advance the discipline of sales management.

Specialties: Sales Management Best Practices, Sales Metrics, Pipeline Management, Forecasting, CRM, Change Management, Leadership Development, and Coaching.

GFEP 23 | New Year Read

 

If you wish to be a better persuader and influencer – whether at work, home, or in your community – the book you’ve been waiting for has arrived! Game Face Execs Podcast host Rob Cornilles is also an international bestselling author, and his new book, The Sales Game Changer: How to Become the Salesperson People Love, is now available. Order the e-book on Amazon and receive a Bonus Video recap of each chapter directly from the author. No matter what you do for work or play, if you want to inspire an individual, a workforce, a team, a group, or a client or customer, make The Sales Game Changer your first and most important book of 2021.

Watch the episode here:

Rob Cornilles | Your New Year Read

This is Rob Cornilles. From all of us at the Game Face Execs Podcast team, we wish you a very Happy and Prosperous 2021. In this episode, we’re excited to announce the international bestseller, The Sales Game Changer: How To Become The Salesperson People Love is available and the eBook is ready for download in Amazon. It’s priced for less than $3. Regardless of the job or role you have, anyone can have access to these ideas that have been game-changers for thousands of others for many years now.

Having finished a very busy year, I’m beat, so I’ve decided as host of the show, to take a few days off. Against my better judgment, I’ve turned to an old acquaintance, someone I’ve known for way too long, his name is Bert Corn, to fill in for me. Whatever happens, word has it that you’ll want to watch the full episode to hear about some exclusive bonus material that’s yours when you get the book. This is something special for readers. I don’t think you’ve ever seen this before in the book.

My name is Bert Corn. I’m filling in for our regular host of the Game Face Execs Podcast, Rob Cornilles, who is away during the holidays. He’s made it big time because I’m his first guest host, so I appreciate this opportunity he’s given me. We wish him a safe journey, whatever he may be doing, whatever Holiday Inn Express he may be staying in with those cool little waffle irons that you flip over. When he said that I get to guest host, he said, “It’s up to you, Bert.” I could invite any guests I wanted. I thought about it long and hard. Apparently, the Donald is not available. He’s still packing up Christmas boxes. Jeff Bezos is still making deliveries. In the end, it was no contest. Unfortunately, I keep getting a busy signal on Selena Gomez’s phone number. We decided to turn instead to a new author, Rob Cornilles who wrote the book, The Sales Game-Changer: How To Become The Salesperson People Love. Please welcome, Rob Cornilles.

Thanks, Bert. It’s great to be here and congratulations on being asked to guest host the Game Face Execs Podcast. That’s quite an honor.

Rob, I know that your book was launched on December 31st, 2020 as an eBook, and the hard copy is coming out later but since we’re friends, you gave me an advanced copy and I’ve been able to look through it. I’ve got to tell you, I read a lot of how-to books but this one, this is a game-changer. We’re going to talk a lot about it here in this interview. I want to start off by asking you and for the audience that we have here on the show, who do you write the book for?

I wrote it for four main audiences. The first is what I would call the recruit. The recruit is somebody who’s not in sales, that’s not on their business card or in their title, but they have an interest in sales. They have an appreciation for it when it’s done. They’ve met a lot of salespeople who are good that they admire and a lot who are not so good, who they try to avoid. Perhaps in their role or their job, they need to support sales and they want to have a better understanding of how it’s done so they can be more supportive.

The second audience I think about when I wrote the book is what I call the blue chip. It’s like a blue chip athlete. It’s someone who’s got a lot of promise, they’re very talented, with fantastic potential, but they need some coaching and honing. A blue chip salesperson is someone who’s fairly young in their career or they’re moving into the sales profession from something else. They want to be able to do sales the right way from the very start.

I also have written the book for veterans. Veteran salespeople are those who are already established. They’ve demonstrated that they know what they’re doing, they’ve got a good reputation, made their mark on their industry perhaps, but like a great athlete and all-star athlete, they also know that you can never learn enough and stop improving yourself. I try to be their head sales coach throughout the course of the book to take them to that next level and make sure that they leave a real legacy in their industry or their field.

The fourth audience is the sales leader or manager. Whether someone is indirectly or directly overseeing a salesperson, sales team, maybe it’s the CEO, owner of the business or it’s the sales manager but they want their people to become even better to represent their brand in the best light as possible. In order to do that, I’m giving the sales leader some insight on how they can provide even more usable and practical tools that their people will respond well to, because if you train your people and they don’t want to use the techniques that you’re training them in, then it’s a waste of time and resources. I am a shadow to the sales leader, helping them make sure they maximize the performance of their sales team.

It sounds like you’ve covered a lot there. If I’m understanding you correctly, it’s for anyone whether it’s in business, non-profit, someone who could be retired or working from home who wants to be a better persuader or an influencer. Is that a fair take?

Yes. It’s for anyone who wants to be a better communicator, whether at work or in their personal life. In doing so, we spend a lot of time in the book throughout the 300 or so pages over fourteen chapters that we have. Over those fourteen chapters, we talk about how you can better communicate through words so that your intent and your meaning is less likely to be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and also how you can listen more effectively because we know one of the big problems that we have in communication is we often don’t understand what someone is saying so it upsets us or we dismiss them out of hand. Listening is a huge communicative device that very few of us have ever got trained on. We spend a lot of time in the book talking about how to speak but also how to listen. That enhances relationships whether they’re new relationships that we’re trying to start and blossom, or they have stayed relationships that perhaps need a refresh.

I could use some work on my listening skills as well. Let me ask you in that regard, do you then provide scripts in the book?

One of the big problems that we have in communication is that we often don't understand what someone is saying. Click To Tweet

I wouldn’t say scripts. I’d call it more of a framework or a guide if you will. The book is a playbook for people that want to become better in sales, business, influencing, motivating, inspiring and educating other people. If you’re looking to be better in any of those areas, this book will give you that guidance or framework to make you more confident.

Regarding the title of the book, The Sales Game-Changer: How To Become The Salesperson People Love, where did you come up with that title?

I’ve always been put off by the idea that sales is a game, and a game suggests that there’s a winner and a loser. I don’t look at it that way. In order for us to be a real effective salesperson, there are a few things we have to do. First, we have to not be the salesperson that people abhor, the kind that they want to stay away from. The first step to get there is to become the salesperson people like. How do we become the person that they like, perhaps entertain a conversation with or take a meeting with? We talk about that extensively throughout the book.

Another important point for your audience is you also want to become a salesperson who loves what they do. Not because you’re tricking people up, it’s because you’ve won the argument or the negotiation because you love to see the results that your service and product provides the end-user. This whole book is themed around that idea. How can you produce positive outcomes with people especially people who never anticipated or asked for you to call on them, so that you are not only a game-changer but you’re a life-changer, you’re a business changer? You’re a person who can change their circumstance for the better.

Rob, you use a ton of examples and lots of stories, which makes it very easy and engaging to read. Between the two of us, I felt the book got better the further you get into it but that’s just me.

The book is full of stories. About every page is a new story or a new idea, certainly a new approach that will make people game-changers in their chosen field and all of their relationships. I use stories for my personal life and my business life from great stories that I have observed, not that I’ve heard about in my work with clients, sports, nonprofit organizations, Corporate America, those who are starting businesses, those who are in well-established enterprises with multinational organizations, and even those students that I have taught in the university. I also talk about stories that they have brought to me and individuals that have been game-changers that I’ve observed.

It starts from the very first story I tell. Chapter One is about a woman that I met who was a client who came up to me and made a statement to me after one of my training sessions with her staff that literally changed the way I looked at what I do for a living. All positive, by the way. I talk about professional athletes that I’ve observed working with their organizations, business leaders and rank and file salespeople. You’re right, there are a lot of stories incorporated throughout the book. I am sure the readers will find it very interesting and hopefully very engaging page-to-page.

Speaking of stories, the one that you’re telling at the very beginning in the introduction of the book, that one catapulted your business game phase. Tell us a little bit about that.

I won’t go into the details here but what changed for me in my career is something that happened years ago when I was a young salesperson, very well-intentioned, but very much lacking in any technique or approach. I had one particular incident, one night at my place of business that completely changed the way I looked at my profession and looked at how I’m going about it. From that night forward, I have become a different person and business executive. Hopefully, a different salesperson, boss, spouse and neighbor. I share that with the reader and then we talk about how that same principle that I learned can be incorporated into their work and their life.

Rob, I’ve read a lot of books about sales and service theory, but your book is so much more practical. It’s got all kinds of ideas that I can use to help me be a more successful service provider and certainly a more successful salesperson and helping me, not only build the short-term transaction but more importantly, as you say here, how to build those long-term relationships. The way you weave nowadays culture into the book to showing that sales is life as you say. In a few pages that I’m looking at here, I noted that you referenced these few things. You referenced the office, U2, Drew Brees, Dave Portnoy and Michael Jordan. That was your era when you worked in the NBA and a lot of examples from your interactions with people like Phil Knight, the Founder of Nike. Tim Boyle, the CEO and Chairman of Columbia Sportswear.

You also talk about Lee Bird, who is the Chairman and CEO of At Home. The other thing is those two women that had a tremendous impact on your sales career early on and the things that they taught you, that was a fascinating story and some great lessons from your celebrity contacts that reinforce the sales that you do and how you’re effective at teaching sales. I promise I won’t give it away, but the examples you give here from some of your clients over the years are awesome to read about. I wish I could show the audience here your Table of Contents. I encourage you guys to all look at the Table of Contents. I want to read a couple of things that I’m looking at here on some of the titles. One chapter, They Got To Trust You To Love You. Speaking The Same Language is another title. There’s a hilarious story about trying to speak Japanese when you first worked there as a young professional. Here’s another one. The Deal May Be Done, But It’s Not A Done Deal. That’s a whole chapter about customer service and renewing your clients. Here’s one, Resolve Agreeably Without Always Agreeing. I’ve got to stop there. What’s this chapter about, Rob?

You can check out the Table of Contents when you go on Amazon to look at the book. Right now, it’s available as an eBook and the paperback copy and the hard copy will be coming out. We’ll make sure that everyone’s aware of that. Since you asked about that one particular chapter, the notion about objection is such that we always think we have to overcome them. We think we have to win an argument in order to turn someone around, but we flip objections on their head in that particular chapter. What I go into quite a detail is a concept that I discovered when I was facing very tough objections in my first real sales job, which many people know I used to work for the Los Angeles Clippers Basketball Team when they were a bad team in the early ‘90s.

One of the most common objections I heard was, “I’m a Lakers fan. Why would I want Clipper tickets?” I could get defensive at that point, and I could tell them why they’re wrong, why we’re going to be a better team and makes all these promises that I can’t keep. What I realized is that every time someone gives me what we call an objection, they’re revealing for me something positive about themselves. If someone says, “I’m a Lakers fan,” that means they like basketball, so that’s a good thing. They also sound loyal to a particular brand or company. That’s also a positive thing. It also suggests they like to hang around winners. How can that be negative? There are many more examples of positives that I came up with to just that one objection.

GFEP 23 | New Year Read

The Sales Game Changer: How to Become the Salesperson People Love

What I soon realized is that for me to have an open and honest conversation with this individual so we can move forward and resolve whatever obstacle they think impedes our progress, I have to first state the positive that I see in them. Instead of getting defensive, as I say, and getting into a debate about the Lakers versus Clippers, I would say instead, “It sounds to me you like to associate with organizations that are very well-respected.” When they’d say, “I do,” we’re already in agreement. Rather than agree with an objection, I’m agreeable to it. That sets the tone for an honest conversation where we can mutually decide to move forward solving the objection. That doesn’t work every time, but it works far more often than if I’m trying to debate them and win that argument.

That’s the basis of how we begin to “overcome” objections, which are not objections at all, they’re just concerns. An objection is simply a question that needs an answer. I also talk about the three ways that you can eliminate even hearing objections. That doesn’t mean that you close your ears or you go live in a bubble, but we caused them because of things that we’re doing as salespeople. There are three specific things that we can do to eliminate those. We get into that in some detail in a particular chapter of the book.

You’ve got to tell Rob’s audience about something very unusual about your book, something they haven’t seen. The one-on-one video sessions that you include, tell them about that.

I’m glad you asked about that because the one-on-one videos in themselves are a game-changer. I don’t know if anyone has ever seen this before, I never have. In my book, I decided to do something very different. First of all, you have to understand it’s my nature as a trainer, mentor, coach and consultant, I like to be with my clients along the way, troubleshooting and perhaps tweaking as we go. Being an author, when you hand them a book, it’s like, “I’m done with it. Good luck with that.” That was against my nature as I say. What I decided to do in this book is at the end of every chapter, and there are fourteen chapters, is I decided to include a little video.

The reader can scan a QR code or go to the URL that’s listed there, and it will take them to a page where they can watch a video of me recapping that chapter or the content that we covered, as well as adding some new color and some new content to that chapter. I end that short video with a challenge. That challenge is to the recruit who’s reading it or to the blue chip, veteran or sales leader. In each case, I give them an individual challenge on what they can do to apply the principles and the practices found in that chapter to improve their relationships, communication, sales and business. As I say, this is a game-changer because now I get to stay with my reader along the way. We get to improve together. I call these the one-on-one sessions.

The other thing that we’re introducing with this book is the Sales Game-Changer Masterclass. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now. What a reader can do, if they want to go deeper into the content and additional content beyond what we’ve included in these nearly 300 pages, and also work with me one-on-one or work with my network of game-changing executives, and learn from my network as well. They need to enroll in my masterclass and we will be able to go into that deeper dive. The other thing that we’ll do is we’ll address their individual concerns, problems or obstacles that are facing them in their career or perhaps in their sales environment when they’re trying to go after a particular prospect that’s hard to reach, or a long-time client that looks like they’re not going to renew business with them. We’ll work with individual case studies in the masterclass, and that will be something that we’re going to be launching here in the first quarter of 2021.

To be able to have a chance to work personally with you, because you’ve worked with many executives over the years, that would be a game-changer for me, I can tell you that. In fact, I’ve got something I want to do with you, Rob, if that’s okay, something a little different. Do you mind if we do one of those role-plays from the book that you wrote, would that be okay?

Sure, I’d be happy to.

I’ve never been much of a salesperson, so this will be fun to role-play with the pro. I’m looking at Chapter 12, which is called Connecting Through Referrals. You write here about how one sale should never be one sale, and you give an example of a salesperson who incorrectly asks for a referral. If you can play the buyer and I’ll play the salesperson. Let me read from the book and we’ll go from there. Here’s what it says. Let’s listen in at the tail end of successful customer acquisition. Buyer Bob is pleased with his purchase but “Doing-his-best Dan” can’t get his manager’s exhortation out of his head, which is to ask for a referral.

Thanks, Dan. It’s going to be great doing business with you. I’ll make sure that the first payment goes out right away.

Bob, before I let you go, do you mind if I ask you one last question?

Sure.

Do you know anyone who might be interested in buying some McGuffins?

No, I can’t say I do, Dan.

Every time someone gives an objection, they're really revealing something positive about themselves. Click To Tweet

Could I ask you to think about it for a few days and I’ll give you a call next week some time?

Sure, I can do that. That would be fine.

That’s great, Bob. If you need to, you might check your contacts list. That’s a good place to look. Thumb through it. See if anybody comes to mind or you could ask around the office. See if any of your colleagues know of anyone.

I know my colleagues pretty well.

You know your wife pretty well and where she works, maybe she knows somebody, or you said you play racquetball and you go to a rotary club. There are a lot of people there who could use a McGuffin. I’ve got plenty of brochures here so I’d be happy to send anyone a brochure if you’d like me to.

Good to know, Dan.

When you’re talking to people, if anyone has any questions, give them my name and email. Heck, you’ve got my phone number still, right?

I got it right here.

Give that to them too, they could reach out to me directly. Be sure that you tell them to tell me that you told them about me so I know who told them.

Look, Dan, I’m late for a meeting now.

My bad. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll call you next week sometime unless you want to call me back first.

Click.

Dan sets down his phone, sits there in silence then does a Tommy Boy slapping his forehead, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why didn’t I leave him well enough alone? We built some trust, I got the sale, and then I go and blow it by reaching deeper into his pocket for a referral. I’m never doing that again.” Dan went from feeling appreciated, to feeling like the salesperson people don’t love. He knows he may never speak to Bob again. That’s a shame because Dan had the right idea. It’s the execution that failed him. He needs skill 6. That’s great, Rob. Thanks for doing that for me. That’s a fun part of the book. I’d encourage everyone to read that particular chapter, About Getting Referrals.

What we’ll do in that particular chapter, which as you say, we call connecting through referrals. As I disclose the four rules of getting referrals that I’ve been incorporating for years now and as have my clients. I hate to say anything is a guarantee, but if people will apply these four rules consistently, I tell you, they’re almost assured a referral with anybody that they are doing business with, even those people that they’re not doing business with. That one referral will rarely be one referral. It will usually turn into 2 or 3 or more.

GFEP 23 | New Year Read

New Year Read: Have an open and honest conversation with people, so you can actually move forward and resolve whatever obstacle impedes the progress.

 

As they say, I’ve got to go put another coin in the meter. Our time is up. On behalf of Rob Cornilles and the Game Face Execs Podcast, I want to thank you, Rob Cornilles. I encourage everybody to go out and get his book, The Sales Game Changer: How To Become The Salesperson People Love. It’s on Amazon now. It’s an eBook version. It’s only $2.99. You can’t go wrong there. The hardback is coming later on in 2021. Be watching for more details on that. If you’d like more personalized coaching or sales training for you or your organization, for my money, Game Face Training is the best in the world. Reach out to Rob on his website at GameFaceInc.com. You’ll never be sorry that you did you.

It’s been my pleasure, Bert. Thanks for having me on as your guest. Say hi to Rob for me. I look forward to seeing him when he gets back. Tell him I love the Game Face Execs Podcast. It’s riveting every week. It’s one of my highlights. You can tell him I’m a subscriber and I listen to it every Friday. I can’t wait to hear what he’s got for 2021.

You and me both, Rob. This has been Bert Corn filling in on behalf of the vacationing Rob Cornilles. Thanks for joining us. I get to say it persuade, influence, inspire.

That wasn’t so bad after all. Thanks again, Bert, for guest hosting for me. I’ll be back with another influential and inspiring guest. I hope you take a moment to subscribe and rate this podcast. Until then, grab The Sales Game-Changer on Amazon and start becoming the salesperson, friend, significant other, boss or colleague that people love.

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GFEP 22 | Living Out Purpose

 

We are all here for a purpose. In this breakthrough episode, actor and coach Glenn Morshower visits with Rob Cornilles to demonstrate what it means to be “present.” Covering a wide array of personal and insightful topics, Glenn reveals how “whispers” have directed his life and career choices, and how his “whole life has been spent living my second life in my first life.” Going well beyond a typical Hollywood celebrity interview, this conversation is sure to change the way you look at those who pretend for a living. How does solitude inspire Glenn? Where can we find personal peace? And what did Michelangelo say about his sculpture of David that can be life’s motto for all of us? Be prepared for one of the most genuine gentlemen Tinseltown has ever produced.

Watch the episode here:

Glenn Morshower | Hollywood’s Genuine Pretender

Glenn Morshower, thanks for joining us.

It’s my pleasure, Rob. I’m glad to be here.

You’re at home. You’re in the Dallas community. You live in the Dallas area. You were raised in Texas. What have you got behind you there? What’s your favorite?

The whole area here as is the rest of our house is a tribute to the ‘70s. If you’re missing anything in your life from the ‘70s and you’ve not seen it since, it’s probably here.

My Planet of the Apes lunch box.

We have it. Ken Walls busted me on those. He said, “Do you have an eight-track tape player?” I said, “No,” and then I went, “We do.” We haven’t played anything on it for many years.

Glenn, it’s great to see you. These are unusual guests that we get to have someone from show business with your stature joining us, but it’s a real treat. I have to ask you something. You’ve said in the past to me that you cherish eye contact.

I do. I’m giving you eye contact now, even though it may not look like it. I’m looking right down the barrel.

What is it about eye contact that you cherish so much, Mr. Morshower?

First of all, that mister garbage is completely unnecessary. It’s wasted on me. I play a lot of characters who get referred to as mister and I’ve had quite a career playing authority figures, but it’s always Glenn. To answer your question, eye contact is everything for me because that’s where people can’t lie, especially to the perceptive. I listen to two things. I listened to one thing and watch the other I watch people’s eyes because I’m looking for what’s going on behind them. It’s a show-business expression. When someone says, “Why is it I find that actor intriguing?” It was the Alaska casting director or a producer. They say, “It’s because of what he’s got going on behind the eyes.” I get it because that’s where the facade disappears. When you look deep into someone’s eyes, there’s no more smoke and mirrors. There’s no more facade. There’s no more posturing. There’s only the truth. Another thing that is a tell that telegraphs information and informs us as to what’s going on, which is all I care about.

I only care about what’s going on with people. I wrote a chapter about this one. It’s called The Presentational Self, which is my experience has shown me. I’m only here doing this interview with you to express opinions and I don’t label them the truth for the world, but they’re certainly the truth for me. The truth that I hold to be true are ones that have been tested and they’ve held up under scrutiny and inspection at something that’s a magnificent, absolute about truth in general. The truth doesn’t mind being inspected because it has nothing to hide. It holds up well under inspection. People who speak the truth hold up well, not surprisingly under inspection as well. When people are lying, they tend to break down under scrutiny or close inspection. The sidecar of eye-contact is tonality. That’s the other home of truth is you listen to someone’s tonality. If you say, “How are you?” They say, “I’m fine.”

The word said one thing. It said you’re fine, but the tone told the truth. When you hear someone go, “I’m fine,” I usually will go, “No, you’re not.” It always gets a smile because it’s calling them on why did you feel the need to disguise or hide who you were? It’s okay if you’re not feeling fine. It’s okay to have an off chapter. It’s okay to have an off day, an off-hour or an off week. If you start getting into a month-long periods of time where things seem to be off, it’s time to take a close look at that and see what it’s going to take to inspire you to get life back on track. Eye contact is everything and my business requires it. It’s a skillset. It’s an even greater importance in our personal lives, but I’ve learned to take what was always important to me in my personal life and turn it into a big career advantage to know how to look people in the eye.

I’ll add one other thing to it. When you’re barking orders, there’s an additional film trick called do so minus blinking. If I decided to do it, I could sit here and talk with you for the next ten minutes and not blink one time. I’ve timed myself and it’s not even difficult to do. Some people find the thought of not blinking after twenty seconds, they’re madly blinking. This is side information, but it’s interesting. When you’re playing authority figures, if you blink during one of your admonishments, you lose your power. It weakens the character. Eye contact is huge. If people are afraid to do it, there’s a good chance that they’re hiding something. There’s something they don’t want you to see. They’ll look up briefly, but then they turn away. If they can look on ashamedly right at you and hold eye contact for an undetermined period of time, I’m able to tell that there’s a good chance they don’t have anything that they need to hide.

When you’re creating a character, 0it’s not the words on a script that you’re considering. You’re considering the comportment of the individual. You do a whole character exposition about their background. Even if there’s nothing in the script about their background, you develop that obviously all the way through their wardrobe, their mannerisms, the gait of their walk, their gestures and the way they look at people.

Speaking of the ‘70s and eye contact, as you were describing that, there was one movie character that was famous for having a hard time making eye contact. That was Talia Shire’s character in Rocky. What a beautiful scene that was when he finally got her to look him in the eye. It was a memorable scene for me. I don’t know why, but I’m thinking about that as you’re describing the importance of being able to make eye contact.

I want to add another word to this discussion, which is it is an indicator of how present someone is. Someone can take an emotional role call and you’ll know that the person who is looking at you when you’re talking is present front and center. There’s none of those, “Rob, what’s going on? I’m over here. I see over there.” What relationship is that? Texting in the middle of lunch, my thought is, “Why don’t you go be with whoever it is you’re texting that you’re finding important?” This is generational. We’re seeing a lot of this nowadays and it’s not even new. It’s been going on for the last several years, however long texting has been popular.

Eye contact is everything because that's where people can't lie, especially to the perceptive. Click To Tweet

While there are advantages to it and you need to get a quick word to someone and not open up a big conversation, “Rob, catch you at 3:00 PM.” That’s beautiful. I’m talking about sitting there having a conversation with the person you’re not with. What’s interesting is I’ve done my research and what I have found to be so is that the people who do this, if you were to insist that they go be with whomever they’re texting, do you know that when they get with them, the cycle repeats itself and they’re doing it all over again with someone else, which simply means this.

They don’t know how to be where they are. They haven’t learned how to be where they are. They’re always being where they’re not. If that’s not a great life teaching, I don’t know what is to simply learn how to be where you are. Don’t spend time hanging out where you’re not. You’ll never be effective that way. You’ll have a lifetime of marginal relationships at best because you were never present with the ones you were with. Do you remember that song going, “Love the one you with, love the one you’re with?”

Glenn, I have that problem.

Which problem?

When I’m somewhere, I’m thinking about where I’m not. When I’m with family members, I think about where I’m not. “I’m not at my desk right now getting that task done or I’m not talking to that friend or that business associate.” I know that I’ve got that problem and that it’s a weakness. I don’t want to beat myself up too much. I don’t think that it’s destroying my relationships, but it’s my challenge. A challenge I’ve always got to work on is being present. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s because as an entrepreneur, I’ve always had the glass is half empty mentality because no one else is going to fill it for me. You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve been self-employed for 40-plus years as a professional actor. I want to make the audience aware of something. I’m sorry I’m speaking, but I want to make them aware of something.

Why would you be sorry you’re speaking? I love it. I have a question for you.

They’re reading because they want to learn about you, not me.

Can I at least ask this one question of you?

Roll them.

Is there ever a place where you go where you don’t feel that? For example, if instead of being with your family or whomever, but you decided you were having thoughts of being in your office. I’m going, based on your words. When you go to the office, where are you wishing you were or where are you thinking you’re not? Is there ever a place where you land and go, “I’m entirely here. This feels good. I’m not thinking about being anywhere else.”

Yes. That’s called spiritual meditation. I have those moments and I’ve had to consciously intentionally create those moments within my life. In fact, within my days. When I set aside that time, in fact, that time is sacrosanct for me. It’s in those moments, I don’t feel like I need to be anywhere else. I don’t feel guilty that I’m not anywhere else, but I need to expand that in my life.

Now you bring in increased peace. I’m not saying this for popularity. Now, this is what’s going on for me.

I wanted to point out that before this interview began, you and I checked our watches to make sure that I wasn’t overtaking your time. You said to me, “Rob, I am totally here for you.” You put no time limit on this interview. I know there’s going to be a time limit on it, but I want to attest to the audience that you practice what you preach. You made me feel like there’s nothing else that is more important for the next hour or so except talking with me in this interview. Thank you.

It’s more than a feeling though, Rob. It’s the truth. It’s one thing if I’m trying to engender a feeling, but it’s the truth. It’s how I feel, so much so that if I were in some circumstance where, for example, it was like, “I got 15 or 20 minutes, Rob, let’s go.” I’m of the ilk that I wouldn’t even do it at all. The reason is if I’m that rushed, there’s no way I’m going to be present for you. I’m not going to be present for an audience. I’m too rushed to paint with the brush that I want to paint with, which is the gentle brush of life that discovers itself. It’s not in a hurry and it wants to explore a moment. It wants to when we happen upon a tributary, take that tributary. That’s one of the reasons I don’t prep my answers.

It’s one of the reasons that in my speeches, when I speak to big companies, I don’t do a PowerPoint presentation. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re great. There are many speakers that are better with them, but they’re not for me. They’re not for me because by committing to form, which clearly that’s form, I wind up blocking all of the intuitions that come up spontaneously that want to be expressed.

Here’s what’s key is I trust them implicitly. If I get a whisper from above, that whisper is not there for me to hear it. That whisper is there for me to act upon it. I’ve had many people that will come up to me afterwards and say, “I was moved by your speech. How long did it take you to create that?” The answer is a lifetime because it’s based on trust, which I’ve had my whole wife. All I know is I’d take the stage and I will know what to say now and I will know what to say next. It will be revealed unto me.

GFEP 22 | Living Out Purpose

Hollywood’s Genuine Pretender: People who speak the truth hold up really well. When people are lying, they tend to break down under scrutiny or close inspection.

 

It’s not a plan. I’m not going to take them here first and then massage that area over here. That will ready them to hear this. I not only feel my truth, but I feel their truth, which might even be the bigger gift. When you can step in front of an audience and take a good old fashion whiff and breathe in what’s going on in the room. Every room has needs. Every room has a collective consciousness. Average out everyone’s contribution, divided by the number of people present equals the consciousness of the room. We can average it out.

You’ve got a large number of overachievers. You’ve got a lot of people that are new that are trying to discover who it is they are and learn about their own abilities to generate results in life and so forth. You average it out. It may sound woo-woo and I genuinely don’t care. I don’t care if it sounds woo-woo. It’s the truth. If you trust, the room itself will speak to you. I find that moments speak to us. It’s the reason I became an actor. It’s to allow a moment to speak to us and then be filmed while allowing that to happen and then get a paycheck for it.

Those meant more to me years ago. It doesn’t mean they don’t mean something now, but there was a time when I was fueled by it. Now, I work from a sense of personal fulfillment that is not generated from the outside in, but truly from the inside out. That’s been a real blessing and a real healing in my life. Why are you doing what you’re doing? I know you’ve got questions you want to get on to, but while this is on my mind, I want to mention an epiphany that came to me. It’s not a cutting edge concept. It’s something I’ve thought of before many times, but I’ve never had it show up quite the way it showed up. In this specific wording and here was the wording. I call it a God download.

I’m open to talking about religion. I know it’s one of the topics a lot of people don’t talk about. I’m fine with it. In my God download and I even have an associated chill that it is accompanied by. Anytime I’m feeling what I call heavenly truth, the gift that I’ve been given to verify it. It’s a self-verifying download that within me, there will be a corresponding sensation that is akin to an entire body rush. A chill that gives me goose bumps. The hairs on my arm will stand up like, “This is worth hanging on to.” That’s my message from above. “This is no ordinary information. This is huge. Pay attention, Glenn. Because you’re being utilized on a large scale. You’re a valuable vessel in terms of numbers. Your intrinsic value is of no greater worth than any of my children.”

This being the voice of God, meaning that you are an equal child. However, the way we’ve got you positioned in life is that when your show airs, for example, you are seen by five million people live a week and many more millions in subsequent airings. That’s someone who is able to reach a lot of people. You can either sit around getting off to yourself and throwing a big party as to how wonderful you are, which is lame or you can realize that is quite an honor and a huge responsibility and one for which I’m immeasurably grateful. I had been selected for a large assignment. I don’t know what else to say other than thank you. I will show up fully for that task. Here’s the download. There were two questions. First question is what are you doing? You’re going to answer the first question first. Question two is, what is what you’re doing keeping you from doing?

It’s life-changing and I’ve shared it with a number of people. As I said, it’s not a cutting-edge concept, but I’ve never heard it worded that way. It’s succinct, almost impossible to not understand. It’s easy to grasp but here’s what I’m doing. While I might even like it or love it even, is my commitment to its continuation, to continuing to do it. What is it keeping me from doing? What is it keeping me from discovering? Are there greater versions of the light within me that could be expressing themselves if I wasn’t so committed to staying in the thing I’m in doing what I’m doing? What is it blocking? I know what it’s giving me, but there’s a condition. I know you’re familiar with the condition known as velvet handcuffs. All of a sudden, you’re handcuffed to your own comfort and probably it feels good.

You don’t feel like you’re its prisoner until you take a greater look, a deeper dive into what would be available to you if you had enough backbone to unlock the velvet handcuffs and say, “I am not a comfort seeker. I’m a cutting edge spirit that is signed up and suited up for the fullest expression of everything God intended it to be.” When I was eighteen years old, I vowed that I am suited up and showing up for the assignment of being me to the fullest extent available. I prayed that prayer word for word when I was eighteen years old.

I’m not bragging, but I will tell you straight up, I don’t know a lot of eighteen-year-olds that are that much on course with purpose in their step and I was. The only difference between me at eighteen is I have a lot less hair, but my verbiage is unchanged since those years. I was always a man on a mission. I understood that there was a huge gift being given to us, all of us, called life. I’m giving people the benefit of the doubt by saying it seemed. It seemed that I was clearer on the bigness of that than most people I ever talked with that life was enough. Life itself was enough of a reason and a justification to throw a huge party.

“What happened? Did you get a raise?” “No. I remembered how cool this system is that we live and operate and have our beingness within.” That’s cause for a party. That stuff gets me teared up. It’s not a performance it’s authentic. I am jacked up about this dance called life. It puzzles me endlessly why that spirit is not more present in our world and it’s not. Since it’s not, there is an internal mandate that says, “You then got work to do because you are here to help others discover their own light.”

You’re here to help people remember who it is they are and what it is they are and that all these things that they refer to as challenges, they’re a frigging joke in the mind of God. We have a saying in the South called, “It amounts to the significance of a pimple on a gnat’s ass.” Meaning it’s small. You done got yourself worked up about something that’s tiny. All you have to do is stop and remember that you out swam 500 million sperm in order to get here in the first place. That was your first act. Do you think that was an accident? Is there a chance that was a gift from our creator to start your life adventure with some real crystal clear instruction as to who it is you are, what it is you are and what it is you’re capable of?

Do you get it? I don’t mean you, Rob. I’m saying from above a voice saying, “Do you get it now? Do you get that you’re not weak? Do you get that all of this is available to you the moment you fully grasp who it is and what it is you are?” You’ll quit swimming in the kiddie pool in the town of Complainerville about everything that’s wrong with life. You’ll get out of the kiddie pool and go, “What was I thinking?” It’s the last thing I want to say while I’m on this roll because I know you’ve got questions you want to ask, but there is an exercise that I would highly recommend for your audience.

That is to visit your death day. Go to using God’s most underused gift, which is the gift of the imagination because we don’t push the envelope of using it. We use it for a lot of minor tasks and the imagination goes, “Thank you. Just so you know, I could be serving you in a much greater capacity.” I’m channeling the voice of the imagination. That’s what I feel it says to us all the time is like, “If you want me to come off the bench and score 3 or 4 points. I could give you a 55-point game in your life, but you don’t seem to trust me to do that. If you want to underutilize me, be my guest.” Here is what I think the healthiest use of your imagination is which is to pay a visit to the day of your death. No matter what the age, whether it’s a week from now a month from now or 50 years from now, teleport forward to that time. Take a look back at how you showed up in your life. Do a full life review. Now you’re done because you’ve died in your mind and go back and look, could you have done it any differently? We all know the answer to that.

Could you have done it better? Could you have lived with greater intention? Could you have increased the level of love in your life? Could you have helped more people? Could you have spent more time in the remembrance of this beautiful dance you were in the middle of? Could you have been more encouraging? The answer is yes. I tell you what, why don’t you go back now and do it? My whole life has been devoted to living my second life during my first life. I don’t have memories that preceded that approach.

My whole life, I’ve been blessed with the understanding that you have to die first in order to live well. It’s a mental exercise. You have to go to the time when you’re not here. You can’t do anything about the fact that you’re not here or that you’re going to be leaving in 45 seconds. You have 45 seconds worth of heartbeats left, they’re going to end and you won’t be able to do anything about that. Now we’re going to grant you a stay of execution and we’re going to send you back. I’m going to ask you this question. Having gone through all of that, I don’t mean thinking about it, but if that were the case, do you think there’s an excellent chance that when you got back, you might do it better?

You bet is the obvious answer. I’ve asked that question for many years. I’ve never had anyone hear that and go, “No. I’m sure I’d screwed up even worse.” We’re not fully plugged in. If life were a ten-pronged device, we’re using about two of them. We’re missing out on all of this other available guidance, information, power and understanding. That’s called what happens when I’m on a roll and none of that was planned. None of that was rehearsed. That’s what’s brewing inside of me.

Let’s talk about some football now. How about them, Cowboys, Glenn?

When you look deep into someone's eyes, there's no more smoke and mirrors. There's no more facade. Click To Tweet

We’re 1 and 2.

When you said I had questions I wanted to ask, I have questions certainly that I have jotted down, but I like these conversations to be free-flowing. I would like to suggest that my next question comes from a whisper. I want to talk about the whisper. There’s so much that you’ve said that I wish we could dive further into. Let’s start with the whisper. We’ve had conversations before about this. You’ve described it as the whisper. I like that word. I’ve often referred to it and have heard it referred to as an impression. Whatever you might call it, we’re on the same page. How does Glenn Morshower receive whispers? What are you doing at the time? How were you living at that moment? Are you engaged in a certain activity or does it come to you unexpectedly or do you have to prepare for it and then it arrives? Could you tell us how that works in your life?

I’m going to start with the one of, are you doing anything to prepare for it or are you doing anything at the time? The answer is yes and no. The no part is that whispers occur anywhere and everywhere. My favorite expression to clarify that where it won’t need any more discussion is including on the toilet. Some of my greatest epiphanies have occurred while seated on the throne. That’s a fact. I’ve written chapters from the throne because I ran them in my mind. I went and sat down at my desk and wrote them. They were all formulated while sitting on the toilet.

Would this observation be accurate? It’s there and only there are we almost all assured of privacy and aloneness.

That’s certainly fair enough. That’s a deeper dive on the subject of being on the toilet when epiphanies show up than anyone has ever offered. Rob, congratulations on your insightfulness.

There’s a solitude there which might be in your case. I don’t know if it is for others, but in your case, that sends a message to you that solitude is fruitful.

Thank you for not being quick to react to say, “That’s silly. Now he wants to talk about epiphanies he got on the toilet.” Instead you took it at face value and said, “Maybe there’s something there worth exploring. Maybe it’s in connection with solitude.” I couldn’t agree with you more. Solitude is one of the greatest facilitators we have. Showers are another place. With a name like Morshower, come on. When you’re showering, there’s something about the act of cleaning, purifying. As you’re cleaning yourself, your receptors are being opened up to receive new.

We get the film of the world off of us. I call it film. You think of film that is blocking a lens. We clean our lens when we shower. We certainly clean our lens when we pray. That’s a lens cleaning exercise, for sure. I do believe that there is a universality to the whisper. I believe it is ever present in all people. I do not hold the belief that there is an elitist group that receives whispers and it is unique onto them. That to me is an arrogant spiritual belief. That’s my opinion.

It’s also this regard for the human race saying that I’m at the top of the pedestal.

Yes, it is elitist to the nth degree and it’s not even accurate. What I do think is accurate that may be runs on an adjacent track is that we declare our candidacy for the degree of whispers that we receive. The frequency is increased by volunteering. When we volunteer ourselves to be receptors, we are treated differently. Everyone has whispers. Now are you an acknowledger? That’s step one. Are you someone who completely minimizes its significance? Do you say, “No, that’s interesting. I’m going to consider this. What I’m being moved to feel right now is interesting?” Are you in the top group, which is the action taker? Are you someone who is a vetoer?

I’ve done a lot of work in this area to determine the common reasons why people veto their whispers. They’re given an internal directive. That to me is what a whisper is. It is not audible, but it might as well be because it is every bit as loud in our internal universe as, “Attention, Kmart shoppers.” You can’t not hear it. We all hear it, but maybe we’ve been schooled to think of it as nonsense or no big deal. “That was a weird thought.” No, it wasn’t a weird thought. It came from the depths of you and it wasn’t accidentally there. Our soul knows what’s up.

I grasp that it knows what’s up. There are parts of us that are infinitely wise, but are we being guided by those parts? Here are the reasons they veto. The vetoers of the world who veto their own whispers, their own sacred leadership, because one, it doesn’t make any sense, meaning you might get something from the nonlinear side of the tracks. You can’t make immediate sense of it, but for some reason you’re being told to go to Kansas this week, Topeka specifically. Would you immediately start trying to find reasons to campaign for the word no or would you simply go to Topeka? I’m one of the small group who would promptly go to Topeka without questioning it. I’m not saying this again for your readers. I’m telling you this as my bud, if nobody were reading this, I’m the odd duck that would go to Topeka.

Here’s why. I fully grasp that things would be revealed to me in Topeka that will not be until I follow the whisper’s instructions. That’s one. Reason two is that they base their adherence to the whisper on convenience. If it’s convenient, sure, I’ll do it. If it asks some extra of me in terms of time, commitment, money, and if it’s going to be inconvenient for me on any of those levels, the answer is no. Here’s what I hear from above. The above is saying, “Really? That’s too bad because what you were unwilling to give of your time, energy and money, had you done that and not doubted it, you’d have been given back ten or more times what your investment was.”

What am I doing and what is what I’m doing, keeping me from doing? If you’re holding back because you don’t want to invest that, what are you blocking by trying to hold back? You’re holding onto your time. You’re holding onto your money and all that. If you had followed your directive, you would have seen, “I will never distrust my whispers again because they know what’s up.” It’s the ultimate trusted friend. That’s my experience. My whisper has never misled me.

You said trusted friend. I think also of the term reliable partner. Don’t we all want to have a partner, a friend and we can always rely on?

I had this conversation. I was saying that one of the things I would love to put on my headstone is, “He was reliable.” That’s a huge word in my vocabulary. The minute someone is unreliable, I don’t know why you’d want to spend a lot of time with someone that you knew was unreliable. You wouldn’t be able to count on anything. They’re not going to do what they said they would do. They’re loaded with things that are not true at all. Why would you waste time hanging out with someone that was unreliable? They tell you, “We’ll grab dinner at 6:00,” and at 5:00 comes the predictable phone call that says, “I’m not going to be up for that.”

GFEP 22 | Living Out Purpose

Hollywood’s Genuine Pretender: Every room has needs. Every room has collective consciousness, which is averaged out of everyone’s contribution divided by the number of people present.

 

It’s interesting to me in my life, Glenn. I want that heavenly person, persona, spirit and people may refer to it in different ways. I want my God to be reliable to me. I expect it. It’s like, “I prayed for it. Why can’t I have it? You told me if I did this, that I would get that.” When do you expect that? When it comes to reciprocating the reliability, that’s where I fall short. That’s where I’m not a good partner.

Reciprocating in the reliability, in that specific relationship or in general?

In that specific relationship. If I hear a whisper, if I get an impression and if I can’t be relied on to go to Topeka, then perhaps it’s hypocritical of me to then complain when I don’t feel that my God is reliable to me.

Let me ask you a question now. What if you had a longstanding history and perhaps you do. There’s a part of me that’s assuming that you do. The only reason I’m jumping to that conclusion is because you have a perceptible peace about you. This is not some crazy, smooth complimentary line that I’m sharing with you. I mean it and I said this to you shortly after I met you. You have a perceptible peace and calm about you that seems connected to something that’s powerful that keeps you stable. That keeps you loving, kind and warm because that’s what you exude. I’ve been interviewed many times and I don’t think I’ve ever had two interviews that were the same because they’re always going to be the merging of the two members and the colors of those.

I wrote a chapter called People as Colors. With me being a redhead, most of it’s gone now, but once upon a time, I was a bright redhead, so we’ll make it that my color is red. If your color is blue and that’s not connected to anything for any reason, I’m trying to offer teaching with an analogy. I give this one to my students all the time and I’ll say to one actor. I won’t even make it about you and me, Rob. I’ll say, “Two actors. One is responsible for bringing their redness to the scene. The other is responsible for bringing their blueness to the scene. The goal is neither read nor blue. The goal is purple.”

I wish more people understood that. I wish more people understood that you can’t review a person and expect the person who’s listening to your review of the third party to necessarily buy into your review because your review will be based on the color that you experienced when you were in their midst. For example, if you are yellow and I am red and someone says, “What’s it like to spend time with Rob? You’ve hung out with him. You’ve been interviewed by him. You’ve gotten to know him. You have a sense of who he is. What’s it like?” I’d say, “It’s the most beautiful orange I’ve ever experienced.” That would be an accurate statement because that’s Rob’s yellow plus Glenn’s red. They want me to talk about Rob and who Rob is.

What they haven’t factored into consideration is that they are not Glenn’s red. They are Bobby’s blue. Bobby’s blue merges with Rob’s yellow. They experienced green when they’re with you. They don’t experience orange. That is such an important thing to understand about human dynamics. It keeps it really simple. That is easy to understand that. Someone says, “What’s your agent like? Are they good? Are they strong? Are they kind?” It’s like, “All I can tell you is that their orange and orange is working here,” but they’re not going to bring red to the agency that I’m signed with. They go in and sit down and it turns out that their color merging, whatever their color is when it merges with my agent’s yellow or Rob’s yellow, it produces a different color. If that color doesn’t work, that’s not going to be a good match.

They said, “I met him and the guy’s a jerk.” No. What you don’t know is, you’re not reacting to the guy. You’re reacting to the color that arose when the two of you gathered. That’s human energy. It’s the way energy works. I always think of what is the merging energy here. What color are we shooting for, Rob, in our exchanges with one another? If the color they’re after is love, it’s not about who’s more right, who is more powerful, who owns more, who has their own airplane, who has a nine-bedroom house? Is that what we define ourselves by? Who has the fancy schmancy car? I don’t care. I somehow managed to dodge the preoccupation with things that typically hold meaning in our lives. I don’t care. Most of the things people are real caught up in caring about. I don’t care about any of it.

That’s why you’re hanging out with me, obviously. Most people wouldn’t. Thank you for that.

To be honest with you, you’re a cool cat.

Glenn, you alluded to this earlier. You talked about your role or your purpose and this life. I’ll use my own words here. You’ve been given an opportunity to use your prominence, your position, your profession to do good. The question I have for you is there are thousands of people in your profession who have a prominent role. They’re cultural icons and celebrities who seem to, at least from the outsider’s point of view, which I want to represent the outsider now, they seem to squander that. I’m going to call it a stewardship, the influence that they could have. In our show, we like to talk about influence. We like to talk about inspiration and the ability to persuade, hopefully for good.

Many of your contemporaries, I’d even call them your colleagues, and people in my core industry of sports. I put them in the same boat. They have this wonderful opportunity to use their platform, to use their reach. I don’t think they’re getting the most out of it. Meanwhile, there could be that little old lady on the corner house who is a saint, but her universe is small. She has little opportunity to create influence beyond maybe the neighbor over the fence and the little boy that mows her lawn. What do you make of that?

I love that you’re even mindful of that in the first place. The answer is you make the most of what you have, where and when you have it. Whether you’re having it at 14, 44 or 84, I guess the difference when you have it earlier is that you can devise a plan whereby you create a wider net for yourself. You’re casting a wider net. That was always important to me. It was important to me to, first and foremost, reach them well. The extent of which is yet to be determined, but I’m going to position myself such that it can be far-reaching because I stand for truth and I stand for love. Why would I want to ceiling, especially a self-imposed ceiling on that? If you’ve got drive, you’re going to have to go ahead and say yes to it fairly early on in life so that you can begin expanding your options.

If you didn’t do that, let’s say this is now becoming important to you all of a sudden and it’s way later in life, then do what you can where you are. I mean every word I’m saying. It’s not being said because it’s picturesque and it would be the correct thing to say. It’s what I’m feeling, which is that be nice to the crossing guard. Be nice to your postal carrier. Be nice to the people at the grocery store and be kind and be encouraging.

Maybe you’re running in a small circle. Run in that circle well. I was standing on a grave once. I went to visit my stepfather’s grave with my mom and with my wife. We went across the way to visit some other family member’s graves. On the ground, there was a wasp. I looked down and I realized how many people I’ve known, I don’t hang with any of them currently. Over the years, who would have felt that somehow it was their job and/or right to stomp on it.

It was there in the grass. It wasn’t flying around. It was enjoying itself. It was walking around. It wasn’t injured. It was exploring the grass, “I’ll get back to flying, but right now I’m checking out the grass.” I intentionally did something as an exercise for myself, which is that I put my foot at an angle above it to remind myself how we’re always at choice. I pulled it back and Carolyn was watching. She knew what I was doing. I said, “I want to show you a pose that many people would take in this moment because this would be their level of engagement.” I put my foot right over it. I said, “Look at what’s getting ready to not happen.”

You got work to do because you are here to help others discover their own light. You're here to help people remember who it is they are. Click To Tweet

My heart and my connection with this living thing are the reason it won’t happen. I pulled my foot back, I looked at him and I reached down with a little stick that was there, got up under its legs and I lifted it up. He was crawling on the stick. I had my moment with him. I set him back down and went on about my day and he went on about his day, but we had contact. That goes back to eye contact. Yes, even with a wasp, be still. Notice it. It’s here to be noticed. I don’t have anything else going on. The only place I am in the world now is standing here over this grave and there you are.

That’s what’s given me the profession that I have is to stop and say, “Hi.” Do you know how much better our world would be if people would stop and go, “Hi,” and not, “Hey, man,” because you’re still not there? It’s something you do. If you stop and go, “Hi.” How many problems would be eliminated? How much disease would be eliminated? We would have wellness moving through us all and light anointing us all by making eye contact and saying, “Hi.” What the hi includes is, “I see you there.” I know that you too have challenges like I do, like we all do. This is my chance to remind you that we’re rowing this lifeboat together. I don’t care if you’re a human, a squirrel or a wasp. “Hi. It’s nice to see you there.”

What happens, Rob, is my experience has been while that could seem inconsequential to some, here’s what I want to prove. If I’ve got a big corporate meeting, let’s say I’m going into Warner Brothers for a series, regular role on a new show that’s going to be on ABC television. If I have had that quality encounter, which I have many of a day, do you know that I enter the room differently? I don’t think that surprises you. There’s no part of me that believes that’s a cutting edge concept to you. It’s the truth. I walk in differently at Warner Brothers. Why? My life’s already full. I’m already happy. There’s a condition in metaphysics called the already made up mind. I have some good things that my mind is made up about. One of them is that things work out for me.

It’s been that way for many years. Why would I expect it to change? I don’t have to panic if things get a little rough for a while because I understand that things work out for me. It’s the nature of them. If we get into some whitewater rafting, the metaphorical equivalent of that in life, that’s fine. Why? Things work out for me. In the midst of the whitewater, the difficulty, the challenges, I’m the guy in the boat that’s going to turn to you and go, “Hi.” It’s huge. When you visit a room like that, with that consciousness that went and respected a wasp and said, “Go live your life. It was nice to have two minutes to observe you.” Now you go in and they can tell your wellness is not hinged on their series.

You’re not desperate. You’re the opposite of that. It’s not the goal. What’s great is the byproduct of it is peace, wellness, love and enoughness and they can’t get enough of it. They don’t always even know what it was, but you leave the room and they go, “We have to have that. Somebody make a phone call and book that.” They’re not even booking you. They think they’re booking you, your name and your face. They’re not. They’re booking an energy that somehow calls them home. It calls them into the remembrance of who it is they are. That’s what I teach. I’ve been a teacher for many years. I teach what people think is going to be an acting workshop. They visit it and realize it’s split right down the middle and that we prioritize wellness first, then we get into the acting coaching.

Let me ask you as we begin to wrap up. You described the presence that you can have when you bring this outlook, this mindset into your job, into your life or into your everywhere. As a professional actor who’s prolific, who never seems to be without work, I hear you and I think, “I’m encouraged about the entertainment business.” There’s Glenn Morshower in the middle of it. I’m sure there are others who share your values and your outlook, but I also fear that there are many who don’t.

For me and for my audience, can you give us any encouragement about the future of those who create our pop culture, our movies, our television and our music? I don’t think many of them would be able to produce this type of articulated outlook of life like you have done, which would be disappointing, but factual. What hope can you give us, Glenn, for what’s coming down the pike in the entertainment industry?

As much as I would like to offer a beautiful rainbow filled sky in response to that, I don’t know that I hold that because we’re responsible for our own contributions and that’s it and to be encouraging of others to make their contributions, but we don’t control their contributions. I’m talking about contributions of energy, the primary one being the energy of love. None higher than that.

 The goal is not even a word I like. I replaced the word goal. I’m speaking it because we hear this word used a lot, but I would love to clarify. I replaced the word goal with nature many years ago because it occurred to me that a goal is something you reach, meaning it’s outside of yourself. We always hear the expression, “He reached his goal. She reached her goal.” For example, Rob, is it my goal to be more loving?

No, it’s not. It’s my nature. Is it my goal to be prosperous? No, it’s my nature. Every time I would have used the word goal, I replaced it with nature. The beauty of that is, one, it’s the truth. Two, your nature is right here, right now. It already exists. Whereas a goal, again, you’re going to have to go fetch it. Your nature is what you already are. I believe that if you’re not experiencing kindness, it’s not because you’re not kind. It’s because you haven’t dug deep enough into that, which you already are. If you drill deeper where you’ll hit is the oil of kindness, you got to drill deeper because it is your nature. Nobody has to go fetch love. Nobody has to go fetch prosperity. You don’t have to fetch kindness. I believe with every fiber of my being, we don’t have to fetch anything.

We’ve got to be still and know that it’s already so and that it is our divine right and the willingness to drill to where it is, which is more about uncovering it. No one taught us better than Michelangelo about that. When he was asked, “How did you carve David?” He said, “I didn’t carve David. I simply carved away everything that was not David.” That’s what he said. He is a frigging genius. It’s one of the wisest things that’s ever been said. I honestly don’t even know if Michelangelo knew how brilliant that statement was because he was saying, “Whatever you dream of exists within the marble called you.” Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you get everything else that isn’t that out of its way? Carve it away. Everything that isn’t love, carve that away and what will be left is love.

Everything that isn’t health, carve that away. What will be left is health. Everything that isn’t peace, everything that isn’t prosperity, everything that isn’t that, but you have to be committed. You’ve got to be devoted at the highest level. Unfortunately, this is why I don’t predict a rainbow. I don’t know that that holds true for humankind. Most people want to dream about being well, but they don’t want to do the work. They’re waiting for Ryan Seacrest to show up on their front porch and hand them their perfect life that is one doorbell away. They don’t want to do the work, but they do want to talk about doing the work. They will go to personal development weekends, spend loads of money hearing about how wonderful life is and how great it can be for you.

They go home with all the materials they’ve purchased. This is not my statistic. I’ve heard this said that 75% of materials purchased during such weekends are still in their plastic wrap a year later. They have a nickname for these things. They’re not called self-help. They’re called shelf-help because that’s where they sit. I don’t have a hopeful forecast. I have a personal hopeful forecast for the individual, which means for the individual, your dream life is readily available. It’s a decision away. That’s all it is.

It’s right here. It’s awaiting your decision and what follows the decision is the commitment. You will have done your part. We are both men of faith. Do you know that the most important vision I have in my life, Rob, is not someone handing me a gold trophy called an Oscar? That doesn’t even make my top 50, not even top five. It’s not there. Number one, unequivocally, is that I would stand before God on the day of my departure from earth and God would smile and say, “That’s what I had in mind, kid.”

That never goes away. That vision is present in my life every day of my life. Frankly, it’s what keeps my life in line. It’s what gives me those dashboard lights, alarms, if you will, that let us know when we’re out of bounds. When I’m getting ready to make a decision to participate in an activity that is incongruent with my highest good. Thank God for dashboard lights because they go off and the simple, gentle voices, “Glenn, not for you.” By the way, I also don’t care about popularity. Don’t be misled by popularity. You have been given an internal mandate system that is pure and it’s clear. Don’t base the decisions you make on whether or not it’s popular to make it. I don’t and I haven’t whole life. People can line up in droves for the new thing, the new way.

I don’t care. I check-in and see if it’s true. Is it true for me? The thing that I am committed to more than anything and it seems to help any person I’ve ever shared this with, is that there is nothing of greater importance in our lives, nothing than personal peace. In a discussion I was having with a friend, I said, “There’s a simple litmus test for me in terms of what I will and won’t do. Does this encourage my sense of personal peace or does it disrupt it?” If it disrupts it, the answer’s no. I don’t care about money. I don’t care about the image. I don’t care because if I lose that, I’ve lost it all. That’s my all.

GFEP 22 | Living Out Purpose

Hollywood’s Genuine Pretender: Nobody has to go fetch love. Nobody has to go fetch prosperity. You don’t have to fetch kindness. We don’t have to fetch anything. We’ve got to be still and know that it’s already there.

 

My everything, Rob, is my sense of personal peace. You can take my helicopter that I don’t own, my plane that I don’t own, my ten-bedroom house that I don’t own, take it all away, and even in the future, take it away, but don’t take away my personal peace because I’ve lost everything if I lose that. That keeps me in line in a crazy business called show. I wish more people came from that place of love and understanding because then all of this division and even what’s going on in our nation politically. I know we’re done, this is the end of the interview. I won’t open up that can of worms, but I’m very sad about it. I’m admitting to you.

I’m sad about the division that we don’t have this centralized party called the party of unity, where both sides grab hands and say, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” and more important ways to spend our time than arguing over who’s the most right. We’ve got stuff to do. Now, our sense of personal peace is at risk in this country and in this world. Why aren’t we doing something about that other than fighting? Divided, we fall, united, we stand. I love you and we’re in early stages of friendship, but I’m grateful that you let me come here and spill the beans of my soul. I appreciate that. My soul appreciates that.

Thank you, Glenn. I love you too. Thanks for your influence, you’re powerful persuader and thanks for inspiring us. Thank you. Watch Glenn Morshower movies and television shows. You’ll love him.

We’ll be back on The Resident next season.

We’ll see you on TV.

Thanks, buddy.

Important Links: 

About Glenn Morshower

GFEP 22 | Living Out Purpose

One of the busiest character actors in Hollywood today, Glenn Morshower has appeared in over 200 film and television projects in a career spanning four decades. His first appearance was in the feature film Drive-In, in 1975. Audiences worldwide know Glenn best for his seven year run as Agent Aaron Pierce, on the FOX hit series 24. Glenn currently appears as Lew Rosen, the Ewing family attorney on TNT’s Dallas.

Glenn was most recently seen on the big screen in Moneyball, with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, as well as all three of the “Transformer” movies, as General Morshower. He appeared this past summer in After Earth, with Will Smith, and Parkland, with Paul Giamotti and Billy Bob Thornton. The film was executive produced by Tom Hanks.

Other film credits include X-Men: First Class, Men Who Stare at Goats, All the King’s Men, Good Night & Good Luck, The Island, Hostage, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Air Force One, The River Wild, Star Trek: Generations, and the upcoming films Hoovey, and Dark Places, with Charlize Theron. Additional television credits include NCIS, Revolution, Castle, Eli Stone, Friday Night Lights, Shark, Bones, The Closer, Walker: Texas Ranger, Charmed, Monk, ER, Alias, Deadwood, CSI, and The West Wing, among many others.

 

 

 

GFEP 21 | Business Reset

 

Now that we’re in the last month of 2020, is it fair to say that this has been the most unpredictable year in memory, if not, your lifetime? Whether it’s been a year of disappointments, plateaus, or pivots, author, consultant, and executive coach Mitch Russo helps his clients reset their company by first adjusting their mindset. Mitch’s seasoned business advice valued by such renowned thought leaders as Tony Robbins, Chet Holmes, and Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington will be of great benefit if you’re ready to make 2021 the year you always envisioned.

Watch the episode here:

Mitch Russo | Business Reset, Personal Reinvent 

Mitch Russo, it is such a pleasure to have you on the show. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for some time. I know our overall audience is going to learn a lot from this conversation. Let’s get right into it. We are talking at a time when a lot of business entrepreneurs may be struggling. They’ve spent many years and resources building up a business launching an idea. They’re now wondering, what’s next? Is it worth pursuing or should I give it up and take another route? Was it a good dream at one time, but it’s time to act like an adult and go do something else? As a business consultant to many successful entrepreneurs and enterprises, how would you respond to that question that people may be having?

There are dire and desperate situations caused by COVID-19. We’ve had restaurants all over the country go bankrupt. There’s an estimate that says, if not a half, at least a third of existing restaurants are out of business for good. When it comes to the type of work I do, we don’t work with retail establishments, but I had a chance to chat with an owner of a chain of restaurants who called me almost out of desperation and said, “I would love to pick your brain for fifteen minutes.” I said, “Sure.” We got on the phone and we chatted. After hearing his tale, I started saying, “Let’s go down a different road here. What are your assets? What have you done over the years that are unique to you?”

I discovered that there was a wealth of data and information that he had on purchasing food, storage food, the management of the food process and then on simple things like recipes that can cook quickly using the same temperature ovens. It was a network of brilliance, maybe even a treasure chest of brilliant ideas that I would have never known existed unless I pushed in this direction. By the end of this fifteen-minute call, an hour later, it turns out that I had encouraged him to start documenting everything he felt like was valuable and unique about what he had learned years building a chain of restaurants. At that point, what we are planning on doing is working together to help him launch an educational program that will be a combination of online learning, Zoom-based coaching and eventually, a live component where people can come and start a restaurant business in a live laboratory with him. He went from being depressed and scared to super optimistic and excited about the future.

That’s a reset. You’ve coined that phrase business reset, where you take people who may have reached a crossroads either by themselves, as they’re trying to launch this fantastic idea that they’ve had, or their business has hit a fork in the road. Can you describe a little bit more about the whole business reset mentality and some of the practices that you use with your clients?

The first thing that we do whenever I work with a client on a business reset is to deal with the mindset. Mindset is the most dangerous thing when it comes to success and failure. If you don’t have your mindset, no amount of coaching is ever going to help. The idea is let’s get people from a place of despair, into a place of hope and let’s do that quickly. Once we feel like there are some hope and some confidence in the possibility of a future, we then look for the strategy first as to how that will happen. Different businesses have different approaches. For example, many of my clients have been keynote speakers who are out of business and unfortunately, probably will be through 2022.

One of the things that I did with my keynote clients is similar to what I did with my restaurant clients is to say, “Let’s take the inventory of what your intellectual property is,” and we do that. We decide in advance, whether it makes sense to start structuring those as programs. One of the things that we do that’s different than with our restaurant friend is we want to approach the same clients as they had before and say, “I used to speak from stage. I used to do your keynotes, but we’re in a different world. We have a program that’s even more effective. What we’re going to do is we’re going to be doing an online keynote effectively to get people started.”

We’re going to be following that up with a three-level coaching program. We’re going to coach your VPs and executives first. We’re going to get their mindset straight. We’re going to teach them about what we’ve learned about how to both manage people, manage under diverse situations and how to effect change in the organization where everybody is scared. The overall tone of everybody in every company is scared. The only places that don’t exist are the people at Facebook, Google, and maybe Netflix. They’re excited but other than the rest of us, there’s a lot of fear out there. We address that first. What we do is create what I call the university structure. What we do with the university structures is I explain to my clients how they should potentially explain this to their clients, which is to say, “The idea is to get them into the program and sign on for the first part of this, knowing that there’s a second and third part and maybe even a fourth part. The idea is to create the highest lifetime value possible.”

Like a university, there’s a big job to sell you into freshman year to get you to come to our college. There’s not much of a sales effort to sell you from freshmen to sophomore year. The assumption is made that if you’re a freshman, you’re going to become a sophomore. We take the same approach with the way we train people to sell into a corporation. This has become extremely successful, multiplying the value of that customer relationship far more than a simple keynote would have done. To be fair, a keynote might’ve generated $10,000, $15,000, or $20,000 in an afternoon in the past. Now, what we do is we generate six figures by building a long-term program, getting people involved in it where we are documenting and targeting objectives all throughout the process. We are showing our clients exactly what we’d done and bringing down to earth the value that we have delivered so that they want to do the next phase of the program.

The type of clients that you put through this business reset, are they diverse? You mentioned, a lot of them are keynotes or they were until the current circumstances. Do they come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds? Do they keynote for different purposes or are they in one channel?

The particular clients that I’ve spoken about have all been keynote presenters for corporations or non-profits. They all speak from the stage. They all have a transformational message. Some of them already have training programs, many don’t. Some of them have books, some don’t. What we try to do is we try to build their authority first and in many ways, this is what we would do for any client. I haven’t worked with him yet, but we’re in the process of chatting about how to work together. He happens to be an exterminator. You might say, “Why would an exterminator even need a business coach?” It turns out that he is 65 years old. He has a nice business, but the problem is that he has a specialized type of process. He services homes that are particularly sensitive to chemicals.

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The bottom line is that what we wanted to do was transition him out of the business in either 1 of 2 directions. We chatted about this in our initial call, which has maybe it might be a time to sell the company. He wasn’t too happy about that. He loves what he does and he feels he’d be bored. I told him he could join me here in Florida. I’d keep them busy on the fishing boats if he likes. What we talked about is maybe how to create the equivalent of a coaching organization, a Salesforce or a network of operators who he does not have to pay directly a salary. In fact, it could pay him as a result of the training. From there, conduct his business more like the CEO than as the operator itself.

Mitch, you’re alluding to something that we have spoken about previously, which you call the alternate sales channel which is a fascinating concept that you have used to great success. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what the alternate sales channel is and who can utilize such a practice?

I’ll tell you first what it’s not. It’s not a traditional salesforce where you pay people. Imagine if you could hire a salesforce, bring them on board, get them excited, and have them pay you for the privilege of selling your products. Would you like that to happen in your own business, as an example? Of course, you would.

I don’t know about that.

The bottom line is most people would love to have a bunch of salesmen come onboard, pay them, and then sell their products for them. That would be just great. What we do is we look for a certain type of business where this process can fit nicely into the structure of what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s not a fit. Sometimes it is. That’s what we do when we have an exploratory session is we try to understand what the nature of their business is. I’ve done this for SaaS and real estate companies. I’m doing it for a company that goes into your home and clears out all of your unwanted possessions and liquidates entire homes. In ten days, we’re building an entire countrywide network of certified partners who do this for them and pay them for the privilege of working with them.

The whole idea here of the alternate sales channel is it’s not a traditional channel in any way. It’s not based on an employee relationship. It leans heavily on making the person who you bring into this organization, highly independent while still supporting them at a much higher level than almost any other company would think of doing. That’s part of what the channel is about. We call that certification. In the past certification, you go learn something, you take a test and you’re certified. That process can cost anywhere from $99 to $18,000.

John Maxwell has a coaching certification for somewhere in that range, $18,000 but what you get is the same. You get a certificate you could put on your wall. When we build certification, we’re creating a business environment that our certified partners step into, which includes lead generation, public relations and technology in place for them. All of the elements of having a business, which they admit, they were never good, to begin with. We’re supplementing all the things that they didn’t like to do and weren’t doing well with an entirely professional environment, ready to go into action for them.

That’s for the business owner you say. You’re able to assist them and identifying other skilled individuals that can not only represent their product or their offering but also bring those other functions within the business or to the business, is that correct?

That is correct. Most of the time, it’s like that a mythical story of the beggar sitting on a box in the bazaar begging for money until a wise man comes along. He holds up his cup to the wise man and says, “Can I have some change?” The wise man looks at him and says, “Why would I give you change when you’re sitting on gold?” He said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Look under the box,” and he walks away. The beggar has been sitting on that box for twenty years. It’s never moved. He opens the box, picks it up and discovers that there are gold coins in that box. We take that same approach when we work with our clients because we say, “The best people to enroll first are your own clients.” Your own clients in many cases would love to do what you do. If that’s the case, then we enroll them, get them trained, get them set up and get them out there doing what we do.

This is the model that you developed some time ago. Can you talk to us about the genesis of this approach?

GFEP 21 | Business Reset

Business Reset, Personal Reinvent: Mindset is the most dangerous thing when it comes to success and failure. If you don’t have your mindset, no amount of coaching is ever going to help.

 

I stumbled across this as a bad idea, which later got refined into a good idea. Here’s what my problem was. I was running a software company that was the victim of our own success. We had way too many clients. We couldn’t support all of our clients. We had whole times in the half-hour range and that was completely unacceptable to me. A long story and I’ll try to make it short was we got a call from an important woman in Los Angeles. She was the head of the Los Angeles Bar Association technology division. She was upset at us for what we had as a software product for lawyers. She said that our software crashed her computer. Not only was she going to sue us, but she was going to report this to the entire bar.

This is a $99 product. The resources here are not the issue anymore. We have a reputation and potential influence. I said to her, “I promise you that in a guaranteed 48 hours, we will get your system fixed even if I have to fly to California all by myself to do it for you. Do not worry. We’ll be back to you soon.” I’m in Boston, Massachusetts. I get on the phone because there was no internet trying to figure out how to get an airline reservation. I couldn’t get out there. I think to myself, “What else could I possibly do?” I had this idea. I had spoken to some of my own clients in that area. I remembered one particular excited, happy, smart woman who worked at a law firm. Her name was Anne.

Out of the blue, I called up Anne and I said, “Anne, this is Mitch Russo.” She got all excited. She had no idea I would ever be calling her. She said, “Mitch, it is wonderful to hear from you. What can I do for you?” I said, “I have a favor to ask. I’ll pay you for your time. Here’s what I’m looking for. I would like you to go over to this person’s office. I would like you to figure out what’s going on and see if you could fix her system.” California was three hours ahead and it was already 4:00 in the afternoon. She said, “I get off work in 30 minutes. I’m going to go there tonight.”

I said, “That is amazing. Thank you.” I’m at home and I’m sitting on pins and needles. I gave her my home phone number. No cell phones back then. I’m waiting and finally, she calls me up. I said, “How had it go?” She went, “It went great. It turns out that she needed to do a bit of blah, blah, blah. It’s all fixed. She was happy and she gave me $100. These were the words that changed my life. Mitch, if there’s anybody else in the San Francisco or Los Angeles area that you want me to help, you let me know.” All of a sudden, my brain exploded.

I said, “What would happen if I had 100 of Anne’s all over the country, willing to go out there and help my clients?” Anne is already a client. She’s already at the mastery level on my products. What would happen if I simply invited them to work with us directly and dispatch them as certified consultants? I got to work and we put together a little test. It was hard. You had to know your stuff to pass, but in the end, what ended up happening is we sold these tests for $1,000. If you flunked, you got your $500 back. We had generated a new product by selling tests. We had no idea we’d sell many. At that point, once they pass the test, we said, “You’re certified.”

We started using them as dispatch for tech support issues. Now, this seemed to be going great. We had 60 people in the field and they were busy. They were thrilled, but then something weird started to happen. All of a sudden, we would get these phone calls from upset people. They would come in through tech support. I wasn’t aware of them. Tech support would get the call, but they would deal with the problem. I still wasn’t aware of them until finally, we got a threat. It turns out that what we are unaware of is that these people who we had “certified” were not business people. They were not professional people. They showed up looking like Elmer Fudd. They showed up smelling like a trash dumpster. They were late, rude, not on time and incompetent. We had some big problems on our hands.

My vice president walked in marketing said, “This was a stupid idea, Russo. You should shut this down right away.” I said, “I will shut it down right away, but it’s not a stupid idea. It’s a good idea and I’m going to prove it.” I shut down the program. I sent apology letters and I said, “I want to speak to every person who’s been impacted by this.” I, personally, as the CEO of a 100-person company took every single phone call from every single disgruntle client and I made it good. Every one of them. I then rebuilt the program from scratch. It took me six months and I reissued the program at a much higher price.

I held my breath. I had no idea what was going to happen next. To my surprise and delight, a bunch of people applied and went through all of the training and it was much more detailed this time. They finally were truly professional certified consultants. That program over the course of less than eighteen months, ballooned to 350 certified consultants who were out there helping my clients with my software, with my customers, generating $1 million in revenue from certification fees, testing fees and symposium fees. They became my third-largest sales channel right behind retail and direct. I didn’t even expect that to happen. That was a total surprise. My tech support hold time dropped over 20% and was still dropping by the time the program had evolved to that level.

You might say it was an accident how I came up with this and I had never heard of it before. I didn’t have anyone to model, but that’s what we did. It was that model later that I continued to refine and build a toolset and build the legal documents and all of the flow charts in my naps to go with it. When I work with a client, we have a smooth engagement. We can go from 0 to 100 in less than 90 days, and we could launch their certification program, generate mid-six figures most of the time on launch. From there, we do it every quarter. That’s the base story of how certification came about for me.

That’s living proof that necessity was the mother of your invention. You had to find a solution to that disgruntled client in LA. That’s a great testament to that principle. Let me ask you a couple of questions about that story though, Mitch. This certification type of process, the sales channel that you’ve developed for yourself and clients, can it work for service-oriented businesses as opposed to those businesses that are selling a product? You had software and people needed to become proficient and expert in your software. Can it work for a business-centered organization or a service-oriented business? If I have a consulting business if it’s helping people produce living wills or living trusts. I would build a system through your channels where I could certify certain qualified attorneys, who could go out and share our system of building those living trusts for clients around the world.

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There are two elements to that. The first element of that is it sounds like you would need to be a lawyer before you could perform a legal obligation. You need it for your customers that are lawyers. As for selling certification, you are selling a product to a lawyer. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that the product is the certification and the know-how and the documents assembly software to create those for their clients, which you will enable.

You are a SaaS-based company from the way that’s described. You’re a SaaS-based company and you have clients that need service, who would like to take advantage of the product. The answer would be yes, with a caveat. The caveat is that you’re going to need to be careful because having sold to lawyers throughout the years of selling legal time and billing software, I can assure you that lawyers will look for anything they can to trip you up in your business because they want to see what you’re doing so they could do it too.

If you are in any way, playing in a space that is not even legal, then you will be called out by your potential clients. However, the other thing is that one of Mitch’s rules is you never sell anything without knowing what you’re going to sell next. The whole idea is that I wouldn’t promote it as a program to sell will generation. I would promote it to lawyers as an entry-level service to bring new clients into your law firm. This is the fastest, easiest way to do so in bulk in quantity. For me, I would position it differently from the way you described it. Realistically, if your company is not doing that service then it is in fact, a good idea to think about certification for that.

The second question I had related to your story is that this first woman who you hired, who did that favor for you, and she got $100 from the client. She had skills in knowing how to work the software so that it didn’t crash the system. You built an army that sales channel from that point on, but what started to crumble around you was the professionalism of those individuals. In other words, in order to maintain this new product that you had created, this sales channel, it wasn’t the hard skills of being fluent in tech or software. It was the soft skills in how to be on time and how to address a client professionally, had to listen and how to speak appropriately to clients. I find that interesting that it was the soft skills, perhaps it could have undone this fantastic idea you had. Am I correct in assuming that? If I am, how did you fix that?

If I would have known what you said when I first started, I would’ve saved myself a lot of grief, but what else I would’ve done? I would’ve missed out on learning that and figuring out how to fix it. You’re right and here’s how I fixed it. First of all, I wrote a manual that was about three inches thick that contained chapters on how to dress, how to show up, how to speak and how to conduct an engagement. Here are all of the pre-formatted letters that you send before and after your engagement. Here’s what you say when you follow up, etc. That was part of it, but not the most important part. The second thing I did is I created the code of ethics and the in order to create the code of ethics, I had to first examine myself, what are my values?

We crafted what we call The Value Parthenon, which means that the roof of the Parthenon is my values as the CEO. What is my why? My why is to find a better way. I can’t look at anything and not try to fix it. It’s unfortunately my nature. The values that I have are to always find a better way. My other value never leaves a customer in a place where they weren’t far better than they were before you met them. My third value might be that I’m looking to create a relationship, not a transaction and there are several others. This is what I call my values. You have yours, which are similar to mine, I’m sure, and more. The next step is if you think about the values as the roof of the Parthenon and we think about the columns of the Parthenon as our code of ethics, then what we have is a system that is almost guaranteed to make sure that none of these mistakes happens in the future.

What we’re doing, Rob, is we’re building a culture in advance of even launching the program. In this process, I give my clients a pre-formatted culture course that they record in their own voice that transmits these values in these cultures and the code of ethics to everybody who joins and becomes part of the company that building certification. They even take an exam on the culture. That’s how close and how far we go to make sure that they truly understand that this isn’t a free for all this. It doesn’t get to devolve into entropy. This instead has a set of rules that everyone must follow. The way I like to think about it is that freedom is created within boundaries. As I said before, if you think of the Parthenon, everything inside the columns, you’re free to do whatever you want. As long as you stay within the columns, you have absolute freedom to build your business, to create for yourself, anything you want with my help and with our help always.

As a business owner myself, and over the many years that we’ve been in business, we have never been a 100-person company like you’ve led before. We’ve always had a small staff relatively, but over the years, we’ve hired and employed somewhere around 80 to 85 individuals. One of the biggest challenges that any small owner has, especially I would add if their business is based on service, is that they’re protective of their brand, their reputation, and how they are perceived by the market. When you bring someone into that small family called a company, you want to make sure that that person is not going to disrupt or undo all the work you’ve done. We have heard this a thousand times, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it.” Being as careful as you are and building that code of ethics is an important point. I’m sure it brings a lot of comfort to those who might want to pursue the path that you’ve described, even working with you, Mitch.

This turns out to be the key to success for any business if you are not transmitting your values to the people who you work with on a daily basis, if you are not leading from the top. On my LinkedIn page, it has a statement that says, “The CEO’s job is to create and to communicate.” I know everyone else has pictures of them on stage and waving. To me, this is the highest form of leadership and creating can take many forms. Creating could be building programs, creating sales teams, but not doing. Communication is the second most important skill of the CEO. If the CEO cannot communicate, that means nobody knows what the CEO is thinking.

I struggled with being an introvert growing up to understand how to communicate effectively. I went through and envied a lot of the people that were gifted naturally with this charisma. I never had any of that stuff. I had to learn it the hard way. I did it by trying to understand myself first. This was such a great challenge that I documented this process. This is part of what we teach when we build certification. We have to make sure that the CEO is willing to do the communication part. Most people are good at creating or think they are, but they get mired in the operation that they don’t have enough time to create.

GFEP 21 | Business Reset

Business Reset, Personal Reinvent: Different businesses have different approaches.

 

The communication part would be considered excessive by the average CEO. The average introverted CEO would look at what I do or look at what I say and say, “That’s way too much. That’s a little too much communicating, Mitch,” but it’s important because people need to know you. If everyone says, “I’m one of Rob’s guy. I’m on Rob’s team.” They need to know who Rob is. They need to know what you care. They need to know what makes you smile because ultimately, that’s what they want to do. They want to make you smile. They want to fulfill their lives and they want to make you and your clients happy.

You said, in order for the employees to know what the CEO is thinking, he or she has to learn how to communicate. The part that I would add is that in order for the CEO to know the employees, their colleagues, they also need to communicate. Communication is not just talking. It’s also listening, I’m sure you would attest in your own career. Let me ask you, when you are looking at a prospective client, someone who you want to take to the proverbial next level, whose business you want to help reset, or you want to build these types of channels and certification programs that you’re describing, is there a perfect recipe of a prospect for you? How would you describe the person when you see them or hear about them, you say, “I got to work with them?”

It’s a great question and in a way I’ve never quite articulated this before. Thank you for drawing that out of me because I’m going to make this up as I go along here. I appreciate that. The first thing is they have to be coachable. If I detect that someone is stuck in their ways that they’re not willing to listen and do, then I don’t think it’s a fit. It’s going to be a slugfest for me and for them too. The second thing is they have to be able to think outside the box and look at new ideas. I’m willing to stand by their side and guide them through that process, but in our first session, in any engagement that I have, I do an unusual exercise.

My first session with any new client is two hours long. I take them through a pathway to discover a little bit about themselves that make people who’ve never looked at before. Behind the scenes while we’re chatting, I’m building a mind map of everything that I see as the core of their existing business. I’m using what they tell me to create a trajectory for the future. I’ll give you an example. I had a gentleman on and he started as a new client. In our conversation, it was clear that he had made a nice living doing what he was doing. I’m not going to tell you who it was or specifically what he did.

He was a good provider, but he lost everything with COVID. He wanted to restart that business. In the series of questions that I had asked him, I helped him to discover something about himself that he had never looked at before. In a matter of 40 minutes into our session, he had broken down, started to cry and said he had never realized this about himself before. From that moment in time, everything we did going forward was based on this discovery of who he truly was. I’ve done this with NFL players. I’ve done this with CEOs in $50 million companies. It doesn’t matter where you are or in your life. It doesn’t matter how “successful” you’ve been. All of us have this desire. In many ways, we have adapted our lives, our needs and our family’s needs.

Those are all good things, but if we can find a way to unleash this desire in a positive way, it might turn out to be the most profitable thing we could do as well as the most satisfying. That’s part of my process. For example, I take a person through this process and I’m getting nothing back, or I’m not able to get them to where I think of as the next stage in their own evolution. I know I’m going to have a difficult time with this individual because I need them to open up to me. I’m a stranger. I get that, but I have a way about getting people to open up. In many ways, it’s all about them, anyway. It’s nothing to do with me. It’s trying to shine a light on their best qualities.

In many cases, we don’t take advantage of our greatest skills and assets because, in the past, they didn’t seem to benefit us, but in the future, they may have to. That’s part of why we do this exercise. That’s so powerful. I have never thrown anybody out. I had one woman many years ago tell me that she was exhausted after every session with me that she had to lay down. Sometimes it took two days to recover. She said she doesn’t think she can continue. This woman was what I would call a trust fund baby. She had never had a job in her entire life, but she had this desire to create a business.

In my early years, I was maybe a little too enthusiastic about what I saw in her and about her. I might’ve pushed her a little too hard, but she would never have made it to the end anyway because she wasn’t willing to do the work. There’s work with any endeavor there’s going to be concerned. In some cases, even fear and everything we want is on the other side of that. My goal and my job as your coach is to get you to the other side of that and show you what I can see that’s already there.

It’s not only the business reset that you specialize in. I’m interpreting your words as you also do an individual re-invent. That’s what oftentimes we must do, especially when we are facing trials and hurdles that we either anticipated or didn’t anticipate. Certainly, many people are in that boat now in 2020. It’s a fascinating exercise. When you speak of individuals, you have a lot of influence on people. That’s one reason why we’re eager to interview you for the show because we’re all about finding those nuggets that help us all be better influencers and persuaders and to inspire people to do greater things. You’ve also worked with people who could be described as great persuaders and influencers.

You’ve partnered with Tony Robbins, Chet Holmes and Kevin Harrington, who’s the original shark of Shark Tank. These are your partners and friends. This is not to discount your value at all, Mitch, but those are household names to people in the business. In order to partner with those types of personalities and those prominent personalities, what does someone like you win them over so that they had confidence in you and said, “Mitch, you’re the person that we want to do this venture with?”

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When I built Timeslips Corp, I was the guy. I was the guy on stage. I was the guy on camera. I was the spokesperson, the name that signed every letter. I got used to that. I expected that all my life I’d be the guy. When it came to working with people like the names you mentioned, I’m not the guy. I’m the guy behind the curtain. I found that while I loved creating and building new things, I also found a love for creating systems to run the things that other people have built too. When I came along and was hired by Chet Holmes, for example, to come into his company for one small project. To be fair, you should know this, we were good friends for years. He solicited me selling advertising back when I was running time TimeSlips Corp. We stayed close friends. We built a friendship on that business relationship that lasted all of our lives until he passed away.

The thing is that I had to come into Chet’s company, but Chet’s the guy, not me. I had to create the things that were missing for him, which I was more than willing to do. In fact, I love doing those things. I’m an engineer by background. I have an engineering mind. When I approach something, I always think about the way it could work the most efficiently. It goes back to my why to find a better way. When I walk into a situation, there are people doing a lot of manual things. There’s a whole mess of people doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing. I look at this and in my mind, I see a picture that lays out instantly in three dimensions, exactly what that system would be and I go about building it.

That’s what I did with Chet and Tony. With Kevin Harrington, we created a company together. He was the spokesperson for that company. He was the guy. He was the head. He was the one on camera, the one who signed the letters. I had to build the backend systems in order to create the company around what we were doing. That turned out to be a great place. I enjoyed it where it became a deficit after Chet passed away. After I left that organization, I realized, “I’m nobody. I have no list. Nobody knows who I am. I’ve been forgotten for many years.” After all, I was only known in the legal industry as the founder of TimeSlips. I had to start over from scratch, from the beginning, and rebuild everything about how to become the guy again. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since 2012, when that partnership dissolved.

In your years of starting businesses and building products and relationships, is there one thing that you can look back on? Despite the story you told us previously of the problem you had with the client in Los Angeles, which led to another side of your business. Is there one thing you’ve done, Mitch, in your past, in the spirit of vulnerability that you could share with us, that you will say, “That was a big mistake? I never should have done that?” Whether it was a particular move or a pivot you shouldn’t have taken or simply a mentality or an attitude that you had at one point in your career.

Fortunately, there are many. A few things came to mind. I’ll try and do them in somewhat chronological order. After I had sold my company and after I was working independently, a friend and I got for lunch. I had an idea for a new internet startup. That was when the web was becoming popular. It was 2005. Together, we had conceived of a new type of dating site. We got excited about it. We sketched it out. At that point, we saw no possible competition at all from anyone. We were thinking we would go forward and fund this ourselves because we both had sold companies. We would get the foundation of this thing built and then maybe raise money. At the last minute, he asked me if I would mind if he brought a friend along to listen in and be part of our conversation.

I don’t want to disclose who it was, but his friend was someone famous. His friend had been profiled in a major motion picture and had a bit of dazzle about him. I trusted my friend as my partner so I said, “Yes.” I skipped the part where I got to do the true due diligence into who this individual was because I trusted my friend’s word. That turned out to be a huge mistake. I got my family involved. We all invested money. We put about $500,000 of our own money into this project collectively and because of this individual, it was a complete flop. He did things that shocked me completely and never in my wildest dream would I imagine anyone would be stupid. Yet, we were stuck with him. He was a founding member, a stockholder and an officer of the company until it got to the point where we had to shut it down. We lost a lot of money, a lot of time and potentially it was an incredible idea died on the vine.

Were you romanced by the celebrity figure? Did you feel like you didn’t have the muscle to say, “No, wait, we need to do more due diligence?”

A little bit of both. I didn’t want to challenge my friend and my friendship to say, “I got to do more due diligence on this guy,” but on the surface, he looked incredible. He would say things like, “When we’re ready to launch, I’ll announce this to my publicist and we’ll be on TV,” and we were. We were featured on Good Morning America at one point with this new idea. It wasn’t as if it wasn’t real. He was an irresponsible individual with poor sensibilities. He did things that put us in jeopardy all the time without thinking. It was a combination of me not having the guts in a sense to go forward and challenge my friend and being a little dazzled by the fact that he was this famous person.

It’s understandable, though, looking back. At the same time, we don’t need to hear all of your other failure stories because I’m sure they’re not as voluminous as you’re suggesting. Let me ask you on the flip side. As I said earlier, you’ve created some interesting and powerful relationships in business. Is there a particular move that you’ve made in your career when you can look back? Not to say your career is over yet, Mitch, but so far in your career, you look back and you say, “That was a pivotal move. That was a turning point in my career. I’m glad I did that, whether it was against my better judgment at the time, or it was just good luck,” or whatever it may have been. Is there a moment you can point to?

I have two that were significant decision moments that were in some sense, a little hard. The first one was when we were building the software company and selling time billing software to lawyers. I received a call from an organization in Chicago and I’m not good with the Chicago accent, but imagine I’m speaking in a thick Chicago accent here. It turns out to be one of the officers for the American Bar Association. In a friendly voice, “Mitch, I see you are selling software to lawyers here. It’s not a good idea selling it without the American Bar Association certification. We would love to help you get certified so you could sell some of that software you got there.” I said, “I am happy to. What do we got to do? Should we submit it?”

GFEP 21 | Business Reset

Business Reset, Personal Reinvent: When we build certification, we’re creating a business environment that our certified partners can step into.

 

He said, “No, you don’t have to submit nothing. It’s just $46,000. We will send you the paperwork, you pay the $46,000. We gave you a certification, then you’re good to go, Mitch.” I said to him, “Are you out of your mind? Do you think I’m going to give you $46,000 for some stupid ABA rubber stamp?” He went, “If you don’t, we’ll destroy you.” I said, “I think I’m going to take my chances on this one. I’m going to let them market decide.” At that point, I decided that I was going to double my efforts in marketing to lawyers. We had a couple of what I call lucky breaks, meaning being super prepared at a moment in time when the opportunity strike. Fourteen months from that moment in time of that phone call, we had achieved the number one status in the legal market in time and billing.

Here’s the surprising part that was shocking. I received the call two years later from another individual at the American Bar Association who said to me, “We dissolved that division. We no longer do that.” By the way, I wrote the president of the ABA describing the shakedown that I had gone through and now this guy calls, “How would you like to speak at the American Bar Association National Meeting and tell your story from the stage? You’re famous in our little world anyway. I think we’d love to hear from you.” That move was dangerous at the time became pivotal.

The other one that is less inspiring, maybe is a simple one. Years ago, I decided to create a podcast. My goal was to build a show where I didn’t care who listened to it. I wanted to have my guests be my ideal clients. My thought was I could get my ideal clients onto my show, have a dynamite one-hour conversation with them and then chat with them about what I did. If it was a fit, maybe help them with their business.

At first it didn’t work well. In fact, for the first year, I didn’t sign a single new client. On top of that, I wasn’t getting 50 to 60 downloads an episode. It was terrible, but I kept going and I said, “I know this can work. I know I need to refine what I’m doing. Maybe do a better job of inviting the right guests, etc.” Now my podcast is my single largest source of new clients that I bring into my practice. At the same time, my show is getting 25,000 downloads a month, which is good. I never cared a lot about the number of downloads. That never was a thing for me, but it was discouraging after a year to not be getting many at all.

What you’re describing is Your First Thousand Clients, correct? Tell us all how we can find your podcast.

Go to YourFirstThousandClients.com and there’s the show.

How many episodes would we find in a month?

We publish once a week. There’s about 215 something like that episodes. The last one, in fact, was a Kevin Harrington episode. Before that, we had Seth Godin on the show as well and some other wonderful people.

We know that yours is one of the top 200 podcasts on iTunes if I’m not mistaken.

It touched the top 200 once. It didn’t t sit there in the top 200, but it did touch it once. It fluctuates. It’s in the top 50 management grouping regularly, so that’s nice. As I said, I don’t care a lot about that as much as I do about finding the right guests, who I believe resonates with the message that I am telling.

The CEO's job is to create and to communicate. Click To Tweet

This has been a great conversation. I appreciate your insights. Also, you share the value of your experience with all of us, but as we wrap up thinking towards 2021, how should we as business people be sleeping right now? Should we be nervous? Should we be losing sleep or are there certain things we can do to get a better night for us looking forward?

We’ve all gone through approximately three stages since the beginning of COVID. The first stage was denial, which was, “This’ll be over soon. We’ll get back to business and won’t be a big deal.” The second stage is reality sets in where we’re saying, “This isn’t going soon at all and I’m in trouble here.” The third stage is where I think requires a true shift in mindset because the third stage is, “I get it. Things will never be the way they were before. I got to do something new and it’s time to act.” I have a free gift for your audience. It will help them take that first step to change where they are, if that’s what they choose to do and promote their business, get more publicity, get on more podcasts, do the things that people who are in the process of actively promoting themselves should be doing anyway. The bottom line is in that third stage either you’re stuck and haven’t made that decision yet, or you’ve made that decision and you’re excited about moving forward, even though now, things look bleak.

We’d love to have that free gift. How do we get it?

Go to ProfitStackingSecrets.com. There is a download there and it’s valuable. Most people have a little graveyard on their desktop where they put all their downloads. I beg you, please don’t download this if that’s where you want to put it. Instead, I want you to open it up and promise me five minutes of your time to read even the first section and do one thing. There are three things that I ask you to do in this download. Do one thing, prepare a profile, and use the links that I provide and go out there and apply to be on podcasts. There are 3 or 4 agencies I list in this free download, where you can go on there and find shows that are looking for you and be a guest. Tell your story. Share your experience and knowledge. Get people to get to know you.

I can assure my readers that you did not have to fill out that form for us to find you. Your reputation is wonderful. You’ve proven it out here in this interview. It’s been a real pleasure, Mitch. Thank you again for your words of wisdom, for your advice and your encouragement. Hopefully, we are inspiring a lot of people. I would encourage them to take advantage of your free offer and we wish you the best, Mitch, and your continued pursuit of resetting businesses and re-inventing individuals.

Thank you, Rob.

Important Links: 

About Mitch Russo

GFEP 21 | Business ResetIf you are excited about making rapid progress but are not sure what steps to take to grow your business, then I can help you.

If you are an author, speaker, coach, or trainer. We will transition your skills and knowledge into a marketing and profit machine. In just 8 weeks, you will have new sources of prospects and customers.

My book, Power Tribes, is a blueprint for creating profitable certification programs that will create a new salesforce for you while being paid to do so. We do this for SaaS companies, Coaching, Consulting, Training, and Service companies worldwide.

I’ve been nominated for entrepreneur of the year, and built 8 figure companies TWICE!

I founded and built the world’s #1 software company in time/billing/accounting to $10MM in sales.

Then as CEO of Tony Robbins & Chet Holmes BBI, we grew from $5MM to $25MM+ in sales.

Jay Abraham said about my book: “Mitch Russo provides a refreshing new slant on growing a business to double, redouble, maybe even double again and again.”

When we work together, I’ll teach you the mindset, strategies, and systems you need to accomplish the following goals:

– How to add profitable recurring revenue streams
– How to create 8 figure strategic partnerships
– How to build an unstoppable sales team & manage it
– How to create a clear vision for yourself & your business
– How to build coaching organizations
– How to create certification programs
– How to maximize the value you get from radio advertising

At the end of the 8 weeks, if you feel I didn’t deliver 10x value, I’ll keep working with you until you do.

However, if I see potential in you, I may extend an offer to continue coaching you to grow your business to EIGHT FIGURES as I have done before.

Ready for the next level? visit: MitchRusso.com and set up our intro call.
 

 

Game Face Execs podcast episode 20

 

I actually have something in common with the Sage of Sports Marketing: we began our sports careers with the same franchise. Jon Spoelstra started with the Buffalo Braves, which later became the Los Angeles Clippers. As my followers know, the Clippers is where I learned to sell. But in this episode, we don’t talk stick and ball as much as we explore the lessons that marketing and selling sports crosses over to any business in any industry. The father of two-time NBA Champion Coach Erik Spoelstra, Jon is this week’s Game Face Exec as he demonstrates his legendary knack for outrageous solutions to problems.

Watch the episode here:

Game Face Execs podcast episode 18

 

Most educators teach a subject. For 20 years, this week’s Game Face Exec, Robert Anderson, has taught students. In this episode, the New York native and author of “12 Things They Wanted to Teach You in High School… but Couldn’t” shares lessons learned as an educational leader and an award-winning lacrosse coach to students in K-12. As one who “didn’t get a free pass,” Robert explains why students and athletes need to “carry their own bag” while discovering how their gift is “what you do best with the least amount of effort.” Listen in as we are taught how to go from racism to winning life’s races.

Watch the episode here:

GFEP 18 | Hershey Entertainment Resorts

 

Hershey, Pennsylvania is known as “the sweetest place on earth.” In this episode, Rob Cornilles introduces you to Brian Bucciarelli, managing director of entertainment partnerships at Hershey Entertainment Resorts, the sweetest salesperson you would ever meet. A homegrown product of Central PA, Brian went from intern to running the sales division of the country’s most delicious entertainment company, managing Hersheypark, the Hershey Chocolate World Attraction, the Hershey Bears Hockey Club of the AHL,  and as many concerts and shows as there are candies in The Hershey Store Museum. Get a load of his sweetness and a sugar rush of valuable information as he joins in as this episode’s Game Face Exec. Enjoy!

Watch the episode here:

Brian Bucciarelli | Selling Sweetness To The C-Suite

I can think of worse things than selling chocolate for a living. That’s why in this episode, it’s a treat to interview Brian Bucciarelli, a sweet salesperson, if there ever was one. Not just because Brian works for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the sweetest place on earth, but because of the way he tends to the rich history of Milton S. Hershey. The man who raised the chocolate bar to create a company, build a town and grow philanthropy that is a part of Americana as well as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and the Chocolate Kiss.

I’m here with Brian Bucciarelli, who is a critical part of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. Brian, you have been with the organization for years. Who does that anymore? Most of the people reading this are probably either in between jobs or they’ve jumped from one job to the next. That’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation of the market and how people go within their career. You’re very unusual. You started with the company straight out of school, you’re still with them, and you have a major role to play. Tell us that story.

Rob, you’ve been here. The easiest thing for me to say why I’m here for so long is the story itself, and that’s the story of Milton Hershey and Hershey. Everything about the past and what he did to create the town and our company, the park, and the chocolate company. That’s the easy answer to why I stayed there. The other part of that answer is the people in the industry. I started out in the sponsorship world. I fell in love with the sponsorship industry and then sales itself. It transpired into premium seating, season tickets and groups, and being able to do it in my hometown is another benefit. All of that combined was what kept me here for so long. You are right, especially in the sports world, you don’t see much of this at all and that’s not a bad thing. People go for jumped for different opportunities. I was lucky enough to have those opportunities right here at Hershey.

Are there many people like you within the company?

Yes. More so, we have the traditional form of people that have been here. We have some people who are 50 or so years and we have some new blood. In the past, when I first started, it was a lot of people that have been here a while and you get that thinking of we’ve always done it this way. That’s not always a bad thing, but I think having that mixed blood of people who are new and coming to us from other organizations with new ideas has allowed us to go where we are now.

Brian, let’s peel back. Let’s unwrap the chocolate a little bit about Hershey. Those who have not been to the market and to the park, who haven’t been to a Hershey Bears hockey game, the Hershey Bears are with the American Hockey League, a longstanding franchise. It’s been there for decades. For those who haven’t enjoyed or experienced a visit to Hershey, describe for us a little bit about this community, the culture, and what it means to the people who live there and work there such as yourself.

It’s called the sweetest place on earth. That is trademarked for a reason. As they say, the town was built on chocolate and that was Milton Hershey being a persistent man. He went bankrupt a couple of times before he found his niche in chocolate in Hershey in Derry Township as it was called. His claim to fame was when he added milk to chocolate and how he got successful, believe it or not. He’s the one that started milk chocolate, which is why you see a lot of dairy farms around here now. From that came Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, where I work. I call it the fun part of it, which is the amusement park.

Whether you’re in sports or entertainment, you’re not selling tickets. You’re selling an experience. Click To Tweet

We have two resort destinations. We have a country club. We have a camping resort. We have an outdoor stadium that has concerts. We have an indoor facility where the Hershey Bears play. He started that as a recreation place for his employees. That’s how he built the park. It was for employees only. It then turned into some great amusement park. We are owned by the Hershey Trust, which owns the chocolate company, as well as overseas, the known Milton Hershey School, which is the other great story of Milton Hershey and found this. Originally, it was a school for orphans, just boys, and it turned into underprivileged children.

That’s what this town is built on, but what this town does and what this town offers is amazing. The summer concerts, YouTube, Rolling Stones, we’ve hosted. It’s a major market for Live Nation. The giant center seats 10,500 people. We do your typical indoor shows, but we have the Hershey Bear, which had been around for 85 seasons. It’s the oldest continuously operating franchise in the American Hockey League. As Gordie Howe’s once said, “Everybody who is anybody in hockey has played in Hershey.” It was an area where all these modern hockey league people came through to get to the NHL. We have Hersheypark Arena, as we all know, not only the Hershey Bears and not only Milton Hershey built that in 1936, but the claim to fame there is that’s where Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.

The unfortunate part about this news now, it’s also where Kobe Bryant won the state championship in high school basketball, which a lot of people don’t know. Why that’s significant now is a sad story, but it is another place that made Hersheypark Arena so great. For those who haven’t been there, I ask everybody please to come to Hershey and visit. Rob has been there a couple of times and it is a great area and a great story.

I’ve not only been there a couple of times, Brian, but after my first visit, I was convinced that if I was coming back, I had to bring my wife. You and your staff are hospitable and that’s the Hershey way. You ensure that when I did bring my wife and I don’t bring her on every trip that I take. She doesn’t want to go on every trip that I take, but I chatted with her about the magic found in Hershey and the mood that’s there and the culture. We celebrated her birthday in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Thanks again to you, it was a fantastic trip. There was more to do than we had time.

That’s what people don’t realize too. Some people think of as cow pastures, farms, and fields, and don’t understand. There’s a reason for all that, but it’s much more.

Besides that, what are some of the misconceptions people have had about the company that you work for over the years?

The biggest misconception is that our company produces chocolate, which we don’t. We are the entertainment side of things. We are a private company. The Hershey company, which produces chocolate, is a public company. We are two separate companies owned by the same ownership group, the Trust Company. However, in saying that, our branding is chocolate. If you come to our resort properties, it’s chocolate. Our park is a theme park, but it’s chocolate-themed. We much live off of that, but we are two separate companies. The biggest misconception is that we are the ones that make the chocolate.

One of the things I also learned, for those chocolate fans reading now, is that you also own Reese’s, which is an interesting story because the founder of Reese’s, the Reese family, came from Hershey. He was employed by Mr. Hershey and then he broke away and started his own thing. Years and years later, they became part of the Hershey family.

The factories in Hershey, it’s a weird twist on all of us that you think it was part of the Milton Hershey to begin with, because of where it is, but it wasn’t. It’s probably my favorite candy, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, truth be told.

GFEP 18 | Hershey Entertainment Resorts

Hershey Entertainment Resorts: Brian Bucciarelli, managing director of entertainment partnerships at Hershey Entertainment Resorts talks to Rob Cornilles about his career with the company.

 

By the way, the Hershey Chocolate Store at the Hershey Museum, I’ve never seen anything like it. You see variations and sizes of Hershey candies I didn’t know existed.

You’ll certainly get your fill of chocolate if you come here.

You’re an entertainment company. You attract people regionally, nationally, and globally. When I think of international entertainment companies, I think of Disney and Universal. From a sales and marketing and promotion standpoint, how do you compete in that space?

To back up a bit, we have had people from all around the globe. I know one summer, we had a representation in our amusement park, a zip code from every state in the country. We do nationally. Globally, we do get people from out of the country every now and then. I go back to think, you always say, “You experienced the service, but people have to get here first experience the service.” How do we get people? I think it’s a story of Milton Hershey and what he did and what do he created. When you get here and you bring a family and you’re immersed in chocolate. I don’t know that you got to see them. Maybe you did.

I’m not sure if they were at the resorts or not, but we have chocolate characters that roam around. You can hang out with Mr. Twizzler or those types of things. I think it’s the story. Once you get people here, we have thousands of correspondence and letters from people who come here every year with their families. They’ve been coming for 30 to 40 years to come to Hershey and the experience is fantastic. The level of service that we have is second to none. One of our biggest markets is in New York and we can constantly get people from there. We have local amusement parks that we compete with.

If you go to the stadium side, concerts, there are some venues. We compete with the Giant Center as well. Some indoor venues we compete with, but I think the area we’re in also helps us, Central Pennsylvania, 1.5 hours from Philly, 1.5 hours from Baltimore. We are 3.5 hours from New York, two hours from Washington, DC, six hours from Boston. It’s called central Pennsylvania for a reason. Where it’s located, there’s easy access to Hershey from all of these different areas. We also have an airport as well where people can fly in and we’re twelve miles from the airport. At the end of the day, I think people were just intrigued by Milton Hershey’s story and what he created.

We can’t take time on this show to talk about that story, but it’s found everywhere within the community. If you go to the museum and stay at the hotels, his story is on video. It’s on plaques. It’s truly inspiring. One of the small things that people don’t know about Mr. Hershey and his wife is that they were never able to have children. Their children became the orphans of the community and the surrounding communities and for him to fund their education, that’s a legacy. I think from an outsider’s point of view, that’s probably the thing that I was most impressed about. Not that it was impressive to me, but how you and your staff, you and your team seemed to be the thing you are most proud of is that legacy of taking underprivileged kids from all over the country and giving them a quality education.

The first question you asked me was why am I here so long. The HE&R, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, it goes to our core purpose, which is to add value to the Milton Hershey School. Our core purpose, what we do, and what the Hershey company does is support the Milton Hershey School and all that they offer these kids. Mr. and Mrs. Hershey didn’t have kids and they started this school. It’s turned out to be incredible. They are athletics. They are competing at a high level and all the athletic leagues that they’re in and the kids’ graduation rate. It’s a remarkable story.

The house parents, that’s a whole other story. That’s where these kids live with volunteers. For the most part, these house parents lived with 6 to 8 of these kids in each grade. They get to and from school and they’re taken care of. They’re fed. They have clothes. I’ve been here a long time, but I don’t do the story justice. We have people in our company who know the history much better than me, but you asked why people have been here that long, and then why the new people that come and want to stay, it truly is our core purpose.

I would add that, as I understand it, every time I purchase a Hershey chocolate bar or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I’m contributing to that school.

You are. That’s when we have a dividend that goes to that school every year, based on the revenue that we bring into our company.

Chase the relationship and the money will follow. Click To Tweet

Do you know what the enrollment is of the school?

I might get this wrong and if anybody from the company sees it, I’m going to say 2,300 or 2,100 in that area and they’re expanding. With everything that’s going now, they’re still expanding.

With all the goodness, all the sweetness around Hershey, you’re a sales person. You have to sell on behalf of the entertainment side of the company, the resort side, and the hockey team. Despite all that, there’s got to be some challenges. There’s got to be reasons why people don’t buy from you. What are some of the top tier challenges or obstacles you have to complete a sale?

It varies depending on what part of the park, Giant Center Stadium that you’re talking about. It’s no different than any, but anybody else in the sales world. There is competition around here for number one, disposable income, not just competing team to team. There’s disposable income. There are many things to do. Where are we going to spend our money is one of the things I like to say, and in anything we do, we’re selling fun. Whether it’s the park, a concert, or a hockey game, you’re selling that experience as you taught us all to. You’re not selling a ticket, you’re selling that experience. We are in Central Pennsylvania and what’s all around us, we have many Minor League teams around us. There are a couple of museum and parks around us. There are some of the other things that are going on. That disposable income and capturing that, where am I going to spend my money mindset is probably the biggest thing for us.

We have talked in your office about the challenges that we’re seeing in 2020. I know that this is a fluid dynamic situation and we’re adjusting on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. Can you give us a glimpse down the horizon as far as how you’re reacting to this and how it might be changing the way you go about doing business, either on the hockey side or the parkside?

Both of them, especially the park, that would have opened in April for springtime. We’re extending season tickets originally through June of 2021, but every other day, we’re closed. We’re going to extend season tickets by the day. Unprecedented things that we have to do and the right things to do. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be honest with you, on the Hershey Bear side, it is remarkable to me. We lost the last six home games because of the American Hockey League was canceled and we lost six home games. We’re going through the process now of this whole credit thing with the season ticket holders. Do they want credit towards 2021? Do they want to refund? It’s exciting and promising. We have many people that have paid in full for 2021 already. They want to get back to hockey and I’m excited about that. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We talked a bit about what’s going to happen with the HE&R, but the fact that these people want hockey back and they missed out. Unfortunately, the Bears aren’t having a great season. We were number one and who knows where they could have gone, but I think things like that are exciting for us.

It shows that people are ready to get out. Even with the park, we are mailing out tickets now. We’re hoping for a July 2021 opening sometime. The people want to get out and who knows what the park would look like. This could look like limited capacity in the park. We don’t know. We’re still trying to figure that out, but it’s a balance of taking care of the customer as best we can and taking care of our company. It is more about the future with these clients too. You don’t want to lose them for making a dumb decision and to lose them in the future. What have you done? You’ve saved money now, but you’re having to go out and find new business, which we all know the heart of it’s their renewal business and any of these things. Definitely, we have had to do things differently. We’re doing it in the right way. I haven’t had many complaints about how we’re doing things, but just unprecedented times. We all have contingency plans, but this wasn’t in the book.

You also have some unique challenges as the Minor League organization because you don’t get national exposure. We’re not talking about you on Sports Center.

Just for the Teddy Bear Toss, we have. I did talk about that some in Sports Center.

Can you talk to us a little bit about the unique challenges about working in Minor League sports and how that forces you to develop skills? Not to say that Major League executives don’t have to develop skills or challenges. What unique challenges or skills you have to develop if you’re going to be successful in this space?

Let’s take the COVID-19 out of it and say it’s a regular year. The biggest thing is we don’t have the superstar. We don’t have Sidney Crosby that were selling tickets. We don’t have the big-ticket strategy that came out years ago like some of these pump teams that we’re drawing and you sold against the visiting team superstar coming in. We don’t have that. Before they changed them some rules, we had some journeymen people that played many AHL games that were sent down to the Minor Leagues. We have veteran rules now. You can’t even have as many of them because of this developmentally. They want to develop the youngsters. You can’t sell based on your superstars.

GFEP 18 | Hershey Entertainment Resorts

Hershey Entertainment Resorts: If you want to get into the major league, you have to start in the minors. If you can sell successfully without a superstar, you’re going to do well in the big leagues.

 

From a renewal standpoint, we have several years here. People know the brand. They know Hershey Bears Hockey and that’s a big selling point for us. Other than that, it truly is what we talked about for selling the experience. That’s what it is selling, the Giant Center itself, selling the end game entertainment, selling the history of the Hershey Bears, the 11 Calder Cups. That’s what we have to sell. With COVID-19, we don’t have TV money. We’re not coming back unless we can have tickets and sponsorship sales. That is the only way American Hockey League can come back. The next thing here is deciding when the AHL can come back and when we can safely have fans in the arena and making sure that they feel safe and want to come back. As I said before, the signs are pointing to people who want to get back. It’s a matter of when we can do that.

Brian, I don’t want to misinterpret what you’re saying or put words in your mouth. It sounds like you have a lot of challenges in Minor League sports. Why would someone getting into the sports industry want to work in the Minors?

It’s like an athlete that wants to get into the Major Leagues, they have to start in the Minors. That’s where you learn the basic skills. If you can sell successfully in the minors, when you go to the big leagues, you’re going to sell. If you can sell successfully without a superstar, and you told us your story when you first broke in, it wasn’t in the Minors, but it was with the team that wasn’t good. I’m going to assume you didn’t have many superstars if you weren’t good. That’s how you sold and you sold on the experience and fun, yet, you sold all those things.

If you can do that, you’re going to be a successful salesperson, wherever you go. I also like to go back to this story all the time. I talked to a lot of my friends who were in the radio business who grew up selling without a base salary. They sold on commission and they were successful selling on commission. You know how many phone calls you need to make to get an appointment, to do a proposal, and to make a sale because that’s what you live off of. I think in the Minor Leagues, you need to start somewhere and that’s where you got to sharpen your skills, is in the Minors.

In your case, you not only started in the Minors. You stayed in the Minors. There’s a career there. It’s not just a launchpad.

There is a career but it’s not likely like we’ve talked about. However, the other thing I didn’t mention is what our company offers too. I’ve overseen Hersheypark sales as well. There’s a lot more than the Minor League angle to this. There are other things I’m doing. I did have an opportunity to go elsewhere and things didn’t work out. I came back here and thankfully, the company accepted me back. There’s a lot of stuff going on here in this company, which makes it an easy place to stay.

Isn’t it also interesting over the years that we have been in the industry, how Minor League ownership groups recognize that they can’t own a Minor League hockey team, baseball team, or lacrosse team? In order to be a more attractive asset and also a more attractive place for people to come to work, they probably need to have their hands in some other things as well. Whether it’s the venue that they manage, operate, etc. Maybe they have another team that they’re working in the off-seasons. They’re pairing up with other franchises. If I’ve got hockey in the winter, I’ve got baseball in the summer type of thing. There are many models of that.

There are going to be great changes in both the sports and entertainment industry down the road. We need to be ready to innovate. Click To Tweet

Revenue coming in all times of the year. Also, that allows them to package things too. Maybe they’re packaging season tickets or sponsorships. It allows them to do a lot of those things as well. You did touch on something interesting. That’s something I should point out, which makes the job here easier. We do own the building and the team. There are some nightmare situations that people are in where that’s not the case. I feel for them and I’ve heard a lot of horror stories there, but yes, we do own both. It makes it easy and we do our own concessions, which is the third part of it.

It was a huge revenue source for you in that regard. Since you are a professional salesperson and you’re a leader in sales, when you started your career, when you went to school, did you anticipate that sales would be your primary function and the way you’d make a living?

No. I got a marketing degree and honestly, I was a non-traditional student. I went back late in life. I came out of college and majored in ping pong and foosball when I first went and didn’t do so well. Unfortunately, Penn State doesn’t give degrees in that. I say this not jokingly, but I realized that I wasn’t going to make a living with my hands. I couldn’t build things. I couldn’t do that time that I needed to get a degree. My dad always said to me, a degree is one thing that nobody can ever take away from you. Once you get your degree, you always have it.

I went back late in life and graduated late. An opportunity for an internship came up with the Bears, which growing up, I knew the Bears and I happened to be in the sales department. I fell in love with that. I think a lot of it was my personality, getting along with people and relationship-driven. That’s what helped me through my sales career. It’s one of those things. I know you’ve talked about it before, but throughout my career, I’ve been to client’s weddings, birthday parties, and so many things. That’s when you truly know that you’ve done well. It’s not talking to them during renewal time. You’re spending time at their house or going on vacation with them. They’re coming to your house. That’s when you truly know that, “This is truly what sales is all about.”

That’s interesting, Brian, because you’re bringing to my mind this idea. First of all, there’s an old saying, “If you’re honest, you can’t have a very short memory,” because if you’re honest, you don’t have to think back, “What did I tell them?” If you’re honest in sales, you can’t have a short memory because you always know. “I’m telling you like it is, or I’m being genuine and authentic.” The other thing you’re bringing to my mind though, is if you want to have a long-term career, let’s say with one organization, those people that you’re selling this year, you’re going to see next year, and you’re going to see five years from now. The things that you’re representing to them, they better be truthful. You better be able to deliver what you’re promising. You’ve been doing that for many years.

There are still people here that I’ve met on day one and they’re still involved with that company. I am not so much involved in the day-to-day sales of a lot of things anymore. A couple of things I have my hands in, but not as much, and there are still people that are still there. My phrase that I always use with people is, “Chase the relationship and the money will follow.” We all know sales is commission-based for the most part, but people that are going after or chasing the money won’t last long. Why they won’t last long? It’s because you’re selling people things that they shouldn’t be sold. That’s not going to last into a long-term relationship and the success of your career is based on your renewals and your relationships.

I truly believe that. I started in this industry making $20,000 a year with no commission. I was never motivated by money. I was motivated, number one, about the company saying, “He’s doing a fantastic job.” To this day, I live by that motivation. I’m making a good living, but I’ve earned that. I didn’t start out that way, but my motivation still is a great job, a handwritten note from the CEO that says, “What a remarkable job you and your team did on this.” That’s my motivation, not the paycheck.

I would want to say, you’re my client. We’ve done work together and we’ll do work together in the future. I would tell you the same is true. I love to say that that’s a client I enjoy not only securing, but renewing because the client is friendly, reasonable and agreeable. I don’t know if you and I have ever had any disagreements or differences of thought, but when we do, they don’t stand out in my mind because we resolve them quickly. We keep moving forward and keep progressing together. You’re not only a good salesperson, but you’re also a good client as well. That personality permeates all both sides of your work. I appreciate that.

I’m not trying to sell Rob and Game Face, but we’ve certainly enjoyed the two times you came in. You’re the only professional sales teacher that we’ve ever brought back. That says a lot about you and your organization. Our sales staff got a heck of a lot out of it and they’re still using that. We certainly appreciate it.

GFEP 18 | Hershey Entertainment Resorts

Hershey Entertainment Resorts: People who are going after the money won’t last long. Success in sales is based on your renewals and your relationships.

 

Thank you. Brian, as we wrap up, I would love to get an idea from you as to whether it’s industry-related or Hershey-related. How will the industry be different five years from now in your mind than it is now? Do you see something around the corner that we need to be paying attention to, that we need to be diligent about? Do you see innovation or creativity that maybe we need to stretch a little bit more in a particular area, whether it’s within your local properties or it’s the industry as a whole?

During these times, how will things change with COVID-19? It is limited seating and you’re in a concession stand line. You have to be six feet apart. Is everybody going to be wearing a mask? Until we get through this and get back to some sense of normal to see what’s going to happen five years down the road, I don’t know. Are we going to go back to normal? That’s another big question. Will we ever go back to the normal way of doing things? Will we shake hands anymore? Will we hug? If I don’t get the hug Rob, when I see him, I don’t know what I’m going to do when the next time I see him.

It’s looking now when we get back to operating, there’s going to be great changes there in both the sports industry, as well as, music, parks, theme parks and even in our resorts. Down the road, I think we’re always having to innovate. We’re always going to have to do the next biggest and best thing out there for Hershey. We built a brand new coaster that, thankfully, is about done and ready to go. The amusement parks always have to innovate. What are we going to do? What’s the next big attraction? What’s the next big food offering? I’m always looking at those things. Probably the biggest thing, Rob, is this cashless thing. We’re seeing it now. You go up there and swipe that. We have a Pepsi station now that you go up there and fill up your Pepsi cup by yourself. There’s a barcode on it.

How big is that going to be with this social distancing? How much bigger does that become that you go in there by yourself and scan and do everything yourself? Our grocery stores had that for the last 4 to 6 years. We didn’t know that that’s the biggest thing now going for them. You go in there, you can scan things yourself and not have to deal with people. I think this cashless thing is going to be big. It was becoming big now, but it’s going to be even bigger with what’s happening in our society.

You mentioned the coaster at the amusement park. I want to say for those of you who’ve not been to Hersheypark, they got awesome roller coasters there, more than you might imagine. They take great pride in their coasters.

This is our tallest, fastest and longest coaster yet. It’s called Candymonium.

I have one more question. I should have asked this, but if I wanted to work for you, what would I need to do, say, and show in an interview if I’m sincere to be the candidate you choose?

I know what I look for in team members. I look for self-motivated individuals. I look with people with great attitudes. I think people will come to the office every day. You’re in control of your attitude. Nothing else. Nobody else can control your attitude. I look for team players. Do you get this out of an interview? It’s a tough thing to say. I’m probably giving away a secret in case, God forbid, Rob, something happens that you have to come to me to interview to get a job. There are many that within our organization now that I hired, and it’s the question that I ask. Everybody asks that standard interview question. Where do you see yourself in five years?

When you’re talking to me, everybody thinks the proper answer is, “I see myself in your role.” This person gave me the answer I looked for every time, “I see myself making more money for this department.” I love that answer. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead. Don’t get me wrong, but I’ve had many people that have gone on into bigger and better things. I thought that was the type of answer I was looking for. Somebody that’s going to come in here and get motivated, wanting to do a good job and want to make more money for the department revenue.

No one else but you can control your own attitude. Click To Tweet

Self-motivation, to me, I’m not a micromanager and people that want to come in here and do a good job. It’s tough from the interview process, but I do also look for somebody that’s not motivated by the dollar, but somebody who wants to do a good job. Somebody that their motivation is me reaching out of a handwritten note or calling them or their boss or somebody else within the company to say, “You did a fantastic job.” It makes me motivated by that. I guarantee you the money will come.

That’s great advice born from years of experience. That works for you. It’s worked for you and your career.

It’s easy for me to say, “I just landed in this role, making a good living, and had to start and make those comments.” I started where I told you what I made, no commission when I first came up and that got me through. I was motivated by doing a great job and that led to this and to this.

It very much mirrors something that I tried to share with job seekers or people young in their career. That is to do the best you can where you are now and the world will find you. Success cannot hide. People will find success wherever it is.

This is great, especially in the sales world. I’ve had people who have been recruited by our clients because the deal with day-to-day dealings with them. They see how they operate, how they are relationship-driven. They have great relationships with them. They care about the client, not the dollar. I’ve had people recruit. The client came to us first. I had no problem with it. It’s gone on to bigger and better things. That says a lot and it makes you feel good that this person grew up. Your department has gone onto something else and they’re happy.

Brian, I want to reiterate to everybody, get to Hershey. Join all the great things that Hershey, Pennsylvania has to offer. You can look up Brian. I’m sure that he’ll take good care of you. If not him, his great staff.

Get to Hershey. If you out there that haven’t worked with Rob or his group, please look into it. Honestly, it wasn’t paid and this wasn’t scripted. He is the best trainer, the best sales training we’ve had, so thank you.

It’s great to visit with you. Thanks for all your great wisdom, Brian, and good luck.

You too. Stay safe.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About Brian Bucciarelli

GFEP 18 | Hershey Entertainment ResortsManaging Director Entertainment Sales & Partnerships at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. And all-around great guy!!

 

John explains why his role as educator and mentor is what he most cherishes; Why do entrepreneurs decide to become mentors? What are the requirements for effective mentoring? John relates the sacrifices of entrepreneurship on individuals and families; How do entrepreneurs and their significant others get aligned? How long should the entrepreneurship journey last? Is entrepreneurship for everyone? John shares the worst advice entrepreneurs get; The shame of bad ideas unidentified; How does a great idea become a great business? John suggests down economies are the time to ramp up; The phases of startup; John bemoans the ROI of higher education; Why campuses are the ideal place to experience a collision of ideas; John explains the service found for fledgling entrepreneurs at Startup Ignition; The imperative of sales and developing relevant skills; How sales and a great salesperson lifted Omniture to become a billion-dollar company. We’re talking about the meaningful mentor, John Richards, who joins Rob Cornilles as this episode’s Game Face Exec.

Watch the episode here:

John Richards | The Mean And Meaningful Mentor

Admit it, one time or another, maybe even now, you’ve wondered what it would be like to be your own boss, to start your own business. You’ve identified the need, void, and the likely solution that you think could make countless lives a little bit better. If you’re wondering whether or not to take that risky but potentially rewarding step, you have to meet John Richards. This week’s Game Face exec and a mentor whose candid guidance has saved many entrepreneurs untold pain while helping them realize unimaginable opportunities.

I’m joined by John Richards. He is a man who can be described in four distinct ways. He’s been called a great entrepreneur, educator, advisor, and investor. John, thanks for joining me on Game Face Execs. It’s a privilege to spend some time with you.

Thank you, Rob, and thanks for all you’re doing for the ecosystem.

Thank you. John, in that description of you, I mentioned four ways that people have referred to you, an entrepreneur, advisor, educator, and investor. I’m curious if you had to pick one of those and had to put one on a gravestone, which one do you think best describes John Richards?

Probably in the area of education and mentorship is the one that I’ve had the most fulfillment from.

When you talk about fulfillment, can you describe for me what that means to you?

Right before we started this podcast, I had another Zoom event. It was from the mid-2000s, a student that I mentored at Brigham Young University. He has gone on to build a sizable successful company. He and I had a great catch up talk about all that he’s doing there. It’s rewarding to see what he’s done and gone on to do. He shared some principles. I had given a little bit of mentorship in his formative years, but he discouraged me a little bit because he told me he just turned 40, so that made me feel old.

How long have you been advising him?

Probably from the mid-2000s. From the thousands of students at the university level that I’ve mentored and then even people out in the community, I’ll sometimes get emails or communications from people I haven’t heard from, from 8 or 10 years ago saying, “Do you know what’s happened to me?” They tell me their success story and they said it all started when they got this principle or that help. Other ones, I have constant communication with different things. It’s such a fulfilling, rewarding thing. As far as fulfilling, one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in life was to coach my daughter’s basketball team for seven straight years. All of those young ladies are now married and with children. That was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It was coaching a youth basketball team.

I never had daughters. I have three sons who are all grown now. One of my favorite pieces that were ever written by a sports column was Rick Reilly’s piece about coaching girls basketball. Did you ever read that one?

No, I didn’t.

I have to find that one for you and get that to you.

It was fun. I found that girls listen and follow directions. When you coach youth boys basketball, it’s a running gun the whole time.

The worst advice is no advice. Click To Tweet

Going back to your role as an advisor, you have been a successful business person for many years. It’s a unique personality that decides to step away from building businesses and advise and mentor other people to go that same route and teach them to do that. I know you’re still involved in businesses, don’t get me wrong, but you spent a lot of time helping people do what you did. There are many that don’t have the stomach and the patience for that. What caused you to go in that direction?

It’s interesting you say that. It is a sacrifice so you’re bringing up. You step off the income and equity value generation roller coaster and merry-go-round to stop and take more time with people. It’s less lucrative certainly. Some people don’t want to do that. They say, “No, I’ve got more good earning years ahead of me so I don’t want to do that.” The willingness to do that is one of the character traits. Answering your question more directly is, I like to teach. I enjoyed the field of teaching. Teaching is valuable and important.

As a young person going into teaching, it’s not a lucrative career. It’s not something where you’ll gain financial independence quickly. It’s noble, but it’s not that way. When I had the freedom after having entrepreneur success and being able to have that financial independence, I chose to be more of a teacher and mentor, and that fulfilled that desire from my early ages. Some of the traits that you need to do well at doing that though because also some people don’t have the skills or the characteristics needed to do that.

You have to be able to be a good teacher to teach well. You have to be able to be a good mentor. Mentoring is hard. Mentoring requires time, commitment, caring, and spending time with people. Not just flash in the pan superficial mentoring, but real mentoring getting down in the trenches and helping them. Some people believe that mentoring is only about teaching them how to discover their own mistakes and foibles. There’s some truth to that, that helping people learn how to discover things on their own is important, but mentoring is also sometimes being able to tell a person that their idea sucks. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

Like a child, if they’re going to put their hand on the burner, you don’t let them put their hand on it so they learn that burners can hurt you. You stop them from burning their hands. That’s the same thing in mentoring. There are times where you have to say, “You’re doing a red light activity and you need to be stopped now for your own good.” Other times where you let them discover on their own. That kind of being the mentor is important. You have to have a desire and a willingness to sacrifice being the entrepreneur going forward and making your own money or high income. All those traits come to play. We talked about that a lot in my circle of mentors and people that have given time the same way I have. It’s hard to find somebody who has been there, done that, and has all the experience and skills, likes to teach, and likes to mentor. For instance, you enjoy that. I’ve seen that in you. You like to teach and mentor, but not everybody does.

The thing that I’m most impressed about what you do, and I’ve observed this in you, John, over the years that we’ve known each other, is that it’s such a time-consuming activity to mentor. It’s almost like you’re a doctor, a physician who’s always on call. When these young or old entrepreneurs are working late at night in their garage or kitchen table and they’re troubled by something, if you’re the first person they think of, you’ve got to be available on the other end of that line. There are tremendous sacrifices that come in what you do, and you’ve talked about some of those. One that I’m interested in knowing more about is I know that you have, as best you can, a balanced life. You have a great family. You have a supportive wife and you support her. Can you talk a little bit about the career choices you’ve made and how family factors into that? In your case, how a spouse or relationship has factored into your decision-making?

That was a big part of taking that directional change in my life. I was married in 1983. My wife is incredible. She and I went on to have four children every two years. We have a busy household and I worked constantly. After I finished my collegiate career, I started building up a company in Seattle. Over about a dozen years, I became a leader in that industry. I worked 80-hour weeks and I was gone a lot. I parlayed that experience into the yellow pages company.

Can you explain to some of our readers what yellow pages are?

The printed Google Search. The industry was huge at the time. In 1984, the federal government broke up AT&T, the largest publisher of yellow pages and the old Bell Company with Alexander Graham Bell. It broke it into eight different companies and that led to a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs. That’s perfect timing for me coming out of school in 1985. The yellow pages industry was rife with opportunity so I went into that industry. I parlayed that print publishing industry experience into being the first-ever online yellow pages. That happened in 1995. That caught the dot-com emergence perfectly.

My fledgling online yellow page company was sold to a new company started by some Microsoft people that had learned about me, and I became number four at that company called InfoSpace. Two or three years later, it went public in ‘98. From that entire period of around 14 to 15 years, I never took a vacation. I worked incessantly, and then we had enough financial independence to never have to work again. My wife sat me down and said, “It’s payback time.” That was an interesting moment. We decided that we would do that. It was fascinating.

Six months into that of me being the dad on all the field trips and meeting my sons after school, BYU, my alma mater university called me up and said they’d like me to be a professor of entrepreneurship. I said, “I don’t have a PhD.” They said, “You don’t need one. You can be a professional faculty member.” I tested it for a semester flying down from Seattle and I enjoyed it. I moved my whole family down to Utah and decided to work a few years like nobody else is willing to do so that you can live the rest of your life like nobody else or like many people can’t do.

I got off the moneymaking train of income. I stayed at the same level where it was at then. My kids were 16, 14, 12, and 10 when I made that change, and it’s been wonderful. All my adult children live within fifteen minutes of me. I have seven grandchildren. We get together frequently, love each other, and have great relationships. It’s paid off. I got to coach my daughter’s basketball team for seven straight years. I took control of my schedule and time, and my wife has enjoyed it. That’s a big moment.

Earlier when I was working those eight-hour work weeks though, she also taught me things. For instance, she said, “John, you have to be home from 6:00 to 8:00 PM every day.” In the first few years, I was violating that. I learned that if I was home from 6:00 to 8:00, I could have dinner, help get the kids down for bed, and then go back to work until 1:00 or whatever in the morning. I learned a lot of things from my wife. One thing we learned also is that the spouses tend to have a built-in marriage manual. If you listen to them, it helps. That’s been our relationship. I hope that answers your question.

GFEP 17 | Entrepreneur Mentor

Entrepreneur Mentor: People who are mentoring have to tell people, when they can back it up with reasoning, that their ideas are terrible.

 

It does. I love what you said about, “I’m willing to work like no one else will so I can have a lifestyle that few people have.” You may have had that mentality. You could have been born with it. You had that work ethic and drive. I find a lot of young entrepreneurs have a difficult time finding someone. If they’re dating or want to get married, finding someone who has that same attitude and same outlook about that. I’m wondering, were you and your wife aligned from day one on this venture and path that you’re going on?

I’m going to bring up. We talked about that. Let me clarify before I answer that specifically. One of my mentors one time told me, “Work a few years like no one else is willing to do so that you can live the rest of your life like no one else can.” What that means is that the craziness of doing it being an entrepreneur is meant to be a finite time period. If it was to go on until you’re 65 years old or older and work like that, that’s workaholism. That’s not good for relationships and family. If you say, “For these seven years, we’re going to work like that. We have a plan and a strategy behind it. We’re going to have to make sacrifice faces. We’ll be a little bit like a car with an over or under-inflated wheel sometimes and won’t be perfect in some other areas of life.”

I might not be able to be a coach. I never was able to coach my two sons’ sports. Even with my two daughters who are younger. We made that sacrifice as a family. My wife knew the sacrifices, and we did that. We had a time where that was over and we said, “Now we’re going to enjoy the fruits of what we have the freedom to do.” That’s how we structured that. That is important to understand that if it was meant to be for life, that would be a real problem. That’s not how it’s meant to be. That’s our vision. It’s interesting, my wife comes from a family of school teachers and bankers. A lot of them are conservative by nature in terms of that. They work an 8:00 to 5:00 job for a big company.

It ends up though my wife is completely along for the ride. There have been about three defining moments in my career where I put everything on the line. The first time I did it, I went to my wife and said, “Susan, if this doesn’t work out, we’re going back to a one-bedroom apartment, particleboard bookshelves, and a 9-inch black and white TV.” She goes, “Fine. Go ahead. Take your chance. I love you as much then as I do now, and I love you as much afterward. It will be fun building it back up again. Don’t worry about it.” I go, “Wow.” That gave me the freedom to take chances and risks that others might not take. We all know risk and reward go hand in hand as long as you know you’re not a crazy wild gambler and you’re a measured risk-taker.

You’re one of the lucky ones, John. You and Susan have a partnership that’s well-matched and you’re aligned. I feel for a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t have that.

Can I tell you a story about one?

Yeah, it would be interesting.

I won’t name names. One time, I mentored a great entrepreneur. He’s a born and trained entrepreneur. He had to be an entrepreneur to be happy in life. One time, I invested a significant amount of money and helped him raise $716,000 for this company. It was a great idea. The company was doing well. One time, his wife invited my wife and I out. I was chairman of the board after leaving the investment around. We went to a restaurant, The Melting Pot, which now I don’t go to because of this experience. We go to the restaurant and he goes to the restroom. His wife lays into me about his salary and says, “We can’t survive on the salary that you investors have been capped at. We have three children and I need more money.”

I told her, “We, investors, put in $716,000 and we have it capped at $84,000 for a reason. He was making $78,000 and he brought himself up at $84,000 where it’s capped, but it’s not just me. There are other investors. That’s in the documents of the investment. The company is still early and needs the capital going back into building the company. I’m not sure we can do that and pull it off.” He was gone a long time. It took 5 to 7 minutes of her talking to me like this. My wife was blown away by it. He comes back from the restroom. He doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t say anything. We finished the dinner.

A month later, he calls me back and says, “My wife is making me quit.” He’s the founder and CEO. “She says I need to be making $120,000 to $130,000. The last month talking to everybody, that’s not going to be happening here.” She makes him take a job at one of the most conservative institutions in our area and sit in a cubicle. The funny thing is I did help him get a job at a great tech company and he became their number one sales guy but she said he had to have a job with benefits and all these things. We went on to that company, by the way, to make all the investors 5x. It was a great company. He lost out. He sold out all of his shares which was a huge chunk for a small amount of money when he left. He called me up three years after all of this and told me they got divorced. He said, “John, I have to be an entrepreneur.” That’s the extreme on the other side, isn’t it? To this day, he is happier after that situation. He has got multiple companies and multiple things he’s been successful with. It’s interesting.

At the same time, you would agree that entrepreneurship is not for everybody. One has to make a decision. What’s more important for me now, and then in the long-term? Is it to pursue this dream I have and to bring this product to market or to have a happy marriage?

It’s a partnership of the spouse. A lot of times, I mentor people and say, “You need to talk to your spouse about this right now.” Have a real talk if you’re all in and try to prevent that situation I told that story on. There are people, men and women, I meet that I’m one of them. I cannot work for the man. I cannot work in a large organization. I am not happy if I am just a cog in a massive machine. I need to be an entrepreneur in control of my destiny more and have the feeling of building and growing every day. I like the days when I walk in and I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen. I’ve got to be an entrepreneur and handle what happens. I like that. It’s a different lifestyle. I could see if I have saddled the same way this fellow I told the story about and found out. That could have easily happened to me because most of us, while we’re cording our spouses, aren’t telling them, “Are you in for this ride?”

It’s not one of the questions we typically review. “Tell me about your parents. Where did you go to school? Do you mind if I am an entrepreneur?” Let me ask you about the advice on entrepreneurship. Is there bad advice that you’ve heard entrepreneurs get over the years whether it’s from well-intentioned relatives or from professors, or someone else?

Down economies are a great time to set the table so that you can enjoy the feast when the economy comes back. Click To Tweet

Or even investors.

What are some examples of some bad advice in your mind that entrepreneurs sometimes get?

The worst advice of all, and it’s rampant, is no advice at all. Let me tell you what I mean. It starts at the idea stage. There are two aspects to this. Let’s take The Mom Test first of all. If you’ve heard of that book, it’s a legendary book to read about making sure you don’t get caught in this. I had a young man meet me and come to my office. He says, “I’ve got the greatest idea.” He tells me his idea. “I have spent time evaluating thousands upon thousands of ideas so I’m good at it. I have my procedures and I do it mentally fast. I can teach people how to do it in a spreadsheet and all that. That’s part of my training.”

He told me his idea and I went, “That is probably the single worst idea I’ve heard in my entire years of mentoring.” He went wide in his face and he went, “What do you mean?” I go, “Hold on. Let me tell you. Here are five reasons why this is such a bad idea.” I told him and he goes, “I can’t believe it. Everybody around me tells me what a great idea it is.” I go, “Who are those people?” He goes, “My mother and my best friend.” I go, “They’re not. First of all, they may not have the qualifications to assess this idea. Your mother telling you is not unbiased feedback.”

We decided he was going to go out and get good feedback for the next three days from people he doesn’t know. He comes back three days later and goes, “You were right. My idea sucks, doesn’t it?” I go, “Yes.” He says, “I need to hang around you more.” I go, “It’s funny you say that. I need a TA for this new class I’m starting. Would you like to be my TA?” He becomes my TA and he meets my son. They cofounded Devmountain together and sold it three years later for $20 million. That’s one thing. Bad advice like that is all over the place just at the idea stage.

The problem with investors is that I’m known a little bit for being blunt, and it’s with kindness I hope. What happens is I’ll set up meetings of entrepreneurs meeting with investors and entrepreneurs come back and go, “I had a great meeting. I know they’re going to invest with us. In 30 days, I’m going to get money from them. They loved it.” I set up the meeting sometimes to make sure they get some good critical feedback. I called the investor and I went, “This entrepreneur is jazz. They had a meeting with you and think you’re going to invest with them in 30 days. Did you love it?” They go, “No, I hated it.” I go, “What?” They go, “It’s a terrible idea.” I go, “That’s not how the entrepreneur left for the lunch meeting. They thought you loved it and that you’re going to invest.”

Here’s the common refrain and get back. “John, I’m not in the job of discouraging entrepreneurs.” I say back to them, “Are you in the job of misleading an entrepreneur down the primrose path, and then squandering their time and money on an idea you know is terrible? I agree with you it’s a bad idea. I’ve told them that. They were going to you to get some more advice and feedback.” Investors and people that are mentoring have to tell people when they can back it up with the reasoning that their ideas are terrible.

You have to realize most business ideas are terrible. Few of them make good business opportunities and few good business opportunities get to the finish line. There’s a book called The New Business Road Test by John Mullins, which is the definitive work on this topic. In the foreword to his book, he wrote the book because he says 90% of all the failure could be eliminated by people just not starting companies based on bad ideas that we could have tested as an idea before we even thought about a company. We dismissed it based sometimes even on secondary research, not even primary research.

That’s fascinating because it’s absolutely right that you want to be encouraging to someone, especially if you see that they’ve got good instincts. Here’s one of the problems I’ve had, John. Tell me what you think about this. I’ve always had a problem. Forgive me if I’m stepping on your toes because I don’t know how you feel about this. When people say to young entrepreneurs especially, “Follow your passion.” The reason why I have a problem with that is that sometimes what you’re passionate about is not necessarily a good business idea.

That’s in the same genre. “My passion is knitting sweaters.”

My passion is playing basketball, but that’s not going to make me taller. I’m still going to be 5’6”.

That leads to the same thing. You’ve got to measure it and measure the business idea. In every million business ideas, only 1% or 10,000 of them are going to be a business opportunity. Inside those 10,000 business opportunities, there are going to be some poor ones, mediocre ones, some good ones, and some great ones. The only ones worthy of us taking our time, the most precious commodity we have, and our treasure, personal savings, resources, working on them and maybe even quitting a job to pursue it is a great business opportunity. You need a system.

In my Startup Ignition Bootcamp, I have a system for teaching people how to filter those ideas down so that you’re only working on great business opportunities. You then have to run through the lean startup process to make sure that you can form a business model that extracts, creates, captures, and delivers value. That’s a strong refining process. People that spend a lot of time on ideation and on idea evaluation know when they hear an idea, they can quickly put it into, “This has a possibility that’s not so good and that sucks.” That’s important.

GFEP 17 | Entrepreneur Mentor

Entrepreneur Mentor: Universities in America are more about teaching how to think like the professors think as opposed to imbuing the skills for the workplace that employers need.

 

The people that I’ve delivered that blunt news to and done it in a kind way have come back years later or a little bit later. They’ve thanked me for being honest and frank with them. They start seeing how we have an ecosystem in the venture world that sometimes does not give this kind of critical feedback. I put it just like the kid putting a hand on a hot stove, or you see two trains and they’re on a collision course. Aren’t you going to be the one that goes in switches the tracks so they don’t hit each other or you’re going to be the one that grabs the hand away from the burner?

That’s what you have to do to first time entrepreneurs or people that haven’t had as much experience. I certainly wish people would have done that to me in a lot of the decisions I’ve made early in my career. We can’t be there for everything. They’re going to make enough mistakes and enough terrible outcomes even with all the mentoring they get. Left to their own devices to discover all their mistakes by going through them is not what a mentor is there for. It’s not just to let them have a train wreck. That’s not what you’re there for.

In this economy that we find ourselves in, and I say this economy, I don’t think the economy is going to be much different than what we see today. We’re in the middle of a COVID crisis. Is this the time for entrepreneurs to contract and pull themselves into Corporate America? Is this a time for entrepreneurs to exercise those tendencies they feel that they’ve got running through their veins?

I can’t cite a bunch of sources on this but anecdotally, in my readings over the few decades, most of the research shows that this is an excellent time to start something. Be in the validation and building phase, keeping it lean and mean. When the economy, as it always does, cycles back up, then you thrive. It’s the same thing with a company that is doing well, and then this thing hit, those that make sure they stay lean but keep their marketing up, keep their brand presence up, and all that. They make sure by the time during this correction and down and when the economy is more down, they then thrive when they come back.

The ones that cut too deeply can get hurt and the ones that don’t cut enough can get hurt because their burn rate doesn’t go down. That’s existing companies. Starting a company, taking 3 to 6 months to truly validate your business model and position in it, and then starting to build the product and the infrastructure keeping a lean, taking 6, 9, 12 months to do the things you should do anyway. The things that in a good time, you might prematurely scale and rush it too much. This is a great time to set the table so that you can enjoy the feast when the economy comes back. Does that make sense?

Absolutely. What you say is though everyone needs to make a paycheck. You’ve got to eat and pay your rent. This is a time to be methodic. The market is not asking anyone to rush unless you’re developing a vaccine. The market is allowing you to be thoughtful in the thought as you talked about validation, using this time to validate. That’s interesting advice.

I’m a big believer in lean startups. The lean startup doctrine is true. I’ve proved it and I’ve had the experience for many years. I’ve seen it work. I’ve also participated and read massive longitudinal studies. Lean startup works. Lean startup doctrine is there’s a validation phase, build phase, and growth phase to businesses. The validation phase is when you are contacting your target customers and users to find out what is the magic business model that they will accept and work with you on. That can be done while you’re employed and earning a paycheck and while you’re not putting full time into it.

It will take you longer to validate as opposed to being full time of validation. This is a great time to take your time and validate thoroughly. When the economy starts coming back and it’s easier to raise money and capital to fund your runway, or to get customers, then you can be devising those systems for sales, onboarding activation, and customer service, and then going into a strong growth phase. This is antithetical. It’s like Warren Buffett. When others are selling, you’re buying. What others are buying, you’re selling. This is the same thing. A lot of people would be in trenches, “I’ve got to get a job. Entrepreneurship doesn’t work.” This is a great time to launch something and validate it.

Let me switch topics on you here, John. You were at one time named one of the Top 25 Entrepreneurship Professors in the country. Interestingly, for those of those reading this who don’t know you, you left the world of formal education. In fact, one time, as I understand it, you called it broken. We’re seeing that formal education is reinventing itself by force, simply because people are afraid to go back on campus. Online learning is now a necessity, not just a nicety of education. Talk to us a little bit about your views of formal education. How do you see it further evolving? What does it have to do to be relevant and helpful to the people that you mentor?

There have been massive studies on this. There is a crisis in higher education that has gone back for many years. There’s easy money with loans and grants to students that have paid inflated tuitions that go up 7% a year and fund high salaries for professors and PhDs in academics. That’s all been finding good for that. The disconnect started emerging where the purpose of a college education for most parents and students is to get a job and earn income, but that’s number seven on the professor’s list. Number one on the professor’s list is to help them think better. Number one on the parent’s and the student’s list is to get a great job. There’s a disconnect there.

It turns out that universities in America have an important purpose but they were more about teaching how to think like the professors think as opposed to imbuing the skills for the workplace that companies and employers need. There are only about 10 or 12 majors that have a positive ROI where you spend money on education and put that degree to work and get a job, and you have a positive ROI. There are not many of them. A lot of research shows that. There are some broken systems in all of that. That’s why a lot of the bootcamps, adult education, and online education have emerged where you can go and get quick skills training and get the skills needed by the workplace. Also, what companies and CEOs are wanting in their workers. This is important.

Universities though will never go away and should never go away because it’s important that a young person leaves their home and goes and congregates with other peers and gets training that will help them become productive adults. The thing that happens magically in universities is you bring people together that are smart and have ideas, and they start having collisions. What that means is their hunches of how things should be or what could be better in society and all that, collide with other hunches and form strong ideas. The value of a university is not degreed education as much as it is the collisions that happen at a university.

That’s why Harvard, for instance, is valuable. It’s not the degree from Harvard, but the collisions with other Harvard students and professors. Those collisions that happen of people and ideas coming together to create more than the sum of the parts. That’s why universities are important, but universities do need to focus more on imbuing skills. It’s not just to become a vocational place, but the skills. For instance, computer science is broken. Computer science at a university does not teach a person how to become a 10x software engineer that can help a company build products.

Real business happens in sales. Click To Tweet

They’re teaching people esoteric, nebulous ways so that they can become a great PhD in algorithmic computer science, which has its place and is important. For instance, at our local university where you and I have helped out, on any given day, there are 1,000 computer science students. Ten percent of them just want to be an entrepreneur and start their own software company. They’re getting no training on how to start that company right. They are being taught nebulous, esoteric algorithmic things that would help a large company trying to do a complex data problem for a specialized thing. They are not for being able to be the coder, the software engineer that can go into a startup company or an emerging company and produce some real product.

That’s why there are many coding bootcamps that emerged over the last decade or so. It’s because, in twelve weeks, they can produce those kinds of coders, at least in a junior developer way. That’s true in a lot of different things. I know I’ve spoken a lot in answer to this question, but it’s an important one. I even took the entrepreneurial education that I was doing at the university and put it into a bootcamp off-campus for this specific reason. I was having students in their senior year come to me and they finally got into my 400-level class that changed their lives. They go, “You’ve changed my life. I’ve spent the last three years here becoming an accounting major and I hate accounting but I’m now on track. I’ve accepted a job at an accounting firm and I hate it, but you showed me a whole new world that there’s this other world that I can be my own entrepreneur, my own boss. I can control my destiny. That’s a viable option in today’s world. I didn’t know that. Why don’t they give this in the freshmen and sophomore years and expose them to this more?”

I started a class to do that and snuck it in at that university. We started changing things here. What happens if you think about university is these great 400-level classes that start giving some skills, you have to matriculate to the university. You have to get good enough grades in general education courses that far afield from what you want to do in order to get into, for instance, a business school. You have to go through another academic filter and few get all the way to a 400-level class to get my training. I said, “Let’s take it off-campus and make it available.”

I was having even the students going, “I had to spend three years just to get to you and now I’m going to do something that my first three years gave me no value for. Also, I had a 32-year-old and I know that I told him about what you trained me in this 400-level class. He wants it but he can’t get into the university and he’s not going to do that.” What’s interesting is when I do this off-campus, I’m helping people from around the world. They fly into Utah or they come from other states and they sit in the same type of training I was doing at the university, but now they’re getting it and it’s helping them. That’s a long answer, but there you go.

It’s worthy of a long answer, so thank you for that. Of course, what you’re referring to is Startup Ignition, which has been successful in helping entrepreneurs, those who’ve been disenchanted with formal education, or they can’t afford it. They can’t afford the time or they just want to make a career move or career switch. You’ve provided a great outlet for that. We’ll make sure that people know more about that. I have one more question for you. Before we go to that last question, John, for those who are interested in what you’re describing as far as Startup Ignition and how they can get your counsel and mentorship, where would they go to explore that possibility?

StartupIgnition.com and my email address is [email protected]. I love answering questions from entrepreneurs. I will give advice and all that. I’m happy to do that. Thank you for asking.

My last question, and you know this is my baby, is the topic of sales. You’ve mentioned it a couple of times, even when we were talking about you and your wife and how you got aligned early on in your marriage. I’m sure those conversations required a lot of persuasion. When another entrepreneur wants to talk to a spouse or parents about getting some seed money, or friends and family to help invest, there are always sales going on from the moment you get the idea. If you could share with those who are reading, how has sales shaped your career? Could you have done what you did throughout your career, what you do now, without developing the skill of selling?

At the most fundamental level, sales is vital and important. I was a sales leader. I came out of my university experience technical and that served me well for a year or two, and then I realized the real place business happens is in sales. I switched to being a sales leader more than a technical leader, which was interesting. One time, I had 40 to 60 sales representatives under me leading a sales effort. They learned all about compensation commission plans, sales motivation, and how sales works, and handling objectives. I led that for a number of years. Even as I became a CEO and during the CEO role, I learned that the CEO’s number one function they should always stay close to is sales. Absolutely 100% sales in everything.

Also, with all the people I’ve mentored over the years, it’s not until they figured out sales that things took off. I tell entrepreneurs, “On the Richter scale of difficulty, finding your tech cofounder is a 3 or 4 because that stymies a lot of people.” It’s the number one problem I usually hear about. I say, “Wait until you have to find your all-star VP of sales or the person who’s going to make sales go in your company. That’s going to be an 8 or 9 or 10 on the Richter scale. You’re going to be at a point where you don’t want to pay that salary or those commissions and you’re going to be too cheap and frugal, and you’re going to hurt your company.”

I have a lot of people I mentor where they go, “John, sales aren’t happening.” I go, “You’re hiring a guy that is happy with a $35,000 base salary and a pittance of commissions. That’s the kind of salesperson you’re hiring. I’m telling you that person that told you they want a $90,000 or $110,000 basis and they’ll make another $100,000 commissions, that’s exactly who you need to hire and you need to make that happen.” I’ll go back and tell you one of my greatest Angel investments of all time is Omniture, which became Adobe Analytics and brought thousands of employees to our local Utah area. I was an early investor in Omniture. I don’t know if you know that or not.

Omniture struggled in this realm for a number of years. Josh James and John Pestana, the Founders of Omniture, finally came to me and told me one day that they cracked and figured it out. They were going through waves of salespeople. They were not getting high-powered enough the right type of salespeople for enterprise software sales. They had little money left in the bank. They found somebody who wanted to make a $125,000 base and earn another $125,000 commissions. They were used to paying $40,000 to $50,000 base salaries.

They bit the bullet and hired that person. In the first month, that guy brings in $800,000 in revenue. They go, “Is this what we’ve been doing wrong?” They hired three more people and 1 of those 3 in the next three months landed a $5 million a year, three-year contract, a $15 million sale. The rest is history. They went on to sell the company for $2 billion. The inflection point that was most important, even though they’re all important to come together, was that salesperson coming in and being able to make sales go.

John, I have to ask you though if you have a great product, won’t it sell itself?

GFEP 17 | Entrepreneur Mentor

Entrepreneur Mentor: Great products don’t always just sell themselves.

 

The streets of hell are paved with good intentions. It’s just said that way. Great products don’t always just sell themselves. There are some consumer products that do that way a little bit. We know that. If you’re involved in any kind of personal selling, direct sales, or enterprise type of sales, it’s not that way.

John, this has been great. Thank you for sharing with us a collection of your experiences and your wisdom. There’s more we could dive into from everything that you’ve shared. If people want to learn more, you’ve given us your email address, [email protected]. They can learn more about you. I’m sure they’ll want to connect with you on LinkedIn as well. I know you’re active on that. Thank you. You’ve been a great example and mentor to many people. I hope that continues. I hope you’ll do it until they put you in the coffin, John, because you’ve got a lot to give.

Thank you, Rob. It’s been an honor. Also, thanks for doing this and giving back to the ecosystem and for all you’ve done to also mentor and help us mentees and students. You’ve been involved as well. Kudos to you too.

Thank you. Thanks for being a part of this episode of Game Face Execs. If you found any of it useful or helpful, please rate or like and subscribe to our YouTube channel. I always appreciate you referring this to others as well. I’ll see you next episode. Until then, persuade, influence, inspire.

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About John Richards

GFEP 17 | Entrepreneur MentorEntrepreneur | Investor | Mentor | Professor | Executive

Entrepreneur: Co-founder of several ventures leading to high-multiple exits.

Investor: Active angel investor having directly invested in scores of new and mature ventures as well as hundreds more through investment funds.

Mentor: Give much time to mentor startup entrepreneurs, having mentored thousands.

Professor: Teach entrepreneurship (lean startup) at leading universities.

Executive: C-level executive with substantial early-stage experience. High premium on Internet, software, and lean startup. Focus has been on advertising and business services. Technically adept. Programmed business solutions before turning full-time attention to management.

Specialties: Accelerators, Advertising, Budgeting, Business policy and strategy, Business-to-business marketing, Cash management, Consulting, Corporate Strategy, Customer service, Database, Database: concepts, eBusiness, Electronic commerce, Entrepreneurial finance, Entrepreneurship, Family-owned business, Internet – B2B & B2C, Lean Startup, Management: consulting, Personal selling and sales management, Social entrepreneurship, Strategic alliances, Technology: impact on people at work.

GFEP 16 | Quibi Shutdown

 

Six months after highly anticipated Quibi’s launch, this unique union of technology and entertainment for consumers closed its doors on October 22, 2020. In this exclusive interview with Rob Cornilles, battle-tested Meg Whitman pulls back the Quibi curtain to give us a greater understanding of why this startup failed amidst the crazy conditions of 2020. But in true entrepreneur fashion, Meg opines about her other investments—particularly Major League Soccer and esports. Full of wise counsel, keen observations and an admirable self-awareness, the indomitable Meg Whitman is this episode’s Game Face Exec.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Meg Whitman | Tending The Trends

Most business observers would agree that the biggest story coming out of the tech and entertainment industries was the unwinding of Quibi. A once highly anticipated consumer tech product launched on April 2020 by entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and headed up by Meg Whitman, this episode’s featured guest of Game Face Execs. Before voluntarily shutting down Quibi on October 22nd, 2020, Meg, one of the most respected executives of the last 30 or more years, took a startup called eBay from $4 million to $8 billion in ten years. She led Hewlett Packard as President and CEO, and she even mounted an impressive campaign for California Governor on the Republican ticket in the 2010 election. I’m pleased to bring you the second interview Meg has given since she and Mr. Katzenberg announced the dissolution of Quibi.

Everyone at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, it’s my pleasure and honor to introduce our first keynoter to kick off our 2020 conference, Meg Whitman. Meg, thanks for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time.

I’m happy to be here.

We’ve had this on the docket for a long time to speak with you, thanks to Jeff Berding and the other folks at FC Cincinnati, for whom you are a Managing Partner and minority owner. We’re so grateful that you’ve joined the sports industry in November of 2019. It’s been something that we’ve been looking forward to. Let’s get into it. This is a crazy time for everybody. COVID, pandemic, the economy, and the election season. There’s so much going on. Certainly in your life, a lot has been going on. That’s the worst kept secret. Tell us what it’s been like for you and Quibi.

You might recall that Jeffrey Katzenberg and I founded Quibi in August of 2018 with this idea of premium short-form content for your mobile device for in-between moments on the go. We launched in the middle of the pandemic. We did all kinds of things to pivot the business to try to make a go of it and ultimately, we decided that the best thing to do, and we announced this was to wind down Quibi and return cash to shareholders, which most folks don’t do but we’re mature business executives. We’ve been around the block and we decided that was the best thing to do. We were heartbroken. It was disappointing. We had such high hopes for the business, but startups are risky and we launched as you point out in a difficult time so that’s what we announced.

Startups are risky, and most startups don’t make it. In the technology world, it’s probably even more a precarious situation. A lot of us in the sports and entertainment world sometimes feel like startups and now in this environment, it feels like everyone’s a startup because we’re having to reinvent so much. Either from the past and also over the course of your career, what are some things you could perhaps share with us best practices or lessons learned about how you launch a product? Also, perhaps you could share with us how you gracefully exit a product.

All startups rely on entrepreneurs and I would say one of the things I love about the sports industry is it is a group of entrepreneurs, people who are doing things that haven’t been done before and they’re constantly reinventing. Entrepreneurs are a special breed, they are because they see things that most people don’t see and they’re willing to take bets that most people might not be willing to take. Whenever you’re thinking about starting something new, I always look at what are the trends? What makes you believe that you can be successful? What is the open space in the market? What is going to be your point of difference? Who do you think is going to be your competition?

Probably everyone in this meeting has had to go through that. We live in a unique time. Things are changing incredibly rapidly. It’s uncertain so the lesson learned for now is how do you stay flexible? How do you think through what you thought was a good idea maybe two weeks ago might not seem such a great idea anymore? Flexibility and adapting to the set of circumstances. I also think as regards to COVID, we’re in this for the long haul. What you can see is COVID has gone in waves. Until there’s a vaccine, we’re going to be in this situation.

I would say hold your resources tight. This is going to be a longer fight than any of us thought. In any way you can be thoughtful about stewarding the financial resources of your organization will stand you in good stead. We have lots of resources. We could have gone until next summer, but we didn’t see a way out and we didn’t see a way that this business was going to be successful so we decided to return cash to shareholders. That’s not the situation most of you are in but that financial stewardship is important.

As you’re talking about that, Meg, one thing that strikes me is both for you and Mr. Katzenberg, there had to be a sense of humility about what you were doing because you talk about returning cash to shareholders. In this dynamic environment and the flexibility that’s required to live in it, all of us being able to say, “We have a great idea. Maybe it wasn’t the timing.” We’ve seen that in sports. We have great ideas, promotions, a way to sell a new suite or a sponsorship package. How do you communicate those messages to the people who you wanted previously to trust you and to trust your judgment?

Entrepreneurs are a special breed. They see things that most people don't and take bets that most people are not willing to. Click To Tweet

Communication is super important. What I’ve learned over the last few years is going directly to your customers, if it’s a customer issue, is the best thing that you can do. Go directly to the people that you’re trying to reach, whether it’s through social media or something like Medium which is where a lot of people put out what they’re trying to get across. It’s 1 or 2 well thought out media placements, but it’s a completely different world.

Fans and other folks expect to be reached out to personally and if you’re talking to executives in your organization, executive communication is an art. I’m sure that most of you guys know that executives don’t have a lot of time and they’re hopping from thing to thing to thing. Always start the meeting with, “Remember where I left you last time.” It’s great for boards of directors too because they come in every 3 or 4 months. It’s like, “Remember where we left you last?” Many people say, “Of course, they remember where you left us last,” but often, they don’t, and so make your point. I schooled early on as a young executive with the answer first, “What’s the answer? What’s the supporting data?” Tell them the answer again.

You talked about the way that we should lead our teams, crisis management and change management are big topics. That’s why communications are important. When a sports team is going through a situation now where we don’t know for example, when our fans are going to, in full, be able to come back to the stadium or the arena. I am not asking you to write our communications plan for us. What are some key points you think that we ought to be considering and remembering when communicating out about the uncertainty that’s still in front of us?

I would say authenticity. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know. Fans and consumers are good at ferreting out authentic communication versus corporate speak. Authentic communication, on the part where maybe the players, coaches, or individuals who manage that interaction with fans can speak for you is super important. People need to know that you’re telling them what you know and in this situation, sometimes you don’t know and it’s okay to say that, but we’re doing our best to bring you back as soon as we can in a safe way. Authenticity is the one thought I would leave you with in nowadays environment.

Am I incorrect in assuming that perhaps in recent business memory, there hasn’t been a time when authenticity, genuineness, truthfulness, and candor have been more important?

That’s right. We haven’t seen anything like this. I’ve never seen anything like this in my career. I bet everyone who’s at this conference has never seen anything like this but there’s been a trend towards this, for sure, towards that authentic communication, that realness. It’s important and it’s been a trend that’s a long time coming but now people value it.

It’s also refreshing, isn’t it? I’ve said this before, so those who know me forgive the repetition, but when you’re honest, you can have a short memory. You don’t have to remember, “How did we put that last time?” There’s a difference between honesty and bluntness. I’m sure you’ve had to learn that throughout your career because of how you communicate it. I could tell my spouse, “I hate that outfit you bought.” That would be blunt and honest, but probably not appropriate. Maybe you have some experience with that. How do you measure or balance between bluntness so people go, “She tells it like it is,” but also tact and always keeping that bridge of honesty between them?

The first thing is to remember who you’re talking to and where they are in their journey of understanding. In the example you use, your wife will never understand that. That probably wouldn’t be a good strategy. Where are people in their journey of understanding? I also, if you can, try to listen as much as I speak because if you can let people speak and speak their mind, even if the decision doesn’t go their way they feel heard. That’s true for fans and executives. People understand and feel, “At least I got heard. The decision didn’t go my way or the conversation wasn’t exactly the way I would have done it,” they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

That’s good advice. Speaking of advice, let’s turn a little bit towards your decisions to get involved in sports. As aggressively and actively as you are now in Major League Soccer and FC Cincinnati, what was it about that league, franchise, market, and certainly about sports as a whole, where you decided to make such a significant investment of your time and resources?

Sports is one of the great industries in America. When I invest, I invest behind trends because what I have learned in my long career is better to have the wind at your back because all boats rise in a rising tide as opposed to gale force winds at one space and I’ve done it both ways. eBay was wind at my back and HP was gale force winds because many of our businesses when I started were businesses that were on the wrong side of history. The trends were wrong. They were declining markets.

GFEP 16 | Quibi Shutdown

Quibi Shutdown: Fans and consumers are good at ferreting out authentic communication versus corporate speak.

 

When our family office was looking at sports, we said, “What are the sports that we think are the sports of the future that are growing and have the potential to grow huge audiences from where they are now?” We identified two. Soccer would be one, particularly in the United States because it’s not as well established here. Second, we’re an investor in eSports. In both of those, if you look at the numbers, it’s up to the right. We said, “Those are the two sports we want to invest in.” You start saying, “What about the ownership group?” Because we were not going to be a majority owner of either, although we are the majority owner of the Immortals Gaming Club in LA, we knew we weren’t necessarily going to be the majority owner so your business partners are super important.

If I’ve learned one thing in my 40 or so years, it matters who you’re in business with. Honesty, integrity, values, and a similar outlook on the world. We looked at a lot of different clubs and a lot of different opportunities. We felt aligned with Carl Lindner and his ownership group. We said, “These people view the world the same way we do. They’re super honest, with high integrity, and they want to do the things for players, fans, investors, and for the city.” We got quite comfortable with Cincinnati as a smaller market because if you look at soccer, some of the smaller markets like Portland, where you used to live, are among the most successful franchises. Sometimes when you’re in a smaller market where you don’t have 4, 5, or 6 big sports teams, sometimes that’s a good place to launch something like a new soccer club, so that’s how he decided.

You also have tremendous familiarity with Cincinnati because earlier in your professional career, as everyone knows, you worked for Procter & Gamble as Account Manager, at that time and Product Manager. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Assistant Brand Manager.

Thank you. I didn’t even know they call them brand managers.

Back in the day, they did.

Not to suggest anything about back in the day.

It was back in the day.

About Cincinnati, have you always kept ties there? I know, professionally, you’ve been on the board of P&G for a number of years. That market was attractive to you not only because of the size but perhaps the culture.

I had kept ties there and it had been on the board but that was not a determinant factor. There are lots of other similarly sized cities that we thought could be equally attractive. It was a bonus for us that I happen to have contacts there and know the city a little bit better than I otherwise would have. It was a more generalized approach to what’s the sport? What’s the ownership group? Does the city make sense?

Invest behind trends. It’s better to have the wind at your back than have gale force winds to your face. Click To Tweet

I would also like to add if I could and I want to get your comment on this, the leadership not only at the franchise level but at the league level of Major League Soccer has done such an impressive job in growing the sport and spreading the influence of soccer around North America. Don Garber and Mark Abbott are friends of mine and friends of yours. Share some thoughts because you’ve been in many corporate environments. You’ve been in so many board meetings. Give us some thoughts about the leadership of Major League Soccer.

They’ve done a nice job and it’s been a long build. People always think when something is successful that it is an overnight success. Isn’t it amazing what they’ve done? If you look at what Don has been working on with his team, it’s a twenty-year journey with some significant ups and downs in the beginning but I have to say they’ve done a nice job. In startups, often you say, “Something is about to hit the knee of the curve.” Do you know what I mean by that? It goes along and all of a sudden it takes off. Soccer is at that inflection point, which is an exciting time to be an owner and be involved in that sport.

Whether you’re a soccer team or football and I mean the American football, baseball, basketball, or what have you, we’re all trying to create content. We’re trying to stay relevant and be interesting to our fan base and even our would-be fan base. You’re a content expert. You’ve been in technology, essentially your entire career but content also seems to be so whimsical by many people. In other words, they throw something out there and hope that it goes viral. They think that that’s how you produce content. Give us some insight into, as an expert in content creation and content delivery, what are some principles or even some practices that certain entities always need to keep in mind?

The first thing when I think about creating content, marketing programs, or anything is the number one thing which is market segmentation. Who are you trying to reach? Within that, who are the sub-segments that are most important to you? If you think about the fan base for any of these sports, they’re incredibly diverse, older, younger, male, female, high income, low income. Think about psychographics. The first question that I always ask, and every tough business problem I’ve ever had had often yields to segmentation. How do you segment that market? Who were you going after? Usually being all things to all people or sinking to the lowest common denominator doesn’t usually work.

That’s the first thing I’d say. Given you have you want to go after 1, 2, or 3 segments, what is it about that segment that they’re looking for? Are they looking for behind the scenes player stories, the history of a team, or the history of the sport? What are they looking for that they don’t get today? What they mostly get now is the game and excellent commentary about that game but they don’t necessarily get the backstory. If you think, there’s always been a backstory and that’s interesting. Maybe a modern version of Hard Knocks, that kind of thing. I think you have to think through and what are the trends out there in the marketplace. The trends out there are definitely back to authenticity and user-generated content. We’re so used to, in my generation, having everything be flawless. I would say that perfect is the enemy of good.

Sometimes if it’s too perfect, it doesn’t appear to capture the imagination particularly of the younger audience. I do think content is, to some degree, a hit or miss program. It’s different. What it’s like, and you’ll relate to this, politics. Content is nonlinear. Sometimes things that people think are not going to make it at all or a total mess end up being a hit and vice versa. Part of this is experimentation. Try things and if it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t work, don’t do that and pivot to something else. Those of you who are thinking about content, that experimentation is super important and when you find something that works, do more of it.

How much of that is based on analytics, the science of it versus intuition and maybe some dumb luck once in a while?

I have learned this spending a few years in Hollywood. This is a blend and this was the basis of Quibi, which is the joining forces of Silicon Valley, which is a left-brained, analytical, engineering-oriented view with Hollywood, which is completely right-brained and intuition. If you can bring them together, that’s sometimes the magic but I will tell you creatives are different than engineers. Sometimes you have to let the creatives tell you what their vision is and let them do it. Not at any cost but you have to let them. They do things that are quite magical, and I would count myself among them, the left brain often doesn’t see. It’s a blend but you don’t want to do stuff that makes no sense that has no basis in data, facts, or analytics. There’s a nice merger there that if appropriately managed, you end up with some great offerings.

It’s finding that sweet spot, that perfect middle of the road.

Experimentation. Experiment.

GFEP 16 | Quibi Shutdown

Quibi Shutdown: Try things and if it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t work, don’t do that and pivot to something else.

 

One of the challenges we have in the sports industry is that we want to be out there. We want to be present and we want to create platforms by which our fans can engage with us and us with them. You mentioned politics. Let me talk about something that’s somewhat political, and I’m not asking for your personal opinion on this, but rather, your advice on how we might handle it. There have been a lot of talks about platform companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. getting called on the carpet in Washington, DC because of content, not only creation but perhaps control. Where I’m going with this Meg is, let’s say I run a Major League Soccer team. I want my fans to engage with our website or with our social platforms but perhaps some of that content that they’re producing the commentary gets a little bit far afield from where we want to be, and we want to be what we want to be known as. How do we keep that control while also keeping it authentic, real, and not to be perfect like you were suggesting?

My personal view is that every organization, team, or group that you’re associated with has to have a moral compass. The question I always ask my teams is, “What is the right thing to do?” This is a complicated question because you and I might have a slightly different point of view about what the right thing to do is, but it is incumbent upon the leadership of that organization to make the moral calls. My view is everyone needs to make a call about, are they doing the thing, not for that moment, click, or headline? Are they doing the thing for their team, the players, and the country? It’s super important.

I’ll tell you a little story that will bring this home. When I was at eBay, our point of view was that if it was legal for sale in the United States or whatever country in the world we were doing business, that it would be legal for sale on eBay, until we got to household names status. You’ll be interested to know that it’s legal to sell Nazi memorabilia in the United States. It’s not legal in France, it’s not legal in Germany, but it is legal here. Ultimately, we decided that that was not a category of merchandise that we wanted to be involved in. We also decided not to sell over the internet firearms, alcohol, and tobacco because you don’t quite know who’s buying those products when you’re on the internet, so we decided not to sell those.

These were moral issues that ultimately came down to me and our founder, Pierre Omidyar. Other people might have come down on the different places when we got out of those two categories, two new websites popped up and did the great distance in those categories. We didn’t feel bad about it, because there’s something that I call the character of the company. The character of the organization. People say, “How do you make those decisions because particularly if you’re doing business overseas, the Koreans might have a different point of view than the French and the Germans or whatever?” I say, “Usually, this works. If your mother, someone you care about, your dad, or your sister, or someone you love and respect within the room watching you make that decision, would you make the same decision? If that doesn’t work, if it was on the front page of the New York Times or your local newspaper, would you make the same decision?” That’s the thing that is super important for organizations.

A great rule of thumb to follow and you’re answering my follow-up question. You’ve been working with national and international brands your entire career. If I’m a minor league baseball team in the mid-market, I’m not looking for national attention, but I’m not trying to appeal to a national audience. I’m trying to appeal to my local market, the culture of that community. Does that weigh into the decision as to whether or not we should allow certain things versus others?

It depends on what it is and it comes back to the owner, the president, the CEO, the coach, or whoever is in charge of that decision. How did they feel about it? Does it reflect well on them? Does it reflect well on the brand they’re trying to create? People will come out in different places and that’s okay as long as people have said, “How do I feel about this?” As opposed to, “It might be good for my business, but I don’t feel great about it.”

From your experience and where you see the world now, what are some trends? You talked about trends. You like to follow the trends to have the wind at your back. I know you’ve been busy with Quibi and other things being on the board of P&G, but for the sports industry, what are some trends that perhaps you think we’re missing, especially as it relates to technology? What are some trends that we need to be keeping an eye on now?

The sports teams are doing well in this dimension, in many ways. For FC Cincinnati, we’re building a new stadium and what’s always great is when you have a de novo site so we have a de novo stadium, a brand-new stadium so we can take every bit of technology and put it into that idea. You have to think, for example, holistically about the fan experience and your connectivity in that stadium is critical. Think about what you want those fans to be able to do.

You want them to be able to navigate to their seat off of their smartphone, be able to find the restroom with the shortest line, be able to order food from their seat and they want to go to the concession stand with where’s the shortest line. You also want them to be able to replay something they saw on the field that was cool. Think about it. You’ve got a big stadium, a soccer stadium with 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 folks and/or an NFL stadium with many more than that. Think about the replay and the bandwidth requirements on that stadium. That fan experience with technology can be completely differentiated. That’s super important.

Also collecting the data about what your fans are doing, not by name, not by Rob or Meg but collectively, what are they doing and what can you learn from that? It’s back to what do they like that you’re doing and how can you give them more of it versus things that they’re not taking advantage of. All of that I would call that big data and analytics. It’s super important and every company now should think of themselves as a technology company.

Perfect is the enemy of good. Click To Tweet

If you don’t have a data scientist, a data engineer, or an analytics team, and you don’t have a good chief information officer, you’re probably falling behind. You may not know it yet, but you’re falling behind. By the way, it’s less expensive now given cloud computing. When we set up eBay, I don’t know how much money we spent building our own data center, buying all the servers, and getting it out but now when we launched eBay, we basically built this app completely in the cloud. The capital costs were dramatically less. Technology isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be, which means the barriers to entry are less but it also means smaller teams can compete with bigger teams and bigger teams can do things. It’s a real addition and a real enabler of fundamentally evolving the fan experience.

This evolution that you’re describing, we’re seeing it in real-time now as you and I are talking the World Series is 1 or 2 games away from completing. The NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup wrapped up. We’re seeing sports in a way that none of us would have imagined since COVID hit. What’s your view of it? As a fan, how do you do your sports now? Do you like it? Are you tired of watching it on TV? Do you want to get out there?

I will tell you that once sports were completely shut down, our household went into withdrawal. We missed watching sports on TV. We missed going but probably everyone else watches more on TV. We missed it dramatically. We look at each other on a Saturday or Sunday and go, “Where are our sports?” We missed that and now that it’s back on television, we miss going to the venue. We happen to like doing that. It’s where we’d meet friends and see people. It’s part of being something greater than yourself. It’s being part of a team effort. Even though you’re a fan and you’re not helping but you’re cheering them on. Particularly in soccer, the fans are wild in a good way. We miss not being able to go in person but I will tell you our household is happy that sports is back on TV.

You mentioned that the Coronavirus, the pandemic is going to be here for a while. That’s your viewpoint. Do you think this way of observing sports is going to be with us for the next several months or years?

I do. It may be well worth it into 2021. Honestly, you’ve seen it. You see these waves of spikes in the virus and this is not going to return to any sense of normal until we have a vaccine. I’m not a scientist, but my husband is. That’s going to be mid-2021 would be my guess. The other thing to think about and it’s important for your audience, is to think about how many different ways there are now to consume sports. It’s not only for TV. It’s mobile and streaming services.

The ability to give your fans what they want to see when they want to see it, how they want to pay for it, that flexibility is going to be super important. Over time, these big media contracts start to dissipate in importance over time, because if you look at the television viewing audience, it’s going straight down. If you’re under the age of 30 and I’m sure your audience knows this, the television viewing of the younger audience is strikingly low. That’s something that as you think about capturing the next generation, we’re all going to have to be focused on.

We have to be creative and innovative. That’s why conferences like ALSD are important to our industry’s future. Can I clarify something you were talking about? Do you see the model that we’re going to have to pursue being more subscription-based or PPV, Pay-Per-View? Do you see it more still on the ad generated side?

All of the above. It’s not going to be like pick one and go with it. It’s going to be, “What’s your ad-supported venue? What’s your subscription offering? What’s your streaming offering? That could be the same as a subscription offering.” We’re going to have to think carefully. Back to market segmentation, what are the offerings that we’re going to have to make available to our fans?

The way that you’re talking about sports, I have to ask you, based on where you’re at now and where you spend your time moving forward, are we going to see you more involved in FC Cincinnati or in other sports enterprises or projects?

When asked, Carl Lindner is the majority owner of FC Cincinnati. When he asks, I certainly try to help in any way I can if I’ve got ideas. I also believe that someone has to be in charge. Too many cooks in the kitchen and you end up not being as smart as you can be. I will be as involved as Carl would like me to be in FC Cincinnati. I’m spending a fair amount of time on eSports, our LA franchise, and our gaming platform in Brazil. I don’t happen to be a gamer, but I can see the trends and I’ll spend more time on those two things, for sure. We’ll see what happens next, but I enjoy it. It’s great fun. It’s quite different than anything I’ve ever done before. Major league sports are different from working for Procter & Gamble, for a beta company, eBay, or Disney. It’s a bit more entrepreneurial and a little bit less linear.

GFEP 16 | Quibi Shutdown

Quibi Shutdown: Technology isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be, which means the barriers to entry are less, but it also means smaller teams can compete with bigger teams.

 

You’ve talked several times about following the trends. Let me ask you on behalf of those people who are reading, where they see a trend, not so much with their business or their industry, but with their career. That trend is something that they don’t like and they’re saying, “I’ve got to switch things up. This is not going the direction that I had hoped.” I’m asking this, Meg, because you’ve worked at Procter & Gamble, Disney, eBay, Hewlett Packard, Quibi, and now you’re working in MLS, you’ve seen times in your career when it was time to move, it was time to make an adjustment or a pivot. Can you give those of us who perhaps are considering a pivot in our own career some advice on what are the things we should be looking for? What are the things that we should be avoiding when making those kinds of career decisions?

Let me reframe it for you because I don’t think it’s about leaving something, it’s going to something. Usually, you make a mistake if you’re trying to get away from something. When it works is when you see something clearly that is interesting and has a big opportunity for you. It’s more about what is coming your way? What’s happening in the world that you think is interesting that you have a passion for? Passion is an important thing and it’s what I admire about most people in sports. They care about their job, the league, the players, or the sport and it is a team sport. I would say, as opportunities come your way, I would look at a couple of things. What are the trends like? Will the wind be at your back? Who are the people you’re going to be doing it with? You spend a lot of time at work and it’s important for you to respect, like, and trust the people that you’re going to do business with.

Trust is paramount for me because even when you’re in a foxhole, as we were with Quibi, Jeffrey and I trusted each other. There was never any backbiting and snarkiness. That’s super important because you don’t know what way things are going to go. Lastly, I would say is it a stretch for you or is it something where you’re going to learn something? I learned a ton from Quibi. I’m not at the beginning of my career anymore. What are you going to learn? Something I always ask particularly if you’re going to go to something that’s a little bit riskier and people have to evaluate their risk profile. People have different risk profiles. I happen to have a high-risk profile but what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Like when I went to eat that, I said, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? I’ll get another job.” When I went to HP, a lot of people said I should not go to HP. I said, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? I’ll figure it out,” but you have to be prepared for the worst thing that can happen and I would not be paralyzed by fear. I would lean into the possibilities and to have courage. That old phrase, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

I’d like to wrap up if we could by giving you several quick questions and maybe you could give us what comes to mind first. I was going to call these quick bites.

It’s okay. You can still call them quick bites. What we did is create a new category of mobile viewing so it’s fine.

It continues to live on and be a part of our culture. Here’s the first quick bite for you. If you are a sales or a team leader, what’s a book you should be reading?

Experimentation Works by a guy named Stefan Thomke. It’s relatively new and it’s a good read.

If you’re a new executive in the sports and entertainment industry, maybe not long after college has joined our industry, what’s a book we ought to be reading?

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re new to the business, you’ve got to read Good to Great. It’s in the business. Everyone has to read Good to Great. I’ve probably read it 4 or 5 times and I’m sure you’ve read it. It’s one of those great Hallmark touchdown books.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Click To Tweet

It should be in everybody’s library. Who’s your favorite athlete?

That’s a hard one because I tend to be admiring female athletes but I have to say probably now, LeBron James. I’ll tell you why. He’s been incredible. He has a raw athletic talent and how he’s conducted himself has been remarkable. I’m particularly admiring of the work that he’s been doing with his school and now schools out of Akron, Ohio called I Promise. Education happens to be a passion of mine so what he did is for these challenged kids who have all kinds of family issues, poverty, and all kinds of things. He figured he had to do almost like a surround sound so he helped the parents and gave folks a place to live. He had small classes focused on these kids and the results are extraordinary. He’s done a remarkable job in Akron and he’s now starting to roll them out. I admire his athletic prowess, him as a human being, and what he’s done for education.

You talk about education being important to you. I remember that about you when you ran for Governor of California in 2010. Here’s the next quick bite. What lessons did you learn running for such a public office that we all should be applying?

Thick skin.

Alligator skin.

When you are in public office and when you’re in business, but particularly running for public office or in public office it’s almost guaranteed that only half the people are going to like what you’re doing at any given point in time. Meaning half the people are not. The barbs, the arrows, and the things that come at you are remarkable. I ran in 2010. Think about what’s happened in the last decade or so, it’s even worse now. That’s the first thing, you’ve got to have a thick skin no matter what you do. Once you’ve decided you’re doing the thing, you have to block it out and say, “This is what I’m going to do until I’ve been proven that I’ve made a mistake or something.” That’s the first thing.

The second thing I learned is communication. Having spent a career in business, I was good at talking to analysts, shareholders, board members, and my teams. What I learned in politics was to talk to large groups of people. Think about how you do that. It’s different. The facts and the figures. The left brain is not nearly as powerful as the brain. It’s the stories that you tell. Look at when the President does the State of the Union Addresses. Both parties tell stories. Why do they have the people up on the balcony? It’s because they’re telling stories about those folks and people to remember the stories. I promise you, they do not remember the analysis, the facts, and figures. They do remember the stories.

I’m a better CEO because of that. When I went to HP, it turned out HP was about exactly the same size as the State of California. Same budget and the same number of people so I said, “We’ve got to change HP. We’ve got to pull HP into the 21st century.” I borrowed a lot of things I’ve learned in politics from a communications perspective to lead at HP. The last thing is we should be glad that anyone wants to run for public office. I know you ran for public office and we both lost but that’s not the point. The point is how can you give back and whether it’s the city council, school board, state senate, or state assembly. People should think about getting involved because if people at this conference don’t get involved, we’re missing out on some real talent that is going to be needed over the next decades of this country.

I couldn’t agree more. I have a follow-up question to that but before the follow-up question, since you mentioned that we do have that one thing in common where we both ran. We happen to run the same year. I was in Oregon and you were in California. Would you agree with this lesson that I learned, which was, your friends may disappoint you but strangers will amaze you? Did you learn that?

Absolutely. You probably found it. You were running for Congress so you weren’t traveling the whole state, I was running for governor so I got to see California in a way I’d never seen California. I went to all but two counties. I saw the Central Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. It was incredible and everyone who runs for office comes away thinking their state or their country and the people are quite extraordinary. What you learn from being out and about is an incredible life lesson. I’m glad I did it. It changed my life and it changed how I think about politics and our state. It was a wrenching experience in many ways but it was also a good experience.

GFEP 16 | Quibi Shutdown

Quibi Shutdown: People don’t remember the analysis, the facts, and figures. They remember the stories.

 

You took the words out of my mouth. You said it better than I could and you said it better than I’ve tried to say it in the past. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask on behalf of our audience if the right opportunity came about, could you see yourself throwing your hat back into the public ring?

I don’t think I will run again for public office. Running for office for me was one of the lessons learned, it was a bad job person fit. What I mean by that is to run for public office you need to be a combatant. You need to love combat and you know this. When you’re doing a media interview, you say up, they say down and if you say down, they say up. It’s a given. It’s a combat sport and now is a full-on combat sport. I’m not wired for combat. I’d love to compete but that constant eight hours a day. It’s why litigators are excellent politicians. They love that and they’re good at it. I found it to be incredibly difficult and incredibly wearing so I would not run again, that’s for sure.

I understand what you’re saying. I appreciate your self-awareness because anyone running for office needs to have that before they throw themselves into it.

I thought I was pretty competitive. I was raised playing sports. I love to win and compete. It’s a whole other realm. It’s a completely different thing than competing in business or in sports.

We’ll have to talk some other time more about this topic. I have one more question for you that everyone would be interested to hear your answer. If you could sit at someone else’s desk for one day, who would that person be?

I’ll give you one, maybe you’ll find it surprising. Angela Merkel, the head of Germany, Prime Minister of Germany, or Chancellor of Germany. She is a remarkable woman. Think how long she has been in office. Think about her role in pulling together the European Union, which is fraying, embracing some things that were unpopular in her country like immigration, and how she has forged relationships with other European leaders. It would be fascinating. The crazy thing is, as you probably know, she was born in East Germany. She has risen to power and unified Germany. She’s been one of the probably most influential and successful leaders of that country. I’d sit behind her desk for a day and see what she knew.

That is a fascinating answer and it did surprise me, but I can see you’d be a great fit there. Meg, this has been rewarding for all of us. I appreciate you taking the time. We’re so grateful in the sports entertainment industry that we’ve got you, the benefit of your intellect, your experience, and your vision. We certainly look forward to having your participation even to a larger extent if you let us. Thank you for joining us at ALSD and at Game Face. We appreciate this.

You’re entirely welcome. Thanks for having me.

Important Links:

GFEP 15 | New England Patriots

 

Every industry is led by a brand that at one time or another dominates. Their innovation, their next move or pronouncement both intimidates and inspires. Perhaps no logo in the 21st century has produced such praise and trepidation as the NFL’s New England Patriots. Bestselling author Jeff Benedict’s latest work, The Dynasty, explores this team’s unmatched ascent and how players on and off the field made it happen. In this conversation with Rob Cornilles, Jeff goes long, explaining how persuasion, trust and humility built a dynasty, and how seemingly underachieving individuals won together to become champions.

Watch the episode here:

Jeff Benedict | Prolific Pursuer Of Truth

If you could sit down with one person for an hour-long conversation, who would you choose? That’s always an interesting question. A historic figure, a business titan, a celebrity, a famous athlete. Introducing Jeff Benedict, a bestselling author who gets to do that with every project he tackles, whether writing the definitive biography of Tiger Woods or the autobiography for Steve Young. This Game Face Exec invites us into the huddle of his latest bestseller, The Dynasty, an unfiltered look into the most dominant sports organization of the 21st Century, the New England Patriots.

It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to talk to Jeff Benedict, a New York Times bestselling author, a very prolific writer, a keen observer of society and a variety of industries. Jeff and I met many years ago as he was working on a project, which was a funny story of how we met. Jeff is based on the East Coast. He’s taken time from his busy promotional schedule as The Dynasty, his latest bestseller, has been published by Simon & Schuster. Jeff is in the circuit right now, meeting with all kinds of media. He’s agreed to take some time away from his busy schedule to visit with me in this show and our audience. Welcome, Jeff.

Welcome, Robert. It’s great to be on with you and to reconnect with you.

You’re going in many different directions. It was fun to find out what’s going on in your life, but with all the busyness around this great new book, The Dynasty, that you’ve put together, I’m sure our readers are interested in knowing the genesis of writing this book about this historical dynasty called the New England Patriots. Can you walk us through that process when it began? What was the motivation or the inspiration behind it? We’ll dig further into it.

The answer to that is part of a personal journey question. A few years ago, I started working with Steve Young on his autobiography. For me, it was like a wonderful opportunity to write a biography about someone that I had admired since I was a kid, and to write about someone who I believed is excellent in his class. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks who’s ever played in the NFL. While Steve and I were working on his biography, I remember one Monday night, we were in New England because as an ESPN broadcaster, he was covering a Monday night football game in Foxborough. I was tagging along working on the book with him. We were standing on the sideline in Gillette Stadium before the game and the owner, Robert Kraft, came out and was talking to Steve.

Robert admired Steve a lot as most people do in the business. Steve admired Mr. Kraft. Steve also has a great friendship and connection with Tom Brady. As we were standing there, I’m from New England and I was thinking, here we are in the home of the greatest sports dynasty of my generation and of the 21st Century. I’ve been thinking there’s a book here about excellence and how to build success. I went from Steve Young to then doing Tiger Woods’ biography. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer who’s ever lived. Here was another book about someone who was first in class, and who had built this tremendous successful reputation in the industry of golf.

Doing the Patriots was the third in line of a succession of books about not a biography about a quarterback or a golfer, but a biography about an organization that has thrived on excellence for many years and had been dominant in their industry. I wanted to know how did they build this dynasty, this winning machine. Secondly, how did they sustain it for so much longer than any of their predecessors? I thought by getting to the owner, the coach, and the quarterback, who are the three components or the nucleus of that winning tradition, there was a lot to learn there about how to succeed.

Those three components or levels of an organization, ownership, and then management or the person who’s coaching an organization, and those who are responsible for executing, the people on the field. That’s very familiar to those of us in the business world or the non-profit world. We have a board of directors, an executive director, and people in the field. There are a lot of lessons that we can and will learn from reading The Dynasty. Can you give us some insight into some things that you learned by going into that exploration of this historic franchise that you have found are transferable across industry?

I chose to open the book with a scene that most people reading what they assume is a football book are surprised by, which is a scene that takes place in 1962 when Robert Kraft is in his early twenties. He’s still in college at Columbia and his nickname at that point is Bobby. He’s not Mr. Kraft or Robert Kraft. No one knows who he is. He walks into a diner in Boston after midnight. He’s got his buddies. They’re looking the menu board thinking about what they’re going to eat. He’s looking at a pretty girl in front of him in line and trying to figure out, “How can I get her to go on a date with me?” The reason I opened with that scene is because within 24 hours, not only did he get her to go on a date with him, she proposes marriage to him.

Success comes through learning, setbacks and hardship. Click To Tweet

It’s such an unthinkable, unfathomable situation. I use that as an illustration to say that if you look at what happened in that 24 hours between when he met her in the diner, and when she proposed to him a day later in his car, it’s a roadmap to what he’s going to build in New England as the owner of the most successful franchise. It starts with this. It’s the gift of persuasion. That’s something that’s so easily overlooked. He’s not forceful. He doesn’t try to muscle his way into things. He has a great gift of building relationships, doing it quickly and establishing trust.

I springboard from there to his unconventional decision to hire Bill Belichick as his head coach, which if you look back when Robert crafted that, all of the so-called experts in the National Football League were telling him that this would be the biggest business mistake of his career, that hiring Bill Belichick would be something he’d regret for the rest of his life. He didn’t listen to any of the experts. He had an instinct that there was something different about Belichick because he’d studied him and watched the way he teaches the game of football, and the way young players responded to him.

He trusted his instincts and hired him to be a head coach. The third was he allowed Belichick the latitude and the discretion to make a decision that was very controversial at the time, which was to draft a quarterback that no one else wanted, and that everyone else thought wasn’t suitable to succeed in the NFL. Belichick picks a guy named Tom Brady. He does something even more controversial. He goes with Brady in the lineup over the $100 million superstar quarterback, Drew Bledsoe that was on the roster at the time.

To Kraft’s credit, despite how badly he wanted to intervene and force his coach to not do that, he allows him the discretion and the latitude to make the executive decision. He supports him in it. In other words, it gives them the ability to fail. He doesn’t fail. This proved to be a genius move. All of these things are the beginning. This is the foundation of building a dynastic sports organization, the relationship between the owner and the coach, which is a relationship of trust, transparency and reciprocity. It’s a back and forth trust relationship.

The relationship between the owner and the quarterback is more of a familial relationship. It’s more like a father and a son because the owner recognizes that if you look at Tom Brady like an asset, he is the most important asset on the field. The owner wants a relationship with him that isn’t just business. He wants a closer connection to him, an investment that’s more personal. That’s what helps keep Brady in New England for twenty years. Those are the things when I get into the early part of the building of The Dynasty, these are the fundamental building blocks of building a successful sports organization. If you want to look at what separates the Patriots from the Yankees, the Celtics, the 49ers, the Golden State Warriors, this is it.

First of all, we appreciate your not only recognition, but your acknowledgement of the role that persuasion plays in success. This show celebrates the power of persuasion and influencers, people who can inspire and motivate us to do great things. In that story that you’re telling, was every move that Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick made perfectly orchestrated? How much of it was gut instinct? How much of it was judgment? How much did you find was flat out luck?

There were setbacks and failures. Right now, we look at the Patriots and all we think about is winning. For many years, they’ve been dominant. People forget that this organization used to be the worst team in professional football, both on and off the field. In other words, their performance on the field was the worst in the league. In terms of how they were managed and their financial condition was also the worst in the league. When Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994, the Patriot Stadium had gone into bankruptcy. The team was on the verge of bankruptcy. They had the worst record over the previous decade in the NFL. It wasn’t as if everything was smooth from the outset.

An important point is in the first three years that Kraft owned the team, his head coach was Bill Parcells, who at the time was considered the greatest coach in football. He was the greatest coach in football, but he and Kraft did not get along at all. There was not a smoothness to that relationship. There was a tremendous amount of friction. The reason I bring that up is because for all the trouble that they had, the difficulties, the arguing, and the bickering, which led to Parcells resigning and walking away from the team, it’s that three years of problems that set the stage for many years of greatness between Kraft and Belichick. In other words, there was a learning curve. This didn’t just happen smoothly and easily. Kraft went through a very steep and rough learning curve with Parcells that enabled him to do things differently with Belichick. It helped him learn the industry and also what kind of owner he wanted to be, and helped refine his management style with Belichick.

I went to great lengths in the book to point out the learning processes. When Belichick gets there, people forget that before he coached New England, he coached in Cleveland where his record was a losing record. He was fired in Cleveland because of his record. He comes to New England and his first year in New England, he has a terrible season. It’s 5 and 11. They learn and grow into who they are. You could even make the analogy with Brady that’s similar. It’s important for people to see that success comes through learning, setbacks and hardship. These guys grind through those and use those experiences to build on and learn from.

GFEP 15 | New England Patriots

The Dynasty

You’re also describing individuals that are fallible and that we’re not perfect. In the case of Tom Brady, most people thought he was an afterthought in the draft. If you go back and watch his combine tapes when he was trying out, he doesn’t even look like he belongs on the same field as most of those college draft picks. He was slender, tall, skinny, almost looked like a weak guy. They’re putting together the dream team. It’s skill and ability, but there’s also got to be some chemistry. There’s got to be personality that’s conducive to teamwork.

This is several years ago. There was a study done as why airplanes crash, putting aside the mechanical issues. They said that the biggest reason for airplanes to go down is lack of teamwork in the cockpit. I wonder about the Patriots’ organization. Did you find that there was a unique chemistry? You had to have the right personalities, the right place to create this teamwork mentality that allowed them to work through some of their physical limitations or even some of their setbacks. None of them came in with a track record of success. They had to build it together.

In sports, as is the case in many industries, particularly when people reach the top of their respective industries, there are huge egos in professional sports. If you don’t have a big ego, you can’t make it in professional sports. Belichick and Brady are, without question, the two biggest, brightest stars that have been on the NFL stage for the last decades, since the turn of the century. One of the genius moves by Kraft, the owner, is he recognized early on that he had John Lennon and Paul McCartney on his payroll. His whole approach as an owner became focused on minimizing his own ego because owners have egos too and they’re huge. He suppresses his by putting the focus on his two stars and thinking solely about, how do I keep these two guys married for longer than Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, longer than Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll?

He knew that when they were together, even though the quarterback and the coach don’t have a personal relationship away from business, they’re not close, but they have a chemistry on the field that’s unparalleled. For the owner, it’s all about how to keep them together. That’s not easy, especially as the years were on and the Super Bowl championships pile up, it gets harder and harder to keep those two egos. Those two very different personalities working together on the same stage. One of the things that has been severely overlooked in all of this is the role of Tom Brady, the quarterback being willing to endure harsh criticism and brow beating that the coach would administer.

In Belichick’s effort to coach everybody the same way, to not treat anybody different. Bill Belichick does not believe in a star system. Even though he had the biggest star in the league on his team, he does not believe in a star system. As Tom Brady’s star continued to grow, Belichick would pound him even more in practices and team meetings. For other players, even star players like Randy Moss, Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest, and all of these guys who played for the Patriots to see Tom Brady not only endure these kinds of criticisms and barbs, but to ignore it and perform even harder, it forced all of the other players to get in line behind Tom, and to allow themselves to be coached the way he was being coached.

I believe that and I say this in the book that Peyton Manning, John Elway, Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, you name it, none of those great quarterbacks would have been able to take or would have put up with what Tom Brady put up with for twenty years. It’s absolutely integral to the success that Belichick and the Patriots have in that system the Patriot way. You had to have a leader, a star who was willing to be humble enough to put up with this, and do it for the good of the team. It benefited Brady because he won six championships, and it benefited the team and the organization.

It was a fascinating insight because you don’t think of humility when you think of professional athletes or frankly, anyone at the top of their industry. As you wrote the book, did you have pretty clear, free rein with these three subjects that we’re talking about right now? Were they cooperative with you and granting you interviews?

As a whole, the Patriots organization was, I can’t say enough about the access and the cooperation starting with the owner and the executives that run the team all the way down. I did have access to both Robert and Jonathan Kraft, the team president, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and to many of the other key players, whether it’s Rob Gronkowski all the way back to Drew Bledsoe. The levels of access and participation varied from person to person. I’ve been told in advance, “Tom isn’t going to say much. Don’t expect a lot from those interviews.” I have to tell you, some of the best interviews that I’ve ever done as a journalist were with Tom.

He was very forthcoming and insightful. It was like going to school, listening to Tom talk about his approach as a quarterback, as a father, as a husband. It was a three-dimensional view of him, which I thought enabled me to do things as a writer that I don’t usually get to do with someone. Kraft was the same way, both Krafts. In Belichick’s case, he was typical Belichick in the sense that he wanted all of his questions written down and submitted in advance, which I tend to do that a lot anyways because I find that I get better answers from people when they have chance to think about the questions in advance. I would have done that anyways is my point.

Athletes are role models, but that doesn’t mean they can't express their opinions about something that's so much more important than sports. Click To Tweet

After he read all the questions, Coach Belichick decided he wanted to answer them in writing. That’s not something that was new to me. I’ve had people do that in the past. My experience is when people take the time to write out answers because it takes longer to write an answer than to speak an answer like we’re doing right now. You tend to get more thoughtful responses from people because they’re forced to think about what they’re writing down. That proved to be the case with Coach Belichick. The answers that he provided in writing were very insightful. They were thought out. They were articulate as you would expect from someone like him. The short answer to your question is I thought that their input and participation was tremendous. It did enable me to convey to the writer the perspective of all three men through their own eyes, instead of me putting my gloss on it. This is what they said and thought and did.

As you have now interviewed many famous and successful athletes, and people of other industry, for our readers’ sake, two in particular that I’d like to ask you about, Tom Brady and Steve Young, two Super Bowl champion quarterbacks who led dynasties in their own era. What’s something similar between those two individuals that you could look at and you can say, “If I was raising a son or a daughter right now, these are the qualities that those two gentlemen had that I hope my son, my daughter, my grandson or my granddaughter could have.”

The subject matter you’re now taking us into is something that has been on my mind for years. I’ll preface my answer with this little anecdotal story. When I was working on Steve Young’s autobiography, one day we were in San Francisco and I was a passenger in Steve’s car. We were driving through San Francisco during rush hour. It was very busy. He was going to a speaking engagement for a business audience and I was riding along. I remember two things. I couldn’t believe how he was driving in traffic, talking and doing all these things. His peripheral vision and reflex were almost unnerving.

As we were driving, I remember this vividly. By that point, I had developed so much respect for Steve as a man, a husband and a father. Forget the football accomplishments. This was being around him enough to see at his core who he was as a human being, and being attracted to those qualities and saying to him that at that point, there was only one other athlete that I could think of that I was interested in writing a book about, and that was Tom Brady. I brought that up to him because first of all, I knew that he and Tom were friends. Secondly, because they’re both quarterbacks. I was seeing what I thought might be some parallels in their lives. At that time, I didn’t know if those parallels truly existed. I was just making some assumptions. Now that I’ve written The Dynasty, I can say that those are not assumptions. They’re facts. The parental approach that Tom and Steve take is almost identical in the way they approach their roles as fathers and also their roles as husbands.

It’s rare in my experience and I have been around the sports industry for a long time. I’ve been around a lot of athletes. I’m saying that Steve and Tom stand out for the fact that both of them reached the pinnacle of their sport. At one time, in Steve’s case, he was on top of the world. He was the face of the NFL. He had his face on milk commercials, shoe commercials, and everything else. He was that guy. Tom is that guy now and has been for many years. It’s hard when you’re in that position and the spotlight is on you all the time. Anything you want is at your beck and call. It’s hard to stay grounded.

It’s hard to maintain the fact that the most important thing in my life is my marriage and my kids. Tom Brady and Steve young are these great examples of two guys who have always understood that, and always remain grounded like that. Being around them, it wasn’t the chance to interview and profile two of the greatest quarterbacks who have ever played the game. Off the field, when I look at them as men, I saw this in both of them. There’s a humility about them when you first meet them that comes through.

When I first met Tom Brady, it was in his suite at Gillette Stadium. It was my first interview with him. The minute he came in the room, there was a personal touch about him that he treated me like a friend, even though I wasn’t at that point. I was a stranger, but that wasn’t fake. It was authentic. It grew from there. To me, there’s a lot to learn from people who get to that point in their life. They still remember to say thank you to the janitor. They still remember to show kindness to the person who is carrying a flashlight on the day of the game and making sure they get safely from the field to the tunnel.

They think of people like that. I can’t say how many times I was with Steve Young during his book where we’d walk into a stadium before a Monday night game. All the stadium staff, the security guards, the people who sweep the stadiums, who would say to me, because they knew I was with Steve, “I love that guy.” I’d say, “Why do you like him so much?” They’d say, “Because when he was a player and he came to the stadium, he would stop and say hello to me. No one else did that.” Those little things are great portals into who these guys are.

For me, knowing who you are means that you understand who others are. You understand the value of other people. If you understand who other people are in the grand scheme of things, it gives you such clarity as to who you yourself are. I have to ask you and not to try to create a controversy here, but it seems in this society of social media, and everyone’s got a point of view, and there are many outlets to express that point of view, narcissism is almost rewarded.

GFEP 15 | New England Patriots

New England Patriots: Right now, we look at the Patriots and all we think about is winning. People forget that it used to be the worst team in professional football.

 

In other words, “Look at me, hear what I have to say.” I’m wondering as a writer, an author and an investigator like you are, are you finding that it’s easier to get popular subjects? I say subjects of people and personalities. Is it easier to get them to open up because that’s the way society is now? Has this ubiquitousness of information caused people to withdraw and be more guarded when they see someone like you waiting to interview them?

Even aside from the issues you raised, which I agree with the way you frame this. That’s an accurate assessment of where we are right now in culture. I agree with that premise, but in terms of answering this particular question, there’s an underlying difficulty even without what you said to get people who have had great success in athletics or anywhere else to open up and talk to a journalist or someone like that. There were a lot of reasons for why that is. One basic one is that people want to tell their own story and not have somebody else putting their gloss on my story. There’s also the fear factor of, how is this stranger going to portray me? That’s valid. If the roles were reversed, I would be concerned about that.

I always think about that when I approach people about doing a story about them or writing a book. I understand that concern. I try to see it from their perspective and try to put people at ease. The first time I interviewed Tom Brady, one of the things I said to him at the outset is, “I have a lot of questions to ask you,” some of which I’d sent to him in advance. My point was at the outset as we’re getting acquainted is to say, “If there’s anything here that I ask that you don’t want to talk about, just say so and we’ll move on to the next one.” I will not interpret that as to mean that there’s something here that’s scandalous or anything else. I won’t put any negative connotation on the fact that you don’t want to discuss that. It doesn’t matter why you don’t want to discuss it.

The fact is it’s a privilege to be able to talk and have an interview with you. I want you to be comfortable. If I want to go into an area that you don’t want to go into, you say, “I’d rather go to the next question.” Without further ado, we’ll move to the next question. I’m not trying to do a gotcha interview with anybody. I’m trying to learn, obtain information, and put people at ease that way. That’s how I go about it. When you talk about social media and the narcissism and all that, in a way, strangely enough, that has benefited to a certain extent because I don’t have a big social media presence by design. I don’t like social media. I don’t have millions of followers on Twitter. I don’t break news on social media. It’s not in my best interest to do that because I’m a book writer.

I often learn things and then have to sit on them for two years because I don’t want to talk about them until my book is out. I’m trained and conditioned to not go on social media and blab about things. It requires me to have a lot more discretion and patience. That is beneficial when I’m trying to convince someone to talk to me because I have a record and a reputation that says, “This guy isn’t going to run out at this interview and post something on Twitter because it would work against what I’m trying to do.” I’ll keep it that way because I’m trying to build rapport with people, and make people comfortable to talk to me about things that they may not have discussed with a reporter in the past.

There’s so much in what you said that I’d love to explore with you. Let me see if I can unpack a little bit of it, not all of it. First of all, this notion that you have to build trust with your subjects. It’s critical. I’m wondering as an author, are you concerned at all about the proliferation of social media? Let’s pick on a platform for now of Twitter where someone can immediately tweet out something they heard or something they saw, or sometimes worse, something they thought. They can get it out immediately to people without much introspection. Are you concerned as an author that more authors are not going to sit on facts and discoveries because they want to be instant with that news? Does that concern you at all for your profession or am I overstating it?

It doesn’t concern me about authors because I’m not alone in the sense that all authors are up against this problem because we’re not in the news business per se. I’m not talking about fiction writers, that’s different. People who write adult nonfiction books, it’s in all of our best interest to be restrained because we’re trying to hold onto that information for the book. The book has value when it comes out. The problem you bring up, I have more than one instance that I write about in The Dynasty, where if you go to Deflategate, which is one of the biggest sports controversies of our time, the whole question of whether the Patriots purposely deflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage. That story, the reason it got so out of control and was ignited into this huge controversy is because of social media.

Before there was any evidence of any wrongdoing, it was a few people, journalists who went to social media with either erroneous information or with assumptions that they put out on social media platforms like Twitter that lit a fire that couldn’t be put out. I dive into that pretty deep in The Dynasty because you see the ramifications of it. It’s so different than the Spygate situation that the Patriots faced back in 2007, where they were accused of filming the New York Jets and breaking rules.

Deflategate was a completely different animal in terms of how it came about, how it was portrayed, and how it resulted. Social media played an unmistakable role in that, the abuse of social media. It’s something that has caused embarrassment for journalism in general because of how many reporters use social media, not to report real news, but to promote themselves. That’s happened at the cost of the reputation of journalists far and wide. It’s one of the reasons that I avoid social media for the purpose of reporting things.

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I have to ask you about a phrase that we hear a lot. I got to tell the readers, it’s a great section of your book, where you talk about Deflategate. It’s a fantastic read. I have to ask you about a phrase that we hear a lot. It’s called “your truth” or follow your truth. As a writer, I presume that you’re always pursuing truth and facts. Granted you can throw in opinion and you can gather the opinion of your subjects, but in the end, you don’t want to produce or print something that is factually incorrect. I want to ask you for your opinion about that term, “your truth.” How do you feel about that as an individual, but also as a writer? Is there validity to that phrase or does it take us down a different path?

I have to be honest, I haven’t thought about that phrase. I’m familiar with it. As a journalist, I’ve heard it tossed around a lot in 2019, but it’s not a phrase that I’ve thought too much about. The concept that you’re talking about in terms of trying to get to the truth, if we’re being candid, it’s very difficult to get pure truth, especially when you’re trying to go back in time and recreate something that happened in the past. You have a series of things you can rely on. If you’re lucky or fortunate, there might be some written record that you can go to like journal entries, letters, news reports that were created in real time. That’s helpful.

If you can interview people who were there or who were involved, that’s helpful, but the further you get away from the actual event, memories are tricky thing because people tend to not only forget things, but they misremember. A lot of times, when you ask someone a question about something that happened in the past, it’s not that they’re purposely trying to mislead you. They remember things different than they were. I see that all the time even in my own experience.

If I think about what I remember, and then I consult with what I wrote in my journal many years ago, I’m remembering it different than it happened. Here’s a perfect example of why I try to go about it the way I do when reconstructing the past. The Dynasty opens in the prologue in a very dramatic scene in a hospital room set in 2001 right after 9/11 when Drew Bledsoe, the quarterback at the time is undergoing a procedure to save his life because he’s bleeding internally. There are six people involved in this scene.

There’s Bledsoe, his wife, the surgeon who’s operating on him, and then there are Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft who are in the emergency room after Bledsoe wakes up from this lifesaving procedure. You have six people. To me that was such an important moment. I wanted to open the book with it that I interviewed all six people about what happened in the room that night. Here’s why that’s valuable. First of all, all six of them remember different things about that night. They don’t all remember the same thing. It’s not necessarily that what they remember is in contradiction with what someone else in the room remembered. It’s just that when you talk about your truth, they remember different elements of that story.

Drew’s wife, what she remembers is a bit different than what owner Robert Kraft remembers about that night because they had different points of priority and emphasis and emotion. The benefit of talking to all six people who were in the room is I got the memories of all six of them, and the doctor, perhaps most importantly, the one who is cutting the incision in Drew’s chest and inserting the instrument that’s got to get in there to drain blood. What he was focused on that night was very different than what Tom Brady was focused on that night. I was trying to give the reader a multi-dimensional view of what was taking place in that room. It doesn’t matter what I think about any of that. What matters is what did those six people remember?

When you then integrate those six memories together, you get as complete of a picture as I think as possible. Is it perfect? No, it’s not because first of all, I wasn’t there and there’s no video recording of it, but it’s as close to the truth as I could get as a writer, and that’s what I try to set out. Sometimes you get closer than other times, but the point for the reader is you’ve got to get as close as you can and feel at the end of the day that you can say with a straight face to the reader, “I did my best here to show you what happened.”

Thank you for relating that. I have another question related to professional athletes, then I’d like to go down a different path if we could. As we’re conducting this interview and as you’re promoting and interviewing with various media outlets regarding your book, The Dynasty, we’re in the middle of heightened controversy related to the role of sports, sports organizations, from leagues to teams and athletes, and their participation in social discussion. Some would say, “Keep the athletes out of this. I don’t go to an NFL game to be lectured to. I don’t go to an NBA game to be told that I’m a racist or that I think different, wrongly or ideologically.”

On the other hand, some people will say, “We have a captive audience at a moment like that. We have a national viewing audience perhaps. These players have terrific influence. They have prominence. They should be utilizing that, not just for personal gain but for societal gain.” I’m not asking you to pick a side, Jeff, but you’re close to it because you know professional athletes and decision makers within the sports industry by name, you’re personal friends with them, but you’re also a fan yourself. You’re a huge sports fan. What insights have you gained in this period that we’re going through? What have you learned from this? Do you have any cautionary notes that you would give us?

GFEP 15 | New England Patriots

New England Patriots: It’s very difficult to get pure truth, especially when you’re trying to go back in time and recreate something that happened in the past.

 

My answer to that very important question because of the issues it raises is that my perspective is I have to go back many years. My perspective isn’t framed by what’s happened in the last few months. It’s goes back to what I’ve been watching in the world of sports for 25 to 30 years as a journalist and as someone who’s been involved in the industry is that this is cultural. In our culture in America, we place such importance on athletics. It is such a deeply embedded part of society in America. Think about Little League, Pee-Wee football and youth soccer, scholarships for athletes who go to colleges. It is a huge part of American culture. Not only do we adore athletics, but we place a great emphasis on athletics.

To me, if we’re going to hold athletes accountable as role models, meaning the example they set for youth, and we want our athletes to set a good example for kids because many kids look up to them. You can’t say that, and at the same time say that these athletes can’t express their opinions and their thoughts about something that’s so much more important than sports. When we start talking about issues of social justice, racism, poverty are things that a lot of our top athletes have personal experience in those matters.

To expect that they would not stand up and voice their concerns about some of these things that they’ve either experienced personally or seen and grown up around in their communities, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a good thing, a smart thing, and a courageous thing for that matter when an athlete who knows he has children looking up to him or even adults is willing to speak up, especially in the responsible way that many athletes have been trying to do in 2020, and do that. It’s almost irresponsible not to because they do have a platform. They do have a voice.

We can go back in history and look at athletes who have had the courage to stand up in the past, whether it’s Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell, you can start making a list. There’s a long line in tradition in this country of athletes taking risks during times of trouble and speaking out about issues that matter. Sports matter because we’re all into it. At the end of the day, those are games. When we talk about racism or social justice, those aren’t games. These involve people’s lives.

If athletes can affect social change or affect people to open their minds a little broadly, to look at situations and topics that sometimes are uncomfortable to talk about, that’s a good thing. On the one hand, when a player like LeBron James opens a school, and then opens his wallet to finance the school, it’s easy to applaud that because everybody says that’s a great thing. The minute that LeBron James talks about police brutality, suddenly it’s divisive. Half the people like it, half the people criticize him for it. It takes more courage to do that than to open a school, which I’m a big advocate for the fact that he opened the school. My point is one is easy to do in terms of how public will perceive it, the other one is not.

When you take a sport like the NFL, 70% of those who play that sport are African-American. Many of those players have grown up with personal experiences or they have family members and friends who have personal experiences with police brutality, how can they not talk about it? It’s how I look at it. The NBA is in the same boat. I liked the fact that the NFL, starting with the commissioner and some of the owners, and Robert Kraft is one of them, have gone through this process over the last few years where they’re looking at this whole thing entirely different than they did when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee. It’s looked at differently than it was back then. It’s taken some time to get there. The further we get away in time from when Kaepernick took the knee, there’s only going to be more understanding about why many players have come out and are speaking out in one form or another about what is clearly a very serious issue in America right now.

The earlier discussion we were having about truth, finding your truth has a lot of application to this subject. As you mentioned, in the example of the operating room when Drew Bledsoe was being operated on, there were six people who all had a different memory or perspective. That is the needle that needs to be thread is that in the sports industry, we have to understand that everyone has their own truth. Some people understand what the athletes are saying or trying to say because they’ve been there before. They relate to it as you suggested. Other people don’t understand what the athletes are trying to say because it’s a different world for them. Hopefully, the industry will find ways to speak to all audiences. It’s a pivotal moment right now.

One of my favorite anecdotes in The Dynasty, and you probably remember this, but Robert Kraft is a wealthy white man who owns an NFL team. He doesn’t have personal experience with what a lot of the African-American players in the NFL have been talking about for the last few years. What’s interesting to me, and this is why I wrote this in the book, is in an effort to understand more, he did something that no other owner has done. I wish all of them would do something like this. He visited Meek Mill in prison in Philadelphia. He’s a very famous rapper who was arrested and accused of pointing a gun at a police officer. That’s not a unique situation for a young black man in an American city.

What is unusual is that the owner of a football team in New England bothered to go and visit him in prison, get to know him, learn his upbringing and his experience, and then go to bat for him, join up with someone like Jay-Z and advocate for Meek Mill. Some people said, “Why would you put a story like that in a book about a football team?” It’s related to the whole Black Lives Matter Movement. It’s a different look at how somebody learns about someone who’s different than them. They’re a different color. They’ve come from a different background. They’ve had an entirely different experience with law enforcement.

The best persuaders are the best listeners. Click To Tweet

The only way we’re ever going to build these bridges is we’ve got to talk to each other. We’ve got to be willing to hear people who have an experience that’s entirely different than ours. Sports is a perfect platform for that. It’s one of the only places in America where the color of your skin or how much money you make or what neighborhood you grew up in or what religion you are doesn’t matter. That’s what makes sports such a beautiful thing. If you have an owner like that or a coach who’s willing to make those kinds of efforts to understand other people, it also provides a roadmap of how we could navigate through some of these thorny issues that we’re grappling with right now as a society.

As you’re talking about those incidences, those examples, if I can shift a little bit, it reminds me that everybody has a story. I’ve got a very close friend who runs his own podcast. Roger Brooks is his name. His tagline is everyone has a story. You are in the business of discovering people’s stories. You’ve been doing this for decades. We hope that a lot of different people read this and all of our episodes, but we’ve been very vocal that we’re focusing on those people who want to be better persuaders, better influencers, and better motivators. Whether it’s a family or if it’s with your significant other, or it’s the company that you run, or the sales department that you’re in.

When it comes to everybody has a story you have learned, I presume, how to enjoy and appreciate other people’s stories. It’s reflected in what you’ve been sharing with us. How would you guide or counsel people who are persuaders or who want to be better persuaders in their industry, in their company, or their organization? How would you advise them to become more aware of other people’s stories, to appreciate other people’s stories, and to pull those stories out of their colleagues or out of those people that they manage?

My personal experience is that the best persuaders are the best listeners. In my job as a biographer, as someone who tries to understand success and write books about people who have become the best in their thing better than anyone else, whether it’s a person or a company is I go into these projects and I try to have no judgment about people. I don’t want to come in with preconceptions. I want to learn about people who are different than me. That’s what’s fascinating. I’m not trying to convince people to be more like me, or to think the way I think. I want to understand who they are and how they think. The most important skill probably for me is listening. I try to listen to people.

I try to watch and observe, understand them, and get their perspective of things. It enables from a writing standpoint a more multidimensional view and understanding of who they are or who the business is. It’s less about me and more about them. That’s a portable or transferable skillset. You can’t possibly go along with everybody. That isn’t going to happen. You’re going to have differences of opinion and stuff like that. In terms of influencing people, so much of that starts with listening and understanding. It has to be genuine. People can perceive whether you’re giving lip service to them or whether you genuinely want to hear from them, understand them and their perspective.

As a journalist, if people get the perception that I’m not genuine, then they’re not going to open up to me and share the information and the stories with me that I need to do my job. I don’t know if that part can be taught. I’m intellectually curious and I like to know. Whether I’m talking to a janitor or someone who works security detail, or whether I’m talking to a president or a CEO, there’s something to learn. I value the interview with the janitor or the security guard because he doesn’t have to talk to me any more than the CEO doesn’t have to talk to me. That’s how I view it. That’s how I try to go about what I do as a journalist.

In closing, Jeff, you have sat down with the Warren Buffetts of the world, the Tiger Woods of the world, presidential candidates, politicians and leaders of industries. If you wouldn’t mind sharing one person, perhaps one company or one brand that as much as you’ve tried not to go in with preconceived opinions after meeting them and visiting with them, you walked out of that meeting or out of that multiday interview and you said, “That person surprised me. I did not expect to find that. I did not expect they would be what they turned out to be.” Is there one particular example that you might share with us?

I could point to many examples, but because where my mind is right now is the New England Patriots organization, that’s where I’ve been embedded for the last few years. The example that is most at the forefront of my mind would be Robert Kraft. He’s the owner of the New England Patriots who was a complete stranger when I approached him about wanting to write this book. Having had the opportunity for the last few years to interview him extensively and maybe more importantly, to observe him in a wide range of different environments, to see his management style, executive approach, how he deals with people, conflict, adversity and success, I would say him.

I didn’t have an appreciation for the complexity and the difficulty of running a world-class professional sports franchise because I’ve never had the privilege of profiling an owner before. With him, it was almost like a jaw dropping learning experience every time I was around him. That benefit and that luxury of being able to observe him and also his son, Jonathan, who’s also a senior executive in the Patriots organization, two of the best in the history of the industry, it was filled with surprise. I’m grateful that they allowed me the opportunity to do that, and to tell that story in the book.

GFEP 15 | New England Patriots

New England Patriots: People can perceive whether you’re giving lip service to them or you genuinely want to hear from them and understand their perspective.

 

We’re grateful, Jeff, that you took the time to visit with me and our readers. This has been a very rewarding conversation with you. Once again, we’d encourage everyone to grab, not only The Dynasty, there are many great insights, stories and lessons that we can all take from it, but also any of Jeff’s other bestselling books. We’ll make those available to our readers on our various platforms. Thank you, Jeff. We wish you the best of luck. Any last suggestions you’d give to any of us on how we can best get the book right now?

The book is available everywhere, Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com. I’m a big proponent of local independent bookstores especially during this pandemic. Many of these local bookstores in anybody’s home communities have been hit the hardest. I’ve been encouraging people where possible to buy the book from a local store and help their local businesses.

Best of luck to you, Jeff. Can you give us a peek into your next book or is that still under wraps?

It’s still under wraps. I’m trying not to think about that right now.

Thanks again, Jeff. I hope to see you on the road sooner than later.

Thank you, Rob. It was a privilege.

Thanks for being a part of this episode. If you found any of it useful or helpful, please rate or like and subscribe to our YouTube channel. I always appreciate you referring us to others as well. I’ll see you next time. Until then, persuade, influence, inspire.

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About Jeff Benedict

GFEP 15 | New England PatriotsJeff Benedict is the bestselling author of sixteen non-fiction books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Tiger Woods, with Armen Keteyian.  His latest book, The Dynasty, is the definitive inside story of the New England Patriots dynasty and was published in September 2020.

He has also been a special-features writer for Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times, an this essay have appeared in the New York Times.  Benedict’s stories have been the basis of segments on 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, HBO Real Sports, Discovery Channel, Good Morning America, 48 Hours, NFL Network, NPR, and ESPN’s Outside the Lines.  He is also a television and film producer.  He resides in Connecticut.

GFEP 14 | Express Employment Professionals

 

How do you get job security when so many are experiencing job insecurity? In this episode, Rob Cornilles asks Bill Stoller of Express Employment Professionals, one of the most influential players in matching employers with job seekers. Whether you call this market “primary temporary employment” or “temp hiring,” the chairman and CEO of this sprawling franchiser delivers sage advice for today’s reality. If you’re looking for better candidates or to become one yourself, Bill offers clear direction rooted in proven success. He’s our “man for the jobs” as he guides us to that which leads to greater self-worth: a job.

Watch the episode here:

Bill Stoller | The Man For The Jobs

Chances are pretty good you have an Express Employment Professionals franchise near your home or work. With more than 900 offices in several countries, it’s hard to miss this ubiquitous Oklahoma based business that’s placed well over eight million people in temporary or flex jobs. Bill Stoller, the company’s Cofounder, Chairman, and CEO knows what it takes to find, acquire, and keep a job. Also, if you’re hiring, how to test out talent for fit and competency while satisfying any current budget constraints. Here is the Man for the Jobs.

My guest is Bill Stoller, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of a successful company, Express Employment Professionals, based in Oklahoma City, but with offices all over the country, in fact, internationally now. Bill, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Rob. It’s great to be with you.

It’s good to see you again, Bill.

We’ve had a long absence in between our communication, but I thank you for reconnecting.

I’ve always admired and appreciated your business and frankly, I’ve been a little envious of how you have grown this business since 1983. I know you’ve been in the business even longer than that when we talk about temporary staffing. Let’s modernize it a little bit as we get into our discussion here. You and I are talking in an unprecedented time economically. It’s certainly different in 1983 or back even in the ‘70s when you got into this industry. You have been known to call this primary flexible employment, this type of industry that you’re in. I want to ask you straight away, what is it like being in the employment industry when many people are unemployed?

It’s always been a curse and a blessing anytime you have a downturn and there’s high unemployment. This downturn has been totally different. Usually, there’s a rampdown to the point where you bottom out, where it took about two weeks for everything to bottom out during this time. As we slowly come out of it, we are experiencing certainly high unemployment, but we’re also experiencing a huge shortage of people to fill orders. We have 24,000 jobs that are unfilled because we can’t find the people to fill them right now. It’s almost like it was prior when we also had a difficult time recruiting. I’m sure some people are afraid to go back to work and the unemployment benefits have been good, but I also think that people are taking a pause. Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of people that want to go to work, and we are putting more and more people back to work every week, but it’s still a struggle because there is a demand for people to fill jobs.

You mentioned a couple of things there. You talked about the concern for health and safety. You talked about unemployment benefits may be difficult to turn away from if they’re available to you when you’re not employed. Are there any other factors that you can think of right now that cause people to take a pause or rethink where they want to go in the workplace?

I also think that the whole issue about George Floyd has changed a lot of attitudes and perspectives, and for Black Lives Matter, a lot of people are focusing there. It’s a diverse group of people that are focusing on it. I do believe that has a lot to do with it. Other than what I have already explained, I don’t think there are too many other reasons other than people are nesting. They’re getting used to staying in their homes. Although, from that standpoint, there are a lot of issues about mental health during these times as well, people being locked up in their homes. That’s why we’re seeing a second recurrence of the COVID because people aren’t wanting to get out and they are getting out. It’s going to be natural for that second wave to be with us, and it will go like waves do. You’re going to have a wave here, a wave is going to come a couple of minutes later and another couple of minutes, meaning a couple of weeks, and depending on the timing of what’s going on around the world.

There can be no passion without true purpose. Click To Tweet

When we were thinking about who could be an interesting, compelling and helpful guest for our podcast, your name came up quickly because of the state of affairs that we’re in as a country, even throughout the world. Employment is such a hot topic and you’ve described it quickly why it is so. You’re the expert in employment. You’ve been in this industry for 40 years or so. Whenever I have employment questions, I think of Bill Stoller. Before we talk about the future, let’s talk a little bit about the past. You began the company with two partners in 1983. One of those partners, Bob Funk is still with you as a partner, Cofounder, and he’s the President of Express, whereas you’re the CEO. You’ve seen so much change in how the industry looks at temporary staffing. Can you describe the evolution of that industry?

The whole industry started because there were a longshore of people that had worked in the north during the summer, and they would shift and work in the south in the winter. They had a job broker manage for the shipping company. World War II came around, you had people who went off to war, and you had to have jobs filled and many of the women here filled those jobs. Following World War II, you had a huge surge in the economy, so you needed to have people, and sometimes those surges were temporary. Companies decided to start doing it just in time. That has been one of the big revelations that leadership and executives have found. Rather than employ somebody for twelve months a year, we can employ for six months. That’s also changed as well because we got into it in the early ‘80s but towards the late ‘80s, things turned around to the standpoint of where most of the lower-skilled positions, middle to lower-skilled clients, and companies wanted to try somebody out before they committed to them.

I believe that has grown dramatically over time. You can call that Probationary Hiring or Probationary Staffing on our end, where you get to see how the person works, what their attitude is, and see if they fit your culture. That has been a huge reason why the industry has come around the globalization of international companies. When the Berlin Wall fell, to me it seemed like all the trading that went around in the world was one big trading partner, as opposed to producing goods and services for your own country. That has caused shifts in demand, so a lot of seasonality. Seasonality has also created a big need for temporary staffing. Even now, during these times, companies are still needing that, but many of them are looking at just bringing people in and trying them out before they hire.

Let me shift a little bit into the higher skill positions. When you look at projects that companies need to have done, in the IT world, the technology world has projects, maybe they’re now coming up with some software for their company. They’re going to hire project people. The IT world, the technology people will actually enjoy that because most of them do work virtually and they’re able to do their job from anywhere. The computer age has really brought on a lot into the technology sector as well. You’re seeing it in all aspects. Engineering can be the same way when you have construction sites. You have needs for engineers for just a temporary period of time. There’s been a huge mind shift in Corporate America and small business. We’ve been the beneficiaries of all of that change.

I would also imagine this shift towards telecommuting or virtual work like we’re doing is also contributing to the realization that, “I don’t necessarily have to have a full-time employee and/or I don’t necessarily have to have a full-time job with one employer. I can mix it up. I can shop my services.”

That certainly is happening. Of course, Millennials like that, they’re used to that. They’ve grown up with electronics, handheld and as well as computers. They love it. A brief story for us is we used to not allow our temporary associates to work virtually. It was primarily for worker comp reasons. We’ve obviously changed. We have figured out how to deal with it and how to work with it. I can’t say a large amount, but we do have some that have worked virtually.

The other thing that strikes me about what you’re saying is the old traditional perception of temp workers, I know that’s almost a disparaging term. Please forgive me, I’m harkening back to traditional terms. It’s like, “I need someone to sit at the front desk for me. My assistant is on vacation or sick for two weeks, so I need someone.” It covers the gamut as far as the type of temporary associates that a company may hire for all sorts of skillset.

It sure does but it’s changing. Let me first go back to how to call somebody who’s doing flexible work. Years ago we decided, “Let’s update that and maybe give them a better title.” We call our temporaries, associates. We like that name. We’ve never heard anything negative about it. Internally, we call ourselves teammates. That’s how we identify us versus our associates.

It seems that the model has not benefited the employer more than the employee or the employee more than the employer. It seems like both sides of the coin are benefiting from the evolution of this industry.

GFEP 14 | Express Employment Professionals

Express Employment Professionals: The associate system benefits both employee and employer because they both get to see how the other side acts and works.

 

That’s a good point. There are quite a few people, in fact, that do want to control their time and they don’t have to work full-time. There are also people that are waiting maybe to go to college in the fall and they want summertime work. Some people may be going into the military and they need something to do to wait out that period. There’s also the person that’s coming back to work. Before they want to commit to any one company, they like to go around to various companies and look for the right company to work for. It benefits both sides because they both get to see how each other acts and works and what the culture is both within the company and what the person’s beliefs and culture are.

I appreciate all the clarification you’re bringing to this conversation already because here’s another misconception, and maybe it’s my shallowness. Historically, I may have thought that someone who turns to a temporary agency for assistance in finding work is someone who might be a little desperate. They can’t find anything full-time, “I need to find a broker, if you will, of jobs who can help me.” The way you’re describing it, if you’re an available talent, an available associate, you could use Express as a great way to strategically map out your career. Help with the ebbs and flows of your life and important milestones of your life, whether you’re having a child or you need to care for a relative, or whether you want to get additional education. Am I reading this correctly?

You’re absolutely right. It’s that flexibility that affords both the company and the individual. A lot of it is the individuals are looking at their lives and their balance of life, and they’re wanting to enjoy both. There are other times too. If one family member gets a job in another community, the trailing spouse needs to find a job. When they do that, we’re a great source for them to utilize, to look at what the market is. Think about when you move to another city, many people don’t buy a home. They rent for a year so they can see what part of town that they’d like to live in. Looking for a job is similar to that.

I’m going to talk a little bit about the assistance that Express Employment Professionals gives people who are in any of those situations. You are approaching 900 offices throughout North America, in Australia, in South Africa. It’s truly a global company. In 2016, Express was named one of Forbes’ Best Franchises to Buy. You are a franchise model. Those 860 some odd offices, it would be interesting to know how many of those are owned by franchisees and how many of those are still owned by corporate. Also, Forbes has ranked you the Number Five Best Temp Staffing agency and the Number Eleven Best Professional Recruiting Firm. Another one that I find interesting is that Entrepreneur Magazine ranked you number one in your category for franchisors. Those are tremendous successes. Obviously, the industry thinks highly of the model that you’ve built. I’ve got to ask you, Mr. Cofounder, how did this all come about? What’s the secret sauce that has made your company successful over these decades?

You brought it up early in your question, and that is we are a franchised organization. For the type of business that we have, which is personal and relationship-based, there’s nothing better than to have an owner of a business in their local market. That is the number one reason why we have been able to grow as much as we have and, quite frankly, been as successful as we’ve had. I will also say that the founders are also franchisees. We started that way. When we’ve all three got together, we had a disproportionate amount of business. The only way that we could start a business was to charge ourselves for how many paychecks that we provided to people.

If somebody had $250, they’d pay a portion to get those paychecks to the associate. If somebody had $100, they would pay for that service. That’s how we accumulated money other than lending the company money at the beginning. We started franchising and getting people. Obviously, we had to get a line of credit. That’s how we ended up growing. I also think that we have a unique purpose. Every one of our franchisees captures that passion. They capture a passion for doing our business because they also understand what the purpose is. Our purpose is to help people find work and companies to find good people. To me, that is the backbone of who our company is. People that are passionate about what work they do are passionate because they do have a purpose. I don’t think you can become passionate unless you have that true purpose behind you.

It took me a couple of years when I was placing people on jobs. In my day, temporary help was not a big business, even though there were companies that specialized in it. It was those that place people on jobs full-time. The first time that I put somebody on a job, it sure made me feel good. After a while, I found out, “Is this what I want to do for my life, continue to place people in jobs?” I rationalized in my own mind, “What more important thing to do than to help people find a job?” What can you do without a job? There’s not much you can do. I rationalized that the job I was doing was the most important job that someone could ever do. We have a lot of franchisees and a lot of their staff that believe the same way. That has been the cornerstone along with being 100% franchised.

You talked about a job and how good it feels to place someone. I know a little bit about that, Bill. For over a decade, my business was in the training/placement business where we put people into jobs within our core industry at that time, which was the sports industry. We still work a lot in the sports industry as you know. We also work with more general businesses and a variety of industries. Nothing brought us more satisfaction than to take someone who was unable to get their foot in the door, either because they didn’t have the requisite skills or they didn’t have the “connections.” We would take them and train them up and then we would give them that opportunity with our network of clients. Our placement rate was 75%, 80% at some point. We used to think that’s a lot better than most colleges, not to diss most colleges. We understand what you’re saying and it’s gratifying. What is the most important job someone can have when they’re out of work? What’s the most important thing they can do when they’re out of work?

Don't jump at the first thing that you would think is a good job. Find a company that is a good company to work for. Click To Tweet

They need to start looking for a job because it’s not always easy and it’s not always quick. Quite frankly, I always recommend coming to Express and earning extra money and look at companies that they might want to work for. The advice that I’ve always given somebody, especially coming out of school, I say, “Don’t jump at the first thing that you would think is a good job. Find a company that is a good company to work for.” It doesn’t matter what job you do. It’s finding the company. Once you get inside of an organization, your talents and skills will be seen by others and then you will quickly get promoted or put into maybe more interesting work. When they’re out of work, it’s important for someone to try to continue working on temporary assignments and then look at the same time and then find a company that you want to work for.

Can I drill down into that a little bit with you? You said, “Find the company that you want to work for.” Most companies, like most resumes, look perfect on paper. The closest we ever get to perfection is on our resume. Certainly, you’re supposed to put together an attractive, appealing resume. That interview is important to identify who this person is beyond what they’ve written. When I look at a company, I can go on their website. They look pretty good on the website too. Are there any insights, any tips or any secrets that you can give us? How do you get to know a company when you’re on the outside?

Work temporary for them through Express. You’ve got to get references. You need to find people who have worked there and why they’re not working there now. You need to find out from people that are working there. Anybody could go out at 5:00, as people leave their place of business, they could always ask them that way. I’ve never heard somebody doing that. That’s about the best way that I know of. You can also talk to their competition and see what their competition thinks of that organization. There are ways to always look at and discover what a company does. There seem to be rankings for everything and ratings for everything. People could look up what ratings are. In our industry, every town has ratings of the best employment companies to work with.

That’s a good point. I’m happy to tell you that where I’m living, there’s an Express office about 6 miles from me. In fact, I’ll bet many of our readers, chances are that not far from where they are, there’s an Express office. There may even be one that they’ve passed already. Let me ask you though, those candidates that are going into the Express office and they’re sitting down with one of your advisors, what are some of the skills that they probably should have or at least work to acquire if they’re going to be a successful candidate?

I have to say that soft skills are still the most important skills to have. You’ve got to develop yourself. You’ve got to be knowledgeable. You need to make sure your mind is healthy. You need to have the right attitude. To me, attitude is everything. You also need to have a good appearance. It’s those things that are important. In terms of what type of true skill somebody wants, they’re going to have to find out what they like. If they took some college, did they like accounting? Did they like presentations or speeches? Did they like English? There are always jobs that you can do in those areas. Obviously, some want to be a mechanic. Some want to be a skilled laborer, which quite frankly, is a wonderful position to be. In fact, we took a survey of trade people, and they seem to be the happiest workers that you could find.

We found it was about 90% enjoyed what they were doing and felt that they were a great contributor to their company, and they came home satisfied after a day’s work. You have to find out where your interests are and then go out and get some skills in those areas, and then you’re prepared to go into the workforce. I’ll always come back to attitude, how you look at life and how positive you are is the most important thing.

In this environment, meaning the economy we’re in, there’s a lot of social unrest, there’s political uncertainty. Should people be faking optimism? You’re a wise individual. You have kids and grandkids. What are you telling them so that they can have a good attitude about the future?

A lot of people are distant from what is going on. When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot more people are tuned in. I believe our youth don’t have any negative feelings whatsoever. They’ve grown up in a much more diverse life than what you and I have had. It’s all about treating everybody fairly, equally and quite frankly, positively. I haven’t personally seen too much of the negative attitudes. I hear a little bit more fear in people because of the COVID-19. Maybe it’s who I work with. I work with a bunch of great positive people who are wanting to do what’s best for everybody.

GFEP 14 | Express Employment Professionals

Express Employment Professionals: Soft skills are still the most important skills to develop to be a successful job candidate.

 

I will tell you that I’m a big supporter of DEI. I have several initiatives that are going on inside our organization. We had an ad hoc committee that we turned into a full-time committee. We’re going to get our franchisees involved in focus groups and in a franchise committee to give us advice. We’re going to do all we can to make sure we recruit for diversity. That’s the healthy way of doing things. Most executives don’t want ‘me too’ people, meaning they act like me. They want people who challenge them. I know I do. I’m not right in everything that I do. You want people that have diverse ideas and thoughts and so forth. That’s my take on where people are.

It sounds like you’re undergoing even greater communication within your organization to understand one another. You’ve talked to me in the past about communication and how important you believe that is for any professional in any skill or trade or industry that they may find themselves. Can you share with the audience a little bit about your views on communication? You’ve also told me in the past that you think that relates closely to what I’m a champion of and the industry and the skill that I work in, that being sales. I don’t want to give too much away. What are your thoughts on communication as a professional?

I don’t think there’s anything more than an executive needs to do is communicate to their people. I’ve certainly learned that the more they hear from me, the better off it is for everybody. They want to hear what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. I did live streaming with our people for a couple of years and I did it about every quarter. We did it up to six times a year. I have done probably nearly twenty of them. I gave a live stream to all of our people to let them know what we’re doing because we had to go remote. Ever since then, we have been communicating.

I’ve always had an open-door policy. I want people to come and talk to me. We have quarterly meetings with all of our staff at headquarters. We have a ritual. At the end of each meeting, we have asked the founders questions. People ask us questions. Believe me, they challenge us in many areas. Quite frankly, some great ideas have come from those questions that we were able to implement. It’s not only you communicating, but it’s also you listening in these times and all the time, and that’s extremely important. I truly believe that people who are the ones that ask the questions are the ones that are going to get ahead in life as well. From your standpoint, consultative selling is extremely important. To me, consultative selling is asking questions and listening to what the person is saying.

Express is a company a lot of people love working for. Your headquarters is in Oklahoma City. You have offices everywhere. Your revenue growth, last I checked a couple of years ago, it was about $750 billion in sales. I don’t know what it’s at now, obviously, it continues to show impressively. On the other hand, there are a lot of people that don’t like where they work. There are several studies that have been done, and even polls and surveys that suggest what those reasons might be. In fact, a Harris Poll suggested that the number one reason why people leave is because they have a better offer. I’ve also heard competing polls say, and you and I have chatted about this in the past, the reason why people leave is because they don’t like their boss. If you were advising a company on how to retain good talent, what are some of the things that you could suggest that would make that talent want to stay and want to be a part and grow with that company?

There are quite a few things you can do. Obviously, the first thing is you’ve got to communicate and you’ve got to listen to those people coming in. I also think it’s important that you have internal training for your people. We’ve developed a leadership program for our people, and it’s all by volunteer if they want to do it. We have a program that they’re able to more self-develop and then also learn leadership skills. One thing that we’ve instituted is we have our own in-house Toastmasters club. I don’t know if they’re doing it in these times, but I wouldn’t doubt if they are doing it virtually. If they’re not, I’m going to suggest that make sure that they do because that’s something that will keep people positive.

Toastmasters, for those who may not be aware, it’s been around for decades nationally in individual chapters all over the world. Toastmasters teaches people how to speak comfortably in front of an audience, whether it’s a speech or it’s a Q&A. Why did Toastmasters become something that was instituted of expressing? Why do you think that’s continuously an important skill for people to learn?

I’ll go back to my experience. When I joined the company right out of college, it was a personnel service. They had in their manual that if you want to help yourself, here are certain things you can do. The one I remember the most was joining a Toastmasters group and become a better communicator to break down any fear you might have speaking in front of other people. I joined Toastmasters. Over my life, I’ve gone through two Toastmasters chapters. I’m sure some of your readers know and some don’t, but they have manuals that you develop speeches from. In both clubs, I went through both of those. You have a goal in front of you and they place it there. That’s how I got it. It’s all part of self-development. One of the things that people need to do for themselves is to constantly self-develop.

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I remember many of the books that I used to read when I was in grade school, high school and college were self-development books. I truly enjoyed reading those because I don’t think there’s anything more important than yourself being happy who you are. Your self-esteem and your ability to please yourself allows you to help other people. I don’t think you can help other people if you’re not happy in your own body. That’s why I enjoy helping people and helping people find work or giving people the opportunity to own their own business. It gives me joy because that’s how I have lived my life. I love to see other people be able to experience the same thing.

One of the things that I am big about is having a decision made at the lowest level possible. We had an instance where we had a franchisee who supposedly owed $250 for something and they were adamant they didn’t and our employee was adamant that they did because that’s what the record show. Our CFO came to me and he said, “What do you want to do with this?” I said, “How much wasted time are we going to have arguing over $250? That doesn’t matter. Let that person make that decision and say that the franchisee is right and let’s go on to the next thing.” It’s part of that empowerment that is important.

We’ve all heard of some of the hospitality organizations around the world who give their people the power to make decisions like that. That makes it much more important to be able to have those decisions made at the lowest level possible so everyone can be positive and go on to the next thing. Giving people responsibility is extremely important, giving somebody the opportunity to lead a project. I grew up that way. I grew up on a farm and my father put me in-charge of certain projects and certain things. I learned to be a decision-maker and learn to be independent and have some autonomy, and him not over my shoulder all the time. That’s important as well.

Everybody sets an example for somebody. I believe that everybody is a mentor to somebody, to everybody, quite frankly. No matter where you are, people look at you. If you’re the center of attention in one way, shape or form, they’re looking at you and studying you. You always have to believe that somebody is constantly monitoring who you are. Within an organization, that employee needs to take that responsibility on as well. It does come back to self-discipline, and that’s another big trait that people need to have. An organization needs to be able to offer an expression of how people want to work and take on responsibility and be responsible. That’s how I think organizations can do a better job.

Bill, I want to stay on this track where we can all make improvements. Let’s start with the candidate who’s interviewing for a job. You’ve placed eight million people in jobs.

Over the lifespan of our company, I’m sure.

It’s an incredible number.

It’s about 500,000 a year.

You don’t know about every one of those cases. I know you can’t keep track of all of them. Is there a common mistake that people interviewing for a job make that you wish you could correct before they even make that mistake?

GFEP 14 | Express Employment Professionals

Express Employment Professionals: An organization needs to be able to offer an expression of how people want to work and take on responsibility and be responsible.

 

There are certain things. They need to be prepared. It would be nice to know if they know anything about the company before they come in. It would be nice if they knew anything about their boss. Whether it’s Facebook or LinkedIn, you can find out a lot of things about people. A lot of people do that and I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done, at least the people that I have come into touch with. They have to ask the right questions. The right questions are not necessarily, “What kind of benefits do you have for me? What can you do for me?”

For the most part, you need to have a balanced interview. You need to come up with three questions to ask the interviewer when you are preparing. Your attitude also comes up. You’ve got to display that positive attitude and a go-to attitude, and somebody willing to go to work. Interviewing and looking for a job is the toughest job there is. You talked about communication. We’ve talked about sales. Everybody is a salesperson because going through a job interview, to me, is selling yourself. You need to know who you are, know what your positive traits and negative traits are, and don’t be afraid to communicate those. It’s all part about selling yourself to the company.

Let’s switch seats. What’s the biggest mistake you see hiring managers, the interviewer, will make that may sabotage their ability to get a good candidate who’s sitting across the desk from them?

If they’re not prepared, then that’s not going to be good. They also have to sell themselves and sell the company to the person. It’s a two-way street from that standpoint. They need to ask intelligent questions. They also need to listen. I’ve always liked using open-ended questions and letting the person speak for a minute or two instead of yes and no answers. I can be at fault at this too, there are too many times you want to answer the question for them and sometimes you do. You have to be patient and let the person explain where they’re coming from.

The first impression is the lasting impression. I’ve told many interviewers in the past, “Allot the same amount of time to each interview because the first impression may not be the right impression.” I said, “If you’re going to take 45 minutes for the interview, give everybody that 45 minutes because you will discover more as time goes on.” I have found out that sometimes a person is quiet when they start an interview, and when you get warmed up, they are much more expressive. If you didn’t give it that time for them to warm up, they never would have happened. Making the person comfortable is the most important thing as well. Obviously, if you can do it between two chairs, that’s also the best way to do it so there isn’t that barrier between you and them. Intimidation can be a big thing in an interview. You don’t want to intimidate the person that you’re interviewing. Those are a few of the areas that a person interviewing someone else can do better at.

You’re suggesting that the interviewer has to remember that they’re recruiting somebody. You are a collegiate basketball player. We provide a little bit of basketball behind me, paying homage to your collegiate career, Bill.

Division-III.

Still, aren’t you in the Hall of Fame of that University?

I am in a couple.

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That’s absolutely true. You’re also a great contributor to Pacific University. Let’s call it what it is. You’re a huge supporter and contributor to that university.

I went to a junior college first and it was Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington. I also think that’s a great way to go for people. I did it for my basketball career because I didn’t want to commit to a four-year school. Going through junior college was one of the best things I did. That’s the one I’ll refer to I’m in the Hall of Fame there. I was blessed and honored to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

They recruited you and they do today. Universities in their athletic programs are well-known for the recruitment of athletes. It’s funny that sometimes in business, we don’t take that same attitude. We almost take the attitude of, “You’re lucky I’m interviewing you now. I am blessing you with my presence, allowing you into my conference room or my office.” That’s the vibe they give to a candidate. Granted, they’re in a position of power and they’re in a position where they’re already successful. They have the job they want and this person doesn’t. It’s easy to act a little bit full of yourself and a little more superior. What you’re describing is you have to put that person at ease. You need to let them know that we want you. We want the best candidate and we hope that you’re that person.

You have helped people who want to become business owners. As a franchisor, you have many franchisees. You have made people’s dreams come true who can invest in an Express franchise and now they’re a business owner. Not everybody is cut out for that. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner or to be a franchisee whether it’s an Express, McDonald’s or Taco Bell, or whatever the situation may be. What advice do you give to people who are contemplating making such a career move? What are some traps they need to avoid? Also perhaps, what are some highs that maybe they cannot yet see but that are out there for them if they’re successful?

That’s not only a loaded question, we could spend a day on one alone. I had no intention myself of starting my own business. It was the downfall of the company that I was working with when they ran into financial trouble. Sometimes, what’s adversity to somebody else and even yourself, changes your whole life. Did I want to start my own business? Did I want to continue with the company? I was going to buy the office. I decided to buy the office. Three months later, they went under from a bankruptcy.

You’ve got to go back into your childhood and your growing up period. Did you like being a leader? Were you a leader? If you were a leader, that’s one indication. Did you like taking risks and doing things on a job that was somewhat risk-taking? I don’t mean physical risk, but I mean decision making risk on what direction to go with a decision and then a program. My father was the best person for me in teaching me at a young age. He gives me responsibility and then I went out and did it. Another important trait is, are you proactive? Are you always looking for something to do that’s better or you’re looking for another way of tackling something?

Of course, there also become financial things. You’ve got to be a wise spender. You’ve got to save for the rainy day, but you also got to save if you want to buy a business. There are all sorts of things that you’ve learned about yourself. We’re not perfect. We select people that aren’t right for our business and we select people that aren’t able to do the types of things that a business owner must do. Time management is important. Are you a good time manager? Do you prioritize well? One of the things that I would also suggest is that there are business brokers out there. Business brokers can be a big help to you if you’re thinking about getting into a franchise or buying a business or whatever it might be.

You’re right, not everybody is cut out to be. For the most part, those that work for really large organizations that have a broad job that doesn’t give them a definite skill, I’m not certain if that’s the right person. Sometimes being too corporate and sometimes not being the doer. Especially in our business, we’re not an absentee owner business. You’ve got to be in there every day. When you get started, you’ve got to do the work itself. You have to be in the business. Once you grow enough and you have enough business, then you manage the business and you’re on the business instead of directly in it. That’s when you become a sales leader and that’s extremely important as well. You’ve got to enjoy managing people and inspiring people. If you like doing those things, then owning an Express franchise or even a McDonald’s franchise is the right way to go.

As you know, Bill, this podcast is built around the idea that we like to talk to people who know how to persuade, influence and inspire people, and/or who have been persuaded, influenced, and inspired to do good in business in their communities. I’m wondering in your career, is there an individual or is there an incident that stands out where someone inspired you or someone motivated you to take a particular measure or a step, take a risk perhaps? I’ll even give you this, Bill, I’m sure that you’re involved in that every day with your leadership team and with your franchisees. In general, how do those words resonate with you, to persuade, influence and inspire?

GFEP 14 | Express Employment Professionals

Express Employment Professionals: A job is everything. It gives you security. It gives you self-worth.

 

That’s what leadership is all about. Those three words are what every leader should consider and understand as they lead their organization. I do think that it’s important for people to understand that you can’t be afraid to do what you might want to do. If you look back at a lot of experiences in your life or people that have influenced you, you take snippets of each one of those. When I first interviewed to go to work for Acme, I never thought about going to work for an employment agency. I had taken a personnel class in college and they forewarned you about going through an employment agency, at least the book did, and the professor. I was hesitant. When I interviewed with my eventual supervisor, he gave me a vision and opportunity. What’s important is people need to have that vision put out there in front of them.

Certainly, the president of that company was an inspiring person. He was persuading but in a great way. You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. When I looked at him, he is the one that said, “Do you want to join Toastmasters? If you want to do secondary education, you’ll get an MBA or whatever.” When somebody says those things, I went out and did them. I went out and got my MBA. It was that vision that people put for you. There are all sorts of people that persuade you, but you have to accept what they’re trying to message to you. It’s the receiver who’s the one that needs to take action to themselves. Without mentors, without people that give you some direction, why continue? You might as well take people’s advice and what you think you can do within it and you’ll make a success of yourself.

I love that answer. I want to ask you one more question. You’re in the job world. Your whole career has been built around helping people find work and sustaining themselves and their families. I want to ask you, what’s the value of a job in your view to an individual? What does a job mean to somebody? What does it mean when someone doesn’t have a job?

This is another one of the topics I love. To me, a job is everything. I don’t know all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but self-actualization is one of them. It gives you self-worth. To me, everything relates to the job. You need to have that. Security is another one. Love and security, you’ve got to have those. A job allows you to have that. I’ve always loved work and probably to a fault at times. When you do what you’re passionate about, it’s absolutely not work. In some ways, when you’re in the sales business, it’s also competitive. That’s why having a competitive background has certainly helped me as well as yourself. It’s important.

If you can’t be happy with yourself, you can’t help other people. A job is everything. What can you do without a job? I believe that being happy on a job makes you happy everywhere. You have to find that. You’ve got to find out what you’re passionate about and then go out and do it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change every five years because of whatever circumstances. I’ve interviewed once for a job, and that’s all I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve never had to go elsewhere to find a living. I certainly have, from a business standpoint, started other businesses and still have other things going on. It’s all being with people, working with people, helping and seeing people grow and seeing people develop. That’s got to be a huge motivator in somebody’s life and it’s been a big one in mine. I’m happy that I’ve had that opportunity. I expect to have many more years of having those opportunities.

It would benefit all of us if you did, Bill. Keep at it. I want to say one thing about your comment, if I may. Some people reading don’t have a job where they punch in and punch out, get a paycheck every two weeks but they have a responsibility, it could be caring for a sick relative or raising a family. Would you agree with me that having a job means having a responsibility?

Absolutely. One of the better jobs in the world is raising a family. I truly believe those that have devoted their lives to doing that are the most successful people in the world. I rank them higher than anybody in my mind. People that help other people no matter what they do is extremely important.

Bill, this has been great. Thank you for sharing with us about Express and what’s made it successful and also your personal thoughts and your tidbits of wisdom, which have been built up over decades of leadership and success. This has been interesting and fulfilling for me, and I’m sure for our readers as well. We, at Game Face, wish you and Express and your 860+plus stores or offices around the world, your associates, franchisees, and leadership team, we wish them all continued success.

Thank you very much.

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