Paul wears many hats, ghostwriting, agency founder, bestselling author, podcast host master networker, husband, father, older brother to younger men, amateur theologian, voice mimic, and recovering insurance salesman. As a first-generation Spanish-speaking immigrant to the US with African heritage and the Middle East come back experience, Pual's lived in five different countries, speaks two languages, and holds three passports. Paul does two things well, words and people. When he isn't writing content for clients, you're most likely to find him building relationships and creating opportunities for his network.
Effective communication is something that you preach quite a bit. What role does effective communication play when it comes to growing your business?
I've said for quite a while now, but one of the things that came to the forefront with me was that I make way more money with my ears than I do with my mouth. What I mean by that is that there's a tendency in everyday conversations when you're building relationships with people. To stay on the surface of things, to sort of being polite and chitchat and as I was learning the ropes of networking, it was fine. But eventually, I got to a point where it became very repetitive, and especially if you're in a medium to small size town where you know a lot of the people in any sort of business networking event, that's going to start to get stale. It did for me because I was passionate about it. I loved connecting with people, and I loved going to events and functions, and it was my primary method of generating business. But I couldn't keep talking like that and so I said, I've really got to get a lot more curious about people. For a long time, I couldn't think of what to say, and when somebody finally pointed it out to me, I suddenly realized, Oh, I'm being reminded of something I should already know, having studied communication in university, and having been exposed to newsrooms, and working in radio stations in Seattle. I should have known that the approach of the journalist or the curious TV interviewer, someone like Oprah Winfrey, for example. You just need to distill that down to an everyday conversational level, where you're asking people questions that quickly get beneath the surface, not in an inappropriate way, but in a way that sort of pulls out of them what they wouldn't regularly reveal. Not because they're ashamed, or extremely private, but simply because nobody thinks to ask them. I found that as soon as I started asking these kinds of questions that got below the surface, and then I started being a curious journalist and saying, "Well, tell me who, tell me what, where, when, why, how," all these open-ended sorts of things, people just will tell you all kinds of weird and wonderful things about themselves. Over time, as I built up this huge, giant mental Rolodex in the back of my head, I quickly discovered that whenever people told me what their problems were, or what their pain points were, I had right in the back of my head an instant list of people that I could connect them to who could help them. So I just became this hub, this sort of go-between, this broker almost, if you will, of one person to the next, solving problems and making myself valuable.
What are the five tips for networking with your dream connections?
This is one of my favorites. In my book, which by the way is going to be available to your audience for a free digital copy. I've realized after publishing that I have had these ordered incorrectly but they're all still the same. The first thing I tell people is you got to be an angler. So when a fly fisherman is trying to get a trout or a salmon to jump out of the water, he's going to cast that rod at an angle that mimics the flight patterns of a fly above the surface of the water. So the analogy that I take from that is that when you're in a networking function, you're gonna show up physically sort of the way everyone else does. You show up, you're going to smile, a handshake, whatever criteria you need to. But then, when you open your mouth, you hook people. When you begin to communicate, you hook them one way, shape, or another. The bio that you were referencing earlier on, that's a hook. Being a very attentive listener, that's a hook and it's a hook because so few people do it. So I tell people when I go out to a function, or an event or something like that, I never go to transact business, but I do go for business reasons. The business reasons are always to meet people and ideally, to hook the right people, not into signing a contract on the spot, but into developing a further relationship with me. Number two, I call it to be a scout, be a therapist and be a publicist. So scouts, as you may have heard in sports, are always out there looking for the right people to have in their circle. So you're always paying more attention to people than the average person does. You're always more curious about them, you're always trying to find out what you can about them. Not for the purpose of keeping tabs on people or, but it is like, if you have this problem, then I know someone who can help you with it. So you're scouting out, who's the right people to have in your circle. Going the other direction, as a publicist, sort of like what you're doing now, as a podcast host, you're helping me make contact with however many listeners download this episode, you're helping introduce me to your audience and so you're identifying me as somebody that you think it would be good for them to know of, or know about, or potentially even get acquainted with. A podcast is one way to do that, you can do it on your personal Facebook page! For what it's worth, I used to go to real estate open houses and I would ask the realtor there, would you mind if I did a video tour, and posted this house on Facebook, so more people know about it. What real estate agent was gonna say no to that? So that's another way you can do it and then the other thing, of course, is to be a therapist. By this, I don't mean you literally have somebody lie down on a couch and try to console them through their problems. But what I do mean is you have to go back and find out what is causing people to struggle because that's where you make your money. Entrepreneurs get paid first and foremost, to solve problems so if we're out there offering solutions that don't solve the problems people are actually having, then we're not being entrepreneurs. The mistake we make is we think the only solution that's worth offering is the one I get paid for, when in fact, the solution that's worth offering is the one that solves the person's problem, whether you get paid or not. Then the other thing is focused on the farm team. Lori, you're a hockey player. So you know what a farm team is and that's the whole thing is when I talk about networking with dream connections, if you learn to treat everyone around you as a potential dream connection, whether they actually are one or not, sooner or later, you're going to be in front of that dream connection. I use the examples of socially prominent people like politicians or celebrities or actors or athletes, but it does don't necessarily have to be that. It could just be your absolute dream client, that one magic client that goes 1000 miles deep and keeps you busy and you know floods your business with new revenue. But if you know what to say to them when you get in front of them because you've been practicing it on hundreds of other people who didn't fit that profile, you're not going to stumble through your words, you're not going to be at a loss for what to say or how to say it, you're going to launch into it the same way you would with everybody else you've ever done it with. So while you're working your way up towards being in front of that dream connection, focus on the farm team and practice on the everyday people that you run into all the time.
All businesses want influence in the marketplace, how do you suggest that they achieve that?
The phrase that I've coined for this is what I call, you need to set about building your own unpaid sales force. Funnily enough, I didn't think about this until recently, the occupation of ghostwriting actually has a parallel to this, but which is what my agency does. If you think about it, we are always either taking information in via our ears and eyes or were spreading it out via our fingertips on the keyboard. So when you're trying to build influence in the marketplace, what you're really trying to do is reproduce a message that resonates with people. The way that I found to do this is that as I kept networking and as I kept showing up, and as I kept adding value in the groups that I was a part of, pretty soon, some people began to become like walking, talking billboards for me. Also, it was totally voluntary, it wasn't like I had some master switch or something like that and people talked about me. But these people also had friends and neighbors and co-workers and associates that they spent time with, who would say, "I need to find a new insurance agent, who do you recommend?" I had become so adept at showing up consistently both digitally and in-person with a giving hand that I was constantly getting recommendations. My phone was constantly ringing in my office with somebody saying I was referred to you by so and so. When I got into ghostwriting, I suddenly realized, in this case, I was the author and all of these people who were recommending me were my ghostwriters. They were carrying my message, they were just doing it verbally instead of in print. They were carrying my message one way or the other. What they liked about me really resonated and struck a chord with them and they would go and tell other people, "Hey, this guy, you can trust him. He's responsible, he's reliable, he's prompt, he does that he gets the job done," whatever qualities they admired about me. I had my own series of marketing ghostwriters who basically carried my message to the marketplace and spread the word and so I became very well known in the community and a similar sort of thing is happening now in the servant leader influencer, coach, consultant space, a lot of My name is starting to travel around before I get there. So yeah, what role does effective communication play? Well, I can't build a business without it and I don't know of anyone who can.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
In the last three or four years, mastermind leaders and people who participate in masterminds who have that culture of collaboration and everybody growing together comprise at least 50% of my clientele because it's not just networking, there's a purpose attached to it that goes beyond your obvious commercial self-interest. From these groups, I've built several relationships that are basically the springboard to capture nearly every client I've had. Most, especially among them is Aaron Walker. Now, his mastermind is called Iron Sharpens Iron, I'm a member of it. The way that I got into that was Aaron got introduced to me by a friend. It went back to my cornerstone principles, the pro bono publicity is what I call it for podcasting or that kind of thing, and be a publicist. So Aaron's a serial podcast guest, so I invited him on my show when he came on and I could immediately tell, I like this guy, and would love to spend more time learning from him. He happened to mention that he was going to launch a new product and he was looking to promote it then. I said, "Well, you're already invited back if you'd like to come on the show again, at that time, and it would help you," and he said, "Absolutely." We got done with the interview and from then on, I did what I've always known how to do, even if you're broke. Even if you're broke, you can still introduce people who should know each other. That's what I tell people, even if you don't have a penny to spend on marketing, it doesn't matter because of who you know. So I knew a lot of people, some of them socially prominent, and some of them who fly below the radar, but still people that Aaron would want to know. I started introducing him to everyone and the difference when I started doing this is that Aaron thrives on that kind of stuff. Most people appreciate it, but for Aaron, it's like the lifeblood of his business too. All of a sudden, he was meeting all these people, some of them in his own hometown that he didn't know, and getting connected. So when he came back in October of 2019, I was still struggling. I was about 15 months into being broke with no income and he came back and we did the interview and when we were on the post-interview chat, he said, "Look, you've introduced me to all these incredible people, you don't know how much I value that and you need to let me do something for you." Well, I had been waiting for somebody to say that for I don't know how long, but of course I'd been broke for 15 months and I was like, "Aaron, I don't even know what to ask for." He said, "Well, what's something that you could do? Your current business attempts are not working out so what's something you could do that is valuable and that people are currently paying for?" He helped me cut right to it and I said, "Well, I'm a talented writer, I've been writing all my life, I've never been able to put it down," and he said, "Well yeah, people need that, why don't we give it a try, you can come and write for me. I need to hire a writer, I've got blogs and content that I physically can't get to, because I'm too busy, why don't you come and write content for my team? If I like it and you like it, we'll keep doing it, and then we'll see what comes of it." So I started doing that, join the mastermind, and about two months after that, hands started to go up in and said, "I need help, too, can you come and write for me, I'll pay for it." Six months later, I had a business. It just goes to show you sometimes you've got to do this. If you don't know who you're looking for, and I didn't for many years, sometimes you got to do this for a long time. But eventually, you're gonna do it for the right person if you don't give up and you keep doing it, eventually, you're gonna do it for the right person who has the ability to elevate your business to the next level and that's what happened to me. I just kept doing it until the right person came along and then all of a sudden, I was a legit entrepreneur, just like I always wanted to be.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network in your community?
There are a couple of different ways I do it. What I found is that the most meaningful and impactful ways are video messages and handwritten notes. Now, you might think, Well, I know hundreds of people that's an awful lot of time. I don't do hundreds of people, any more than you would, but you can do one a day. You could batch record 20 videos one day out of a month, and send them right. What that does is it communicates something besides whatever message you send, it also communicates that this person could have busied themselves with any number of things in their business, instead, they chose to spend 60 to 90 seconds, greeting me personally or two minutes writing to say they care with their hand instead of with their keyboard. It just works. I get handwritten stuff from people and maybe it doesn't impact me the way it impacts other people. I think it's nice, but I'm so used to it that I guess I don't notice it the way other people do, but that's the most important way. The second thing is just continuing to show up for one reason or another besides your own self-interest. People will tell you all sorts of things about themselves, it's not a mystery, right? They advertise half of it on social media, the other half you can pick up by having conversations with them. But they'll tell you all sorts of things, right. How did I know that you were a hockey player? Well, because I asked you about it because I saw it on your profile. So I could talk hockey with you all day long. I can tell you how incredibly disappointed I am that once again that the Edmonton Oilers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. I'm so tired of my hometown team being a bunch of losers, but anyway, I won't get into that. That's the thing, is like people tell you all sorts of useful information about themselves, you've just got to write it down when they tell you and then you have excuses to talk to them again.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I have to think of how my 20-year-old self was. But I would say get a lot more curious and a lot less rushed to get to the quick answer of why things are the way they are. It's a funny thing, Lori, I'm 41 and I feel like I have more time left on the clock. Even though chronologically I'm 20 or 21 years removed from that experience, I felt like I had less time left on the clock back then. Part of the reason is how enriched my life is by the personal relationships that I have. If you want anything that's an indicator of the likelihood that you will live to a ripe old age, in great health, and depart this planet surrounded by people who care about you and have nothing but nice things to say about you, it's the quality of the relationships that you're building today. People are not organisms to be analyzed in a lab, they're living breathing stories and the person who cares enough to learn about those stories. Now, we don't have time to learn each other's entire biography from cradle to grave, but I could give you enough time to learn what's been going well for you in the last few weeks, what's your current struggle and what are you looking forward to in the future? Those are questions I could ask so the person who has the ability to treat people that way, consistently everywhere they go will never lack for friends. I was so the opposite of that when I was 20 because I was just so self-absorbed and self-involved and so conditioned to think of myself and others the opposite way that life was meaningless and there wasn't anything to it. The reality we all have these stories, we have these unique things that no one else has lived or experienced quite the same way we have. If you can hold on to that, and never lose your curiosity about it, I think it's probably one of the most potent ingredients of a long life well lived and I wish I could go back until my 20-year-old self that and have him understand it.
You said that you've got an offer for our listeners. Can you talk a little bit about that real quick and how our listeners can access that?
Yes, the book is called Influencer Networking Secrets, published by my good friends at Morgan James publishing. I can feel over time that I'm going to need to issue probably a second or third edition of this because networking just keeps getting more and more interesting. It basically lays out a very simple blueprint, both of how to be, as well as how to do. So there are practical tips in there that you may need to take and tailor to your unique experience. But they flow from overarching, unchanging principles that are built into the planet we live on in the universe we live in, that have not changed for 1000s of years and they form the cornerstone of all success, I think that you see going on in the world is all takes place because at least two or more people are involved cooperating with each other. I found that to be a tremendously useful way of building my business. The digital copy will be available to any listener who wants it. If you'd like a physical copy, feel free to reach out to me via social media and I can run that way as well. Or if you want to go the old-fashioned route, you can buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Connect with Paul
Shannon is the Executive Director of The Community, a nonprofit he founded while incarcerated to foster the successes, humanity, and agency of people with criminal records. He is also Co-Owner of Paradigm Shyft, a new Second Chance employment consulting agency that trains incarcerated people prior to release and helps employers benefit from this untapped pool both while incarcerated and post-release.
Three days after turning 15 years old, Adam was involved in a gang-related homicide and received a life sentence. He would become the youngest inmate within the walls of Wisconsin's most violent adult prison. But over the following 23 years of incarceration, he would renounce his gang membership and work tirelessly to keep teenagers from joining gangs. Today, Adam is dedicated to providing those released with the resources needed to succeed and making our community a safer place.
What exactly does Second Chance employment mean and why should people care about it?
Shannon: So second chance employment basically just refers to helping people who have gone through the justice system get employed after that experience. So it can be anyone who was sentenced to probation, sentenced to some years in prison, or as in Adam's case life in prison. One statistic that, to me, is the only conversation that needs to really be had when it comes to, what do we do when it comes to people coming out of prison and people that have criminal records, is that 95% of people who go to prison, come back. So who do we want them to be when they return to our communities, because they're going to be coming, regardless of what a person thinks, or what anyone believes in terms of their political ideology, they're going to return. So we should at least have a process set up to incorporate the value they have as human beings and as employers and as citizens as much as possible. So second chance employment is all about how do we best do that?
Adam: Just to expound a little bit on what Shannon said, If 95% of the people that are going to prison come home, we should care about it. Because eventually, at some point, 95% of the people that have been incarcerated might be your neighbor. So do we want that neighbor to be somebody who can contribute successfully to society or do we want that somebody to be someone that feels ostracized has to go back to what they used to do because nobody will hire them? A lot of people who have gotten out of prison have children, and in no way is it an excuse to commit crimes if you can't provide food for your family, but we have to look at it realistically and understand that okay, if John Doe has served his time or her time, and they want to contribute to society, but nobody will hire them, what are they going to do? Again, no justification, but we have to really start looking at things logically.
What has been the experience of companies and people in general who have hired from the justice impacted community?
Shannon: So one thing I want to point out with that is that term is really interesting because there's a lot of debate within the advocacy groups and justice reform groups and abolition groups and all the other terms that go around this kind of word and really just comes down to people that have gone through the carceral side of the system, you've got justice impacted, system impacted justice-involved, there's a number of terms. That's one thing, I would definitely want to encourage anyone who's looking at it to not get too scared by what terms do I use or what language is appropriate? I think people would generally be very open to somebody just asking, "How do I refer to this population?" The heart is usually the most important thing. So that's one thing I want to touch on is the language can sometimes be a barrier for people when it comes to getting involved in a lot of things and the way the world is operating now with a lot of areas opening up for groups that have traditionally been disadvantaged to some degree. The numbers kind of speak for themselves, and you have the second chance business coalition has been put together and they have a number of companies, big-time companies, Kroger, Walmart, MasterCard, McDonald's, Amazon, they've all signed on as supporting this, and showing that they are really behind the value this population brings, and really trying to incorporate them. 82% of managers report that the value of Second Chance employees brings to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records bring. It's something that we hear a lot too from organizations that get people jobs, and they get out. Even on work release, which we both experienced inside before we were currently in prison working at free jobs, is that there's a hunger, there's a humility, there's a desire to really show and get our life back that you get from workers that are formerly incarcerated that you don't always get from people who have been out in the world and kind of take a lot of things for granted. So both the numbers and our experience that we've seen personally and from groups that we work with, who get people jobs, shows that there's a significant value behind this population being hired not just as charity, but to help everyone grown and help out their bottom lines.
What happens if there's still discrimination based on criminal history if that's the way companies are looking at things?
Adam: I think it kind of goes back to what I was referencing earlier. What happens if that's the case? Let's say somebody with a criminal background applied for a job, they turn them down, and or continue to get turned down, what does that look like for them? So what does going dark look like? What does somebody do? So I think when you ask what happens, I feel and this is truly unfortunate, in my opinion, but I feel another victim is going to be creative because what other options are there? If they cannot work to provide that food or shelter for their family what does that look like? And so many times people just disregard that. They just kind of say, well, they shouldn't have made that mistake. But I'm a firm believer in whatever sentence you have shouldn't necessarily be deemed as a life sentence. If you're sentenced to five years in prison for whatever crime and you get out, if you can't get a job because of that record it becomes a de facto life sentence and that's unacceptable.
How can companies approach finding second chance employees?
Adam: They approach one of the many re-entry organizations that are in Milwaukee currently. Us, for instance, Partners and Hope, we are constantly bombarded by employers saying, "Look, we need workers, we just need somebody that's going to show up, day in and day out and work hard, we're willing to pay them well." One of the biggest myths I think people who have been incarcerated are told is that nobody's gonna hire them when they get out. Right now, at least in Milwaukee, in this jobs boom, it's the exact opposite. We can pretty much store our rock and find an employer willing to hire somebody. For a lot of people, whether they're in work release status, or Huber status, those are people that they know, for a fact are going to show up, unlike a lot of the other employees. So right now it's the best time in recent memory, in my opinion, for those who are with criminal records can get employed.
I would imagine on a national level, that there are resources available for that?
Shannon: There's a variety of resources. The things that I've seen, that I've encountered, that I find reliable, are kind of reaching out to some of those that can connect you to others. So Adam's organization, Partners in Hope, and mine in The Community, we very much are hubs where you can come to us we have a variety of partners. We're very deep into this space, in the city, and statewide and even nationally. The https://secondchancebusinesscoalition.org/ have a lot of little resources, a lot of advice, things for you to go to and organizations can then kind of have more of a boutique approach. So if you are trying to just get information on maybe an organization to contact or some stuff to read and get a better understanding of things. That's what stuff like Second Chance business coalition will help with or some of the other state entities, there's a lot of resource directories and so forth. But then if you really want to understand how to deal with individuals, the micro-level, that's where we would come in and be able to help incorporate and even attract, retain and train and retain talent. We have a whole pipeline of people coming out that we're connecting with to get them trained so that they will be really prepared to enter job fields and have connections with organizations and industries before they get out. So there's that loyalty concept as well. Honestly, you can reach out to us, and we probably can connect anybody in the state with where they're trying to go and what they need help with in this regard for hiring for this population.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Shannon: I have a number of them because when I was inside, I was immensely blessed to just have people who would allow me to make three-way phone calls. So the organization itself began because of a small donation we had from an executive director of an organization called Hudson Link in New York, and they were one of the preeminent higher education prison programs in the country at that time. So just doing that reaching out to him and staying in touch with him and then he donated to help the organization get going and donated along the way. He's just been a really powerful advocate and resource since 2013 back when I first connected with him. So that was one when I was in and when I got out, clubhouse. A friend of mine who I knew in high school, I just was talking to him about a trucking company that I had set up with a friend. At the time I didn't know what I was gonna do and he was like, "Let me connect you on clubhouse, there's this trucking guru." I didn’t know what I was doing, I just got on there and right away from that, I made so many connections nationally, in the work that we do that is really just borne fruit. It's just been really cool how the craziest things are just you go down an alley and find yourself in a palace sometimes.
Adam: For me, if I had to describe my life, and success so far be at the results of networking. For me, one of the sessions that we run here is called Building Bridges with Law Enforcement, where we invite officers all the way up from rookie to inspector within the MPD to come to humanize the badge. We give our guys that have gotten out of prison, a chance to humanize the tattoo, so to speak. We create a safe space for conversation to be held so we can look at each other as human beings. One of these sessions there was at the time, a Captain that attended and she has since been promoted to inspector. She now is the supervisor of the police academy and last year with all the George Floyd and Blake situations, there's definitely a need for better relationships between the community and the police department. So that connection led me to meet the captain at the police academy and we came to a decision on how to best combine those who have gotten out of prison with those just entering the police department. So we came up with this idea where I was introduced and went undercover at the police academy. My name was Lieutenant Smith from Detroit and I kind of just gave myself a chance to humanize myself without the preconceived biases of incarceration. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life and it all came from a session that we did here that led to one step further and one step further beyond that.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network?
Shannon: For me, it's just been a matter of always trying to make sure that I'm connecting people to other people or resources that I see they need. Because then that fuels them to in turn, remember me when something comes about that they would find to be valuable to the work I'm doing or any projects I have or even like in my career in general. So it's always about putting myself out there for them first, and then trusting the process that it will come back around. Even if it doesn't you're still helping people that you've, for whatever reason found a connection to, and by then helping their work, it's just helping you still, because that's the whole goal is to have a macro view of the way we're operating instead of the transactional way which is a terrible way to operate the world. It'll come back to me, even if it doesn't because you directly offer something to me, you're just doing your work and doing good by the connection I made, the resource I provided or the help I gave you is going to help us in general, because I believe in what you're doing.
Adam: For me, I would say, given the job title that I have now, community outreach specialist, networking and keeping those relationships active is paramount to the success of my role within this organization. I think it boils down to little things, just being a human being and accepting others as human beings as well. So as crazy and as simple as it sounds like I go back to those lessons I learned in the sandbox of just play nice with others, seem interested, be interested, and it might be off the topic of whatever current meeting you might be in, but I feel relationship building is a pivotal part of network building. Nobody's going to remember someone that just looks at you as a means to an end, I think you really have to look at the person as a person, which seems like an odd thing to say. I feel it's extremely important to humanize one another because I think that sticks in people's minds in the end.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
Shannon: It's an interesting question because, for me, I feel that anyone that I look at it and they give me a sense of, "I wish I could talk to that person," just in my experience. Also, I'm kind of a baby, I've only been out now for eight months. But my degree is in business and I've read countless pieces of literature about how the world operates in this sense. So I feel like I'm versed enough to say this, that on the way to meeting that person through the six degrees, one of those degrees is going to be more interesting and more valuable in the person I felt like I was trying to get to. So it would be more so that I'd be wanting to reach that person with the intent of finding out who really is going to be more intriguing and more connected to or aligned with what I'm trying to do in life along the way. Again, just trusting that process. I like to explore, I think I'm just gonna find the thread and pull on it and I don't think that going for the ultimate specific person that I think is going to be who I want to talk to, is the best way to go.
Adam: To answer that, I kind of have to help you understand what it feels like to have served 23 years in prison. Prison is a very dehumanizing place so I find that even today, I sometimes struggle with anything is possible. Even though I know that consciously, sometimes I feel not, actually, I'll take a step back before I answer my own thought. Inside everything kind of looks like it's a movie so when you watch the news, or you watch a movie or TV show, it all seems foreign, you don't necessarily feel as though you're a part of society. So now that I'm out, sometimes I have to tell myself you can contact whomever you want to. There is that avenue for that and I've realized in the two and a half years that I've been released, that the six degrees of separation concept are very accurate. I can only speak to really Milwaukee at this point, but I feel that there are very few people in Milwaukee that I couldn't contact within someone in my social circle. Then taking that nationally, I feel depending on the circumstance, the same would probably apply. I feel you have to have a give or a reason to reach out to some of these individuals. But I think at the end of the day, it's possible. I don't know if I put a name on the person I want to meet, but it would definitely be a large investor because I feel if we had the funds to do what we needed to do, we could truly save some lives. So rather than approaching a person for a reason, there will probably be a foundation that has the means to help us financially and make our community a safer place.
Do either of you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Shannon: I think really just if you have any interest in the field that we're in, and in hiring from this population, and connecting to the pipeline of people we are working on right now, just contact us. We have a lot of experience and connections in this space to be of value to a person if this sparked their interest.
Adam: I guess the last thing I would suggest is we get that people who have been incarcerated at the end of the day, they've heard somebody and you can't uncry those tears of that pain caused. So we get it, but at the end of the day, knowing that 95% of the people that come out, are going to in some way need to make the society a better place and so we just want to ask people, for those of you who are thinking about are contemplating hiring somebody with a criminal background, would you want to be held responsible for the worst mistake you ever made in your life, and have that held against you forever? Again, not taking away from the pain and harm that people have caused, we get it. But at some point, if we're truly invested in making our community a safer place, we have to start looking at things a little bit differently. Hopefully, at some point, everyone can give those who have made a mistake, a second chance.
Connect with Shannon & Adam
The Community: https://thecommunitynow.us/
Community Warehouse: https://www.thecommunitywarehouse.org/
She is the President of Evolution Marketing, a Wisconsin-based women-owned certified B Corporation specializing in the area of global sustainability consulting and storytelling, environmentally responsible creative design, and ethical marketing.
I keep hearing about the social side of sustainability, but I thought sustainability was only about recycling and addressing environmental issues. Can you define that for us?
In all sincerity, the average American really believes that when you say sustainability, you're talking about the environmental side. True sustainability comes in a holistic manner and what that means we like to talk about it as like three legs of a stool. So those three legs of the stool are people which would be the social side. So that equates to corporate social responsibility. Planet would be the environmental stewardship side, which is the environmental side. Then profit or economic viability would be making sure that the business you're doing is making money while you're doing sustainability. So all three of those parts interconnected together are what true holistic sustainability is. So you can't really address an environmental issue without also addressing the people side, or the community side or the supply chain side. So everything is all connected together. Here's the definition that I really love because it puts it pretty clearly: Sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So really, at its heart, it's all about people.
Why is it important for businesses to begin addressing and adopting sustainable business strategies and actions?
It kind of goes back to what we were just talking about with COVID. The reality is, Americans today want business to solve social problems. 20 years ago, Americans expected government and or nonprofits to solve the world's problems or the social problems that we have in our communities. But after the last couple of years in this United States, there's a lot of data that talks about how consumer attitudes have changed, and specifically Americans attitudes have changed, saying that they really want business to be the one to solve social problems. If you look at what happened Last year, business was the one that really jumped up or stood up in many cases to address not all their worker issues, but address community sustainability. So I would say transparency is a big part of this. Customers, consumers, the public, want to know what a business is doing, and that's why I think sustainability strategies are really important right now because they help to tell the story of the actions that you're taking in your organization.
If I want to get help to make sure my business was more sustainable, are there references available? Do you have resources for Wisconsin and even beyond?
I am a walking resource for sustainability because I love sustainability and its parcel to what our business does! So if you're in the state of Wisconsin and your listener, we have a program, it's through the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. It's called the Green Masters Program which was established in 2009. Evolution Marketing, actually, was one of the original 13 businesses to pilot the program. What it is, is it's an assessment and recognition program for Wisconsin businesses interested in improving and being recognized for their sustainability initiatives. So what it means is, if you've never done anything and sustainability, and you're kind of looking for the on-ramp on like, where do you begin to learn about sustainability and what you could do in your business, I would say, go check out https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/ and then go to the Green Masters tab on the website and you can actually download the questions. So the program runs all year round. For new businesses is free to apply until October 31 2021 and if you're an existing business, who already participates in the program, it's free to apply before August 31. So after August 31, you pay a small fee, which isn't in the grand scheme of things a big deal. Then we close the program on November 1, and in December at our annual conference, which happens to take place in Wisconsin, we announce the Green Masters Companies. So those are the 20% of the companies that apply to the program, who are the top score getters. With the program, there are three levels, and the apprentice level is the beginning. So as long as you're taking one action, each of the nine different areas of sustainability, you can come in at the apprentice level. As I said, it's a recognition program so it really helps you to start on your trip, and then on your road to sustainability. Then over time, you can compare your year-by-year data. So if you're a company like mine, we've been a Master Company for several years and each year, we benchmark against the previous year for our data. We use that as a way to do improvements within our organization. So that's a free program if you're a Wisconsin business, and if you're new to the program, the first year is free and the second year, as long as you apply by August 31 is still free to participate. Then there's this program called the B Impact Assessment. This is for national companies and global companies. So there's part of this Certified B Corp movement and what that means is the BIA (B Impact Assessment) is a global tool that is free for any business in the world to go and to use. I don't know how many countries we're in right now, I think we're in over 50 countries that have companies that have become Certified B Corp and there's 4000 of us now in the world. So your business gets audited through completing this BIA and it is free if you don't want to get certified. So all of the questions for the BIA are there, you can go and you can put your information in, and you have to get a minimum score of 80 points in order to qualify to become certified. So again, if you're a little bit more advanced in the sustainability realm or if you're in the UK, or you're in Mexico, and you want to look at what's the global tool that's out there, the B Impact Assessment is free. Last year 46,000, businesses were new to it, and they put their information. Now, granted, they didn't all try to become certified, but I think that's really amazing! That shows that this is a global movement, and more and more businesses are wanting to see kind of where they're at across the globe. It's based on a global way of looking at sustainability, which is awesome!
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Again, I love sustainability. So for me, I really enjoy going to conferences, workshops, webinars, really any event tied to sustainability. For me, finding like-minded folks or people who might think the same way I think or who are working in the same space is just is wonderful. The discipline of sustainability is relatively new, we're only 15 years old. So it's been more challenging for me to network, especially when I started Evolution Marketing, 14 years ago, there weren't a lot of folks in Wisconsin that were engaged in the sustainability space. So for me going to our Wisconsin Steel Business Council, we have a conference over December, that will always be my favorite networking event of the year, because I get to go and see everyone I know in the state and some folks from other states, too who are engaged in sustainability. This group, especially women in the group has been my foundation, as I've grown my business. Because again, being in a new discipline, it's a little bit more challenging to find colleagues to network with. So I'm really happy that we've been able to grow that space through our WSBC. My friend Jessie and I started a group called Women and Sustainability in 2014 which is another group of women who are working in sustainability in Wisconsin, and we network across that group as well. So to me, it's having folks that are working in the same space as me, that's been my best way to network. Because they understand the challenges and the ups and downs, of what goes into sustainability.
Regardless of the size of your network, it's important to stay in front of and nurture these relationships. How do you best do that?
What we've done is we send newsletters out to all of our clients, as well as our colleagues and friends. In those newsletters, we share resources and tell really good impact stories. We try to help our network be more informed about what's going on in the space because there are a lot of things happening really quickly in sustainability because it is such a new discipline. So really doing the E-newsletters on a regular basis, we do basically every two months, we do an E-newsletter, I think that's been super useful. But the other thing is getting out and doing speaking. For years, I've done public speaking programs or engagements at conferences, events, and community-level events talking about different facets of sustainability. I'm amazed at the things that the public I think they know that they don't know or the questions that the public has. So that's helped me become a better marketer for sustainability products. Sometimes you're in your own space, and you know what you know, but you don't always know what's going on outside of that space, meaning the community. So I can tell you a story if you want! A couple of years ago, the Waukesha County Green Team reached out and they said, "Hey, Lisa, we're doing our countywide sustainability fair in August and we'd like you to be a speaker at the program." I said, "Okay, great! What would you like to speak about?" They're like, "We really want you to talk about sustainable shopping," and I was like, "Sustainable shopping?! Let’s unpack this a bit." As we were talking, it came out that they wanted me to talk about certifications that are on products. So when people go shopping, they know if the product is environmentally responsible, or socially responsible. I was like, "Oh, sure that makes sense to me," and then they kind of went through the rest of the speakers for the day. All of the speakers were highlighting different facets of sustainability, to help the general public who came to the event to learn more and to basically use their money in a better and more environmentally socially responsible manner. So there was education about yard care and not spraying chemicals and all of the different things that if you want to live a sustainable lifestyle you could do. So I put together this program and as I was working on it, I realized that there are over 3500 certifications out there for sustainability for products. That's crazy, right? So I'm like, Alright, what are the top 10 that I think are the most important. So I built my talk around that and I gave it the sustainability fair. The room was standing room only and everybody loved to talk. After that talk, I have given that same talk over 20 times now to other groups. Now, when I put the program together, I thought this is interesting, this is neat, it's about certifications. I was on a podcast where literally I talked about the entire talk I gave on a podcast. This messaging about third-party certifications and what they mean and how that can impact your product buying or your food buying, that is huge! I already knew this information, but I didn't think it was something that the public was craving. I have been proven wrong like the public loves this topic and it really showed me that sometimes even the most basic things about sustainability, most people don't know. So I thought that was a good eye-opener for me and also now when I do community engagement, that's one of the topics I bring in.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I laugh, because when I was in my early 20s, I was like, gotta get a degree, gotta go to graduate school, education, education, education. Looking at the state of the workforce today, I have some really great data at my fingertips and one of the projections that we've seen which we've talked about for a couple of years is that by 2025, 73% of jobs in Wisconsin will not require a four-year degree. So I think back to when I was 20 and I was like, go to undergrad, get my degree, go to graduate school, education is so important. Now I look at my nephew who's 19 and I'm like, "You know what? You can go out and work in the work world, you don't have to have a degree," because so many jobs today are training their workforce and there are so many different types of opportunities that a four-year degree is not required anymore. You can get a certificate, you can get an associate's degree, so many more options exist. So I think my advice would be that, maybe, because everyone tells you this is how it is, it's not what you needed to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went to graduate school and I'm glad I had the experiences I had. But I think so much has changed in the nature of work from the time I was 20 till now and I think younger people who are listening to this podcast, and even employers, I think we all need to really be aware of the fact that so much more of the training today can happen in the workplace. We do the same thing, all of my interns have they go through sustainability training with me and it just a different way of looking at things, but I think it's a better way for the future that we're looking at right now. Especially because there are 7.5 million jobs that are being unfilled right now. So I think putting barriers in place saying somebody that works for you has to have a four-year degree or has to have an advanced degree, I think that that's unrealistic when we look at the future of how do we attract and retain talent.
Sustainability resources available to listeners:
Social Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/social-sustainability
Environmental Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/environmental-sustainability
Economic Viability: https://greenmkting.com/economic-viability
Free tools: https://greenmkting.com/free-tools
Connect with Lisa
Evolution Marketing’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evolution-marketing-llc/
Duncan is the CEO of Littlefield, a company that owns companies such as the Littlefield Company, Paper Airplane Sidecar who are critical equity partner contributors to profit-focused companies. The engine of his company is the Littlefield Company, where they tell under-told stories by delivering scalable content for purpose-driven companies. Plus, he's on a mission to always be a part of the larger conversation and to support everyone to become obsessed with their own unique life.
What is the importance of story when it comes to marketing for a business?
It's one of the things that we recognized as we kind of dug deeper into what we really do well, is that side of the story. Every business owner started a company for a reason. They wanted to connect to an audience, they wanted to sell something, they wanted to be a part of the community, whatever it was. We really want to tell those under-told stories that people don't know about. You walk into a company, and you can put two things together to recognize what they do and why they do it, but there's always a deeper meaning. There's always that thing that can have somebody sparked on attention and build their trust to be a lifelong guest. So it's one of those things where we want to tell those under-told stories that make them stand out against the competition, but also at that point, earn a consumer’s trust. Once you earn that trust, you can have an ask which can be to buy or to donate or show up. That's really where we wanted to lean into is just focusing on the story and not have been so focused on budget or camera equipment, or anything else, it's just let's tell incredible stories, that have people walk through the door and saying, "How can I be a part of this, and how can I help you grow it?" That's where we're, we're so fortunate to be in with some incredible partners who, that's all we care about. It's just the story.
How do you create team and collaboration within your core values?
We focus on letting everyone have some confidence and not the ego. Very early on in the company, we recognize that every story we make, every video we create, every story we get to tell is not ours. So if you look at our portfolio from our website, we've only added roughly six company logos in just two videos in our company's history and all of those six videos are for us. Everything else, we don't put a logo on. We don't want to take the attention away from that partner story because we really believe that yes, like, are we the ones creating it and potentially molding the story? Yeah, but the reality is, it's not our story. So we really have this collective mission as a team to kind of check the ego at the door, and say, "We are really big believers in our core values," and those core values are, bring your best, be your DNA, be positive, and show up for each other. Those four things are not rooted in, I want to be the best person or the best director or the best cinematographer or get my credit here or here, it really goes, "Hey, how can I be a part of the bigger conversation, help a company tell their story to earn their trust and have a lifelong guest." We're collaborative, too, potentially to a fault at times, because it takes us a little longer to build the creative because we have so many internal meetings about it. It's we have so many internal meetings about conversations or companies that we're trying to build stories for or understand companies or brands to then at that point, it could slow us down, because there are so many times where you work with a single cinematographer videographer, and they're like, "Cool, give me 24 hours, and I can create a game plan, we can do this, this and this," because they don't need to talk with 15 people about it. That's where we really go is we want to make sure that we have all ideas on the table and we're really focused on that team effort and it's something that I'm very proud of, honestly. We want to have guys and gals have confidence in what they do, but the bigger picture is we want to make sure our partners have incredible stories to let them drive their businesses and if they drive their businesses, our business will follow up because we've made a great partnership.
It looks like you've worn the professional athlete hat in your life a little bit. How does that experience carry into business ownership?
Yeah, I did. I'm fortunate again, I kind of referenced it earlier, but I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world. The fact that you just said, I've also worn a professional athlete hat is only more credit to the fact that I believe, I'm the luckiest person out there. Being a professional athlete was an amazing experience. I played golf at the mini-tour level. So I was traveling around the country gambling for a living, it wasn't five-star jets, and hotels and all this stuff taking care of for me and playing for a million dollars a week. We were playing for 5-10 grand and if you didn't bet on yourself in the right week, you were going home empty-handed with other fees and other expenses. It really made you focus on the bigger and I think that's one of the things that really helps me Because right now, you know when I was a professional athlete hitting golf balls and driving range, I was working on something to show up in my golf career and show up under pressure three years from that moment. I have a very similar outlook on business, like everything I'm doing right today is going to show up in business practice and development two-three years from now potentially longer. Because we're just laying the foundation for where we're going. It also taught me more about connections and people than ever, ever learned about the game of golf. It was collaborative. Golf is not a sport where like when we get on the tee box and the guns go off we're trying to beat each other, like crazy, but we come together at the end, and we shake hands and go grab a meal together afterward. In my opinion, that's the way business should be. It's I'm not trying to be better than any business, I'm just trying to be the best version of myself. I'm trying to have my business and my team be the best version of their self today and that goes back to like our core values, be your DNA. Right now, today is the best version of yourself because you can't experience tomorrow, and you've become better than yesterday, you've learned more than yesterday so right now, the minute where n is the best version of yourself. So if you can't show up and be your unique DNA, then you know what, go look in the mirror and make sure you come together and try to be the best version of yourself, to help somebody, to build something, to grow something. The other thing about it is I learned how to work really hard. Being a professional athlete, you put everything at it. My goal is to be the number one player in the world and I failed at that goal, I did not reach that goal. But I'm really thrilled that I failed at it and I'm really thrilled that I'm currently not sitting on the couch, watching my buddies win millions on tour, and going, "Oh, I wish." I'm really fortunate that I had the realization that I got to move on, I got to do something different and I'm really happy where I've landed because it's a blast.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
This is gonna sound kind of funny, but COVID has is a terrible thing and has affected so many people and so many just detrimental things. But the ability for the world to come together over zoom, or Google meets, or really wherever has been an amazing opportunity for us. So I mean, there are countless times where I have been on zoom calls that have been so positive and supportive and collaborative. I can honestly say that I have met some of the best people and some of my now what I would consider Dear Dear friends and business partners over zoom and virtual happy hours over the last year. It's one of those things where the world kind of came to everyone if they wanted it to come to you. There's a great group that happens every other Thursday and they started off with like, 20 people in a room and now there's like 400 people that are on the list, and at least a few 100 people show up every week now just to collaborate and talk about VCs and venture-backed companies and tech, and it's just an amazing opportunity for the world to kind of come together and be collaborative, even if they're not in the same city. You look at the meetings from before COVID and you had a couple of meetings a day, you ran around for a cup of coffee, and you're like, "Man, that was a really busy day with four people," and now it's like, alright, you do four people in an hour and a half. I'm not saying I'm fortunate for COVID, because that's just a terrible thing, but for how the world has opened up to allow people to kind of open their arms and bring people together through zoom, and the digital age has been the ultimate networking experience for me across the board over the last year. There was a time in COVID, where we did this thing called a marketing campaign called eight to five, where I literally left my zoom open, live from eight to five every single day, Monday through Friday. What the concept started as was just an internal team thing, where anyone can pop into our kind of virtual living room and say, "Hey, ask questions, talk to me," whatever it is. So it was really cool when I was there by myself just working away and then all of a sudden, two team members would go cool, let's go to the living room and chat and I would literally put myself on mute cause they would have a conversation. It was so cool, but then at that point, we opened it up to everybody. We sent it out, we said, "Hey, please come join us whenever you want, just pop in, here's the link, this will be open from eight to five every day." So like when I went to have lunch or have a coffee meeting, we put just a blank screen up that says like, "Hey, out at lunch," and I would come back and we had friends from childhood pop on and even my mom got on their once. So that was an experience, but we had people come from different businesses and different companies that we supported. And like we built videos for and stories for, and then all of a sudden like they're talking and figuring out how to collaborate. It was a really fun time.
How do you stay in front of them best nurture your network in your community?
I think it's perfect timing because I don't know if you recognize this, but I have stayed silent on social media for the last three and a half years. I haven't posted on my own personal social media since October 9th of 2017. It's funny to think that I'm the CEO of a content company and I haven't posted on a single thing on my personal page in over three and a half years. But yesterday was the very first day that I am back online and we put a post out and now we're prepared and we are organized to not have it stop. So I think the best way to nurture and build community in your networking is again, it's a matter of who you are and what your DNA is. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and go, "What's right for me." Right now the world and the algorithms will tell you video is the king, but if you're terrible on video, you might not want to go on video. If you're a great writer then just double down on a blog, really lean into Twitter, all these different things to recognize that here's where your strength is. I would say in the way you nurture and what you build is if you want to become a leading expert, then figure out the right way to talk about it, and figure out the right way that's right for you because if you enjoy it, you won't fight it. I'm dyslexic so if you told me that I needed to write a blog every day, four hours of my day would be gone. I would hate it, it'd be miserable, but if you say, "Just put a two-minute video out every single day," I can do that in three minutes. I don't need to plan for it, I flip the camera on and I can talk.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think patience would be a great word. When I played golf I thought I needed to be at the top of the world when I was 30. Recognizing that it's a 40-year career is tough for a 25-year-old who thinks he knows everything. So for me right now, I recognize that to achieve my goal for where I want to go, it's going to take 40, maybe 50 years, but I'm very much up and prepared for it. Then I would also say, experience. Understand where you want to go look at yourself in the mirror, be good with yourself, be self-aware about where you want to go and how much you want to sacrifice for it. Are you willing to sacrifice everything for something and if you are, man, don't let anyone stop you? Put positive people who can believe and celebrate you for who you are because then at that point, you're gonna be able to change the world, or you're gonna make the biggest impact on someone's life. So patience would be the big one as well. That's maybe the biggest one because recognizing that we get to play a game that's not like the NFL or the NBA when your career is over in the ballpark of 35-40. But, you and I get to build businesses for the next 40 years, potentially. I kind of joked that yesterday was the first day of the next 40 years of posting online every single day. We put up the second one today and it was okay to down 40 years to go. It's going to be bigger and I'm really excited about getting myself a little more patience even though I work 12 straight hours a day and I love what I do and all that kind of stuff, but to recognize that I have the patience to achieve the goal that I'm going after is different than when I was 24 and trying to conquer the golf world.
Connect with Duncan:
Brad has been supporting and improving the lives of those around him for over four decades. He has brought perspective and context into every role he has had. Having been in manufacturing for most of his adult career, he has forged relationships by learning what matters to the people. In doing so, Brad was able to master the art of change management. Working with family-owned blue-collar businesses as a customer and supplier, Brad understands both sides of the industry creating growth and wealth.
In your line of work, you do a lot with regard to accountability and setting expectations. Can you speak to our listeners a little bit about why it's so important to have set expectations and accountability?
It's important for multiple reasons. When you look at it from a business owner’s perspective, it's important to know what your team is going to accomplish, not so much the tasks that they need to do, but what are the results that you're looking for? And clearly communicating that expectation because as humans, we really don't want to disappoint people that are really not in most people's natures are disappointed or upset. So when we have clear expectations, we know what we're working towards on a regular basis. So we're clear on what we need to achieve, we know what others are expecting from us and it makes life just so much easier to know. If you knew what you were expecting for dinner every night, if it was planned out every night, for the rest of your life, that conversation that happens of what's for dinner and that whole big mess that happens in many, many households just don’t happen because you know you have a plan, you know what the expectations are. And it just makes life a little bit easier when you know what the expectations are. On the accountability side, it is important to allow us to know as employees and or as owners, what you're accountable to do, what that result really means. So if you're accountable to make sure that the driveway gets poured, and it's finished the customer satisfaction if you're a concrete guy, you now know what you're accountable for and what that responsibility looks like and you're given the authority along with that accountability to make sure that you can deliver those results. That's where a lot of disconnect ends up happening is we tend to give the accountability without necessarily the authority to make those decisions or use the resources appropriately to allow the result to happen.
What is the turnaround when you see business owners start enacting expectations and accountability as far as the challenges that they're experiencing with their business?
The first challenge is to get the owners to understand what the expectations are from a results perspective. Most are so task-focused, I want you to make 30 calls a day, I want you to see 10 customers, I want you to pick 15 lines of orders every hour. So we're so focused on the task that we lose focus on what the result is. That's where we start stemming the creativity problem to allow people to be creative solution problem solvers. So the first step is to get the owner to think about the results. Once they define the results and they get them documented and we get the position agreement and alignment and have the employee-employer conversation, there's this big weight lifted off of people's shoulders, because they now know what's expected. They come into work and they do that thing to focus on those results and the noise and the garbage that everybody goes and works on every day goes away. It doesn't actually go away, it just gets refocused into more positive energy because we're not focusing on the minutia, we're focusing on the bigger picture. Instead of the did you make the 25 phone calls? No, I made 15 phone calls, but I got $300,000 worth of proposals written with those 15 phone calls. So the number of phone calls didn't matter, the proposal writing was what mattered.
There's this major challenge that's faced with regards to recruiting and attracting especially that Gen Z crowd. How can companies go about and do a better job of getting that audience to want to work within their organization?
So this may sound really weird, but the Gen Z kids that are 24 and younger right now, they will likely be as loyal as the boomers were if you give them a reason to be loyal. So being able to set your expectations, show them a career path. Yep, you might start them at $12, $13, or whatever that number is, but if you can show them the path, to get from A to B to C to D, over a period of time, they will stay and they will have a sense of purpose. They will know what they're working towards and what they're working for. Versus historically, many would say, "Hey, kid, come in here, go do the slop work and in 30 years, you'll be a master machinist, and good luck to you." Kids nowadays aren't looking at 30 years, they're looking at 2, 3, 5 years so if you can show them the path to go from 12 to 15, to 20 to 25, that's where that results-based accountability aspects of running your business can now show them how to get from A to B much sooner because maybe you're manufacturing guy and your machine is quality rate might be 400 ppm. If somebody can run it at two, well, they're worth more to your company so pay them more. Show them the results, if they can demonstrate consistent results over and over again and bring value to the organization, they should be rewarded accordingly, versus time in seat. That's going to be the biggest change for Gen Z is reward based on performance. Not just wisdom, but performance to start with, and show them how to get there quicker and then slowly work in the wisdom piece of that because wisdom and performance typically are inverses of each other.
What's one of the biggest opportunities you see for companies today?
It's the Gen Z. The Gen Z kids learn differently, they're quicker at getting many tasks completed. Depending on what the industry is, there are many things that are different. Skilled Trades as an example, not as much exposure, not as much of that common sense application, but they've learned differently. Provided the right opportunities, they'll adapt. They are probably the most adaptable generation that I've seen working within the FIRST Robotics organization and seeing that my kids grow up and what they've had to go through versus what some of my friends that are younger than me and myself had to go through. Far more adaptable, far more open to asking the question, "Why are we doing it this way?" Versus being told to do something, you just did it even though you knew it was wrong. When I first entered the workforce, just do it this way, there was no questioning, you just went ahead and did it. These kids are far more apt to connect, they are the largest connected generation on the planet. A Gen Z kid here in the US versus a Gen Z kid in Europe are probably more connected today in similar experiences from technology and resources and information than any other generation. So the world is wide open and when you want to talk about networking, I mean, just think of all the gaming connections and all the other things as they enter the workforce. It's just mind-blowing how much opportunity exists by bringing in young talent into an organization. You've got to be willing to do it, you gotta be open-minded enough to say, I'm going to out behave my competition.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
One of my favorite networking experiences was actually one of my most uncomfortable experiences. So one of the associations here in town provides a women's event. I am not a woman, in any way, shape, or form. But I was intrigued by the content that was being delivered. It was an open forum so I get to the event and I'm the only guy at the event. I knew some people that were attending and different things, but it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been in a networking event. However, it was also one of the most rewarding because I had to put my biases down, my guard down, all those judgment things down and look inward into, "Hey, I am the one that's different in this room, how can I use that to my advantage to be able to create relationships and networking opportunities and use the difference as an opportunity versus the same?" People like being comfortable in the same environment when I was very uncomfortable and made some great connections and some great referral opportunities and it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been and I would not change for the world that really changed my mindset about networking moving forward.
How do you stay in front of and nurture the community that you've created?
It's lots of conversations through LinkedIn, connecting on their posts, connecting and commenting on their posts. If I happen to have Facebook connections with them, as well, as an old person, Facebook is kind of the place where I go for social sometimes that are not professional. I've started leveraging my CRM to put in my task reminders, to say, "Hey, I should really contact this person in four months to get together for lunch, or to have a cup of coffee, or to find out how the promotion went," those types of things. So leveraging a CRM tool to stay connected and put those reminders out there are very important. Past colleagues, I will actually make phone calls every three to six months when I'm driving now, in between, because the drive time now is that opportunity to create the connection up to say, "Hey, it's been a while what's going on?" And just get some industry updates, opportunities and just stay connected to various businesses.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
So a couple of weeks ago, I did a video on LinkedIn about the hard sell that happens on LinkedIn all the time, so don't do that. The biggest thing is it be your authentic self. If you can be your authentic self, and you're there to develop a relationship, I have no problem connecting with somebody on LinkedIn or having a 15-minute call just to get to know and understand their business and see what can happen. But if you're going to come out of the gates blazing and pitch me what you're going to sell me or you're just going to come out that way from the get-go, I don't want to talk to you. I don't need to be sold to. I may have people in my network that can help you with but I'm likely not going to be your buyer because you're selling me something that 4,500 other people have probably tried to sell me something and I already have somebody in my network from that perspective. That doesn't mean I don't need somebody else to be a referral partner or network partner to fit a different niche or level or regional area potentially. Be authentic and be pure in your attempt. If you want to tell me you're going to sell me, then tell me you're gonna sell me and we're not going to connect, but don't backdoor that either.
Be less judgmental, as you went through and created relationships. Less posturing to be the smartest person in the room at times. That may have limited some opportunities for me. Going into rooms and judging people based on characteristics or different things without ever getting to know them, whether it was the corporate world or networking in my current line for whatever it was, may have created some limiting opportunities for me long term as I look back on some situations.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I think it would be a fun conversation, being a local guy to sit down with Bob Uecker to have a half-hour lunch and just listen to him ramble about change and how baseball is different and just listen to some of those old stories in a row versus an inning here or there over the course of an entire season. Just hearing some of that would be fantastic, to be able to sit down with them and have that direct interaction. Could it be done within six? Yeah, cause he's local, I am confident I'm within six to Mr. Uecker. I would probably start that journey within my Delaware North network, here locally, and start within the organization from that and just connect from that perspective.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Connect with me on LinkedIn! I am more than happy to connect with people on LinkedIn and have the opportunity to have a conversation. I wouldn't say my networking is huge, however, I tend to be able to give somebody a connection or two, or create the right connections or have the right conversation to find an opportunity for somebody. I love networking to give people opportunities to meet other folks. I went through my introductions list last year and I made 250 introductions last year.
Connect with Brad:
Having started his first business in fourth-grade programming bulletin board systems, working for Apple Computers as a college freshman, and then founding a computer networking services company employing college classmates while in college, Dave Stamm has been has always been passionate about implementing technology and serving people. Dave is currently the CEO of two technology companies, Stamm Technologies and Stamm Media, and a partner at No Small Magic.
Can you just tell us a little bit about these three different companies that you have?
So the first company that I started in college was Stamm Technologies and we provide outsourced IT services to small and medium-sized companies in Metro Milwaukee and Chicagoland areas. Then we later started Stamm Media as an offshoot. It was a client that we had been working with for years in the IT company and that is Stamm Media and we provide technology services and equipment, to large trade shows and corporate events throughout the country. So we rent audiovisual and IT equipment to mostly fortune 500 companies and then we provide the labor and services to set that stuff up at their various events. So that's the event company and then the third company, No Small Magic we started about five years ago and that is an interactive studio, providing primarily custom boutique software written for these corporate event clients that we've got throughout the country. During the pandemic, we wrote a virtual networking platform called Showboat, which has been our big focus over the last year.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as it relates to networking and technology?
You bet. So both are passions for me. I started out, I was the geek in grade school before you know being a geek in programming was cool, right? This was in the 80s, I started out programming in grade school and was kind of self-taught, but was smart enough. My dad was a salesman, so I was smart enough to realize that at that time, again, being a geek wasn't cool so you had to kind of keep a lid on it. While it was fun to do, you also had to be social and network which is really kind of the function of early selling. So my first job was when I was 14, I started as a Subway sandwich artist at New Berlin subway and actually, it ended up being that the couple that owned that Subway owned another business, which was an audiovisual event company that served big companies nationwide. So I started working with them when I was young and they taught me the ropes and as I grew, having that networking background and being able to be connected to them and their network, and just working hard and networking with people from when I was young really paid off for me. It's one of the big reasons that we are where we are right now with the three companies.
How is technology enabling networking today and what could be better?
I think over the last year as the pandemic happened, we've all gravitated towards it. All the platforms existed prior to the pandemic, we had zoom, and we had teams, and sure they've added some features, but for the most part, those platforms existed prior to the pandemic. Now we're all using them in our daily lives, whether it's for work, and you're on multiple zoom meetings in a day, or it's kids doing virtual school, or get-togethers or virtual birthday parties, or what have you. We're all living in these new technologies and they're second nature and because of the event business we had, we serve a lot of clients nationwide, we were using these tools prior, but for the most part, we were only ever using audio. Everybody would get into a zoom meeting and shut off their video. Now what's been fun is just the way people are using it and it's the authenticity of being able to use these tools. If your kids are running past or your dogs or your cats are in the shot, nobody cares and everyone is authentic. They're themselves in doing whatever they need to do using these tools and so we realized with No Small Magic, one of the things we realized when the pandemic happened is that we couldn't find a platform aside from zoom or teams that really handled networking well. Sure, you can jump into a virtual happy hour and zoom or teams, but it's all in 2D and you all see yourself in like Brady Bunch view and it felt like there wasn't really a great way to have good networking events. That's why we ended up creating Showboat, which is a 3D environment where you can walk around but you still have the audio and video that you're used to in zoom or teams.
How can businesses better leverage what we see as meeting and networking technologies to better serve existing and reach new customers?
What we're seeing right now is as the world reopens, everybody's trying to figure out are they coming back to the office or are they staying remote? Are they going to be permanently hybrid, and if so how does that work? There are pros and cons to any of those three scenarios so it's kind of figuring out what your own company strategy is. If you go purely hybrid, then people come into the office on Sundays, and then they expect that they're going to come in and see their co-workers and maybe have a pick up meeting in the hallway and then they realize the people they want to see aren't there because they're at home. So it's kind of navigating this new world and so we're seeing technologies being able to improve that and blending the face-to-face in with the virtual, and how can people have that office co-presence between virtual and face-to-face using the technologies that are out there.
Can you share one of your most successful or favorite networking stories?
Networking, for me, has been huge. The quick, broad-brush for me is a lot of the contacts that I made when I was really young, 14 to 18 are a lot of the reason that I'm here where I am today. I had no idea at that time that that would matter. Right. Growing up, you just were taught to treat people well and not realizing that it could come back a decade-plus later and benefit you. You're not doing it for that reason, it's just being kind and genuine and taking care of people and doing what you can to help them as people reciprocate that. A lot of those lessons I learned when I was younger came through and then even when I was starting the IT company, a lot of clients were built upon networking. I joined the MMAC in Milwaukee which is the business Chamber of Commerce and got in there and kept going to meetings and meeting people. At first, it was different, it was kind of like stepping out of your comfort zone and going to networking events that they had and meeting people and starting to work with them and landing a client or two and then leveraging the client network to get other clients. I honestly think that the majority of the reason we have the clients we do and have the three businesses is all related to big networking and small networking. What I mean by that is, a company when I met somebody that was running a business when I was 19 and then approached me in my 30s and asked me if I would acquire them, and we did and helped kind of grow the business. On to the small, when I say small networking, it's the little interactions that you have in collisions that you have at some of these local networking events that you never realize will become a client and potentially your best client that you've ever had over time. It's so interesting to me, if I look back at my 25 years in business, and so much of what I have is from that networking piece. So I mean, of the three companies, I probably wouldn't have two of them if it wasn't for big networking that I was doing when I was young and having no idea that that would pay off later and we wouldn't have the number of the clients we have if it wasn't for going to and still going to the networking events locally and supporting the local networks and being a part of those teams.
How do you stay in front of them best nurture your network?
I think for me as an owner of 3 companies, it's evolved over time. But realizing that honestly, where it started still makes sense. So for me, some of my specifics were, back to the MMAC, which has been phenomenal for us as an organization. My whole thing with networking is, is you get what you give and you don't want to count ships. So, for instance, when I got in there, originally, I had five clients to my name. When I started out, it was getting into just going into the business after hours, getting into a networking group, and I got into a CEO Roundtable, and I got into all three things, and those three things I just kept going right even a year in. It's not that the results come quickly, it's a year or two in and people get to know you and trust you, and someone works with you and then they spread that you're doing great so it kind of helps your network grow. That was like in the beginning and so then as organizations grow, and some other people on the team pick up some of those pieces of the network and fill those in which we're still involved in those same things that we were involved in 20 years ago, then you find other networks, and it's not always that you're intentionally networking. I might join a tech or a Vistage business group, or other CEO coaching or peer group and inside those peer groups, you start networking. Again, you almost see networking as second nature, you're in a business owner’s peer group to learn from each other. So you're sharing financials, and you're talking about your highs and your lows and challenges you're having, and in the process of doing that, you get to know each other so well, that you're just inherently networking with each other. So you may refer business to each other, you may become a client-vendor relationship, or may even be an acquisition merger type of relationship. Those have all worked for me over time. Our business operates through the traction process, and one of my traction to-dos right now is to rethink my personal networking, because we realized that a lot of what drives us to work with is not just getting clients, but also getting good employees and getting great vendor partners. So I mean, I'm in the process right now of reworking that for myself and figuring out where it makes sense to spend my time.
I would tell myself to move faster, be less concerned and less worried, and just take bigger leaps in general. I started the IT business in college and so aside from a job at Subway and a great job that I loved in college, I never actually had a real business job. The IT company was my first real job and so I never really worked at another company to learn from. So in the beginning, I moved a lot slower just because I was nervous that I was going to screw it up and have to start over. Looking back now I wish I would have just moved a whole lot faster. So that and I also get too deep in the weeds. I'm a tech by nature and I love networking with people. So I love people, and I love technology and I'm often getting too deep end account management on some projects, and I'm getting too deep into the engineering of certain things. I love both of those things, but sometimes when I get too far down the path, I realize that I shouldn't have gotten down there and my team, thankfully, is smarter than me and I should have let them handle it. So there's a bunch of stepping aside and moving quicker.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
A person that I really love in business is Richard Branson. I just see all the different companies he's grown to large sizes. He's got a collection of companies, most of them are well known by us and a lot of them even operate outside of this country. I follow him a lot on social media he's also using a lot of the wealth that he's gained from running these companies, which he has tons of fun with. The marketing is totally funny, a lot of guerilla marketing that he's doing, whether it's airlines, or liquor, or music, or what have you and he uses a lot of the wealth for good. Whether it's environmental good or social good, he's just a great person and I would love to somehow network with him and learn more from him than just standing from afar.
Any final words of advice you'd like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think just to reiterate that it's all about giving as much as you can. If you're going to get involved in a networking group, or like a chamber of commerce organization or anything like that, for networking, I think the big piece is not to worry about receiving right away. That will come later, it might even come much later, but it could come big so just focus on giving and being involved. You'll look back over time and realize that it paid off, and I don't think that's ever failed me.
Connect with Dave
When experts are ready to create more conversations with perfect prospects, they call Tobin at bookofexperts.com. He's been called an introverted savant with a superpower for helping you find your tribe and sparking conversations out of thin air. This new book is called Experts Never Chase, because deep down we all know that chasing undermines the hard-won trust and authority of subject matter experts so he helps entrepreneurs find the easy path dialog that drives sales.
Why did you write the book, Experts Never Chase? What's the big idea behind it?
So our book just came out last month. We launched on May the fourth, and since we launched, we've had a successful Kickstarter, which was a unique experience to launch the book with that and I think we're on four or five bestseller lists now. So that's been a new experience for me, I've never done the book thing. My co-author on the book, Cat Stancik has published once before so she had a little bit more experience and it has been great getting some help from friends and experts in that space of what it looks like to launch and market your book. The funny thing is when we did the Kickstarter, we used the exact same process that is outlined in the book. So I think that that was a really fun way to validate that and show people what we're doing at the same time for why they might be interested in the book. The book is not for everyone, but it's really written for expert-based entrepreneurs, so coaches, consultants, people who talk about clients instead of customers, and particularly folks that are feeling like it's harder than it should be. Like, it's really hard to get that next couple of clients and if I had just a couple more clients coming into the mix, it would really change my business, my life, my work-life balance. So the book is how to make that happen without feeling like you have to chase those clients, those prospective clients around because when you do that, it really undoes a lot of the good work that we seek to make in the world.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that you see in our online space of expert-based entrepreneurs and what would really help them out?
The challenge that I'm seeing goes right back to what you described of this reaction of, "I get these messages, and I have no interest in them," so it's this challenge to scale. We've been sold a bill of goods of I'm going to create a business that's like an ATM, it's going to work while I sleep so everything I do in my business has to be built to scale, built to grow big. Relationships are a little bit different because the minute we start treating other individuals like a number on our spreadsheet. We've all done that funnel math where we try talking to 1,000 contacts where that ends in let's say three clients coming out at the bottom of that funnel. What we don't factor into that math is the 997 people at the start, who received that first message and said, "This is probably someone I'll never do business with," because of that first impression. So I think the challenge is how to change that and how to create relationships in a systematic, predictable and consistent way, but not scalable so that you lose that human-to-human connection. Business is done by one person doing business with another. There are other industries, where their consumers and customers and I came out of that world. That was my background, I had to reinvent myself four or five years ago. I was a build your list, push the send button. We sent two emails that produced a million and a half dollars in the nonprofit space. That was my world, like the one to many kinds of digital marketing. But I grew really frustrated because I saw that it wasn't working as consistently as it should because 2 out of 10 people were opening emails, and you'd work really hard to send better emails, and it might go up to 3 out of 10 people. So about four or five years ago went all-in on this one-to-one, talk to people the way I would want to be approached and converse with, build real relationships, and trust that good things are gonna flow from that. Then I had to get more systematic about it myself.
How are you getting those results?
There are three big questions that come up when we do this process and the book was written from the workshops that I do. When I first approached my co-author about doing the book together, she said, "You realize I'm kind of a competitor, right?" But I think that the book is better for having both our voices in it. We didn't hold anything back from the book and we tackle three big questions that come up. The first is how do I find my right fit prospects? Usually, when people they asked this question, it feels like such a big hurdle, such a big boulder that's been dropped in front of them that they can't even imagine how to get started. Because they're looking around and they don't see where their next client could be coming from. So we show them a few strategies in the book, walk them through. The response we get from folks, after they answer this question, they'll get on the other side, and they'll look back over their shoulder and they're like, "That wasn't really the problem, my real problem is I have a handful of people that I would love to do business with, but I don't know how to start this because every time I reach out to people, I feel weird about it, and they run the other way. How do I start a conversation with someone I really want to do business with?" So the same thing happens, we walk through a couple of strategies that have worked really well. It's not a script. Just note that if you guys are hearing this if someone's trying to sell you on a script that's going to make you a million dollars. Scripts don't work because, by the time someone receives that message, you can feel it. We all know when we're getting marketing from someone else, and no one responds well, but if you can send a message and the person on the other end, the receiving end, 100% knows that that message was meant for them alone, that's one of the ways you can make a positive first impression on people. You can personalize, not just first name, but for example, Lori, with you, we started the podcast this way. I said social currency is a brilliant way to have this conversation to talk about what you're doing because it captures so much. There's a whole economy around giving and receiving of attention right now. So that would be how I would reach out to you to make sure that this is a conversation about you and something you care about and not just a copy and paste that everybody else got. The third thing that always comes up and it's always in this order, how do I find my people, what do I say to them to spark a conversation? The third question is how do we take that conversation and turn it into a sales conversation? My co-author says, "How do you go from talking about the weather to talking about whether we should be doing business together or not?" There an art having a really good conversation with someone and to figure out that there may be business here and to do it in an elegant way that everyone feels great about they feel invited into it. It's really about getting permission, getting people the opportunity to raise their hand and say, "Yeah, tell me a little bit more about that." So the book walks through a bunch of examples that have worked really well for me and for the clients that we've worked with in workshops. It's not one phrase that wins at all, it's more the content of when you deliver this, and that you let them feel like they have control of the conversation, that then you get permission which allows you to enter into the specifics of what it might look like if you do business together.
Can you share one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences?
So I have been that guy too where networking is intimidating. The idea of going to the Chamber of Commerce meeting and having to network that way, is really hard for me, honestly. As a business owner, I've forced myself to do that, but it does make me tense up a little bit even thinking about being in that environment. Let me share with you what has really helped me and I think I've cultivated and nurtured this in the online environment, but I'm now finding it works every bit as well in real life. I can have conversations with people, I can genuinely look for the awesome in that. So what is cool about this other person, what are they doing? It doesn't have to be that we went to the same high school or college since everyone's trying to find that rapport. It's really just as a human being, what are they doing that is really cool that I can find to compliment them? That's one of the first things that I'm going to do. The reason I start there is it feels really good to be validated by others and to be recognized and seen for the hard work that we're doing. So if we can start a conversation there, I found it kind of takes off much more easily for both sides, we just all feel good about it. The second thing is I can put my agenda on the back burner for a while. For me, that means hearing what's going on in the other person's world. I might ask them a question like, "So if I did run into someone who was a perfect prospect for you, how would I recognize them?" A question like that creates an opportunity to have a little bit of a deeper conversation and maybe I actually can make a connection. If there's business to be had that can wait a little bit too because we do business with people that we know, like, and trust and there's reciprocity and all that in place. But if I can really understand who the other person is on the other side of the dialog, I potentially could help them. That's agenda number one for me, I'm probably going to make an introduction to someone else in my network that I know will appreciate them, maybe needs what they have, maybe I'll hear them say that they're stuck with something that they don't fully know or understand yet, but there's someone I know that could be really helpful for them. So connecting those dots between people can become the reason for having that conversation. Then, only then if someone says something that you can help with at that point, it gives you an opportunity to say, "Oh, that's kind of interesting, tell me more about that," and if I don't earn that, then I don't deserve to have that conversation.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network?
I think this is one of the big challenges in this space, which is as you're starting to network with more people, how do you do it in an intelligent way so that they are real relationships and it's not you touched a person one time and you never see them again? That really doesn't serve either side. So one of the tools that I found helpful is a CRM called getdex.com. This has become my favorite tool and the one piece of software that I would most hate to give up. Dex is a Rolodex essentially and it will not replace your CRM. So if anyone out there is saying, "Yeah, I got this covered, I've got HubSpot," that won't work because that's not what dex is. Dex does one thing and it does it really well. It tells you who to connect with or who to talk to and when like the follow-up part of it. So as you and I chat, I'll make a few notes in the record of the timeline of our conversation. Then all my folks that I want to stay in touch with are on-timers, they're in buckets. So for this group of people, I want to make sure that I check-in and see what's going on in their world, look at their content, make sure I'm commenting and staying relevant and up to date with them, at least on a monthly basis. For other people, it might be a couple of times a year where I don't want to lose touch, but it's not a business relationship that I need to stay top of mind with either. So I'm just using this tool and before using dex, I really struggled because I was doing this on paper and it just wasn't working. But this tool plugs into LinkedIn plugs into email, and Facebook so I can make my notes right there, as I'm conversing with people. So it's been a great addition.
What advice would you offer business professionals who are looking to grow their network?
I think I'm going to go back and reuse one that I've already shared, but I'm going to emphasize it because I think it's that important. That is to find the awesome in other people first. As entrepreneurs, we are very sensitive to taking care of our people. So if you have a newsletter, if you have a YouTube channel, your network on LinkedIn, wherever your people are where you're actively growing your audience and nurturing those relationships when someone shows up and engages with you, we are very in tune with taking care of those people, it's a great way to get to know folks. So when you show up and you find the awesome in someone else, it's a natural interface to really connect with them. So for example, for a podcaster like you, Lori, the ratings and reviews on podcasts, that is the currency of podcasting, right. So if someone wants to connect with you, the smartest thing they could do is to leave you a five-star review. Then what I would do is I'd take a screenshot and I'd shoot you an email and say, "Lori, I'm really enjoying the podcast, I just left your review, this is what I said." Now you and I are going to have a completely different conversation because of the context of how we first connected so this is the approach that I prefer. The alternative, what we've been all been told for years is to show up and bring value, like give value to people. There's a problem with this and I did this years ago. There was a lawyer who had paid big money to have the back of the Yellow Page book, and I looked at his website and his local listings online. I could see he had a lot of holes in his online marketing, even though he was spending a lot of money on the yellow pages. So I reached out to him thinking that I was doing him a favor, sharing all these mistakes that he made. I thought I was giving him value, he probably thought I was the biggest ass in the world. So I learned by that mistake that even though I thought I was giving value, that's a terrible way to deliver it. So show up, find the awesome first, and delivering value can come later. There's still a lot of substance in that, but it's not the best way to show up on someone's doorstep.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less than or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think my answer on what I'm doing today is different from what I would say if I could go back and talk to my 20-year-old self. If I could go back and talk to my 20-year-old self, I really would have focused on the list building. I just turned 50 so we're talking about a 30 year period of time where the ability to build an audience of people that had a core interest in common and what I didn't understand back then was if you build a big enough group of people, you can monetize it in really interesting ways. I'm a little bit of a Star Wars nerd so when I was 20 years old if someone said you can create a newsletter that is all about the nerdy Star Wars stuff that you're interested in, I think I wouldn't have believed that. I would have questioned how that would become a business. If you look at our world today, it's amazing how all these passionate communities have been built around a topic or a niche that people really care about a lot and once you've gathered the crowd, you can have sponsors, you can directly sell things that that group asked for. There are so many different ways to monetize it in a way that people will love you for and I would have loved to counsel my younger self on that.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Nope, I just really appreciate what you're doing to get the information out. I think anyone that hears this and if you're interested in connecting, let's have a real conversation.
Connect with Tobin:
Check out Tobin’s new book: Search “Experts Never Chase” on Amazon
Joel is the proud author of Formans Financial Facts, a financial management blueprint. His mission is to educate people so that they can manage their personal finances with confidence for life. Over the past 30 years, Joel has worked in corporate America and a variety of financial roles. He started in traditional financial roles in the financial services and baking industries. About 16 years ago, he successfully moved into the consulting world.
Why is it so important to have a personal budget?
Well, a personal budget to me, is really the foundation for anyone's financial management and money management needs. By building a personal budget, you're going to understand where you're spending your money, what you're spending it on, and you're going to make sure that you're bringing home enough money on a monthly basis to not only cover those fixed and variable expenses but to also have money left over to what I like to call pay yourself for savings and investment opportunities. If you don't have a good handle on the budget, and what you have coming in versus coming out, it's going to be really difficult to do those other two.
Why is it important to have a plan for saving money for the things you want and need?
It's really quite simple. Unfortunately, we know money makes the world go round, we can't go in and purchase a new computer with a smile. So what one of the things that I teach in my blueprint is I break it down into percentages for you. 55% is generally for your core bills, your rent, your mortgage, car payments, any loans you have, etc. Then I have 21%, which is a little bit more flexible for wants and needs, for going out to dinner, for entertainment, going to the movies, once the pandemic is behind us. Then the most critical piece of that is the 24%, which is what I call the pay yourself first, which is you break that down to savings and investments. The savings part of that is let's say you want a new couch, or you're looking to get a new car and you want to have a down payment on it. By saving for that in advance and putting money aside, let's say you need a, you know, a $5,000 downpayment? Well, if you all of a sudden just have to come up with $5,000 from somewhere in your financial arsenal, and you didn't plan for it, it might be more difficult. But by putting this money aside incrementally, it makes the buying experience so much easier when you go to buy that car because that $5,000 while you'll feel it, it's less painful because you already have it and you can enjoy the rest of the buying experience.
What are some of the key things to think about when you're setting these financial goals?
There are a lot of different things that come into play. So I like to look at the whole picture. So you're going to be wanting to save up for things that you want, whether it's a down payment on a car, down payment on a house, you're also going to be thinking about retirement, and yes, no matter how young you are, and especially the younger, the better, because time is not always your friend in life. But when it comes to planning for retirement, time is absolutely your friend, the more time you have for that money to grow, the interest to compound, the market values of whatever you invested in to go up, you want to think about that. You also want to think about your children's future, even if you don't have any, and start planning with a 529 plan or something that will get ready that can be used for their future education. So the first thing you would do is make a laundry list of some of the things that I've mentioned, and maybe some other things that you want to do. Then the next thing is you sit down either with a financial adviser, or an accountant and lay out the things I want and the things that I need to save for my life and for my family. How do I get there? What's the plan? What are the steps? What are the vehicles that I'm going to go through, to channel the money to either save and or invest to get to each of those milestones down the road? That's why you have to plan it out because the house and the car are going to come before the kids and then the kids are going to come and then you're going to have college and then the retirement is always there, but it's kind of in the background. You really have to think about it though because like I said, the more time you have the better off you're going to be.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
First of all, I'm an avid fan of networking, always have been always will be. I'm a big fan of it's not what you know, but who you know, and who they know. That is a good segue into how I got onto this podcast with you, Lori. A mutual contact of ours I recently connected with, her name is Grace Chang and I mentioned to her among other things, that one of my goals was to get on a few podcasts like this, and she says, "Oh, I think I can help you, I know two people that have really successful podcast!" So I didn't realize when I first talked to Grace that was going to come up in conversation, let alone lead to this. You just never know when you're talking to someone, and you're sharing your goals and she's sharing her goals and I've introduced her to people where it's gonna lead. So for me, that's very recent, hot off the presses and I'd have to say, even though I have a lot of other great successful stories, I think that's probably the best.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationship that you've created in your network in your community?
For me, there's a couple of things. But for those of you that know who I am, and follow me on LinkedIn, or Facebook or Instagram, one of the things that I instituted at the first week in January, and then the second week of January, I do a financial word of the day, which I've been doing since January 2. Then since January 9, I do videos each day and they're all related to financial tips. Basically, my financial blueprint covers eight financial topics so it's always within the realm of one of those. I know some people prefer to read things, and some people prefer the videos so that's why I'm doing the mix of both. It also gives me a chance to hit two promos on the same day without doing the promo because I'm not always telling you to go to my site and buy this or look at what I have. A lot of times, I don't even mention that. I usually say that or I might have it in the intro written for teeing up the video. But basically, by constantly videoing, I've been told that that makes it more personable, people get to know me a little bit more and feel like we're having a conversation and I'm very comfortable with that. I never thought I'd be doing all these videos, but I'm getting close to my 100th and I just did my 100th word of the day. But the other thing that I do is I'm constantly reaching out to my network and just seeing how they're doing. If there's anything new or if I see that they've accomplished something, and they promoted it somewhere, I'll comment in and I'll try to share that and spread that good fortune for them along the way. So that's kind of the main ways that I do it, showing up and being consistent.
What advice would you offer to business professionals really looking to grow their network?
I would say you have to be active. You have to be active now on as many social media platforms as you can because you're going to reach different people on these different platforms. I mean, one of the things that I'd say about LinkedIn is that I've always used LinkedIn successfully for consulting opportunities, but now I've shifted it as now I'm a financial educator. So I'm using LinkedIn now more this year in 2021 than I have since 2008 when I joined. Another great way is Clubhouse, a new audio platform, and it was originally only for iPhone users at first, now the Android users are on there, so now everybody's on there, which is fantastic. It's a great way to go into rooms, usually, they tell you what it's about and who the guests are going to be and you can get to know people and feel a connection with people so quickly in a short conversation. That would happen organically with emails or messages back and forth, but I've met some great people where we've taken immediate action on doing things because we just connected. Also, any networking opportunity where you can be in person, or where you can actually talk to someone, the zoom calls, a lot of the virtual things, it's so much easier to build rapport when you're having a conversation, and you can cover so much ground so quickly. So I would say put yourself out there. LinkedIn is hugely important, but don't shy away from Clubhouse and other things where you can get more quick hits, and maybe meet more people in a short period of time.
I haven't thought about it often, but occasionally I do and one of the things that I would say is when I was young, and I went through my junior year of college, I really wasn't too happy with it. I wasn't a great student, I was struggling a little bit and I had this burning desire to have my own business. So I dropped out after my junior year, much to everyone's dismay and I tried to pursue my own business for four years. I learned so much, but I would say looking back on it after the first two opportunities didn't work out. After three years, instead of just trying to pursue the dream then, I would have had the wisdom to go on a different plan for now. I ultimately did do that, just a year late. I went back to 49 credits of hell, but in 12 months I got my degree and I have to say it was the best decision I ever made, I was so proud of myself, I did better that year than I did any other. But I would say that over the years since then, there are a few times when I've wanted to do something more entrepreneurial, and I would have done it a little bit sooner. But sometimes you get on a different path for a different reason and last year, the pandemic gave me yet another pause in my career, and my youngest son said, "Dad, you're helping me with my budget, you're helping me with savings, you're helping me with investing, you're helping my siblings, you're helping my friends, you're helping my girlfriend negotiate better rates on loans, Dad, you have all this knowledge, you've been doing this for free, for all these years, helping everyone and everybody's still coming to you, but people my age need this, I'd be lost without you. Some of my friends that don't have access to you are clueless when it comes to money." So sometimes you just go through life, and you get to a point and something gives you time to pause and you're always trying to pass on wisdom to your kids. This was one time one of my sons passed on wisdom to me. Ever since I decided to do this blueprint, I've been happier than I've ever been and the timing of it was great because I actually had the time to delve into it. So I would say be open-minded to when events or pauses happen in your life, and you get a chance to rethink what you're doing, and how you're doing it, and how else you can use your skills to help others.
You've actually got a giveaway for our listeners today. Do you want to talk about that briefly?
As I mentioned earlier, and as you alluded to earlier about my financial blueprint. I cover 8 of what I consider basic concepts or foundational areas, or principles that you really need to master in order to manage your personal finances with confidence. So I created a pamphlet, and I called it 8 Principles of Financial Freedom by Formans Financial Facts. So each page will give you an example of how a personal budget will be important, that's one page. Then there's a basic savings method, which is the second section of my blueprint. From there, you go to basic investment methods, then retirement planning, building your credit and that is really helpful for those people that want to understand more about how their credit score works, and how it helps them, primary loan types, life insurance, and planning for college. So I know there's a lot of other things, but I did a lot of research and I gave this a lot of thought and I think if you can get a good foundational footing on each of these areas which my blueprint walks you through that and reinforces concepts and philosophies and habits, you'll really get a good sense of this. This giveaway is a little snapshot of what the broader blueprint will cover.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would say none of us are on an island by ourselves, and all of us have enjoyed different levels of success and continue to enjoy that. But one of the ways that I found has really helped me to grow, is I try to help as many other people as I can along the way. Also, the people that are helping me like I have a social media team and a brand management team, I like to consistently let them know that I appreciate all their efforts because I couldn't do it by myself. I really do, I am grateful that I've had people believe in me and what I'm doing and have gotten to know me and then I introduce people and then they collaborate or create something great and it's just very rewarding. So I would say always think about how you can serve others and always remember that you're not doing alone, you don't have to be and that's okay. There are a lot of good people out there, a lot of smart people that can give you a lot of great wisdom, and you just never know when that next contact of yours is going to lead to something big for them, or for you.
Connect with Joel
Eric is the co-founder of Blue C, a California-based brand strategy and creative marketing agency. Since 1998 Eric has been helping companies across both b2b and b2c segments. Eric is a second-generation marketer and actively supports clients’ growth dreams through the Blue C Brand PWR platform and the Six Systems To Success. On a personal basis, Eric spends 16 weekends a year in Baja California and is the co-founder of The California Love Job, which cares for frontline workers.
How important is brand strategy for companies that want to grow?
Well, what's interesting is that our company focuses first and foremost on brand strategy. The platform we have is called Brand Power and the very first step is always about brand strategy, brand messaging, clarity and positioning. It's interesting, because in the last 12 to 18 months, we have had so many more companies come to us and ask us to go through our Brand Power clarity process than ever before. A lot of people think that branding and marketing flow together, but they're almost like polar opposites, or maybe even like the Ying Yang, if you don't do one, you can't do the other. What happens is if you don't have complete clarity on your message, you're not going to be able to do your marketing well. So by going through our process, we're able to uncover everything, create absolute clarity, create massive success for both internal and external, as well as create the next step in our Brand Power process, which is called amplify. The system actually works really well as a roadmap and our first step is clarify, which is the brand strategy, amplify, which is the marketing strategy marketing plan, kind of our roadmap, and then infuse the creative campaign development. Then integrate is the digital marketing and sales strategies, and then engage is all the social media content and content marketing that flows in around the whole campaign. So to answer your question more precisely, how important is brand strategy, is brand strategy is a long game, but it's very, very, very important. You can't do one without the other.
What is the difference between branding and marketing?
I think the easiest way to explain branding is this is what people think about you after you leave your room. The marketing is how are we going to get that message out to the right people at the right place at the right time. So if you break it down really simple like that, that's the best way to think about it. The branding is always about the message. A lot of people are like, "Okay, well, we need our brand developed, let's do our logo," but no, it actually goes deeper into that. So when we go through our process, the brand clarity process, we really get down into the pillars, the tonality, the mission, the values, the words you say, the words you don't say, the visual direction, and keeping a very strong clarity in the message. So with that being said, the branding is that feeling, what they think about you, how everything is cohesive and everything works together, the marketing is how they're going to connect with you to get you to engage and be a fan of that brand.
What's the difference between b2b marketing and b2c marketing?
I think the easiest way to think about it, and I kind of want to take a step back before I go into that is a consumer will spend $100 on something, but a business will spend $1,000 on that same thing. The difference is that the consumer wants to know about the emotional connection of it, they want the emotional buy on it. So you're going to see a lot of marketing really targeted towards the emotional side, how you're going to feel, how you're going to be seen, how you're going to look, how this thing is going to change your life on it. Then on b2b, it's all rational and they're thinking what is it going to do for my company, is it going to save me time or make me more money. What's really interesting is that we have clients that have both b2b products, and the same product is been for b2c. It's really difficult sometimes because you have to change your thinking, and you really have to change how you're communicating when you're going to the consumer market and then all of a sudden, it's like, "Now what we have to do is we have to this campaign for the exact same product for the b2b channels." Knowing your audience, and really knowing what's important for them, and knowing their profile is the first step that we found. And if anyone wants to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn, I will send you our customer profile template, you can just fill it out, and you can have it it's a three-page document that's basically a lifesaver.
Well, first and foremost, do you remember years ago when networking was sleazy, you're going out there, and you're going to have a chicken lunch and hang out with a bunch of people and it was just like sleazy. It was really interesting because when I really started to understand networking, I felt the complete opposite and I love it. I'm an introvert by nature, but the idea is that being around people, and getting to learn their side of things and their conversations, and you never know where they're going to intersect in your life is most important. So I take the other side to it, networking is the greatest time ever. For those that don't get outside of their comfort zone, they're going to limit their growth potential, their financial opportunities, as well as just their lifelong depth of getting to know new and exciting things. I've networked through the whole pandemic and what's really crazy about the whole thing is I didn't know as networking, I thought it was just doing something to help out. So one of our clients is Wahoos Fish Tacos. They have 60 locations and they're an iconic restaurant in California, and they lost 85% of their business in two days. So let's kind of put this in perspective. For every dollar bill that was handed at the counter, 85% of that was cut in half and thrown in the trash. If you have 60 locations, 85% of that is a terrible thing, you can lose the whole business, as well as every other restaurant losing 85% of their business. But the other thing is that the food kept on coming in from their suppliers. So all their food is provided by suppliers on an ongoing basis on a monthly or yearly contract. So you can't stop the train it's going to come there if you have customers or not, you committed it to it so it's yours. So myself and Wing Lam who is the owner of Wahoos called me up one night. He's very philanthropic and he said, "Hey, I need some help, can you help me deliver some tacos?" I was like, "Okay," so basically, I got my car, and we made 300 tacos because he only had two people at one location, we delivered it to a hospital for the doctors and nurses there. The whole objective is to keep the doctors and nurses fed and keep them staying very positive, not calling in sick, because if you call in sick, then they have to do a freelance doctor or freelance nurse, which is called the traveling nurse. When you get that many people, it gets financially out of hand and then the hospital has to make a decision of having a short staff versus the actual size of the staff. So we did that and then we got a couple of calls from other people who said, "Hey, we can't do events right now do you want to partner up?" So Monster Energy called us and said, "Hey, we've got all this product that for sampling, but we don't have any events now so what are we going to do?" We got Monster Energy on board, a bunch of other major companies came on board and then one of the largest radio stations in Los Angeles came on board and they said, "We want to be a partner on this." So we created this thing called the California Love Drop. Corporate companies started said, "Hey, we really love what you're doing, let us pay for the food, and you just delivered to the hospitals and give us some credit for it." So we're approaching about 300 different drops now, probably about 25,000 meals. The greatest thing is, is that this was like networking in a box, where all these companies started wanting to come out and hang out with us, and on Friday morning on the largest radio station we have five minutes on every hour to talk about what we're doing. So the companies loved to be mentioned on it. So it was kind of like organic networking. So that is actually my favorite story and if anyone's interested in learning more then go to https://californialovedrop.org/ to check it out.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture all these relationships that you're creating?
First and foremost, as soon as I meet with someone, I think about how I can help. I grew up in the restaurant business so I kind of has this mentality of wanting to help people. Each and every aspect is that I don't come from the perspective of well, first and foremost, I'm not a salesperson. I'm always here to help people get what they need, but on the other side, I always want to help them first. So I always connect with them on LinkedIn and say, "Hey, if there's anything I can do, just let me know!" But the other aspect is that I always try to keep them connected to the fun things we're doing. Last week, Blue C does a big thing every year called the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. It's a motorcycle ride for men's prostate cancer and men's mental health, where it's 900 rides worldwide on the same day with 60,000 people. So I run the Orange County one and we actually sold out the first time in 10 years which was great. It's really cool because all the men and women get dressed up and their Sunday best, the suits the whole thing, we go we do a coastal ride up the coast so everyone gets to see the beach and comes back down. Then we have the triumph, we have Wahoos fish tacos and at the final stage, we had barber stations there. So as soon as the guys and girls got off, the motorcycles and took their helmets off, they actually got their hair done. The festivities were only supposed to last till four o'clock and actually lasted till six, we had a great time. But I also invite my clients to go and then all of a sudden, my clients want to be involved in it, too. So we actually integrate them into it. So I think of it as like the party that keeps on going.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
Consistency. You can go and do 10 different networking things and you're going to burn yourself out. You're going to sit in the middle of the night, and you're going, "I went to 10 different things and I didn't get one piece, one project, one relationship, nothing." Instead of doing 10 different things, focus on three that you're really passionate about, that are like-minded, that you have a passion yourself for, and focus on that and be consistent. Don't just go once, and that's it, don't go twice and that's it, continue to go. The other thing I always encourage is don't be the person at the bar. Dedicate your time and work at the front desk. The best part is at the front desk, you meet everyone and they will remember you. If you're the person behind the bar, or the person at the bar holding the bar up is you've probably met three people and that person is probably a life insurance salesperson, a mortgage broker, and a dog groomer. On the other hand, if you have 100 people that came through, you're going to know every single person afterward, you can actually go up to that person and say "Hey, I would love to learn a little more about your industry." So I always say it's about consistency, showing up, and being active.
I wish I would have started networking in my 20s. But I also wish I had built more strong relationships between my 20s and 30s. I was a working guy back then, and the thing about it is that if you work for a company right now if you're in your 20s and 30s, is those are your growing years. Those aren't your earning years, those are growing years, you're just figuring stuff out. The thing about it is that from that you get mentors, and mentors are great people that you connect with that are ongoing, and you have to have those between 20 and 30. Otherwise, the 30 to 40 years are your earning years where when you're actually earning money. Then, 40 to 50 is when you actually are earning more money, but also between 40 and 50 are your giving back years, you have to pay it forward. So the circle of life starts is the 20 to 30 but ends at 40 to 50+ on a giving back. So I didn't realize that and one of the things that really made me realize this is I met this guy when I was in my 30s. I was invited to it was actually the foundation room in Las Vegas and it was for the SEMA Show. This guy was this Las Vegas guy and he goes by the name of The Godfather of Las Vegas, just a real strong enigma of a person. He was so connected in Las Vegas on the business side, everything connected with him in one way or another. Everyone that was moving around in Las Vegas from a job standpoint was connected to him. So I looked at him and said, "Wow, you know everyone," and he goes, "Yeah," and he actually was the one that introduced me to LinkedIn many years ago. I think he was my LinkedIn contact number one. So going back is that's one of those things that changed me because in the early era of Blue C we got business and clients would come to us, but those clients eventually go away. Once a client, not always a client, so you always have to refill the system and help more and more people and the only way to do it is to meet new people. What I would say is even if you're an introvert make sure you work at that guest table, make sure you go up to the people that are putting the event together, and ask how you can help. They'll give you something to do and you will also become better.
Connect with Eric