Social Capital

Welcome to Social Capital, a weekly podcast where we dive into social relationships and how the investment you put into them establishes trust, reciprocity, and value within your network. Your host, Lori Highby, will connect with top business professionals to dive into their best techniques and stories to share with you!
RSS Feed
Social Capital








All Episodes
Now displaying: Page 1
Apr 13, 2022
Meet Steven

Steven Novick is the CEO & Founder of Farmstand. Farmstand cooks & delivers fresh, fast, healthy, and affordable meals to businesses and consumers that they personalize. Their website is Steven previously built 2 billion-dollar businesses & climbed seven summits (including Everest - the very top). Beating cancer made him passionate about food and the environment, and growing up working class made him appreciate affordability and convenience, which is why he started Farmstand.

With there being so many meal delivery services out there, how is Farmstand better?

Like you said, there's certainly a tremendous amount of meal delivery services out there. And how we distinguish ourselves is really in four ways: we're affordable, we're fast, we're healthy, and we're also zero waste. So we describe the Farmstand formula as: we're $7 a meal, five minutes to heat, zero added sugar in zero ways. So it's “seven, five, zero zero”. To add a little bit more to that, we think, ultimately, we're 10 times better than the competition. Firstly, as much as we do a direct-to-consumer service, and we deliver directly to homes, what makes us highly unique is that we have large contracts with Office caterers and large institutions. But what makes us 10 times better than the competition is we're fresh, versus frozen or a meal kit. So we're ready to eat. We're 50% less expensive. We're 90% faster to cook, and we have 100% personalization. And oh, by the way, we take up 90% less fridge space than a HelloFresh would.

Love all of that. And now this is the part that I'm sure most of our listeners are going to be not super happy to hear. But you're not available in the US at the moment. Correct?

Yeah, at the moment, we're just in the UK. We cover the UK nationwide. But a contract that we've signed with a food service provider called ISS and the UK's largest bank, Barclays, that contract, although it starts in the UK, is a subscription agreement (because we’re a subscription-only business) allows us to expand into Europe and the US. And so our hope is to be in the US starting on a B2B basis as early as the first quarter of 2023.

All right, love that. I'm definitely eager to learn more about you when you’re in our territory. So you've previously built $2 billion businesses. How have you done that and what's important to get right from the very beginning?

Yeah, so prior to starting Farmstand, I co-founded an investment firm that now manages about $2 billion invested in private companies. And then prior to that, I was head of business development at a health tech business that raised about $50 million in venture capital. We scaled to $20 million in revenue, and it filed for an IPO of $650 million valuation, which in today's dollar might be about a billion dollars, and then that business was acquired. So I think the fundamental thing is like, when we started Farmstand, I think that the foundation of everything is our values, behaviors, and ultimately what you stand for as a business. In any business you start or you join, I think you have to be very values-driven. And so for us at Farmstand, that's been a real big driver. And so one of our big values that we really centered around, especially in the environment we're in, is making sure that what we're doing has zero food waste, zero packaging waste. We're a B Corp certified business, just like Patagonia or Ben and Jerry's. So these are kind of some of the things that are really important. I think that if you don't have the right foundation when you start a business, you can't grow from that.

I love that. And I agree 100% with all those. I started my business fairly young and didn't have that foundation fleshed out. But it's definitely been a core focus of mine, and something I communicate to my team and even clients – when we're talking about their marketing and their messaging – is that it comes down to what is it that you believe, that's going to help attract the type of people that align with your thinking and your philosophy?

Yeah, I think that's right, and ultimately your customers are going to follow you and get excited based on what you do. So we ultimately want people to take a stand – and take a Farmstand for that matter. So it's on affordability; you know, healthy meals shouldn't just be for the wealthy. And you ultimately want these meals to be healthy. So no added sugar is a really important thing. I mean, 73% of the US population now is overweight or obese, if you eliminate sugar, that helps a lot. And then ultimately, we all are short on time. And so you can pop our food in the microwave, and you have to be ready in three minutes, or boil some hot water and you can make that happen. In that way we kind of describe our business as a build-your-own-salad bar meets Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, because our pouches, which are our meals, are basically a base, a main, and a side, they all come separate, so you just put them in boiling hot water, and that's a really great solution. And then now with the environmental problems that we're having, and the increasing temperatures, making sure you have zero waste. So what's great about us is we have no food waste, we have no packaging waste, and after three deliveries, customers can return all the packaging to us. And we reuse that. So we effectively make a profit on the return which is great for us, for growing our business.

So I hear you've been writing a book for about five years now.

It's something that I wanted to do for a while. You read books like Shoe Dog, written by Phil Knight about Nike, and other books out there about your experience. Our business effectively started as a dark kitchen, and we were mostly a B2B play pre-COVID. So we had 12 Farmstand branded concessions inside large corporations like JP Morgan, Barclays, BlackRock, and KPMG, when COVID hit, we had to shut that entire business down. And we started completely from scratch. So the book is called Keep going. So the five things you do when things get difficult, and this is not only in work, but in life. The first thing is that you write down the list of the problems when things get difficult. The second thing is you come up with, hopefully, a set of potential solutions to those problems. The third thing you do is you, you know, ask for help. And then the fourth thing is you start executing on those things. And then the fifth thing, ideally, is that when you fix your problems you try to help other people. That's the general idea around the five things. And, you know, I think in life, it's the same thing, when you have a, you know, you have something, it's difficult, you have to really think about what the problem is and, and be rational about it and try to come up with solutions. So I think whether it's work or life, you really want to rally around, just keeping things as simple as possible, trying to be as rational as you can about it, whether it's a relationship with your partner, or with a work colleague, or it's work in general, you have to be solution-oriented. It's one of the things that we believe at Farmstand, one of our behaviors, people can talk about anything they want with us, or complain about anything they want. But ultimately, you need to find solutions to problems, not just simply complain about them.

What's the timeline to get the book wrapped up?

Well, with restarting the business from scratch in February, and the business growing, you know, more than 20% a month, you know, since we started, you know, folks right now are raising a bit more venture capital, which we just started doing. We're part of an accelerator in Milwaukee, which is how we met called generator, which is, you know, top 10 nationwide business accelerator. So we're focusing on raising capital right now, you know, and if we're here at the end of January now, it would be nice to get something out probably by next year is kind of the idea, maybe to coincide with us launching our business in the US.

Cool. Love it. All right. Well, this would be a good time to pause for a quick message from our sponsor.

Social capital is sponsored by Keystone Click. Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Keystone Click is a strategic digital marketing agency focused on helping their clients generate and nurture opportunities online. For Social Capital listeners, they've created an awesome "Guide to Profits" booklet featuring 42 tips on how to build brand awareness, generate leads, and nurture those opportunities online. Visit to download your own guide today.

Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I think every opportunity we have, when we're walking down the street or in the park, or in a grocery store, or wherever we have an opportunity to meet people, I don't actually like the word "networking". Connecting with people is how I view it. I'm actually much more of an introvert. People have a hard time believing that because I can get up in front of large groups of people and talk, but my natural inclination is to be more of an internal person. So I think on the networking side, I think the best thing to do whenever you're reaching out to people, LinkedIn is probably the most helpful platform that's out there to help you build a business. And I think if you're genuine in your approach, and you're honest about things, I think people generally respond very well to that if you open up by trying to sell something, or super aggressive or send repeated emails, it's not going to work. So I think you're always putting yourself in the other person's shoes. So whether it's, for us in the case of trying to contact people or food service providers, or corporates, or people looking to help us, you know, that's, that's kind of how I've gone about, I guess, you know, networking or connecting with people. I think a lot of times what is super helpful, whether you're trying to raise capital, or you're trying to build your business, is getting introductions through other people. And the easiest way of getting your introductions to other people is preparing an email that's very simple, very short. And to the point, asking someone to make that introduction, it's clear what you want the reduction for, and then they can just forward that email on to other people. So I think, you know, one, you know, example of a relationship that helped get our B2B business started as we went to our first office catering relationship was with JP Morgan, and a friend of mine, Stefan happened to work there, run a division. We had a pop-up restaurant in my house before we started the business. He came over like we were doing when we had a gathering, you know, to kind of launch the business, his daughter came along, and most of our food is gluten-free. And she was like, hey, you know, Dad, wouldn't it be great if you had this at JP Morgan? So Stefan was able to make an introduction to Aramark, which was the food service provider. And then the person that worked at JP Morgan oversaw the relationship with Aramark and effectively headed food services for JP Morgan. So there's a good example of using effectively a friend and obviously the help from his daughter who liked the food, you know, proposing the idea that progressed with us, that was our first relationship with an office caterer. And that led to our second with Compass. And then the third is with ISS, which is based in Copenhagen in a very large relationship for us now.

Yeah, I love that. And then just letting being clear on what type of connections you're looking for makes it so much easier for someone to make that connection actually turn into reality.

But there's like three ways to describe people, either you're a giver or a taker, or you're kind of a bit of both, I'm definitely a giver, I don't expect anything in return. So if I happen to be talking to someone or having a chat with someone a couple days ago, looking to invest in our business, he works in a sector that's not really similar to ours. And I happen to know someone that knows a lot about his sector, that also runs an investment fund. And I said, Hey, you know, you're looking at potentially moving into this investment field, you can probably talk to my friend, he didn't ask me to do this. But I think just volunteering and, and willing to help other people out, usually, that comes back and helps you as well. So I think being a giver versus a taker generally works to your advantage, you don't want to be taken advantage of because you also may have to do your own job. But I think being generous with our relationships and our network with other people can be a useful thing, too.

What advice would you offer the business professional who's really looking to grow their network?

So the first thing about me, which is kind of maybe a bit odd, is I never offer advice. I'm not a person that offers advice, because that presumes that I know more than the other person. And nine out of 10 times, I probably don't, even though I read sometimes up to a book a week. But what I do is offer suggestions, but only when asked. So my suggestion, you know, if you're going to try to grow your business, whatever it is, whether it's a B2B business, or direct consumer business is figuring out like, if especially if it's gonna be focusing on sales or, you know, looking at ways of network effects, which Reid Hoffman talks about in his book, "Blitzscaling", is ultimately look for the two or three or four contact contracts or relationships that could potentially lead to large revenues, versus taking in, so be more of a rifle shooter or a sniper versus using a machine gun approach. And just try to keep the approach, very targeted, very focused, versus being too broad-based. When you launch a business even for us. There's a lot of things we could not have done to launch our business. We, you know, initially started off our business, you know, meals for four, and that was portions for four, then we started with meals for two. And ultimately, we settled on meals for one because individuals are probably easier to market to than families at the end of the day.

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 regard to your professional career?

Well, it's a really good question. I really haven't thought much about that. But I would say to anyone, especially when you can look in the rearview mirror, is always work with people that have, you know, good values and good behaviors, because ultimately, being around good leaders has the right influence long term. And I think some of the jobs I've taken in the people I've worked with, some of them have had exceptional ethics, and others haven't. So I think the 20-year-old self would be, you know, focused on working with really high-quality people and high-quality organizations, because that will lead to further opportunities with similar people in businesses.

Connect with Steven


Instagram: @steven_novick

Mar 30, 2022
Meet David: 

Dave is the principal operations consultant at the Crysler Club and host of the Everyday Business Problems Podcast. Entering entrepreneurship after spending nearly 20 years working for a publicly traded corporation, Dave quickly realized there was a tremendous need within small businesses to have access to the tools and support that were commonplace in a large corporation. Dave developed his operations framework to help small business owners reclaim their life and grow their businesses. Dave, welcome to the show.


What are some key areas that business systems connect and how does that work?


From my standpoint and what I like to talk about from the operations perspective are four core areas. Which are planning, people, process, and technology. No matter if you are dealing with a challenge in your business or you are working on planning to have future growth, either the challenge or what you're trying to tackle is going to be in one of those core four areas. And so, I like to talk about them in that particular order. I will never change the order of them because you can't have one without the other and if you start to layer in technology before you do appropriate planning or have people or have a process in place, it's a little bit like putting the cart before the horse, as the saying goes.


Do you see how people might want to change the order a lot?


Yes. Very often. When you're up against a challenge as a business owner, or if you're on a leadership team probably, the two quickest things I see people fill the gap is with people and technology. And what happens most often is if you're filling the gap with people first, without doing the prior planning and if you don't have documented process even though that comes after the people aspect, what tends to happen is that you have fairly underutilized people. So, we hear a lot of people talk about the efficiency of processes and what they're doing throughout the day. But the thing that a lot of people don't talk about is the utilization of those people, right. So, when you're filling the gap with a person or multiple people, because you're overwhelmed, or you've got too many things on your plate, you've got too many processes or responsibilities tasks that you're responsible for without a well thought out plan or documented processes in place, more than likely, you're going to be wasting a lot of time with those people and there's a lot that goes to that. Over the course of time, if you continue doing that, it's going to have an impact on your culture and many other things. So, I don't want to get too deep into that, but that's kind of problem number one if you're going to fill the gap with people. Problem number two is if going to fill the gap of technology without again having the planning people process part in place, what often happens is that over the course of time, the leadership team business owners, they're going to be pretty unhappy with the overall implementation of that technology. It too often fails either during the initial implementation or over the course of time, because again, you've not had a well thought out plan going into it and maybe that seems a little arbitrary saying that because people I will often hear, now we've evaluated ten to different software, we've gone through all of the sales demos and so on and so forth. But what I'm really talking about from that planning standpoint is understanding, 1. Your business model; and 2. Your business processes; and how you can, by understanding those, leverage that technology to automate and streamline what you're doing. So again, it gets back to increasing the utilization of the people that you have, and if you're freeing their time up, ultimately you can take those resources and redeploy in other areas, hopefully generating additional revenue, or what have you.


What is the best way to get started in systemizing your business?


The best way to get started is to make a conscious decision that that's what you want to do. I think that understanding where you're at today and we do have some tools available to help you do that, but to get a pulse on where you're at today in terms of those planning people, process and technology; when you understand where you're at today, and you understand the goals that you have in terms of what you want your business to be like, that could be more locations that could be just a straight increase in revenue. It could be adding a product line. There are a bunch of different goals that you can line out for yourself but understanding where you're at today how those kinds of core four areas work with each other to get you on a path of systemization to all ultimately achieve the goals that you've now set forth.


What are some things that we should avoid when creating these business systems?


I think the one thing to avoid is taking all of the work on yourself. It's one of the areas that I think, from a leadership perspective, people can often struggle with. And I know I did, right. Like I can always speak to my experiences personally growing up in an entrepreneurial family and entrepreneurial environment, my dad was a second-generation business owner and that business had been started in the seventies. So, if you think back to that time, it was kind of, as I jokingly say, ruled with the iron fist, right, as top-down leadership "do as I say", there wasn't a lot of collaboration, there wasn't a ton of engagement and empowerment happening. Even though those things were still talked about, and you knew that as a leader, as an owner, you had to develop people, all those things, right.

So, as I got leadership roles and kind of more and more responsibility, especially early on in my career, I kind of took that into those leadership roles early on, especially, and while I did have some limited success, I'll call it with different systemization efforts throughout those leadership positions. It wasn't for me until kind of the unlock of what could happen in terms of moving the needle further faster when you started to empower and engage the people around you. So, lately, I've been talking about this collective brainpower component, but what I'm really talking about when I say that it is empowering engaging your team, the people that are doing the heavy lifting, that's the best place to start when it comes to systemization and planning and understanding where the bottlenecks are in your business. So, that's the thing to avoid.

Don't think that you can do all of this on your own. You want to be engaging the people that are doing the heavy lifting day in and day out. They know where the real dirt is; they know what is slowing them down. Don't be afraid to ask them, don't be afraid to engage with them and empower them to bring those ideas to you so you can collaborate. And the other part of that is, obviously, don't be afraid to seek outside counsel. It doesn't necessarily mean that that has to result in some sort of a paid engagement or anything like that, but there are so many resources available, especially today in the day and age of social media. I produce a ton of content. I have a ton of free resources available. So, don't be afraid to kind of seek outside counsel. As I tell people, I've learned this stuff from doing it, over 20 years directly working in operations and manufacturing facilities; many different ones, small size to very large size businesses. So don't be afraid to have counsel engage and empower your team. Those are the best places to start and make sure you're not trying to do all of this on your own. That's the thing to avoid.


When it comes to a process or a system, engaging your team, if you get their input, they automatically have buy-in as opposed to you coming in and saying, "this is how we do things now." If it's their system that they're creating, or they were a part of creating the new system, they're going to adopt it a lot faster than if you're just kind of pushing it in front of them?


Yes, 100%. The other thing about that specifically is when you're building your business, right, at one point, you personally, as an owner, or even if you're in a leadership team, we're probably doing that particular process, and now there are other people doing that process. So, my whole point is, it's probably changed since the last time you had hands-on involvement, which is just another reason to get the people that are doing that process day in and day out to get their input on it. Because they know to the detail, all of the different aspects, all of the different factors, all of the different touchpoints. The one thing we didn't talk about, but let's talk about, internally who their eternal customer is, who they're receiving information and/or products from, right. So, they have all of that information at their fingertips. Go to the source of truth. It's the people doing the work every day.

One of the best things you can do as you get into this stuff, as you get into engaging and empowering people, as you start talking about process improvement and ways that you can eliminate ways throughout your value stream. One of the best things that you can do is to start to collaborate across departments. So, oftentimes what would we do is, let's say we're working on a process improvement project, whether that was, let's just say to identify some waste within a particular process, within a particular department. We would take at least one to two people from the prior department and the department following and bring them into those events so we could get that input because it was so critical to make sure that they understood what they were delivering to the department. We were particularly focused on how what they were delivering impacted that department and the same thing, how the department we were focused on the delivery of whatever they were processing, how that impacted the following department. So, that's an area that, again, as you get a little bit deeper into this tapping into that collective brainpower, and then expanding that into departments touching on either side of the particular department or work center, whatever the case may be that you're working on becomes really, really powerful stuff.


Can you share with our listeners your most successful favorite networking experience that you've had?


It's interesting for me -- kind of my own personal journey on the networking aspect, and hopefully, this is of some value to the people that are listening out there. But I worked in a really big company for many, many years. Nearly half my life, believe it or not, and so, for me, networking back then was all about internal connections, right. We had a company with a total employee number of maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people. So, there were quite a few people internally amongst all of these different business units that were owned by this corporation. So, a lot of my, what I would consider early years was internal networking, right. I didn't put myself out there to meet a lot of people outside of the organization because I didn't understand the real power of putting yourself out there and meeting people outside of the organization. So, when I left that environment in 2018, I very quickly realized that I needed to connect with a lot more people and figure out a way to do that. So, when I started networking, I had on LinkedIn. I think I maybe had right at 500 connections or probably even less than that, to be perfectly honest. And it was one, a little bit intimidating and scary because I think when you're first starting out, especially, you're like, okay to your point, everybody hears this, but what does that mean. Like, how do you just go out and meet people online, and as I keep hearing people say, like, make sure you add value.

What does that mean? How do you build a genuine relationship when you are talking to them over instant messenger, if you will? So yes, I think a couple of things that help me is treating social media like you're in person, which can seem difficult to do. But when you think about it, I had a connection of mine kind of walk me through this example and I just thought it was so perfect. But, if you were a business owner that had a storefront, okay, and somebody walked in the store and was just wandering around kind of looking; don't you think, as a business owner or somebody within that business, you would, "Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can help you with? Can I help you look for something?" That would be a pretty typical interaction if you had a storefront, and somebody walked into your business?

If we took that same example and applied it to online if somebody reaches out to you and you just ignore that message, it'd be kind of like you owning a business, somebody walking into it, and you just completely ignoring them. I'm not saying that every interaction is going to turn into a connection or turn into a paid engagement or a sale or any of those things. But I think the easiest way to start networking is to just be human, to show up, to be available, and to put yourself out there and look for opportunities to interact with people. And you do it from a genuine standpoint and it's okay to just say things like, "Hey, how's it going? How's your week going this week? How did your quarter end up?" I think the biggest mistake people make when it comes to networking and even when it comes to sales outreach is trying to hurry the conversation and the relationship to get to a destination. If you just take some time and try to get to know somebody on a genuine level, just like you would at an in-person networking event or as I said, the example that I was taught, I think those are the best ways to get started and to continue. I mean, that's really what served me over a relatively short period. My network has expanded pretty rapidly.

To add, you shouldn't just go out and try to blindly connect with people and try to start random conversations. You want to be identifying people that you can add value to. So, I kind of like to categorize my networking in two different ways. I categorize it in people like yourself. Other professionals who have a deep understanding of some sort of a vertical that potentially is in the same circle as my ideal clients and the other people that I'm trying to reach. And then I have people that are going to be more, let's call them in the prospecting bucket if you will. That from a surface-level perspective, it looks like there's some value that I could add to that person into the things that they're probably going through. So, those are the two ways I like to categorize them. And the last thing I would say that's helped me personally is making sure that you have, again, doesn't necessarily have to be this system, but have a system I particularly like to use the CRM, but it could be something as simple as an Excel sheet or some notes, some really good notes. But have some sort of a system in place to be able to keep track of conversations, keep track of key details about people because it's interesting, you never know where you might be looking at another resource online and somebody will pop in your head and say, oh, man, I have to share this with Lori. I think she'd really appreciate this. Those are the genuine interactions where you either tag, Hey, Lori, you know, I saw this, I thought about you or send you an email or what have you. Those are the types of genuine interactions that build real relationships with people. And that is what we should be focused on from a networking perspective is building real relationships with people just like you would in person. It is really no different.

Another thing I would add to that, oftentimes, you hear people be reserved to get on social because they don't want to create content. And one of the most powerful things you can do if you're not interested in creating content is to engage on other people's posts and you can do that by leaving thoughtful comments. The other part that you can do that again kind of speaks to what I just said is you can tag people in the comments and say, here's why I'm thinking of you. Here's why I think this is relevant to either a previous conversation we had or to a project that you're working on. And not only does that help your own personal connections with the people that you're potentially tagging, but it also can help you build new connections with the people's posts that you're in engaging with. So, you could meet the author; you could meet somebody else in the comments. There are tons of ways to add value, to be engaged without having to necessarily create a bunch of content. And that's one of the things I hear from people is, "well, yeah, you know, but I don't want to do any of that." Okay. Well, here you go. You don't have to. Here's a whole another way you could get involved and build your network without having to be a creator.


If you could go back to your 20-year-old-self, would you tell yourself to do more of/less of or differently with regards to your professional career?


I think for me, what I would tell myself is to...when I was that age, I was chasing my goals and my goals at that time were centered mostly around financial success and kind of a level of achievement because I was a very young leader in the position that I was in. And so, what I would tell myself is to be open to new opportunities and to recognize the skillset that you're building and what you could potentially do with that outside of the immediacy of the goals that you're seeking. Sometimes I think we get too focused on that, and we don't open ourselves up to other opportunities. And that's what I would tell myself if I got to go back and do that. Great question.


So how are you going to have these experiences if you're not opening yourself up to accepting them?


I would say it's a real balance there—kind of to your point. You want to be focused on what you're trying to achieve, and you don't necessarily want to take a bunch of twists and turns. But the things I think about are trying other things. How do you really know? I think back and say, I really knew what I wanted to do, and here I am doing something kind of completely different than what I supposedly thought I knew I wanted to do. So, when I was chasing after that and achieving those things, yes. I learned a lot. Yes. It's what shaped me and impacted me today and I'm ultra-thankful for all of those experiences. Even though at the time, I probably would've not said the same thing. It's being open and saying that there are other things out there to look at and to try and to be open to and because at the end of the day, there's a limited amount of time that we have here. And I think one of the things that's kind of thrusting what you hear with this great resignation, I think one of the things that are thrusting that forward is the fact that people are recognizing we are here for a limited amount of time, and there are things that are important. And if you want to achieve something, if you want to try something, nobody's stopping you. Just get out there and try it. A decision today is not permanent unless you make it.


Dave’s Offer to the Listeners:


We offer a free business systems audit. It will help you get a pulse on where you are at within your business when it comes to planning people, processes, and technology. It's a very fast 15 questions. You can take it in five minutes or less and you will get a personalized action plan outlining at least three steps that you can take starting today: #1, understand where you're at; and #2, kind of more importantly, what you can do to start getting yourself and your business into the system's mindset and give you a couple of ideas on how you can get all that started. So, you can get that right from the website.


Any final word of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?


I think from that standpoint, my advice is always the same. Just get started. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Treat people like people, and you'll be amazed at what happens when you do those few simple things.


Connect with David:

Mar 16, 2022

Meet Nandini:

Nandini is a co-founder and CTO of Speakfully, the organic, ever-evolving human-centric platform to address workplace mistreatment known for humanizing tech solutions. Nandini is ensuring the success of the Speakfully mission by integrating social and emotional intelligence into the overall technical roadmap of the brand; a passionate proponent of women in stem, Nandini supports access to diverse talents while enabling women to grow to learn to their fullest potential.

Can you talk about ways you're supporting and how to be an ally to enable women in tech to progress with their goals and agendas?

It's a very important topic to me. I think we all, as women, especially in the field of tech, know that we are underrepresented, so it's very important to be able to support each other, and we can do it in various ways. So, I think one of the easiest ways is to create a little safe space for women to get together or anyone that associates as women to be together to celebrate the highs and lows, losses, and wins together. I think it's important to show some level of compassion, lean in into the other women, and sort of also be a sponsor for them to be able to grow in their careers.

We all like to face a lot of different things as we're going through, growing, and learning. I think it's important to make sure that especially if you take on a leadership role. It's important to be able to go out there and mentor someone else, take the opportunity, ladies if you're out there as, especially women in leadership positions.

Many people could do with a sponsor, a mentor, and someone who can be a good ally to share your experiences. I think it's very important to lean into them, and I believe in it very passionately. I mentor a lot of folks in my network, and I love doing it. I think it works both ways as far as I'm concerned. I learn from it, and hopefully, someone else learns from it too.

And it's a very important thing to mentor and pay it forward and help elevate those around us. I think we owe it back to society in some ways.

Why is it important to humanize tech products? What does humanizing tech products even mean and how do you do it?

I get asked that a lot. Like when I’d say I love to like trying to humanize tech products. So, suppose someone asks me what it is. In that case, it's essentially thinking of it as you're building something that would present use for technology in a sense that allows you to connect with other people and other humans and also put you a little more mentally and emotionally in charge of what you're trying to accomplish. And the irony is when you think about tech products, and I'm talking purely from a software aspect because that's my skill set. If you look at technology products, the irony is a lot of it is meant to try and connect people, but in the process, I think the communication process has become completely discombobulated in many ways, especially now, in the world that we're living in. In a pandemic or a post-pandemic world, people create that human connection and we're all sitting in front of our computers, and we are all having to deal with various products that we are using in our day-to-day lives. But how many of those products are putting you in the front seat emotionally? And how many of those products are allowing you to engage with them where you are in charge of making that final decision? You don't want to build software solutions that are just meant to be there to make just for the sake of automation. For example, I don't want the software product to tell me what clothes I need to wear. I want them to maybe give me a range and to give me different factors, for example, and say, here's the weather, here's the situation, or here's the place you're going to go to. And then I would still want to be in charge of what I'm going to wear as opposed to a software solution or a bot telling me what I should wear. So, that's a subtle difference, but that can essentially put you in charge of things, what we are doing, and the work that I'm doing now. 

Also is about how you are essentially wanting to come forward with what you're experiencing, whether you're in the workplace or whether it's personally depending on what you're going through. I don't want to be sitting and talking to a bot that is just being very insensitive to what my situation is. I want compassion, and I want human connection. And that's the humanizing portion of the whole technology if that makes sense. I know I said a lot of different things there, but that's kind of what humanizing tech means to me, at least.

Are you talking about AI to some extent?

AI to some extent, yes. I think AI is such a buzzword at the moment. Everyone wants to do AI. Largely, it's meant to make life easier. Largely, it's meant to make decision-making more informed, but at the same time, we need to know where we have to cross the line. Do you want to provide enough information to your end-user so they can be in charge and make the decisions on their own or know what kind of conversations they need to have with people? Absolutely.

Would you rather have AI kind of have those conversations for you or make those decisions for you? Probably not. And that's the sight that I don't necessarily fall in. I believe that if we are building software, we as technologists, I think we have this big moral responsibility on our shoulders that if we are building a software product and putting something out there, let's leverage AI to the point where it's the bare minimum and needed, but you still need to make sure that the human connection is not being replaced by a bot.

It's really hard to get it right. If you're trying to automate the whole process of emotion. I mean, emotion is so centric to humans. It's our thing, right? It's what differentiates us from anything nonhuman. So, it's very hard to train a bot to like to have that right balance. So, if you're seeing like every sentence in a chatbot being followed with a little smiley emoji, then yes. It's the algorithms skewed too much to one side.

How do you instill diversity and inclusivity specifically near the space of project engineering when it’s not fully represented by various demographics?

When you think about it and say diversity and inclusion it probably again, it's another buzzword these days, but if you step back and look at it, I think it's got to mean something different. It has to have different meanings to different people. So, the way I think of inclusivity and diversity is really in perspective, in thought, in ideas. And I think it's important to make sure that those ideas are in an environment like especially engineering teams, tech teams, you've got to make sure that there's enough. You set the framework and set the team dynamic in such a way that diversity and thought are to be included without condition. That's like the top level of it. But as again, if you really do want to instill a sense of diversity and inclusion or instill that passion in the team, then I think the first and foremost thing is like the awareness of the gap, right. I mean, recognize where the gap exists. Is it a pay gap for example, or is it really a gap in representation or is it a talent gap, and each of these needs to be handled in different ways? So, I think the first step I would advise is to recognize where that gap exists and make sure that you are aware of that. When you do, then if you, for example, if it's a pay gap, then you have a very clear idea of what you need to do to close that gap. You've got to go after and make sure there's equity in pay. For example, if it's a representation gap, then clearly there is a problem in your talent pool and the hiring process. So, maybe go after that and fix it. So, I think it comes down to first being aware and then really trying to like to have a path forward to like to try and close where that gap exists. And more than anything, I think it is also culturally. We all need to be very purposeful in our approach to this. I think we all need to be super proud of the fact that, we are making an attempt to create that diverse environment and we need to own it unless you're going about it in a very intentional way. You're not going to find true results in actually moving the needle and creating more representation. And like I said earlier too, it's like as a woman leader, I think it's very important for me and as it's the responsibility lies on my shoulder. I do need to give it back to make sure that we are creating environments where everyone can come together and have a very collaborative, positive interaction regardless of what we're doing.

And I think geography matters too, right? Depending on, and this is a practical world that we live in; recognize how the coasts approach it, even in our country. The coasts approach it very differently than other parts of the country. So, factor those things in as well. Sometimes, depending on the geographic area you're in diversity or representation of different demographics is super easy. It's almost like a second thought, not a second thought, but in other areas, for example, you have to be more intentional about it, but it's okay for us to like go after it as an agenda item especially as leaders because it's important. That's the only way you're going to have a truly inclusive environment. And along with that comes a huge level of training as well like. Maybe people aren't seeing eye to eye that this is something that needs to be solved for in the organization. Maybe we like to leverage some good training programs. So, people know how the business can be impacted when you have a more diverse team. So, I think all of it put together is kind of there's no one agenda item you can go after, there's no one thing you can do and solve all of your DNI action items magically, but you have to really go after it in a very purposeful way.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I recently joined a diversity channel. It was basically like a Slack channel, and one of their biggest agenda items was providing us a safe space for women and women of color to come together and talk about issues they're facing. I think one of my favorite interactions there was talking about how? Someone asked us the question on the channel about how your past experiences or negative experience could have essentially shaped you to be who you are today? And I was just essentially blown away by the types of responses you saw to that question. It was eye-opening for me in so many ways but also a little disappointing because you think you know the different negative experiences that people might face, but it was tremendous for me to see the power in that conversation, and I think that's been my favorite networking moment so that I can think of at the moment.

Vulnerability is the word for it. And I think, often, leaders tend not to want to be vulnerable because they confuse that with the sign of weakness. I think it's quite the opposite. I think you being vulnerable in a sense, essentially creates a sense of compassion, and you function with a high level of IQ, and I think that's what I think good leaders should try to do.

How do you stay in front of and nurture the community that you've created?

I think it's like I said, you've got to be able to share your wins and your losses together. You've got a good network. We've all taken our time building our network around us. It's very important to be around each other, and you don't use your network just as an excuse to just go meet people. I think you have to be more authentic about it, and that's how you do it in a way that you are open about the way that you're communicating with each other and making sure you are there for your network as well. It's not just about you tapping into your network. It's not one-sided, but I think it has to be a two-way street. So, if there are people that need you, show up for them, and I think that's how you end up being in the front and center of it. Support each other, and it may even mean like people post different things on social media. You might need to just be there, participate in the conversation, engage with them. And those are ways that you can actually like to promote each other. I think that's important to do as part of any network.

If you could go back to your 20-year-old-self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?

I think it's important for me to have been more confident in myself. So, I think I would've told myself to do more confident things. I don't know what else to say, but essentially doing things that can create a sense of self-confidence. I think I definitely would've liked to do more of that. I think maybe less of going out and watching games. Perhaps a little bit less of that. Oh yes, and here's another one I think I would tell myself to write shorter emails. I tend to be very, very wordy with my emails, but I think I've learned to be more concise and brief. So, I would definitely tell myself that. I think that's something most people in their 20s don't understand. It might seem very significantly big, but in the long scheme of things, such as career and life, it is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

Absolutely. Just be there for the network. Show compassion and lean into your network; and compassion is the next level beyond being supportive. I think we all need to stretch a little bit to meet our network, and I think that's a very important thing to do. We all owe it to our network.


Connect with Nandini:



Feb 23, 2022

Robert Cruess is an original Founder and the President of ZeroNox.  Mr. Cruess is an Entrepreneur and Businessman, having obtained a Business degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2009, and also holds a Real Estate License and Mortgage License. Mr. Cruess’ experience and expertise include starting and running several businesses, sales, product development, real estate, loans, youth outreach, and community growth. Mr. Cruess’ Business contributions include patents for products he has designed, starting multiple business’, and doing Multi-Million Dollars in Real Estate transactions through his Real Estate Investment Companies: Rico Property Group, Invia Investments, and HCS Investments. Mr. Cruess was born in Spokane, Washington but has lived most of his life in Porterville, California and the San Joaquin Valley, is married and enjoys time with his wife and 5 children, volunteering in the local community, and is an avid sports fan.

Feb 9, 2022

Meet Alex

Alex is the co-founder of Ike Media and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Alex is the host of the top rated Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Box, Milwaukee Brewers and Wisconsin Badges Podcast on the Apple Podcast Platform. He loves producing original music with, you can find that at Ike Music on Spotify and currently resides in Oslo Norway, where he has been working to expand the influence of the Ike brand internationally. 

How has moving to Norway added value to the IKE brand and impacted you as an individual?

Well, it's been so big for the international presence of Ike. So Ike, we've always had this goal of creating an international brand. That is something that we strategically thought about from the beginning when we set up the brand and how do you make that a reality, right. So, the first step actually was, when I was in school at Madison, I was invited to an international sports conference in Switzerland. I was one of 50 international global challengers, that's what they called it, or disruptors to the sports industry because of what we did on Twitter and that kind of really just got my brain going because I got to meet all different cultures here, all these different perspectives on sports, make all these great connections all over the world. And it just felt like my time or my chapter in Europe was not over. It just wasn't that we got the conference. I had to continue to expand those relationships and the influence of the brand.

So, when I moved to Norway, it was definitely one of the craziest things I ever did. And sometimes I can't even believe that I did it. I think the word that describes it was brave but it's something that's so, I think, relatable and people have to take a chance in life at some points, whether it's starting a business or moving to a new city. And what always happens if you embrace that opportunity is good things and that's been exactly what's happened for Ike. We've been able to not only connect with athletes then in the United States but sprinters or athletes in Europe, soccer players, models, all sorts of new people and it's expanded the way I view the world. I view it through a much larger lens now, and that has been so great for my personal development as well as Ike's content strategy, it's positioning, it's brand positioning, the type of music we create. So, it really stems down deeper into the brand. It's not like I can point to one thing that it's specifically changed, but it's had a huge impact and influence on the brand. And it's brought in a ton of international listeners. That's something we're very proud of on our podcast network is that we have over a hundred countries listening to our podcasts. And so, sometimes you have to pinch yourself that you can go to Norway. And one of the best athletes in Norway is listening to your Milwaukee Bucks podcast and then you talk over that and it's just kind of a smaller world than you would imagine. But it's really helped define that Ike is not just a United States brand, it's an international brand, a global brand. It’s definitely something that I think I'll remember forever. I can speak a second language now so that's always been a personal goal of mine as well, and to learn a second language without being bilingual. That has also given me the confidence that I can learn other things that are complicated. 

For someone who wants to start a podcast, but hasn't yet, why should they create one in 2022?

Because it's how you create genuine connections with people today. It's so hard in a world of social media, a world of constant small and shorter content. We're all trying to intake shorter content to really create a genuine connection with people. And the real way I first kind of got the hint was through the music we produced, is that people who listen to your music, they don't just listen once they listen multiple times and then they feel like they almost know you at a personal level. And so, podcasting is kind of a continuation of that. You can share your story, you can let people get to know you, it can be vulnerable, and that's how you grow genuine connections. I think about the last time I sat down and watched a video on YouTube on my phone for 30 minutes, it's really rare that I'll do that, but podcasting, I can ingest that in so many passive ways. I think that it's just reaching more people each day and it's very forward looking. So, if you want to set up something that's not going to disappear in five years and that will be around for 10, for 20, for even 50 to a 100 years, I believe that is podcasting. I believe that's audio based content. And so, that's why I'm so excited to encourage people to take a free consultation with us, hop on the phone with us, let us talk about podcasts, explain it to you and really how it can help your business or brand, create real revenue and value through networks.

How can podcasts really create value for B2B businesses?

For B2B businesses, it's kind of a lot of people think, oh, you know, I'm not trying to reach the customers, the C level, but the B2B it's the network building. So, if you have a podcast, for example, in the FinTech realm, getting business in that realm either requires going to conferences, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend these big conferences in Amsterdam, such as Money 2020, or you got to put up a lot of money, but the podcasting is a way to make that connection with someone. You can invite them, instead of trying to say, "Hey, I want to sell you something". You can say, "Hey, I'd love to have you on my podcast". You get to learn about that person. You get to connect with them, see how well you vibe, almost develop a little bit of a friendship during the show. And then that leads to business, that leads to staying in contact and it's almost like a foot in the door in a lot of ways that you can't normally get that foot in the door. I find that the conversion is much better to just say, "Hey, would you like to join my podcast; would you like to have a conversation"; rather than saying, "Hey, would you like to purchase this? Or would you like to explore this sales-oriented mindset?" So, I think for B2B they can really benefit from just the network of it, not only the network of it, but the way it can help grow your brand within an industry too. If you want to be a thought leader, a podcast is a great way to become a thought leader because you get to talk about the industry, talk about what your business does, why it's different, what makes your technical advantage better than your competitors. And, I think just getting that word out, getting that out on the internet is so beneficial. I've seen the results time and time again. That's why I always encourage people. It's not just about having a huge audience. It's also about your guests a lot of the time. Are you connecting with the guest and that's really an important thing? 

Even for us in the sports world, like connecting with a player rather than just doing it for the fans of its sports team. It's to build those relationships with the players which then might lead to an N.I.L deal or something like that, which is exactly what happened for us in the case of Caesar Williams, the Wisconsin cornerback. We started off on a podcast and a lot of relationships have been built that way. So, I encourage people to also think about the relationship building potential of podcasts.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

Yes, it actually comes from one of the first times I went to Europe. There's this common expression you'll hear from people as an invitation. It's, would you like to take a coffee? Lori, would you like to take a coffee with me? And what that really means is you just grab a coffee with that person and you sit down and you talk while you drink that coffee, whether it's on a couch in a cafe. And it's something that I just kind of noticed that these business people that I was around people that I was looking up to were using as an easy way to start the conversation because it's, if you say, "Hey, do you want to sit down and talk about podcasting?" People might put up a hesitation saying, "Hey, not right now. Maybe later or let's get it on the calendar", but if you say let's just take a coffee or something simple, it's that same weight with the podcast invitation we just talked about. It's an easier way to get your foot in the door and I found that whether the person doesn't drink coffee or not, it's just almost a casual way to invite them into your world. 

How do you stay in front of and nurture these relationships that you've created and fostered?

I think Ike is a big component of it. So Ike, for those listening, we've reached hundreds of millions through social media impressions every year. And that is a way of people almost feeling like they're up to date with what you're doing in a certain sense, because Ike is so all close to our passions in the sports world, but on a more personal level, it's not always that easy, but I think it's the power of giving them like a quality amount of time, whether that's like 30 minutes or a 1 hour phone call being present during that. And that's more powerful than me consistently checking in. I do have some friends that I'd love to consistently check in and just put things on the calendars just to have conversations with. But I try to do these deeper conversations, which brings it back to podcasting. It's longer like ingested content because you're spending more time in a continuous bunch. I know myself, I have a decreasing attention span. I think we all do just as a result of technology. And so to spend that quality amount of time, maybe 30 minutes or more with someone on the phone or in person, I found that to be very, very powerful and help maintain those relationships.

If you could go back to your 20 year old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?

So I was at UW Madison. I was a software engineering student, so that's actually my educational background and one thing I think I wish I would've done more is probably in college, I think it would be to further like my relationships with older individuals at that university, or just, because college is such a great opportunity to meet people. I find that the whole reason the Ike podcasts have grown to what they are is because of some of these relationships I met in college, for example, the Ike Badger's podcast. When I was 20, I met Zach Baun. He's now a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. And we met just the old fashioned college way. We became friends because he had a golden retriever like the most old fashioned way you meet someone through a dog and we've stayed in contact. We've helped each other professionally, both ways. I did his podcast interviews when he was in the draft process. I was promoting him to help him get his name out there. And he's helped us in return through connections. He connected us with many Badger players. And so, I think just how much has stemmed from him. I imagine more could have been stemmed if I had maybe done more networking events, been out of my comfort zone a little more in a little more open to meeting people of an older age. When you're in college you almost want to just meet your friends and do the college things. And I was so heads down in that but those relationships you meet at that age are super valuable for the future. So, I think it would've been maybe probably networking a little more. And yes, I think other than that I'm pretty proud of graduating as a software engineer. I'm proud of the decision to move to Norway and move out of my comfort zone. And, I'm also proud that back then when I was 20 years old, we were putting out Ike content. It's been around for that long. And so I'm very happy that we did it. I think if I could give myself some advice, it would be less Twitter more like more other forms of content or something like that. Or maybe always listen to podcasts that would've been a great one, Lori. If I was listening to podcasts when I was 20, ingesting the great information you can get in podcasts, I probably would've been a little more ahead in terms of the new social platforms. I would've been earlier to those. I would've been ahead on the trends. And so that, I think would've been a great thing to tell myself is, "Hey, less trap music, more podcasts."

Any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

Your focus determines reality. Where are you focused? That is something that I have struggled with having multiple passions. Maybe not at first knowing what I exactly wanted to do in life. And so, having that focus I found has been really important like going after a certain type of client, being more niche oriented in a certain way, targeting very important people rather than just a larger group of people. And so, we found great benefits through that. I think podcasting is one of those ways and tools to grow your network through a focus. Every podcast has to have a focus in order to attract listeners. Whether it's a sports team, whether it's FinTech, anything having a clear focus is going to help you network within that group and lead to good results.


Connect with Alex: 


Feb 2, 2022

Meet David

After 28 years as a highly-skilled employee, David was told that his job was over. Despite the immediate trauma and fear, he knew that as his next step, he’d rather work for himself and have more control over his destiny. That was in 2006.

Today, David is a thriving community builder, podcaster, and speaker. He helps high-achieving professionals, who have had a late-career job loss, build their consulting or coaching business, so they can do what they love and get paid what they’re worth.

How did you learn to network and develop business relationships?

As I was thinking about our discussion today, I reflected on the 28 years in my career that I was an employee, before I started my own business in 2006. I always was involved in building relationships outside of my job and outside of my organization so I would always find opportunities to network with colleagues. I would join associations of people that were doing something similar to what I was doing, I would take advantage of opportunities to learn and to get some professional development. When I started my business, one of the things that I realized within the first year is that the network that I had, as an employee, was not necessarily the network that was going to help me build my business. And, although I did maintain the relationships that I had, with, with colleagues and friends that I had built up over the years as an employee, and in fact, those relationships helped me get some of my first consulting clients. I had kind of an eye-opening experience, with a friend of mine, who also went from being a longtime employee to being self-employed. About a year before, I was having dinner one night, and she said to me, "I'm part of this organization and I think you might find it interesting to come to a meeting." It was a BNI meeting, and I'd never heard of BNI or knew anything about business networking. I immediately realized the power of being in a room with other entrepreneurs, not just with professional colleagues and so I ended up joining. I have to say that not only do you get to network in networking organizations like BNI, but they also teach you networking. That's one of their goals as an organization is to try to help everybody do better at business networking, as well as build relationships as they do that. Even though I'm not currently a BNI member, I have relationships and still have clients that emerged from BNI. Some of my best friends as entrepreneurs also came out of that BNI experience and so that was sort of my first foray into business networking, and I got to be pretty good at it. I would not only do networking in my chapter, but I got to know a lot of people in other BNI chapters. The next thing for me in terms of networking, and building relationships, as an entrepreneur emerged from content creation, and in particular podcasting. I'm sure you know, as a podcaster that if you're doing interview-based shows, you get this opportunity to have in-depth conversations. Often they feel like intimate conversations with someone new on a regular basis and you get to build relationships with those people and you get to share your mutual knowledge with your audiences. I found that since I started podcasting seven years ago, it has enabled me to build relationships with new groups of people that I didn't know before. And I'm based in New York and even though I'm pretty well networked in the New York metropolitan area, podcasting enabled me to develop a whole new network that was international, which is great.

What is the connection between your relationships and the evolution of your business?

Well, for one thing, as far as the relationships themselves are concerned. One of the things that I've learned to do over the years, and I encourage other people to do when they're trying to build relationships, is focus on the relationship. So that means being curious, asking open-ended questions and I recently learned a framework for questions that I love from a podcast guest, Rock Robinson which he calls his Fab Five. The first one is about geography so asking where someone is from because it's not a threatening question so people automatically will start to think of who they might know in common based on geography. The second one is family, which is just asking someone to tell you about your family and that will allow you to learn something about that person. The same thing with school because pretty much everybody has some kind of school experience and there's usually something interesting to share about that. I like to ask people about their career journey because no matter where you are in the stage of your career, everybody's career is different. Then the last question is what excites you which then can start to get to something that may be closer to what it is you do in your business. So being curious and asking open-ended questions is key. The other thing is in the world, there are givers, there are takers, and there are exchangers and people that are best at relationship building are exchangers. I like to ask how I can help somebody else first. I try to be a generous person, I think that kind of sets the stage for how I like to be known, and then the last thing that I will usually end with, particularly if it's been a fruitful conversation, is asking if there is anyone else I should talk to and maybe for an introduction. If you get an introduction to somebody, they're much more likely to respond. The most important thing is also when there's some call to action or some action plan that you have as a result of a discussion with somebody else, make sure you follow up. So I try to be systematic about following up and make sure that I do if I offer to help somebody in some way. Relationships do take time and the good relationships are what has led to most of my long term clients, which is great and also opportunities. 

How is social capital integral to the impact you are trying to have in the world?

So there's one thing that I have noticed with high achieving professionals when they go from being in an organization to being independent, is that the social infrastructure has vanished. So you have this formal structure that when you're part of an organization, that of course disappears when you walk out the door. But also, the informal structure follows it often. It may not disappear completely, but all of a sudden, your quote-unquote friends from work, you may find that they're they've ghosted you for a whole variety of reasons and you spend a lot of time alone, and the loneliness and the isolation, combined with the fear of doing all these new things. If you have gone from being an employee to being a consultant, when your job was terminated then there can also be shame associated with the job loss. It's not something people talk about a whole lot and so being able to connect with other people that have some of these similar challenges, that you're facing similar issues, people that are also building a consulting business. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, but if you connect with other people you'll learn things from them and they'll learn things from you. Connecting with other people, I think is important to be being to your ability to be able to overcome that and for me, I like to be a connector and so for me, yes, I do know a lot about how to build a successful consulting business, but I feel great when I'm able to connect people.

Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?

I'm going to reflect back on my first visit to a BNI meeting when I was terrified about the idea of getting up and giving a 60 second commercial about myself, and my business was pretty new at that time. I did have clients, but didn't have a huge track record so I was pretty insecure about what I was selling, and to be able to get up in front of 30 plus strangers at seven o'clock in the morning and to give a coherent 60 second commercial was pretty terrifying. I have to say, the people in the room couldn't have been nicer to me and more supportive and people came up to me afterwards and just tried to be nice and helpful. When you're with people, I had a podcast guest who actually is an expert on networking, and one of the things he said was that we all know this the phrase, people do business with people they know, like and trust and he added another line to that, which is people do business with people they know, like, trust and care about them and at that meeting I felt like there there was genuine caring in the room and it made a huge difference.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network in your community?

I think it's important to actually have a process for keeping track of who you're connecting with, and having a process for follow up. So one of the things that I do is, I make notes after I speak to people and I keep the notes and I keep them organized. I also make notes on my calendar of when I'm supposed to follow up with somebody. So if you and I are speaking today and we decide to keep in touch, three months from now, I'll make a note in my calendar three months from now to reach out and add notes in my calendar as to some of my notes from our conversation so I can go back and look at it in case I don't remember all the details.

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?

Follow your heart. I studied engineering for 7 years and I worked as an engineer for 4 years, and then I went into the nonprofit sector. And honestly, when I was in school, I had thought about whether this was really the right thing to study. I did well in school and in my career, but my heart wasn't really in it. So for every pivot I've made, mtt career has ended up moving me in a direction where I'm actually doing things that I'm happier doing. I will admit that each of the pivots usually came with not just me moving forward, but somebody pushing me to do it!

What final word do you have to share with our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

If you're feeling uncomfortable in anything you're doing with regard to relationship building. Pay attention to the discomfort and if you believe that the step that you are about to take, which is making you uncomfortable, is a good step, take it. Because if you're feeling uncomfortable means you're probably in a state of growth and that you're doing something that's going to help you grow and relationship building can really help you grow quite a bit, as you've heard from our conversation today so take that step.


Connect with David



Smashing The Plateau Podcast: 

Going Solo Podcast: 

Jan 26, 2022

Meet Ben

Ben has been helping his clients communicate for the last quarter of a century.

He is the author of two books on personal branding and leadership, the host of the 5 year and syndicated show and the executive producer of the Communicate Your Why program.

Ben's mission is to help companies, and the people within them communicate more effectively internally.

To create opportunities for people to listen, understand and act in ways that drive culture, goals, and profitability

Jan 19, 2022

Meet Jennifer

Jennifer Shaheen is the founder and President of The Technology Therapy Group. She is recognized as an expert in planning, implementing, and translating digital marketing and technology. Over her twenty-year career, Jennifer has worked in a myriad of industries as a digital advisor: finance, banking, manufacturing, design, construction, luxury, retail, and travel. Jennifer is a digital transformation expert, user experience enthusiast, and data insights specialist.

How important is mindset when we think about digital marketing and today's technologies?

I love this question because mindset has a big thing to do with being successful today. As you probably know, Lori, doing what you do, it's gotten more difficult to do certain things. Why I say that is because oftentimes we're looking at being much more personalized in our digital marketing and mindset is important to get you into that headspace of saying, "I am trying to do the best thing for my customer or client who's trying to reach me, and not always the easiest things for us, as marketers," and I think that's a really important part of talking about digital marketing today.

Is it important to be on all digital marketing channels today?

Being on all of them can be somewhat overwhelming! I do think it's important that you protect your brand and reserve your names, and oftentimes, depending upon the size of your company, I think it's important that we are very specific about understanding the return on investment per channel. To be on all of them may mean that you're on none of them, right? It's kind of like if you spread all your money around, you don't often have an opportunity to focus it. So depending upon what your budget is, you always want to look at protecting your brand, but you may want to think a little bit about how you're putting your efforts into the channel based on who your audience is, and what success or return you're getting. As you said it right at the beginning, Lori, you're most active on LinkedIn and I would guess you're probably most active on LinkedIn because that's probably where you get the most return from your activity.

How can you know if your digital marketing channels are working?

One of the things that I think you need to look at is the metrics for those channels. So if you understand your audience, then if you look at that particular channel, let's go ahead and use Instagram for a moment. If your account is set up as a business account, you will be able to see information about the demographics of your followers. The same is true for Facebook and the same is true for LinkedIn so looking at that information is extremely important to understanding if that the audience that you said you wanted to be talking to, if you are getting those followers there, and then what I often do is have people follow that through and see if it's coming through any inquiries or outreach.

Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?

So I used to teach a networking class and I had four keys to being a successful networker. The first was to listen and how we translate that into the digital world now is by reading the comments and the actual posts that people put in there. That is what I now call digital listening. Years ago, when I taught that class, we would listen to someone speaking verbally but it still works! The second tip is to ask thoughtful questions and the third is to give. What I mean by that is to give something of value or feedback, it doesn't always have to be a lead with networking, but a tip, a direction, something that shows that you as the listener and the person looking to grow that conversation is engaged and paying attention. My fourth tip is always to record. Why that is so important is because when I started my business in the late 90s, I was very into keeping a record of all of my conversations and everyone I met in a CRM or customer relationship management database. That record portion was so important because it helped me connect the dots between the people I met and the referrals I received and I believe that those four tips are still really important today.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?

Right now I have to be honest because, after the holidays, you sort of feel like you're in that holiday haze. But one of the best ways, for me, is digital listening as I mentioned before. So going down and thoughtfully looking through what people are talking about and adding that commentary for relationships. But the other thing is making time to at least reach out and build those one on one relationships. I do think that's always important as well because I think we get so caught up in what we're doing that we need to make that time to step back and say I need to be connecting with and spending time one on one with people.

What advice would you offer to business professionals looking to grow their network?

I think that growing your network means growing it intelligently. I want to go back to something we were just talking about a little while ago, which is our audience. So if you're growing your network, be honest with yourself about what you need to grow your business and also those kinds of partners that you feel not only will give value to you, but you can give value to them. So you cannot be all things to all people which is why I think it's really important and growing your network to be reaching out and working with those where you do see really strong reciprocal relationships.

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?

It's interesting because I had those four rules and I had a really good process for networking, but what I noticed as I grew my team is that I somehow lost that process-driven mindset and that is something I wish I had not lost because when I was working by myself, I had this idea of being very focused and disciplined and process-oriented. Then as I started to bring on more team members, I sort of let go and I do find that it is so important when you're growing an organization and you're bringing on team members, that you need to be very clear about your process, which will then dictate your expectations.

What final words of advice would you like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

So I think in general, I want to go to something which is really important for growing and supporting your network and you really want to be mindful of what you're putting out there and the message you're trying to spread. I think that's really important because you attract what you're putting out there! Be yourself and you will attract those that come to you and that's really how you're going to build a loyal network and a great business!


Connect with Jennifer





Jan 13, 2022

Competition Is Better Served As Co-opetition


Lori: Hello everyone, welcome back to the third Episode in our Manufacturing Mavens Podcast Mini-Series! Let’s get started by introducing my co-hosts for the series, Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay.  


Kris Harrington is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business. This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.


Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.


I’m going to start today’s episode by leading with a bit of a story of what I learned over my years of running my business. When I started, I was ignorant and thought that I had to do it all on my own and figure everything out by myself even though I truly had no idea what I was doing! For some reason, I had the belief that when I figured something out, I shouldn’t share it with others because they should have to figure it out on their own as well. As I have developed in my professional career, my thoughts around that have evolved and I actually feel the opposite way now! A couple of years ago I attended a networking event and met a new agency owner. She was in the same mindset as I was when I first started my business so I offered to connect with her and I just shared everything I learned in the 10 years I had been running my business. She was amazed that I would be so open with my experiences and from that connection, we now have such an amazing relationship where we share wins and send opportunities to each other. That brings us to today’s topic which is cooperating with your competition. 


Lori: Let’s dive into it! How would you two describe competition and co-opetition? 


Erin: When we're looking for definitions of competition, I think the good thing that competition does is it drives us to do better! Ultimately, competition is about the drive to achieve. There are a bunch of unhealthy things that can go with that, but that's the part that we need to keep alive and we need to kindle in our business and throughout our business. But co-opetition is a behavior and it's the behavior that helps you do better, and that helps you be better. So who or what is a better resource for achieving greatness than other folks doing what you do? So the co-opetition is really about achieving with your peers.


Kris: When it comes to I guess the definition, I like to think of a pie and when it's competition, one company gets the whole pie and oftentimes there's a winner, and there's a loser because someone gets 100% of the pie and the other gets zero. But when it's co-opetition, there could be some sharing of the pie, and often, when we think about it in terms of business and going after a business deal and being rewarded and earning the business of a customer, my hope is that when we are cooperating with our peers to solve a problem for a customer, maybe the circumference of the pie can grow. Now, you might not get 100% like you were in competition, but if you're doing well for the customer, the customer wins and we win in helping to bring our strengths together to solve the problem for the customer. 


Lori: At what point did you start to think differently about your competition?


Kris: I've always been an athlete, and I have been in individual sports like I ran cross country, and while there's a team aspect to cross country, there's also that individual aspect. I also played basketball and soccer where you need a team in order to succeed. I always loved team sports, and I loved bringing out the best in everyone that was competing and I feel like I learned that early on. Now, as I've grown and come to be a professional and I'm in my career and I'm going after business and running a company, I realize that we have strengths in our niche where we play and other friends and competitors out there who are competing for the dollars available inside a manufacturer, let's say, in a particular time period and they have dollars available. So we're kind of competing for those dollars, but to solve the problem for the customer, we can bring our strengths, but our strengths don't always meet the full needs of what the customer is looking for. So that's when I started to realize that if we bring these other people in who have these great resources and ideas, and the strengths and the gap areas that we don't fit, we could actually be stronger together!


Erin: When I began my endeavor in manufacturing, I was very wary and I wasn't sure who was okay to talk to. I was introduced to another E-commerce expert and I felt shocked, first of all, that they would want to have a conversation with me. Second of all, their transparency, their absolute delight and excitement for me that I was out there and I was going to be doing this took me aback. It wasn't very long after that, that I became part of this amazing network of other experts in our field, and it just transformed our attitude in our approach to business at Earthling, because we understood better after getting to know these folks what we were good at, and what wasn't necessarily our best specialty and where we should refine and where we should turn to others to get the benefit of their expertise. So I think a lot of it goes back to LinkedIn and the social selling experience that illuminated for me why co-opetition is such a healthy and productive way of doing business.

Lori: What are the risks and rewards of co-opetition and do you two have any specific examples you can share?  


Erin: This is a good question because it gets into the uncomfortable parts of co-opetition. The risk is about the vulnerability that you have to bring to co-opetition and that vulnerability is the good part, but if there's any lingering anxiety, fear, insecurity behind that, it can damage relationships and impact your performance. So when you move into a cooperative relationship with someone, you need to do some self-reflection and know that that's where you want to be and what you really want to do. So the risk is that you don't do that self-reflection, you get into the relationship and you start having those sort of yucky territorial situations. Thankfully, there are a lot of advantages in terms of co-opetition. You asked me about an example so we had an opportunity that was an RFP which came into Earthling, and there were a couple of other agencies who specialized in different areas than we did, who we had worked with in the past on similar projects. They both approached me when I was new in my role and had the thought that I was gonna win at all so I said, "No thank you," which was naive and dumb on my part, because had we worked together even though we did win the project, we still ended turning to them to get help. But I had done exactly what I described before where it sort of poisoned the well with my competitive thinking and was unable to make the best of the relationship. We did very well with the client, but the relationship was tense the whole time. After that, what I gained was knowing what our specialty was. When we respond to these RFPs, sticking to our specialty and are very comfortable reaching out to other folks for their specialties so that we can deliver the best product for the client.


Kris: For me, it's that disbelief that you might give away your secret sauce, that there's something special your organization is doing, and you have a way of doing it. I loved what Erin said about vulnerability and I also think that the dollar value change is something that is a risk, depending on how you might have planned for something as you've thought about it. When you asked for examples, I was just speaking to another woman yesterday and she's covering the aviation industry and the aviation industry is the industry that we would be a great fit for, but we just don't have a lot of experience. As I was speaking to her, I thought, "Wow, what an introduction and an opportunity for us," because she has credentials that we don't have, but would certainly be required, that could help us actually participate in a space where those credentials are required, and where there's a high level of regulation and other things happening. So it was just a great example of when you meet other people, and you think about places where you would like to take your business, some people may already be there, and they have the strengths around that area. Your product, your solution, your teams, may bring some very valuable aspects to that as well, but you need a way to get in because you don't have all of the experience that's needed. That's just a relevant example that came up with discussions yesterday and I think it just shows you that co-opetition can bring you into new markets or new places that your company can participate in if you're open to it!


Lori: How do you think the outside world perceives co-opetition? 


Kris: Speaking about manufacturers as the target customer group for this conversation, I think they think they're winning when companies come together. I think that when they have a problem and need help, oftentimes, it's very difficult to evaluate and come to one conclusion that this vendor can do it all for us because more times than not they can't because there's a list of requirements, a list of needs and services that need to be provided and maybe the manufacturer doesn't have the experience or the capacity to do it themselves. So they are reaching out to others to help solve the problem and I think that they're going to expect more of that from vendors to be able to come together and collaboratively help them with their solution. I think it makes their job a bit easier because then they don't have to identify one and in the end, they're winning! 


Erin: I think it's a good look because it just demonstrates skill and competence. Willingness to engage with your competition means that you understand the value to the customer and that that's your priority. In the conversation I had yesterday, we were talking about the transactional nature of business and how that can lead to a client or a customer feeling like they're just a transaction and not a person or a company. When you bring yourself, your competition, and your co-opetition partner to the relationship, that client knows that the value of what you're bringing is the priority, not just the transaction that you're trying to engage in with them. I also have a great example of just evidence that people love it. I don't know if anybody's on Twitter and has seen this sort of Twitter roasting wars that the fast-food restaurants do each other? First of all, it's hilarious and entertaining, but second of all, I think it's just a good look for all the brands because they are competing in a cooperative way which makes it a win-win for everyone. So I think it's a wise choice when you think about the customer perspective.


Lori: Heading into the future, what do you think will change in relation to competition and co-opetition?


Kris: It feels to me like more and more businesses are getting specialized and as we get specialized and focus on what we do well, we're going to need other organizations to help complement us to solve the big problems that come up in the world. So I think that this isn't going anywhere, in fact, it's going to be something that we're going to continue to see in the future.


Erin: I agree. You've heard of these two big news breakups recently with GE and Johnson and Johnson, these monolithic companies who it's not working out to do at all and be at all. That's sort of the inverse of what we're talking about today where somebody is trying to capture all of it, but it just can't hold. So as Kris mentioned, the specialization becoming the forefront of so many business models is going to drive a need for co-opetition, but then on top of that, we're going to have to develop the skills to do that.

This wraps up our 3-part mini-series.  If you are joining us at the tail-end, I highly recommend you take a listen to Part 1 and Part 2.  Part 1 we dove into Social Selling and Part 2 we discussed manufacturing and digital transformation. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.


Head to to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners! 

Jan 12, 2022

Manufacturing Mavens Episode 2: Digital Transformation In The Manufacturing Industry


Today’s episode is Part 2 of our 3-part Manufacturing Mavens - a BROADcast Mini Series. I’ve got 2 guest hosts with me for this mini-series! Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay. Part 2 is going to be Guest Hosted by Kris Harrington. Kris is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business. This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online. Take it away, Kris! 


Kris: Thanks, Lori! Happy to be here. Let’s start this show with a quick introduction to our hosts.


Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.


Lori Highby is a podcast host, speaker, educator, and founder of Keystone Click, a strategic digital marketing agency. Using her vast multi-industry knowledge - gained from experience and education, She can see the potential of greatness within the already established good of a business. Through strategic actionable moves, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as ABB and Syngenta to micro-business owners, to achieve their marketing goals. Lori carries her energy and drives into her professional engagements in order to empower and educate other fellow life-long learners.


Thank you, mavens, it is such a pleasure to be here with you both today.

As a former leader in a global manufacturing organization responsible for growing equipment and aftermarket sales, and now a leader of a digital eCommerce company, I am often reminded how much things have changed in just the past twenty years. I mean, I can remember when I was so excited to get a Blackberry phone (remember those?) so that when I was traveling to remote mining areas and arrived at my hotel, I wouldn’t have to hook up my laptop to the dial-up hotel internet connection just to check my emails to make sure I didn’t miss anything important before going in to visit my customer the next day. It was so much faster to check them from my Blackberry, and for me, this was roughly 2007.


Fast forward to today, now if a manufacturer were to roll out an eCommerce solution like Equip, if I were still that same sales leader visiting my customer, I would be able to stand next to their machine in the pit and pull up full product bills of materials, identify the products from a 3D interactive drawing, add them to a shopping cart and send them a quotation all from a smartphone or tablet. The customer experience opportunities are incredibly different today for those manufacturers who are ready to make the leap into digital self-service. And this is just one example of the type of digital services available. This takes us to today’s topic - Manufacturing and Digital Transformation where we’re going to talk about manufacturers and their journey toward digital transformation.


Let’s get into it. To set the stage, Erin and Lori, I would like to hear how each of you define digital transformation for the manufacturing industry?


Erin: One thing it always goes back to his business goals. Your business goals should define your approach to digital transformation. In manufacturing, I see a couple of things that define digital transformation. The first is digital transformation as cultural transformation. So opening the business culture to digital tools, be in sales, operations production is a cultural change. And so the digital transformation has an impact on everyone, and how they identify as part of the organization. The next component of digital transformation is maintenance or growth strategy for your business. So tools like eCommerce, ERP, automation are becoming sort of the oxygen of all businesses, and manufacturing is no different. So to breathe, to grow, it can't be ignored, digital transformation is going to be foundational.


Lori: I resonate with everything you said, and especially the cultural component because regardless of any transformation that you are incorporating into your business, you've got to get everyone on board and it's sometimes very challenging to do that if this is the way we've always been doing it for the last 40 years and you're trying to teach an old dog new tricks. I like to compare it to what manufacturing has been doing already with regards to automation, robotics, and creating efficiencies in their business, I think it's no different when you're looking at other segments of the business such as marketing, sales, and the communications and that relationship and that nurturing and it's just taking that transformation or that evolution of what's happening, and applying it to different segments of the business. You mentioned ERP systems, which are taking all elements of your business and combining them into one extremely useful digital tool and resource. But the critical component of that is the adoption of getting all components together and then getting all of the business on board with how to use that component. If you're looking at marketing automation, you need the sales and the marketing team working together on the same page and it's all about maximizing the relationships. COVID taught us real quickly that you can have relationships that aren't in person shaking hands, and that you can still nurture and create new connections.


Kris: I know there have been numerous articles written about this, but I am curious, based on each of your experiences, what do you think are the three most important reasons why manufacturers need to be prioritizing digital transformation?


Lori: It's hard to pick only three. I'll start with something that carries over from the last question, which is that efficiencies are there. Just like in the machines and the equipment at the plants, there are efficiencies in leveraging the digital tools and resources out there. We're all in that marketing and sales side of things, but we really focus on maximizing and shortening that lifecycle and making it easier to have those conversations with your clients or your potential clients. The second one, I would say is this next generation, the current generation is online. That's where your next client is hanging out. They're not going to answer the phone, they're not always going to show up at a trade show because I think trade shows are more of that nurturing opportunity. Using SEO making sure your websites getting found online, leveraging social media to tell your brand story, and creating efficiencies around that is going to help you to continue to find that next client. The third thing that I think is the most important actually out of all these three, is what your customers are expecting. They're expecting to have a conversation on your website using a chat feature, they're expecting to log in to place an order online and just repeat that order and not have to have a conversation or get an instant quote, or whatever it is. If your customers are expecting this, you have to make this transformation.


Erin: My response to three reasons that digital transformation is more of a big picture kind of thought. First is attracting and retaining a workforce. Younger generations, like Lori, pointed out, expect and anticipate a digital forward work environment. If you can't provide that, that's not going to be appealing to younger people. We all have heard about how workforce attraction and retention is a big issue in manufacturing so digital transformation, not only for the functional parts but going back to that cultural idea, demonstrating that your digital forward as a company or as an organization. Next is modernization. I mean, we don't leave our baskets anymore. We're not horse-drawn carriages, we're digital so it's time to get there. Then the last one, I think this is not spoken about enough is pleasure and freedom. I just was in a webinar the other day which talked about the future and technology and what it can do for us. If we can lean more heavily on digital tools to do sort of the mundane things for us, it can open up all these possibilities of creativity, of moving ahead, of offering us time to do the things that we really love and care about, and value. If we're going to get there, that means we all have to participate and contribute to digital transformation, not just wait for it to happen, because then that's something that's happening to us, not something that's happening with us.


Kris: The world is a bit of a crazy place right now, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges manufacturers are facing today that may be preventing them from moving forward with their digital journey?


Erin: This is where I may get a little controversial. I think one of the biggest challenges is rigid industry leadership that is not helping lead us into the next era with digital transformation. I see people like Matt Goose and Eddie Saunders doing much of the heavy lifting. These are folks that are getting young kids excited about manufacturing by meeting them where they are and they are doing that heavy lifting. I'd like to see more of that from industry leadership. So it's a little bit of a prescription and also a diagnosis mixed in together.


Lori: Erin, I just have to say that I love your perspective. My answer is from a bit different perspective in that I think part of the challenge is that to some extent, it's cluttered. There's a lot of information coming from a lot of different directions and you don't know where to start. I think there's also this fear of the unknown because it can be a big investment. I know that these manufacturing organizations, when they invest in a new piece of machinery, they have so much confidence that it's going to produce a certain volume of new business for them, and they can get so much work done. But when they're making this investment into this unknown territory, where they don't have their historical references for themselves to have confidence on how it's going to improve their business, they're really just trusting kind of someone else's opinions, but there are opinions on all different spectrums and there are all different ways to tackle this. So I think that's where there's a lot of hesitation and reservation to move forward.


Kris: If you could offer one piece of advice on how digital can help solve the challenges preventing companies from moving forward, what would it be?


Lori: To solve the problem based on how I answered the last question, I would say manufacturers need to start having the conversations with those that are doing it right now and start asking some intelligent questions to build their confidence and really just get that conversation going, which is what we're doing right now. They have to have true curiosity into this topic in order to have any movement going forward and helping them solve some of these bigger issues where digital can do so much and solve so many problems. Yeah, it is a time and financial investment on the front end, but the long end return significantly outweighs any current hurdles that someone may be having right now. So my very simple answer is to start talking about it and start asking questions.


Erin: A challenge that keeps folks from moving forward and I think I'm going to name that challenge as thinking that you're locked in a rigid mindset. Whether that's before you get started with the technology, or you might even be mid-technology and so that brings to mind this example of somebody that we worked with. They had a transportation management system platform that they were using and it just kept not being the right solution for them. Over and over again, they were running into roadblocks and barriers and they asked us how we could help them. We suggested to them that they should make their own because it could fit their needs and might even save them money. They decided to try it and not only did they save money, but they also ended up making six figures from that platform, because they were able to then sort of rent it out to some other folks as well. So just knowing that one of the great things about digital transformation is flexibility is the ability to name your own solution. It can be daunting, I totally get it, but if you keep that in mind, that you should ask for what you want, you should know what you want and ask for it and not be let alone by the no's, that will help you really move forward.


Kris: What services do each of you offer that support the manufacturing industry?


Erin: At Earthling Interactive, we do take that consultative approach. Yes, can seem off-putting at first, but what that allows us to do is though, is we are adept at starting where you are, where our clients are. For example, so many manufacturing websites are, frankly terrible, and they're out of date. But you can actually accomplish a lot with just a website refresh, and not just because of how it looks, but it can function and be a very powerful tool for you and your business. We can start there, let's just get you a new website. But we're also great at modifications and fixes. For example, if you're running a technology that's falling short of your expectations, like that example that I mentioned before with the TMS system, or let's say you've got a time tracking system that isn't conforming to your business model, we can help it get there, we can help do those tweaks in those modifications so that you have a tool that really works with your business, and helps you accomplish your goals.


Lori: At Keystone Click, we brand ourselves as a strategic digital marketing agency. What we're doing is really focusing on our clients' customers. So you the manufacturer, you're trying to get new customers, and we get inside the head of your customer and really figure out what is that customer journey? What is the pain that they initially have? How are they searching for that pain? Because people don't know what the solution is the right way they know what the challenge is that they're facing. Then how do we position you and tell your brand story in the digital space so that you are positioned as the expert to solve the problem that they have? We do that by conducting research on your customer and then building a full strategic plan that's focused on helping you achieve your business goals. Then we support the implementation and we do websites as well. We manage your social paid initiatives, and really anything under that digital umbrella with your business end goal in mind. What about you, Kris?


Kris: I think the best way to describe what the Gen Alpha team does is really equip manufacturers and distributors with the tools, services, and advice that they need to sell their products online. So we come with real-world experience, the founding members of Gen Alpha all worked in manufacturing and we truly believe that there was an easier way of doing business with a manufacturer. So we've been in the shoes of our customers, trying to satisfy their customers and grow business at the same time. We believe that in coordination with our clients. We keep building upon our already solid foundation of helping them to keep delivering better solutions year after year. So we truly love working with the manufacturing industry and we want these people to be relevant and successful in the future. I think what I would say about all of us and all of our companies is that we do care so much. If you were to work with any one of us, you're going to have a trusted relationship where we're going, to be honest with you about your business, how we believe we can help you, we're going to offer you alternative solutions, but the true intention around everything we're doing is for the greater good. 


Thank you for listening to part 2 of our 3-part series. If you’ve enjoyed what you heard, definitely chime in for part 3, and if you didn’t get a chance to listen to Part 1 - you’ll want to take a listen as we dove into Social Selling. In Part 3 we will be talking about co-opetition vs competition. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.


Head to to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners!

Jan 11, 2022

Social Selling In Manufacturing


Today’s episode is Part 1 of our 3-part Manufacturing Mavens - a BROADcast Mini Series.  I’ve got 2 guest hosts with me for this mini-series!  Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay.  Part 1 is going to be Guest Hosted by Erin Courtenay.  


Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.


Erin: Let’s start this show with a quick introduction to our hosts.


Kris Harrington is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business.  This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.  


Lori Highby is a podcast host, speaker, educator, and founder of Keystone Click, a strategic digital marketing agency.  Using her vast multi-industry knowledge - gained from experience and education, She has the ability to see the potential of greatness within the already established good of a business. Through strategic actionable moves, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as ABB and Syngenta to micro-business owners, to achieve their marketing goals.  Lori carries her energy and drives into her professional engagements to empower and educate other fellow life-long learners.


I’m super excited about today’s topic because social selling is really what brought the three of us together. Kris and I have been guests on Sam Gupta’s awesome eCommerce LinkedIn Live panel. That’s how we got to know each other and now we’ve become good friends. Lori, this podcast has been a favorite for a long time and I’ve really gotten to know you through your wonderful content. Together we’ve all utilized content and digital platforms to build relationships. We are able to move our prospects through the funnel in a way that is warm, genuine, and provides value - even though it all takes place online. That’s the beauty of social selling.


But social selling isn’t just about content and friendships, all social networks exist to provide content and relationships - the key part here is business development. Successful sales have always been inherently social, because as our friend Greg Mischio reminds us (frequently!) your prospects must know you, like you, and trust you to move forward with the sale. 


The pandemic era obviously drove a lot of selling online, both in B2B and B2C. As a result, so many more sales professionals are using the tools of social sales like LinkedIn, podcasting, video-sharing, and CRM-related applications. So there’s the social side, which I think all sales professionals are naturally gifted at, but the technical side can be a bit of a head-scratcher - so that’s what I’d like us to focus on a bit today. Sound good Ladies?


Lori: We’re ready! 


Erin: How do you guys use LinkedIn as a social selling tool? I mean, beyond the obvious - what are some of your special tips and tricks. Next, tell us about one other tool you use and why you think it is great.


Lori: Probably because I spend hours on it on a daily basis, actually, and people are surprised when they hear me say that. The first thing you want to look at on your LinkedIn is optimizing your profile. I know you both understand that word optimizing, but not everyone that is listening really understands what that means. It's just making sure that when someone is searching for something that you're the one that shows up as a resource. We've heard of optimizing your website for Google, it's the same philosophy and concept with LinkedIn so that when someone looks at your profile, they realize what your true expertise is. Oftentimes, people think a LinkedIn profile should be structured like your resume and that's actually wrong. It's a beautiful place to tell your story and showcase what you want to be known for, and help put some perspective in other people's eyes on your expertise, but also to be found for your expertise as well. So start with your profile first and then you have to look at creating connections. When I'm looking at the connections, I'm genuinely looking to create relationships, but also to be a resource. I've gotten to the level where I have a follow button, and not just a connect button, which is a fun space to be. But it's all about adding value, and not selling. I know we've talked about this before that social media is about being social, the selling is something that happens after the fact because you've created that relationship, you've established trust, and people are comfortable because you've provided so much information of value that then they're interested in having that conversation of potentially creating a business relationship. One of my favorite tips is when someone reaches out and connects with me that I do not know, I have a two-part question that I respond back with them. My first question is, what is it about my profile that intrigued you to want to connect with me? And the second question is, how can I best be a resource to you on LinkedIn? That then starts a conversation and it also easily identifies those who are going direct for the sales pitch that I'm not interested in actually fostering a relationship with. But it's really fascinating because sometimes people connect without saying a reason why, but they're actually interested in doing business with you. You'd be surprised how many people when I asked that question are like, "Oh, we're actually looking for a marketing company right now and I was interested in talking more." So they sent me a connection request, but then open with the ask, but I had initiated the conversation to do that. So I think it's a really powerful way to start that conversation when someone is reaching out to you.


Kris: What I do on LinkedIn is, I'm really using it to deepen a relationship with the connections that I may have just made. So if we just did a demo with a new company and there were new participants in the demonstration that I haven't met before, I might connect with them on LinkedIn to deepen that relationship. At the trade show, I was just recently at, there were a lot of people that I'm connecting with, that I already formed personal connections with and now I want to deepen that relationship. I'm not necessarily lead looking to sell, I'm looking to have that connection because my whole goal on LinkedIn is to share content that is of value. I would say that my biggest trick is just to be authentic. Sometimes it's challenging when you're in a place where there are professionals so you want to have that professional face, but in reality, you want people to get to know you and who you are. It's the challenge of being authentic to who you are, who your company is, and how you want people to understand how you can be helpful and useful. So that's really what I'm using LinkedIn for. Now, when it comes to some other social platforms, we have tried Twitter, and we've tried Facebook, but we find that those are really more personal, at least in the space that we're in. We're sharing information, but we're just not connecting with people as much on those platforms today as others.


Erin: One of my biggest challenges in social selling is tracking and accountability metrics. Digital behaviors are inherently trackable but I still find myself struggling to put together a useful dashboard of behaviors and outcomes. What are one or two of your most useful tracking methods?


Kris: Overall, any metrics related to marketing, I think are a little difficult for our organization to understand when they're working because we have a long sales cycle. But I will tell you the two metrics that I've found that will lead to conversions is we're really tracking our followers and we're watching the growth of our followers. That's really important because I hope that it means that people connected with something that we're doing enough to say, "I'm going to follow what they're doing and keep an eye on them." That gives us an opportunity when we're sharing great content that we're going to potentially come up in their feed and then they're going to look at us a bit further or at least read what we might be sharing or listen to the videos that we might be publishing. The other metric that we look at a lot is website sessions. So when people go from social media to our website, which is where we would hope that they would go if they're interested in learning more about Gen Alpha, or engaging with more content, because we have a lot more content on our website than we do on social media. So if we can get people to follow us and they start to see us repeatedly in their space, understanding their industry, what they do, if we're being useful, and then they move to the website and they continue to resonate with the materials that we're giving them, there's that potential that hopefully, they'll engage with us in some other way. Those are two that we've been really following. We have a lot of metrics and probably similar to both of you, we don't always know which ones are the best. But those two for us are indicators.


Lori: I could probably resonate with Kris on what we're doing for ourselves is still a little bit of a mystery. Moreso, because I'm not the one looking at it, I've got a team behind me. But I can tell you what I talk about from an educational standpoint when we talk to our clients and when I'm out there speaking about measuring your ROI. What's very important, I think this is one of the biggest things that people don't get clear on is what is the goal that they're trying to achieve? There's so much data out there on the internet that you can get analysis paralysis because you're just kind of staring at it and you don't know if this is valuable or not valuable. So when I was teaching at the university, there were the three A's that I would look at. One is attainable which asks if the data that you're trying to capture is easy to get? Is it easy to analyze and then can you take action on it, why are you going to look at data that you can't even take action on? Is it going to tell you a story that's going to say, we're on the right track or the wrong track? Going back to what is it that you're trying to achieve and then figure out what is the tactics that we're putting in place to achieve this goal, and then align your measurements with those specific tactics. That's going to help you get clear on is this data actionable? Those are easy for the hard numbers, which are cost, profit revenue, the size of your pipeline. The hard analytics are actually what we refer to as the soft numbers. Those show that people know you, like you, and trust you, that you've increased engagement, that you have customer loyalty, that you're building relationships and rapport. That's what we're all trying to do in the digital space, but it's really hard to measure. There is no easy way to do that, but a couple of things that we look at from a brand awareness standpoint are if you have an increase in your website traffic, that means new visitors. Customer loyalty, then you're looking at repeat visitors or does your email subscriber list grow because people want to hear from you? Lead generation is an easy one, do you have more conversions on your forms or not? So it's just really taking a look at what is it that you're trying to achieve and what data points are going to be helpful and telling you if you're on the right track or the wrong track? 


Erin: Many of our listeners are probably in B2B sales, most likely in manufacturing and industry. We’ll be talking about digital transformation in an upcoming episode, but I’d like to touch on the topic of transitioning from a heavily trade-show, site visit-oriented sales strategy to incorporating more digital social selling techniques. Do you have any stories from the field of where this has gone well and where it has maybe not yet quite penetrated?


Kris: So I shared with you that I do think trade shows still have a lot of value for having that personal touch. But of course, we haven't had trade shows for the last 18 months and they're just kind of coming back. But I think it's taught us that there are other ways to connect with people as well. So I do think all of the social opportunities are really important. What we found can be helpful is sending a message through LinkedIn, because often, and I do think this is true, I mean, it's been 10 years since I worked as a manufacturer. But when I was a manufacturer, I was very busy with my job and I was not hanging out on LinkedIn like I am today as a vendor or service provider to a manufacturer. To even get their attention, I like the trigger of the message because if they have their notifications turned on that message typically will send them an email or some notification, and then there's a stronger likelihood that they're going to read it. So then they've been brought there and now we can at least have a conversation or deepen that relationship like I talked about earlier. The second thing that we've been doing is inviting people to follow us and that's how we've grown our followers. That simple invitation just to ask if they want to learn more industry-related content to follow up on LinkedIn is going to help. From doing that, each month, our followers are increasing. So the simple ask, which is something we just started doing, I would say five months ago, we've been building the followers every month thereafter. Now I will say that the actual conversation from social is slower to achieve. Even if they've accepted the connection request, and they followed us, it does not mean that they're ready for a conversation. So anybody out there, don't expect that that's going to happen quickly. Most people aren't ready yet to have that conversation, they still want to learn about you and your company, and that's where hopefully you get to really shine. They establish that connection with you over time and when they're ready, they will reach out to you. So the actual physical conversation takes a bit more time.


Lori: I love what Kris said about first creating the ask because so many people forget to do that snd that's the most important part. Everyone is running around crazy and has shiny objects in every direction so the simple ask to follow us is actually extremely beneficial, because they may have wanted to do that, but just forgot. So sometimes as the asker, just tell, go follow us. It's extremely powerful, but yet so simple and so many people are missing that opportunity. But what you're talking about, Kris is really what's changed in the whole selling process, actually, and the experience of, I'm going to meet you for the first time at a trade show, and you came to my booth because there was something that intrigued you and then we're going to start a conversation because you're really interested in that. But now what's happening, and I like to relate it to the old school newspaper about how every single newspaper had car ads in it every single week. The reason is that the car salespeople want to make sure that when you are ready to buy, their brand is in front of you. It’s the same thing with what's happening in the b2b, social selling space. It's not that I'm going to be a hard sales pitch, I'm going to constantly be knocking on your door, rather, I'm going to continue to be top of mind, and continue to provide valuable information and showcase my expertise so that when the time is ready, that you want to buy, or at least start that conversation, I've already proven myself so we're further along in the sales process than if we just had that conversation at that tradeshow booth because we've already done all of the information of proving expertise, and providing value. I've experienced this, and I've seen some of our clients experienced this and it's just fascinating to see. I'm going in thinking it's a discovery call, and I'm doing all my homework and they're like, "We're ready, tell us where to sign," and my mind just gets blown. It goes back to what Kris said about making sure that you have the right people following you and telling the people that you want to be learning from you following you so that you are establishing that trust so that when they are ready to buy, there's no doubt in their mind who they're reaching out to.


Erin: You can’t talk about social selling without also talking about content. Lori, this is your wheelhouse, and Kris, you’ve demonstrated a mastery of content production. Why do you think content is so important to social selling and how can our listeners up their content game?


Kris: We had decided that content would be an opportunity to share our thought leadership in the space. I do think that I think very simply, and I try to write very simply as well, I'm not trying to sound smart, just share my experience, and hopefully, that becomes the most useful. But the way we've been able to publish so much content is that we decided that we wanted to increase our brand awareness and lead generation, and we were going to do that through content. So what we did is we set goals on the amount of content that we would create each month, the number of posts that we would put on LinkedIn, the number of articles we would write, the number of blogs, the number of articles we would submit to publications and hope that they share for us as well, and video creation. So even if it's snippets of me participating with somebody else, we have accounts, and we're going to achieve that. What's happened is it's forced us to research, to explore different topics, to share our experiences, and for me, it's forced me to say yes to a lot of things that historically I probably would not have done because it would be outside my comfort zone. We really thought that this was important because if we were going to increase our brand awareness, people had to know how our employees thought about how we could help other manufacturers. I learned from my team, from our customer experiences, and then, of course, I have my own life experiences. So combining all of that together goes into that creation process and that's really how we've been able to do it. I have to tell you, we started it in 2020. We've been in business for 10 years and for eight of those years, we really did no marketing, it was word of mouth. Of course, we had a website, but we weren't trying to drive people to it, but in 2020, we sat down, we wrote our goals, and we have been achieving them consistently since. Thankfully, we had done that because the pandemic would have forced us to go there anyway. But then we already had a plan, we were already in the middle of it and we just kept going.


Lori: For me, it's all about building a plan and I really liked that Kris and her team fleshed out the plan and defined some clear goals because at the end of the day, if you're just making assumptions, and just randomly throwing stuff out there, the location, the message, you don't know if it's actually going to be doing its job and serving its purpose. When it comes to what content and where to post it, you have to go deep into your customer and figure out what is that pain. This is something you both kind of addressed already in figuring out, not necessarily the pain that you're assuming that you have the solution that they're coming to you, it's understanding the pain and how they're thinking about it and using the same messaging across that space. Then, more importantly, fix the message, get it right, and then understand where to position it. So you can just put some stuff all over the place. A lot of people just jump in and assume that these are the platforms because they're the most popular platforms that they should be on there. But the reality is, you have to really understand your customer and figure out where are they hanging out online and then you decide do I want to go wide or do I want to go deep? Do I want to go deep in that platform and really own that platform and be the thought leader on that platform or do I want my message spread across a number of different platforms? We all know that time is money and you only have so many resources at the end of the day so I'm a fan of picking and starting with one platform and going deep on that and really building a strong following in that space. You guys talk about that you're on clubhouse and some other platforms right now and I love clubhouse and I was fascinated with it, but I realized I don't have the time to invest in that. I'm spreading myself way too thin, and I just can't do it. I'll jump on as guests on people's shows every once in a while but I know that there is value there and it's very powerful, but we've already invested in other channels and I think that's the mistake that a lot of people make is they're spreading themselves way too thin. Then there are lots of strategies around repurposing content. People are fearful that they're always having to think of something new to create, but at the end of the day, they didn't realize, well, you've been doing this for 10 years, you probably have emails that have content that you've written to just responding to someone's question and there's a blog post or a social media post in that email. You've already got it written, there's no reason to have to wreck your head and ask, what do I write about today? The answers are in front of you. It's simply the questions that people have asked you and if one person asked you it, there are likely 100 other people asking that same question looking for it online somewhere.


Erin: My favorite podcaster always asks his guests for three book recommendations at the end of every interview. I find the answers fascinating and helpful. So I’ll bring the same question to you: What are three books you think our listeners should know about?


Lori: Oh, this is such a fun question. I used to teach at the local university and on the last day there's a series of books that I would put out and I said, "No matter what, keep teaching yourself, keep learning, keep reading, and here are some books I highly recommend." So the top three: The One Thing by Gary Keller. I've actually re-read that one about three or four times now and it's all about, identifying your goal, and then asking yourself, what is the one thing that I can do today to help me achieve that goal? The next one is Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. He interviewed a ton of extremely successful individuals to identify their trends and what their morning routines were like and found six things that were consistent. Not necessarily all six per person, but he put those six and built a morning routine. There's an acronym for it which is SAVERS. So it's silence, which is meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing, which is journaling. I implemented his philosophy and it changed so many different things, and my mental state and productivity. I don't do all six anymore, but I found what works for me. The last one is a business book geared towards either leadership teams or business owners called Traction by Gino Wickman. It's really about the philosophy of running what's called the entrepreneurial operating system. It serves as a way to really be strategic in your business and have some structure around it.


Kris: I have to tell you that I'm a learner by nature. So every test that I take, I just love to learn, and for 25 years of my career, I would say to people that you could find me in the Self Help section of the bookstore because that's where I always found the best books and then, of course, the business section. But I have to tell you, and since this is Manufacturing Mavens, I thought I would just touch on a few books because I've really been into the lives of women lately and I've either read or listened to a lot of memoirs. The first is Untamed by Glennon Doyle which is a must-read or must listen to book. Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson is another one. She just recently passed away at 96 years old and she is a phenomenal African American woman who really took care of her career in the movies that she participated and I didn't know her life, I didn't know her life story. It's encouraged me to study African American History in a different way than I ever wanted to participate in the past. So I really enjoyed listening to her book and I've gone back to listen or read it multiple times just because she just has beautiful stories that make you want to be a better human or take a real position on things as well. Right now, I am listening to All In by Billie Jean King and she is reading it herself. Obviously not a trained reader of books, but it's her life and her life story. I wasn't old enough to watch her play tennis and she was kind of winding down her career when I was born, but she's been a female activist for many years. I'm a sports person by nature and I love everything about participating and competing and in team sports, particularly, but I'm listening to her story and all the things that they overcame, and how they signed a contract for $1, it's pretty remarkable. So I won't give too many things away, but those are some really good ones that I've read recently or listened to that have changed me in some way!


Thank you for listening to part one of our 3-part series. In the next episode, the Manufacturing Mavens will dive into the digital transformation currently occurring in the manufacturing space. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.


Head to to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners! 

Dec 15, 2021

Meet Scott

Scott has spent the past 35 years working in the financial services industry. In his career, Scott has been fortunate to work with consumers and small businesses in several capacities and has worked closely with businesses that have been successful as well as businesses that had to close shop. He's listened to the owners talk about what worked, what didn't, and what they wish they would have done.

How has your experience led to where you are today?

I've had to do a lot of research on companies and a lot of internet searches. I've worked closely with friends and family that are business owners and we've gone through this process. We realize a lot of their struggles have been just trying to connect with people and trying to find information. So many of them don't have resources that I for example have because, in my capacity at the bank, I've gotten to know accounts, I've gotten to know attorneys and all the support services where that makes me a little bit different than a lot of small businesses that don't have those resources, and they don't know where to go to find them. As we talk to more and more people about this, including customers and friends, we learned that they do need a resource. If you go to a Google search, a billion results will show up and it's really easy for that small business owner to get buried in the back pages of a search. But then they get frustrated when they're looking for somebody so that led us to build the one search direct platform.

Can you tell us a bit more about the platform?

The way the platform's designed, you set it up right now, where there are four primary areas. The first one is called a need where I'm looking for something and I can go to the website, I take what we're calling specialty news which is simply what somebody does. If I'm looking for marketing, I type that in, I type a brief description, and then hit send. What that does is it goes to the site and it will look for other people that are involved in marketing in my geographic area and that person if they're signed up on the platform, will automatically get the second tab, which is called the lead. So it's a way for a user to connect directly with one another on a topic that's a common interest between the both of them, and they don't have to do an internet search. There are no search results, you remain totally anonymous so that if I search for marketing I don't get hit with a bunch of phone calls or emails from marketing companies looking to reach out to me. So those are the first two primary tabs that we have on our platform right now. The next one is called an offer. So let's say if you as a marketing person wants to offer a free website inspection for prospective customers, you could actually do that to the platform. So you could go out there, do a brief overview of what you're looking for, and when you submit that offer it will go out to any users on the platform that says they're looking for marketing tips. But it's a great way to promote yourself. On the other side of that, as someone that would receive that, it's a great way to find only the things that I'm looking for which is exactly what the platform is designed to do. I can take marketing, and I would get that offer right away. Then the last tab is our Articles tab so when you talk in the intro about your tips, this is a way for you to send tips directly to people. It is very similar to the Offers tab, the biggest difference is that the offers have an expiration date, where articles would stay out there until you remove them. So there are four primary tabs and we felt that those were the ways that businesses at this point communicate most often so.

Over the past seven years, what have you learned about all this?

My biggest experience was going from someone who had to listen to other business owners talk about what they need to actually be someone that has experienced it. At one point, I needed to find some developers and that was an area that I had to go out and do some research on. So it made me realize that there is just a lot of legwork for the small business owner. But it also made me realize that there's a lot of areas that we hadn't even thought about initially. In fact, one of my friends told me early on that I should be prepared for this to go in a direction I never planned it to. As we started developing this more and more, the initial concept was built around helping community banks. It's now going from small businesses to freelancers, especially, let's say over the last 18 months with the impact of the pandemic so many more small businesses have popped up as a necessity. So it's really kind of taken off and has expanded a bit more into those areas. Again, there's a lot of competition out there right now, and hopefully, we can help people connect directly with one another and save some time.

So what's next for you here?

Well, right now the study is up and running and we're in the process of growing it. But before we got to that point, as we're developing it, we also have a series of several enhancements that we planned. We plan to create a focus group or user panel that will actually help us by looking at the enhancements we have planned. They're very industry-specific. So marketing ultimately will look a little bit different than let's say insurance. So we have the panel set for the first group and they will help us identify what's important, and give us some direction in terms of what's most important to be able to prioritize things so that we're focusing on what the end-user wants. We are looking at this as that end user will actually be considered more of our board of directors because we really want to listen to them in terms of where we go from here, as opposed to just doing things arbitrarily and putting something off that no one has an interest in.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

There's been quite a few actually because, for the longest time, I was a sales rep for a bank. I never really was into going to the formal meetings, I enjoy going to different outings like golf outings, or things of that nature, and just trying to make a point of meeting as many people as I can. Because to me, a lot of those people were the ones that I would be doing business with. So I think that was probably the most successful for me and I started to enjoy more of the relaxed type functions versus some of the more structured ones.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

On LinkedIn right now, I think I have 23,000 followers. So what we're doing is we're continually putting regular posts out there. I try to get in contact with my customers whenever possible. I'm not necessarily a believer in banks where they tell you to meet your customer once every six months or so. Whenever possible, I will do that if I come across articles or something I think would be beneficial to a customer, I make an effort to get those into their hands. So you look for different and creative ways to get in front of them and make those experiences as memorable as possible.

What advice would you offer to the business professional who is looking to grow their network?

Step outside your comfort zone, try something you haven't done before. I can guess one of the challenges we face with the platform is just looking at things that we never thought possible. So, again, I think you just have to step outside of your comfort zone and don't be afraid to make a mistake.

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?

Honestly, I don't believe in doing something different just because I think that's why I'm at where I'm at, and I'm okay with that. I think I would have been more aggressive in going after some different jobs. I would tell myself to not be afraid to take risks because I was afraid to take those risks early on and that would have been the one thing I would do differently. 

I understand you have an offer to share with our listeners?

Yes! What we would like to offer is a seven-day free trial for the website and then after that, we're going to offer 12 months for $99. If you have questions, and you want to reach out to me, you can go to our website, and then you can read information, you can see our short demo videos and I'd be more than happy to talk to you to discuss how to use the first seven days in terms of taking those articles are marketing tips that use regularly, and getting them on to the website so that you can get out there and help yourself get in front of as many people as you can

Connect with Scott




Dec 7, 2021

Meet Tatyana

Tatyana St. Germain is the founder and CEO of Great People Management, a consulting firm located in Kenosha, WI, serving clients nationwide. They offer leadership coaching, hiring and development assessments, talent optimization tools, and talent management consulting. Tatyana is an expert at understanding and solving complex people challenges in the workplace and helped over 1000 clients worldwide select, retain and develop the right people who get results and smash the competition.

How can companies improve their chances of hiring productive employees?

The biggest challenge I'm finding with my clients and with conversations I'm having in my business network is actually finding people. That's the biggest challenge and that's probably a whole separate conversation. But once you have a candidate, if you're lucky you may have a couple of candidates, the best way to ensure that they're productive is to look for job fit and look for culture fit. This is where some of those resources out there can really help and one of those resources is predictive assessment tools that companies can use to help them understand their people. These assessment tools are not designed to screen people out because what I'm hearing right now is, "Tatyana, we don't even have any people apply, how can we talk about screening people out or using any kind of tool for job matching?" Well, it's really to ensure the productivity, engagement, and long-term retention of the employee. That's the information that the assessment tools give you. So don't skip that step, the vetting step, and do the due diligence on the front end when you're hiring employees, even if you just have one to choose from.

What can managers do to keep their employees?

Once you get somebody in place, and congratulations if you hired a warm body, the next question is now what? How do I ensure that I have a productive onboarding experience to engage them? It starts with understanding what people really care about. Your onboarding and your retention start with the interview process. You want to make sure that you understand your employees, ask deep, meaningful questions and then once they are on board, you have everything in place for them. Obviously, the benefits, their desk, their computer ready, and all the logins, but also the next step is building a deeper relationship with the team. One of my clients shared a great success story that he incorporated those assessment tools in the onboarding process, generating a team report that shares with each team member what their differences and similarities are, what their talents and challenges are, and having maybe a 90-minute conversation with a new team member over lunch is going to help the new team member to ask some questions, maybe laugh about some of the quirks and personality that other members on the team have. Most importantly, focus on the talent. We're all behaviorally diverse when we're working on the same team and the key here is to complement each other instead of perceiving our differences as difficulties, which is how we are wired psychologically to be, that's the knee-jerk reaction. When we meet new people there's a lot of uncertainty and that creates that wall and engages fear factors in the brain that shuts down the rational brain. So it takes multiple months, and sometimes years to get to know your co-workers to build a productive relationship. But utilizing assessment tools, you are actually able to build that relationship within the first week and that's what my client shared. It's feasible that you can squeeze your onboarding, the length of onboarding from months, to just weeks. Bringing onboarding into the conversation about retention starts to build loyalty and connectedness. This is what people care about. Yes, they do care about bonuses and compensation and benefits packages that are being revamped right now with many organizations. But with those tactical transactional items, you can only go so far. Frankly, smaller companies can't even afford all those benefits in compensation packages. So it's about relationships. 

Why are you so passionate about helping companies solve their "people problems"?

When I got introduced to the assessment industry, my former boss and mentor brought me into the second interview and he showed me my scores, and not knowing what I was looking at because I didn't know anything about assessments at that time, I was kind of mortified because one of the behavioral traits that were assessed was attitude. And on a scale of 1 to 10 I was a 1 so I automatically assumed 1 is bad, 10 is good and why am I even here? Then he pulled up his report and show that he's a 10 so we're polar opposites when it comes to outlook on life and people and trust. Then he said in the small office of seven people, all of us are over six on a scale from one to 10, and me being the leader of the team I'm concerned that I'm so optimistic that I might lead this team right off the cliff thinking and hoping there's an invisible bridge so if nothing else, we actually want you on our team, we want you to ask questions, we want you to be our anchor. So this skeptical attitude that I've carried through throughout my life, and I've always thought it was a burden, it was a negative thing about who I was, all of a sudden became an asset. It's about how you look at it. It's about how you channel your strengths and mitigate your challenges and we have both, we all have that. Finding a position where you can channel even some of the adversity that you may have about your personality into a positive area that's what builds loyalty. This is what makes people go the extra mile and that's what it did for me. It was amazing, I was given permission to be myself. In fact, I was valued for who I was not even my contributions, because he didn't know what I could do at that point. It was just the interview, but my potential, and how I would interact and complement the team. So I was given permission to be myself on the job and needless to say, case, in point, I am still in this industry. This was so life-changing for me personally, and I thought if I could do this for other people, individual people, or the leaders, business owners, and entire organizations because it is such a scalable process. You can apply it to everyone and I worked with companies from five employees to 55,000. If you can give this kind of information and put people in positions according to their talents, according to their potential, where their contributions in their innate talents would be valued, how much better our decisions would be, how much better our productivity and engagement would be, and would people really be leaving companies? That's my question, if all companies were using and had the same experience as I did would people be leaving? This year was rough for everyone, but it never crossed my mind to get out of the business or change careers.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

First of all, when we network, you never know who you're going to meet and who you might end up getting connected to. Some of the best referrals come from unlikely sources. I learned that early on so I don't ignore any opportunity to network. I had great experiences with a variety of networking organizations. Right now I'm working with an amazing content writer who's located in the UK. I got introduced to her probably three years ago and there was one person who introduced me to another person. So this is probably a fourth-level connection and she's amazing. So whether you get connected to resources or potential clients, I never discount the power of networking and then building credibility through your network as well.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

You have to think on purpose about the people in your network. What I mean by that is knowing what they care about, what they're looking for in terms of business if this is a business relationship, continuously look for opportunities, and train your ear to listen for them. For example, yesterday, I had a lunch meeting with one of the people in my network who just purchased a new business. He gave me a tour of the facility, we had lunch and it was lovely, but towards the end of the conversation. He mentioned something about benefits. My ears perked up because I've been listening for those clues and I mentioned one of my network partners who do benefits. So I will be connecting them today, making that soft, warm introduction. So I think that's probably the most important thing and it's not quid pro quo, it's really about being generous and being passionate about connecting people to people and connecting people to resources. It's not about what you get back, it's about what you can give. When you have that outlook, you're going to be able to hear more of those opportunities and connect people to those resources.

What advice would you offer to the business professional who is looking to grow their network?

I've done all kinds of things, starting with trade shows. I've done a lot of those early on in my assessment career, and coaching career. That's basically collecting business cards and building the list and then doing email marketing. But I would say in the last 10 years, LinkedIn has been a keystone for all of my networking. People are willing to connect and people are willing to listen. I would say get on LinkedIn spend and I can recommend a couple of people who help you maximize the value of LinkedIn, how to connect with people, get the Premium Package, spend whatever you need to spend to invest in building the network. But I think that's been the best one. It's amazing how responsive people are even if you just ask a question. You can build a group, you can have a webinar, you can do all sorts of things. The sky's the limit!

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?

Growing up in the Soviet Union, there's kind of the power of necessity that drove me always. So I never remember myself not striving to do more. So first, it was getting myself out of that country with education, working hard, and not passing up opportunities, and I've taken on some crazy opportunities. I would say when opportunities knock, do not pass them up because then you always wonder what if. I'm happy to say that, and whether it's because of who I am, or the power of necessity because I was really driven to succeed and build a better life for myself and for my future children I did that and I would always say to take risks in the early years.

I understand you have a free assessment to share with our listeners?

Yes, so I do offer a couple of different assessments because I believe that every organization and every situation is unique so one size does not fit all. But one of the flagship assessments that I use is the PXT Select tool that is developed and validated by Wiley and Sons. They also provide assessments such as 5 behaviors of a cohesive team, in addition to the PXT Select. So I've sourced this one and I've used this for the past 17 years. I find that it is most predictive, most robust and sophisticated, and most importantly to me, it is valid and reliable. So I'm all about the numbers and the technical manual. But I wanted to offer this assessment to the listeners and it takes about 45 minutes to complete and then it would be maybe an hour of a debrief so we can chat about insights that they can get out of the reports, to improve their leadership skills, understand their strengths, understand some of the challenges that they may be experiencing, and how to mitigate those and become more self-aware, because the journey of improvement starts with self-awareness. You can't get to point B without knowing your point A so the PXT Select is point A and I would love to offer that to more people out there.

Connect with Tatyana


Contact Tatyana to schedule your assessment!  



Dec 1, 2021

Meet Mayra

Marya Wilson, PhD is the Principal and Organizational Dietician for MW Advising.

Marya has an extensive business and industry career in the areas of manufacturing, information management, telecommunications, ISP, and the semiconductor industries of the Silicon Valley, CA at the companies 3M, Imation, and Pentagon Technologies, and various others.

She is also the Director of the Leadership Institute and an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She teaches in the areas of organizational leadership and behavior, operations management, quality management, training and development, and sustainable management. Her research interests include psychological contracts, trust and emotions in the workplace, and organizational exit. Her current research involves the understanding of the lived experience for professionals who are pushed out of their careers.

Marya serves the manufacturing, service, higher education, non-profit, and government sectors. She brings not only first-hand knowledge to the learning experience but also a clear understanding of the underlying emotional processes that drive behaviors and create individual and team success. She has a BA in Psychology, MS in Management Technology, MA in Human Development, and a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems.

Why is trust so important to the success of an organization?

So along with my entrepreneurial endeavors, I also teach at The University of Wisconsin Stout so I have a pretty extensive research background as well. The research that I get into is in organizational exit. So why are people leaving organizations? Usually, I get a sort of that "Duh'' look because most people think they know why people leave, but there's so much more to it. It's so important for organizations to really understand why people are leaving, especially their high performers. Pretty much the number one reason that people leave their organizations is because there's a betrayal of trust. There's this trust factor that is so important in organizations and so one of the things that I do is work with leaders and work with organizations to strengthen that trust between the individuals of the organization as well as the leaders and their organizations. Losing people isn't just a financial hardship, it's a really big hit on morale and the overall organizational culture. The last thing any organization wants is to hit that toxic realm and it's easy to do when we're not paying attention to trust and not paying attention to those relationships that are part of that organization. Yeah, we've got a job to do, there's no doubt about it. We've got things to do, we've got expectations to meet, we've got goals to meet, we have customer expectations, but that relationship side of the organization is as important as getting the job done, sometimes I'm fairly certain it's a little more important. So trust is a big factor and it's one of the things that I love to talk about and love to continue to research too.

Is organizational trust the same in face-to-face and remote work environments?

March 2020 was one of the most disruptive changes we've seen in almost 100 years. The definition that I use for trust is an individual's belief and willingness to act on someone's actions, decisions, and words. The truth of the matter is that there's no difference between that face-to-face and in the remote or the virtual. It's all in our actions, it's all in what we say, it's all in how we interact. Is it different? Of course, face-to-face is much richer, you can see the nonverbals, you can see body language, you can see those facial expressions. There's just so much there that you can see that you can't necessarily see in a virtual or remote environment. But one of the things that have been interesting the last couple of years is listening to leaders go, "We need everybody back and we need them back now because we don't have good relationships anymore." So I'll ask them why that is and they'll say, "Well, people can't see each other," and I thought, "Okay, but you're doing these great video meetings, you're doing these great virtual events so why do you have to necessarily be in the same room in order to build a relationship?" And you don't. It's different, but there's so much that we can glean in a virtual setting. I mean, look at us. We're doing this podcast, I can't see you, but I can hear your voice and so we can build a relationship that way. So is it different? Yes, but the tenants are the same. Building trust, being able to believe and act on someone's words, actions, and decisions. It's the same thing in a remote or virtual environment as it would be in a face-to-face. What I would say as well, is that it falls on us to be more cognizant of it. When you're face to face, I don't want to say it's easy, but in some ways it is. We've been face to face for so long that we haven't really learned how to do that trust-building and relationship building when we're not face to face. So it's really pushed a lot of people out of their comfort zone so it's been interesting to watch over the last couple of years. I will say that the companies and clients that I work with that are successful at this trust-building approach and relationship-building approach make time to connect. It doesn't have to be on a video call, it could just be a phone call, it's about the connection.

Do you think that some companies and employers are overthinking this?

Honestly, I don't think they're thinking about it enough! Think about this: We were going through this massive disruptive change, which is extremely scary. Any change, positive or negative creates uncertainty and uncertainty creates fear. If we don't pay attention to it, that fear will create chaos. So the great thing about communication is the ability to keep people in the loop. It shows respect, it puts accountability there. Communication builds trust. People may not like what you have to say, but the fact that you're telling them shows a level of respect that you're being transparent about what's going on. What I'm seeing right now is that there's a level of fear. Let's just take manufacturers in Wisconsin, I just did a panel discussion with a couple of different manufacturers in the state and what we discovered is that we have a lot of leaders of organizations that are very scared and they're trying to survive. The supply chain has been massively disrupted so our leaders are fearful which is understandable. But what happens is when people become afraid, that's when the chaos ensues so when I'm saying that they're not thinking about this enough, our leaders are kind of getting caught up in their own ego. I don't mean that to belittle anybody, it's actually a normal human reaction. But in leadership, we need to really think about how in uncertain and fearful environments, that communication is absolutely crucial. It needs to be regular, and it needs to be thought about, and it needs to be at the forefront because that's what helps get people through uncertainty. 

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I think some of the more fun ones have been the ones that I wasn't even planning. This is from my days in the Silicon Valley, I was actually laid off from a job. So I'm driving around and I stop off because traffic was horrendous and just stopped off. There was a restaurant near one of our clients at the time which was Intel. So I stopped off and tried to let traffic die down. I'm sitting at the bar, and just having conversations with people and the gentleman sitting next to me was about to become my future CEO. It's that conversation, just connecting and those kinds of things. Those are the things that you don't plan for, the stuff that I plan for probably the most fun that I have is LinkedIn right now. I have met some of the most amazing people on LinkedIn. I met my business partner on a goof, she read one of my blogs, we connected on LinkedIn and now we're business partners even though she's in Europe and I'm here in the States!

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

There are a lot of different things I do. I work hard to even just send short messages like, "I haven't talked to you in a long time and I just wanted to reach out to let you know I was thinking about you, I hope everything is well." I don't do that from a brown-nosing perspective, so to speak. I know some people think that's really trite, but that's genuine for me. If you get a message like that from me, it really does mean that I was thinking about you and that something made me think about you, and I just wanted to reach out and let you know. That's big for me.

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?

What I would tell myself is to have more confidence and be strong in myself. I was such a comparer and that constant act of comparing myself to others was such a roadblock. So just be you, be confident, focus on your strengths, because everybody on this planet has got something of value that they can give wherever they're at. But that comparison thing is just a killer. The best example that I can use is that I got my PhD later in my career. I did it in my 40s and I have a friend that wants to get a second PhD, and I'm really questioning her mental state because it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! I had this extensive business industry experience, which was amazing and I worked on my PhD a little later. So I'm in the academic life a little bit later and I'm in this entrepreneurial role a little bit later and if you're gonna compare yourself to everybody else, it's really easy to start questioning the things that you're doing. The things that I'm doing right now are really great and I'm insanely excited for 2022. I've got a book coming out, I've got new research coming out, there's some really great stuff going on with my company, I'm just so excited! But it's super easy to get caught up in that comparison and I wish my 20-year-old self would have known that a little bit more because it can be a bit of a roadblock.


Connect with Marya


Connect with Marya through her website at and schedule an appointment!


Nov 17, 2021

Meet Nick

Nicholas Hammernik is the Vice President at Hammernik & Associates. He is an Enrolled Agent, which is the highest designation assigned to tax professionals by the IRS. Nick uses his background in coaching and marketing to educate his clients on their tax situation with straightforward advice in a language that is easy for them to understand. Nick's main goal is to make sure small business owners are paying the least amount of tax legally possible to keep more of their hard-earned money.

What is the difference between an accountant and a tax planner?

I think on one of your prior podcasts you had talked with someone who described how accountants prepare financial statements and everything, but it really doesn't get into the full picture of the bottom line and saving a business owner money. At the end of the day, the greatest thing that a business owner is looking for, and I think everyone in life is looking for is how you can pay the least amount of money to the government and how you can make the most money, and that's through tax planning. We try to utilize our knowledge of tax laws to devise tax plans for business owners which means that we're instituting tax laws to reduce their tax bill. A normal accountant is preparing tax returns, making sure everything's filed on time, keeping you compliant and that's all very important, but at the end of the day, when we're filing your tax return in April, it's too late to save money in tax. There are a couple of small things that can be done, but if a taxpayer comes in and they realize they're owing a lot more in tax than they thought they should, or used to in the past, that becomes a problem. Then it's about focussing on what we can do next year to make sure that doesn't happen. So being proactive throughout the year by implementing tax strategies, reduces that tax liability and we kind of write the story of what that tax turns going to look like at the end of the year, instead of the story already being written when we file tax returns.

How has COVID-19 affected the tax industry?

It's been one of the craziest years ever for people and I definitely impacted not only the tax industry but small business owners in general. A lot of small business owners were forced to either shut their doors or change the way that they operate. There were things that became available as far as loans, credits, all these things to help keep cash flow in those small businesses. So it presented us with a lot more opportunities to advise small business owners as far as here's what's available that you may have already known about, but here are some more in-depth tax things that might be available that are going to save you some money right now and help you through these times. A lot of clients that we work with were actually able to thrive through the pandemic because it forced them to do things differently than they're used to, which opened up new opportunities for them. But it did help that these credits and loans were available to them even though the new tax laws with the stimulus payments created a crazy environment that changed the way that we had to report things on tax returns and presented opportunities for additional tax filing. At the end of the day, tax laws are always changing. This just happened to be a thing that came out of the dark, where tax laws were popping up every single day where we didn't know what the final tax law was gonna be with unemployment. So we had to play a lot of things by ear and spent a lot of time studying what was going on, but it did present opportunities for small business owners to take advantage of certain things that became available through tax laws because of COVID.

How will the impending tax laws from the Biden administration affect taxpayers and small business owners?

Anytime that there is a change in Washington, as far as the presidency goes, they're going to want to put their new tax plan in place. Part of their pitch when they're they're running for president is what they will do from a tax perspective which makes it one of the main talking points during the election. You can't take what their proposal is as what it's actually going to be, but project based on the main points what it will look like. We don't know when it's gonna be changed. It could be as soon as 2022, it could be 2023, but for the most part, is probably going to be coming. The main things that are in there if we're going to project it out are that the tax brackets are going to go up, which means that everyone's going to be paying a little bit more in tax. That was going to be a given no matter what happened as far as the next tax law changes when the current tax brackets that we have right now are the lowest they've been in decades and it was only a matter of time before they went back down. So we do encourage people to try to take advantage of those tax brackets, especially if they're in a lower tax bracket. We advise people that are in retirement mode, that are allowed to take money out of their IRAs, to start taking that money out and paying tax on it now because that money's got to be taxed at some point. Once you reach a certain age, the age now is 72, they force you to take out a certain amount from that account every single year, and pay tax on it. So who knows what that tax rate is going to look like at that time, or if you're passing that money down to a beneficiary when you pass away, they're going to pay tax on it. What tax rate are they going to be paying at? So it is important to look at to see if there are already opportunities for you to take advantage of potentially by paying tax at money now, with the current tax rates rather than waiting when you're going to eventually have to pay tax on it otherwise. From a small business perspective, they are proposing some changes in there that would reduce some of the tax credits that are available to small businesses right now. A lot of that stuff is up in the air, but that's when we go in and do tax planning. Anytime that changes are made, it presents opportunities to change the way that a business is structured or the way that they're operating. Just because they might be structured one way right now, and it's the most advantageous with the current tax laws doesn't mean that when things change, it makes sense to stay that way. It's important to be as proactive as possible when analyzing everything in your business such as your sales, your budgets, making sure you're hitting your goals. But also, how much tax are you paying? Is the way that you're structured the right way to pay the least amount legally possible to the government right now? If those tax laws change, that might change your situation as well and it might be time to reevaluate the way that you're operating.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I've been in the industry for almost 10 years now and throughout time, I've done a lot of different things. So Chamber of Commerce meetings, BNI, going to financial advisors where they put on presentations, and at the end of the day, it's about finding people that you're comfortable with because it allows you to open up which creates that connection where they're going to trust you with referring people that trust them to trust you. My BNI group has been great. It's over in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and it's a very tight-knit group. A lot of the people in there have been there for a while and going to the meetings is not a drag, it's not something you dread going into it, because it's easy conversation. Sometimes the conversation isn't even about business anymore. You know, it's about a TV show, or it's about the packers, or it's checking in to see how your family is doing. Creating connections that are personal and friendly first takes you to the level where someone's going to trust you with people that trust them to make sure that you're doing a job with work for them. So that would be the best experience that I've had so far.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

One of the main things that I like to do is if someone reaches out to me, I make sure that I'm responding to them within 24 hours no matter how big or large the question is I am at least addressing it. I also like to make sure that we're keeping in touch. We like to utilize email platforms to send out newsletters or things that are happening, especially in our industry to make sure that people are thinking about us all year. Oftentimes, people only think about people in our industry for those dreaded couple months out of the year. So we like to keep in touch throughout the year so that they're thinking about us in case there's anything else that might come up for them throughout the year. So just making sure that we have consistent touchpoints with people to make sure that they're not forgetting about us.

What advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?

I think it all depends on what type of industry you're in as far as where you should look to grow your network. If you're looking to scale something where you need high volume, I think it definitely makes sense to work something out online where you're able to reach a broader audience, if that's through advertisements, or if that's through LinkedIn, Facebook, things like that. If you're looking for those few big fish where you don't need a ton of clients, or you don't need to sell a ton of products, I think it definitely makes sense to reach out to local groups. It could be a dedicated networking group, or joining a group that is made up specifically of individuals that are in your target market. I think it depends on what your ideal client looks like, as far as how you should approach it. Either way, I think a combination of both online and in-person is always a good idea. But if you need to reach a higher number of people in order to hit your sales or revenue goals, I think that online is really going to help you with that. So if that's just doing advertisements, doing webinars, creating groups where people can talk about things, that would be where I would steer someone for that. But if you're looking for a specific individual that fits a certain profile, it makes sense to get your feet on the ground in your area so that you can really connect with people to gain their trust and then see how you can find those targets that you're looking for.

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?

This is a great question because this is something that I've been thinking about for probably five or six years, as far as the stuff that I learned in high school or college, I barely use any of it right now. I wish that they focus more on some real-life skills as far as tax, investing, retirement, insurance, all these things that when you get thrown into the real world you've got to start learning about. I recently spoke at my former high school and they have something called employability where it starts teaching them how to make themselves employable. I was glad to see that, but if I were to go back to my 20-year-old self, I would definitely do more internships. I actually went to school for marketing. When I got out of school it was 2008 when the job market was terrible. I ended up taking a couple of cold-calling sales jobs and absolutely hated it. I did one internship, but it was my senior year of college and everyone was looking for experience and I had just graduated college and didn't have experience yet. So even when you're 16 or 17 if you know what you want to do, or even if you don't, start doing internships, even if they're unpaid. Getting your foot in the door and getting that real-world experience is going to provide you better things to put on your resume, better experience than that 4.0 you got in college. When I am interviewing people, I ask about real-world experiences, I ask about wins that they've had in their personal and professional life. So just getting experience in different areas that might help you out in the future is what I wish I did more. What I would encourage younger people to do now because, unfortunately, college has kind of become a commodity. A general business degree at this point really isn't doing much for you, to be honest, it's that experience. Internships, internships, internships is what I would preach to my 20-year-old self.

I understand you have an offering for our listeners? 

In our lobby, we have some books that have been written by our president Dale Hammernik and we have copies available. You can come by and pick them up, or you can shoot me an email and I'll mail them out to you. The first book is called Straight Talk About Small Business Success In Wisconsin and it provides a roadmap from start to finish if you're just starting out a business. We do have limited copies of that book and it would be great for someone that is an entrepreneur that's thinking about starting up a small business or even an established business owner. It's a very easy read and it's sectioned out so if there's only a specific section you want to read about, it's easy to do that. The second book is called The Great Tax Escape and it gives an update on the most recent tax law changes. It walks through the most important tax law changes and how to understand those in easy-to-understand language, and how to possibly make those tax laws work for you.


Connect with Nick


Email Nick at or stop by their office at 10777 W Beloit Rd, Greenfield, WI  if you’re interested in picking up a copy of one of their books! 


Nov 10, 2021

Meet Dan

Dan Schneck is CEO & Founder of WJI Networks Business Solutions, an IT agency firm in Brookfield, Wisconsin specializing in providing engineered technology & cybersecurity solutions, building, and integration of IT systems & support for the modern business office, warehouse, or automated production facility.

He hosts the IT Records podcast, which features discussions with business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals about the human side of business, how technology affects personal and professional development, and what motivates guests. As his creative passion, Dan performs jazz, blues, and funk music on the Hammond B3 organ with his group, B3 Groove.

What is digital transformation and why should I care?

Digital transformation actually has a personal connection to me and it's why I really started my company. I think the whole pandemic really accelerated all of this for all companies. Digital transformation, to me, is about what your goal is for the future, how you can get there, and how you can leverage technology to meet your goals in your business growth. It's really that simple. As you said, it's kind of a buzzword that's out there, but really it's taking a deep dive to assess what you want to get out of your business using technology.

How is automation changing the world of business?

Where do I start with automation? First of all, it's changing the landscape of how we connect with customers. From my perspective, sitting in an IT and engineering and support world, click to chat, digital chat, ways to connect, communicate with customers on service calls, that's all evolving rapidly. It's making it easier to connect and communicate with customers. Number one, it's presenting a lot of new challenges and going out and finding new business. I know there's a lot of automation happening with email, and CRMs, and things like that, but my background is a little more as a technology integrator so I spent a lot of time in automation facilities and manufacturing companies that are implementing a ton of automation. It's really fascinating to see that shift from robotics to packaging lines. That automation world is taking off like crazy lately and it's really helping companies produce more, faster, better and the level of knowledge is really rising within those companies on how to automate processes and procedures. It's really fun.

How do I find technology resources when I need advice? 

My answer to this is a little nuanced. First of all, everyone needs a good technology partner these days. So my answer to that would be to do your homework, communicate, talk, interview different technology companies. There are a ton of tech companies out there and I always like to say you can throw a rock and hit an IT company, but all of us specialize in different nuances and areas. Our strength is really what we opened with digital transformation, taking the customer on the journey from good to better, and finding cost savings on existing technology. So you need to ask questions and attend events. There are such great cybersecurity webinars happening and informational webinars happening. If you visit our website, we have some content posted, we run webinars all the time, and just be willing to have a conversation and ask questions. It's a little overwhelming for customers at this point because of the explosion of technology, but we are certainly here to help answer any questions and that's what we like to do. We like to be your concierge and your quarterback so we think we have the answers and feel free to ask.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

Recently, one of my most successful networking experiences was finding a group called Vistage. I joined this group a couple of years ago as a peer, entrepreneur, and CEO group. That really has been a godsend for me! It's been a great group to connect with other like-minded business owners and that's just been a huge journey and success for me.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

I visit my customers a lot so I have a lot of face time with customers. As part of our process, when we onboard a client, I make it a point to visit customers every couple of months and check in with them. It's not all about tech, it's just checking in and asking how their business is doing and where they might be struggling. I'm always listening for technology solutions that can help them and I'm always amazed at the number of times that when I create that relationship with a customer, we ended up talking about 15 other things, but one of them is a really important technology solution that I might be able to provide.

What advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?

Keep connecting with others. Make it a point to follow and stay in touch. Don't always pick up the phone and talk about your business. As I said, the conversations that I love to have with my customers aren't even about business half the time. Prior to the pandemic, I didn't even use a CRM because I never really had to, but now I lean on my CRM like crazy! I leave touchpoints, follow up with my customers and make it a point to tell your story as often as you can.

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?

If I can go back to my 20-year-old self, I am telling myself to slow down to speed up. One of the lessons that I have personally learned over the past two years is to develop focus, and I have constantly been finding that the more you slow down and really think through a decision, what's the best outcome, not only for yourself but for your clients. When you're in business, that's my top piece of advice. Don't rush decisions. I think you appreciate your decisions, more you make better decisions, and you make the best decision for your clients if you do things that way.


Connect with Dan


Connect with Dan through his website at to claim a free copy of his eBook, 10 Keys To Finding Your Best IT Provider Match!



Nov 3, 2021

Meet Shane

Shane is a serial entrepreneur and podcaster, living in Linden, Michigan with his family.

How can you consistently stand out from your competitors? 

I think in this day and age, everyone's so bombastic and trying to stand out especially in the social media world, I think to do the opposite. Remember the old cliche, the loudest one in the room is the weakest one. I think when we can understand that, without even going into the layers of it, it's easy to just kind of kickback be a little bit quiet and draw people in. We're so eager to talk about ourselves and talk about our reviews or certification or whatever it is, but when we can hang back and just be present at the moment, that is what's going to draw people in and create real interest. When you can be that warm, fuzzy blanket and make yourself stand out from the noise that we live in.

How can you create raving fans in your marketplace?

So my obsession in my service company was the customer experience. If you were to break down and rank on a 1 to 10 scale, all the different parts of your business from service, to sales, to follow-up, most people never focus on the experience. How does it feel to do business with your company? There was a certain point in time with my service company that we were literally double the price of our competitors and we did the same exact thing, but the way it felt to do business with us was significantly different. It's like a good song where you might not know the words or the lyrics or what the song means, but you just like the way the song makes you feel. That's how you create an amazing customer experience and stand out in your market.

How can you win by embracing your authentic DNA? 

I think a lot of times we view weakness as some sort of sin. It's bad about our business, it's bad about us, but in reality, that is the thing that's going to humanize you. Perfection is intimidating, but when it's real, that authenticity, that's what that is, it's real, it's transparent. That's when you connect to a real person, an authentic real person. A lot of times our weaknesses, when we know and understand them enough become an actual strength. When we can write down what we're not good at, when we can meditate on it, when we can marinate in it, that is the thing that is going to make you stand out, it's gonna develop a connection with you. As I said, perfection is intimidating so I think I think it's a great way to go to embrace your imperfections and the things you're not good at.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

When I started my first company, BNI was the thing that got us off the ground, and as a 25-year-old kid, it was hard at first. But man, it really got me going, it forced me out of my comfort zone, it forced me into some relationships that ended up being extremely profitable. I'd say get over yourself and start to network, if it's a Chamber of Commerce, if it's BNI, relationships are so much a part of business and so when you can understand that you'll start to develop those relationships. Life is what you do with fear and so when you can get over those social fears, you will create allies and create a lot more money when you can develop those relationships.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

Don't be clingy or needy, but stay top of mind. Relationships are everything so stay top of mind. Whatever industry you're in, make sure people in your town in your circle of network now that you're the person that does that and attend as many as you can, but don't be the person who's begging for leads or begging for work. Be the person that provides value, that they themselves would want to do business with. Don't be so dependent on your network that you need them for leads, but referrals are the best type of customer to have because there’s no customer acquisition cost. I think I think networking is a great way to develop a steady stream of leads.

What additional advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?

I'd say going all-in on BNI. I think most chambers are much more laid back, but you can't go wrong with BNI. If nothing else, you're sharpening your own skills, sharpening your elevator pitch and it's a real commitment. You pay to play and, and you will develop your skills. BNI is a steady stream of leads, it's not a lever that you pull, but you'll get your very best customers from the referrals you'll generate.

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 I would have gone all-in on marketing much quicker or taken a loan or an investment from a family member. I just spent so many endless days trying to drum up leads by passing out flyers in mailboxes. Networking groups are great, but you've got to market your business, there's no way around it. To be able to get over my pride as someone who really valued self-reliance, just to take a small loan or a small investment just to start marketing would have gotten me on my feet much, much quicker than the route I ended up picking.

Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I think when in doubt, don't focus on how you feel about your fear or your insecurities. Don't be that clingy person. Don't tell everyone how you're the smartest person in the room, make them feel that they're the smartest person in the room and be the warm fuzzy blanket and provide value and the leads will come flooding in I promise.


Connect with Shane




Reach out to Shane if you’re interested in a free copy of his eBook!

Oct 27, 2021

Meet Liz

Liz Nead is an adventure speaker, traveling the world and taking on challenges to find lessons of leadership, communication diversity, and inclusion. A diversity speaker and researcher for over a decade, she specializes common language and daily communication around race and cultural differences in the workplace. Liz uses a direct, humorous, and vivid style from the stage to create opportunities for communication around differences. She shares life with 7 kids and her husband of 21 years.

How do you work the room with diversity and belonging in mind?

It's funny that you asked that question because just like everyone else, I am in the middle of growth and change, and I deal with my own humanity and the humanity of others. Sometimes when I see these thought leaders that are like typically on Oprah super soul sessions, their vibe is very mellow. For me, the first thing about networking is to be authentic and the second thing about being authentic and networking is that you don't take it personally which is constantly a juggle. How do you do that in networking with diversity, stay authentic, but not take it personally.

What are the questions to avoid?

It's a tough one and the reason why it's tough is because life has changed so much and honestly what was acceptable, even two years ago, like let's just say pre-COVID is no longer acceptable. The kinds of questions which are very superficial like where are you from and what's your ethnicity and you have such an interesting look or what's your take on this? Someone might ask me what my take is on something related to this. diversity in the news, not because I'm a diversity speaker, but because I'm a person of color and some of those assumptions that people are okay with you jumping in right away into their personal life are just not okay anymore. I think the expectation has changed, we have an increased expectation that people will understand what is acceptable and what is not and we're not forgiving ignorance as much anymore. So rather than say, people are too sensitive, a better thing is what's your experience with this? What do you find important? If you had to choose between these two things what would you choose? So you're getting deeper into what someone's interests are, or perspectives rather than the superficial differences that we can see with the naked eye.

What is the biggest thing you hope people take to heart in 2022?

The thing that I love to teach as a trainer and a speaker, and I've niched myself into diversity for the first time in 15 years because I think that my country needs help in strategies to build confidence around differences. Our confidence is at an all-time low which is why you see so much conflict is because the only people who are left talking are the ones who don't care what you think. Everybody else has become a bit silent because they're afraid that people will be offended and they know that that's not what they want, but they're not sure how to say it. What I hope is that first of all people understand it's not about intent, it's about impact. We all mean well and nobody goes to a networking event to hurt some feelings or to make people feel discluded. That's just not why you go to a networking event. However, the things that you say may have the opposite impact on your intent and then that's where the work starts. If you didn't intend for it to be that way, it should be pretty easy to change what you're saying, because you want the impact to be a positive one. I think that one thing can change a lot of things. A lot of ways that people connect with each other. I think confidence can be built back up and then the second thing that I'm really hoping Is that people understand that you can have the same situation but experience it differently. So one, let's say there was a temperature in the house 69 degrees. One person is wearing sweaters and mittens, and the other one has actual sweat rolling down their cheek, because you can have the same temperature but experience it two different ways. So rather than arguing about whether one person should not feel cold or not feel hot, you recognize that two people are in exactly the same place, but they don't feel the same way about it and then conversations can start. I think if those two things, if I can convince people or if people can understand that it's not a fight over who's going to take the summit, but it's really just a different way of looking at the mountain, I really think that some change could happen, and we're ready for it.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I started my business 15 years ago and it's interesting because Drew McLellan was part of that early networking. So I was very successful in the beginning because I was so open about what I wanted. I think sometimes people don't want to be salesy so they never ask for anything and they don't share how important it is. I met one of the speakers at that summit and I met Drew through that process where I was saying, my biggest dream was to talk to audiences. At the time, I wasn't even sure what I wanted to talk about, but they were able to help me because I just let them know, "Hey, I'm putting all my cards in your hands, can you help me with this?" And I probably had 20 people in those first years, help me with different things like start an internet radio show, which would now be called a podcast, I got a television show, I got countless numbers of speaking engagements, I wrote a book and it all happened in that first five years because I was so willing to help others, but also say, "I really admire this expertise about you. What do you think? what's your advice? What would my next step be?" You know when you give advice and people don't take it? I took everyone's advice and I took it all to heart. Every networking event was this fun, I just want to get to know people, I helped a lot of people and it was a precious time. It was right around 2008 when people were looking for that kind of thing and so it isn't any one thing but it was me going in with this childlike openness, saying I'm not going to play it cool, I'm going to show you who I am and you get to decide whether you like it or not, I'm not hiding anything.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

We have social media and authenticity is what makes social media run. With the advent of reels and tik tok and just the way video works, that is the capital. If they like you, and if you build a following on the real you, you're never going to get sick of being you and so I have always used social media and been real. You'll know about my husband, you'll know about my children, the things that make me sad, the things that make me excited. It's not all about me, but I'm the engine and so social media was one really big thing. Also, blast video! When video came on the scene that became a partner to authenticity, because 90% of your communication that's nonverbal, that people have their intuition, they really can decide whether you're telling them the truth, whether you really know what you're talking about overtime. I really came in at the best possible time, I have things like newsletters, but video is the place where someone will say, I watched two hours of your YouTube channel and finally sent you an email, I would like to hire you as a speaker. So back in the day, when I had, I still don't have that many viewers like I think I might have 40,000 views, but out of those 40,000 views, I have gotten an incredible number of speaking engagements and opportunities. Video is for anyone who wants to get in front of the camera and be themselves. I think that's the biggest way that I stay connected with my community.

What additional advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?

There are a couple of things. The one thing no one wants to hear is that I still think that you have to put yourself in front of people and that you have to be ready to explain what your value proposition is and who you are. I think that that is a really important first layer. So you do need to find your people and show up. I mean, I found at the summit that we met at, that was a networking thing for me. I decided that I wanted to put myself out there, get into that group of people and I think that first impressions are really important. Then the other side of it, it doesn't matter what you're selling, everybody's trying to sell an idea or a product or connect meaningfully in some way and you have to show what you're doing. I look at Tic Tok which I'm fascinated with, but there's this account and she makes these stickers that go on the back of laptops and phones, and then she makes these key chains and all she does is video what she's doing. They're really pretty things and sometimes she gives you uplifting things like it's her voice and she's just talking about what's going on in her life. But you want to buy it because over time you feel like you're part of it and so I think that when you get connected with the in-person connection, you maintain that. Find a way to show people what you're doing. Don't give them the curated version, just show them what you're doing and get over yourself wanting to look perfect. At the end of the day, that's what people want. They want to invest in something that they feel like they can be part of and I think for anyone who's starting out it really doesn't matter. You can accelerate your process if you're willing to put yourself out there in person and then pull back the curtain and reveal who you are and I'm saying through video. Everyone should have a tic tok! I have a tic tok I'm still not very good at it, but I think that's where it's going to be for a while.

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?

So I just moved from a city to a small town. I made that choice because it was best for my family, and for me. It didn't really make sense from the standpoint of what people thought of me. They thought I'd be one of those people who retired in a loft and I walked to get my baguettes and my coffee and I'd never had any groceries in the fridge and we'd travel all over. Instead, I'm living in this small town and I have a boat and a cheap golf membership and I'm going to live my life with my husband while I work my rear end off and hang out with my kids. What I realized now after making that really big decision because I had lived in another place for 20 years, and before that a similar place for 20 years before that. So by upending my life, I realized, "Hey, 20-year-old Liz, do not make any decisions based on validation and approval." Don't do it! Look at what other people are doing and figure out what your belief system is and align it and refine it, but stop worrying about whether or not people think you're okay. The world is a place for you to cultivate the life that you want and your job is to live out your purpose and to master how to live out your purpose and not to make sure that everyone likes you. I think that I'm not going to regret anything but I could have avoided a lot of stress in my life if I had understood that the power of knowing that you could live anywhere you want, you can do anything you want. You've just got to be yourself and it will work itself out is the message that I continue to give my 20-year-old self actually so she'll be brave and let me make some decisions.

Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I really think that as we move away from thinking that people are diverse and that it's situations that are diverse, I really think to make sure that you're working to understand a person's experience. We have this unique moment in time where it's tumultuous, and there's so much that is unknown. What a great opportunity to get to know each other at a deeper level and say things like, "What has been your experience with that?" And dig deeper about why would you choose one thing over another. Why is that so important to you? This is our moment, we have so much influence on other people, but we're afraid to use it. I'm really hoping that people will see that work better together and start using our influence in a positive way.


Connect with Lynn


Tik Tok: @mamanead


Oct 13, 2021

Meet Lynn

Lynn is the owner of Data2Profit Consulting. He helps small to medium-sized companies make more money with their data by using financial ideas and tools he learned at Procter & Gamble. He has a unique ability to help clients think big picture, while at the same time digging into the details of their results. When you feel you have a lot of numbers around but no answers, Lynn will make those numbers work as hard as you do, and turning your data into profit.

There are lots of different people out there who help businesses keep their finances together. What makes you different?

There are lots of part-time accountants out there, there are lots of types of bookkeepers, you get your part-time CFOs and where they're focused oftentimes on the preparation of your finances, and taking a very traditional view of here's your income state, here's how you look at it, here's your balance sheet, here's what it can tell you, what I do is take those numbers and reverse engineer them to not only be able to tell people what happened, but why it happened, and more importantly, give them recommendations about what you should think about doing next. That is a completely different perspective than I think a lot of business owners get from their accountants and their CFOs.

In one of your blogs, you said that what accountants report isn't enough. Can go talk about what you meant by that?

Absolutely. It really comes down to what the accountants give you is a score, right? It's where are you at, at the time. What happened last month and what were your results over the past year? And they give you that which is good, but again, it doesn't always give you an idea of what you should be doing going forward because the perspective is getting a gap financial statement. You're your business owner, and you can always say "Okay, how much profit did I make that month?" But the real question is where's the profit because you can't spend what's on the balance sheet. What is your profit, how did it get there, most importantly, where is it, and finally, when can you actually spend it? I can say that I made all this profit by selling this stuff, but if nobody's paid me for it, yet, I can't spend that money. Or if I look at my bank statement today, it may say I have $10,000 there, but it doesn't tell you five days from now you may need 15,000. So what will happen with the other 5000? It's a moving piece that if you just rely on that static perspective, without both and understanding how you got there, and where you're going, what's coming up, then you're really missing a big chunk of what's going to impact your business results.

I've heard you you say that the numbers that business owner should look at are more than dollars and cents. What else should business owners be looking at?

Everyone says that their sales are growing, but the question is, why or how? And again, you could look into very easily say these customers, or this particular region or this product line, but when you put that all together, who are your most valuable customers? How many most valuable customers do you have? I worked with a business for a long time and they said we love all of our customers and while that is true, everybody loves all their customers, you may not love them all equally. How many of them really depend on that? How many times are they buying? What's their average purchase order spend? How many lines are they buying? What number of products are they actually buying? When you look at your gross margins, there are seven different groups of people within your company that can impact your gross margins. Which one is it? Is as your customers? Is it your salespeople? Is it your marketing people? Is it the logistics people, the manufacturing people, the purchasing people, or is it just simply a mix? And so you really have to dissect a lot of the numbers that you look into and look at the activities that people are doing and that's really what it comes down to? How else can you look at the activities and what is occurring in your business? Because, at the end of the day, all finance and accounting do are assign numbers to the activities that people have done. How many sales calls are they doing? How many sales calls are your people making to the best customers? What are they talking about? There's a lot of qualitative information that you can mind to get an understanding of where your people are coming from. So when you really get into it, that's part of what I like to do is talk to them about the non-financial numbers that you could be or, should be looking more at in terms of the activities of your business?

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I'm one of those people that actually loves meeting people. In fact, my current coach has told me, "Lynn, you have to stop having as much fun." I'll talk to anybody about networking because I think people are fascinating, and there are so many different opportunities out there for people that if you're not networking, you're just really not learning as an individual about the world around you. So when you think about networking, you're really building a network of people that you meet, know, and can refer to each other. Once you get really into this, I met a banker once and she said, "Oh, you have to meet Angelica, she's forming this group called go givers." I joined and we're all basically people who help support small businesses. If they need me, they should need another accountant base, you need a lawyer, they should need a banker, they should need a coach, or are a part-time HR group. I met a part-time CFO through that group who recommended me to a client. I was able to help this client do what I was hired to do, but they also said, "By the way, you should meet Jeff. He's a specialist in r&d tax credits." All of a sudden, they hook up because now I've made the introduction and three months later, my client find out that they're going to get over $100,000 returned to them from r&d tax credits because I became that trusted business advisor who recommended somebody else. When you look at somebody, you can really help somebody in a very tangible way like that is important to me. 

How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?

That's one of the biggest challenges that I've come to realize I was not doing a great job of. I am now actively designing and building that system, and that capability. I've tried all different kinds of things on my own, and unfortunately, I've met a lot of really interesting people, and probably some of them may have been more valuable contacts, but I let those relationships drop. This was really before I began to truly appreciate the value of it. I would say right now, if you're beginning to network, figure out a way that works for you to really keep in contact with these people. I've spent a lot of time on occasion going back and realizing that it's been a long time since I have checked in with certain people, and so I have now got my sales process outlined or my contact management process outlined, and am beginning to build that. I made that early mistake of not having a great system to be able to do that so I'm playing a lot of catch-up right now. 

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 would be more intentional and have a life plan that gave me a little more direction because I allowed myself to accept things that came my way without really exploring what else was out there. For example, when I look back and see what I really enjoy doing now, I probably would not have gotten into corporate finance. But that's where I interviewed with P&G, I did a temp job with them. They interviewed and over the next 14 years, I moved through P&G and moved up in PNG to the point where I had to ask myself if this was really what I want to do for the rest of my life? I decided that it wasn't so I went to work for a smaller company, which I did a lot of that same stuff. But then I got into marketing and sales and I found out that this is really where the fun is when you're getting closer to the customer and what they're doing. I've really gotten to the point where I believe that this is what I was meant to do. I enjoy the challenge of meeting people and finding out how I can help them. But at the same time, I could have gotten here a long time ago. Here now, I feel like this is like the second career for me. All my friends are now retiring, and I started a company three years ago.

Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

You've got to own it. Not very many people come reaching out to you, and yes, there are people who are reluctant to engage in those situations. But it really is an opportunity to step out of your own little comfort zone and meet some really cool, fascinating people that otherwise you never would have. You have to get out there, and particularly, if you're a business owner, whether you are networking within your own industry segment, or a different direction, just get out and do it. Don't be afraid to be that one in the room that steps into a group of four or five other people to introduce yourself and to ask a very unique question about them. Remember, it's not all about you, And believe me, that's that was my rookie mistake. You will mess up, you will make mistakes, you will say the wrong things, but you know what? You've just got to get up and do it again and once you get comfortable with the idea, it really can be a lot of fun.


Connect with Lynn




Phone: 920-948-3355

Oct 6, 2021

Meet Steve

Steve is the founder of The Globally Conscious Leader & Dotcomjungle. His ability to absorb information about brands, strategies, and technologies, then impart their context and opportunities in simple language, has proved invaluable as a trusted advisor to owners & CEOs. His use of Spousal KPI is a humorous, effective way to help executives develop healthy lifestyles & thriving businesses. Dotcomjungle is his technology team supporting companies in making and implementing wise technology choices.

Why do you talk about 'Spousal KPI' and 'River KPI', and why does it matter?

I came across this because in my work as a trusted adviser with owners and executives of CPG companies, oftentimes the question is how do I measure effectiveness? I found that what's true is that the executives that end up getting to know me and that I work with, need someone like me, because they're lonely, frankly. They might have a set of managers inside their business or a Board of Directors, but they're still sitting alone at the top of that heap. When you're someone who's made something with your hands, and it's somewhere along the line said, "Gosh, if I sold these to people, I can make a lot of money," which is a lot of what manufacturing is the United States, you have an ownership responsibility and an emotional stake in the company than someone who's an executive of let's say North Face, doesn't have. So you go home every night to your spouse and you often take the emotions of that day with you. So with Spousal KPI, what I try to do is I say I want to meet your wife or I want to meet your husband, and we're going to go to dinner because I want them to know that if you're happy when you come home, that their life is going to be better and if that's what's true, then I've done my job. So the KPI is the key performance indicator and as I said, if you have a better relationship with your spouse because you're not bringing home all the crappy stuff that happened that day, and dumping it on their table, then I'm doing my job. The other one, the River KPIs, I happen to be a fisherman and I like standing in the river and I know when my businesses are going well, I spend more time in the river and I get better ideas when I'm standing in the river, and I come home refreshed and go to work refreshed. That's where those come from and I say it with a smile on my face, but they're very real because you change the lifestyle of the owner and you often change the culture and the lifestyle of all the people who work in the company as well.

How do you go about discovering the underlying needs of your business and how do you turn that into actionable value?

Well, this is more thinking along the lines of what my trusted advisership leads to which is often bringing in Dotcomjungle, which is my technology arm to understand the true challenges that are happening in a company. The first thing is you have to ask that question of what's going wrong with your business, or where do you think the struggles are? The main answer to that question is something that we like to call engaging your MBWA, which is different than an MBA, it's management by walking around. We work with a lot of manufacturers and as I said, they're usually salt-of-the-earth folks who invented something with their hands and 20 years later, they're the CEO of a $40 million company that's shipping to Home Depot and Cabela's. That management by walking around is something that a lot of executives kind of forget, and part of it is just the nature of a company. As you grow, you build up a team of people who are workers who do the stuff, they do the shipping, you got the janitor, you have somebody answering the phone, and eventually, you have managers, and then you have managers of managers. What gets left behind is that MBWA, and the typical example would be, let's say a company that is worth 120 million. They have an executive management team that includes the CMO, the CTO, the CFO, the President of Operations, maybe the shipping manager, the supply chain person, and the CEO, and lets they have a question like, we think we need to update our ERP. Well, the natural thing for those folks to do is say, Well, I have three people or two people working under me, and under those people, 18 people are doing the work so they think about it as a flagpole. I bet that I'm at the top of the flagpole so I'm going to move down the flagpole to the next person and I'm gonna say, let me know what we need for an ERP and then that next person is going to then talk to their 18 people and say, give us all the feedback of what you want. What gets lost is that no one's going and sitting next to those 18 people, walking up to them (this is the MBWA) and sitting next to them and watching them work for a day and saying, "Why did you do that? What did you expect to happen? What is it that you would rather have happened?" If you get into what some people call the five why's, you have to ask why five times before you get to the real answer. In a certain way, that answer answers the second half of the question like how do you turn those into actionable items? Because if you're on that executive board, and either you or someone you truly trust, maybe the person that reports to you goes down and talks to those 18 people, the actionable items become clear. You don't even have to know technology, or systems, or people if you know that you should ask why five times, because they'll tell you. So sometimes people look at what we do like it's magic and it's not. If you own a company, whether its manufacturer or not, you actually want to know what's going on, it's not trite to say, Go talk to the stakeholders who are actually using your systems and see what they're doing. Go hang out with the shipping team for a day, and help them. Go hang out with your sales team and watch what they do and ask them what their frustrations are. You won't get better answers from other people who are trying to ask those questions that you will if you ask them yourself, and you will create a better culture for your company if you do that. 

How do leadership, communication, and technology becoming HR issues (and vice versa) in most businesses?

Everywhere I go, people love to do good work and if you give them good systems that measure the right things and allow them to succeed, they're going to be really happy working for you. It doesn't matter how much you pay them, to some extent. I don't mean to minimize how much someone should get paid, because we need to pay people well, but happiness matters, and a feeling of success is one of the most important things about happiness. So conversely, if you have systems and processes that people have to trudge through, and they don't feel successful, and especially if you give them sales goals that are incommensurate to the ability of the systems to support, and they feel like they can't hit their sales goals because they're hampered by technology, you're gonna have a bunch of unhappy people and it doesn't matter how much you pay. We all know people who left jobs for lower-paying positions somewhere where they just knew they'd be way happier. That's how technology becomes an HR issue and vice versa. Most companies look at HR, it's a department and the HR's job is to provide the legal framework to hire people, and fire people, and then they sit in their silo. But HR means human resources, and the humans don't stop existing once they've been hired and then start existing again when the HR has to deal with them and get rid of them if something crazy is going on like they're drinking on the job or just underperforming. True HR happens every single day, inside the culture of the company. The technology supports that, the goals of the company support that, the way people talk to each other supports that, so they're all interconnected.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

Gosh, I've had a lot of painful moments too when it comes to networking. I am a naturally gregarious person, but I also have a lot of hesitations about networking, direct marketing, and meeting people that I have never met before. At the same time, in the last 30 years, what I've realized is that the relationships that I've built in the past and the ones I'm going to build in the future are really important. I've come to learn that I'm no longer afraid to cold call somebody if I have a real reason to cold call them. I don't really ever make cold calls, I make warm calls, and I and I do not have a traditional sales funnel. So when everybody out there is thinking about this, they might be thinking about, lead magnets and sales funnels and people getting warmed up, I don't do any of that. I come out of the outdoor industry and in the world of Patagonia, North Face, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, all that fun, active stuff. I was a fishing guide in my youth, I was a rock climbing and mountaineering instructor, I've been a hard goods buyer for outdoor stores, I've owned an outdoor store, I've worked with a ton of consumer products goods inside the outdoor industry and the some of the relationships that I have there go back 30 years. Some of the people who own the larger sales repping organizations in the Pacific Northwest used to be dirtbag rock climbers that I climbed with. We were sleeping in our tracks, not taking showers, and climbing 12 hours a day together back in 1992. I have learned through those relationships that there are a lot more people I don't know than I do know. One of the success stories I would say is part of my personality is what led me to form The Globally Conscious Leader. It's different than having a business like Dotcomjungle, like when I call somebody and say, "Hey, my name is Steve from Dotcomjungle," I wouldn't blame anybody if they held up the phone, because they don't know what that means. But when I call somebody and say, "This is Steve from the globally conscious leader," and there's somebody from the outdoor industry, which by its very nature, cares about global responsibility, cares about circular supply chain, circular economy thinking, cares about the longevity of the product, repairability of product, the right to repair as a legal concept, they're very likely to say, "Oh, that's interesting, what can I do for you?" The success is that it has given me a lot more confidence in just calling up someone. So recently, I had somebody recommended me. It was somebody I've known for about 30 years and all he said to the other person was, "You need to call Steve, he's legendary!" So I asked him, why he called me, and he said, Well, Mike said you were legendary," He said that he saw everything that I do and that he was lonely and needed somebody to talk to. So that was a situation where, like I said, because of the name, The Globally Conscious Leader, the person who's making the recommendation didn't even have to tell him why he should call me, and it turns out, there are maybe five different things that can help that person with. 

How do you stay in front of and best nurture your community?

I'm always working on that and I think that changes a lot. Right now, I think for what I do, LinkedIn is a really great place for me to be. It's a good place where I can develop my persona, and I'm fortunate that my persona is just me and I don't have to pretend to be something else. The challenge is finding time to be myself. So part of what I'm learning is that if I could just be on phone calls with you and 50 other people every week, not only would I have more fun, I'd have a better Spousal KPI, I'd sleep better, and I make the connections I need that would not just bring me business, but I bring a lot of value to businesses and that's what brings me joy. So nurturing those relationships through LinkedIn and making connections via live chat and I grill people, I find out how long they've been married, how many kids they have, where they were born. We talk about a lot of stuff before we even talk about business.

What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?

Two things: In a protective way, watch out for groups of social networks that aren't really going to service you. At the same time, you really have to be open to everyone who connects with you, because you don't really know until you get to know them, whether they're going to be helpful or not. Every time I get judgmental about somebody in a social network, especially LinkedIn because I get anywhere between two and 15 connection requests a day. If I get judgmental, and say, No, I usually find out later that that was somebody that I should have just said yes to. So I really do say yes to everyone on LinkedIn, that now connects to me and I've also learned that the more I do for other people, the more they do for me so I'd say, don't be afraid of communities of people who do similar things to you. They could bring you into a community and it'd be easy to look at that group of folks and say that there are all these people and none of them are my customers. Well, it turns out they all work with people that are my customers, and what I provide is so unique that those folks who are very likely to recommend me to their customers, as an adjunct to what they're doing. Likewise, speaking specifically about manufacturing as an example, if I want to talk to manufacturers, the best thing I could do is actually go to a manufacturers conference or get in touch with the manufacturing extension program which are in every state, because they're already talking to my customers all the time and they're looking for people like me who can educate their folks. In so doing, what I'm going to do is get those folks to know me, trust me, like me, and then they're going to give me a call. So take those networks seriously, and don't be afraid of them and support them, and eventually, they'll support you.

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 I would say don't be afraid to step out and start a business now. For those of us who've never started a business, whether it's consulting or another business, it can often seem like a scary thing. My wife kind of heckled me about this. Because once I started one, and I was all of a sudden starting more and more, and partnering with people and trying some things. So she was like, "Can you stop making business and just focus on the ones that you have?" Well, they're all interrelated and each one special! So I'd say Don't, don't be afraid to take that step and create a company, even if you have to work your company and your job to make it happen. That's that would be the advice I'd give myself.

Do you have any final words of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I like to say be fearless and be kind. Don't be afraid to reach out to people. You'd be surprised how many people actually will be receptive to you if you truly want to help. 


Connect with Steve: 


Phone #: 541-821-2733

Sep 29, 2021

Meet Nicole

Over the past 30 years, Nicole has empowered 1000s of business owners and entrepreneurs to play to their strengths, grow their business, and make a greater impact. As a coach and strategic advisor, she is passionate about helping leaders shift their perspectives and solve complex business and relational issues with the aim of creating a better world for everyone. She is the founder of Discover The Edge and The Leaders of Transformation Podcast, reaching listeners in 140 countries.

What are the fundamental steps to creating transformation in our business and relationships?

I think it all starts with self-awareness and being present with yourself and others. Too often, we are so worried about what we're going to say and how we're going to say it, and what we look like, and all of that we lose connection with the person we're actually seeking to connect with. That's why self-awareness is really important. Presence with yourself and knowing how you're showing up and knowing also then recognizing what's going on for the other person. That's number one, number two, I would say is choosing to care. Having a real sincere interest, and empathy, and just an interest in what is going on with the other person. I think especially nowadays, we need to encourage each other because we don't know what people are going through. To have that spirit of encouragement for other people is really important. The third thing is follow-through. Do what you say, have integrity. If you're not going to do something, don't say you're going to do it. That goes for also saying things like "Oh, yeah, let's do lunch," when you know, in your mind, you're not ever planning to do that, well, then don't say it. Because what it does is number one, it breaks trust with them, because they actually might think that you're going to follow through on that and you don't. But even more importantly, it comes back to yourself, how do you feel about yourself. If I'm constantly saying things and not doing it, even if the other people don't, nobody else knows, I know. So it's really important in creating the transformation that we're looking to create that we have some foundational pieces in place. That applies to business, applies to relationships because of course, every business is a people business.

Can you talk about how we tailor communication and networking styles to match the different personality types that are out there?

It really comes down to going into the other person's world first. So often, we operate from our point of view, and you got to realize in order to connect and relate to different personality types, you have to understand how they receive information because communication is the response you get. Predominantly, I use the disc model of human behavior. That really describes the 4 primary personality types and there's Myers Briggs and all these different ones that you can use. I'll just give you a quick run through it. What's really cool about this tool is that you don't have an opportunity to meeting somebody new, you don't have an opportunity to have them do a full assessment, Myers Briggs to figure out what they are so that you know how to relate to them, you've got to have a way to connect quickly. So there are two questions you can ask yourself: Is this person more outgoing or more reserved? The second question is, are they more task-oriented, or people-oriented? You can get a sense of where they are operating, at least in the moment by answering those questions. So the outgoing task-oriented personality is the D personality and they are dominant. They like to get to the point, lead, and be in charge, they like results and they want to know what are we doing, where are we going, what are we going to make happen. The I personality, which is outgoing and people-oriented are the inspiring type. They like to have fun, and they like to express themselves, they like recognition, they're motivated by recognition, and they want to know who else is doing it. Who else is buying your product, who else is going to that event? The reserved and people-oriented personality is the S, the supportive type. They like to listen, they're people-oriented, but rather than the inspiring type that likes to talk, they like to listen, and they want to get to know you as a person, and they are motivated by harmony and how will this bring harmony? How will this help us work better together? Then the reserved and task-oriented personality, which is the cautious type, they like to learn, they like to be correct, they'll like process and procedure and bring value through details and they like quality. They believe that there's a right way to do things that are wrong ways to do things. So when we understand that there are four different ways to communicate or four different personality types, and of course, there are infinite combinations of all of that, we're all a blend of all four, when you understand that, you can start to relate to people more effectively. Then you can also understand how they make decisions. So a D personality, for example, will decide quickly, an I will decide emotionally, an S will decide slowly, the C will decide carefully. In fact, the C personality type is really the only personality type that really when they say let me think about it, they actually mean, let me think about it. A D will tell you no, generally speaking right off the bat, or they'll say yeah, and then they just want you to go away. The I of course, and the S, are more people-oriented and so forth. So when they say I'll think about it, it really means I don't want to hurt your feelings, I want you to like me, I want you to know that you're cared for and valued as an S personality type will think that. So if you understand how people are thinking and how it's translating on there, and you can go a long way in creating better communication and networking more effectively with other people.

What can we learn about building trust and value from some of our greatest leaders in history?

There are so many great leaders in history and as much as I talk a lot about a leadership crisis. Now, we also do have great leaders in this day and age as well. Some of my favorites are people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, Solomon, in the Bible, Moses. One of the things that when you look at it as it relates to what we're talking about here, which is social capital, building relationships, and what I wanted to point out was, how they related to others, and especially those who are against them. One of the things that they were definitely practicing is presence. They sought wisdom and understanding that we've also talked about, they realize the value of understanding people skills. Every business is a people business, life is full of relationships, you can't actually have success without other people being involved. Ultimately, life is all about relationships and they understand that and so they learn to develop those skills. Some of them weren't very good in the beginning, and they learned them over time. The other thing is empathy. They had a lot of empathy for people, and like I say, even those that were against them, and I think about Abraham Lincoln, he had one of a general in his army that he disliked and he said, "I don't like this person, I need to get to know them better." It's hard to not like somebody that is up close and that you get to know you start to realize how much commonality that you have. Patience is another thing is. We can learn patience from them. Gandhi was patient even with some of his own followers, who wanted to go off and get violent. I think of Nelson Mandela, 27 years in prison and coming out, and everybody thought that there's going to be hell to pay when he gets out. He came out and said, "No, that's not the way to lead, that's not the way to create reconciliation." Perseverance is another one and I think one of the most important things, especially nowadays is demonstrating responsibility. Our responsibility for communication, our responsibility to lead, and recognize that when we're talking about building trust and value these are the things that people need. I had a guest on my podcast recently, who talked about how you build trust, the speed of trust in businesses and he said that you build trust through predictability. So people know what to expect from you, they know that you're going to act a certain way. If you're unpredictable then it's hard for them to build trust with you. Building value is when you build value for others, you are, it's when you're going into the world, you're getting to know what's important to them and not just from an angle of what can I get. All of these leaders that I just described had outcomes, but they came from a perspective of what can I give, how can I support and encourage and see the best in other people, and as a result of that if you help enough people get what they want, you'll get what you want.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

So I've done a lot of networking. I started out my business when I was in my teens and I knew I wanted to be in business for myself. I didn't know what I wanted to do, or what it would all look like, but I just knew that I want to be in business for myself and I started selling things door to door. I went quickly from door to door to cold calling because it was more efficient. Then I discovered networking events and it was so cool because all of these people are were in one place and I could talk to them, and they were not doing their work so they would have time to talk. There are some fun examples of going into networking events and meeting people that were game-changers, or that led to another person. I'm from Toronto and I was going to a networking event. It was raining, and I was tired, it was almost nine o'clock and I thought I am done. So I left and then I realized I forgot my business cards because back in the day, you could put your business cards on this table and so I ran back to get my business card because if I value my business and I value my business cards, I'm not going to let them just be going to waste. So I go back to get them and on the way out the door the second time, I ran into a lady. Her name was Susan and we were both kind of half running to the car cars in the rain, but she introduced herself to me and asked what I do. I said that I was a business coach and she actually said that she was in need of one! We exchanged our contact information and one thing led to another she ended up becoming a client, she also introduced me to someone else, his name was Mike. Mike introduced me to and convinced me to go to BNI which I was not interested in doing at that point and to his chapter. From there I've met so many clients and people that I've mentored and it was such an incredible opportunity but it was being present to what's going on and taking the moment even though we were getting wet to take that moment and meet Susan and that was such a blessing. The second one was down here in California and I was living in LA and I got this message from someone on LinkedIn that I did not know who said that there was a seminar coming up and this guy is going to be speaking and he's super awesome. Normally, you get so many of those you ignore it, but this one something told me to go and so I went and it was Evan Money speaking, which is his real name by the way. I went, had a great time, followed up with him afterward, we got to know each other and he became a good friend. He's introduced me to several amazing people who have become some great friends of mine. I've introduced him to people, I've had him on my podcast a couple of times. He met some of the people and I referred him and he's gone and done business deals and events and masterminds with some of the people that he's met. It was such an incredible opportunity, but it started with me just listening. That person on LinkedIn, I never heard from them or spoke to them again. They were the messenger and that was it, but somehow something said, go to this event.

What advice would you offer the business professional who's looking to grow their network?

I would say there are three things. You need visibility, credibility, and consistency. So, visibility, you've got to establish your presence, you've can establish your online presence. You have a podcast, this gives you a lot of visibility, this also gives you credibility and consistency is that you don't just go and do a whole bunch of anything, and then stop. So it's having the visibility, making sure that people know you exist, because if people don't know you, how can they possibly hire you? How can they possibly even just get to know you and build a friendship or relationship with you, if they don't know you exist? So first of all, it's important to have that visibility. So maybe you start a podcast, maybe you guest on other podcasts, maybe you go online, and you reach out to other people, comment on other people's posts, and genuinely, not just to try to sell them something, but literally go into their world get interested in them. Your credibility is whatever your space is, what your passion is. As so you start to establish your credibility that way, establish it in a way where you're showing your value to others. I believe that every single person has value to bring and has value and a purpose to be here. Because I believe that God is a God of order and he's got an order, and it got a purpose. So if you're here, listening to this message, you have a purpose, and you have value. So it's finding out what that is and share it and you'll make the world a better place when you do. 

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?

Take bigger risks. I fail forward faster. I wouldn't try to do it the right way. I think of Gary Vee, he encourages young people all the time, right? It's like just screw up, make mistakes, try things, see what you like, see what you don't like. That's the first thing and the second thing is to find a mentor and a coach, somebody to help you along the way that has been where you want to go and can give you perspective to save yourself a lot of time. Back then, there weren't mentors and coaches as accessible and as in the volume that there are now. So I always want a mentor I wanted somebody to just tell me what to do. I had to figure it out on my own and it took a lot longer to do it that way. When you find a mentor and a coach and that's what I get to now share with others what I've learned to save them a whole lot of trouble. I can share with you what you can do to compress that time. Is it still going to be an effort? Are you still going to need to go through trial and error and fail forward fast? Yes, you will. We can compress that time and you can learn from my experience or your experience or somebody else's experience with a mentor.

Do you have any final words of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network? 

First of all, I'll say believe that you're enough. Believe that you're enough when you're going to know that you have value and believing that what you have to offer is valuable and who you are. I would encourage that because then when you're not so worried about your own enoughness, you can actually be with the other person and really hear what's going on. The other thing is from a practical standpoint, I've had people ask me and say how can you get so many referrals and I used to say that the very best way to get referrals is to give them. Don't just give them with the goal of getting something back. I would encourage people to give what they want to receive more back from.


Connect with Nicole:


Leaders of Transformation Website: 

Discover The Edge Website:

Sep 22, 2021

KJ Eichstaedt

KJ is the Co-Founder of Ike Media, the international sports brand started in Wisconsin and is now found in 90 plus countries across the world. He's a designer, dealmaker, consultant, podcast host, video producer, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with degrees in International Business and Marketing. Words that describe KJ are optimist, bold, creative, and driven. KJ currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he helps athletes, businesses, and individuals grow their brand.

Could you tell me about the origin of IKE and what you do? 

IKE is an international brand that helps individuals, athletes, and businesses position and grows their brands through creative media vehicles and podcasting. We have an international reach, but we have local roots. On Twitter, there are a lot of people who follow IKE specifically for the IKE Packers podcast, or IKE badgers podcast, or our Brewers and Bucks podcasts which allows us to have a very strong local footprint because that's what we're all about. Home and family are some of our biggest values, but also having international backgrounds we work with anyone throughout the world. We enjoy being creative, we model and position all of our work after some of the highest brands in the world. We love helping anyone grow, helping them grow their business, helping them grow their brand, helping them bring their dream to life. They say the best companies have a story and we like to think of ourselves as the pen and paper to help them write that story.

Why do you think people in companies need that strong brand?

Frankly, people are starting to see through the BS. They're seeing that these companies aren't as sincere as they portray themselves as, and they aren't sure if these big Fortune 500 companies really care about them. People are getting smarter, they're getting smarter with their emotional intelligence, they're getting smarter with their actual intelligence and I think people in today's world which is so run with media and technology, crave a genuine connection which is why we're seeing a lot of local brands, regional media networks really rising up. The big fortune 500 companies really having to do a lot of whether it's donations, whether it's PR, they have to kind of prove to the world that they are actually good for the world. It just allows people to connect with the little guy, the local person down the street, the woman with the flower shop, the athlete who is going to Wisconsin who wants to take his dreams to the NFL. Everyone has a story and it's really hard to stand out in this digital landscape without one because there's just so much media. People have no shortage of it and the story is one of those things that cuts through the noise. It's really something you have to have and if you don't have one, you're behind the game.

What would you recommend are some of the best ways to build a brand in 2021?

At IKE we take an approach that's all about deeper connection. What I mean by that is, there are certain crazes going around, whether it's tik tok or Instagram. An overall trend is that video keeps getting shorter and shorter and shorter and shorter. We love data as a society, companies love data because it tells a story. What we try and cut through the noise of is that maybe you get a million views on a tik tok video, but maybe someone only watches it for seven seconds. How many of those people can you actually make a genuine connection and in seven seconds? How many of them are just going to scroll past and go and laugh at the next thing? We take the approach where in a world where long-form content seems to be getting pushed more and more to the back burner, we don't even care. We'd rather make 10 deep, meaningful connections with people we can help, form a relationship with, help them grow their dreams, help them follow their dreams, help them grow their business, their finances, whatever it might be, help them get in touch with a certain individual who they thought there's no way they would ever be able to get in a conversation with. We produce results and it really starts with that long-form approach in actually getting a connection. So if someone even has 100 listens on a podcast episode, for example, those people are essentially spending 30 minutes in the room with you. If you spend 30 minutes in a room with someone, you can really connect with them and then you might have a relationship, you might have something that can benefit you both whether it's, a mutual friend, or maybe it's something like a business deal. It could be all of those things, but we take a quality over quantity approach and we're really not afraid to show it because we've worked with some of the most incredible athletes in the world, frankly, and that helps us gain credibility.

Can you share one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

Growing up, I would wake up in the mornings on Saturdays and I remember as a family we would watch the Badger game. Sometimes we would even be able to go to the Badger football game in Madison. They were 11 o'clock games and you would have to get up super early and get on the road. At that age, I probably wasn't very enthusiastic about it, but I would go to these games and it had an impact on me early on, whether I realized it or not. It all started with one connection. We met someone, we formed a genuine connection and he happened to be a player on the team. Instead of making relationships transactional, Brian Anderson emphasizes making relationships, not transactional. You can't approach relationships transactionally because it'll just never work. But basically, we ended up meeting this one guy and he ended up being the first athlete guest to come on our show. We've since turned it into dozens and dozens of athletes by producing high-quality content, providing value, leveraging opportunities of a brand, leveraging connections and now we work with athletes all across the board and are able to tell their stories on our podcasts, which help us gain credibility in the eyes of people in business, you know, people with their own companies, people with their own practices, such as the real estate market. We've actually had clients of ours have the Top Producing real estate agents, and also the Top Producing real estate team, that leader on his podcast. So it doesn't really matter what field it's in, if you apply the appropriate tactics, if you lead with value, if you do a good job, if you form a genuine connection if you actually try and help people and show them what they can gain the sky's the limit. If I were to go back when I was a kid and tell myself, "Hey, you'd be talking to these guys pretty frequently," I would have said, "No way you're lying!" It's really opened my eyes to just the possibilities of it all. Networking can change someone's life, whether it's a job or something else. You might apply to 100 jobs, but you might have a phone call with someone you know and that might be the door opening that actually leads you to an opportunity that is worthwhile, and you follow up on. We've seen podcasts turn into this vehicle that allows people to both benefit while also connect. It's just been this unbelievable experience and cultivated in front of our own eyes, whether it's the IKE Podcast Network, or whether it's even podcasting in general. Over 200 million Americans are familiar with podcasting and over half of Americans have listened to a podcast increasing exponentially each year. Really, the key is starting. It doesn't matter if you have 10 people listen. If you have 10 people in your podcast, that's still like you doing 10 meetings a day and that's pretty impressive. But once you start to work at it, and you get up to 100 listeners, you get up to 1000 listeners, that's when the benefits are really unbelievable. It's almost like you don't know what the possibilities are until you jump into the arena. I encourage everyone if they're a little worried about if it will actually work, if you stick with it it's going to create a lot of positive opportunities.

What advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?

I think you have to be willing to do it. Podcasting is one of these ways to do it that applies to today's world, in regards to someone looking to grow their network. A lot of the people, whether it's a kid, whether it's a CEO, are afraid to put their image out there. They see what goes on online, they know they have to network online, they know if they just network in person they might be missing out on valuable opportunities. But really, for better, for worse, most likely for worse, online isn't always the nicest place to be. There might be cyberbullying there might be whatever going on. I find that a lot of business leaders, a lot of professionals, love podcasting as this opportunity because they don't necessarily have to put their face out there. They can still give themselves to an audience in a deep, long-form, meaningful way, without having to be in the camera. Some CEOs are like, "Hey, I'm a great business person, but I'm not an actor, I'm not a movie star," well, they love podcasting because it allows them to thrive in that role. I think was LeBron James who said, "Be a star in your role," and some people are meant to be stars in podcasts, some people are meant to be on TV, some people are meant to be on the radio, some people are meant to, and people are meant to connect online in person. This is one of those ways that really allows people to touch on all those points.

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 you can always tell yourself to be patient. I think you can always tell yourself that you're going to maybe have to reinvent a few things. IKE originally started off as a sports website. I was seeing all the fake news being spewed by ESPN, I was seeing how they were covering the Oscar Pistorius trial and it wasn't really about the sports. So I saw an opportunity to cover this in a blog format, more like an article format to be accurate. We made this beautiful website we modeled after Apple and Tesla and ended up being called IKEsportreport and we put all these beautiful articles on the site in various categories, but we didn't really have an audience yet to read these articles. So from there, we had to reinvent in a sense, and we started working at building a following. We found that sportspeople who love what we're offering existed a lot on Twitter. What that meant was a reinvention of what the original concept of IKE was. What ended up happening from there is these Twitter accounts gained a lot of popularity, but even then, we didn't want to just be a popular Twitter account, we had to be more so we evolved into podcasts. If I were to go back and tell myself anything, I think I would preach patience. I think I would preach being open to adapting and evolving. I think I would tell myself that it's going to work out and you're not going to regret this when you're 90. As I go back to that story about watching the Badgers going up and now talking to them, and potentially unveiling something special with some of them, potentially, in the future, it's all just like, pinch me moments, and I definitely don't consider myself someone who has made it by any means. I've got a long way to go, but I don't think I'm going to regret that I didn't try and follow my passion when I'm older. 

I understand you have an offer for our listeners today?

We have some really cool things we're doing in the podcast world. We're actually going into this phase in our business where we're able to take on more clients. No matter what size your business is, whether you want a basic package, we're actually offering some specials right now, where if you want to pay in bulk, we offer some pretty hefty discounts, to say the least. I think one thing that's also becoming more and more relevant in today's world is a subject matter expert’s time, right? So it's not even just the act of getting a podcast or getting a brand, it's the act of you know, really working with people who have cultivated brands and are doing it at a level that makes them proud and something that you can truly own and be proud to show off because that sometimes doesn't show up in the value proposition. I love working with people from all different backgrounds and I'm excited to keep work with some new people. You need a story to connect with someone, you need a story to grow your business, you just a story to sell products or just a story to meet people. I would encourage everybody just to start. We've been doing podcasts for a long time and we have cultivated some great audiences, we've charted top 40 multiple times, we've been listened to in over 90 different countries, we've had professional athletes, collegiate athletes, CEOs, entrepreneurs, you name it, and we'd love to help anyone listening today who might be saying, "Hey, maybe video isn't my bread and butter, but I do have an incredible story and I'm ready to tell that story in a certain way. I'm ready to work with someone to do that." I'd love to help.


Connect with KJ





Sep 15, 2021

Meet Colleen

Colleen is an award-winning peak performance consultant with over 20 years of experience, has launched over 340 businesses, is an international speaker, author of a number one international bestseller, Anatomy of Accomplishment and Step Into The Spotlight To Expand Your Influence. The CEO of three businesses, including Lead Up For Women, a community that boasts 10s of 1000s of female entrepreneurs that are driven by their passions, support and promote others with the purpose to fuel female voices. 

Why is joining a community essential for growth in a business?

Let's just think about anyone who's ever launched a business or anything we've ever done in our lives out there. When we worship, we go in a community to a church, right? When we learn, we are in a classroom, or we're in a group of children. When we are learning a sport, we drop our children off at sports teams that have a coach. If you think about everything we do in our life, it's all about the team, it's all about the community. Football teams would be nothing if they didn't have the community of the supporters that they have that are their fans. So when we think about that, it shares a different light on what community is. When we move into a neighborhood, we move into a neighborhood to be part of the community. We were born to crave others and community. With that being said, when you're launching a business, it's one of the hardest times of your life. It really is like when you're having a family or getting married or doing something new that you've never done before. Imagine doing that on your own. I think about traveling and hiking Mount Everest, something I've always wanted to do and I know that if I had a guide if I had a community of people that were supporting me and given me advice, I would be able to do it step after step, day after day to put those pieces together with that map. So many people tried to do this feat of building a business on their own, and why not tap into the likes of others who've already done it before you? Why not learn from them? Why try and reinvent the wheel all by ourselves and not utilize the fuel of a community that can open up so many doors for you and create additional exposure for you?

What are the biggest hurdles that women face as entrepreneurs?

It's different than what men face. It has to do with our makeup of centuries and centuries and decades and decades of how we were raised. I was even raised in my younger years to get married, have babies, not to start a business. That's not how my mom raised me. So if we go back decades and centuries, the females have always been mothers and nurturers, right? That's why we have the ability to have babies and the men are the providers. So with that being said, they have this view of building businesses as providing for their families and that's why they're doing it. The only reason why they're doing it most of the time is to provide for other people, whether it be their employees or their family. Women are nurturers, so because we tend to nurture, we nurture our clients, we nurture those people around us, we nurture our contacts when we're networking, we are actually some of the best business builders out there, but we lack self-esteem and the self-confidence for what the worth piece is. The worth piece is about selling your products, knowing that someone else out there needs them, that you're solving a problem. I've seen this across the board that so many women struggle with their worth of bringing in a million dollars as an entrepreneur because it scares them. They don't feel like they have that ability to be this powerful businesswoman, and a mother and a wife and a sister and an aunt, etc. So we struggle with identities and I say we because I've been through this already, I struggled as my children got older and moved out of the home because I identified as a mother and I put Colleen on a shelf somewhere where she got really dusty. Then when I brought her and dusted her off, it was like What do you like? What colors do you like? Where do you like to shop for clothes? What type of food do you like to eat? When you're raising children you adapt to what it is that your children are doing and it's almost like we become the mother but forget that we're an individual as a female. Keeping that identity is so important because by permitting ourselves to be who we are, we permit our children to be who they are meant to be, we give others around us that we're modeling to that permission to be who they want to be and it's just a beautiful gift.

Why is exposure important for female entrepreneurs?

One thing I've taught all the CEOs that I've worked with was to tell everybody about you and that's why I love that you're so connected in the networking side of things and promote networking so heavily. You mentioned at the beginning about reciprocity and I really believe in the reciprocity rule of giving first to someone else and opening up a door connecting them to someone. Through networking, we can do that, we can connect with other people, we can get ourselves out there and meet people. I look at the world that I'm in now as being an entrepreneur for the last several years compared to what I was when I was in corporate America, and I'm not even surrounded by the same people. We talked about this earlier, but your network is your net worth, right? You want to be asking people that started a business before you or have already created a community. I can't tell you how many women I interviewed, that created female communities and just dug in to say, Tell me how you did it. I remember before I published my first book, I met someone that had 11 and I simply asked how they did it. When I met my first Millionaire, I sat him down and said, "Okay, teach me how to become a millionaire." I want to learn from others that have done it before me and unless you get out there unless you ask, you don't get. Unless you tell everyone about you, they don't know who you are. I love it when I hear people say to me, "Oh my gosh, I see you everywhere, how do you ever have time to do what you do?" I love it when they say that because it's not necessarily that I'm showing up everywhere, but the point is, we're, we're showing up on all these outlets that people are utilizing for information all the time. When people consistently see you, they're like, "What the heck, what is this person about? I want to learn more." Then when you're not at an event that maybe you go to regularly, and then before you know it, you're getting phone calls or emails, and someone will say, "Wow, everyone was talking about you at the event," and I realize that now I'm becoming a brand and becoming someone that people are sharing my community and what I'm doing because they know the benefit of that and they think other people should be involved. That doesn't happen when you sit behind your computer and become a keyboard warrior. It doesn't happen when you put your head down and just stay quote, unquote, busy. It happens when you're out there and you're talking one too many.

Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?

I teach this in some of the groups that I work with because I know how important networking is. So I think tip number one is just be yourself. So many women asked me how do I stand out from all the other women that are there in the networking room or the Zoom Room? How do I stand out? It's not like you have to wear bright red glasses or have your hair bright pink or wear a certain shirt to stand out or bright bold earrings. You don't have to have that, you just need to show up as you. When you are you and you show up authentically as yourself you're relaxed, you're confident, you're self-assured and that comes through, that energy comes through the camera. It comes through the way that you're walking into a room and people will notice you because your shoulders are back, your chin is up because you're self-assured you feel confident about who you are. You're not apologizing, you're not worrying about what anyone else thinks because it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. So when you walk into a room or show up in a Zoom Room, tip number one, just be yourself. Second tip if you are on zoom and this is just a side tip, please make sure your background is not your unmade bed. That's like the worst thing I would have to say, be in a professional setting. So have a white background, or maybe it has a logo, you can print off your logo or have something in the background that could be some books. People notice what is in the background when you're on zoom. The other thing is, I'm the first person to speak up when I walk into a room, or if I'm in a Zoom Room. So I'll walk up to someone and say, "Hi, my name is Colleen, what's your name?" So I reach out and put my hand out for a firm handshake. If we can't do that in person, and we're doing that on zoom, right when they move us into breakout rooms, I'm the first person to unmute myself, turn my video on and I start welcoming everyone in the room and I just start asking questions. Then right away, because I'm talking people think she's the leader of the room. I'll say, "Well, it looks like they said we had 20 minutes, does anyone want to keep time? I think we could just go around the room and everyone introduce themselves. It looks like we've got times however many people in this room three minutes each." Someone will volunteer to take the time and I'll say, "We'll just start with Lori, and after you're done in your three minutes or up why don't you volunteer the next person? What that does is it starts connecting the room. Lori gets to go first and after her three minutes are up, she looks around, and then someone she's drawn to she will volunteer to go. Then all of a sudden everyone's laughing which cohesively brings the group together. I always go last because I don't want anyone to feel like they're picked last on the softball field. You don't have to be the one last I always bring up the caboose and then I tie it all together about something that each person said and an impression that they made. Then the last tip I would give you that is to follow up and follow through. This is where I see that most individuals, including males and females, really falter in the follow-up and the follow-through. I can't tell you, Lori, how many networking events I've been to and no one follows up with me. I follow up with everybody and that is just horribly wrong. But when I do follow up with them, and I say that it was great meeting them and I'll say one thing I remember about them when I met them, whether they said something funny, or their cat jumped up on their computer, or they had awesome earrings on whatever it was. Then I say that I'd love to chat with them and get to know them better when we're not crunched for time. About 99% of those people I follow up with book a call with me because they want you to remember them and I remembered them I said something about them. I never approach it in a salesy way and approach it from the perspective of just connecting and seeing if there's something I can help them with or if there's a door I can help open for them. I think the other piece is when you are offering something for someone in person or a zoom breakout room, don't make it confusing for them. Just drop a link in there for them to book a call with you or a download. Find what is it that you could offer them that would be the best thing at the moment for them to connect with you and then for you to continue nurturing them. Don't drop every Facebook link, you have every Instagram link you have on your YouTube. It would be like walking into a room and throwing your business cards across the room and say call me and then walk out, we don't do that. So connect with people, care about people, show them that you care, and they'll show you that they care.

How do you stay in front and best nurture your network?

I do that in several different ways. I do the podcast every week and interview members so that my community, including my community on the podcast, is getting tips like your community of interviewing people on different subjects. I do a bi-monthly magazine that our members write articles in and we digitally send that out to all of our members so that they can read the different articles and really take away so many tools in the business and leadership and lifestyle sections of the magazine, we even have a philanthropy section of our magazine. I invite my community to other communities. I have a very abundant mindset and by inviting them to other communities and showing them that it's important for them to expand their influence to attract the right clients beyond lead up for women. Because if I'm talking about how showing up everywhere, and networking everywhere and so important, it would be wrong of me to lock them down in my community. We do weekly teaching Tuesdays and each week a different member comes forward and teaches about different subjects in our lives. Today we talked about sleep, it could be more about your business and business insurance. Sometimes we're talking about tips on leadership. So a different member comes forward every Tuesday, teaches a free workshop and I attend those, I host those along with our members. I do member Monday spotlights every Monday where I interview a different member in our community, for them to offer to our community, a way for us to add additional tools to our toolbox. I'm always out there on Facebook Lives, I'm out there teaching whenever I can, I love to do one-minute teaches in the morning where it's like the word of the day, and put it out there and just have fun with it. There are so many little things that we can do, of the years that we've been in business and the skills that we've learned and honed in over the years that we can share with other people. Most of us just tend not to do it. I don't know if it's because we're lazy, or we just don't feel comfortable on camera. But another tip for your listeners is people don't want the perfect you. They just want you and I've gotten on camera and cried before. I've gotten on camera and laughed before, I've gotten on camera and forgotten what to say before. If you would just get out there and get out in front of your communities so they could get to know who you are. It's just amazing to me how many people really want a peek into your world and what you're doing. That's the likable factor and that's how we get people to like us and know us. We can't stay hidden. You just can't stay hidden.

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 would have said quit corporate America today for one. But I needed to be in corporate America to learn a lot of the skills that I gained. The other piece is patience. I was so caught up in what was happening around me that I fell out of control a lot. We are all in control of our realities. We're in control of our mindset, we're in control of the choices that we make every day. Whether we work for somebody or not, we're still in control of our choices. So 20 years ago, I had a lack of patience, I felt like everything that happened around me was happening to me, and I just had to navigate through what was happening. The truth of the matter is, that's not what reality is. The reality is you can choose how you feel, you can choose how you react to a situation. We have choices, we have freedom of time and we also need to be patient. We're on God's time, that's just what it comes down to and we try to force things that it's just not the timing for. So that's probably what I would say to myself 20 years ago.

Do you have any final word or advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I'm glad you said growing because the one thing that I would like to leave with your listeners would be this: If learning is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you and you should always be out there for growth for yourself, growth for your company growth for your employees and growth for the people that you serve. How can you be learning and growing to be helping and impacting the world in a positive way?

Connect with Colleen


Join The Lead Up For Women Community: 


Sign up for a Lunch-N-Learn Networking Event and use the code guestlnl to register 3 months in advance! 

Sep 8, 2021

Why is marketing automation so important? 

Marketing automation is something I have been an advocate of for a long time and people often ask me why it is so important. Marketing automation is the future of marketing and it is already happening because everyone wants to create efficiencies within their marketing efforts. When you think about marketing automation, it allows you to do more with fewer resources. The trend in marketing and business, in general, is to create efficiency and you can improve your overall customer experience with automation. One statement I saw online that I liked was it streamlines your digital marketing efforts, which ultimately reduces human error and helps to achieve better results. Instead of performing these manual repetitive processes, you're able to focus more on strategic tasks, such as planning, design, goal development, conducting research, establishing your brand, and consistency.

What is marketing automation? 

I like the definition that Salesforce gives: Marketing automation is a technology that manages marketing processes, and multifunctional campaigns across multiple channels automatically. Let's dive into that a little bit. I want to break up some of these words and get clear on what exactly is the depth of this definition for you. So technology nowadays, this is typically a web-based solution that used to be more of a canned packaged solution from a CRM automation standpoint, but it's web-based and it could come in many shapes, sizes, price ranges, and offerings from its doing a little bit, to do the whole gamut of things. Marketing processes consist of many things and have unique definitions based on the goals and the objectives of an organization, but at its core, marketing processes are a mix of managing your contacts and your leads, your content marketing, measuring, and analysis. The next statement in that definition was multifunctional campaigns and a variety of these activities can take place at once. So for example, at this very moment, the marketing automation system that we have going on, we have our guided profits campaign, our manufacturing white paper campaign, webinar attendees campaign, the campaigns for this specific podcast as well as another podcast that we have in house, we have our monthly newsletter, and many more. So we have eight different campaigns happening simultaneously that are being tracked independently, and automatic functions are happening. The last component is the multiple channels. So marketing automation allows you to manage emails, social media, video calls, and ultimately, you can keep track of any traditional direct mail activities as well.

The basics of marketing automation

I want to cover a few high-level basics of marketing automation that will help you master any sort of automation within your CRM tool. 

Quality information is key

First and foremost, it all comes down to the quality of the information that you have going into the system, which will give you quality information out. You want to make sure that your leads and your contacts and all that information is really clean. So the basics of any system along these lines are collecting data and making sure that you're inputting quality data related to the name, the email, the company, phone number, mailing address, and whatnot. One of the things that the systems can do which is really powerful is going beyond just the type of activity that they're doing and providing you actionable insights so you can actually target your leads with more personalized information. For example, if you see a certain individual is engaging heavily with a certain type of content that you're sharing, then you can have targeted content that is going to continue to engage them as opposed to keeping them on a general list and sharing general information to them. 

Creating lists and segmenting your contacts

Another component that's important, and I see a lot of businesses not necessarily implementing this practice is creating different lists and segmenting your contacts. There are two different types of lists: manual lists and dynamic lists and what you want to do is make sure that you're grouping your contacts based on your interest or demographics, maybe how long we've been engaged with you. At the end of the day, this is an opportunity for you to continue to push the right types of information to the right audience. Manual lists are pretty straightforward as if I want to create a list with just my contacts from Wisconsin, I can add them to their own list while excluding contacts who are not from Wisconsin. A good practice that I recommend is creating manual lists of contacts who are your clients and then one with contacts who are not your clients so you can easily start messaging your established people versus those that have not. Dynamic lists, on the other hand, are one of the great features of marketing automation. You can automate that segmenting of your list based on several things such as how they're engaging with you on the website if they've been involved in a live chat with you on your site or automated chat, how they're engaging with the email that you're sending out if they filled out forms. There are many different ways that you can create automatic rules and start segmenting your contacts based on how they're acting at the end of the day. 

Keep your lists clean

For the longest time, I think people were focused on creating as large of a list as possible. Although I am an advocate of creating a big list, what's more important than the size of your list is the quality. If you don't clean your list regularly, just like anything else in life, you notice, there's going to be some toxic things that start happening. You want to make sure that you're scrubbing your list and that will help you to reduce your marketing costs because some platforms charge you based on the size of your list. It will also help you reduce the spam complaints that you have because you know that these individuals that you're sending to want to hear from you and it's actually going to help you increase your open and click-through rates. 

How to scrub your lists

First off, you want to check for either a hard bounce or a soft bounce. So basically, you sent an email and it came back saying this email doesn't exist. So there's a difference between the hard guns and the soft bounces are the hard bounces saying an email does not exist at all and it was a true invalid email address. The soft bounces are saying that maybe their inbox was full, or they put an out of office on there, or there was just a server glitch. So that means that this email was working previously, but it no longer is. I would start by first looking at your hard bounces, and just confirming that they're spelled correctly, and if they're legitimately no longer working, then just remove them from the list altogether. Another way to clean up your list is to send a re-engagement email. What you're doing with that is reaching out and asking if the contact is interested in continuing to hear from you and if they are please acknowledge by clicking or replying to something along those lines. But if no one's acknowledging at that point, then just remove them from the list or segment them into a different low response type of list as well. You want to review your most active lists first when you're cleaning up those lists and check for any duplicates. Also remove any role-related emails such as emails that begin with info, account, or support. Really focus on getting to a specific person that you're sending to and make sure to double-check for any typos. Another thing that you could consider is using a third-party service for mail cleaning. There are a number of them that are available and if you just go to Google and type in email scrubbing service, you're going to find a lot of options that are available to you. But again, the quality of your email is going to be extremely important to the long-term results that you have at the end of the day.

The future of marketing automation: Artificial intelligence

There is a lot of conversation around how AI is going to integrate with marketing automation tying into not only your CRM or automation tool but also going a little bit deeper into some of that conversation like a chatbot, for example. AI is going to tie in and you're going to learn about how to respond and how to anticipate how customers are going to react to the message by utilizing predictive analytics which at the end of the day will help improve customer satisfaction.

The future of marketing automation

Marketing automation will always continue to evolve and is here to stay for the long haul. There are powerful technologies like machine learning big data-enabled predictive analytics, and it's going to help marketers become more efficient in their job. At the end of the day, however, I really want to emphasize that human relationships are still at the heart of all marketing activities and no automation will ever bridge the gap between you and your clients. Marketing automation is here to help us create efficiencies to help us through that process! 

Sep 1, 2021

Meet Roger

Roger is a motivational speaker who helps you create teams and companies people don't want to leave. You hire him for his expertise in emotional intelligence and appreciation. He doesn't give up on people, he believes they will find a way to move forward and improve. Roger lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and currently serves as the president of the National Speakers Association of Wisconsin Chapter. He loves to travel bike and read science fiction. He's a big fan of baseball, pinball, and all things Tesla.

Can you just tell us what is emotional intelligence?

You bet! It started with Daniel Goleman who has been called the father of emotional intelligence. Quite simply, it is your self-awareness and your social awareness. So following Goleman, there are two parts of self. There's the self-awareness part and the self-management part, right? How we're aware of ourselves and how we manage ourselves. Then the social part is how we're aware of others, how we respond to others, their emotions, their actions, their behaviors. Then the other component in there is relationship building, hmmm, Social Capital much? That's how emotional intelligence is defined and then Goldman and others also put components of empathy into emotional intelligence.

Tell me a little bit about how you got into speaking because this is kind of the main offering that you provide, correct? 

Right. I got into speaking and training and I got back into it actually. So way back early in my career, I was into training. I actually trained on all things Microsoft, I trained on operating systems, spreadsheets, Word, PowerPoint and then I also dabbled in a little bit of programming, and then I was also a resident expert on databases. So I love training and I love seeing the lights come on for people. So fast forward into a career in tech support and then while I was in tech support, I got recruited into project management and that's how I fell into project management. So I did that for a number of years and I got really good at both the science and the art of project management, I got into the soft skill and the tech part, but I found that I really had this passion for the soft skill part like facilitating and how we get people past barriers and how we get them to do work. So at my last job about six years ago, they were downsizing, and rather than playing the roulette wheel and figuring out where I wanted to go next in project management, I'm like, you know what? I want to get back into the speaking and the training! I decided that was a great time to start my business. I never knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but it was like this calling to get back up on stage. The more I got up on stage, the more I realized it was, I originally thought, you know, there was this big thing, like, you're going to be in lights, it's about you, and blah, blah, blah, and applause applause applause and I was totally wrong. It's about the audience and the people and creating that connection and that emotional spark and sharing knowledge with them, and seeing the lights come on for them that way. So it was about six years ago, that I decided to hang out my own shingle and get back into the world of professional speaking.

Can you share the difference between emotional intelligence and communication?

It's interesting to put them into both categories because I get that question a fair amount. So if we go back to what I was saying before, a couple of key components are of emotional intelligence are how you show up. One of the ways we show up is how we communicate. So we all have choices about how we communicate, the words we use, the expressions we use, the body language we consciously or subconsciously use. So just because we're communicating doesn't necessarily mean that we have emotional intelligence, and vice versa. I think the two are definitely intertwined. Don't get me wrong, they are intertwined. For example, one of the things that happen when I deliver emotional intelligence programs is I'll get somebody who comes up to me afterward probably about 40-50% of the time and they say, "Oh, this is great, Rojer, could you give this for my manager?" So I say, "Ok, that's wonderful that may be the case so tell me what's challenging you hear," and they say, "I think I'm a great communicator," and I say, "Fantastic, can you give me an example of how you communicate with your manager?" They think the manager might be the problem and they might be, but then a number of times, I've gotten this where they say, "I tell them everything that's on my mind," and I ask for an example. Then they say "Well my manager told me that we should manage up to them so I managed up and I really just gave them a ton of feedback." So I say, "I think we're talking about here might be candor versus communication and it might be the style in which you're delivering it." Come to find out, there's more to it than just the manager needs to come to this. What I say is I would love to give out these little mirrors, because a lot of the time if we look into ourselves, that's the first part of emotional intelligence and everything else can build from there.

Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?

So as you mentioned in the intro, I'm a member of The National Speakers Association, and we get together every year at a big event called Influence. About 1000 people go to a huge event, and I love it. The first time I went I was overwhelmed. Now for introverts, 1000 people is a lot of people and it can be a daunting experience. That first day was my favorite because I went up and I just consumed as much as I could. At a good networking event, we don't just go and give everybody your business card, that's not networking. But I was going with the intent to listen and pick out one good thing that I could take away from every person that I met and I went with the intent of asking just one good question. My question was if you were starting out in this business, what would you do differently today? That was my question to everybody. So I had this pool of answers to the same question. I loved the event because everybody was so welcoming and receptive to whatever question we had. It was more than just going to the seminars, it was the hallway conversations where the magic happens. I really enjoyed the event because people would create, and I didn't make this up, they would create croissants instead of bagels. What that means is we think about the shape of a croissant, a croissant is what? It's a semi-circle, right? So people always inviting you in instead of the bagel or the donut which is closed. I didn't bring that up. I love that the event was set up that way and that the people going to the event in networking were allowed to participate if they wanted to.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture this community that you've created?

A couple of ways. LinkedIn is the place where I see my network. I try to comment on content as much as I can. I'm always trying to up my game by providing something new, and I will be my own critic and say, I don't do that as often as I should. It might help to have some marketing strategy and tactics behind that. The other strategy that I'm employing is networking, through email marketing, or email newsletters, and content, things like that. So again, always trying to up my game there. That's how I stay in front of my people as much as possible.

What advice would you offer that business professional who is really looking to grow their network?

Don't be afraid to talk to people. If you like going to events, go to an event intentionally, with at least three solid things that you want to get out of it, and think about three people that you want to meet, they can be intertwined. I would say be as visible as you can in the markets that you want to be seen in. I wasn't always good at this at the beginning because I was trying to be everything to everybody. As we know, that doesn't work. Once I started narrowing in on people who were receptive to my message, where companies that were getting taken over, or companies that were going through a lot of change, or leaders who were recently promoted or moved to a new area, that's where I could come in and help because when we're faced with change, that's where I can come in and help keep people from leaving. If you've just inherited a new team or something, that's where I come in. So it was putting myself in there, either in the social networks or just making initial conversations. I have a series of outreach that I do until I can get a conversation with them so that we can see if we're for each other. So my advice is to be persistent and be in front of the people who are for you and will buy you.

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 would tell myself to talk less and listen more.  I'd also tell myself, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Be your real, genuine, authentic self when you put yourself out there don't hide behind all kinds of stuff. When I went into my professional career, I would go into meetings, and I would try to say something no matter what, just for the sake of saying something to be seen to be visible. It wasn't until later on when somebody coached me in my mid-20s to listen more and talk less. I realized that I didn't have to say something to get noticed. That's when I first started learning about emotional intelligence and that's what I've been telling myself.

Do you have any final word or advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

Be as open as you can and show up as you! The only way you're going to grow your network is to introduce yourself to people and just break down those walls and have good conversations with people be interested in them.

Connect with Roger


Phone: 608-279-5160 




1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 15