Susan lives life out loud, loves deeply, and celebrates when others shine bright. She's the president and CEO of Huntsboro Hemp Company, a rapidly growing CBD company dedicated to producing high-quality products to help improve the well-being of customers globally. Susan is a trusted entrepreneur and sought-after speaker whose mission is to educate people about the hemp plant and the benefits of quality CBD. She and her husband live on the family farm in North Carolina.
Why did you decide to start a CBD company?
My son-in-law was in college at North Carolina State University and he came home and he was so excited about what he was learning about industrial hemp and about CBD. He told my husband who has farmed his whole life, "Jimmy, you've got to start growing industrial hemp," and he looked at me and I've been in the health and wellness industry for about 16 years. He's like, "Susan, we need a CBD company," and I told him, I said, "You know what, Garrett, I think CBD is snake oil," even though I've been in the health and wellness field for about 16 years, and teach people about eating a plant-based diet and to let your food be your medicine. I could not understand or did not understand how CBD did all the things that people claimed CBD would do. My husband was like, "We've tried different crops, and we're just gonna stick with what we know, and not add him into the growing rotation." But what both my husband and I did was starting studying CBD. I found doctors that were using it in their practices with patients. I found him meetings to attend and CBD expos. My husband was also researching and studying about growing of the plant. But what I learned was that CBD is the real deal and that we all have an endocannabinoid system and when you understand how the endocannabinoid system works with the other systems in the body, and how CBD works in the body, you start to realize that it will do many, many things in the body. One thing I'd like to say off the bat is I am not a doctor, and I'm not a pharmacist, but I understand how it does work. CBD will cure nothing and that is something I love to make sure people understand is that CBD will cure nothing. But what it can do is reduce the inflammation in your body and when the inflammation is reduced, then the symptoms that are associated with many diseases are alleviated or reduced, therefore causing you to feel better.
What is important to know prior to actually purchasing any CBD products?
When you go into the marketplace, it is so easy to get overwhelmed because there are a plethora of CBD products. So the important thing to know when you are out in the marketplace, is you want to know where the CBD was grown. Therefore, you want to make sure it was grown in the United States with a licensed grower. That's very easy to find out either by asking the person selling it or looking at the box. You also want to look for a certificate of analysis. What that is, is that is third-party testing that is done on all CBD products or should be done on all CBD products. Now, it's a little bit harder sometimes to find that. Sometimes you have to ask if the person selling it has the certificate of analysis to show you, or sometimes you have to go to the company's website and look and put in your batch number and find this certificate of analysis. One thing that we are doing at Huntsboro Hemp right now is we are transitioning to putting a QR code on our labels. Therefore you just take the picture, scan the QR code, and that'll take you directly to the certificate of analysis for that product in that match. Then the other thing that I think people really need to understand is the three different types of products out there. If you're someone that is working in a job where you are randomly tested, you need to know if your CBD product has any THC in it. If you're taking a full spectrum product, that is a product that could have up to the legal limit, .3% THC in it. It also has all the cannabinoids from the hemp plant. So if you're taking a full spectrum, and you are drug tested, it's possible that you could ping for THC, which is what's in marijuana, and then you're going to have to explain to your boss why you're pinging for THC. The other two products that are on the market, a broad spectrum, which the broad spectrum does not have any of your THC in it, but it has all of the cannabinoids from the plant so you will not test positive. Then there's also what we call isolate-based products and this is what we use in Huntsboro Hemp products is isolated CBD. We know exactly how much CBD is in there, there are no other cannabinoids in our products. Also with the isolate-based product, you will not ping in a drug test because there should not be any THC in there. So those are really the main things that you're going to want to know.
Can we go a little bit deeper into the different types of products that are out there?
So we're going to go with our full spectrum and that is an oil. As I said, it's going to have your THC in there and it's going to have all of the cannabinoids. You can find this product, the full spectrum, the broad spectrum, and the isolate, you can find all three of them in edibles, in tinctures which is an oil or a liquid that you put underneath your tongue and you hold for 30 seconds to a minute let it absorb and swallow what is leftover and then you've got your topicals. The best way to get a product into your system is through the tinctures because it absorbs sublingually and that is just a great way to get it into your system. You also get it into your system through your edibles. Now here's the thing when you take a product that you ingest, you eat, or swallow, it's getting in there and it's working systemically. So it's working on your whole body and it's not a magic pill. You didn't get this inflammation, or arthritis or, whatever is ailing you overnight. So when you take CBD in one of those two forms, you've got to give it time to work and consistency is key. Just like with any other supplement, you want to make sure you're taking it consistently. The difference between your tincture, your edibles and your topical is that when you apply a topical, it's very localized. So if your fingers, your knuckles, or your joints are hurting on your hand, and your hip is also hurting, and you apply a topical to your hand, it's not going to help your hip at all, it's only going to be localized to that area.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
You know Lori, you and I met through the Know Women. That has been by far one of the best decisions I've made, especially because I made this decision to get involved in this particular networking group in 2020. I joined the group in March and so all of the live events were canceled. So I joined the Raleigh group and I wasn't going to be able to go to the events and the big national event was canceled. But what I did there was I jumped on board and started connecting virtually with these women and that has been a great relationship and a great opportunity for me to receive as well as to give. I've met a lot of women that have helped us get our products into places that I wouldn't necessarily have had the opportunity especially because of COVID. That particular group has been wonderful and I think I've been able to plug in and offer education to other people and teach which has allowed me to move my product into areas that I wouldn't have gotten it.
How do you best stay in front of and nurture the relationships that you are creating, especially since they are spread out across America now?
I can tell you what my favorite is, I love a handwritten note. So when I can, I like to send after I've met or talked with someone, I like to send a handwritten note. It does not always happen, but that's one of the things that I love. I also love follow-up emails and then reconnecting and checking in. I have a notebook that I keep all of the network people I've met and then I put it in a rotation to try to stay connected through some type of writing and then following up with other face-to-face get-togethers through zoom.
What advice would you offer that professionals looking to grow their network?
Jump in with two feet, and there's no right or wrong. Sometimes you'll end up in a space and you might look at yourself and say, "What am I doing here?" But you can always learn something from somebody, no matter what event you're in, whether it's virtual or live. Also if you go into the networking, thinking, what can I offer someone or how can I make someone's life a little bit better today, you come away with something too.
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?
First off, I would tell her, I was very proud of her and that she should be very proud of who I have become. Then I would tell her that she needed to be present and enjoy what she was doing at that moment.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Is there someone that you would love to connect with and do you think you can do it within six degrees?
When I was looking at your podcast, I saw that you had an interview with Bob Berg and I love his book! So he would be the person I’d love to connect with and since you’ve already talked to him I guess I’m only one degree away!
What would you ask him, or what would you want to chat with him about?
If I knew I was going to talk to him, I go back to the book real quick. I would just want to know how he came about writing the book and sharing the beautiful stories that are in the book and how he learned at such a young age how important it is to give and that the more you give, the more you get.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would just go back, just jump in with two feet and if you don't know where to start, start looking for Facebook groups or on LinkedIn because what I have learned and understood even more through COVID is there are some amazing people in our world.
Connect With Susan
Susan’s Website: https://huntsborohempco.com/
Shabnam, the author of My Persian Paradox was born and raised in Tehran until 2004. Shabnam teaches memoir writing workshops and has been performing lectures to colleges and universities about her book and the concept of sharing stories. She actively practices a variety of storytelling workshops to help people develop deeper empathy towards each other. She is currently working on our second memoir. Her motto is, "Let's share our stories and create more empathy."
What experiences have you gained by sharing your story with others?
I couldn't believe it. It started even before I started writing my memoir and it actually encouraged me to write my memoir and I was kind of in a midlife crisis. Then I was just talking to my friends at work, especially because we spend a lot of time at work. So I have a lot of American friends who were born here, around me, and we just talked and, chit chatted and every time I shared one story from my past, I felt better. Then they got to know me better. I got to the point that this past is really bitter, but when I shared it with someone else, in a form of his story, it makes me feel better. Unsurprisingly, it makes the audience feel like oh my god, I have a very similar experience. And who would think a girl in Iran is all grown up in the Midwest in America? We shared experiences, so we just shared stories and that led me to feel like you know what, I want to write this book. Because I wasn't a writer, I started learning to write, and then I started looking for communities of writers. I published a book and then I read the book for the people. I started having a community of people who shared very similar experiences. It's just growing in so many different ways and it changed my life.
How did writing your memoir help you look at your life story differently?
It was just amazing and it still is surprising me. In general, based on what I've learned about writing stories, and storytelling, now, to put it in perspective, I just see that when you look at your story, it could be your life story like mine. It's kind of like if we want to put it in a formula, let's say, like the simplest one, the three-story act. We want to see what the setup was, what the confrontations or stakes were, and then what was the resolution. Looking at it from a 50,000 point view, it's like I see the cause and effect, and then I don't see myself as a victim anymore because I can see that I tried, and I was impacted by the social norms and social limitation, cultural limitations. I can see how I was impacted by other people and how I impacted other people. So it just gave me a sense of belonging, and that I'm not a victim. Those bitter experiences actually made me into a more resilient person. I couldn't see it before, I was just whining and I was just feeling really down. But when I wrote this story, I saw it differently. I saw the value that those stakes and confrontations that I had brought to my life.
How can storytelling make a difference and bring deeper social connections in everyday life?
It was kind of like an exploration because when you open up, you feel like you're not scared anymore. I understand that this could be talking about the dirty laundry, you're not supposed to air them, right? For many people, it's taboo, and I totally understand it. But still, we each have a lot of stories and when we authentically share our stories, from that value standpoint, there was something there.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking stories or experiences that you've had?
It all revolves around writing for me because it changed my life. I attended some classes and it was good. It was a good beginning to networking. But I remember that after two years, I felt like I am just so lonely, I just need to join a community, I just need to find the community. As a new writer, I attended a couple of writing clubs and then one of them clicked. So I gave myself a chance to see which one is proper, or closer to what I'm doing, and then I started going every month. We started reading each other's writings, giving each other feedback and now after two years, when I look at it, I'm like, wow, we built a community that we supported each other, not only throughout the writing, even though the publishing, even after my book was published. Those people were really helpful to me to spread the word about my book, come to my book launch party. But in the beginning, obviously, when the first session, I went there, I want to be honest with you, my hands were shaking. But within a couple of sessions, I was just talking to them, because I saw that they were welcoming. I was just comfortable there and we started building up. But building up means we gave each other a lot of support. It really meant a lot to me, it played a big role to me. So we can start with small communities.
How do you stay in front of your connections and best nurture these relationships?
I believe in giving and taking in a community. So the community that you start talking to you start feeling belonging. You are taking some away something out of it, but we have to think about what we can give back to the community. Just a couple of months ago, one of the leaders of that writing club that I started with got back to me and he was like, we are just going to have a panel for all the writers in our community and if you can also talk at some about publishing and your experience and like, all the stakes that you've had to deal with, that would be awesome. I was so happy to do it because you get a new give, give back.
What advice would you have to that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I just want to focus on how we look at the narrative arc of our stories and how we communicate with others. We all have stories and in each community, we share some of them that are related. I just believe that if you are prepared if you will look at your story within your heart and if you believe in the values that you've brought to this world, then you can share a good narrative with a very confident and authentic point of view with other people in a community. People then will be drawn to that authenticity and community and confidence.
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'm sure as a 20-year-old, I remember that I wasn't confident and I was vulnerable. I didn't want to show my vulnerability. But I wish I knew that the learning curve of everything exists and it's long for some of the experiences that we have to deal with when we are younger. So when I'm 20, the learning curve on social life might be a lot longer than a learning curve on learning new software, because it's just like emotional intelligence that we have to build up. But I wish I knew that or I would tell myself don't be afraid of mistakes because mistakes are a good part of this learning curve.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I'm following this kind of existing thinking philosopher that I think we are very lucky to have in America, Ken Wilber. He's the person who started researching and teaching about the integral life practice or the integral life theory to basically that life is inclusive and how we want to include everyone and every idea and every value in our life. Although it seems very controversial, we can really do that. I'm not there yet, but I really liked the practice. So because I read his books, I follow him. I joined the community, that they practice integral life theory and I'd love to have dinner with Ken and just ask all my questions. I think of the community that I built because I joined this integral life Practice. Now I have people that are in contact with him and have been working with him directly.
Do you have any final word of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I just want to emphasize on the matter that it's okay to share our stories without the fear of judgment. Some people want to hear stories, and some people are not ready. It's not about us, people's emotions are about them and if someone reacts in a way that we don't like to see or hear, it's okay. Let them just have it in the corner of their mind, but you still share your story, and one day, maybe later in their life, they will think about it.
Connect with Shabnam:
Meghan is a native of Danvers, Massachusetts who has achieved sustained success at all levels of her hockey career in international and collegiate play. Meghan graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she majored in biology and was a member of the women's hockey team where she won three national championships. She went on to be an Olympic and professional athlete after he college. With Team USA she went three Olympic medals, including the first Olympic gold in 20 years where she led the US Olympic hockey team as Captain. As a member of the US Women's National Hockey Team since 2007, Meghan won seven IIHF Women's World Championships.
A major topic in today's world is diversity and inclusion, can you tell our listeners how you decided to take a leader leadership role in this space?
For me, I think about a lot of different factors in my life, and kind of in the world, in general, that led me towards making this part of my everyday. In general, all of us right now are eager to be a part of a world or a company or an organization that is more diverse and more inclusive and to do that we need to seek systemic change. That's a change in behavior, culture, attitudes and we all know that there's a lot of challenges that lie within seeing those changes. For me, my passion and commitment towards all of this started back in 2017, when I was able, alongside my teammates to lead a successful strike by our national team against USA hockey, which is our national governing body of hockey at the time, for gender-equitable treatment for women in the sport of hockey, and in our program. That was a long battle, we learned a lot, we discussed changes privately with USA hockey behind the scenes that we wanted to see and to make in our program and we weren't able to make any progress with them so we came up with a very public boycott. It's quite a long story, but we were able to make some truly systemic change in our program and while we're still working on those changes every single day, it amplified the movement and all of that in my mind and my teammates’ mine. So from then, I committed to helping diversify hockey in general, whether that's for opening it up to more women or more members of the BIPOC community or LGBTQ plus community, that's very important to me. But also, seeking out other opportunities to help underrepresented groups in all aspects of life and to truly make a more diverse and inclusive world that all of us are eager to be a part of.
As a board member for USA hockey, what is it that you hope to achieve?
Going off of the question that we just discussed, one of the biggest things that I want to achieve that I'm, I'm working towards every day and in a few different capacities, whether that's in my board seat, or the different subcommittees and sections I sit on at USA hockey, or being a part of the NHL player inclusion committee, where we're working to diversify elite hockey, or being a board member with the Women's Sports Foundation as well. All of those kind of have a similar goal, in my mind, and the first is just to diversify hockey. As I alluded to in the answer to my first question, when we think about hockey, traditionally, I hate to say it, but you think about hockey traditionally, and underrepresented groups are anyone that is not white, straight, men. That is sadly what people associate with hockey. So in a lot of those positions that I'm in, what I want to do is make sure that underrepresented groups are welcomed, and are introduced to the sport of hockey. Hockey changed my life in so many ways, I was the only girl growing up when I was playing and but, I didn't let that stop me. I had really supportive parents, I had supportive coaches and teams, and I was given an earned opportunities. But there's a lot of people that don't feel welcome in hockey or don't feel that it's a sport for them. Because I love it so much, because it changed my life in a million ways, I want to make sure that every single person, has access to hockey, and loves it, can play at an elite level, or a youth level, or whatever they want. Those are definitely things that I'm personally working towards every day to try to make happen.
I know that you've recently entered this wonderful world of motherhood, how has that impacted what it is that you're trying to achieve, and the mission that you're working towards?
First of all, being a parent is the greatest thing in the world. I don't remember my life before my son George was born. I've had so many opportunities in my life to go cool places are playing Olympic gold medal games, win gold medals, meet all these wonderful people, and none of that hold a candle two to being a mom and getting to see and watch my son grow every day, it's the best. But with that comes the responsibility of raising a child and the next generation in say the social climate that we're in right now. I think it just encourages me more to work towards a better future for him, and whatever that looks like, whether it's in sport, whether it's in business, whether it's in just creating a, as we've talked about a more diverse and inclusive environment, and just kinder human beings. So I think about that, and then the responsibility truly of raising what will be a white man in society and making sure that he understands the importance of being inclusive and not thinking that he, he owns the world. So I think about it in a lot of different ways. It's the greatest thing I've ever done. I think it inspires me more, to want to be more in the work that I'm doing right now. Also, it inspires me to want to enter into and do a little bit of work in the motherhood space and what that means and finding ways to support moms and dads and parents because you realize, when you become a parent that there are a lot of things about it that are difficult as well, whether that's maternity leave policies or childcare and things like that. So trying to learn a little bit about that space as well.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
It’s so great that this is the topic that you're focusing on because the word networking can be very daunting. For me, I've had the opportunity to be a part of some great networking and athlete and career education seminars through the USOC which I'm incredibly thankful for and have given me some tools to help set me up to network better at certain times. So I've tried to take the scary part of networking away with some of those tools. I would say when I think back to one of my most successful or favorite networking story, I think back to a time when I didn't even know I was networking and that's probably why it came off and why it ended up being more of a, a friendship and a relationship. But I was asked to do this event shortly after the 2018 Olympics in Telluride, Colorado. I was doing a one-time sponsor appearance at a cool event. It was at this awesome resort and it was in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover, the vehicle. So it was this outside event, they had all of these dealership owners and people from the company there. They were celebrating them in this really fun Winter Olympic themed event. It was kind of a small, intimate group and I was able to meet just so many fantastic people. We played hockey outside, we played curling outside, which I was terrible at, we had dinner that night, there was karaoke, it was very casual and intimate, just a celebration. I was there an athlete representative to bring my gold medal and get excited and get the attendees excited about \that Winter Olympic spirit. I ended up making a connection with the guy who has become a friend whose name is Joe Eberhardt. Joe is one of the CEOs of Jaguar Land Rover in North America and we just ended up hitting it off and becoming friends and following up with each other. I would be checking on him and his family and right after that, he went skiing and ended up tearing his ACL on both of his knees so we were talking about rehab and things like that. He's just an awesome guy that I would consider a mentor and someone I've kept in touch with and respect a lot. Through that connection, I was able to become a global ambassador for Jaguar Land Rover and do some unbelievable work with them when it comes to women's empowerment at different events I've spoken at, on panels with them, or with diversity and inclusion events, being a member of the LGBT community. At the time I didn't know all of that would come from it, but it was just a great casual conversation where I was being myself, and I was able to create and continue this great relationship.
As someone who's traveled globally, and I'm sure you've met millions of people. How do you best nurture these relationships that you've created?
I think we all have a hand up a little bit right now with the world being virtual, and being able to get in touch with and get in front of anyone at any point and I think that can often help us. But I would say the best way that I try to keep things going is I truly try to be my authentic self. I don't try to be someone that I'm not in my communications with my network, or mentors, or potential business professionals that I want to put myself in front of. I really tried to connect when it feels right or when it feels organic and don't want to doesn't. It sounds a little cliche, again, but it's what worked for me. I'm also a person that truly acts a lot of time off of gut and instinct. That being said, I've found myself in situations where I'm experienced a lot of different coincidences, or things happen for a reason. That's who I am a that's kind of what's allowed me to create and keep wonderful relationships in my life. I try to be open and honest about where I'm at, or what's going on and to be inclusive to whoever I'm speaking with, as well. I just try to keep it organic and authentic and that seems to work for me.
What advice would you offer to someone who's looking to grow their network?
I would say to educate yourself on what you want to grow into, and who you want to talk to and learn a little bit about the backgrounds of people, you want to add into your network like what they do, what's important to them, what they're passionate about. I feel, in addition to being myself and sharing my authentic self, I think taking an interest in what other people are doing, or what else is out there when you're searching for what's next or a new connection I always find that I learned something new and inspires me to want to do something else, or get involved in something else, just by listening to other people. Just by understanding and educating myself a little bit on what other people are passionate about. I find it inspires me and makes me think about things in a different way which helps me grow my network and become involved in other things.
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 the biggest thing I would tell my 20-year-old self is to try not to strive for perfection. I'm a very type-A personality and I've learned a lot through my ups and downs in my hockey career and in growth in my leadership about too often trying to be perfect or try not to make mistakes. I think whether it's getting older or making more mistakes or becoming a mom or whatever it is, I've tried to make myself realize that you can't be perfect all the time. Mistakes are where we grow, that's where those challenges are, that's where we find opportunities. So a lot of times in my hockey career, my professional career I was gripping my stick too tight, right? We all say that in hockey and in wanting something so bad and not wanting to make a mistake. In doing so, I would have different blind spots, or I would put myself in a bad position. So, I would say that's definitely what I would tell my 20-year-old self: Make mistakes and see challenges as opportunities because that's where you'll grow. Who are any of us if we don't face challenges? It's impossible so finding ways to embrace the challenges and not seek out perfection is something I've learned, but I wish I knew it when I was younger.
We're all familiar with the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within six degrees?
The person that I would love to connect with, at this point right now would be Kamala Harris. Do I think I could do it within six degrees? I really do think that I could. I think it would take some serious degrees of people, but I think that I could do it, and I would start that journey with Billie Jean King because, to me, she's the Alpha Dog in women's sports. She could maybe eventually lead me down the path of like, connecting with females in all the other industries. Right now, Kamala Harris is the Alpha Dog in politics so that's where I would start, and I would love to connect with her.
What final advice would you like to offer with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would say be patient with yourself. I find myself sometimes waking up in the middle of the night, or randomly, if I'm having a bad day thinking, I'm not doing enough, or I need to do X, or I need to put myself here, get myself in touch with this person. I think sometimes just being patient with myself, and showing myself a little bit of grace and respect, and honoring the things that I have done or that I'm working towards helps to slow me down. For me, that's chasing around my son and playing with him and reading books to him because there's beauty in that, too. So I think being patient with yourself is really important. Things aren't going to happen overnight. When I say be patient with yourself, obviously life and networking, and, and growing requires a lot of hard work as well, but we all need to take care of ourselves along the way too.
Connect with Meghan:
Glen Allen is the go-to CMO of digital course launches. As a multi-instrumental musician turned marketing consultant, he helps entrepreneurs scale five to seven-figure businesses by consulting them and their team through marketing and launching digital courses. He's the host of the Glen Ellyn Show, a YouTube channel about digital marketing, and an entrepreneurial podcast called Unstuck and Unstoppable. He also works as an unpaid chef, housekeeper and, chauffeur for three kids who call him dad.
What is the most effective way to build authentic connections with email list subscribers?
It's to provide value to them. Definitely an imbalance of value over information about yourself or your products or pitches for your products and services. Right now, everybody is having to do a lot of their business online and a lot of that is happening through their email. We are becoming a little bit inundated and saturated right now so it's really important to show up as a person, and not as a product, and to nurture your relationship with the people who have entrusted you with their email addresses and invited you into their inboxes by continuing to give.
For companies or organizations with multiple people, should communications be coming from the brand, or should it take that personal conversational approach?
Let's say you are an organization. I've worked in the corporate space, where we had this challenge of connecting more one on one with our audience and our potential customers and clients and leads, and we kind of had to pick a face of the organization, and that didn't have to be the founders. For a while it was me, and it was another agent of the company who was just best suited to showing up and being on camera or creating engaging content. Sometimes that means me writing in the voice of this person, but basically having a face and a voice that people can connect to instead of a brand or instead of a company is better. One of the ways that I recommend people do this is when you're inviting people to sign up for something like a lead magnet or something that gets people into your email community, and you want to take the relationship to the next level. I am a big fan of things that are video-based, things that have a person on camera, engaging with you, talking to you, showing the values, and projecting those through personality.
What are some of the best ways to attract people into our audience when we're building an online community?
A lot of reasons we're building an online community is number one: it's for the sake of the community. But also we're in business and we're not just in business, for the fun of it, and there is, of course, the commerce side of it, and we want to serve and help people, and we want to connect with people in a way in which it is financially viable for us. So we have things that we want to sell and offer that will help other people. When you're doing this, a lot of people are, you know, nurturing an audience from, say, a social media platform, or a podcast, and we want to bring the conversation in a little bit more intimately and deeper into, you know, non farmed land. Social media is kind of that rented space, whereas we have our community of people in our private groups and our email list. That's ours, especially your email list. So one of my favorite ways to build that, it's having some kind of a lead magnet or freebie that creates value for the people who are the ideal person to work with and serve. To do that in a way that is fully aligned with how you ultimately want to help them through your paid products, your paid offers your service. I'm seeing a lot of upfront mistakes with how they go about that. The best thing you can do for somebody is to solve a problem they have. A very small burning pain, that then gives them a next level, good to have a problem. If you can solve somebody's problem, you're going to have somebody who is going to become a fan of you, they're going to be engaged and connected to you with trust. I've seen this with things where oftentimes what's happening is your customer or ideal client is searching for an answer to something and somehow, they come across some freebie or lead magnet. What I see often happen is they get the thing, it's delivered to them in their inbox, they might download it, read through it, and then bounce. They've got no incentive to further a relationship with you. If you're using an automated nurture sequence down the line to then inform them more about who you are and what your products or services are, and things like that. Oftentimes, it just kind of gets lost in the noise, even if your subject lines are enticing. I think a lot of that has to do with the vehicle that people use for these freebies. Downloadables don't give you a good sense of who you are, and your talents. You need to find a way to build that trust and connection to the content.
How can we reach out to our network and collaborate with other influencers online to help build our audience?
I think one of the most important things is number one, showing up just like a person, not, you know, blasting out templates. Really taking the time to research different people and get to know what their values are to see if working with them is actually a fit. Once you've done that, having a sense of how does what you teach, or your expertise, or the way you serve people couple well with what value they're on a mission to provide to their audience is critical. I'm in the Digital Course World so I'm always consulting entrepreneurs who want to build a digital course on how to launch the thing. But the problem a lot of people have is they have put all this time into a digital course and they haven't put the time into building an audience of their own. So what I do with people is I help them forge relationships and reach out to people and network with people where they have that engaged audience already and those communities already exist, and people already have them. The thing is to learn how How to make relationships with people so that you can then reach those other audiences that are already out there. First, you make a connection and you can do that through adding value and just being a person.
Can share with our listeners one of your favorite or most successful networking experiences that you've had.
I know it sounds really weird, but I kind of systematize my networking, and I don't do it to be disingenuous. I do it because I talk to so many people online that I need to track what I'm doing, or I lose track myself of who I'm talking with and who I need to keep up with. But what I like to do is I mean, number one, I love podcasts, I love connecting other people to other people and so, one of the things that I do is I look at what networks are already out there, what people are already kind of movers and shakers, and then just approaching them and adding value. I like the idea of connecting with other podcasters especially because they value other people coming in and adding value to their audience and that's one of how they can grow is by bringing in outsiders. So with that, what I often like to do is just get to know people and promote them to my audience. If I'm engaged in a podcast or something like that, I like a specific episode, I might share that with my entire network or my Instagram or my even I'll share that my email list because it's something valuable to my audience and then it's also valuable to them because they're able to spread to a new group of people that they don't have access to. So I like to do things like share, promote it, and even write a review and subscribe. If it's not podcasts, there are other ways you can do this. We're largely networking through social media platforms so you can always provide value to other people by, you know, having thoughtful comments, and sharing other people's content, and promoting it out to your network. I feel like making that opportunity is a great way to connect to people that you might otherwise not feel like you have any access to.
How do you nurture the relationships that you have and what do you do to stay in front of these communities that you're creating?
It's strange, but I keep a spreadsheet of different things that I want to do for people. This kind of thing can be time-consuming and it's not about making it a system and making it this robotic thing. You do have to put in the time to be a person and think of ways in which you can be valuable to people. I mainly use a spreadsheet just so I can stay on top of me, that's just the way I like to work. But when it comes to the actual connections, I track ff I've made a connection, if I've connected people together, if I've left someone a thoughtful comment, or shared their content. So I like to have these different levels of giving over time, just to make sure that I am providing value to people, long before I ever consider asking them for anything or partnering with them. Sometimes that that, that that role is very short. II like to have virtual coffee chats with people just to learn about their business. Those conversations will immediately make you think of "Oh, my gosh, you should talk to so and so," and that is one of my favorite ways to do that.
What advice would you have for someone that's really looking to grow their network?
What are your pillars of expertise or value that you offer people and if you can turn those things into even some enticing headlines, you can grow your network. In terms of growing your actual network, there are so many great places on LinkedIn, where people are doing networking. Looking for people who are hosting these different networks and seeing what gaps are missing that maybe I can fill. Also asking them people if there's anything you can help with is a great way to build a connection and get someone's guard down. But if we start up front with what can you do for my thing, people's guards are up and your ability to grow your community will be stunted. So show up with the other energy, and ask what can I do for you?
I would say, learn more about business and marketing sooner. Side hustles and endeavors and like e-commerce and an Etsy store, all kinds of different things where if I would have known what I know now about marketing, I would have gone a lot further. Also, hire out sooner.
What final words of advice do you have to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
When it comes to growing and supporting your network, find ways to get them to personally engage and reach out to you and even though it may not be scalable, find ways to put in the time to actually offer real help. It's amazing the opportunities that that can open up for you. Whether it's being able to speak, or joining somebody else's network, they may promote you somewhere that you never would have expected. You just never know when you give what you know what kind of opportunities you open.
Connect with Glenn:
Kristen is a certified neuro-linguistic programming practitioner mindset specialist, trained under Bob Proctor curriculum developer, college professor, and passionate life enthusiastic. She brings all of these skills and experiences to help people define and live their vision in life. Not box-checking goals, but vision, the kind of vision that makes your heart leap, sets your soul on fire and makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.
What made you so passionate about empowering others to define and live their vision in life?
Honestly, not doing it myself. Basically, I did what I think a lot of people do which is I spent a lot of time doing what I was taught, which I thought was going to make my life fulfilling. I found myself literally sitting in this "perfect life," where everybody was like, "Yay, look at you, you're great," and I was thinking, "Should I tell them that this sucks," or like, "This isn't fulfilling," and I was afraid to admit that to myself and then to other people. It took this like, kind of peeling flesh from the bone process socially and emotionally and spiritually inside myself, to realize I'm just gonna do it, I'm gonna do the stuff that really makes me happy and feel good and excited, and let the chips fall where they may. Luckily, it all worked out and I've learned a lot, the hindsight is 2020. So now I like to support people in taking that journey for themselves because I think that the quality of our lives should be of our most importance and a priority to us.
I recently heard a quote on Clubhouse which said, "You have to fill your cup before you can fill other people's cups," and that really resonated with me, because we all constantly give, but we're not necessarily taking care of ourselves first and it sounds like that's exactly what you did and you help others do that as well.
Yeah, and something I like to share because it had such a pivotal impact for me is a book by a hospice nurse named Bronnie Ware called Regrets of The Dying. It was really fascinating because she chronicled the most frequently heard regrets. So these are things where people would say I wish I would have done this. The most frequently heard regret was "I wish I would have had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not what others wanted from me." When I heard that it really validated all of those secret fears that I just told you about, I was like, "That's it, that's my thing!" Then I thought to myself that I'm not gonna be that person, I'm gonna be sitting there at the end of the show going, "That was epic, you guys!"
I imagine that you had to disappoint some individuals to get to where you are today, tell us about that a little bit.
That's my favorite thing to let people know because it's okay to disappoint other people. Just like what you said about filling your cup first, or applying the oxygen mask to yourself before assisting others. Disappointing people is part of that process and usually, it's some of the most important relationships in your life. So people will be nervous about doing that, but the funny thing is, my experience has been and I don't like to be too specific sometimes because I'm not trying to criticize other people or their intentions, but the funny thing is after the fact once you get through that painful process of disappointing them, they usually come back back around and say, you know, you're my hero, or I'm so happy for you, or I'm so glad for you. I like to share that with people too because if that's what gets you through that challenge, it's worth it.
What are the top challenges that people face when pivoting in life and setting out to live a life that really speaks to their soul?
Fear is number one because there are all these outside influences we feel such as, disappointing people, and wondering if people are going to support me changing gears. Then there's self-identity where you have to let people know that this is where your heart is at and this is the direction you want to go in. Then practically: How in the world do I do it? Where do I start? What steps do I take? There are systems, the best system is, quote, the one that works for you. The one I like to use is to chart a course; define your destination, your milestones, the action steps that need to be taken to each milestone, and just breaking it down so it's not intimidating. You're looking a month ahead, not you know, three years ahead.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Absolutely. The favorite networking experience that I've had, I've had now three times. It consists of engaging with either an individual or small group routinely. In most cases, for me, that's been Monday through Friday, but it still works if it's only once a week or even if it's just once a month. But maintaining this thread of connection with people and understanding what they're working on, and then what you're working on and ways that you can support each other. So it's like a more extended relationship-building style of networking.
What do you do with the people outside of that group and how do you best stay in front of them and nurture your network?
Well right now, social media is huge. Groups I found to be very valuable. I tend to join a lot of groups and then you just see which ones resonate with you, where there are people that you enjoy, you find you can contribute to, and are asking great questions. So I've got a couple of groups that have been very beneficial to me.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's looking to grow their network?
I think to be aware of your intentions going into it. Previously, I used trial and error and I kind of did the whole throw as much against the wall as you can, well, that's just exhausting. If I were to break it down: Brainstorm and plan where are some good places for me to connect with good people. Engage authentically and give to give it an opportunity and see what's really there for you. Then reflect, you can't invest yourself in everything and every networking opportunity. Maybe even keep a spreadsheet so that you're applying your energy in a focused and productive way for everybody. Just really making sure that there is mutual value in every group you join.
Believe in it, like disappointing people and getting over those challenges of meaning to myself, this is who I am, this is what I'm passionate about. Then take a chance on yourself. I think everything we do has value and plays into where we are so I don't regret anything. However, if I could, I definitely would whisper in my own ear, "Hey girl, all that stuff you've been thinking about other people are thinking about it to go talk about it."
Who would be one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
I had a fantasy about this because I love to visualize and imagine I am just crazy about Jason Silva. His angle is really that you have to fill your life with all and all is everywhere. He's just like me passionate about living and he does a great job of motivating, explaining, pontificating and I think what I want to do is I want to go camping with him because you can learn so much to go camping with somebody and have dinner over a fire. I really need to do some investigative work as to the six degrees of separation. However, I have a tip for everybody that I have not yet deployed and I think I'm honestly going to do it today. What you do is you put in the signature block of your email so that literally every person you communicate with sees this down at the bottom. Include something like this "Hey you guys, I am really interested in having a conversation with Jason Silva." I'm bold enough now in my self-assurance that I'd say I want to go camping with the guy. Does anybody know anybody who knows anybody? Don't be shocked over the course of time how people might pop up and say, "Hey, I actually have a connection."
Do you have any final advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Authenticity and mutual benefit is never going to backfire ever on you and it always grows. Also, another thing that's been on my mind because of a book I've been reading and is the idea of latent potential that you are doing work for a period of time before you hit this turn in the curve where it just swings up and go straight to the top. So as I said earlier, plan and reflect and know where to focus, but also recognize that latent potential and believe in your efforts during that period, and wait with faith that is all coming to something really good for you.
Connect with Kristen:
Don't even try to describe him this way and he'll point that one out. Change your perspective and he'll lead you down another path, maybe without you even realizing it. He's a creative dude, an entrepreneur, a family man, a business owner, no box fits, it doesn't even exist. He's a man of original thoughts, all products of unique thinking. Above all else, he is a storyteller he unpacks topics from unexpected directions, weaving influences into the music speaking and podcasting. Society, business current events, you can never predict his take. Suffice to say, it's probably different than you've encountered. Why do things happen? How do they drive behavior?
He has a CPA, has 40 years of business experience ranging from accounting operations, sales, and marketing. He specializes in returning companies to profitability. He owns four businesses in Milwaukee, a business turnaround and profit improvement firm, a bookkeeping and accounting service company, a networking training and event company, and residential rental units on Milwaukee's East Side. A core introvert he wanted a large network, but there was one problem: networking terrified him.
How did the two of you get connected?
Elzie: Well, it was funny, because I met Lorry at a networking event, of course. I'm very sensitive to my gut when my gut tells me that this is a person that I need to connect with or deepen a relationship with. So I had seen him on LinkedIn with lunch with Lorry stuff. I said to him that I'd like to do lunch with Lorry and we just couldn't find a time that works, because everybody wants to have lunch with Lorry. So we ended up doing breakfast and very long story short, he would ask me these questions that a person that you were just meeting shouldn't be asking. I thought to myself, "Why is this guy asking me these types of questions?" But it was intriguing, and it made me open my perspective to deepening relationships and being curious and open to other people's perspectives. So that's kind of how it all got started in terms of our relationship. This was a little bit before COVID happened and we couldn't you couldn't do lunch with Lorry in person so I said do it virtually. Nine sessions later, in lunch with Laurie virtual is still around.
For those that are not familiar with Lunch with Lorry, why would someone want to attend?
Lorry: Because we don't get to tell the story of our lives, it's usually your rush to business or getting something networking. Lunch with Lorry is about telling some aspect of your life story and the stories are compelling. There had been lunches when people have cried because the stories are sad and there have been lots of stories and we can stop laughing. But one thing people learn they're not alone, because there's a lot of common themes from the Lunch with Lorry.
Elzie: I think I've learned things about people that I would have never learned in a zillion years in a business setting so it's refreshing to be able to see that side of people without even really knowing what they do for a business. It's cool to be able to genuinely meet people and have those authentic conversations.
What are some of these common themes and are there a couple of stories you can share?
Lorry: Well, I think some of the stories are amazing, there was a woman who I asked what her favorite charity was and why. But there have been people who have funny stories. We had a gentleman who drove a train. He's wasn't an engineer, he just drove a train. People have had cars going ditches when they're chasing people, it's just amazing stories. But one thing about it is it is equal opportunity networking because I don't let you say what you do for a living. I don't let you do your elevator pitch. That's probably the most unique part of it. I've had CEOs next to the unemployed, and everyone is equal and on a second part are equal. Every single person has to participate. Elzie and I call every single person to explain one of their answers.
You've got this phrase that you use, which is "Stop having zoom fatigue," and can you share a little bit about how you get around it?
Lorry: Most people come to zoom meetings and in my experience so far, this is not 100% to show up, they want to tell their boss or participating and when you do that, it becomes a routine you go I gotta go another zoom meeting. I have developed systems that supercharge your networking when you go to a zoom meeting. I have pre-built templates that have connection requests, they have a spot for pictures, a spot for me to write down who I want to connect to, the outline of a post for an event. So when I go to a zoom event, it's like networking in person for me because I come prepared. What usually happens is after an event, I do a post about an event's organization before they even think about doing it. So for me, the zoom meetings are refreshing because it gives me a competitive edge. I'm the first post, I put a plugin for my company and it's given me 1000s of new connections. So it's not fatigue-free. I've sort of gamed the system, using simple ideas to build a system that allows me to get a giant multiplier effect from a zoom meeting.
Can you share from your personal experiences your most successful or favorite networking story that you've had?
Elzie: When I look at networking, I'm a farmer, right in terms of how I approach business and how I approach giving value to people. I like to cultivate and water the seed and build relationships. But I think it's extremely important to be authentic and genuine in that relationship as well. You're not looking for a sale or looking for what you can get, you're truly and authentically looking for how you can help and how you can add value, and how you can connect. When you go into any environment with that perspective and that mindset, amazing things happen. So I think a lot of the opportunities that I've had in business and life have come from and as a result of those relationships that have been cultivated. So I think for me, the key is being authentic and open minded and adding value to people, and being that connector.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network?
Lorry: There's two things that go hand in hand: Having interesting content that people want to look for and engaging them by responding to their posts. I had to slow down because I got busy at work and one of my former bosses, who never comments or likes on anything, says, "I noticed you slowed down." I hear that a lot from people who watch what I'm doing, enjoy reading it, but they never like or comment. So that's the true gauge of your engagement. There are always the people who like and comment, but the ones who don't are your real audience, because there are probably three of those to everyone who engages so you have to have interesting content. So I write Lunch with Lorry stories about people I met, and I find amazing connections. My last one, I network in Florida now of all places. I meet our gentlemen, Ed Katz, who tells me his favorite hobby is baseball. He tells me a story about how he took a picture with Willie Mays. Willie Mays was my idol growing up. When I lived in Chicago, I would go to Cub games and cheer against the Cubs because I like the giants and here he's showing me a picture of Willie Mays. Those connections you just find with people from talking to them or would drive engagement. I have a connection to him going forward, he will always remember that. He actually after that call, introduced me to a real high-end networking group in New York City. So that's the thing if you engage people, and they love what you're engaged on your content stories you share, they refer you on.
What advice would you offer that business professional who is looking to grow their network?
Lorry: It depends on the purpose. So Lunch with Laurie is a general networking company. So I will connect with everybody, I want a very broad network. But I mine that network, the people I meet who might not be a connection for my business part of my network, I mine their second and third-level connections to find potential business out there. So I'm a general networker who hones in on specific people who can help me in my accounting solutions and clarity business. So I have a hybrid strat strategy. Some people might be very focused and only want to talk to people who could give them business and there are others that it is meet anybody with no other purpose. It depends on what your goals are in life.
Elzie: I think in addition to what Lorry shared is being organized as is super important. My CRM is my best friend, to tag different contacts and what they might be looking for because I meet a lot of people. Sometimes even though I'm good with faces, I will forget your name. So my CRM helps keep me in alignment with who I've met, what we talked about, what they're looking for at the time, and ways that I can have those touchpoints that if I were relying on my memory, it will fail me, catastrophically. Having it organized helps me focus on those relationships and maintain them.
Elzie: I would just tell myself to stay focus, stay steady, and be open. I think that that would be the guiding principles that would still allow me to get those experiences because my experiences have made me who and what I am today. But I think understanding the focus and steady, right, because sometimes young people, they go really, really fast, but they're everywhere, they're not focused. So one of the things I tell my son is, you know, be steady and focused because when you're setting and focused you gain a lot of ground at a pace that's sustainable and allows you to grow.
Lorry: I was more of an analytical introvert, and I didn't like failure. I would go back and embrace failure. Every time I fail it reinvigorates me to do something different and come up with answers. I wish I would have learned failure is the cost of goods sold of success at a younger age.
Any final word of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Lorry: If you're an introvert, come to a Lunch of Lorry networking event because you will feel comfortable doing it because you're talking about yourself not asking other people to stop. Even though it might scare you up first, almost every introvert who's come I've got a note after that said, "Thank you, I didn't want to come but it was a great environment and I felt comfortable talking and participating." So just take that first step, it's a great way to start networking.
Elzie: I would just add that I happen to believe that it exists on a spectrum. There are people who are extreme introverts, and there are people who have extreme extroverts. I happen to be an ambivert, which is somewhere on that spectrum. So I think this lunch with Laurie is a cool event because whether you're on one side of either of the spectrums, you'll still get a ton out of it. So if you're an extreme extrovert, you'll love laughing at the people's stories and if you're an extreme introvert, you'll, you know, come out of your shell a bit and understand that it's okay, and if you're in the middle like me, you'll laugh at both the introvert and the extrovert.
Connect with Elzie and Lorry:
Elzie’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elziedflenardiii/
Lorry’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lunchwithlorry/
Since founding his company SEO National in 2007, Damon Burton Writes for Forbes has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, BuzzFeed, and USA Weekly. He's helped high-profile clients make more in a month than they used to in a year. Not only does Burton bring an easy to follow approach to increasing your revenue and online visibility, but he’s also a trusted educator on this subject and has literally written the book on how to outrank your competition. His book, Outrank, serves as a guide to those who want to dominate Google's search results without paying for ads.
I was looking into your website and I'm intrigued by the story about how you beat a billion-dollar company in showing up higher than them in the search engines. Can you share that with our listeners?
Yeah, that's a fun story. It was actually kind of in the infancy of when I jumped into the SEO world and it was just a little hobby site. So this around 2007, my wife was watching the Bachelor and she says, "Hey, babe, it's the season finale, come in to watch this with me. So I went in and watched a little bit of it and from what I remember from watching season finales with her before, is that they wouldn't announce who the next bachelor was going to be, they'd leave a cliffhanger and you'd have to wait. What was interesting about this year, and now in subsequent years, is they announced who the gentleman was going to be. So I was curious about why they did that and I went and looked him up, assuming that I would find information on their website about it and I couldn't find anything on their website. But it was this guy who was a Navy Captain, and he runs triathlons. So I thought to myself if I'm not really that interested in it because it was more just a brief curiosity and all these huge diehard fans are going to be interested in it, they're certainly looking. So I told my wife, I said, "Hey, I'm gonna be in here for a little bit," and so that night, I spent 90 minutes building a website, and cataloged any public information I could find about this guy and put it up. By the end of the week, it was the number one website for this bachelor guy and we were able to outrank The Bachelor website and ABC is a multi-billion dollar brand so it's a fun story to share. So at the time, I was in my early 20s, and I put AdSense on there so I was making like 1000s of dollars a month in passive income. But at the core, why that's such a good success story is because I solved the problem. I answered questions that the consumers were demanding and so that's a simplistic way of looking at SEO. That was not the most beautiful website, but it solved the problem. It had some pictures of the guy that people were looking for, had the bio on the guy that people were looking for, had resources on the guy that people were looking for, and then I'm hesitant to admit it, but then I started adding updates at the end of each show that season about what was going on with his story on The Bachelor.
Let's talk about ads in search engines a little bit, why would you pay for ads when you can get sales from search engines for free?
There are some pros and cons to any marketing campaign. The nice thing about ads is that they're quicker than SEO, SEO is a slow game, but that's the only advantage. The disadvantages of ads are that you always have an ad budget. So as that space becomes more competitive, you have to pay more, you have to increase your budget. Then there's also a shelf life to your ad. A lot of people will be familiar with the term "ad fatigue," where someone has an ad on Google or Facebook and it runs great for six weeks, and then you wake up the next day, and it's dead. So you're always having a scramble on turning these ads off and on. A lot of people I know that actively run aggressive ad campaigns, they are literally in their ad campaigns every day and that becomes tiring. So to the opposite of that, I'm not wanting to say that SEO is the only way, I think there's a time in place for all of them. But with SEO, the advantages and disadvantage of the complete opposite of paid ads. The goal with SEO is to show up higher on search engines without paying for ads by building up the credibility of your website. So the only downside to SEO is that it's a slower play, you can easily be into it for six months to a year before you see any movement. I tell all our new clients that you need to mentally commit to at least a year. So you have to have not only the patience but you have to have the cash flow and the runway to pay for something that's not going to drive a return for probably at the earliest three to six months. But once it kicks in, then you have all these other advantages. You don't have the daily ad fatigue that you have to check all the time, you don't have a fluctuating ad budget, you have a fixed management fee to your SEO agency. Once you get to the top, unless you're playing in the gray area of SEO and doing some risky tactics, you've got to work pretty hard to screw it up. Once you're there, you're there and then you can start to snowball your reach of showing up for this handful of keywords and leverage your newfound credibility to show up for another handful of keywords. So as long as you have the patience and cash flow to cover that investment in the early months, it's way more consistent and stable with less drama.
I imagine when you talk about ads and retargeting ads, if you invest in SEO, then you're spending less money on retargeting if that's a strategy versus trying to get additional paid users to your site.
Yeah for sure. I've owned SEO national for 14 years and other than a few experiments out of curiosity, we have literally never spent $1 on advertising and we've done business with multi-billion dollar companies. You can build a hugely successful, scalable business without having to pay for ads.
I agree 100%. People go to Google because they have a challenge and as long as your site is set up to prove that you can solve that problem, Google's gonna display you.
Yeah, depending on the industry, organic listings will have a better buyer too, especially when you start comparing against Facebook paid ads. Because what happens on paid ads is you are the shiny bubble gum wrapper at the checkout stand. Maybe not so much on Google ads, but definitely on Facebook ads and social ads because you interrupted them and you're like, "Hey, look at me." So then they might go, "Oh, yeah, I've been thinking about that thing," but with search engine traffic, people made a proactive decision to go search something very specifically. So you have a higher quality lead with better buyer intent because they are the ones that initiated the query to find the right solution, which is hopefully you.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So my business model is largely based on relationships. We do SEO for ourselves, but other than that, we don't do paid ads, as I mentioned. I would say referrals are probably 90% of our business and the other 10% is through networking relationships. So a couple of years ago, we were introduced to the Utah Jazz and they were looking to increase their sales of retail merchandise, hats, and jerseys through their division called team store. So what happened was, I had a gentleman reach out on LinkedIn that said, "Hey, I saw your post about XY and Z, can you come in and chat." They just happened to be local, which was interesting, because most of our clients, I've never met in person, and they're in other states. So this guy was about 15 minutes away and I went into their boardroom and had a very formal conversation with all the head honchos. Then when I left, he hit me up an hour or two later and said, "Hey, thanks for coming in, what doesn't happen often is usually you leave a marketing meeting more confused and that wasn't the case with you, you came in and not only did you tell us the advantages of what you offer, but you also told us the disadvantages, you told us that it takes time." So he ended up moving forward and becoming a client. Two weeks after they were a client we were still going through the onboarding process, but he could see how organized we were in how we launched the campaign, how we sequenced certain engagements and actions. So two weeks into the campaign, he says, "Hey, when I introduce you to my neighbor, he works for this law firm in Vegas," and so I said, "Okay, great, let's talk." So he sends the introduction to this guy, we end up onboarding his Vegas law firm. So here within three weeks, from one post, we have two clients. Then with this law firm guy, one week later, he says, "Hey, I want to introduce you to the Utah Jazz," like that’s out of the left field. In my mind, I thinking like, "Yeah, of course, that's awesome, but who are you?" So come to find out, he was the guy, he was the exiting vice president of their retail sales. They were restructuring how their team store was ran, he was taking a different opportunity with some friends at the law firm to do their logistics and marketing. So he was the guy and I could not have spent a million dollars on Facebook paid ads, Google ads, postcards, anything, to get that introduction to make that meeting to have that type of relationship to work with the Utah Jazz.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships that you're creating?
One thing that I try to protect is the personal side of it because logistically, you get to a point of scale where it's hard to manage all those individual relationships. So you have to consider bringing on a team and VAs to help with that, but then you don't want to delete the message and the brand, and you don't want to delete the relationship. So for me what I found is you're growing so fast that you have to make some quick changes and so part of those changes is how I manage my LinkedIn network. What I've done is I'm hyper-protective of the relationship, like I want these relationships. I don't know if it's for selfish reasons, because they just make me feel good and I like talking with people, but I like the non-business side of business and I want to protect that. But I don't have the time anymore to respond to all of these comments on the post, which is awesome and I don't have the time to check my inbox every day, which is an awesome problem, but at the same time, I don't want to just pass it to a VA. So what I've done is I've documented guidelines for my team. So I have one person that works on comments, and one person that works on my inbox. What I've done is I've said, "Hey, anything, that's a general comment, go ahead and acknowledge it, give it give thanks, whatever is applicable, but anytime there's anything that either is an opportunity to build a relationship or is an SEO specific question that I can help somebody with, let me know." So every morning I wake up, and my team members that handle this, we communicate through Skype. So every morning, I wake up, get in Skype, and I’ve got like 26, links to LinkedIn in my Skype of comments that they've identified and they're like here's an opportunity for Damon to be Damon. Or somebody that replied to a new contact, whether it was them engaging me or me, engaging them, where they actually asked a question. So I've built these roles that allow me to scale the personality and nurture relationships in the way I want to without bottlenecking it. So I think that'll help a lot of people. I don't think it's the answer for everybody, but I think what I would try to emphasize out of that example is to think outside of the box and stop thinking that you can't scale a personality. If you have a problem, figure out what the solution is, and then try to reverse engineer your own way to accomplish it. I'm confident other people are out there, talking and offering courses or coaching or whatever on doing what I just did, but I've never seen it and so I just came up with a solution that I felt would solve my problems and protect what I wanted to protect.
What advice do you have for that professional that's looking to grow their network?
Stop looking for the shortcuts. The further along I get in my career, the more I realize I'm kind of the oddball out because I've never spent any money on ads, my entire team is remote, I've never met any of them, my longest employee has been with me for 12 years, and I've never had an employee quit. So all these things I've realized in retrospect, I didn't realize the value and the safety net of reoccurring invoicing, the safety net that provides. So all these things have become this huge blessing just because I did them because it felt right. It certainly wasn't the quickest game, but to come all the way around to the question of what advice can I offer, I would say, to carve your own path. One of the biggest things that I know contributed to what I've been able to accomplish is by being uncomfortable with the unknown. What I mean by that is, I started my agency 15 years ago and I had no idea that this was going to be my career, but I was okay with that. I was confident that at some point, I'd be self-employed, I didn't know that I'd own a company. I certainly didn't know in what capacity that company would operate, but I was okay with that. I think the problem that a lot of people run into, especially now with social media. Social media is cool for whatever it's cool for, but the downside is that it just glorifies so much. You should glorify your entrepreneurial wins, but you shouldn't be obsessed with other people's entrepreneurial wins, because you have no idea what went on behind that. There's that cliche quote that overnight success usually takes 10 years and it's totally true. So just try to stay in your lane, don't be obsessed with other people's shiny objects, don't be obsessed with what chapter in life other people are on, and don't prematurely commit to something you're going to regret later, yeah, it might be attractive now, but if you know that's not what you want to do long term, you're gonna hate yourself in 5-10 years, and then you're gonna think, "Holy crap, I just waited 5-10 years." I think it's a little bit of delayed gratification and if you're willing to play by that rule then you'll be happier in the long run.
Connect with Damon:
As a business mindset coach and rapid transformational therapist Cyrina is passionate about helping business owners understand how to navigate growth. Their business is leading them to a place that is amazing, but also unfamiliar. Her work focuses on mindset and becoming confident to step into the next level, bringing you scientifically proven techniques to get your subconscious on board so you have 100% of your mind working with you and for you, no longer working against you.
Why don't you share a little bit about how our subconscious affects our business?
So the main thing to understand is that science can hook up things to our brains and measure them. I think there's a lot of misconceptions about your subconscious that it’s this deep dark place or whatnot, but it's our autopilot, it's our programming, and what happens is there's a state they can measure brainwaves. So there's a state that we're living in, between the age of birth and 10, where that's all getting programmed. Then around 12, you start being able to think abstract and more logically, and all that kind of stuff. So that programming is set, and then it's running and a lot of times the way we were raised, the experiences we had, the beliefs about money, the beliefs about relationships, and success, and all those kinds of things are in contrast to the direction we want our business to go. We might have grown up learning that rich people are snobs or greedy, or we don't want to be like those people, or money is evil. You might not notice them until then, and as a business owner, we have to show up more, we have to put ourselves out there, we have to accept more money, we have to raise our prices, we have to sell. So all those things, if there's anything in your past that goes against where you're headed in your business, it's going to mess with you. So it's affecting business owners anytime you're struggling to take the action that you want to take and I think it's something inherent in all of us as well, this idea to put yourself out there and selling your product and service. That takes a lot of belief in ourselves and there's not a ton of people that had the ideal growing up experience where you didn't hit any bumps in the road that knock that down and take your confidence and have at least a couple of beliefs that go against how you need to show up in your business.
What is one way to change a limiting belief?
To me, the number one thing is knowing that we can change. Old science was like, Oh, well, you're wet cement before age 10 and you're getting imprinted or whatever and then you're just stuck. I think a lot of the belief to overcome is like, "Oh, I just don't do that, I can't do that, that's just not my personality." But when you know, any challenge that you're coming up against, you can change. To me, that's the most powerful one. But it's awareness, it's knowing, okay, I raised my prices and I'm procrastinating, I'm not taking action to let anybody know, maybe there's something here. That process of self-reflection and awareness is a huge step. I have people get out a piece of paper, write anything that they're struggling with, and ask why am I not showing up? Why am I afraid to raise my prices? Why am I freaking out and procrastinating about this? Just that process of asking that question and listening is crucial because our consciousness is just thinking, thinking all day long, your heartbeats and your lungs breathe, and your mind thinks. But if you write down a question on a piece of paper, you ask yourself a question, and you listen, then you're automatically in that different state, instead of just like this constant diatribe from your brain, of all the things, you just kind of get quiet and listen and see what comes up.
How is this different than positive thinking? Because that's another avenue that I see is just to remain positive to have a positive mindset, but this seems like it's a different approach.
It's funny because your subconscious runs around 95% of your brain. So if in your conscious, you're going, I'm successful, I'm amazing. I'm a millionaire. And you have a subconscious belief, it's going to kind of be like, Yeah, no, whatever. So it's understanding that to make lasting changes, you've got to get that subconscious on board. If you're saying these things to yourself in front of the mirror, a lot of people like the affirmations and these kinds of things, and there's a part of you that's arguing with it. Again, it's really important to listen to the part that's arguing and figuring out okay, what's that belief. That's why a lot of times the affirmations and the things we do in our conscious, don't work as well, because it's only 3% or 5% of our mind. Now, a lot of things you can look in the mirror and say, I'm wonderful, and I'm good and if there's no argument, if there's no part of your mind going, "Yeah, whatever, you're full of crap," then you're good. But if that comes up and you're finding yourself saying them and getting nowhere, that's when you know, there's something going on that's deeper that needs addressing.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Yeah, so I lived for the past 20 years and Central Wisconsin a couple of hours north of Milwaukee, and moved down here, August of 2019. When I still lived in Central Wisconsin, I had just started my business three years ago, and I was looking for Facebook Groups and I googled, "women helping women in Wisconsin," and "women, Wisconsin entrepreneurs," I just googled it in the Facebook search to see what was there. I found Melissa Blair's group, Wisconsin Women Helping Women Entrepreneurs. So as part of that group already, when I was moving down here, I was like, "Okay, I'm going to just make a post and ask, I need an office, I'm going to look for an office," and someone responded right away. I had we lived down here, I think just a couple of weeks, and I met with a woman named Sarah Feldman. We ended up talking in her office for at least an hour and I told her my whole story. She was really generous with her time and she's like, "Okay, I'm having a women's event in a month, and I want you to be on the panel," And I was like, "Okay, that sounds great!" So it was and it was a fabulous event. She's like, "Let's just cut through the bull, and have women entrepreneurs really talk about it and their struggles and, be open about it." It was a really cool event, you had some amazing speakers. Then at that event, I met Todd Reed, who since then have collaborated and connected with their community. Their networking community is phenomenal, the people are awesome and that was just from a random Facebook post looking for an office.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the network and community that you've created?
It's a love-hate relationship with Facebook because this is where a lot of them live. I kind of ebb and flow like I'm on a good amount and then I go over to way too much and then I pull back. But what I try to do in groups is answer questions, share recommendations, share any free content that I have, videos that I make, or podcasts. My main thing is helping people overcome anxiety. So whatever those limiting beliefs are, they show up most of the time and anxiety and overwhelm and so explaining to people grab a piece of paper, start asking questions. You can do that for free right now and you may be surprised what comes up when you just have that conversation. Those kinds of things like sharing whatever info that I'm that I have, that may be helpful really helps, just giving.
What advice would you have for that business professional who's looking to grow their network?
I think the biggest thing is to show up. Put a post, ask a question, speak up, share. I've heard from a lot of people and I've certainly experienced this myself, where you walk into the room, and you feel like you don’t belong. I think it's having that belief that I do belong here, people want to hear what I have to say, I have something to contribute, I have something to give and walking into it like that like we're all equals, and realizing I'm probably not the only one that's a little nervous right now changes everything. I know in my own life, saying people want to hear what I have to say is a really powerful statement. Again, coming into the networking group space with that, what can I give here, how can I serve here attitude allows people to tell that you're there to give.
The main thing for me, in my 20s I was just trying so hard to be a success and get people's approval and prove my worth. So the main thing I would say is "Sweetie, you are good, you're valuable, you're worthy, you're enough just the way you are," and instead of trying to earn the worth, get the worth first, then do your business, it'll be a lot more fun. Work on your self-worth, then you're gonna be able to do your business with a whole different healthy way of operating.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who is someone that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
So I have a four-day-old relationship with a person that I've seen on YouTube that I greatly respect. His name is Dr. Greg Carr. So the YouTube channel is called In Class with Carr and he's like this history Encyclopedia. So when I work with my clients, I empower them with knowledge, right? Like even the conversation we had, is it normal to do this? Yes. When you know it's normal to behave the way you're behaving, you have tons less stress because you don't think you're insane. So to me, he's providing that knowledge around our current political environment going, "Hey guys, here's the deal, here's the history," and just providing so much knowledge that for me is taking my anxiety away. He's in DC and my brothers in Virginia Beach so I feel like my brother might know someone who knows someone in DC. Then there's another networking group that I'm part of called polka dot powerhouse. I would guess, if I said the Facebook page, "Hey, I'm looking to connect with someone, he's at Howard University in DC, does anybody know anybody there?" I bet I could at least get a good start there.
What any final words of advice to our listeners around the topic of growing and supporting your network?
Just show up, share your gifts, and set that intention. I'm here to meet people and serve. Trust that sales are going to happen, you don't need to worry about that and, always having that intention of giving. Lastly, just have fun!
Connect with Cyrina:
Joe is a Wisconsin native with a long history in the Milwaukee SMB community who owns a local tech company for 20 years. After divesting that he invested in a couple of startups. One of them is security-related and the cool one is Lite Zilla, a Milwaukee manufacturer of jumbo lite brites, yes, just like the ones you played as a kid. His day job is Mother G, a compass MSP that goes beyond offering managed services. They're 100% dedicated to providing lightswitch dependable technology to Wisconsin SMBs.
What would be your number one technology tip for small businesses?
My number one tip would be to check your security settings. If you don't know what that means, find a partner or a vendor who can help you check your security settings. A lot of small businesses, when I say confused, they feel like they're small so nobody wants to hack them. The reality is, it's all automated, it's all a business. In 2020, for the first time, the amount of money flowing through cybersecurity hacks exceeded the amount of money in the illicit drug trade in the world. They're not picking on you, because they want your secret widget designs, they're picking on you because you have an IP address, it's that simple. Look at your security, look at your vendor security. There been a couple of vendors in town, who you know, have been exposed, who've been hacked and once they get through there, they've got your keys to your kingdom. So be really, really careful, only the Paranoid survive.
Can you speak a bit about how COVID impacts SMB technology?
One of the big ones is the whole work from home thing and the whole remote connectivity, but that certainly ties back to the security factor. Those are all entry points into your company network. There's a lot of great tools out there. We use a lot of Microsoft Teams, and I've been using it for a couple of years since I joined Mother G. Probably the biggest impact of COVID is that a lot of those remote communications, remote collaboration, productivity tools have pushed down into the Small Business space because people couldn't come to the office. By the same token, on that security side, the bad guys are certainly taken advantage of people's uncertainty, people's conductivity, and frankly, people's people's goodwill, in terms of sending phishing emails to make a donation or support people who are out of work, that kind of thing and it's the bad guys trying to get your credentials and empty your bank account. So the security risks have gone up in the last nine months since everything shut down last March. So those are the two biggest impacts is the connectivity stuff and the security risks.
What are your thoughts on the future of SMB technology?
Not to beat a dead horse, but security is only going to get bigger. The other big thing that we're seeing with a lot of customers is looking at the productivity factors. One of the hidden benefits, if you will, of the whole experience of the last nine or ten months in terms of SMB technology is people starting to think differently. A year ago, there were a lot of small business owners who would think that everybody's got to be in the office and they can't be productive if everybody's not in the office and that's not the case. Now, at the same time, there are better and less good ways to do it. I think one of the biggest things looking forward to the future is how do we, as business leaders, and as business owners, you know, you own your business. You've got a staff of X number of people, you want to keep them both happy and productive, you probably have an entirely new appreciation today than you did a year ago, in terms of the struggle that some of your employees have. What does that mean to them on a day in, day out, based on how can the technology help to bridge those gaps, keep them productive, while helping them to balance the very real, very distinct responsibilities between the work in their family, between their job and their kids kind of thing. So I think the biggest way for small companies is looking for ways to leverage those tools to maintain that productivity to maintain that balance. So whether that's Teams, Zoom, or SharePoint, cloud-based MRP, and CRM systems where you don't have to be necessarily tethered to a local area, wired network in an office, you can access things remotely.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So here's my all-time favorite story. There's a guy, his name is John Mariano and he's an exceptional business banker here in town. So my friend and I were in a group together for a long time and he had his 25th-anniversary party. I'm standing at one of these high top tables and this guy walks up, you know, mutual friends, and there's probably three or four of them standing there. On the table in front of me is a glass of wine, and I'd never met this guy so he walks up to the table, he sets his drink down and he extends his hand to shake mine and then in doing so, blows a glass of wine all over the front of me. The look on his face is mortified, beyond mortified. I just started laughing which sort of breaks the tension. We got to be really good friends, that was several years ago. That's my best intro and we still laugh about it every time I see him now. You know it happens, we're all human. Right?
How do you stay best in front of or nurture these relationships that you've created?
I think the most important factor there is just to be intentional about it. I have been doing this a long time and you do learn things over the years. Sometimes it's digital stuff, sometimes it's in-person stuff. Having heard some of your conversations with other folks, certainly, it's been more digital stuff in the last 9-10 months, and a lot of people are missing that personal connection. But the way to stay in front, and the way to nurture and stay connected, is just to be intentional about it. Make sure that you do it doesn't have to be a big production. If you're on LinkedIn, and somebody posts something it strikes you as cool, share it, if it strikes me as important, chances are a good enough segment of the people that I'm connected to are going to agree, and they're gonna have a look. Whether it's a personal story, or whether it's somebody's success or their new job, or whether it's a cause worth supporting, or a business pivoting to a new market, share it and share directly with that person. We all appreciate the acknowledgment and affirmation, but I think the biggest key is to be intentional about it and make it part of your normal routine.
What advice would you offer those that are looking to grow their network?
My biggest bit of perspective beyond to be intentional about it is seek first to help, seek first to give, to be useful. Don't go into it with the perspective of asking for something or looking for something, but being real is incredibly important. Lead with being real in terms of how you can help. A long time ago when I was just getting started in sales there was an in-person networking group I was in. Remember those days when there were actually in-person networking groups and groups of people would gather for breakfast and coffee and they would stand up and do their networking spiel in person? Those were the days. But the whole model of the group was givers gain if you give you will gain and I think that's really important. I think that's arguably the single most important thing. I'm a firm believer in it goes around and comes around and do the right thing and that would absolutely be my first advice to somebody looking to grow their network.
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?
The one thing that I would tell myself is, when I was in my early 20s, my first job out of college, I had a dear friend, and I'm old enough that back in those days, we didn't have email to send memes round. So she actually faxed me. between our offices, we work for the same consulting company, a poem or whatever you call it, it's called The Station by Robert Hastings. It's basically about life being a journey and the joy is in the trip kind of thing, right? So it struck a chord and if I could tell myself one thing it would be to internalize that even better than I did. It's just a really good reminder and it's that lesson of doing the right thing, enjoy the trip and live every day. But by the same token, don't get too caught up in the minutia. That certainly goes for the business world where you're gonna have victories, you're gonna have defeats, you're gonna have successes, you're gonna have challenges and, you'll learn something from the things that go wrong which you'll apply to make more things go right. Focus on the fact that it's the journey, not the destination that we're looking for.
What would be your final words of advice to our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Keep it real. The easiest way to turn somebody off is to pretend to be something that you're not because the truth always comes out. So keep it real, be who we are, if it's not a fit move on, and if it's not a relationship worth continuing then move on, another bus comes along every time every 20 minutes. There was always another chip in the bag, reach in the bag and grab one. So be who you are, be real, try to help, what goes around comes around, and be intentional about it. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second-best time is today so get after it, and be yourself and go have fun with it.
Connect with Joe:
Ashley is the first and only networking concierge that puts you in the right situation or gets you out of the wrong one. As a networking concierge, Ashley trains coaches and speaks on becoming an authority at generating revenue by networking with intention. Ashley is the host of two digital TV talk shows on RVNTV and THIS IS IT TV speaking and interviewing on the topic of tactical networking.
As someone who speaks, talks, teachers, coaches, all things networking, what has been the most effective networking tip that you have ever received?
The best one that I received, which I try to talk about all the time is nobody gives a damn about what you do. Nobody cares, they care how you make them feel and what value can bring to their lives. So I think the biggest challenge a lot of people have in that capacity is that people always forget, when they're in a networking situation or, doing networking activities that they always have to be on. There is a level of good perception and good manners and being respectful, but at the end of the day, people buy or work with or connect with people that they know, that they like, and that they trust. So having that stigma of trying to sell something or trying to impress that person needs to go away because there's no room for that we've got things to do.
How do you know how you're making someone feel?
You look at their body language, and you can understand or at least start to be more in tune with how they're perceiving you as a person. If you're framing out a conversation that is beneficial to the two of you, you always want to lead with service. So one of the things that I try to tell my clients is that we are lucky to be able to network, really, how lucky are we to be able to do that. So when you are of service, and when you are communicating with somebody new, it's really important to make them feel good, but also to allow them to showcase their businesses. Ask the right questions, be naturally curious. You as somebody who enjoys to network has to lead them in a way that's beneficial to them. You'll get the information that you need from them, whether they're in a small business, big business, or if they're looking to meet that particular kind of person, but the goal is to be naturally curious, and you can make them feel comfortable by having actual interest in what they do.
I'm interested in your coaching process, how do you educate your audience on what networking is?
The thing I try to focus on is that networking took a significant change in the logistics, and the fluidity of it, so everything went virtual. A lot of groups and organizations did have virtual options, but it was kind of more cliche, and everyone would typically go to events. So the way that I coach my clients was different before the pandemic than what it is now because you adjust and you grow within the needs of your client, that's what any good coach does. As a coach, I have a responsibility to train my clients in a way that's meaningful to them, which means that my personality may not match everybody else's personality, but they still need my help. So my job is to make sure that I understand how they make decisions and what drives them to complete tasks. So within my coaching sessions, I run a disc profile on them, it's an emotional intelligence assessment so I know what activities to align their decision-making process with the networking activity. For example, for an introvert, I'm not going to put them into a 60 or 90 person networking event, even if it's online, because they're not going to have the ability to communicate in a way that's beneficial to them. Whereas identifying good groups to be a part of and giving them strategies to connect with people one on one, and how to ask for those meetings and putting more of a stress on LinkedIn is the better option for them so they feel more comfortable. Networking is a personal activity, it's not a one size fits all thing. So the way that I coach my clients is understanding that there is fear attached to networking, it's putting yourself out there. I can empathize with that and it's my job to one, champion them and make sure my client feels that they have me at all times to help them navigate through these activities and two, to be that person in their army. To me a network is not a support system, it's not a fan base, it's not an audience, you're building an army. When you build an army, for you to lead people to fight for you in that army, you have to fight for them tenfold before they can even think about running into battle with you. So when you build a network, you're building an army. For you to lead that army and to advocate for you or to fight for you when you're not in the room, you have to do that for them way more than they'll ever do that for you. So my job is to be that number two for them so they can feel comfortable, they can brainstorm, and they can work with me on a monthly basis and navigate through the activities that bring the results of building a very robust and strong network.
What would you say the biggest stigma about networking is?
The biggest stigma I feel about networking is in the midst of two different things. One is not everybody who blatantly tries to sell to you is bad. The reason why is because I feel like they're just not educated yet, in best practices. So when I see somebody come up to me and throw a business card in my face, starts to do the whole salesy bit in a networking environment, I take it as a really interesting challenge and a teachable moment to ask them the questions that allow them to think differently. If they can do that, then I can guide them into a better experience with me, a more conducive experience for myself, and allowing them to see a different way of having the conversation. I don't necessarily blame people for that activity, because they just don't know yet. If I have the pleasure and the privilege of doing what I do, then I want to help pivot their mindset, even if it's in the first 15 minutes to show them a really good way of actually having a conversation and getting out of it what we both want. So I think the biggest stigma is everybody who that that shifty salesperson isn't necessarily a bad person, they just aren't educated yet on best practices. The second biggest stigma is that people feel like they have to meet with everyone, and you don't. This was a hard lesson for me to learn at the very beginning of this business because I thought that the quantity of how many people I had in my network was the validity of my business. I learned very quickly that a great group of people who advocated for you when you're not in the room was better than the 14 new people that I met that day. The difference between a network and a friendship is in the follow-up, you're staying top of mind, but you're also providing value. You do not have to be with every single person, but you also have to identify what time you're spending on nurturing a network and building one.
How do you say no, without feeling like a terrible human being and how do you identify the right investment of my time with this person?
I can say no without saying no. There is there's a boundary that you start to build and I think it came from the fact that I was spending so much time with new people that I started feeling guilty about not nurturing the network that I had currently built to the most of my ability. So what I decided to do was not necessarily say no, but just decrease the amount of time allocated to the things I wanted to say no to. So in the beginning, I would have introductions, phone calls with people for half an hour, then I would have consultation phone calls with people for half an hour before they jumped into all the training stuff that I have. What I found was beneficial was to do 15-minute phone calls only, do not take every new person on a zoom call, because zoom fatigue is 100% real and just make sure that when you say yes to a new person for a 15-minute phone call, you know why they want to talk to you, and then also have at the ready resources that you can share so you can still be a value to them. Everybody's got 15 minutes for somebody looking for your help. I think the reason why I stress that so much is because I take every phone call I get and I answer every email. I stick to that because when I was working as a waitress, I lost my job due to my employer losing her mind and firing her entire staff. So when I got back home to Jersey, I felt completely defeated and devalued. I had a gentleman and two people come over and sit at my table and they asked me what kind of burger should we get today. I was doing bits with each of these guys and saying, "Maybe you want this burger and add some jalapenos," and of course I was upselling them, but the goal was just to enjoy the conversation I had with them. At the end of the meal, they reached back out to me and said, "Hey, would you send us your resume?" I said, "Okay, thank you, but show it in the tip, guys, thanks very much, show your appreciation in the tip," I didn't believe them. The next day, the owner of that company, who was my customer came over and talked to my boss and said, "Can you grab Ashley?" and when he came over he said, "Hey, you never gave us your resume." So within a week, I went over, had aa interview with them, and within 24 hours, I had a 401k, I had a salary, I had benefits and I had a job working for an online e-commerce furniture company and it was because they gave me the time of day, they saw the value when I saw nothing in me, they gave me the opportunity and they plucked me out of being a waitress. I have a fear of missing an opportunity to not give back the way that those guys did for me. So I'll always take the call, but I do understand decreasing the amount of time for those activities that don't make sense.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite or most successful stories or experiences you've had networking?
So I was giving a presentation to a technology startup group and I had a woman come over. Before she introduced herself, I saw her and she had such sadness and defeat in her eyes. I just felt incredible, overwhelming compassion for this one before she even came up. So we started talking, and she said to me, "I enjoyed your story, I think that your background is inspirational," which made me itch because I can't take a compliment. She was telling me she was a CPA and she had an idea for a business and I said, "Okay, well, tell me about your experience." This woman could have had a doctorate in CPA-isms, she had 18 years and incredible certifications, but she was so dismissive of it and it angered me because of how she dismissed her credentials. I asked her almost aggressively, "What's the worst that can happen? You try it for six months, see where it goes, give yourself a deadline." She looked at me like I had either given her the key to the city or completely blew up her house. A year later, I get a call from a friend of hers who I've never met and she goes, "I don't know if you remember this woman, but she came to a presentation," and I was like, "Yes, of course, I remember." She goes, "I don't know if she's ever called you, but she started that business and she said to me, oftentimes that you are the reason why she's successful." I haven't spoken to the woman since I believe her name was Anne, I remember her not the name. It was one of the moments whereas an entrepreneur, that was just so fulfilling. That was my favorite networking story because me talking to her for 15 minutes and having the impact that I truly didn't even know I had on her was exactly why I started the business was to do what those guys did and that was the first instance of that happening.
How do you retain, nurture, and stay in front of this community that you're building?
It's all in the follow-up and the follow-up can come in different ways. So the follow up could be giving kudos on LinkedIn, it could be saying thank you, in an email, it could be reaching out to somebody and saying, "Hey, you should meet this person," just activities that keep you top of mind. It's just being helpful in that capacity. One of the ways to also stay in front is to do something, I like to call the tier one and tier two people. So when you build a network, the follow-up practices revolve around it can get overwhelming. You want to build your "A" team and your "B" team. What you do is you'd grab all of the company names off of LinkedIn, and throw them into an Excel file. Then whoever comes top of mind when you look at those industry names, throw their names into that Excel file, and that's your "A" team. The goal is you want to be able to nurture those people the most, because you've built the know, the like, and the trust factor with them. Your B team is people that you built the know, and the like, you will eventually trust them, you just need more time for you to start giving them referrals or making introductions. When you follow up, the goal would be to nurture the "A" team with any new people that you come in contact with. So by nurturing and by utilizing an Excel file to view your "A" team, when you're jumping on a call with somebody new or getting introduced to somebody new, and they are looking for other strategic partners. Now you're nurturing the "A" network by building networking equity by introducing them to that new person. It seems a little convoluted, but what you're doing is just making sure that the people that you built the know, like, and trust factor are nurtured by the new people that you can introduce them to.
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 honestly would just encourage and just say keep going. On Facebook, I look at time hops from like 10 years ago, and I write to my past self. Afterward, I share the post and I say, "Don't worry 2010 Ashley, you'll be able to do this, this and this," and it's just so therapeutic. You suffer for so long, thinking that you don't have any value, and then by the time you get to the point where you have the resources, the tools, and the experience to build something and get back and do what you want it to do it's a very euphoric feeling. I think the only advice I would give to my 20-year-old self is just keeping going, it'll get there, and ever everything is worth it.
What's your final piece of advice that you'd like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Build your group of champions to become your army!
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Pat's business, The Idea Coach helps small business owners understand their customers and refine their positioning so they can stand out and sell. Pat left a career in broadcast radio after 22 years to help small business owners grow. He focuses on coaching, content creation, and community hosting for small business owners. He hosts a weekly small business talk show called The Idea Collective Live, and two communities; The Idea Collective on Facebook, and The Idea Collective Collaboration Community.
How is running a small business or being an entrepreneur different than being an employee in a corporation?
The biggest difference comes from what happens every two weeks. I was in a corporation for a long time, 20 some odd years working for somebody else. One thing provided you're not in a terrible corporation you can count on is that paycheck. Now maybe it's not as big as you want it to be every two weeks, but it happens every two weeks. So that's what happens when you work for somebody else in a corporation. When you run your own thing, you eat what you kill. So if you run your own business, if you want to get paid every two weeks, you got to go out and sell something. Now it's kind of a scarcity mindset to focus on, Oh, I gotta go do something so I can make some money." But it also allows you to look at it from a supply-side and say, "Woah, if I go out and sell a bunch of stuff, I can make a lot of money!" So there is just a big difference between your personal relationship with your bank account when you work for somebody else, and when you work on your own.
Can I get your perspective on how content creation ties into building a network and these relationships?
It's something I've used a lot, creating content in order to get known. I know that sounds silly, but getting to know more people by creating content is not necessarily trying to become an influencer. You see on LinkedIn or on other social media platforms, or even just on people's websites, I'm going to do a blog, I'm going to do a podcast, I'm going to do a show and they think by doing content, people will know who they are and they'll get famous. But to me creating content is interviewing other people and using it as a networking strategy. So I create a weekly show called Idea Collective Live which is built on interviewing other people. I do that because there are a lot of smart people in our network and when you interview smart people, people give you the benefit of the doubt because you're hanging out with smart people. So they start thinking that you're pretty smart and then you also get yourself exposed to the smart people's network. So if I have Lori on my show, Lori has a lot of people who respect her and when she's on your show, then people who know Laurie know you. By doing content and building a stage or having a spotlight and shining it on other people allows you to go out and get known by the leading players in your network and meet people who don't already know you. It's a strategy that I've used quite a bit through live shows, podcasts, education nights, and networking events. The strategy has always been to build the stage and give it away because when you do that, you get a chance to extend your network to more people.
What's missing for most small business owners’ lives that would help them to perform better?
Time off, rest, support, all of this soft, squishy stuff that you don't learn in business school. I went to business school, they never talked about any of that stuff. They talk about finance, accounting, strategy, business plans, marketing, and sales. They talk about all that stuff, but they don't talk about all of the squishy, personal stuff that you need to be a great small business owner. Being a small business owner is a lifestyle, it's not a job. When you build your own company, and you build your own thing, it consumes everything around you. You make sacrifices with what you eat when you work out, how often you see your family, what time you get up, what time you go to bed, where you go, what you do. Everything changes to suit what you need to do to make money and grow your thing. So that support idea is what I built the Idea Collective Community about. The phrase that we use in the group is, "Don't grow it alone." When you're growing your small business alone, you end up not having accountability partners or people to celebrate your success with or people to just bounce questions off of. That's the market opportunity for the idea collective. It's not just business, it's business and life because like I say, being a small business owner is really a lifestyle and not a lot of people talk about that and I wish more people did.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I think my favorite one goes all the way back to the beginning because I came out of corporate America from 20 some odd years in the radio business. When you work in radio, you know a lot of people and what I mean by that is you do business with a bunch of people. So I was the director of marketing and innovation for WTMJ radio in Milwaukee and I knew all the people in the Packers organization and all the people in the Bucks organization and the Brewers organization, and even more, because TMJ does a lot of business with some really interesting people. But then when I left corporate America, I realized I didn't know these people at all. I did business with them, but that's different than networking with people. My favorite experience was walking into the Brookfield chamber, which is my networking home base, and realizing here's a roomful of people doing business who don't know who I am because TMJ is not in my name badge anymore and I don't know who they are because I've never really had a good networking conversation in my entire life. They taught me how to network and that is as simple as, "How can I help you?" and then shutting up and listening and then helping if you can. Then you rinse and repeat for the rest of your life. So my favorite networking memory is walking into the Brookfield chamber for the first time and realizing the difference between knowing people and networking with people and it was the start of the journey.
How do you best stay in front of and nurture your network?
That's a challenge because if you're networking in a couple of different places, you have to consistently show up. There are days when you don't want to show up and there are times when maybe you're not showing up as often as you should be, but showing up is the rule and getting in front of even the people you think you know, well, and asking them consistently, what do they need, how can you help, is the challenge. The other thing that goes along this line of maintaining relationships is being someone on their speed dial, that they know, you're going to help them no matter what. There are people who don't want to provide free service, they don't want to provide free help and sometimes they're very vocal about it. The way I think of it is if someone thinks of me first, and calls to talk for 20-30 minutes about a problem they're having, that will go into the goodwill bank long term and you will be a trusted member of their community. If you're not standing there every time they want to ask you a question with your handout. So I always try and help first. I would rather be someone on someone's networking mind as a helper, and there for them when they need it rather than someone who wouldn't help out, I don't like to work that way.
What advice would you offer to that business professional who is looking to grow their network?
I think it's common for people to think of new places to go network, I like to go deep in the places that I'm at. I like to have a few places that are really home base, places that I can get to know a lot of if not all of the people in the organization, as opposed to being involved in a bunch of different networking groups and only knowing 5% of them. I like to show up and be someone that's known in the groups. You earn that by giving and showing up and offering help and getting to know people. But I would recommend that people go deeper into the groups that they're in before they add more groups. That's something that could pay off better in the long term than just knowing some random people from 10 or 12 different groups.
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?
Wow, my 20-year-old self I had hair back then! Oh man, I would say Enjoy your hair, so that's the first thing! The second thing is going to get my MBA. I spent a lot of my career trying to change the industry I was in instead of changing industries and that was a mistake. I saw things I wanted to do differently, but I wasn't in a position to actually make those changes to my own self. So that would be the advice I give myself, many, many, many years ago to do your own thing, and don't rely on other people to make the changes that you want to see happen.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
I would say Marcus Lemonis and I think I could do it within the Six Degrees if I got a little bit of help, because he has Milwaukee ties and a lot of folks in our network know him. I've been trying to connect with him for a long time, but that's one of those big picture asks. My dream is to have him do an event for The Idea Collective because I think he's inspirational to a lot of people that do what we do. So I think with a few good introductions and a lot of elbow grease, I might be able to get there. He's someone that I would love to connect with and I think we could get it done, I just would need some help with people between me and him.
What final words of advice would you offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would find a way to interview someone. I don't care what modality it is, but I would create a show or a blog, or a podcast. It doesn't need to be big and 10,000 people a day don't have to watch it, but I would find some way to offer the stage to someone that you admire or want to learn from or you think better yet that your audience wants to learn from or they admire. To me, it's been the way I've grown my network and it's also because I was a radio guy, and I did it forever so that's natural to me. If you're a writer, start a blog and have guest bloggers where you interview them and if you're a podcaster, create a show and really get inside people's heads. It makes them feel good, first of all, and they'll also share your stuff and tell people how great you are. But that would be the thing that I would recommend, everyone needs some sort of content creation where you can give a stage to somebody else because it's worked for me and it might work for you.
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Coming from almost three decades and alternative healing, Grace is currently merging permanent health and wealth solutions to create a platform for metamorphosis. She shows individuals and businesses how to thrive using potent tools to evaluate wellness potential.
You talk about permanent healing in your messaging, what exactly is that?
Yeah, so you know, the way that I've been creating permanent healing with people is essentially, as a Sherpa, sharing tools with people who basically can use that to then create this internal alchemy, using vocalizations of sounds in different parts of the body and micro-movements to open up energetic channels. What I've noticed is that when people get these tools that they can use to shift their biochemistry, consciously. The basis for permanent healing really lies in that change in that internal terrain, where it is about accessing their DNA where they can turn it on and off at will and essentially be able to rewrite that genetic material. So that, to me, is really the foundation of where it needs to begin.
So I read you talk about combining health and wealth, can you share a little bit about why and how you decided to combine those in your professional journey?
Yeah, you know, it's really through my own personal journey through COVID and I'm sure a lot of people are impacted as well, along with myself. It's understanding and seeing wow, you know, through COVID, because my practice in Hilo was really very one with people. I do the testing where, yes, I'm tracking their biochemical changes that they're creating with these practices that I teach them and then being able to see the long term impacts on their cellular structure itself, in the blood. And through COVID, having to close down my own private practice really allowed me to transition on to a bigger platform and realizing where the other piece of the puzzle needed to be is. I can be the healthiest person on planet Earth, but without resources, we can't even meet our basic needs. From there, it's wanting to create impact, because that is really part of the meaning of life, for me, at least. So working on that healing piece of the financial piece of my life allowed me to then be able to access some potent tools that now I'm able to shift people's financial trajectory by teaching them essentially tools that the wealthy have always had and created for themselves, and now being able to use that for themselves in their own lives.
I think there's a lot of truth to combining health and wealth. Would you put a prioritization on one over the other?
You know, it's interesting, right? As you look at these two pieces of the puzzle, it's like I can be the wealthiest person without that health piece. I'm literally dead in the water, right? You can't do anything without that piece. And so they're really critical and practical pieces of life that we need to have both of them as that springboard from that space of having both of those pieces in place to be able to bring our soul gifts to the rest of the collective. For me personally, it really is about that collective transformation, because every single soul is precious. So when we can hold that space, and have these basic things in place for people to manifest from, that's really the only place that we can work with in terms of that foundation.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So since COVID, what I started doing was really, you know, this is how you and I met too Lori is actually through LinkedIn. So that's mainly my platform in terms of networking, and what I'm doing on LinkedIn really is just reaching out for connections and getting to know people in my network and hopping on one on one calls, and really just meeting face to face if we can to engage all the senses. Through COVID, we can't meet in person, for sure now, as much as we have in the past. In fact, it's quite limited. So this is a really great way for me to basically get to know the other person and see how we can basically support each other, and continue to deepen that relationship and that bond and see how we can basically collaborate, like on this podcast together and make powerful introductions or whatnot. And that person is basically now in my awareness. We can use these connections to enlarge and to include other people as well, in that vortex of influence.
As you've continued to expand your network, how do you nurture these relationships that you are cultivating?
For me, there are certain people that I vibrate with or resonate with better, and it's creating these friendships over time and supporting each other that way. It's interesting, every time that I get on these calls with someone, either it is a monthly call, or you know, bi-weekly call kind of thing. And you just deepen and deepen in terms of just exchanges and interactions, you get to know them more and you get to see aspects of them that perhaps on the first initial meeting, you never knew about this person. So that's what I love most in terms of that continuation of that bond, of that connection, and adding elements to it and seeing how we can add value to each other's lives and how we can contribute. So that's really my focus in any of these connections with anyone.
What advice would you offer a business professional who's looking to grow their network?
Just the heart is really what it's about, right? And it's really about opening your own heart so that you can then be available to, first of all, make that connection. And then second of all being available to add value to someone else's life, so I always start from that heart space. It's about giving first, and it's always about giving first and nurturing these relationships that basically will lead to other things. That's really the part that I love about networking the most is about these friendships that you get to build with people and collaborations as well down the line.
Let's 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?
OMG, that's such a great question! As I'm looking at my kids’ lives, right? My son Donald is 23, and my daughter, Jessica's 20. What a different life that they get to have because they had the freedom in terms of to self discover. So when we moved to Hawaii on the Big Island, I decided to homeschool and this is them coming from the public school arena. We were living in California prior to moving to Hawaii and so through that self-learning process, both the kids have become really, really independent. In fact, Donald tried college for a semester, and basically came back and said, "Mom, thanks a lot, but this is really not for me." So both he and his sister started their own business and so that's what's happening right now they get to explore pieces of themselves that are in this free space, where I just get to support their soul journey in terms of just that self-discovery. Looking back at my 20-year-old, I would say to her, "You know, Gracie, look inside, because all the answers are really there, and it's all inside of your heart, and just follow that."
Who would be the one person that you definitely want to connect with and do you think you can do it within the six degrees of separation?
Yeah, interesting, you should ask that six degrees, right. And that's why I love networking, it's because you just don't know who's gonna lead you to who and what kind of connections can happen. So I'm actually just open to making connections with people and building friendships. I love meeting other consultants and coaches in the health arena, or even the wealth arena because we would have some commonality there in terms of speaking. Ultimately it's really meeting that person in their heart right, kind of like you and I, Lori, we met we had a blast, have a conversation and understood what you're creating in your world. And, you know, a brand new thing to me right marketing, it's like, wow I get to see what Lori is doing and what she is creating for herself in terms of all these years and your aspirations and things like that. So I'm always interested in terms of just these open doors for connecting.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Besides the heart piece, it's really staying open, because you just don't know what the universe wants to bring you and knowing and seeing each encounter as a gift, in a sense of, okay, what is this encounter, or this visitation going to bring about and not even with an expectation, but really is like, how is the divine going to show up in this particular visit with me, and who's showing up for gifting me with a lesson with something that I need to learn or just something that I need to see in myself. So that's been a true gift. It was something that I heard from my spiritual and health mentor. I heard from one of his recordings this weekend because my mind and heart was just open to hear it and it's been such a blessing, that I've been using just the beginning of this week meeting with all the people that I'm scheduled to meet with this week, so really grateful for that.
Connect with Grace:
Connect and message Grace if you are interested in learning more about her 50% off offer for her health and permanent solutions beta course.
Jacob first found his passion for global development in Peace Corps Ghana. He worked on projects focused on food waste elimination, value addition, and gender empowerment. Afterward, he created a grain distribution business in northern Ghana and has developed over a dozen global supply chains of specialty ingredients. As Agricycle's COO, he oversees a network of 40,000 farmers upcycling natural fruit abundance into value-added income for their families.
Let's start with the Peace Corps, tell me a little bit about your time there.
So I started really straight out of college, went to Peace Corps in northern Ghana, and was an agricultural volunteer. So I probably wouldn't even have been able to keep a plant alive for a week, it was kind of half of my cohort, and then here we are in northern Ghana, finding ourselves involved in a community develop their agricultural scene. So it was a huge learning curve and it definitely brought me out of my comfort zone in every regard from the actual task at hand, as well as the cultural language, barriers, differences, things like that, and total geographic isolation compared to suburban, Minnesota. So then I got my hands wet in education. So I went to schools and would teach whatever classes were needed that semester, and I went to the health center and the clinic they had there and helped out where I could with babies taking nutritional panels, even some metrics, and things like that for the doctors. Then some of my favorite initiatives were besides just dancing and playing with the kids and boot camps and things like that were just the economic stimulating business discussions and initiatives that took place mainly with the women of the community. Typically any initiative that comes into men gets the opportunity. So one of my favorite ones was a jewelry making business and I just never would have thought in high school or college that I'd be sitting in a tiny village in northern Ghana for making jewelry with women and trying to create value-added income for them through means of creation. There is some time dye batik fabric making all sorts of initiatives like that. And then those cultural ones, creating farming groups and subsidized inputs, things like that for increased outputs, a whole lot of different initiatives that was just life-changing experience.
So why don't you tell us a little bit about your supply chain development experience across Sub Saharan Africa?
During Peace Corps, I started seeing a demand for a need that was not met in my village and in the northern part of Ghana itself. There's very poor infrastructure to store and transport grains and so one of the main problems that occur in northern Ghana is in boarding schools. So kids come from all over the country and then food is shipped to the kitchens that cooks can provide food for the boarding students. In southern Ghana, it's really no problem, they can start right away, but in northern Ghana, there's a lack of up to maybe a month or two before the food reaches the northern half of the country. So some of the students are unable to go to school, or at least they're at school but unable to go to classes because they're they can't eat and after two months, some go home, it's really just a difficult situation. So one of the things we tried to do was create this business, a distribution company for grains and create that supply chain that can get to the schools. All that's really needed is just an initial capital investment and then proper storage techniques to buy low at market saturation and then distribute later throughout the year. So that was kind of the initial idea for getting my feet wet in the industry. I got an opportunity to work with a friend who I met in Botswana in Peace Corps as well to develop about a dozen supply chains across Sub Saharan Africa and connecting smallholder farmers and some larger farmers processing fonio was the main one and other specialty ingredients to larger buying markets in America and the largest wholesale distributors of specialty ingredients and grains in America. So making that connection was something I didn't really have experienced too much beforehand. But then after a year of just being thrown in the ground and having to figure it all out, you become able to navigate the terrain pretty well.
So you've talked a lot about what you've been doing on a global level. I know you're in Milwaukee here, what community initiatives are you currently working on?
So one that we had just finished up working on was a fundraiser for Secure Bridges, which is a nonprofit in Milwaukee, combating human trafficking. It turns out Milwaukee and the Midwest, in general, is actually a pretty big hub for it. So we did a virtual month of fitness fundraiser for people across America and anywhere really. You just log on to this app and then do different fitness challenges, things like that. For all the proceeds, we donated to Secure Bridges to help them fight their aim. Then another one we're working on currently is a 10,000 smiles campaign with our Jolly Fruit Co. our sun-dried fruit. We are donating 1000s of bags to companies in the Milwaukee area, we stood in line with voters and distributed some bags to kind of put cheer in people's face and help them if they're out in line voting in the cold for hours on end to give them a little boost and nutritious snack that hopefully will put a smile on their face. And it tells all about the story of where it came from. And then so partners, individuals, and people throughout the Milwaukee area, giving away these bags to hopefully put a brighter end to the year that wasn't one of the greatest we've had in a while.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Yeah, so it's, it's got to be how I got a job at Agricycler. So I was coming back from one of my trips to sub-Saharan Africa, and I went to school in Madison, Wisconsin. So I came through going to Chicago to see some college buddies on the way back home to visit my family in Minneapolis. I had one day for the kind of like a speed dating session to all my friends from back in the college days and just see them again, catch up, have a good time, and see what everyone's up to. So pretty much like every hour, I had someone scheduled or a group of people or something. It was just such a fun day for me and then it was one of the later times around dinnertime, I had dinner with a buddy and then I had one person in like an hour. So I was like, "Oh my goodness, I actually have an hour off, who's left in the city, I gotta call somebody up!" So it turned out being a friend of mine from club basketball and it turns out they were an entrepreneur, creating this great startup who was distributing solar energy and solar lights for charging and phone use and electricity in the Congo. They were in an incubator and accelerator with its other startup who is doing global development in Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, who needed some supply chain logistical support. So we were just doing sharing stories on development, Sub Saharan Africa just kind of catching up and then the conversation turned to you know, you really should connect with this guy, I think you guys would have so much in common and he's just as passionate about the same things you are, I think it would really work out. So I continued the night and saw my friends and stuff and went back to Minnesota a couple of days later, I called up this guy who was Josh and shot him an email to say, "Can we can we talk, Aaron introduced us." Then we had like a two-hour conversation right away, we just hit it off really well, exactly what he needed. I had experience in exactly what I was wanting to do kind of without even knowing it is what he was creating. And so he is the founder and CEO of Agricycle now, and I'm the CEO now. So it's just a very interesting way that's a random networking opportunity, just seeing friends led to my career path, and then my biggest passion right now.
I imagine in your role with Agricycle you've had some global travel, and you've probably met some amazing people. How do you best stay in front of and nurture these relationships in this community that you've created?
Yeah, it's so important to do so and it's something I need to do better at. I work at it and try to keep up with my network, but it's so important to do so. And some of the things that I've learned, I'll shares a list of them. So one of them is starting with when you go into meetings, and then you create a list, you have a document wherever you want to store it of this person, the title, or the fit, and then little details about it. So you just grow this huge list and then every once in a while, you reach out to them. Even maybe it's not even having to do with a specific request. It's just "Hey, how you doing checking in that was really great meeting you, what are you up to?" Something like that, just very simple. And even a personal angle, it can go to personal or professional, which is very important to reach back out. It could be a one minute email, you send out no problem. But sometimes, these are the ones I've sent, where I say "Hey, how's it going," have led to really great things, or vice versa, someone does that to me, and then we ended up creating a partnership that we didn't see coming. But that's one I would say. Get into communities. With COVID and ever-increasing digital platforms that were on slack channels, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, I'm in a couple of different slack channels, they upcycle food associations, a great one, startup CPG, another great one, then some Facebook groups too. Just be in there and try to be active here and there and say who you are, what you're doing, and maybe an ask or what you can offer something like that. But even just passively listening to see what's going on. And you can interject here and there and say, Oh, I can meet that need or something like that. Being in as many of those groups as possible, take some time to seek those out, and then the connections that it might lead to are well worth the time.
What advice do you have for that business professional who is looking to grow their network?
You never know what a reach out could lead to. I tell people all the time and talking to them that a no change is nothing but a yes can change everything. You send out 10 messages and 9 come back no, you're literally in the same place that you started. Nothing has changed your career, life is no different. But that one yes that you might get could lead to so many greater opportunities, you never know. So just being fearless than that and not worrying about a couple of no's here and there because you're never gonna get all yeses. But all those yeses are so important. Don't be intimidated, don't have the fear to get out of your comfort zone. If you're comfortable, you're probably not doing enough, like comfort is good in a sense. But you have to be a little uncomfortable if you're going to grow. Once you get out of your comfort zone and you become comfortable in that task, that's a great sign of growth, and then reach out to a different subgroup of that task or something like that and become uncomfortable again. Then repeat that cycle and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Yeah, I think this one might not be terribly popular with parents, but for grades, just past. I spent so much time having to get the perfect grades. And it's good, it's great to do. But I think no, you know, after graduating college and all the years of school that I go through, I think it's much more important that you have the drive to get those grades than to actually getting those grades in the first place. Work to do the best at everything you can do, but if I had that option of getting all A's, or go working two part-time jobs, or an internship or starting a company or something, I would much rather have my 20-year-old self, try and even fail at starting a company than spend 60 hours a week studying or whatever people are doing. There's never been an interview that where there are two people absolutely equal, at least in my experience, and one person has done amazing stuff, started their own company, and the other person has a 4.0 versus the other person who started the company and all these community initiatives and has 3.0 or something. Look at that number, it just doesn't really matter. So get grades, pass, it's great. But do the extracurriculars, put yourself out there. You're trained that comfort is getting good grades, like push yourself to get good grades. Don't put yourself outside the box because it's risky, it's not as important, the ROI isn't as good. I completely disagree.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who is the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth-degree?
So I'd say definitely, on the sixth-degree question, I think you can get to anyone and like in half that like three or four. I'm so confident in that, especially without digital The world is today and the globalized nature of society. It's not easy to just snap your fingers and get there, but if you have the connections lined up, you can I think six is even overshooting it. The Dream person for me is Serena Williams. She's just such a role model in every regard. Especially since I started working with Agricycle, empowering rural women farmers in Sub Saharan Africa, and Serena is such a symbol of female empowerment, especially women of color empowerment. I would love to even just have a conversation with her. But if we could take a step further and get like a brand ambassador, like the face of one of our brands, oh my goodness, Serena, where are you at? I feel like some connections we have with startups and next-gen is connected with NFL play 60 and I made a connection through that because Serena is actually invested in Miami Dolphins, so going through that route. She also has her own fund and she invested in Impossible Foods and some other brands but Impossible Foods, a plant-based protein are the ingredients. So I go through Impossible Foods' CEO or someone their company reaches her, I feel like in three to four connections arise.
What final advice do you have to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
It's definitely tied to the theme of not worrying about no’s, not being afraid. Definitely just seek opportunities, you might think it's a silly networking event. Just try it! If if the silly networking event takes an hour of your time, and you haven't gotten a connection, and that stinks, that's unfortunate. But hopefully, you learned something, you have to take something away from it, if not some good connections. If you're in an event, don't just sit and think that the connections will come to you. Maybe they will, but go be your own advocate. If you're scared to go talk to someone, someone else probably scared to go talk to you. So just put yourself out there, don't worry about being scared. I always think that probably won't ever see these people again and that's like the worst case, so again, nothing changes. But if you do see them again, that's probably because you had a connection that you created. So the worst thing that could happen is nothing, no difference, and then the best thing is great connections. If you're on a webinar or listening to speakers, try to remember a couple of key points and what they're saying and if it resonates with you, shoot a message with those key points to show them you're listening and show them you're engaged and then use that to kind of springboard whatever conversation you'd want to get out of it. Then just say yes to opportunities, even if it's more of a mentorship opportunity. You never know what those connections could lead to. You never know you're gonna learn from teaching others. I'm just all about taking as many opportunities as you can so just take opportunities when they come or create them, and then take them.
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Olympia radically three x's income, fun, and freedom for six and seven-figure business owners who are overworked and want more. Olympia loves working and playing in the realms of millions and billions. She's an award-winning business consultant and speaker, a fortune 500 company partner, and a leader of the highest national security programs. By the age of 33. She was a corporate executive leading multi-billion dollar programs, making more than $50 million in sales and facilitating sales of more than $10 billion.
Why is collaborative lead generation the best way to get lots of high-quality leads that are easy to convert to sales?
That is a great question. Doing collaborative lead generation is the best way because you get to accelerate your sales and your success. You do that by getting access to your perfect clients through other people who already have them in their client database in their target market. When you do that, you're also elevated in status, and your credibility is also elevated because that person who you're collaborating with is basically recommending and endorsing you. So you really get to what I like to call have OPA which is other people's audience, and OPR other people's resources, you get to leverage those. I just came up with this metaphor today. So it's like, you want to see wild animals. You decide first, which ones you want to see, then you determine where are they located and who has them. Are they in a zoo? Are they in Africa or Asia? And then how will you get there? And do you want to explore on your own, or do you want to take a safari that guarantees that you're going to see these animals that you want to see and that you get the whole experience? So that is all about collaborative lead generation because you want to go where the wild animals are that you want to see and you want to get access to them by people who already have access and knowledge to them.
So I know that you're an advocate for the gamification of marketing. What exactly is that and how can it help businesses and entrepreneurs grow income, fun, and freedom?
Okay, gamification marketing is the latest and greatest in how to market your products and services, but then also how to amplify your actual products and services. So I'll talk about the marketing part first. Gamification really is about play and it's about triggering those four centers in your brain that are wired for happiness, fun, and play. Those four centers are dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin. So basically, you can think of these as your feel-good chemicals. The metaphor here is Pavlov's dog, you've probably heard the story where this guy, Pavlov had a dog, and he trained the dog to expect a treat when the bell rang, so every time the bell rings the dog gets super excited because he's going to get a treat. Well, that's basically what gamification is. In our application, we're putting it into marketing. So you can put it into your emails, in your website, on your landing pages, you can use it when you're speaking to people, whether it's in a networking situation, or online. So when you do that, you will get at least a 30% increase in your response rate and in the retention rate, retention of information. So, for example, when you use gamification marketing, it's going to increase how many clients you attract, it's going to keep their attention longer, it's going to increase sales conversion. And your sales will be much easier, by the way, they'll be easier and faster and funner for you, so you get a side effect of the fun aspect of gamification. If you have it in a, say a course or program, your students will retain more, they will be 80% more likely to complete that program. Then they will have the success and the results that you promised from your program and they will be the Pied Piper singing your tune and referring their friends and family to you.
How does one get their perfect clients to say, "Oh, my gosh, I need you now, how can I start working with you?"?
I love this one. So we have to back up the bus a little bit because to get them to say that and feel that there need to be some things in place. So we're going to go back to the beginning of this chain of events that lead up to that. Step number one is you got to make sure that you are in fact focusing on your perfect clients, the ones that really light you up and the ones that can benefit from what you're offering in your product or your service. So you need to define them and if you don't do that, you're going to suffer from any number of business problems. I'll give you some examples that are like symptoms of not having a honed target market. Things like not enough clients, or typical clients, or bad spitting clients, or poor profitability and if you're not loving your work, you also don't have perfect clients. So that's kind of step one, you've got to get the perfect clients and you need to know what are their pain problems, the ones that they both have the ability to pay to solve and are hungry to solve. That's because if they don't have both of those, you are lost in the wind, my friend. It doesn't work if you have just one, they need to have both. Then step two is, okay, so you've identified who they are, you've identified their problem that you can solve and now you need to give them the solution in the form of your product or service. That is the dog whistle that they can hear and then they're gonna respond with, "Oh, my gosh, she gets me, she understands my problem and where I am, she's been there, and you're the obvious one for me, and how can I work with you?"
One of my favorites is one of my collaborative lead generation partners, her name is Ann Bennett. She and I work very closely together now, referring people to each other, but also, we give each other speaking opportunities, we make introductions for each other, we share our clients with each other, if we see that the other person has a service that could help a client then we do that. So I met Ann at two different places, I met her at an IAW meeting, it's a networking meeting called the International Association of Women and I also met her at eWomenNetwork. She and I were both on the board of the IAW chapter here in Southern California. So we met, and we just started really getting to know each other first before doing any type of business together. And I think that's a key thing for people to know is that when you're networking, it's so rarely the case that you meet someone, and instantaneously they become their client. It's more the case that you're building that trust factor, you're getting to know the person, and then deciding whether or not you want to actually do business with them, or you want to be more of a power partner. However, sometimes, and this has happened to me, but it is not the majority of the time when all the stars align, and you meet someone, and there is the person you're meeting, who's first of all aware of the problem that you have the solution for, and they have already been looking for a solution. That's only 3% of people, 3% meet that criterion. Then that's when they can move quickly into being a client. But what about that other 97%? That's where the majority of your business and your relationships are going to be made so we need to have a whole strategy and system for that.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your relationships?
Well, I do a variety of things, it really depends on the other person and how our relationship is set up. So for some people, I actually send them handwritten cards and I do that regularly. And you want to talk about a Pavlov's dog response, they love it, and if they don't get their card, you know, whatever it is once a month or once every two weeks, I hear about it. They're like, "Where's my card, were you not thinking about me this week?" Other examples are things like doing Facebook Lives together, where maybe I'll go on the other person's Facebook Live and have a conversation about what I do and how that could help that audience and vice versa, they could come on my Facebook groups, and we do a Facebook Live. It's really about sharing information that's going to elevate everyone. So when we work in collaboration, which really is a lot about networking, it's co elevating and co-creating, so that everyone is being lifted at the same time.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I think the best one would be, and I know we've already talked about it, but really to do it in collaboration with other people. Because when you're growing your network, you really want to give yourself the best opportunity to do that. The best opportunity is going to be with other people so that you don't have to be alone, you don't have so much hard work and drudgery to do. When you do it with someone else, you also get the added benefit of being in a community and those good feelings of having support from somebody else, being able to share wins, and just having somebody else who has your back. So all of those can be felt and they are all somewhat intangible though you can't just put a number like 20% of people who have done this or that and have had support from somebody do better. There's really not the numbers, but it's the feeling and it is the actual application and the results. You will get results so much faster if you do it in collaboration.
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 one of the things that I would do, or tell myself would be to follow up more. Don't be shy about following up, because I used to have a lot of blocks, and sometimes they still show up in different forms and I'll talk myself out of following up. I'll say, "Oh that person went really wasn't that interested," or "They're not going to remember me," or "I don't really know what to say," or, "I don't want to feel rejected," you know, all of this mind chatter would be going on. Meanwhile, the days keep ticking by and then I get to whatever point a week, two weeks out, or two months out, and I'm like, "Oh, well now it's too late to follow up, they're really not going to remember me." So I would give myself the advice to just be bold, and have the confidence to follow up because nowadays, how I look at it is those people who I would follow up with, they have actually expressed some kind of interest when we were together. Also, they have a need, and if I don't help them solve that problem that they have, who's going to help them? It's like not giving food to somebody who's starving, and you got plenty of food? Right? Really you are doing yourself and the other person a huge disservice by not following up with them, connecting with them, letting them know what solutions you have for them. Then they get to decide if the timing is right and if it aligns with their value in terms of the price, but then it also if it aligns with what specifically they feel like they need and how confident and what kind of a rapport they have with you to give them that solution.
Do you have any final advice to offer our listeners about how to grow and support your network?
Well, I think the best advice is to just get out there. You can't win the game if you're not in the game. So just get out there and do the best you can. A lot of people are self-confident about going forward and networking, but you know what? The people you meet are probably going to be in a similar boat if that's you. These days, especially now more than ever, people are having a lot of compassion for other people's situations and if you don't say exactly the right thing, people are very forgiving and understanding and people just basically want to connect, and they want to know you. Of course, they want to know about your business, but people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Connect With Olympia:
Bob is a sought after speaker at company leadership and sales conferences, sharing the platform with everyone from today's business leaders and broadcast personalities, to even a former US president. Bob is the author of a number of books on sales, marketing, and influence, with total book sales of well over a million copies. His book The Go-Giver, coauthored with John David Mann itself has sold over 975,000 copies and has been translated into 29 languages. His and John's newest parable and the Go-Giver Series is the Go-Giver influencer. Bob is an advocate, supporter, and defender of the free enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportional to how many people they serve. He is also an unapologetic animal fanatic and is a past member of the board of directors of Furry Friends Adoption Clinic and Ranch in his town of Jupiter, Florida.
Can you share with our listeners that may not be familiar with the Go-Giver? What is the premise of the book, what it's all about?
It's a parable co-authored with John David Mann, who is just a fantastic writer. I'm kind of the How to person and he's the storyteller of the team, although he's a great entrepreneur himself. But the premise is really, that shifting your focus, and this is really where it begins shifting your focus, from getting to giving and when we say giving in this context, we simply mean constantly and consistently providing immense value to others. Understanding that doing so is not only a more pleasant way of conducting business, it's actually the most financially profitable way as well. And not for some way out there woo-woo type of magical mystical reasons, not at all it's actually very logical when you think about it. When you're that person who is able to take your focus off yourself and place it on others, making their lives better, helping them solve their problems, discovering what they want, need, desire, and helping them to get it well, you know, obviously people feel good about you. They want to get to know you, they like you, they trust you, they want to be a part of your life, your business. They're more likely to want to be your personal walking ambassadors.
So you've got the five laws. Can you share a little bit more about that give us a high-level overview of what exactly that is?
Sure, the laws themselves are the laws of value, compensation, influence, authenticity, and receptivity. The law of value is really all about making the buying experience so extraordinary for that other person that they feel as though they receive much more than what they paid for, which they did in terms of the actual value which is different from price right? Price is a dollar figure, value is the sort of relative worth or desirability of a thing of something to the end-user or beholder. What is it about this thing, this product, service, concept that brings so much worth or value to you that you will willingly exchange your money for it and feel great about it. It's like going to a restaurant and maybe it's a high price restaurant, and the bill is a high bill but the deliciousness of the food, the presentation, the exquisite service, the ambiance, the way the wait staff takes care of you, and makes you feel, every single thing about that restaurant is just wow. So you may have paid $150 or $200, but you come away feeling like a couple $1,000! So you got more than what you paid for and yet the restaurant owner, obviously, their costs are less than what they charge for the food. So they made a very nice profit themselves. So the law of value is all about providing that exquisite experience so the other person feels great about it, and you make a great profit as well. The law of value says that your income is determined by how many people you serve, and how well you serve them. So it's not enough for the restaurant owner to have, you know, one customer, right? They obviously need to serve or impact the lives of many, many, many diners, in order to make a very healthy income and it's the same with all of us. Law number three, the law of influence says your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people's interests first. This one's sort of important to go into a little bit only because it can easily be misconstrued. When we say, place the other person's interests first, we do not mean that you should be anyone's doormat, right? It's simply understanding as Joe the protege and the story learned from several of the mentors. The Golden Rule of business is that all things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like, and trust. There's no faster, more powerful, or more effective way to elicit those feelings toward you, in others, than by genuinely moving from that "I" focus or "me" focus to that "other" focus, making your win all about their win. Law number four, the law of authenticity says the most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself. In the story, one of the mentors, Deborah shared a very important lesson that all the skills in the world, the sales skills, technical skills, people skills, as important as they are, and they are very important. They're also all for not if you don't come at it from your true authentic core. But when you do when you show up as yourself day after day, week, after week, month after month, you inspire trust in people, people feel very comfortable with you, they feel very safe with you, they begin to know, like, love, and trust you and want to be in relationship with you. Law number five, the law of receptivity says that the key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving and this really means nothing more than, you know you breathe out, but you also have to breathe in. It's not one or the other, it's both. You breathe out carbon dioxide, breathe in oxygen, breathe out which is giving, breathe in which is receiving. Unfortunately, we learn so many negative messages from the world around us regarding money, prosperity, business, and so forth, that it really gets into the subconscious, the unconscious, and it's very easy to kind of put unconscious roadblocks in terms of money just because of the horrible messages. So what we'd like people to know is that giving and receiving are not opposite concepts. Giving and receiving are simply two sides of the very same coin and they work in tandem. It's not are you a giver or a receiver. You're a giver and a receiver. But what you know is that in life, the giving comes first right the giving value. As long as that's your focus, and then you allow yourself to receive, now you're in a position of real strength, prosperity, and abundance.
What's the best way to find a mentor and what recommendations would you have to someone that is trying to find one overall?
Well, I think finding a mentor is a great idea because the right mentor can cut your learning curve time by years. It's not always necessarily easy to find one, but it's certainly absolutely doable. What I would suggest, first of all, is if you can find someone who has been successful in that business already, that's a plus so long as this person also has similar values as you and the style that you would want to emulate. But it's not necessary in terms of mentorship that this person necessarily is in, or has been in the business that you're in. It could be a mentor in terms of life, principles, and strategies, and so forth. So again, it really depends on the situation, but in terms of seeking out a mentor, my feeling is that you want to go about it in a way that you understand that a mentor-protege relationship is just that it's a relationship and it takes time to develop. I see so many people who will approach someone who they respect and who they'd like to mentor them and say something like, "Hey, I really need a mentor, would you be my mentor?" And I think when doing that, it doesn't create the environment where that person really wants to, because first of all if you're asking them, there's a good chance lots of other people are asking them. They're busy people, and they've got lots of people who want their time, who basically want their free advice is what it comes down to. When you just ask someone to be your mentor, you don't distinguish yourself as anyone's special, so I wouldn't approach it that way. I'd be more inclined to approach it more humbly and in a way that creates an environment where that person wants to take their time with you. So you can really approach anyone like that who you admire, and simply say, "Listen, I know you're very busy, and if this is not something you have the time to do, or even the desire to do totally, totally understandable, but I'm wondering if I might ask you one or two very specific questions?" Now, when you approach the person, that way, you're doing a few different things. One, you're acknowledging the fact that this is very special and that you're making a big ask. So you're approaching with respect, you're giving this person in or out or back door, you're letting know right away that if this is just something they don't have time to do, or just would rather not, you totally understand. When you do this, it doesn't come across as untitled, it comes across more as someone who understands what you're asking, and that person is much more likely to want to do this for you. But here's the other thing. You didn't ask, you know, "Will you be my mentor?" What you instead said was, "May I ask you one or two very specific questions." What this tells the person is that you are someone who has your act together, you have a plan, you have an agenda. When I say agenda, in this case, I mean that in a good way, you know, you're not just going to come in to try to pick his brain or pick her brain, no, you actually have very specific questions. So they're much more likely to take you seriously and be willing to either sit down with you, or Skype, or zoom or, be on the phone with you, or whatever it is. First of all, what I'd suggest is to make sure you have totally researched this person. So you, first of all, you don't ask them anything the answer to which you could have easily looked up which of course, that will be very counterproductive to the relationship. But so you asked you know a couple of questions, you don't take much of their time, you thank them for their time, and let them know how much you appreciate it and you look forward to applying their wisdom, and that very day I would write a handwritten, personalized thank you note. Then also that day, I would make a small donation to their favorite charitable cause, which again, you should be able to find just by researching them. Let's say they're very big on animals with their local animal shelter or something and so you make a small donation in their name, it will get back to them. Now you're not doing it to kiss up to the person, you're simply doing it too, again, communicate that you take this seriously, and how thankful you are for their time. So between the handwritten thank, you note and the donation, you've just made a good impression with this person. You can follow up a few weeks later or whatever with an email or maybe a text if that's how they want to be contacted, or a call and ask another question. Eventually, if a mentor-protege ongoing relationship is supposed to occur, it will. If not, it won't. Don't be emotionally attached to that happening, you might have a whole bunch of one-time meeting many mentors until you find one that's going to be your eventual mentor, but you never know.
Well, I think the best networking experience is simply when you successfully establish a potential relationship. Networking is really the cultivating of mutually beneficial give and take or give and receive win-win relationships with the emphasis obviously on the give. So when you go to a networking event, let's say and you meet someone, your entire plan should be to give value in terms of just making that person feel good about themselves. So when you can focus on their business and on what they do, and you ask them questions, and they're not salesy questions, prospecting questions, they're not intrusive, they're not invasive. But when you ask them what they do, and they tell you and you ask them how they got started in their business, that's such a great question, because nobody gets asked that question. And yet, you're asking them that question, and they appreciate that so much. Another great question to ask them what they enjoy most about what they do. Again, it's just a question that feels good to answer, and then don't worry about them not knowing what you do. They don't care right now. Your only goal at this networking function is to take the pressure off of yourself by taking the focus off of yourself, and instead focus on them. A wonderful question to ask, what I call the one key question that will separate you from the rest is to simply say, "How can I know if someone I'm speaking with would be a good client for you?" Again, you're totally communicating and creating value for them. You might set that up by saying to someone, "I always love connecting good people with other good people, tell me how can I know if someone I'm speaking with is a good potential customer for you?" Now, think about the impression you're making on that person when you do that. That's a good networking experience. When you come out when this person was happy to meet you and you can tell you really uplifted them and made their day. Now you want to make sure to get their contact information, just ask them for their business card at the end, they'll give it to you, and they'll ask you for yours and you give it to them. But really the big thing is you get theirs because then you're going to start the follow-up and follow-through process and send them that personalized handwritten note and you start from there. So a great networking experience isn't that you make a sale, that's hardly ever going to happen. The greatest networking experience is to just make a good connection.
So you started, you just touched on this a little bit, but how do one best nurture that network and that community that they have?
The first thing is I would send a personalized handwritten note to that person that day. Also if they're on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can always connect there as well and so forth. But what you really want to do over that next period of time is to, as you said, nurture that relationship. So when you can send information to them that they would find interesting not about your business, but you might know this person graduated from Notre Dame right and so you may look on the Notre Dame website, see what's happening, see if there's some information about Notre Dame that you can print out and send to them with a little note that just says, "Hey, I remember you saying you're you know, Fighting Irish fan and I saw this that you might be interested." Or you find something about their business that you might think would be a good prospect for them and you make a call and you do some research and find out who the contact person is and then you let them know. There's just there are so many ways, you can retweet a tweet of theirs, or repost a LinkedIn comment, so there are all sorts of ways that you can find to add value to another human being and develop that know like and trust relationship.
What advice would you offer that business professional who is really looking to grow their network?
I think to start now and begin making connections. Again, don't try to do it with everybody, but pick and choose and be open to everyone. Just get started I mean, it's really as simple as that.
That's probably easy. I would tell 20 year old me, I'd say, "Young Bob Berg, shut up, talk less, listen much more, realize that pretty much everything you think you know that you're absolutely positively sure you know, just is not true." Because I really thought I knew it all back then.
Do you have any final words of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think it's all you know, it all comes down to where your focus is. I always say, Be internally motivated, but outwardly focused. So when your focus can always be on bringing value to others, you're really always facing in the right direction. Because people respond to that, and so long as it comes from an authentic place, I think you really begin to develop those know like, and trust relationships, pretty big time.
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With three decades as a life coach and self-made millionaire, Rock Thomas inspires people to live a life on their terms. From humble beginnings that started out on a farm just off the island of Montreal, Rock Thomas rode to the top to become a self-made millionaire, best-selling author, and host of the top-rated podcast, Rock your Money, Rock your Life. For years, Rock traveled the world to study with Deepak Chopra, Anthony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Robert Kiyosaki, and more. With over 42 streams of income, Rock's mission is to teach others how to become financially free and live an epic life on their terms.
How does one scale a business to get to 42 different levels of income?
Well, one at a time. You just do them kind of every six months, I guess for 21 years. But the reality is once you figure out what the system and processes are to do things, you're basically looking for talent. So I'm actually working on my 43rd stream right now, which is the solar business and I have a current small organization that does $10 million a year of sales. We're going to scale that in 2021 to $100 million, using the system and processes that I have done in my past businesses. So it's really about finding talent, creating a manual for training because most people stumble in the training area, they don't know how to do it, and then making sure you have the Empire builders and the Empire protectors. The protectors are the finance people, the systems, the processes and guarding the money and the builders are the marketing and salespeople. So you're probably wearing hats on both ends which is frustrating because there's not one person I've met that flows in both of those dynamics. We were all meant for something and that's why we do assessments, the disk model, you may have heard of things like that, figure out which team you're on. Are you in the offense team or the defense team? Let's put you in the right place and let you flourish and then the offense doesn't have to worry about defense and vice versa.
Let's circle back to the training and creating a manual for training. Where do you see entrepreneurs failing in that area?
So when you get to be 58 like I am, you have gone through every trial and error and eventually, I decided to invest money in getting the experience from other people. I tried everything myself, but I got exhausted. So you know, you buy a book for 20 bucks, you get somebody with 20 or 30 years of experience, you take a course you get the same thing. What I learned is that a process called me, we, they. The biggest mistake that small entrepreneurs do is they work until they're working 60-70 hours a week, and then they can't take it anymore. They find somebody like their unemployed cousin or their neighbor's daughter or whatever, and they go help me out with some admin stuff. But they're so busy, that they don't train them properly. They do a poor job because they weren't trained properly, and then the solopreneur goes, "Nobody can do it like me." They Pat themselves on the back, they tell their spouse, their family how awesome they are and everybody else in the world just doesn't get them. Understand that business model, and that they have to do everything on their own. They play a little bit the martyr sometimes and then eventually they get burnt out over time. The solution is a step by step process of training called me, we, they.
What is me, we, they?
So you do your own sales? And can you do it? Like are you making a living? Yes. Right. So what you would do in that sales process, whatever it is, on the phones, are you sending emails or you're talking to people at networking events or you're on Zoom call. Whatever it is, you need to have the person you're going to hire that either has great sales experience, ideally, already, six-figure income earner, because you don't want to necessarily start from the bottom, because that will be a long cycle, they need to witness you doing it. So in one of my businesses, we do zoom calls, and we call them directors of opportunity. They speak to people for about half an hour, and we have a script that they follow. But before they even get a chance to talk to one of our leads, is they have to watch multiple recordings of me doing the call and enrolling people. Then we do role-playing with them and then they jump on a call with one of our directors of opportunity, and they just sit there quietly and watch. That's the me part. They watch me do it, they will watch you do it. Then you will do something called a CSI, Creative Suggestions for Improvement, which is after the call you're going to ask them, "So what did you think I did that was great.? What did you think I could do that needed improvement? And how could I have made it better?" Once you go through that process over and over and over again, the person starts to become highly aware of how it works, then you shift to the not the me but to the we and that's where you say, "Hey, why don't you do that segment on product service, or on refunds, or on whatever it is you break it down into pieces?" Then you do the CSI with them. So you're like, "Hey, what did you think you did really well?" And then you give them feedback, you discuss it until they get to a place where they can do it to the part where they can do it at the standard that you have set for your organization.
Sounds like you offer a lot around mentorship, coaching, and training. Can you talk a little bit about what you do to help businesses overcome these hurdles?
20 years ago, I did my first Tony Robbins event and I fell in love with the power and impact that it had on me that I kept going back and I hired him as a coach, I paid him $100,000. I did 19 events in 19 months, and I watched people's lives change. But when I started to do this for the last 20 years and 75 events later, I realized that it's about 5-8% of the population that can implement what they learn. Everybody else goes home and their environment supersedes their ability to apply what they learned. So you've got to really protect your environment, like an ecosystem, and find people that are hard-charging like you want to be or you are, and then it's easier to maintain a new normal. So I created a group eight years ago, a tribe of healthy wealthy, generous people that choose to lead epic lives and don't apologize for grabbing like big. We gather people like yourself, or other people that all want this dream life where they don't have to work all the time, they want to add value, they want to make an impact, they want to leave their mark or legacy. Then we help refine each other because steel sharpens steel and we have a culture of support, encourage and challenge. So if you are in the group, and you're like, "Hey, I'm trying to scale my business, here's my challenge," you're going to get feedback from, you know, what is 350 people now. Not from all of them, but from some of them will comment and go, "Hey, have you tried this?" or, "Hey, this is what I did when I was at your stage, here's a resource or talk to this person." So when you put yourself in that environment, it's a bit like if you're part of a country club, like a golf or tennis or chess club or something, everybody has a mindfulness toward getting better at that particular craft. Ours just happens to be entrepreneurship, and a strong mindset because the chains of habit are too weak to feel until they're too strong to break. Sadly, most people don't realize this until they're down the road. And then they now have to try to break these habits and they tell themselves this story that holds them back. Or if you're somebody like yourself, you're incredibly driven, you're going to push through and get things done, but it starts to drain you because it's not your sweet spot. So we got to get people into their sweet spot where they thrive, where they feel great about what they're doing. And they have enough leadership skills to add people to do the stuff they don't like.
You mentioned the whole life millionaire. Can you share with our listeners what exactly it is or define that for us?
Yeah, so again I'm in my late 50s. So I have a bit of experience and what I noticed is that a lot of people, you know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is food, shelter, clothing, and they struggle to win the money game. We are a consumer society, we're not taught to earn to save, we're taught to earn to spend. So most people are living paycheck to paycheck, the average American makes $44,000 a year. Even if you're a solopreneur and you're making 150 or 200, the net is what counts and for most people, it's not very much. So people struggle, they don't put money away so they never can really retire. For the few people that have said, "You know what, I am going to become a millionaire," most of them have given up on their relationships or their health to get there because they have to go all in. I don't have time to work out, I don't have time to take the kids to soccer, etc, etc. So I said to myself, there's got to be a way that you can be healthy, have great relationships in your family, your friends, and your significant other, and be financially free. So I created a model for that and we tested it and 66 people later, it's not a million people. But I think it's pretty good creating 66 millionaires, I don't know anybody else that can say they've done that. It's kind of like, we're popping now like popcorn, one or two a month, because we have the system and the methodology. So it's really about this whole life having it all.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your favorite or most successful networking experiences that you've had?
Yeah, sure, by the way, I really believe that your net worth will only grow to the extent of your network. So I think if you look at your network as a place where you come to add value, you don't have to be fearful around Oh, I'm coming to get something. I think that's partially what creates fear for some people. But I was at an event seven or eight years ago, and there was a speaker who was very dynamic. I went up to him after the end of the event as I do, and a lot of situations when I see somebody that I can learn from, and I said, "You live in Austin, Texas, I'm going to be there in a couple of weeks for a training, I'd love to spend some time with you and hang out." He kind of looks me up and down, like who the hell are you, and he goes, "Do you golf?" And I said, "Yeah," and he goes, "Okay, come a day early, and we'll golf." So we golfed and became fast friends and now we started two or three businesses together. He's in real estate, I'm in real estate, we started one of our mastermind groups together, we've done investments in multifamily. I'm very fortunate he has gone on to become really wealthy. So as an example, on the 21st and 22nd of this month, he's flying in with his jet. I know it sounds pretentious. He's picking me up and we're going to Pebble Beach to go golfing for two days, and then come back here in Scottsdale and spend some time together, masterminding on our next business project. We've shared some stock tips together and one of the reasons he's coming to pick me up is he says, "That last stock take you tip you gave me made me $48,000 so I think I owe you a trip." So this is the type of thing that can happen when you hang around people that are intentional around wealth and playing big and having fun. But you know what, since those 7-8 years ago, we've grown together we've contributed to each other's lives. So networking to me is you know, often call them up and I'll ask them, How can they add value? Who you want to meet? I just did one of my podcasts and met somebody's really cool. Would you like to learn more about them? Here's somebody you should be on their podcast. So I think the networking thing starts first with adding value. I think people forget that because they usually come to get because we're trying to build something come to serve and to give and you usually find that things will come back to you.
With quite a vast network and community, how do you stay in front of invest, nurture the relationships that you've created?
I think that that's a tough one because sometimes I go through my portals, you know, Facebook, text, Instagram, and DMs and I feel like I could just circle through the over endlessly to create and keep relationships. So I have a couple of personal assistants now that manage a lot of the relationships up to a certain period of time. And eventually, people understand that if you're going to have a conversation with me, it's going to have to pass certain levels of problem-solving. Because it is impossible to talk to everybody on every level for everything. So you just kind of grow to that place and then people understand it.
Yeah, that makes sense and this is obviously what you preach and teach a lot is finding the right people to handle certain jobs and tasks.
Yeah, talent is probably the biggest problem that successful people have and it's the biggest thing that struggling upcoming people fail to recognize. So when I talk with my different buddies that are running big companies, their whole thing all about always looking for talent. I used to be proud that I paid people the least amount possible. Today, and I learned this story from one of my mentors is you can judge your success by how much you pay your people. So here's the example. Maybe you pay, the person that works for you minimum wage, they cut your grass or whatever, great, you got a couple of people working for you, somebody cleans your house, or you have a COO that you pay $280,000 a year to run one of your companies. That's pretty cool because they are generating a lot of value for you. So if you can afford to have two or three or four people at that level, then you're probably doing a lot of the work still.
What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?
Your one good hire from the next level in your company, you need to decide who that is, is it going to be an admin person? Is it going to be an operations person or a salesperson or a marketing person? You may have to sub some people out and you can do that more and more today. So you can hire somebody remotely from the Philippines or what have you. But if you're going to grow, you got to take off another hat or two. But I would say the hat that you need to keep on is you need to be aware. This is how I divide my businesses up into four areas: traffic or leads, nurturing of those leads or the funnel online, sales which is creating relationships with the leads, and then identifying and giving them the right product or service, and then the fulfillment. What most entrepreneurs are really good at is the fulfillment part. So they teach people how to dance or they will have a restaurant and they are good at cooking the food. But they're not good at the other three parts. So decide what you're really good at and even if you're not good at sales, you've got to keep a relationship with sales, because sales is the lifeblood of your entire organization. Without sales, nothing happens so you can't just delegate sales completely. If you do you're going to give them a lot of money because most people suck at sales and if you're going to hire somebody, you're going to give up 20 to 50% of what comes in.
Hang out with smarter people. I mean, I grew up as a farm boy in a town and I had very low self-esteem. My brothers and sisters called me pizza face and told me I was ugly and so I was really introverted. So all I did was like a taxi and I built decks, anything that really didn't have to do with having to be that much out there. But what I would have learned differently is that, as humans, we have seasons. There are seasons where you're going to be awesome and seasons where you're not going to be awesome. You're going to go through a stage, if you're married, where maybe you have young children, and you're going to feel not as important in a relationship. I was not as patient as I could have been in relationships. I played sports and lead the team, and if somebody dropped the ball two or three times, I want to kick them off the team, like I was a little bit ruthless for standards, because that's what I experienced growing up. So I would be a little bit more I guess, compassionate, and empathetic with the people in my life at a younger stage of my life, and I've learned that in my later years.
What triggered your, your shift in your professional career?
You know, I just started to notice that I had a lot of broken relationships. For a while, I was like, "Oh, that person's unreliable or that person's lazy." Then I kept on going, "Hmm, there's one common denominator in this whole thing and that's me." So I started to realize, okay, well, what part am I taking in this process of broken relationships. I started to realize that I had, you know, stupid high levels of expectations and it was creating a lot of broken relationships. So I started to realize that just because somebody has a bad day or a bad week, you can't just fire them, you realize we're all variable, and life happens, where's a little bit of flexibility. So that took a long time too because, you know, I was raised on a farm. The horses want to be fed, whether it rains or it's sunny, or it's Christmas, or your birthday, or you're sick. So we learn to create a result every day on the farm, whether you feel like it or not. Those drilled into me so I ran my businesses that way, which created incredible growth. But it also created some alienation with people that had a life. Over time, I started to increase my awareness, meditate more, do more yoga, and go, okay, there's another way to look at this life.
Do you have any final words, or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and support your network?
I think to look for the people that excite you when you talk to them or see them, and go up and try to either add value or be part of their ecosystem, you've got to invest in yourself. We teach 10% of whatever you earn needs to be reinvested in education, mentorship, products, services, learning about how to do your job better in a fast-paced, changing world, like we have today. If you can't afford to invest in that, then you need to invest in adding value. Do a hang out with somebody, add value, pick up their dry cleaning, bring them a coffee, offer to hang out with them and do things, and learn from just being in their environment. So one or the other, but get around people that have the result that you want, learn from them, and turn decades into days.
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Amanda is an award-winning international speaker and trainer who is passionate about supporting vision and mission-driven entrepreneurs learn how to communicate more effectively and deepen relationships in their network. She combines her unique experience from over 20 years in corporate education and direct selling spaces to deliver and facilitate powerful and transformative training and coaching to her clients. The loves of her life, or her husband, three boys, and three dogs.
What experiences in your past ultimately led you to do what you're doing today?
For me, it really started back when I was in high school. My middle school and high school years were a bit tumultuous, I didn't have a great time at home. We had a couple of moves and I just never really felt like I fit in anywhere, except for my ceramics teacher's classroom. When I would go into that classroom, he just created this safe space and it was like I could take off my energetic armor and just be me. He helped me feel seen and heard and helped me gain confidence at a time that I didn't have any. It was that experience, that I realized the importance of relationships, the importance of quality communication. Sadly, it took me a couple of years after high school to realize what an impact he had on my life. I remember the day that I realized that and thought, "You know what, I'm gonna go back to high school and visit him and thank him and just let him know that he made a difference in my life." I kid you not hours later, I found out that he had died in a car accident, I never had the chance to thank him. He was just a major reason why I went into teaching and in doing that, I realized I have this love of facilitating connections, whether it be a person to person connection, a connection to some new content outside of you, that makes a difference, or a connection to something within. So that really was the driver in the start to why I do what I do today.
How does marketing coordinate with sales and how are they different? And when you look at traditional prospecting and sales versus really building a relationship with someone. Speak to that a little bit if you can.
Absolutely, I started off my sales experience when I got involved in a direct sales company and I started my direct sales company like I'm sure many other people do. I loved the product, and I wanted to make a difference and share it with other people and did not necessarily have a great experience with sales and you know, it was to share your message next, next, next, and eventually, you'll get it Yes. It just didn't feel good to me and I didn't like the way that I felt, I didn't like the way that other people responded and it just never felt authentic to me. So when I discovered this concept called relational marketing, it really resonated with me. When we deal with traditional sales, and it's all about learning a little bit about the person, spending a lot of time talking about what you can give them, and then spending even more time overcoming objections. It seems like more of a convincing type of experience. With relational marketing and prospecting, it's spending a lot of time, in the beginning, developing a relationship, building trust, and then through that, discovering and uncovering a need. By that point, that trust is there and the relationship is built, so it's a very easy transition into the sales conversation. It's more authentic, it's more service-based and for me, that was what really mattered in making the difference.
So let's talk about referrals. If a business owner isn't getting the referrals that they want, what would you recommend they do?
Yeah, so I spent a lot of time networking, and one of the things that I teach is actually building more of a referral base for your business, because the act of getting a referral from somebody, you're borrowing somebody's trust, right? Like if you've got this interesting connection and somebody recommends a product or a service to you from somebody, you've got this trust in your existing relationship, so then inherently, you have a trust in that person. So getting referrals for your business are so much more lucrative and your customer will be more willing to buy more from you, stay with you longer and refer business to you so referrals are extremely important. One of the things that I hear a lot in networking situations is, "I go, I show up every week, and I'm not getting any referrals." Really, there are like five steps to the referral process and I think a lot of us were not taught that when we go into business. The first step in the referral process is trust. It's a big step, it takes time, and it takes getting to know each other, doing what you say you're going to do, showing up consistently, adding value, and really coming to be a valuable member of that community. After that is business knowledge, like, do people in your network understand what you do for your business, how you do it, any intricacies. One of the common things, I was talking to an insurance broker, and he was like, "I get all these referrals for life insurance and different forums and I deal with cybersecurity insurance." Well, members in his network simply didn't have the business knowledge. So making sure that your networking partners have knowledge of your business. And then from there, it's like making sure that that person has a need. I think we so often want to help people in our network and a common example I give is on Facebook where if you see somebody post a picture with their cup of coffee saying, "Oh my gosh, I'm so exhausted," and I say, "Oh, my gosh, they need this health and wellness product, I know it, I'm going to connect to them and refer them." Well, the person with a cup of coffee may not realize or have a desire or interest in that. So there really isn't this process in uncovering a need. Then the fourth step is actually edifying your referrer. It's a big difference to say, "I met Sam last week at a networking event and he does insurance and, maybe you guys will connect," versus, "Wow, Sam has been in the insurance industry for 10 years. And he's had all of these awards and he's very, very passionate about making sure his customers do this. He's just this great guy, I think he would be a great connection for you." Do they know how to edify you and do they know how to introduce you? Finally, the final step would be making that referral. So while a lot of us think making a referral is just this easy process, there's a lot more that goes into that process, and being able to teach people in your network how to refer to you will give you more quality referrals, as well as grow their confidence and being able to refer to you.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Absolutely. I was thinking about this and it actually came to fruition very recently and started last year, and I think that goes into the value of networking, and that it is a long game and it is about building those relationships and building that trust. So for me, I created quite a community, a network participating in the direct selling space that I was in. I really make sure that I showed up and added value and built those relationships. I shifted into becoming a trainer for a sales methodology a couple of years ago, and had let some people in my network know and that I was excited about it. One of the leaders for the network marketing company up in Canada caught wind of it and said, "Oh, my gosh, we need a trainer for our international conference, would you come up and, you know, train on stage?" She had learned through the grapevine and the network that I was doing that and had reached out for that connection. So I went up and had the opportunity to train in front of 1200 people, which I gotta tell you was terrifying but very exciting. However, one of the participants in that audience had watched the training and was interested and never really did anything about it. Then about three months later reached out to somebody in the network and found my name, and we ended up connecting. That was back in January of this year. I never met her in person, but we started collaborating over zoom once a week, and then she brought in three other women that were in her various network that she had made connections with. Then through the course of this year, we collaborated and just launched the Women's Impact Academy several weeks ago, which I'm so excited about and all of that started with networking and building those relationships and connections. It's just fun to see where they go because you just never know.
What do you do to continue to nurture your network and your community?
I think one of the biggest things is consistency and showing up. If it's a networking group that meets every week, showing up week after week and being there. To nurture those connections, I've heard this rule called the Platinum Rule as opposed to the Golden Rule, right? The Golden Rule is to treat others the way that you want to be treated. The Platinum Rule is to treat others the way that they want to be treated. So I always make sure that I go to those networking events with this kind of givers gain mentality, like, What can I do for them? Who can I connect them to? Who's in my network? What value can I add? Just always showing up with that mindset, and making those connections as they come about. Doing things like if I see something, an article or a piece of information that would benefit them in their business, reaching out. There are all sorts of little relationship-building activities that you can do. Send them a little postcard or something, to commemorate something, or thank them for a referral, those types of things. So really, it is about looking at that relationship, as I don't want to say a friendship, but it is, it's a business relationship that does need to be nurtured. So it's going above and beyond and doing those special things as they come up.
What advice would you offer the business professional who is looking to grow their network?
I'm definitely a believer in the one to one connections. With the relationship marketing training that I have, we talk about this concept of a complementary business owner. So what are industries that are complementary to what you do? So they may have the same target market, however, if your ideal customer buys something from them, that's not taking money out of their pocket to buy something from you. So an easy example of this would be a realtor and a mortgage broker, something like that they're complementary businesses. So making those connections, and setting up those one to one, conversations is where I have found the most quality connections. Second, periodically taking a look at your networking opportunities. What networks you are a part of, and making sure you've got some variety there. So kind of doing this little analysis on a networking group. How big is it? How often do they meet? Do they have people there that have access to my target market? Within there showing up consistently, and again, it is time-consuming, but again, it's that long game. Once that connection is there, it's a lot easier to keep them Top of Mind and grow from there.
I'm going to make you think about your 20-year-old self here for a moment. What would you tell yourself to do more or less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
If you were paying attention to my bio introduction, I've had quite the journey. I started off in the corporate world and I quickly decided I didn't like the politics and went into education, became a classroom teacher, and then stayed home. Then it was, "What am I going to do now?" And that's kind of my step into entrepreneurship. Even that I started in direct sales, and then I went in, you know, to do a different couple different training methodologies. I would say I've had a very winding journey and I'm grateful for every step along the way, because being able to look back and connect the dots for these meaningful experiences, is the value that I can offer to my clients, that's the value that I can offer to my networking partners, all of these different experiences. So I think I would tell myself to worry less about the changes and embrace the changes and just have confidence in the journey. And we never grow up, I just realized a few months ago. I think COVID has shaken up a lot of us and made us reevaluate things and, either confirm and affirm what we're doing, or maybe shift gears and kind of pivot a little bit. Sorry, that's an overused word this year. But it's a journey and I think we're so fortunate and that's the fun part about entrepreneurship and, being business owners and being able to adapt, create and show up how we want to have that freedom and that flexibility. Change is not always comfortable, but I have found in my life, while there's been a lot of painful moments, good has always come from it. Embrace the journey!
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation if you could connect with one person. Who is it and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
So my person who jumped to mind right away would be Jen Sincero. She's the author of You Are a Badass. I read her book maybe four years ago now and it completely changed my life and it's just her tone of voice, her presence, her authenticity. I will say I have her book on Audible as well, and I cannot listen to it in the car with my boys, I keep having to say ear muffs. So if profanity bothers you, maybe choose somebody else's book. But for me, it just resonated with who I am and her authenticity and her sense of humor. It really had a huge impact on my confidence, on my vision, waking me up and saying, "You know what, I want to do something bigger in this world, I want to make a difference, and I can, why not?" So Jen Sincero would be that woman, and I absolutely believe that in the six degrees of separation will have a meal with her. Maybe it's virtual at this point, but I will meet her and have a conversation with her one day.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
It's kind of cliche, but one of my favorite things that I hear is your network is your net worth. It really is and while developing those relationships can sometimes feel time-consuming, and there's not a lot of reward, they can really pan out. It may not be months, but even years, you know, just continually growing your network, adding, putting the good out there, and being able to make connections between people. That's my favorite thing to do.
Connect with Amanda:
This week, I've got no guest, it's a solo cast. I'm going to be talking to you about building a blog that provides real value.
The Importance of having a blog?
I want to dive into the importance of writing a blog. I mean, what is a blog at the end of the day? What I want to share is that a blog is literally fuel for the search engine fire. It's giving you more content to share on social media, it's providing and proving your expertise. Studies have indicated that businesses that are actively blogging acquire more customers because they have a stronger brand presence online. It ultimately allows you to level the playing field and helps you to get to know your target audience and it helps your target audience to get to know you.
The Keystone Click Blog:
I look at our Google Analytics, I often will break it up into the different segments of the site and figure out what kind of elements of our site are driving the most traffic. Historically, there is a blog post that continues to show up as one of the top-visited pages on our website. Now, what's fascinating is that this post was written in 2014. So this blog post was written by one of my team members. It likely took her maybe about three hours, that's on average, what we budget per blog post, to do a little research and writes and then published it, and now today, it still drives traffic to our site.
What Should you Write About?
First and foremost, start with the top questions that are asked of you, from your customer base when you're in that discovery phase when you're getting to know someone from a networking standpoint, even established clients that you have. Anytime someone is asking you a question, just write it down. Do that exercise for a week and it will give you a ton of ideas for what to write about. The reason you want to do this is that oftentimes, questions are what is being entered into search engines, people often are searching a question to find an answer or solution. So if you're writing questions, or answering questions as a form of your blog content, is going to help elevate your opportunity to be found in the search engines.
It's no different than a podcast but you could do a written interview, like if you were interviewing someone for a written publication of sorts. The beauty of doing this is one it gives you a lot of content that you don't need to really polish up because you can simply transcribe the conversation. Also if you have a guest that you are interviewing or you're highlighting someone else's expertise, they're likely going to share that content with their audience, which extends the reach of your blog, on your site.
The 80-20 Rule:
80% of the content that you create should be considered evergreen content. What that means is, it is a value to your audience today and tomorrow, and it was valuable yesterday. So it has a longer shelf life. Referencing that blog post that I talked about when I opened up, it was written in 2014, it is still relevant content today, therefore it is still providing value, it is still bringing visitors to our website. So identifying information, that is your expertise that will work for a long time, as opposed to saying, "Hey, we've got a special going on that ends on Friday," that is considered time-sensitive content.
Leveraging your Team and Partners:
If it's more than just you or even if you have resources, partners that you work with, they all have different areas of expertise. Ask them what types of questions they're being asked, and understand their expertise a little bit. Maybe you take the approach of answering the questions that are being asked, but taking the interview approach and interviewing your team and partners to get the solid answers
Identify what your Core Offering is:
Identify what your core offering is, and then make a list of the eight types of questions that people could potentially ask related to that offering. So, for example, we offer website design services, website design, and development. So that would be my core offering that I'd put here and then I'm going to look at the who question. Who am I going to be working with? Who's my main point of contact? Who's actually designing the site? Who on my team needs to be involved in this project? Then you look at the what questions. What kind of features am I going to have on my website? What kind of training Am I going to get with my website? What kind of materials do you need from me? Then look at the why questions. Why should we use WordPress content management system? Why should we have our site on Squarespace? Why should I renew my domain name for 10 years? Next up are the when questions. When is my site can be done? When do you need me to learn to sign off on things? Then come the where questions. We'll look at how questions. How do I make edits to my sites? How do I know that the site is safe and secure? Next up are the which questions. Which image is going to be better? Which color palettes? Which fines should I be using? Which content management system should I have? Which hosting provider? Then the last question is a yes or no question. So you identify that core offering product service, whatever it is, you look at the eight questions types of questions, then you just kind of brainstorm and map out what types of questions that people ask related to this offering. Every one of those 8 questions could be made into a blog post.
5 Best Practices:
Have any questions about blogging? Reach out and I’d be happy to help!
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Cheale is the CEO and visionary rabbit of Visual Caffeine and for 25 years has stayed true to her authentic self and worked exclusively through her branding agency to help clients magnify and broadcast their message. Currently, visual caffeine continues to bring companies and communities’ goals to fruition, not only by building messages and magnifying voices but by building and magnifying a relationship.
Let's talk about Instagram a little bit. What is one of the biggest mistakes that people are making on Instagram?
Honestly, it's amazing to me, it seems to be the same mistake people have been making since Instagram started. It's the over promoting! People tend to stay really imbalanced with the amount that they're driving really quality-driven content that feeds their credibility, feeds their brand, and instead, they make their channel about sales.
What are a few ways for a company to put their brand out there to exemplify their brand in social media?
I honestly think it's two C's, it's content and consistency. Being consistent about who you say you are and who you are trying to be out there in the world and being perceived in an authentic way. But then also putting out quality content that you know your target market would be interested in and freely give it, don't hold back.
So let's talk about the websites a little bit. What mistakes do companies make with their website that affects the user experience?
First off, people approached the website, a lot of times as just kind of this online brochure, that is how the website started. I was in the midst of the web boom, that's when I started my company and it was all about making your website this online brochure like it was so great to even have a website. But now and for a long time, your website needs to be this fluid, organic space that you're nurturing your users that are coming in, because that glimmering back button is always there, and you have a very short period of time that you have to pull them in. Once they get there, they want to be pulled into a culture that is your brand, want to find what they are seeking and why they're there. So they want to be understood, they want to find what they were looking for when they found you. If you don't quickly give that to them, you are going to lose them as fast as they came in. Part of that is making things as easily communicated as well. I like the term "frictionless as possible", meaning that they have the least amount of steps to get what they want, and also for you to get a sale with them.
Well gosh, I've had so many! I basically built my business on networking and relationship and I would say, it is one of the best ways to grow your business organically. I mean, yes, we would love our businesses to grow at an exponential speed. But to have relationships to build loyalty amongst groups of people, and to nurture that over time, and as well as that adds the circle is just an amazing thing, and I've been that is how I've grown for over over 25 years. But I would say my best networking experiences have been recently when I got involved with Highbury. It's an organization that was actually a co-working space in San Francisco. I read about Grace, who had started the organization several years ago, but when the pandemic happened, it was solely in San Francisco. When the pandemic happened, I was like, "Oh, I wonder if they have created a virtual space," and she has successfully created such a community of women and trust in her circle with everyone who is a member, and she did open it up into a virtual space. Ever since I've joined that community, I've just had these amazing connections with very like-minded women and I've actually even pulled some other people in my own network over there because I thought that they would love the experience as well. Of course, it gives me the feeling of obviously, a West Coast culture is very much in there, but it's in a great and fantastic way. To me, it all has to do with Grace's leadership as to why that has happened. Even our zooms are just very engaging, and where we've seen a lot of tiredness with doing zooms, she has successfully continued to implement zooms that are engaging, and you feel like you're always coming away with inspiration. It's just been truly incredible.
I love that you've identified a community with like-minded individuals, that can be so powerful. I'm sure it's helped to maintain a positive mindset to be around some like-minded individuals, but I would imagine there's been some growth to your business from that as well.
Oh, absolutely. I feel like one of the key things that I have done through my years of networking is diversification. So always diversifying the circles you're in because one of the values you deliver relationships is having relationships that they don't have. Well, the only way you can have that is to be always diversifying the circles and relationships you're building. By doing that our virtual sense has allowed us to expand our circles globally, which is really one of the best ways to help connect your existing contacts with new contacts that could be across the ocean, but they still would be great opportunities for them. That's something that I've always sought to do in my relationships. It's never about what I'm going to get out of it, it's about what I can do to serve others. I feel like when we approach relationships with a self-serving mentality, we're really no different than that sales guy at the carwash, you know, it's kind of putting a relationship face on while I'm just trying to sell you.
So regardless of the size of your network and your community, how do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships?
That would be taking the extra time to connect and check-in. Even if it's just an email, or if it's a DM on social media, or it's sharing something they have going on in social media, there are ways that you can continue to nurture those relationships and keep that connection alive. It doesn't always mean that you have to be taking 30 minutes aside or an hour aside to have a coffee meet up or something. There are always ways that we can show that we support and we are trying to serve them in our relationships.
What advice would you offer to business professionals looking to grow their network?
First, I would say to think about what type of relationships are you really wanting to build. Some people's goals are to obviously grow their business, get more clients, then you need to look in areas where are those potential clients. Then start looking at those places to start networking, to start nurturing. I mean that's even the wisdom of you know when we are in social media. Where should we be having and starting conversations? Well, it's where our target is. But if you're looking to, I don't know, get into a publication or something like that, then you're going to want to start building relationships with journalists and people of that nature. So really to me, the choices, you may have to do with the goals you have. I have always wanted to make sure that where I'm building relationships has a lot to do also with community give back and where we can best serve the community as a whole because that's where we always should start is supporting our local community. Sometimes the best people you can meet are also ones with that community-minded service and you find your people there. If you're minded that way, you're going to find your tribe that way and then expand out from there.
Let's 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 first would tell myself to trust my instincts. There are many times where I ignore my instincts, because I heard something that influenced me differently, or I allowed someone to sway me differently. My gut has always been the center in which I have best-made decisions and moved forward. By trusting that those were always where I look back at my history, and that's always where I was on the right path. The things that I would tell my 20-year-old self to avoid doing is making sure that you are always continuing to lead in a heart and service and never veer away from that road as well.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
Sophia Amoruso from Girl Boss. I actually looked her up on LinkedIn and I am three degrees away from her. That was really cool because she is someone who would really be an amazing coffee chat with.
What would you ask?
I would ask about her soul and the passion that drives her. Digging Deeper into what has driven her all of this time and also about her tenacity to keep herself always shifting and doing what she needs to keep moving forward. I have a lot of admiration for her. I think she's an amazing woman, and she's someone I feel like, has even more wisdom than she has put out there that a really deep conversation would reveal.
Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would say, just continue to be authentic, transparent, be of service, always think with a service mind. This is how we best serve our clients, this is how we best can show love to everybody that we engage with a meet. And never treat someone with your preconceived judgments, always treat everybody like they're Oprah Winfrey. Because when you make preconceived notions about people, it does affect how you will treat them and you always should treat everyone as if they are a superstar.
Connect with Cheale:
Visual Caffeine’s website: https://visualcaffeine.com/
Simon is the CEO of Strategy Sprints, Europe's leading remote growth agency. His global team of certified strategy sprint coaches do only one thing: they double the revenue of service-based businesses in 90 days. Simon also teaches growth strategy and select business schools and hosts The Strategy Show podcast.
Can you just tell us a little bit about what certified strategy sprint coaches is?
Sure, so we coach business owners, small business owners into having more freedom, more impact, and more revenue. Our goal is in 90 days of coaching to have them double their revenue or at least significantly move forward to fast track their growth goals. In this funky year, it's quite a challenge, but we are doing really well.
Let's talk a little bit about goals. Your statement is that goals are a bad thing, why is that?
You know, today in my city, Vienna, we just had a terror attack in the middle of the night out of nowhere. So the first thing is you check if your family is safe and if your friends save, etc. Whatever goals I had for these months are not helping me at all in this real-life situation. But the systems that I have in place limit how far we are going to fall down. So you never raise to your high goals, but you only fall as low as your systems are. For example, your systems can be your morning routine, who picks up the kids, your communication systems, your decision-making system. So my wife and I, we had to decide how do we do that, kids in school kids not in school? Which meetings do we delete? etc. So all the goals that we have are just for sunny times, and entrepreneurship is not about sunny times, it's an all-weather sport. So you need systems that help you especially cope with the bad weather and this year has taught us a lot about that. You need systems much more than you need goals. Having said that I just posted today my goals on LinkedIn publicly, so I like to have goals. But even that it's a system of telling the public what my goals are, because it will keep me accountable, and it will keep me rolling. It will also create some emerging properties that are super nice. For example, today in the morning, I posted that one of my goals is to hire a video editor. Two hours later, somebody wrote to me "Hey, I know somebody can I introduce you?" So even the goals I have, I use them as a system. The system of setting up the goals at the beginning of the month, of communicating them, of delivering them, and at the end of reviewing the amount and setting up the new ones and again communicating the new ones, because it creates more connection and a better and more truthful relationship. But in hard times you need systems more than goals.
So let's look at 2020, which is the year of disruption. How can businesses survive and thrive throughout this year?
This is a special year, we've never had a year like this. So the only thing that we all have in common is that nobody knows what's going on. So markets are shifting, and of course, cash crunch everywhere. Everybody has some form of cash crunch, but also massive opportunities are arising. We have this coaching program for business owners and the dozens of people I hear about because every Monday there's a coach meeting, and they tell me how business owners are doing. So I am out of fulfillment, I am the CEO now, and I don't do the coaching myself. But every Monday I coach the coaches so we go through every single business owner in our programs, and check the main three numbers: the revenue, the customer satisfaction score, and the retainment rate. So every Monday I see these numbers, I see the challenges, I see the problems, and I see the solutions. There is a way to grow even now, but it means re-shifting. It means you cannot just go on as if nothing happened, you have to embrace the current reality around you really think from the customer about how is their word right now changing and what do they need now. And you really need to change your website accordingly and your offer accordingly to pick them up at their bus stop right now because everything else is just not relevant to them. So if you can refine your offer in a way that speaks to their current needs, then there is a chance for growth and there are enormous opportunities if you can do it in a digitized way. One of my joint ventures that we have right now is with Google. So Strategy Sprints and Google had a press conference together in Zurich. Google showed some numbers about small businesses, and how can we help small businesses grow. They showed that 99% of small business customers start their sales journey online. So 99% of every small business customer journey starts online. That means restaurants and when you say, "Hey, go to that restaurant," the first thing that your friends do is they will check for reviews. So everybody now is an online business if they want it or not. This is something to embrace.
I agree with that 100%, the numbers simply skyrocketed. We've had a little spike in our business because people are realizing their website is out of date and they're missing out on opportunities because everyone is online right now.
Absolutely. There is one thing I love, it's simple, and you can do it and it will boost your website. So if you go right now on your own website and check these five things, and then after you hear this, just implement this, it takes half an hour and your website will be much more relevant. First thing, you go onto your website and you check who is the hero. Who is it for? Are you really clearly describing who this is for? The first hero section, it's called the hero section for a reason. The first picture that I see, is that about your client in the way that you can impact them? If in the first five seconds, you don't see this, then implement this. Who is it for and where can you bring them? The next thing is, what do you help them avoid? Because 80% of the people prefer not to lose $100 than to win $100. So if you can clearly state what you help them avoid, for example, I help you grow your business without spending on ads. 80% percent of the people resonate more with them without spending part and 20% resonate with the growing part. So is it clear what you help them avoid? Then the rest is just details. Now, what's the plan? How can I start working with you? What's my next clear action? That's the call to action button. Do you know what to do now? and repeats that button three, four times. And then what's the plan? Do you have a plan? Can I trust you? Do you have a plan? Just put in three testimonials. Three, that's enough, then I know if I can trust you. If you put 17 testimonials or 25, then you're doing a hero reversal. Now you are the hero, not them. And when a hero sees a hero to say, "Oh, yeah, nice to see you, but I don't have time I have to rescue a princess, bye-bye, see you later!" You have five seconds to make really clear who this is for, where you can bring them, what you help them avoid, what the next call to action is, and why they should trust you. So that's my tip for your audience. Just do this, and you massively improve the relevance of your message.
Is growth possible in quarter four here?
Oh yes! So we have right now a number of clients that were struggling, of course, when they started and some that are starting right now. These are challenging times, but what I see every week is that there is a blueprint for growth. For example, when they start with our coaching, 10 minutes later they get into the program, and then in the first week, we define three numbers with them. What are the three numbers that will tell us 80% of the story you need to know? And usually, it's are your clients happy, are the markets resonating, and are we losing a very small amount of reselling potentials? So the first week, define two-three numbers that will tell you this, and now set up the system that will measure these three numbers every seven days. In the second week, we free up the business owner from the weeds because small businesses have the problem that the CEO or the executive team is doing too many activities. So they need to get out of the weeds and start working on the system, but to work on the system you need time. So we free up 10 to 14 hours of their time per week in week two. Then from week three on, we do this brand sprint which is this exercise that I told you about making the message simple, relevant, and repeatable. Then we go to the equalizer, how they can become incomparable so that the pricing problem is not the problem anymore after being incomparable after doing the equalizer, which takes two days after that they can double the price, because now they are not comparable. And then we go to the sale system, setting it up in a way that is repeatable and reliable. We bring it all together in the CRM system where they know right now, with every person they speak to, in which relationship stage they are with them, and what's the next thing to move them from one stage to the next stage in their relationship sequence. This can be attract, nurture, prepare for closing, close, fulfill, retain, for example. You have to know exactly where you're speaking with somebody, where they are. Are they mildly engaged, highly engaged, or are they ready to buy? That's the CRM system. At the very end, in the last week, we do the marketing system, which finds the numbers that are really important and what are the three that you will track every seven days because most people do too much marketing.
I want to go a little deeper into the statement that most people are doing too much marketing. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
So business owners really struggle, especially if they have kids or if they have a funky year, like this year 2020. Then you are doing everything, you are the fulfillment team, you are the legal team, you are the IT team, and now you also should do LinkedIn and, and Instagram and Tiktok and what have you. So it's too many activities and usually, they don't build up on each other. So what I really recommend to do is to stop doing marketing. Usually, when somebody starts working with us, we stop all marketing activities, especially the marketing spending because it's leading to nowhere. If you don't do the 11 steps that I was telling you before, you don't have a well-oiled machine that can convert attention into clients. So 99% of the businesses, didn't build the whole machine and so when you spend $1 on marketing, they basically waste it. If you do these 11 things, now you have a well-oiled machine, now you spend $1, you can do 1.2 dollars or 1.5 dollars on that dollar. But first, you have to build the machine and most people don't have the machine, but they do post on LinkedIn on Instagram, etc. You are wasting time. If you enjoy it, okay, then do it, but do not expect any business impact
Let's talk a little bit about networking. Can you share with our listeners, one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So I think I mentioned the Google one. So what happened is, especially in this year, which was so funky, and it was kind of reinventing how we network and how we cooperate. I made a list of the 100 firms I want to work with and I started proactively sharing my journey with them and our journey and where we want to go and asking, "Hey, what are you trying to bring into this world, and what do you want to solve next?" We started some really nice conversations and one of them became a joint venture. The joint venture was Google, asking us to be the execution engine for their program in Europe. What we did is we asked them, "What does your audience really need in this year (small businesses) in order to survive and thrive in this funky year?" And so you know that Google has data because they take that really seriously. So I gave them 15 topics and asked them to check that with their data. What is really relevant? What do people really need? So around these topics, we created a series of webinars. So okay, people, we know that you need this. Now, this is free webinar number one, free webinar number two, free webinar number three, we were just giving, giving, giving, giving. This created wonderful win-win situations for small businesses, for Google, and for my company, because we had real needs, and basically free value around that which created wonderful conversations. So this is my favorite networking way is to talk to people about what are you going to solve next. Tell them what you are struggling with, what you want to solve, and what you have found out that works, and share this. This is how collaboration possibilities can emerge even in relations where you didn't think that that could be possible. But it can because everybody is trying to solve some problems and maybe the problems that you're solving work for theirs, and then collaborate. So my way of networking is really just collaborating. I also run a podcast where I meet new people. So I also increase the number of people I can collaborate with. But then the way I do it is really just say, "Hey, let's talk, what are you bringing into this world? What are we bringing into this world? How can we find synergies?"
So how do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?
So what I do is every day I try to share the journey. I do not just share the solutions, let's say once a month when they're polished. But really, every day I share the journey. Like right now I'm speaking on a podcast of somebody, then later I will have somebody on my podcast and I will do the same thing I will ask them, "Hey, what are you doing?" and these will be directly live in our Facebook community, which is called Entrepreneurship in Sprints so our own exploration is always public, we try to work in public. So whatever we are trying to find out to solve, to make better, to digest, to understand, that's our exploratory path of today. I try to make that as public as possible and that's the nurturing piece. At the end of the week, we put that all together. So at the end of the week, we have produced five podcasts, three interviews, two templates, maybe three video guides. So in the end, we just collect it and send it to the people who have asked us via subscribing, that they want to have that and every Friday it goes to everybody and that's how we nurture.
What advice would you offer those business professionals really looking to grow their network?
I think it's just about true conversations, deep, real conversations. What's not working, what's working. I really prefer the new one on ones. I'm actually liking the lockdowns, my city right now, Vienna is in the second lockdown starting today. I actually like the lockdown, because now I can finally say, "No, I'm not coming to your networking event," so I always hated networking events. I was a speaker at many conferences, but I would get there and go away as quickly as possible because I hate wasting time. For me, every form of networking event in the traditional way is time wasted because I just want to have one conversation with one person. I prefer to have three really deep real conversations per day than to meet 25 people.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regard to growing and supporting your network?
We have put together something because nowadays everybody needs to make this Q4 a winning one. So we have put together a 15 minutes exercise if you want that you can go through and you will analyze your current sales funnel and find two points to improve during that 15 minutes. That 15 minutes might help you get along with this funky Q4.
Connect with Simon
Take his 15-minute sales audit: https://www.strategysprints.com/sales
Check out Simon’s podcast: https://www.strategysprints.com/podcast
Facebook Group: Entrepreneurship in Sprints
Adam is a managing director and MGA, a specialized commercial real estate firm structured to support the growing needs and concerns of occupiers of commercial real estate. Adam provides expert consultation and analyzing and executing solutions aimed to reduce their client's overall facility expenses while maximizing workplace efficiency and productivity. Never representing institutional landlords, MGA is one of the few firms that eliminates any conflict of interest from representing tenants and landlords.
So you are in Washington, DC. What makes that region special to you?
I think a lot actually. So my family has been in this area, we actually just found a newspaper article from earlier this year about my great great grandfather. It's just a story about him when he came to Alexandria, Virginia, in 1875. So we've been here for such a long time. I've got a lot of history and a couple of different stories. My great grandmother has a post off is named after her, we've got schools named after her family. We're not from a whole lot of money or anything like that, but it was just community involvement with both the civil rights movement and just general activity in mentoring younger people. So it's been a great region and area for me and it's been my second home for a long time. About eight to nine years ago, I moved here permanently.
So let's talk about commercial real estate right now. What has the pandemic done and what does it mean for commercial real estate in the future?
Yeah, I think that it's no secret, a lot of people are having success working remotely. Now, whether or not that means more business, they're going to go 100% remote, I don't think from the executives I'm speaking with, I don't see that happening, especially to those businesses that have a good number of employees. They're still going to have an office presence for the most part. You might have the four people per thousand square feet now, I mean, does that drop down to two or three people? How many people are going to fit into your office and how much is it going to be utilized? Still, the question that I think a lot of executives are wondering is, what does that mean for their footprint and what does that mean for their operations? So I think most executives are still asking those questions amongst their employees, and we're helping them create a strategy to offer their real estate based on some of those answers to the questions.
So let's circle back to relationships here a little bit. How do you manage the new relationships as well as the old ones?
Yeah, my life is based on relationships, and cultivating relationships. What I do is I keep a bit of a tracker, in terms of understanding the relationships that I'm building every year, and I'm adding on to it. I'm a member of a couple of different network marketing organizations. As you know, when we used to go out and shake hands, meet people and collect business cards, instead of just simply putting in the pile, and then you know, maybe in a few years, you ring them up and say, "I need some help with something," I try to create a system to where it's more intentional. I've got a top 100 list of people that I like to keep in touch with who aren't prospective clients of mine, but they're just referral partners. They're people that can help grow my business and then I can also help grow their business or they're your trusted advisors to where, if my client needs a referral, they're on that list. Then throughout the year, I'm making sure that I'm reaching out to those people, once a quarter, in different ways. Sometimes it's an email, sometimes it’s a call, sometimes it's a handwritten note or some sort of physical mailing to those people, just to make sure that we're staying in touch, and I'm staying Top of Mind with them. Also to really take that networking meeting that generally a lot of people don't get a lot of value from, and make sure that you extract all the value from that by building lasting, incredible relationships.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking stories or experiences that you've had?
One of them was about four or five years ago. I went to this event, and I met a really nice set of brothers. It was a whiskey and cigar event that I had been invited to through somebody in my network and he said, "Hey, there's gonna be some business owners here, why don't you come in just enjoy the night," and so I did. Then I met these three brothers and we just got to talking and they mentioned they were interested in buying a property for their business or possibly even buying an investment property. So, you know, continue to carry on the relationship and at least once a quarter doing something of value to them to inform them on the real estate market, because I knew that at some point in time, but this is going to be, you know, four or five years away from when they're ready to purchase. At least once a quarter keeping in touch with them, whether that be a personal connection, or sending them something in about the real estate market that's of value until they're ready to buy. Then finally, this summer, they did end up purchasing a property, about three and a half million dollars or so. Looking back on having developed that relationship for five years, it worth it, and I still consider them to be friends of mine, even if they weren't clients.
What's great about that was you were just going to meet some new people and get to know them. But then you fostered a relationship and there was a positive outcome for you. But your goal when you attended that event was not to sell three and a half million dollar property, right?
Exactly. Sometimes networking events, you know, historically, outside of COVID get to be exhausted, right? If you've already done two or three that month, and that's kind of it. If you're the kind of person that just needs to sit back and relax, it doesn't seem like the most fun thing to do. But if you do go out to that event that you do, try and form at least one valuable relationship, whether that be with somebody that is going to be a prospect or a client of yours, or somebody that you can help in either direction, whether they're helping them grow their business, or you're helping them grow your business. To form that meaningful connection with somebody does pay off because what I found is, the more advocates you can have, the better you'll be. You'll never know where that next referral is coming from and the fact that I've been able to build up kind of like an army of advocates across the region, that I can say, "Hey, do you know this CFO? and the person says, "Oh, yeah, of course," and then next thing I know, I've got a glowing email introduction to the exact person I'm trying to meet. I've just been able to cultivate the relationship to where they do trust me. So when the time comes, they're more than happy to make that referral.
So what advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I would say that it's not always about quantity. A lot of times, like I've been saying, it's about the quality. So you don't have to go to every single Chamber of Commerce event. Here, in the D.C. area, we've got maybe a dozen different little chambers of commerce throughout our metro area. You don't have to go to every single one, but when you go, or if you go into a BNI group, or if you're going to be a part of any sort of networking group is to get involved in it and some sort of level that's deeper than just being a member. Really trying to find out, can I be on the membership committee, or can I be, you know, on the Events Planning Committee? How do I get more involved in this organization to form a deeper relationship with the five or six of the people on that committee, because that's going to pay off in my experience a lot more than simply going and handing out business cards to everybody.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old cell phone, would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I would tell myself to be more focused. Early on in my career in real estate, there was a lot of different interesting opportunities, and you kind of run around, chasing a dollar. Just like, I can close this deal, or I can do this or that, you know? But I think that over the long run, it certainly pays off to be hyper-focused. For me, I'm hyper-focused on office space tenant representation or representing the occupiers of real estate, even though there's a lot of different facets to commercial real estate that I could veer off into or step into. Being focused really does pay off in the long run, it increases your income, save you a lot of time, wasted energy, and heartache, I think as well.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
The person that I would love to connect with is not necessarily a business person, it's my hero is Peyton Manning. He's just been my hero since he started playing for the Colts in 98. So that would be my dream connection. I'm a firm believer in six degrees of separation. I think that if I were to try hard enough and dedicate enough time, I'm sure that I could find a route to Mr. Manning, but I don't know that I've got the time or energy at this very point in time.
Do you know where you’d start?
Where would I start? That's a good question. I actually did play high school football with a couple of people who made it to the NFL. So I'd probably start there and then look at who they know. I'm sure that might be one of the quickest routes to it. Where else would I start? Actually, I know the route. It's a friend that played for the Giants and Eli Manning played for the giants. So he'd be more than happy to introduce me to Eli Manning and obviously if I can get to Eli, I can get to Peyton.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I just think don't be picky or choosy about who you're connecting with. Everybody's got different job titles, and everybody wants to first say of what do you do for a living and how can you help me. But especially in this world of entrepreneurship, or real estate, or whatever it is you might be doing, it's not always the person that you think that's going to lead to a great introduction or meaningful relationship. So go out there and connect with people and build genuine relationships and the money will follow.
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Kate Paine works with executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals to develop their brand and share their stories which differentiate them from their competition in the marketplace. She's an expert on using LinkedIn as a powerful personal branding tool and discovering an individual's story which makes her expertise unique in the world of online promotion. Kay volunteers her time training members of the US Special Forces on how to use LinkedIn as they transition out of their military career.
So personal branding is a space that you support on LinkedIn. When when you discuss or talk about identifying your personal brand, what does that look like? And why is it so important to know what your personal brand is?
Well, the personal brand piece is really something that you sort of need to self identify with. I think a lot of people when they hear the term "personal brand" or "personal branding," I think they have this notion that they're going to go around and sort of like shake someone's hand and say, "Hi, I'm Kate Payne, and my personal brand is," and you fill in the blank. That's not what it is at all. The personal brand is really similar to that other marketing term we love, it's like your unique selling proposition or unique value proposition. Except I prefer the person the term personal brand because I think that when you're thinking of a platform like LinkedIn, a lot of people see LinkedIn as a quote-unquote, personal branding platform. So it's a way for you to kind of consider your expertise. Your personal brand is essentially your reputation, and your reputation is made up of your values and your integrity, certainly your professional expertise. So really understanding your personal brand and how you're going to message that via your personal LinkedIn profile is really important. Then I add a component to that, which is a personal story, which helps make your personal brand more personalized, and really true to who you are, and helps you sort of creating that unforgettable feeling in someone's mind when they meet you because they know your brand and they know your story. You're now more unforgettable, so they'll remember you going forward.
I'm the type of person that's like, "Here are all the facts." That's my storytelling and it's not that I don't want to, I feel awkward telling the world my story. How do you help people overcome that?
So that's, that's sort of my niche that's sort of my superpower is I pull from my journalism, marketing, and PR background. When I interview a person I'm working with, I really kind of go back to, "Alright, so how did you get it, why did you want to become a realtor?" or, "Why did you go into the military, and then decide to get out of the military and go into being a financial advisor?" So there's this little nugget and I call it a nugget of your personal story that you can kind of identify and write about in like a short paragraph. So it's not the story from the standpoint of this long bio, you know, dirty laundry kind of thing. It's like you're taking this little slice of a life story or that story nugget. For example, when I have people kind of identify what that might be, is when you literally look at your LinkedIn profile, I want that to really stand out in the about section which used to be the summary and that's the most read section of one's profile. So for example, on my profile, I start out with like, the first line is I was an avid news junkie in eighth grade. Then I go into like my internship at CBS News and then I kind of say, I learned how to become a storyteller, and now I help people find their own. So it's like, I've taken that nugget and I've also made it relevant to what I do now. so that then sort of tying it all together and it's not like this all about my story thing, it's just a little slice of life. A lot of people when they start their about section in their LinkedIn profile, they don't really know what to do. So some people either ignore it don't have one there at all, which is not good. Or they start off with like, "I've been in the digital marketing world for 15 years doing blah, blah, blah." You know, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's sort of formulaic, and it's what everybody else does. So if you figure out what that little story nugget is, if yours, you know, you can really use that as an introduction and really hook your reader and want to learn more about you.
Let's talk about some of the new features that LinkedIn has rolled out. What do you think is one of the best features that they’ve come out with recently?
Well, their whole user interface has changed, and it didn't change drastically, but it's very white. It's looking very much like Facebook and Twitter so I'm not real thrilled about that. I liked that LinkedIn had a little bit of an aesthetic structure. But some of the new things I like, their privacy and settings is probably one of the biggest changes and it's so you can make your user experience much more the way you want it to be. Because a lot of people when they're on LinkedIn, especially if they don't use it a lot, they're like, "All I do is get these annoying notifications." Now you can go in and really create the user experience you want. So they created more privacy and settings, which makes that user experience much more the way you want it to be. They also came out with stories and some people are finding really great engagement with stories. I still haven't wrapped my head around stories on LinkedIn, because I barely wrap my head around it on Instagram and Facebook. I mean, it's funny, I know, you're asked me like, what's my favorite and now I'm telling you kind of the opposite. To me, stories are really something that just belongs on Facebook and Instagram. I mean, what are you going to do in the course of your business day, that's going to be so particularly exciting that you want to throw it out there for 24 hours. So I haven't wrapped my head around that, I've tested it, and it's kind of gotten average engagement. But you know what? Just because LinkedIn or any platform creates a new feature doesn't mean you have to use it. Again, you should always be utilizing these features if they're aligned with your personal brand and your efforts on social media. The one thing I love the most on LinkedIn right now is the Featured Block and I think it's completely rolled out to everybody. It's on your personal profile page and you don't see it there if you haven't taken any kind of online asset and made it a featured link. So if you want to feature a post you just wrote in the feed if you wanted to feature a LinkedIn article that you've done on the publishing platform, if you wanted to link to anything on a website, anywhere on the internet, or if you wanted to upload an infographic or a PDF, you now have this really great Featured Block and it creates this really big visual block in the middle of your otherwise text-heavy profile page. You can put up as many links as you want, some people have put up like 60, but it's like this side-scrolling thing, so I don't advise that. So I put in four to six things in that featured section and you can change them as you go. But it's a way to get targeted eyes on something and it's finally something LinkedIn did, where you can literally click on that piece of content in the featured block, and it will take you directly to that online asset. Whereas before, you could have up to three websites in your contact information, and you still can. But when you click there, it’s a two-click process to get to the final thing. It's just a way to really get targeted eyes on something you really want people to see on your profile page.
So can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?
I just had one today, actually. So you know, we all know what influencers are right? And LinkedIn, actually, long before they opened up publishing to the average user, there were a lot of quote-unquote, LinkedIn influencers out there like the Richard Bransons and the Arianna Huffingtons of the world. So now anybody can be a so-called influencer on LinkedIn. They're rolling out newsletters, which is a subscription thing. They're certainly still in beta with LinkedIn live, you do have to apply for it. But there are all kinds of ways that you can now become an influencer. So anyway, I'm part of a virtual summit that's going on this week called the LinkedIn Lead Generation Summit, and the woman that's putting it on is a woman from Australia, Kate Hore-Lacey is her name. So she got 21 speakers to share some lead generation tips of which I'm one of the speakers. One of the speakers, the primary sort of keynote, if you will, is a New York Times bestselling author, Dave Kirpan. He's written the Art of People, and he's written some other books about social media in general. Anyway, he did his video today and I was watching the recording this morning and I thought, "Well, I'll go in and see if I can connect with him," you know, somebody who's got almost a million followers, it's really hard to have a meaningful networking conversation. He was actually sharing some of his best practices and so I actually took his advice, went into LinkedIn, I followed him on his profile, and then I found a way to send him an inmail and I very rarely do that. I sent him a very nice message saying, you're the keynote, I'm one of the speakers. I've read your book, I would really love to be connected here and I just kind of gave a little blurb, about, you know, what my talk will be about. I didn't try to sell him or pitch him, and within five minutes, he accepted my request and wrote me a really nice note. So you just never know, and you've got to try and find ways to kind of do some work around some time.
So regardless of the size of our network, and how many people are in our community, it's extremely important to nurture these relationships. How do you best stay in front of or nurture these relationships?
I'm so glad you brought that up because I've been doing this now for nearly six years and LinkedIn is really like my platform of choice. Even though I work with the foundational work on personal branding, LinkedIn is my tool of choice. I do not have a lot of connections and that's totally by design. I'm actually one of those people that truly wants to make connections with people on LinkedIn where I feel like when I'm serving them and connecting with them and nurturing them, that I want to feel like that the circle is not small, but just more intimate. So I'm not one of these people that connects with every single person just to build up my numbers. I care more about my numbers, if you will, on Facebook and Instagram. Even then, I don't worry about it as much. But on LinkedIn, I really want those connections to be just more intimate and I feel like even though I don't have multiple thousands of followers, I'll get there at some point. But I also feel like I'm walking the talk because I teach the people I work with the same thing. You know, don't just accept an invitation because you want to get your numbers up and there's a lot of people that are using LinkedIn who are spamming, and I don't want those people in my network, either.
So let's talk about building your network. What advice would you offer the business professional who is looking to grow there, there are a number of relationships that they have?
Well, certainly and this is true on every platform and I know you would agree with me 100% on this is you need to have a Service mindset first. So when you are putting out content, you need to think of yourself as an up other LinkedIn is to not think of yourself as a resume, but instead, think of yourself as a resource. When you are positioning yourself from the LinkedIn platform, you need to be seen as a resource. So whatever content you're putting out, put out everything you know about that topic, whatever world you're in. Share that stuff, share other people's content, reshare other's content as well if something aligns with you, put out videos, put out some of your own promotional stuff, too. But back to that good old fashioned 80-20 rule, 80% service, and 20% of your own stuff, here and there. That's the best way you're going to serve your people to build relationships, and then lead to either a connection on LinkedIn, which then may lead to a transaction at some point. But always go into it with wanting to build the relationship and build the network first and nurture it by giving them really great content and serving them.
Let's 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 great career?
My 20-year-old self would have been a junior in college. I think I would have told myself to step forward more. At the time that I was 20, I was actually in college in New York City and I'm from Vermont so that was a major culture shock. I was interning at the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, so I was in a pretty cool internship. A lot of the people I had admired from journalists we're literally walking through the building all the time, and I had to get away from being starstruck and really do the job. But I think I was a little too shy and didn't speak up enough or ask questions enough. So I think what I would have told myself back then is to lean in, step up, raise your hand, wherever you want to call it. I certainly do that now and that's why I've gotten where I am and doing what I do in my business. I mean, it's been a major characteristic of what I need to do in my business.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you would love to connect with? And do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
This is going to sound so trite, but I would absolutely love to meet Ellen DeGeneres. I followed her since she was on Carson, like when she was brand new. Actually from the degrees of separation, years ago in the late 90s, I worked at one of our state colleges here in Vermont at Johnson State College and Ellen DeGeneres;, his mother was on a speaking tour, and she came and spoke at our campus. So I met her mother and the reason she was speaking out, was it was at the time that Ellen was coming out as a gay woman. Her mom went around and told the story about how it was hard for her when she first learned but how she came to be very accepting and loving of that. So I always felt like I had this little hint of closeness to maybe someday meeting or and if I ever did, I could say, "Oh, I Met Your Mother." Not many people could say that, not that her mother would remember who the heck I was.
Do you have any final word or advice offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
You know, I keep it real. I think that's why that my use of personal story really resonates with people is, I think a lot of people when it comes to LinkedIn, think they just need to show their professional side, and you absolutely do. But also, don't be afraid to let people peek behind the curtain a little bit and see who you are as a whole person. When you write in your LinkedIn profile, speak and present yourself in the first person in a conversational tone. Some people still using like, the third person, in their bio, speaking about themselves in the third person in their profile. That's not a way to try to connect with people, you know. Be that on LinkedIn as you would be in real life, so that get the real you so keep it real. You don't have to go into the nitty-gritty, but be authentic and be relatable.
Connect with Kate:
Kate’s Website: https://www.standingoutonline.com/
Nicole started her first entrepreneurial journey in 2007 with her husband. They decided to start an organic farm & micro-brewery in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. During the seven years that they ran Acadian Farms & Brewery, she was in charge of all things marketing- everything from events to social media to website design. Learning + doing everything on her own, Nicole created an SEO-friendly website that reached #1 on Google and utilized the power of social media and influencer outreach to get featured in prominent publications like The Oregonian, Portland Monthly, and The Seattle Times, as well as popular craft beer blogs.
So let's talk about marketing because this is obviously your world. I know that you do a lot with marketing plans as we do as well. But how would you recommend that small business owner get started with a marketing plan?
So that's like, the biggest kind of problem I see when I work with a lot of different business owners. They have ideas, and they have a little bit of a plan, and then maybe they have some people kind of helping them, but there's no overall cohesive strategy. So that's where we start and it kind of starts with your foundation, like, what are your goals? Who are your potential customers? Where are they hanging out? What are their struggles? It doesn't have to be like super overwhelming, once you kind of even just start writing everything down, pulling all of that information out of your head, looking at a calendar, and again, knowing who your customers are, and where they're hanging out online, or what their hobbies are. Just really starting to brainstorm all those ideas helps create a plan and an effective plan, and they leave feeling so less stressed. I was working with someone last week and she goes, "I am just so excited to finally have a marketing plan!" So that's what I love doing, and a little bit of planning really, really goes a long way.
One of the things that I've learned is, even though you have a plan, it may not work out the way that you want it to, it's a lot easier to adjust when you have a plan versus trying to make changes when you have nothing fleshed out.
Yes, totally. A lot of them will work out their strategies and just put their notes down all that and like a Google Drive folder, which is super easy, or you know, people can use Dropbox or whatever. But being able to refer back to that, as you said and be like and look like okay, maybe we need to shift like this isn't working or like, you know, we all just went into lockdown again, like how can we adjust where necessary, but having a place to look and kind of keep track really just really helps.
So what are some of the most common things that you're coaching your clients on right now?
So a lot of it is this planning that I've been talking about. Some are a little bit further along and then so it's just really trying to figure out which channels are best for them. Then we start exploring different ways to reach their ideal customers, whether it's, one of my clients just had a big challenge within a Facebook group, and it went really well, she got so many sales, and then another one is planning to expand her YouTube channel because that's where her potential clients are and spend a lot of time. So it's really just getting that plan, and then getting even more granular about where we're gonna execute this and then going into best practices with that, and their schedule, and then just kind of holding them accountable as well. We have so many things when we're running a business so just having that little bit of accountability is super helpful.
Your LinkedIn profile says you offer simple marketing strategies. So can you elaborate on the use of the word simple and what are some simple ways that other small businesses can market themselves?
Yeah, totally. So yeah, in my bio, you know, it mentioned that my husband and I ran a small business for seven years. It was a farm, so not like, huge profits. So we had to figure out simple, easy, and pretty low budget ways to market our business. So I used a lot of what I did in that in what I do now in helping clients. But so it's a lot of social media and I know, some people like, "Ugh, I hate social media." But when you are able to understand the different nuances of the different platforms, and why you're doing it, and then like some stats of like, so many people are on social media. Then just sharing all of these different things and how to do it, then it is simple because we don't know what we don't know, you know what I mean. So, I just like to provide all these different ways and I really come with the approach of teaching them how to do it, even if I'm going to be doing it for them, I want them to know why we're doing, what we're doing, or where we're doing it. So even a simple one, for example, when we had the farm, we had beer, and we're in a very, like craft beer world here in the northwest, it's huge. So I would hold an open house event for all of the craft beer bloggers, and they would come and taste all our beer and then they would go back and write on their blogs and put it on their social media. So we were able to like really grow and gain brand awareness. That kind of like, evolved into like, a lot of the newspapers and publications, even from Seattle coming in and reaching out to us because they saw us on other blogs. There are so many ways, like once you kind of get these small business owners talking, and they get into the strategy, they hit so many great ideas. Once I get past that overwhelm, and not quite kind of like understanding why it's happening, then it just opens up the floodgates, which is awesome.
So this podcast is all about networking and relationships. Obviously, that's something that you're doing and you shared some great examples of fostering those relationships from a grassroots marketing level. Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
I can't think of a favorite story, but when you say networking I just think that there are so many things that popped into my mind of so many people that I've met through networking, I'm just a huge advocate of it. I'm an ambassador for our local chamber here in Hood River, I'm a chamber member because we live on the Columbia River. So it's like Oregon, and Washington right next to each other, so I'm in another chamber, but it's like, two minutes away. Also, I do a lot of online networking, and this podcast too was really started with that in mind to create a community because being an entrepreneur can be hard and lonely and I have met people from around the world. I just got an email last week from a gal that had been on my podcast last year, introducing me to someone that needs what I do. So that was almost a year ago, and I was still top of mind enough for her to think of me and reached out and now I have a meeting with her next week. Networking is essential and I just love having that community of having people that know what it's like trying to grow a business, maybe you don't necessarily own it, but, you know, just that whole community.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network in your community?
Usually, it's a good bit of social media of just really reaching out and making those connections a lot. Whether I work with them, or they're on the podcast, or people that have been on the podcast will introduce me to other people on social media. So just trying to stay in there because it is meant to be social, you know, that was first and foremost. So just really going back and forth and meeting these people and having a genuine interest in just getting to know people. I introduced two ladies today that both have podcasting interests and they both live in Boise, Idaho. So I was like, "Hey ladies, y'all need to meet," and now they're going to meet for a social distance coffee soon. So really trying to stay in touch with people and follow up and see how their lives are going. Lately, it's been social media, more so, than any other channels.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I know, it's kind of hard right now because we don't have any of the in-person meetups or networking occasions, but there are so many opportunities online. There are so many Facebook groups, there are so many LinkedIn groups. I've met so many people those ways, and have been referred business and just met people and had zoom chats and ended up working together. Even local chapters like ours are having online coffee networking meetups. BNI, I know I think they've moved to an online platform as well, so there are opportunities. It's not the same as being in person but I would start researching those and just getting involved in joining those groups and just kind of observing and getting involved and introducing yourself just like you would at in-person meetings.
So 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 this is something I've just recently figured out so I would definitely, I guess, tell my 20-year-old self. Just say yes and just start. I've watched so many opportunities go by me just because I was kind of scared to put myself in that position of being out of my comfort zone, or just to try it. I probably wouldn't have gotten past that had I not started my podcast, because that really put me out of my comfort zone a lot. Now, I love it and I can't imagine it not being in my life. I probably wouldn't have gone into coaching, either, because I'm pretty introverted. So those two have really forced me out of my comfort zone. So at 20 I know, I was not doing things that put me out of my comfort zone. So I would say just get started and just go because who cares!
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who is one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you can do it within the six degrees?
I'm gonna say Mel Robbins, or Shonda Rhimes because I read both of their books this year, and they were amazing. It changed my life. Yeah, I don't know, though. There's gonna be somebody that knows somebody. I guess so with both of them it kind of ties back to maybe that is why it did have such a big impact on my life this past year. You know, Mel Robbins, like breaking into the psychology of why we do or don't do things, I thought that was really fascinating. Also, she talks about you're not ever really going to feel like doing some of these things, so you just count backward and go. I was like, "Oh my god, she's right," don't get so emotionally attached and just do it. Then I really, really enjoyed Shonda's book, The Year of Yes. Again, just starting saying yes and finding out what happens. The way she writes is awesome and just seeing her transformation was just really eye-opening. So I would talk to them about their books and dig deeper.
Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would just say that having a plan for networking and reaching out to these people should be part of your marketing plan. But you know, really just taking a little bit of time, even if it's 30 minutes or an hour. This is a great time of the year to do it before we go into the new year. So just, you know, taking a little bit of time, like, how can I reach out to more people? I have one client that I help with, who is an attorney, and she wants to grow her network. So we've come up with the list, and she's gonna send $5 Starbucks digital cards, and ask two attorneys a month to go on coffee dates, virtually. I thought that was a really fun and creative yet simple way to really open up our network. So yeah, just kind of pulling all of those ideas, but putting them down on paper will really help you not get so overwhelmed.
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Rocky is a certified profit first professional who was shocked to learn most business owners don't look at their financial reports. Most business owners are not accountants and don't want to be. When he realized how much of a problem this was, he knew his purpose was to help business owners be profitable.
Why do business owners struggle to create profitable businesses?
First of all, accountants don't even know how to create profitable businesses, right? They know how to do taxes, they know how to put all the transactions where they belong, according to a formula that says, this is how we do things, this is generally accepted accounting principles. So there's really nobody focused on teaching or helping business owners to understand profitability. That's why I think so many of them struggle, the system I use is from Mike Michalowicz, he wrote the book Profit First. He is a serial entrepreneur, he thought he did it right, sold his companies walked away with a lot of money, and then lost it all, you know, the quintessential thing and it's because he struggled with this just as much as everyone else did. Then he came up with this idea of when we look at things, we're given the wrong formula and if you use the wrong formula, you're going to have the wrong results. So the formula your accountant will tell you is sales minus expenses equals profit. Where is profit in that formula? At the end, it's a leftover, it's something you find out at tax time. You go to your account, he goes, "Congratulations, you're profitable, here's your tax bill!" And the first question is, "Where is that cash?" Then they just laugh at you and they go, "You spent it." Mike said that's broken let's fix that. Let's do sales minus profit equals expenses. So we change the whole way we think about business, because we take our profit first, upfront because your business plan said you were going to be profitable. Well, why not take the profit upfront, remove it, and then learn to spend less. I think too often business owners, are told you got to spend money to make money and that's not necessarily true.
Why is the bottom line far more important than the top line?
So you've heard this so many times where people who've made millions upon millions of dollars and gone bankrupt. The saying we have is, "The top line is vanity, the bottom line is sanity, and cash flow is reality." What that basically means is, I don't care how much money is coming in. If more money is going out than is coming in, you're never going to win the game. You can't grow your way to profit if it's costing you more than what you're selling it for and that's why the bottom line is so important. The problem is, and it's kind of where we started this, if I wanted to know your top line, you can go look at your bank account and go, "Hey, I had a bunch of sales, look at all the money that came in." But if I said to you, "What's your bottom line?" It's very hard to figure that number out, you don't really know. All you know is I have money in my bank, or I don't have money in my bank, and if you don't have money in the bank, you run out and you get more sales, or you do collections. But it's really a struggle if you don't know what that bottom line is. As we talked about before, most business owners may not know until their accountant tells them four months after the year is over. That's a problem and that's why you've got to create systems and processes, and go in and figure out how much is my bottom line really? And am I appropriately charging for my products? And where is my profit coming from? That's something that even large companies don't have the answer to, is where is profit coming from? So if a big company with a CFO and all these big systems can't figure it out easily, it's really hard for the little guy.
What exactly does a certified profit first professional do?
So basically, what I do is, I serve with one simple goal to help you be profitable. The system that might create it as a cash flow system. So you get your money in your paycheck, and you put your money where you're going to spend it for rent, for groceries, for utilities, and when that money is used up, then you stop spending, and you figure out a better way to do it. That principle works all the time, so what Mike did was use the same principle for businesses. You set up multiple bank accounts, which I know is a little scary upfront, but as soon as your revenue comes in, the first thing you do, is you put money in your profit account because you're supposed to be profitable. The second thing you do is you put money in your owner's pay account, because you deserve to be compensated for your work, and the efforts and the risk you've taken. Then we put money in the tax account, because it's not your money, it's the governments. Some businesses may have some other accounts for special purposes and then the rest ends up in your operating expense account. But what's happened is because you've covered your big nuts first, when you look at your bank account, and that operating account, you know how much you truly have to spend. So it forces you to be more resourceful. This whole thing is built on Parkinson's Law. What Parkinson's Law says is that whatever resources you're given, you'll use them up. So if you have three months to do a project, it'll take you three months. If you've got three hours to do a project, you'll find a way to get it done in three hours. If you've got a $100,000 budget to do something within your business, you'll spend 100,000. But if you've got a $10,000 budget to do something, you'll figure out a way to get it for $10,000. By separating the money and giving it a job and putting it in smaller piles, you learn to be more resourceful, you don't spend as much, and what I do is I kind of create accountability. I help by looking at the actual financial reports and then bringing to light where revenue is coming from whether it's properly priced. In other words, I have customers and you go down and you look into their accounts and you're like, "You didn't realize just put that item on sale, and you discounted it and you sold it for less than what your actual costs are, you actually lost money this weekend by doing that sale. I know you needed to get revenue in but this is a problem." So somebody's got to go in and figure that out and that's basically what I do. Sometimes it's easy to see, sometimes it's more difficult. So for example, I have one customer that I looked at who has two different service lines. His one service line is good, provides a reasonable living, a lot of work. He has another service line that's seasonal. That seasonal service line just put so much money to his profit, it's incredible because he's got so much margin in that business. I said to him, "Stop focusing on this service line that's doing okay, put your efforts where most of your money is coming from, you can work a fraction of the time and make a lot more money by redirecting your efforts."
Do you work alongside bookkeepers and accountants? Are you kind of in competition with them? How does that play out?
I'm not in competition with anybody. I work with whoever your bookkeeper is, and whoever your accountant is because your bookkeepers are putting the transactions in. One of the things I do is provide a second set of eyes on your bookkeeper to help make sure that they're doing things appropriately. The accountants are mostly doing taxes and so that's fine. What I'll do is I will help you put money aside for taxes. So I'll tell you the story of Mike because this is a phenomenal story. Mike was in the recruiting business and he had a blowout year, he had so many placements that year and his revenue went through the roof. Well, the tax accountant based his quarterlies on the previous year. So tax time comes around, and she's hesitant to call them because there's this massive tax bill. She finally calls him and says, "Hey, I've been dreading this call, you owe a lot of money." He said, "I know my sales have been up, I expected this, how bad is it?" She said it's almost six figures, and he said, "Oh, alright, I'll drop off checks tomorrow," and she's like, "I've never ever had anyone tell me that in over 20 years." He was using profit first, so he was putting his tax money aside, and it was ready for him. I've heard that story from practically every person that implements profit first. Tax time is no longer a season of angst and worry. They're like, "I hate taxes, but whatever that bill is, I know I'm ready for it, and I can strike a check."
Let's talk about networking because business is all about relationships. Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So you know how you felt about money? This is how I feel about networking. But I will tell you this because I realized the importance of it. I've probably spent the last eight, nine years working on this skill, from taking courses on social capital, to reading books about networking to learn how to do this. So I just want to encourage the people listening if this isn't something you enjoy doing, it's just a matter of practice. Now I've come to learn how to do that. I think one of the things that COVID did for me is overnight, is I was doing all this in-person networking, and overnight, all my in-person networking got canceled. Essentially, we went to the online world and I've got to tell you, I have found online networking to be much easier, much more enjoyable, and a much more diverse group of people that I get to meet than I was meeting in my local networking meetups. There are so many online groups that I have found and one gets me to the next, gets me to the next, and that's how we met, Right? We met through a networking group that you had started in the middle of COVID. I don't think in a non-COVID world that we would have ever met. Also, the quickness that the group came together and was willing to help. I think that was the other thing that I've noticed is in online networking, the speed of networking, and the building, the Trust has gotten faster and faster.
So Rocky, as you continue to build and grow your network, how do you stay in front of and nurture these individuals that you're connecting with?
So that's been another struggle for me because I have one of these CRMs and it gets overwhelming, there are all these people in there and I can't find the people that I want. So I've learned a couple of things. Number one, I've learned to take much better notes. I use Evernote and what I do is I have a whole folder that's called "Meetups" and whenever I go to a meetup, as people are talking and networking, I'm just putting my names and notes as I'm listening. That's searchable, so if somebody emails me three weeks from now, I go to my Evernote, I search, I find the note and then I go, "Now I remember everything." I'm kind of just basic, you know, I'm a spreadsheet geek, and so I have found it's just easier for me to create a spreadsheet of the people that I want to kind of nurture and keep track of. So I just put Date, Name, some really basic stuff, and maybe a follow-up date to it. The other thing I do is if I know that I need to specifically follow up, so let's just say that we met and, and you said to me, "Hey let's chat in three weeks." What I will do I will do is I'll go right into my calendar immediately and I will create a task three weeks out, that says, email Lori, and I might put one sentence there about to remind myself. So it's kind of different levels for different people, but I'm still struggling with how to do a better job of nurturing all the relationships. I think what I need to do is probably to create a bigger block of time for me to sit once a week, and just go through the list and at least pick a handful of people and send an email. Some of it I'm good, like if they're good on LinkedIn, then I tend to be more social on LinkedIn. The other thing I find is if there are people who are at events that are somewhat regular, then that creates that natural rhythm as well. If I meet somebody, maybe three events over three months, and we haven't connected for one on one, I'll just reach out and say, "Hey, let's do a one on one." I find having an automated calendar is a godsend. When I left corporate and I was able to turn on my automated calendar, it made my life 10 x easier.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's looking to grow their network?
So I have been told that the purpose of networking is to serve, and just go out and serve. If you want to grow your network, go out and see how you can help people. Of course, you've got to do it in an appropriate way so that you can manage your time. But I think that's a big part of it is to go out and serve and help others, because if you help them achieve their goals, they're going to help you achieve yours.
So that's a long way back. The world has changed quite dramatically since then. I think there were a lot of things that I just didn't understand back then. So one was this whole networking and relationship thing. It was not something that I understood and it wasn't something that I worked on. It was also a different world in the sense that there was no internet so it was hard to keep in touch with people, you'd actually have to pick up the phone and call them. Then if they move, they got a new phone number and if nobody sent you a letter in the mail, you lost connection, right? Yeah. So I think just going back and telling myself to understand that. The other thing is I didn't understand what my super skills were like I didn't know what my superpowers were. I've been playing with spreadsheets since I was in high school, so back then it was VisiCalc. I was going into fortune 500 companies going, "Hey, accountants, here's how you get off of a paper ledger and you use an electronic spreadsheet." I always thought I was going to create a business around spreadsheets, but I didn't know how. The power of spreadsheets now, I mean, it's a billion/trillion dollar business because nobody can figure out the numbers. If you understand spreadsheets, and you can see the stories that the numbers are telling you, that's very valuable. Now I'm finally in the place where I figured that out, and that's why I do what I do. So those are probably the two things, figure out your super skills, and then learn how to network and build social capital. It's okay, if you don't know how to do stuff, go ask people who will help you. I grew up in the area of you never ask for help, you do it all, you know, it was the lone gun kind of timeframe. So it took a lot of personal development to move out of that and get a little bit smarter.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I would love to interview Tim Ferriss because he's an interesting guy, he's a little nuts. But I love to learn how to do things and he's also kind of a thinker like that. I've met people who are friends with Tim Ferriss. So I know, I'm not that far away. I've got multiple people that I'm probably one degree of separation away. Whether or not they listen to him, or he'd entertain my ideas, is a whole nother reality, but I do know people in the circle.
Any final words of advice to our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Just go out, and remember, you have two ears and one mouth so listen more than you speak.
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Listen to Rocky’s podcast: http://profitcomesfirst.com/podcast/
Ann is the owner of reCollect2 Company and creator of the reCollect2recycler, a recycling receptacle used in hospitality and corporate office settings. Manufactured in Wisconsin, you can find her products, specifically in hotel guest rooms and various businesses and organizations in 49 states throughout the US. She's had the privilege of working alongside some of hospitality's most recognizable brands. But her goal has always been to offer a product that's functional, motivational, and impactful.
So why don't we start a little bit about talking about being in the hospitality space and how this year has affected your business?
Well, dramatically, like any business and travel, and tourism and attractions. So yes, I mean, the industry is hurting as a whole right now. But it's really important to notice that there are some markets right now, throughout the US that are seeing an uptick, they're getting busier, and they're doing better. Right now the overall goal is to restore that confidence in travel again, and I know that we will get there. But I would say the immediate need right now is to focus on just keeping hotels open, like literally keeping their doors open, because it's really a hard time especially coincidentally, today is the election and a lot of things are actually surrounded around what will transpire there. So our industry has been in a holding pattern, it's been hurting, but I just feel confident that we will see a light at the end of the tunnel here. It's also cool to kind of put out there that even though all of these hotels that we might see in like our backyard, or our surrounding communities, they have these globally recognized brands, but we need to remember that several of these properties are actually owned by small businesses, like ours. I mean, many are family-owned. So yes, we are hurting, but I do see that we will see some things moving here, hopefully, in the near future.
Your business has a big emphasis on sustainability. Why should this topic be important to businesses and organizations in general?
Yeah, that's a good question. I think that there's immense value within businesses that really choose to incorporate sustainability. And that's it any length or level big or small, whether it's environmental or social. I think that most of us have this inner voice that wants to contribute to a greater good and find ways to give back to something other than just ourselves. So I think that it's important that we can embrace small, incremental, and actionable steps that we can take and conquer larger issues. So this carries over into business. And yes, we definitely see how businesses want to operate more efficiently. Whether that's reducing waste or other operational tactics that they're putting in place. But it's also important not to overlook the people aspect as well. I think now more than ever, we're connecting the dots and we're recognizing how this mindset and social sustainability, their commitments are directly and positively impacting and serving the well-being of the people that make up our communities.
Speaking of people, you've been compelled to bring awareness to human trafficking within your business, can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah it's a big issue, and I'll be honest, especially lately, it seems like there's been more conversation about it, which there are pros and cons to that, for sure. But I'll kind of start back up a little bit that I first heard about human trafficking, probably five or six years ago. Long story short, I was very triggered about the staggering statistics that I was hearing and seeing just from a global aspect, but nationally, and then even here in Wisconsin. So that was really my first glimpse into hearing about human trafficking. At first, I'll be honest, it's really easy to become overwhelmed by just the sheer magnitude of this crime, and I'm talking about just the number of people that we're finding out are actually enslaved. This includes children and adults, and also the aspect of the money that's involved, the billions of dollars that make up the industry, and all the moving parts that kind of allow this industry to grow. So as I became more aware, and hearing more about all of those aspects, it's hard to, it's hard to ignore, really, and as a mother, and as an individual who strongly believes that people should live in freedom, I felt that it was kind of my responsibility to help be a voice in anti-trafficking efforts and try to support the local causes here that we have in Milwaukee, that who are really the real experts in this field, especially in aftercare. I felt like it was important to help get their voice out there, and just increase that awareness. But that's really like how I became involved in it and hearing about it, I just felt like if I was that angry about it, and felt that compelled that I couldn't really stay silent. So overall I believe it's our calling to respectfully care for each other and speak up for those who can't speak for themselves. And little by little, I think that we can make a change and being in the hospitality space, because our product is literally in this space, and many of our customers are also trying to bring awareness and training to their own properties. It just seemed right to try to join forces, hopefully, sparks of dialogues and conversations, if we can provide resources, and I just thought it was an opportunity for us to unite.
So a number of people have this fear when they hear the word networking, and my goal is really to eliminate that fear and bring some hope and encouragement to our listeners. So can you help me do that by sharing one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Yeah well actually, it was a couple of years ago. I'm kind of laughing about it because we just were talking about this on a separate project. But it was a couple of years ago that I had met someone by chance at a networking event, here locally, and how that connection has just led into education and training on my part and other opportunities, and then introductions into other networking communities and how those communities kind of overlap. It's been kind of incredible how that whole journey how that actually began in that trajectory. Honestly, part of that connection actually led to you as well. So it's kind of neat how that all transpired. I think that you never know who you're going to meet. But I'm also a firm believer and things kind of working behind the scenes, too. I think that things are orchestrated, people are met and connected for a reason and it's pretty neat to see when that transpires.
So as you've got contacts, and you've been networking nationally, and potentially even globally, how do you best nurture and maintain these relationships with your network in your community?
Well, technology has obviously made this more accessible. There's more group dialogue, webinars, workshops, and events that we can take part in. And I think that those opportunities lead to conversations where you really get to meet other people and grow into more of a trusting relationship. Technology specifically, has allowed these educational trainings to happen and I think that this time that we've been living through that we shouldn't underestimate that. I think that being involved, participating, and taking that time to kind of invest in these connections is important. And it's really neat to hear people's stories and I think when you hear people's stories, and you learn their passions and their expertise, and you're just willing to see what they have to offer. I mean, I think that those relationships are reciprocated and I think that participating and hearing all these different areas and stories is something that I try to take part in as often as I can because I think you learn a lot about the person and in those particular avenues and those ways of community and networking.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's looking to grow their network?
I would say to step outside of your comfort zone. I think that we need to embrace and enjoy the journey of taking some risks. This year, more than ever can show us to be bold, to be a voice, to not apologize for taking on something new, learning something new, and I think that taking those steps would be my advice. Because I think sometimes we can kind of stay in our area of what we know or how we've normally done things. But let's be bold, let's break through some barriers, and let's try something new. That would be my advice, and it’s advice to myself because it's been a different curve for all of us. That vulnerability, I think there can connect you to other people as well. So that comes and goes, I think to be bold, enjoy it, take the risk!
All right, so let me just say that, before I answer that I'm kind of an odd duck. I was married to my husband at 20, we had our son at 22 and I jumped right into my quote-unquote career not long after, because I was like this planner. I had this kind of all set out what was going to be my timeline, I was adamant about staying on that, and I wasn't going to deviate from that. Quite honestly, I remember specifically telling myself I am never going to be an entrepreneur, I have no desire to be an entrepreneur, this I'm going in this direction because this is more predictable for me. So I think what I've learned for sure is don't count anything out. Because here I am doing something I never ever imagined but really had no desire to do in my mid-20s at all. So I think that's something that I can look back on often and just be like, "You know what? You can't count anything out." I think also, as professionals we can just get extremely immersed in our work which is great, right? But I think my 20-year-old self, I was definitely immersed in my work, I think for the wrong reasons. I think that I had different goals and intentions of where my plans were going. I look back and you know what? I think those weren't the right intentions for me, I think I was able to recognize the time that I was putting in and knowing that I also had a family, and what I was missing out from, you know, the family aspect. Also the bigger picture and doing more and giving back, and how can we affect other people and things like that.
Let's talk about the six degrees of separation. If you could connect with anybody, who would it be, and do you think you do it within the sixth degree?
So recently, I am just very fascinated with Tim Tebow right now and not only from the football aspect, because our family is in the sports world, football was kind of in our blood for a while. There's that aspect, but right now what he's doing with his nonprofit and the anti-trafficking arena, and just legislation, and how he is connecting, how he's getting his message out there. I'm very intrigued by that. So I think recently, that's really been catching my eye a lot and I would love to sit down and have a conversation with him because I think his passion is burning brightly, and I just love the direction that he's going. The other person would probably be Joanna Gaines because I'm not very handy. So I don't know if it's just because I am attracted to the fact that she can fix anything. But she literally, you know, took Shiplap to a whole new level. She's now going to be starting a network. I mean, hello, I'd want to sit down and have a conversation with her because that is taking things to a completely new level. I just find the way that she just delivers her message and all the different projects that she's in and she has family, and she's got this design aspect and now she's you know, getting in again to this network. I just think holy cow! I feel like we could talk for days on just how that has transpired and all the different steps along the way to allow that vision to come to life.
Connect with Ann:
Instagram: @annieriphenburg reCollect2 website: https://www.recollect2recycler.com/