Monthly Archives: February 2018

Why Podcasting Should Be A High-Priority Content Platform This Year

Why Podcasting Should Be A High-Priority Content Platform This Year written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

I talked about the benefits of podcasting quite a bit last year, and with the new year up and running, I wanted to take the time to re-stress the value that podcasting can bring to your business ( I can’t even begin to explain the wonders it has done for mine). Plus, it’s actually very easy to set up and is a much more efficient use of your time compared to how long it takes to create other pieces of content.

If you haven’t already included it somewhere in your plans for the next 12 months, I highly recommend doing so, and here are a few of my reasons why.

1. Increased engagement

Let’s face it, these days, it’s hard to pay attention to content for extended periods of time. With podcasts, however, you can fit them into your day whenever it works best for you, making the consumption of this type of content for extended periods of time far more common than it is with other forms of content.

This gives you opportunities to showcase your knowledge in a way that you’re unable to otherwise. This goes without saying, but having your brand in front of your audience for extended periods of time can be extremely valuable.

2. Less competition

As of July 2017, there were around 350 million blogs from Tumblr alone. If that stat doesn’t show you how crowded the online space is, I don’t know what will.

Podcasting is different. While becoming increasingly popular year over year, there’s still significantly less competition in this space, making it easier for you to stand out with your target audience.

Podcasting still allows you to compete on an even playing field.

3. Establishes an emotional connection

Podcasting allows you to develop a deeper relationship with your audience. Hearing your voice frequently makes your audience feel like they actually know you. The more a person feels like they know you, the more likely they are to trust you, and in turn, buy from you.

Plus, if people feel a loyalty to you and your brand, they’ll be more likely to leave you positive reviews, which further builds on your trust and credibility.

4. Networking at its best

One of the big surprises to me was the relationships that you develop during an interview.

Reaching out to others to have them as a guest on your show is a great way to build your network. The more people you can connect with, the more you’ll increase chances of referrals, leading to more opportunities and business for your company.

What’s even cooler about networking on this platform is that you can network with people you would never be able to otherwise, like influencers and people you view as mentors or role models.

5. Catalyst for additional content

Creating content is essential to the success of a business today, but finding time to create a bunch of content can be difficult.

So, why reinvent the wheel? With podcasting, you can repurpose the material into other forms of content, such as video or a series of blog posts. Repurposing the content will also help you to further expand your reach because part of your audience may not consume audio-based content, but they may be avid readers and vice versa. See what I mean?

6. Monetization

You certainly don’t have to monetize your podcast if you don’t want to, but if you are interested in making money from your show, there are a number of ways to do that, including:

In general, a podcast is also a great way to build leads, so although the monetary benefits may not be immediate, the business in can bring you over time can be huge.

7. Podcast guesting provides new opportunities

Earlier in this post I discussed how having guests on your podcast can be great for networking, but you being a guest on another person’s podcast can provide the same benefits.

As you are interviewed on more podcasts, your reach begins to snowball. It’s a great way to get exposure with very little effort (far easier than taking the time to write a guest blog on another website).

A few other perks to keep in mind include:

  • Gives you access to an engaged audience outside of your own
  • You have virtually no preparation (the host does the majority of the work)
  • High production value will make the content more shareable
  • There will likely be show notes (and often transcripts) that will drive links back to your website (helping improve your SEO)

Now, in order to be truly effective with podcasting, be sure to have a clear vision of what you’d like to get out of it and know who you are targeting. Once you have those in place, dive in and start receiving the benefits discussed above.

Bottom line, in one interview, with little preparation, you can gain access hundreds or thousands of targeted listeners. Who wouldn’t want that? Do your research, set everything up, and get going.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business.

Transcript of How to Tap Into the Subscription Economy

Transcript of How to Tap Into the Subscription Economy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is sponsored by Podcast Bookers, Podcasts are really hot, right, but you know what’s also really hot? Appearing as a guest on one of the many, many podcasts out there. Think about it. Much easier than writing a guest blog post. You get some high quality content. You get great back links. People want to share that content. Maybe you can even transcribe that content.

Being a guest on podcasts, getting yourself booked on podcasts, is a really, really great SEO tactic, great brand-building tactic. Podcast Bookers can get you booked on two to three to four podcasts every single month on autopilot. Go check it out,

Hello. Welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Anne Janzer. She is an author and nonfiction writing coach. She has written books called The Writer’s Process about the inner game of writing creatively and productively, and The Workplace Writers’ Process, something that all these content marketers probably need to know a little bit about. And the book we’re going to talk about today, Subscription Marketing.

So Anne, thanks for joining.

Anne Janzer: Hey, thanks for having me, John.

John Jantsch: So you start the book, Subscription Marketing, off with the concept of the subscription economy, so I wonder if you could maybe sketch out what that is. I know I’ve subscribed for my Kansas City daily paper for years, but I think you’re talking about something much larger than that.

Anne Janzer: Indeed, indeed. So the subscription economy as a term is something that Tien Tzuo of Zuora, I think he’s coined the term, but I think pretty soon we’re just going to be calling it the economy, basically. It’s all the businesses that are shifting their relationships with their customers to be a ongoing relationship based on a subscription.

Now, it sounds esoteric. When I first started talking to people about this two years ago, they would all say, “Well, this sounds fine, Anne, but I’m not marketing a newspaper, so I really don’t need your book,” right? ‘Cause we think subscription, newspaper, magazine. But just look for a moment in your own life at how many things … how many passwords do you maintain? So okay, right there, those are all subscriptions.

And in fact, the subscription model is making inroads in all kinds of things. You can subscribe to cars, right? You can subscribe to industrial chemicals, you can subscribe to your razor blades. I mean, it’s not just consumer media, obviously, and it’s not just software. It’s actually all around us.

John Jantsch: You gave me some examples of the application. I certainly have a number of subscriptions with Amazon, for example, for things, but what are some of the applications for … I think it’s easy to look at companies like that, “Okay, sure, they sell detergent, they sell stuff that I’m going to consume, and they’re just making it.” I used to subscribe by going to Target or Walmart, but now I subscribe by having Amazon send it to me. So what’s it going to mean to marketers as a whole? ‘Cause I think it’s not just a business model; it’s maybe a mindset shift.

Anne Janzer: It is. I mean, that’s exactly it, John. It’s actually a psychological shift. And let’s take a moment and take off the marketing hat and think about you as a customer, because really, the shift we’re interested in is this shift that happens in our customers’ heads. When you just go buy something at the store, you just need to look at it and say, “Okay, this looks like it has enough value, it meets my needs,” and you walk off.

When you subscribe to something, you want to know something a little bit more. You need to trust the company that you’re subscribing to, right? And you need to then decide again and again with each renewal that it is still providing value to you, so that’s a different mindset on behalf of the customer. So as marketers, we have to look at this shift and say, “It’s not enough for me to do the same old thing I’ve been doing, push the sale, push the sale, push the transaction, I actually maybe have to earn some trust, and after the sale I have to continue to demonstrate the value of the service.”

John Jantsch: So in some ways, I mean, we’ve always had that. I mean, it’s always been a good business practice to create a customer experience, the likes of which would make somebody want to buy from you again and again and again and refer their friends. I mean, that’s always been a business model. So are we really just talking about a different approach to delivery of value?

Anne Janzer: Partly. I mean, it’s always been a good business practice, and yet it’s remarkable how often businesses are oriented in a way that does not support that business practice. How many marketing organizations are the people … and sales, are people incentivized simply on net new sales or the sheer number of lead generated and things like that and not on the long-term relationship?

So what’s happening, to me, what the subscription market changes is this, the subscription model changes, is that the longer you’re in business with the subscription business, the more of your revenues shift to those recurring revenues from your existing customers. So now, if I’m in marketing and I’m ignoring that, then basically I’m becoming less and less relevant to the business with each passing year, because I’m levering on a much smaller percentage of the overall revenues. Does that make sense?

John Jantsch: Absolutely. And so it might also change the formula for what a business should be willing to do to acquire a new customer? If our long-term goal is to turn somebody into a subscription, like a lot of magazines, they give the thing away or they give you six months free or they spend a whole lot of money to acquire you even though you’re only a $20 transaction, but if that $20 transaction is for 10 years, then that’s a different model.

Anne Janzer: Exactly. And yet, so the customer acquisition cost is a really important part of the equation, because if you’re giving it away but acquiring the wrong customers, then that’s like that old thing, “Oh, we’re losing money with every unit, but we’ll make it up on the volume.” It’s just not going to work long term.

John Jantsch: All right. So in terms of our product mix, because I think sometimes we talk about all this stuff being changes in marketing, but I think it’s really changes in buying behavior that are driving a lot of this, and so should we be … I’ll come back to the customer experience that keeps people coming back, but should we be thinking about product extensions, service extensions, line extensions, somehow that are purely a subscribe play to make that available, whether it’s a course or it’s an ongoing subscription of some form or ongoing way for somebody to pay for things over time? I mean, is that … in addition to a marketing mindset, do we have to also think about a whole product and service ladder mindset that’s different?

Anne Janzer: Yeah. I think that … People will call me and say, “I’ve got this model and I want to shift to a subscription, and what should I do?” And there is no one answer, because there’s no one model. There’s a lot of different ways. You don’t have to go fully in … you don’t have to switch everything fully into this model if that’s not what makes sense.

Now, I feel like the master class in subscription marketing, to which nearly all of us subscribe, is Amazon, right? But they are not fully a subscription service, right? They sell retail things, but Amazon Prime is their brilliant subscription service. And it’s actually a marketing vehicle for their one-off retail, their transactional retail, as well. So there’s a mixed model of how they’re doing this.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think that’s what I was getting at, is if you sell air conditioners and heating units, is there a subscription model in that? Well, maybe the service model or something, or maybe filters as a subscription would be an extension.

Anne Janzer: Yep, yep, exactly. Yes. So you are going to be the best judge of what you might offer and how it’s going to work in your business. There’s no one answer.

John Jantsch: But I think the thing that we have to hammer home is that this is how people want to buy. This is not just something Amazon thought up. Maybe they created a little bit of a hunger for it, but because of that, I think that there are certainly demographics that that’s the only way the will buy. They want to set it and forget it. They want to be able to go online and use their app and get it, and that’s how they want to do transactions.

Anne Janzer: Increasingly there’s a lot of people who would rather pay for access to stuff than stuff itself. That’s true in the consumer. I came from the B2B software industry. That’s where I worked my whole career, and software was very early or relatively early switching over with The Cloud to a subscription model, so this was big enterprises saying, “No, we don’t want to own the software, we don’t want to own the services, just give us the capability.” So that’s another place that that has taken hold.

John Jantsch: I think there’s a dual path with this. So if we talk about the mindset of creating subscription offerings or surrounding your products with subscription services, there also has to be, I think, a real intentional focus on the customer journey inside of all of that. It’s probably been 15 years ago, I coined a term called “The Marketing Hourglass,” which was the intentional … everybody talked about the funnel, which is the first part of Get the Sale, but it’s like, “What happens after the sale?” And to me, that’s the opening up of the hourglass, the second side, so it’s these behaviors of Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer. And I know my listeners have heard me say that a million times.

I do think that there could be a really powerful combination of not only having this a subscription, but also marrying it with a tremendous customer experience, because I don’t think it’s enough to just say, “Oh, look, we have a subscription model now.” It has to be a great experience, too.

Anne Janzer: Oh, absolutely. I mean, and that is I think the point. You obviously have been writing and thinking from this space all along. With the referral engine, this is exactly what you’re talking about. So obviously there has to be a great customer experience. In the book, Subscription Marketing, I coined a term “value nurturing” as a marketing activity, because we all think about, “Well, I’ve got lead nurturing, lead generation, lead nurturing, but then when the sale is done, I just wash my hands.” And I say, “No, now it’s the other half of the hourglass, essentially,” right? It’s, “Now you need to continue to help the customer.” You have to have a fabulous experience. So the first key is to help the customer find value by being successful, right? You really want those customers who are going to be successful.

You can also add value in other ways, making the company fun to do business with. That’s the relationship part of it. You can add value through content, through data, through communicate, things that marketers know how to do that don’t even have to actually be in the product or service itself but that actually enhance the experience.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think it’s pretty easy for people like you and me to talk about, “You have to create a great experience.” But I think a lot of people say, “We [inaudible 00:12:15],” but how do I do that? It’s intentional. It’s not hard. It’s intentional, is what I typically tell people. And it just starts with, I think, looking at all the touch points and saying, “Could we do that better?”

Anne Janzer: Yeah, yeah. Every interaction that you have with a customer in this sort of subscription-related world, it’s not just a transaction; it’s a relationship. And so every interaction, there’s an opportunity in those stupid transactional things, like, “We received your package.” I ordered a CD from CD Baby, I think it was, and they sent the most hilarious shipping notice about the party they were having in downtown Portland, as they lovingly sent my package off to the post office. I mean, that just made the experience more fun. It had nothing to do with the thing itself. It was an email. But it made the experience, that relationship I had with the company, a little bit different.

John Jantsch: So it’s easy for people to point to Amazon. Do you have in your research or in your talking to business owners out there, do you have any kind of unique examples of where you’ve seen somebody apply this?

Anne Janzer: There’s so many places that are doing different parts. And so here’s the key, John, that I think your listeners should think about, is don’t just look at what people in your industry are doing, because when it comes to having a subscription model, you can learn … basically everyone’s trying to solve the same set of problems that has to do with the relationship, so go ahead and look far and wide.

So one of the most interesting subscription businesses that I heard of was called Pley, P-L-E-Y, and although they branched out, when I first talked to them, their basic premise was subscription Lego kits. Now, if you’ve got kids, you immediately get this one, because your kids always want to buy the latest thing. They assemble the pirate ship and then they’re done, and then they need to buy the next pirate ship or whatever the thing is, right?

John Jantsch: Yep, yep.

Anne Janzer: Yeah. So you feel my pain. Really if you’ve stepped on them, they really have felt the pain of this problem, right? So this company started out basically saying, “Just subscribe to as many Lego kits as you want. We’ll ship them with spare parts, instructions. Send it back.” So there’s your basic model, and it was really pretty wonderful.

But then, they added value to it by creating a secondary site, which was called PleyWorld, where people could submit their own designs for Lego kits, and the user communicate would vote on them. So now they’ve added this communicate part, right? This is nothing they’ve added to it, but they’ve created this website. People submit their designs, they vote on them. When a design gets enough votes, then the company will turn and productize it, write up the instructions and add it to their kit.

So now they’ve added this value to the basic service, which is this community around it, and the chance for people to contribute and share something with other people and the members.So that’s a very creative thought. So what kind of community can you add to your service?

John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And of course, the brilliant thing about that is they’ve pre-sold a product before they made it.

Anne Janzer: Oh, yeah. Right. And they’re constantly refreshing their product line. They’re not now just dependent on Legos kits. They’ve got their own user commnuity of kits, which is really interesting.

John Jantsch: So I imagine when some people are first coming around to this idea and some marketer said, “We’ve got to do this” in an organization. I’m sure one of the first questions, particularly on some of this experience stuff, this is where you get pushed back. We all know in the end, it pays. But, in the beginning, I think when somebody’s trying to embrace it, it feels like it just costs. So how do you incrementally measure the value of value nurturing?

Anne Janzer: Well, there’s two issues. One is that the revenue model changes. It’s like investing for retirement, that with recurring revenues, the better job you do, you get this accruing benefit that’s going to build over time, so it takes a longer perspective, because investing for retirement is painful for me to give up that chunk of cash today for sometime down the road.

And the other problem, and small businesses don’t have this, large businesses do, which is that they have incentive structures around their own things. I can’t tell you how many marketers I’ve talked to that said, “This is great. I want to do it. But you know what? I’m incentivized on my lead generation, so I’m just going to keep focusing on generating as many leads as I can no matter whether they’re good or not, because that’s what’s paying me.”

So the first thing you have to do is align your incentive structures for what you want in the long term. And if you’re a small business, again, that long-term perspective. Here’s the incentive that I see for it. When you’re in business, most of us are businesses. Very few of us it’s a secret sauce, like nobody else can do the thing that we’re offering, right? We have competition, and it’s not that hard for other people to launch the same kind of general business that we do. But, they can replicate the thing that we’re selling. They can’t replicate the relationships that we have with people. So this is really building out your competitive differentiator.

John Jantsch: How do you … I’m starting to throw a whole bunch of stuff into one question here. What role does content play and social media play? Obviously marketers have seen a role that those play, but I think in the subscription thinking, they play a little different role, and even if it’s just being more intentional or strategic about it.

Anne Janzer: Yeah. So content, and social media, as well, but content is another place that you can continue to pour the perception of value into the solution after the customer has bought. If you think about the Dollar Shave Club, right, so that was a subscription razor blade company, and they just shipped razor blades, right, but they had hilarious videos when you signed up that were quite entertaining. So they had a certain attitude. And with the razor blades, every month came a little newsletter of bathroom reading that was hilarious. So this is content. It does not help you shave any better, right? I mean, it does not. But it added value to that relationship that the customer had. It added value to the experience of being a subscriber.

So content is an enormous lever for value for the customer’s experience of value. But you have to be … not content that’s just sell, sell, sell, but content that is fun or informative or entertaining or something that actually delivers value for that person.

John Jantsch: And I think that’s a part that not everybody can do. I mean, and I think that’s where a lot of businesses fall down is that they remain kind of that stodgy business objective meeting kind of company because they don’t go out and find that creative voice, and I think that that’s … If you were going to go out and hire somebody who can do incredible job with video or that can write that kind of funny content, because not everybody can.

Anne Janzer: Right. And you know what? Let’s say that your budget is just really slim. The first thing you just get in the head of your customer, just you have to get out of the trap about, “My God, I’ve got to write about our futures again,” right? Please, don’t do it. Just get in the head of your customer. What can you write that’s going to provide value to them, even if you can’t see a direct link to pitching your feature? What can you do to help the customer? So empathy, empathy, empathy, is the trick.

John Jantsch: And I think also, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I was preaching that we want to see your personal side, 20 years ago, and boy business owners just recoiled at that idea, ’cause it’s like oh, God, nobody wants to hear about me or my struggles or my anything. They want to hear about our thing that we sell. And it’s kind of refreshing that that whole idea of your story is really baked in to most marketing experiences today, but I think people are still hungry for it.

Anne Janzer: Yes. And the other place that’s interesting, John, where you can really do something that has to do with your story is when you can align your marketing with your customers’ values. And this is sort of my favorite part of value nurturing, right, is through your actions, demonstrating that you share some of the same values that your customer has, whether that’s supporting people in crisis disaster situations or whatever it may be, just showing up and doing the right thing, as a consumer, I feel really good about subscribing or being a customer of the business that I feel does the right things.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I guess I would go along with that and say you have to be willing to stand up for your right things. You have to be willing to offend some people, too. Not intentionally, but just to take a stand rather than to say, “We’ll take anybody.” And I think the companies that you see in communities that are very loyal, and not only is there value there, but there is a point of view that says, “This is what we believe in, and if you don’t believe that, that’s fine, but this isn’t the place for you.”

Anne Janzer: Yes. Yeah, you have to be willing to just say, “If you want to take this stance, this is where your most loyal customers are going to come from, the ones who are going to refer you or the ones who feel this alignment with you.”

John Jantsch: There’s a lot of value in polarization, like it or not.

Anne Janzer: You’re not taking a stand against something; you’re taking a stand for something. Let’s be clear here.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that is what I’m saying. But at some times, maybe the edgier the stand, the more loyal the people are going to be, and so that’s something worth experimenting with. It’s not for every.

Anne Janzer: True.

John Jantsch: But you’ve seen countless examples of people using that to the edge, I think, and having just a rabid commnuity because of it.

Anne Janzer: Right, right.

John Jantsch: So Anne, where can people find out more about you and your work, and obviously, Subscription Marketing?

Anne Janzer: Sure. So best place is just probably to hop on over to my website, which is my name, A-N-N-E, don’t forget the silent E, Janzer, J-A-N-Z-E-R. And there you can find out about what I’m blogging about and writing about. I’ve got a free course for those content marketers on the call, a free course on managing the approval and reviews process. So go check out what’s there.

And the book subscription marketing is on Amazon and all of the usual ebook and audio book and places that you can find books, and you’ll find it there.

John Jantsch: And we’ll have links in the show note, of course, as we always do.

So Anne, thanks for joining me, and hopefully we’ll run into you down the road.

Anne Janzer: Great. Thanks. I enjoyed it.

How to Tap Into the Subscription Economy

How to Tap Into the Subscription Economy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Anne Janzer
Podcast Transcript

Anne Janzer

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Anne Janzer. She is an award-winning author and non-fiction writing coach who has written books like The Writers Process and The Workplace Writer’s Process. She and I discuss her book, Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn.

As a professional writer, Janzer has worked with more than one hundred technology companies, writing in the voice of countless brands and corporate executives. She enjoys working with writers to improve their processes and communication skills, so they can share their thoughts and ideas with the world. She also works with select nonfiction authors as a developmental editor.

Questions I ask Anne Janzer:

  • What does the subscription economy mean for marketers?
  • What are some unique examples of subscription marketing?
  • How do you incrementally measure the value of value nurturing?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Where the customer journey plays into subscription marketing
  • What rolls content and social media play in the subscription world
  • How subscription marketing impacts the delivery of value

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Anne Janzer:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Weekend Favs February 24

Weekend Favs February 24 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Creative Market –Bring your creative projects to life. Buy ready-to-use design content from independent creators around the world.
  • Parabola – Work with your data without spreadsheets or code. Create flows, automate manual processes, and schedule your data to work for you.
  • Branch Universal Ads –Track ad conversions across every device, platform, and channel.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of How to Build Your Team, Plan Your Exit and Create Your Legacy

Transcript of How to Build Your Team, Plan Your Exit and Create Your Legacy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is sponsored by Podcast Bookers.

Podcasts are really hot, right, but you know what’s also really hot? Appearing as a guest on one of the many, many podcasts out there. Think about it: Much easier than writing a guest blog post, you get some high quality content, you get great back links, people want to share that content, maybe you can even transcribe that content. Being a guest on podcasts, getting yourself booked on podcasts is a really, really great SEO tactic, great brand-building tactic. Podcast Bookers can get you booked on two to three to four podcasts every single month on autopilot. Go check it out.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Scot Hunsaker. He is the author of a book we’re gonna talk about today called Heroic Ownership: Build Your Team, Plan Your Exit, and Create Your Legacy. So Scot, thanks for joining us.

Scot Hunsaker: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: So, let’s start with ‘what is heroic ownership?’ Let’s define the term.

Scot Hunsaker: Well, really what it is, is an answer to an observation I saw with entrepreneurs and small businesses, and that is 66% of companies close their doors when the current leadership team leaves. And so what I was seeking to was to explain the why and the how to make that number smaller. And what it takes is heroic ownership. It takes thought, it takes planning, and it takes responsibility, because think about the number of lives that entrepreneurs touch. And it’s a tremendous privilege, but also it’s a tremendous responsibility. We live so much in the day of our businesses, I’m trying to suggest that we look a little further down the road.

John Jantsch: So you have successfully exited business, so do you want to tell us about that experience?

Scot Hunsaker: Sure. So I actually purchased one of my father’s businesses, it was an engineering firm. And my father was a very successful entrepreneur and businessman. Well what I observed in his journey was that he touched everything and controlled everything. He was very good at it, much like a lot of entrepreneurs, was extremely good at what they do. THat’s why they’re successful. But what he wasn’t good at was transferring that institutional knowledge and business savvy to the rest of the team. So when it came time for him to step out, there was really nobody prepared to be able to continue that legacy. I was able to do that, but very early I started trying to create a team and transferring that institutional knowledge and business savvy to the organization, so it wasn’t dependent upon one person.

I had one of my friends describe it this way: How many business leaders do you know that have a horse that only one rider can ride? In other words, the owner or the founding owner. And so it’s really about transferring that institutional knowledge and business savvy of the organization. So it can live on for multiple generations and continue the legacy, take care of the employees, take care of the customers, and create a liquidity event for the present ownership so they can view it as a success as well.

John Jantsch: Now you have, since exiting your own business, you’ve started a company to teach people just how to do this.

Scot Hunsaker: I have, but I kinda stumbled into it. My plan was actually to go lead a ninth company. I’ve had the privilege of leading eight companies. To go lead a ninth company and kinda do what I had done before, and that’s find a company with a proven product, but maybe a 1950s management style and no succession plan, and do what I’d done before; kinda flip the house, you might say, you know the reality television show, but only with companies. But what happened was, I started talking to some of my peers. They were a little older than me, I was 49 when I sold my last company. And they said, “Scot, you know I’m 10 years older than you and I haven’t even started. How do I do it?” And that’s what caused me to create Ardent, which is the company that I’ve created to help turn your employees into owners. And it was also the driver for writing the book, Heroic Ownership. Build your team, plan your exit, and create your legacy is kinda the message there.

John Jantsch: So I’m gonna go right with the middle part of it, because I think that’s a part that I think … not to suggest that’s any more important than the other two parts, but the ‘plan your exit’ is the one that’s probably got a lot of heartburn for a lot of business owners because, you talk about transferring to ane executive team or a leadership team. There’s a whole lot of businesses that don’t even feel like they have that, a leadership team or an executive team, but they’re gonna close the doors on a shop one day because they want to retire, and it’s basically gonna be a pile of sand. So how do you fight that? When do you fight that? When do you start trying to figure out your exit?

Scot Hunsaker: Yeah, you know a lot of owners want to start with the exit. And that’s great, and I respect that, but the reality is, if you don’t put the pieces in place you don’t have anything to implement through your strategy. You know, we can’t predict the future, so I think we have to create as many paths as possible to go forward. So the strategy outline in the book is five steps and I’ll hit them real briefly: One is authentic conversations. How are you gonna teach the team to understand what it means to lead the organization? In other words, how are they gonna anticipate what needs to happen?

Two is how are you gonna find the leaders? Instead of picking them, maybe let them become natural leaders and self-evident.

Three is institutional knowledge. We store most of our business information in our head, and that’s probably the worst place to store it. How are we gonna get it out of our heads into the organization?

And then the fourth is teaching them how to keep that information current, because all that information comes with a ‘born on’ date.

Now after you’ve done those four steps it’s only then that you can really talk about ownership, because who in their right mind is going to sit down and have a conversation about ownership if they don’t have the confidence and the wherewithal to push all their chips in and betting on your company, that they’re gonna be successful in leading it? So you really need to have those previous steps before you can have the succession planning steps or else they’re gonna be in over their heads and they’re gonna be very leery about entering into that dialog with you, because they’re not gonna be able to have a knowledgeable conversation with you. You’re gonna know a lot more than they know.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I think a lot of companies sit back and watch the news headlines and, you know, XYZ Company acquired by Big Corporate Company, and it’s a big splash and the founders make all kinds of money, but really we’re talking about somebody who, most companies, if they are sold, it’s because they’ve groomed somebody to buy that company. I think that that is, your first point of ‘build your team,’ it’s almost intentional to build their team with exit in mind, isn’t it?

Scot Hunsaker: Yes, I totally agree with you, but I also point out that we really can’t predict what the future’s gonna be. Think about the number of people that we’re planning to exit their business in 2008 when the recession hit, and they’re still trying to recover from it. What we have to do is create an umbrella with a lot of different things can happen five, ten years from now, so we have the flexibility to be able to adapt and change to what’s facing us that we don’t even understand or anticipate today. But we want to create the capacity to be able to make it successful.

John Jantsch: So another Missourian is cited in your book, Jack Stack, who I’ve been a longtime fan of and I think he was one of the first people to very publicly start preaching this idea of ‘owner mindset,’ of teaching everybody the numbers and treating everybody as though they’re an owner with the idea that even if you don’t have an Aesop setup or something, that everybody is making decisions like an owner. That’s really a culture thing, isn’t it?

Scot Hunsaker: It is. I would even say it’s become more important with some of the generational challenges we’re having as owners today and leaders today. Because Millennials today are looking for an environment where they can be, they’re constantly learning. They’re looking for a mentor or coach. They want to have ownership in the [inaudible 00:08:37] and participate in that. You know, 20, 30 years ago we just got the memo, and we were just there to do merely what we were being told. Today’s labor force won’t tolerate that. They want to be engaged, they want to be interactive, they want to be part of the conversation. And these are just sound business principles that are becoming more and more important today to be successful.

John Jantsch: I think one of the hardest things for a lot of business owners, and I’m not saying this is right, but it’s just human nature, is that they started this baby, they grow it, they can’t ultimately trust anybody else to do it like them, so how do you get past that trust and control issue?

Scot Hunsaker: Well that’s where a lot of discipline becomes in. Because you’re right; I see CEOs kinda think about that transition in two ways. The old style, which there’s still a lot of it around, is “Here’s my company. This is my baby, it’s perfect. Now here it is. Don’t change a thing, and don’t screw it up.” And the model that I think is more viable is this one, it’s “Here’s my company. This is the best I could make it and I trust you to make it even better.” Really the second one, to me, is the only one that is a sustainable model to be able to carry it on, because that first one will only last until something changes, and as soon as something changes the wheels come off of it. And then it doesn’t work out for anybody.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and as cliché as it sounds, you get no buy-in in that kind of a situation. I mean, people are ultimately picking up a paycheck and they’re not incentivized to make things better and so consequently that, it just sort of withers, I think, and dies. One of the things you talk about, could you talk about this ‘authentic conversations’ and constantly getting input from employees, and you actually have a pretty good explanation of employee surveys; how do you do that in a way, and again, it probably is a cultural thing, but how do you do that kind of, get that kind of feedback in a way where you get real, authentic, valuable information?

Scot Hunsaker: Well, let’s talk a little bit about what the purpose is. The purpose of this conversation is to understand what’s going on in our organizations. I use the example of a beach ball; if I’m holding a beach ball up in front of the leadership team we all see it from a different perspective. It’s not important that we agree on what color we’re seeing, it’s important that we understand how we each see it. So there’s a lot of business tools out there that are gonna allow us to have authentic conversations about how we view the issues inside the company. One is the corporate dashboard, you talked about Jack Stack. One is an employee survey.

I was a big fan of the Baldrige survey, it was a way of using a statistically valid model to kind of ask questions, to make it valid and to get buy-in, I think it’s really important you share the results with the team. We actually shared a number of years’ results and we could identify what we’re good at and what we needed to work on. We also looked at customer surveys, so the employee survey’s looking inside out, the customer survey is looking outside in.

You know what’s really interesting, one of the things we also did is when were interviewing a new candidate, we shared our dashboard. We shared our employee and our customer surveys and it allowed us to stand out instead of blend in from all of the other companies that they were considering. So this isn’t just good stuff for inside our company, this is good stuff to attract the best of the best in the industry.

John Jantsch: One of the things that I have seen in some organizations that the leadership gets very gung-ho about, this idea of ‘owner mindset’ and ‘building leaders’ and ‘everybody’s got a voice,’ and ultimately they’re, I don’t know what percent, let’s say 10% of the folks are like, “I don’t really want that. I want to come, I like doing my job, I like being able to interact with the data or whatever it is that I do, but I don’t really want to go to the company leadership meeting and give my input.” How do you deal with that if that exists?

Scot Hunsaker: Are you saying that the individual doesn’t want to share [crosstalk 00:12:50] or the leadership doesn’t want to hear?

John Jantsch: Not so much share, just doesn’t want the responsibility. They want to be told what to do, they want to do their job, they like, I think you use an example in the book of an engineer in one of your organizations that didn’t really want to be part of the leadership team. They just wanted to do their job.

Scot Hunsaker: And you know I find that too, and I’m less, I struggle less with how to get that person in the old quote, “the right seat on the bus” type of a thing. To me, I find it much more challenging “how do you identify those that have the will and the ability to lead and then nurture and grow them and help develop them to achieve their potential?” That person that’s just gonna be that Steady Eddie that always gets the job done, in my world I’ve been pretty successful in just seeing them go on autopilot. Because they’re gonna get in their groove and they’re just gonna do their thing. But what I’m really looking for is I’m mining for gold. Think of it this way: What does a coach on a professional sports team do? Does he spend most of his time with the B and C players? Or does he spend most of his time with his A players? I would submit he spends most of his time with his A players, trying to figure out what they’re doing right, then share that with the B and C players. I think CEOs can learn a lot from professional sports teams about how they’re led.

John Jantsch: You have participated in that family business, you talk about your father and his businesses and your relationship in those businesses. There are a lot of family businesses out there. Does that add a whole other dimension that has to be figured out and managed?

Scot Hunsaker: I think family businesses have some unique components to it, and one of the rules of thumb that I start with in family businesses is something called, I call the Thanksgiving Test. In my world I think it’s more important that we keep the family unit speaking, that would allow, we can sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner together without having tremendous upheaval. So I think as we start these conversations, you know, we want to keep in mind that we don’t do anything to upset the family dynamic, at least that’s my value set. Not everybody’s is like that. But let’s focus on what’s most important and understand what that definition of success looks like and go down that path. In my journeys what I have found is the most open and honest and transparent you are, the easier it is to get through it.

And this one may be a little awkward, but it’s much better to have these conversations when the founder is still able to participate because when the founder’s no longer able to participate everybody kinda has their own agenda. But when the founder’s there, he’s able to share his or her perspective about what they would like to see in the business and what they would like to see for the family. So it’s not just the survival of the fittest and working it out the other way.

John Jantsch: So the final point in the book or the section in the book, really, is this idea of creating a legacy. I’m wondering if, and I’m probably projecting a little, my own business I’ve owned almost 30 years, and I’m not sure I thought about ‘legacy.’ I thought about what I liked doing, I thought about the purpose of the business, but as I am now in my mid-50s I’m starting to think, “Huh. What is the legacy that I would like to leave?” Is that kinda a typical evolution in your experience?

Scot Hunsaker: Well again, I think it’s a purposeful one. One of the, I’ll give you two quick examples: One is that I think we all are very keen and focused on creating a mission and values statement for our companies, but I would strongly encourage your listeners to think about what is their personal mission and values statements for them as individuals. When they look back on their career as leaders, will they be proud of what they’ve accomplished? My guess is they’ve probably done a great job at accomplishing their strategic plan and mission and goals of the company, but is that as reflective of who they are and what they are gonna be proud of when they look back on their career?

I have a dear friend that I shared this book with and some other things and he was in the venture capital space and those types of things. At the end of one of our conversations he said, “you know Scot, I’ve probably had an intimate role with 30, 40 businesses, but I’m not sure I’ve ever created a legacy.” And it may or may not be okay, you just have to decide for you, as a business leader and somebody that touches a number of lives, what’s your definition of success? What’s gonna make you proud when you look back on your leadership tenure? That you felt you did good work?

John Jantsch: I think a lot of business owners, again, I may be projecting a little bit here, we’re so focused on that moving horizon that keeps moving farther away as we move to it, because we have bigger and bigger goals, and I think sometimes we forget to turn around and look how far we’ve come.

Scot Hunsaker: Yeah, I also think entrepreneurs think they’re indestructible and they’ll last forever too, so we don’t often get around to having these kinds of conversations with ourselves and our peers, but it’s critically important. It impacts not only us, it impacts our families and all those that work for us and all their families. So it’s a tremendous privilege and it’s a tremendous responsibility.

John Jantsch: Scot, where can people find out more about you and your work at Ardent as well as pick up a copy of Heroic Ownership?

Scot Hunsaker: Well Heroic Ownership is available on Amazon, it’s also on Kindle and I’m working on an audiobook version. My website is and they can learn all about me there as well as opportunities to participate in their groups or speaking at events and those types of things also.

John Jantsch: Thanks so much for joining us and you’re just across the state in Missouri, so maybe I’ll run into you out there on the road someday.

Scot Hunsaker: Fantastic, John. Thank you so much for having me.

How to Build Your Team, Plan Your Exit and Create Your Legacy

How to Build Your Team, Plan Your Exit and Create Your Legacy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Scot Hunsaker
Podcast Transcript

Scot Hunsaker

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Managing Partner of Ardent, Scot Hunsaker. Ardent’s mission is to help CEOs and Business owners prepare for their ultimate transition with a particular focus of teaching employees how to think like owners. He and I discuss his book, Heroic Ownership.

Hunsaker purchased a small engineering firm, Counsilman-Hunsaker, operating as a sole proprietorship from his father. During his tenure as CEO and owner, he grew Counsilman-Hunsaker’s revenue by a factor of 10, quadrupled the number of employees, opened 4 new offices in the US and went from being licensed to operate in 10 states to operating in all 50 plus 3 Canadian provinces.

He sold Counsilman Hunsaker to the employees for cash in 2012. He has spoken on the topic of ownership transition and ownership thinking across the US and internationally. He is also the author of 30 published articles and serves on several boards of directors.

Questions I ask Scot Hunsaker:

  • What is heroic ownership?
  • When should you start planning your exit strategy?
  • Should you build your team with your exit in mind?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to let go of control and develop enough trust to have somebody take over your business for you
  • How to get valuable input from employees
  • What goes into creating a legacy

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Scot Hunsaker:

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