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The “Bonfire Moment”: How to Solve People Problems for Startup Success

The “Bonfire Moment”: How to Solve People Problems for Startup Success written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Martin Gonzalez, a seasoned expert in startup dynamics and co-author of “The Bonfire Moment: Bring Your Team Together to Solve the Hardest Problems Startups Face.”

Martin Gonzalez is the creator of Google’s Effective Founders Project, a global research program that decodes the factors that enable startup founders to succeed. He also works closely with Google’s engineering and research leaders on org design, leadership and culture challenges. Martin is a frequent lecturer at Stanford, Wharton and INSEAD, and has advised leaders across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. He studied organizational psychology and behavioral science at Columbia University and the London School of Economics.

Martin shares invaluable insights into transforming startup challenges by revolutionizing team dynamics through a powerful workshop known as the Bonfire Moment.


Key Takeaways

Martin Gonzalez highlights the critical need for startups to address people issues early on, citing the Bonfire Moment workshop as a powerful tool for transforming team dynamics. By fostering open communication, self-reflection, and conflict resolution, startups can establish a healthy culture conducive to sustained growth. Implementing the Bonfire Moment workshop proactively enables startups to mitigate risks, promote collaboration, and optimize team performance, ultimately positioning them for success in today’s competitive landscape.

Questions I ask Martin Gonzalez:

[01:31] Is there a set of hardest problems startups face or does every case differ?

[02:41] Explain the concept of the one-day get together

[04:25] How do you effectively set up the one-day sessions up for success?

[04:30] What about people who have doubts about links?

[07:53] What have you learned from your experience facilitating healthy arguments?

[10:03] Would you say that a lack of leadership training is a blindspot for most founders?

[12:31] To what degree soes self-awareness of the leader play a role?

[13:14] Do you think it’s possible to be genuinely successful without a healthy culture?

[15:18] How important is it to have a second-in-command in the rare case of an apathetic leader?

[16:33] What are some of the tell-tale signs that show founders might need to start looking towards a bon fire approach?

[17:45] What does a typical agenda look like on a Bonfire day?

[21:03] Where can people connect with you and learn more about the Bonfire moment?


More About Martin Gonzalez:

  • Connect with Martin on LinkedIn
  • Visit his website and preorder The Bonfire Moment here


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now


Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.

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(01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Martin Gonzalez. He’s the creator of Google’s Effective Founders Project, a global research program that decodes the factors that enable startup founders to succeed. He also works closely with Google’s engineering and research leaders on org design leadership and culture challenges. We’re going to talk about a book he co-authored The Bonfire Moment, bring your team together to solve the Hardest Problems Startups face. So Martin, welcome with the show.

Martin (01:37): Thanks for having me, John.

John (01:39): So is there a set of the hardest problems startups face or is it different for everyone?

Martin (01:45): Well, what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of research that talks about the top reasons for failure in among startups. There’s a few decades of research actually, and what has been revealed by some studies out of Harvard and McKinsey is that 65% of startups fail because of people issues, and we see that in our work with startups across 70 countries today. Bill Curran, who is now a Sequoia Capital partner, said it really well once he said, engineering is easy, people are hard, which is something we like that verbiage

John (02:22): You in fact, in the writeup for the book description of the book, you actually start with building team is harder than building tech. So obviously we’re going to dive into that a little bit. One of the things that I thought was interesting is that one of the core, I guess, tactics that comes out of the book is this idea of the all day get together. So talk a little bit about that.

Martin (02:46): Yeah, so the book actually shares with really the world now a workshop that we had built within the Google Accelerator about nine years ago now. Back then we had a lot of content around engineering and marketing and sales, and then when we discovered this research around why startups fail, I asked for a small budget to pilot something and then it was in Jakarta, but when we brought it there, it was rated pretty highly against even some of these really valuable programs around engineering and marketing and sales. We thought, okay, probably an anomaly. Let’s try again. We tried it in Bangalore, and again, it received such rave reviews that we brought it to Sao Paulo and essentially it’s reached all these countries and what we do in the book is we take what was several variations of that workshop and bring it down to a single day that founders and teams can really run on their own.

(03:44): It’s called the bonfire moment because we found that in our work with these leaders, when you bring together really ambitious teams, big goals and tight resources, there’s a certain kind of intensity that the team creates that feels a bit like you’re in the fire constantly. And so the bonfire moment is a chance for the team to step out of that fire and examine it together, bandage up relational wounds, get back in touch with the mission and really prepare themselves for that next push. As you know, the startup life is you’re constantly going from one trek to the next. So the bonfire moment is that workshop.

John (04:26): So I think in theory, I can envision this being this one day workshop that you run yourself being very effective and as you said, get people back on kind of the mission. But I also see a lot of ways it could go sideways, just kind of turn it into a bitching session or like, what’s wrong here? How do you set it up for success?

Martin (04:45): Yeah, I’ll give you some ways in which it’s gone sideways, but I think specifically around how does this not turn into bickering and digging up additional arguments that weren’t there to begin with? The ethos of the workshop is actually precisely that, which is, let’s dig up all the many people challenges that we have conveniently ignored because there were many other things that were more important during that time. We talked in the book about one of the biggest traps that we’ve seen startups face is this thing we call the trap of speed, which is when you’re running super fast, it’s easy to forget about some of the more subtle issues that really could hurt you in the long run. I mean, we find that it’s the people stuff that tends to get swept under the rug, and so we create a structured environment where people can raise some of these challenging issues, but really talk about it in a productive way.

(05:44): One of my favorite parts of the bonfire moment is what we call the bullshit circle, and the premise of the bullshit circle is that a lot of leaders, people in startups or in startup environments find themselves struggling with a lot of self-doubt and insecurity, and what tends to happen is that the way they mask that is through a few different ways that tends to contribute to some kind of a toxic environment for the team, whether it’s a toxic form of optimism or a toxic form of showing strength or detachments. We talk about those three things actually. We talk about optimism, strength, and detachment as ways that people mask their insecurities, and we invite them to reflect on what is their cocktail of poison, so to speak, that they tend to use in these moments of deep insecurity, and it then invites people to then share that openly and then talk about how that maybe shows up and invites their team to say, look, when you see this in me, really what you’re seeing is a coping mechanism.

(06:49): So we try to create a fairly structured environment so that a lot of this is done in a productive way. The one thing I will say really quickly that I think has gone sideways in these programs is we’ve seen some startups actually recognize that they have some issues that are just insurmountable and that they almost have to use kind of marriage language, some kind of irreconcilable differences, and some startups have parted ways after they’ve had this experience. Now, is that a failure of the workshop? We’d like to think that it’s not because then what we’ve done for this team is we’ve allowed them to be see that sooner and part ways and perhaps apply those learnings and their next thing. Founders are never one-time founders. They tend to found again and again. So that’s one way you’d say it’s gone sideways, but really we see it as a positive. Ultimately.

John (07:42): Yeah, that’s like ending a relationship that rather than hanging on with nobody being happy for two more years or whatever, recognize that it’s over and part ways amicably. You talk about the idea of facilitating healthy arguments. What have you found that creates

Martin (08:00): The best teams we’ve seen have a lot of conflict, but it’s conflict of ideas and not of personalities. There’s a really fun story we tell in the book by a figure in the history of computer science. His name is Bob Taylor. He was a lab manager back in what was called Xerox Spark. Xerox Spark was the place where Bob Taylor was not himself a researcher. He was not himself coding and building the hardware and the tech, which was for him a big upside. He talked about how one of his biggest jobs as a lab manager was to convert class one disagreements to class two disagreements. Let me explain what he meant by that. Class one disagreements are essentially disagreements that feel like straw man arguments where John, if you and I had a disagreement, a really easy way to win that argument is I represent your idea in its weakest form possible and therefore making it easy for me to attack it and to refute it. A class two disagreement on the other hand is where you share your point of view, John, and I’m able to share back to you your point of view in a way that is satisfying to you. So instead of a strong man argument, I create a strong man argument and Bob says that his job isn’t to resolve disagreements, it’s to make sure that all disagreements graduate from class one to class two disagreements. I think that’s one really useful thing that managers and leaders everywhere could really think about.

John (09:38): So one of the things that I’ve certainly recognized, and I’m sure you’ve recognized working with startup founders, a lot of startup founders never got any kind of formal leadership training. I mean, they had an idea, they jumped into it, they tried to make it happen, and then next thing they turn around and there’s 15 people standing around that they really have no skills, but maybe just no experience on how to manage. Do you feel like that’s really the sort of the blind spot for most startup founders?

Martin (10:08): Yeah, and I think that’s why this workshop really gained popularity, not because there was anything groundbreaking about it, but really it’s because a lot of founders come into this work wanting to just build product, and they realize that as soon as they need to scale this product, they need to put a team around it and then build a company around it if they wanted to scale. And so indeed, I think there’s another element to this too, John, which is there’s something in our culture that looks at these people problems as maybe not that difficult to solve for, and you’ll see that in the language. People will say, oh, it’s not rocket science, but we write in the book actually that what’s ironic about that statement, it’s not rocket science, is that as a civilization, we’re incredibly good at rocket science. We can launch a person on the moon within two kilometers of the estimate, but we’re not so good at the people stuff. So it’s an interesting expression in our culture.

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(12:12): Now, this offer is limited to new active campaign customers only, so what are you waiting for? Fuel your growth, boost revenue and save precious time by upgrading to active campaign today. So a lot of trying to think of the way to say this, A lot of the leadership dysfunction, there’s a good way to say it probably comes about because we talked about not having the experience, but also maybe their own fears and insecurities are really masked by having to be in charge. What level or to what degree does self-awareness of the leader play a role?

Martin (12:48): I think it’s huge though. I will say that I have learned in my years of supporting leaders that I think it’s important to firstly know thyself and then get over thyself, which I think is an element of the advice that is often lost, which is it’s important to know what your defaults are, who are you authentically, and then recognize what context you’re in and then make the shifts accordingly. I think being completely, I think just being completely yourself and knowing yourself is not nearly enough.

John (13:25): Do you think it’s possible to build something extraordinary without a healthy culture?

Martin (13:33): So surely we’ve seen a lot of really successful companies get built on a very toxic environment, and when founders come to me and ask me, well, how about this company and that company? My often response is that I go by the data. You can be an anomaly where you kind of beat the norm where you can create very toxic environments and beat the odds and build something tremendously successful, and then you can go by the data where the data shows that good healthy cultures actually surpass. There’s this really interesting study that was done out of Germany, a university in Germany. They looked at about four decades of data and they looked at what was the real economic upside of a healthy culture. What the study showed was that on regular years, on decades where there was not a big financial crisis, the benefits of a culture were very subtle, almost nil. It’s in those crisis decades during the global financial crisis or crisis. That’s where you saw the real upside of these healthy cultures. And so we tell founders that the value of a good culture is subtle in calm waters, but pronounced in a storm.

John (14:51): I think we saw that from the pandemic. Frankly, the whole quiet quitting thing was really just people saying, I don’t want to work here anymore.

Martin (14:59): And look, John, if you look at all the really successful toxic companies these days, I’ll bet you that the moment their stock drops by a bit, their best people are gone. Money and a big mission can only keep someone there long enough for so long. At some point, good people realize they have options and they go,

John (15:24): I don’t think you talk about this in the book, but I’m curious, let’s say a startup. I mean there are some people that just aren’t good people that don’t have empathy, that don’t have self-awareness. Maybe how important is it to maybe find a second in command, so to speak, type of role that can play that part for a founder?

Martin (15:42): So I think it definitely can mitigate, it can definitely help. There are certain things you just can’t delegate, like being a decent human being to your team. There’s a really interesting study that,

(15:56): There was an interesting study that came out of MITI believe, that looked at whether adult supervision actually helped mitigate some of the downsides of maybe an inexperienced founder, CEO. And you see this a lot in the startup in the tech startup world, and what it found was that adult supervision actually was effective if the founder CEO had the certain amount of openness and allowed the adult in the room to make decisions on their behalf. But in environments where founder CEOs have brought in the token adults and then anyway made decisions themselves without giving control to the adults in the room, then you see no, in fact, you might even see negative effects of that.

John (16:44): What are some of the signs that a founder should start recognizing that would say, Hey, we need to do something intentional, like a bonfire type of approach.

Martin (16:55): We like to tell founders that you should do the bonfire moment as early in the journey as possible. We see this as good prevention now. We’ve also seen a lot of breakthrough in founder teams in startup teams when they do it even down the line. I think when you start to see elephants in the room, those issues that everyone knows about but no one wants to talk about, that’s one red flag. When you see issues where their feelings of unfairness between equity holders, that’s another red flag. When people are feeling like we’re not as committed as one another, we aren’t pulling our weight to make this succeed. Those are other signs too, but I’d say as early as possible is always better.

John (17:44): Yeah, it’s probably harder to fix a damaged culture than it is to just create a good culture, right?

Martin (17:49): Yeah, no, this is true. It is so true.

John (17:52): Yeah. So walk us through, and it doesn’t have to be the full one, but walk us through what a kind of typical agenda of a bonfire day. Is that what you call it? Bonfire day?

Martin (18:01): Well, we call it the bonfire moment. It’s four parts. It’s facing hard truths. It’s part one. Part two is noticing hidden dynamics. Part three is dropping the masks, and then part four is resolving unspoken issues. So at the start of the day, we really begin by creating a moment for feedback and self-reflection. We ask founders to think about how they’re performing as members of that team. We offer them a self-assessment, which they can access through our website. It has them reflect on what we’ve seen to be the best strategies that founders have deployed, and through that exercise, we then invite them to help each other through some of the biggest gaps that they’ve seen. By the way, for those who want to go even deeper, we also have an option for them to do a 360 degree feedback option where they invite feedback from their co-founders, their employees from their investors, and then we ask them to write up what we’ve called a user guide, which is part two, which is we invite them to think about what are some of the defaults I have as I do my work.

(19:11): We also invite them, and this is one of the more popular parts of the user guide, we invite them to reflect on what are their motivations for being here. We talk about the head heart in the wallet as what we’ve found to be three of the most typical motivations that founders or startup folks bring into their work. It’s either head, is this about the intellectual challenge of solving a difficult problem with very elegant technical solutions? Is it hard? Is it because you’re committed to a user group that you want to improve their lives or improve some part of that industry? Or is it wallet, which is yes, money, but it’s also what we’ve called a social wallet, which is I get access to people, I get to associate with other people or have a title that I would otherwise not have because of this without this startup.

(20:01): So that’s the second part of the day. Then we invite them to what I’ve mentioned earlier on called the bullshit circle, which is we invite them to reflect on the biggest insecurities they bring, and then finally, we then have them look through really the top 20 sources of conflict that we’ve seen in our work with startups, and we invite ’em to reflect on which of those 20 items have they not yet prepared for or spoken about. And to give you a sense, we talk there about how do we want to spend our money or do we value things like an expensive office space, or if the media asks one of us to represent the work, who’s going to be that spokesperson? Because we’ve seen this phenomenon of the Invisible Founder where there’s a spokesperson that’s public, meanwhile everyone else is working hard in the back room. You don’t want that kind of imbalance of receiving recognition for the work. And that’s the day, as you can imagine, it’s an intense day. It’s intense, it’s uncomfortable. It’s teams emerge from that day with a lot of renewed energy for the work.

John (21:09): Awesome. Well, Martin, I appreciate you taking a moment to share with the Duct Tape marketing audience. You want to invite people where they might connect you and obviously find out more about the bonfire moment.

Martin (21:19): Yeah, great. And thank you for having me. So you can find more information on bonfire, and we’re also active on LinkedIn, and so you can find us there. Thank you so much for having me, John.

John (21:30): You bet. Well again, appreciate you. Bye-Bye. And hopefully we will run into you one these days out there on the road.

The Silent Power of Entrepreneurial Self-Exploration

The Silent Power of Entrepreneurial Self-Exploration written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Rob Dubé, a seasoned entrepreneur and co-founder of Image One. Rob is the visionary and CEO of The 10 Disciplines for Managing and Maximizing Your Energy, and cofounder and podcast host of Entrepreneurial Leap. He is also the author of donothing, host of the Do Nothing retreat, and host of the Leading with Genuine Care podcast.

From selling Blow pops in high school to building successful businesses, through his work, Rob challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs to look inward with mindfulness and meditation by sharing his own mindful leadership journey. Co-authored with Gino Wickman “Shine: How Looking Inward Is the Key to Unlocking True Entrepreneurial Freedom”


Key Takeaways

Join Rob Dubé as he shares insights into the profound impact of inner work on entrepreneurial success. Explore how personal growth and self-awareness can transform leadership effectiveness and organizational culture. Discover the importance of saying no often, embracing authenticity, and cultivating stillness in a fast-paced world. Rob’s experiences highlight the significance of understanding oneself deeply to lead with clarity, purpose, and resilience. Unlock the silent power of entrepreneurial self-exploration and embark on a journey of growth, fulfillment, and sustainable success in both business and life.


Questions I ask Rob Dubé:

[00:47] Tell us a little about your entrepreneurial past?

[01:57] How did you working with a start-up like image one in your early days inspire the 10 disciplines in your book?

[04:19] What’s your connection to your co-author; Gino?

[07:05] How do the 10 disciplines show up differently in Shine as opposed to your early work with EOS life?

[12:19] What are some of the benefits and approaches to the discipline of ‘being still’ ?

[15:57] Are there certain rituals and habits that could work for almost anybody?

[13:54] How does a leader help their team adjust to their embracing empathy?

[17:25] What has organizing retreats taught you about self-discovery in leaders?

[19:48] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work and pick a copy of your book?


More About Rob Dubé:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rob Dube. He’s a co-founder of Image One, visionary and CEO of the 10 Disciplines for managing and Maximizing Your Energy. And co-founder and podcast host of Entrepreneurial Leap. He’s also a co-author of a book we’re going to talk about today that he wrote with Gino Wickman has been a guest on the show. The book is titled, shine How Looking Inward is the Key to Unlocking True Entrepreneurial Freedom. So Rob, welcome to the show.

Rob (00:43): Thank you, John. I appreciate you having me. It’s an honor to be here.

John (00:47): I always love exploring a little bit of people’s entrepreneurial past. Are you still involved with Image One that was a significantly different business venture than what you’re seem to be focused on today? So I’d love to go there first, if you don’t mind.

Rob (01:00): Sure. I am involved in the sense that I am a shareholder of the company with the person that I founded it with. Neither of us are involved anymore and we are what you might say in the owner’s box, and we have a CEO who runs it and is much more capable than we are to take it to new heights.

John (01:22): So your current business is much more about working with leaders and as we imply in the book looking inward, it’s definitely a very self exploration type of work. I’m sorry, image one was very much, what would you call it? A software, purely software play

Rob (01:40): Actually. We provide managed print services, which is document management like copiers and multifunction printers for mid to enterprise size organizations.

John (01:52): Okay, so I’ll stop on that except the bridge question, which is how did your work with growing a company like that, which is a little more brick and mortar hands-on ish type of work lead to your discoveries or your exploration of inner and the 10 disciplines that we’re going to talk about?

Rob (02:10): Yeah, so just I’ll go back a little bit. I started my entrepreneurial career selling Blow pops out of my locker in high school. My best friend and I were doing that together and we had all kinds of businesses through high school and college and the audience, usually when I tell that story, many people relate to it because they’ve had some experience of their own doing that or they know somebody who has. When we graduated college, the two of us started this company Image One and it was exciting just to have a business, but I had experienced a great deal of trauma growing up and I wasn’t feeling like I was as good of a business partner as I needed to be a best friend. And I was married at the time, so I just felt like something didn’t feel right. So I started my own journey of inner work to try to find some peace for myself. What I learned along the way was that it was helping me be a better leader at the company. And so that’s really, those many years ago is really where I first started to see the benefits of the work that I’ve done and now to come to where I am today sharing this with leaders, it’s an honor to do so.

John (03:25): Yeah, so it’s funny how often two things you’ve mentioned, how often I hear I started a business when I was in seventh grade or that kind of thing from entrepreneurs. They all have, we all have, right? Mine was a very grunt work. I sealed driveways the company during the summers to pay my way through high school and college. It was awful work, but it paid well. The second thing was a lot of times how many entrepreneurs create businesses around trying to solve their own problem or solve something they couldn’t find in the market? And in a lot of ways that’s what you did. You were trying to solve your own frustration or problem at some level, and that led you to an entrepreneurial discovery, which I think it’s so common. I’m curious, as I mentioned, you co-authored this book with Gino Wickman. Many people are familiar with him, the EOS system that he created and moved out into the world. What’s your connection or what was your initial connection with Gino?

Rob (04:23): So one of the very impactful things that happened along my journey was that eight years into running the business, my best friend and I looked at each other and we said, we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re growing this business, but it is out of control. And someone introduced us to this guy who was just starting up this business to help entrepreneurs get control of all this stuff. When I met him, I really didn’t trust him. At first I thought, I’m not sure about all this stuff, but we ended up becoming one of his first seven clients. He wrote about us in his book Traction, which has been a bestseller, and it really did help us gain control of our business. And so it was a really impactful thing for myself inside because I felt more at peace with my business and a little bit more control. And so that’s how we first met. And then we struck up a friendship and we would meet very often at a coffee shop for many hours. And he taught me many different ways that he was living his life, which we ultimately wrote in part in the book that you referenced.

John (05:35): So in the EOS Life book, which was really again an extension of EOS but into personal life of genomes, it ends with these 10 disciplines. I don’t want to say they’re an afterthought, but there’s certainly an add-on to the book. And forgive me if I’m wrong on this, did you do the audiobook with him?

Rob (05:55): Yes. And thank you bringing that up because they asked me to do that interview for bonus material on the audio book. While I was preparing, I realized these 10 things I have been learning from GTO over the last 20 years and they have impacted my life greatly. So after the interview, the two of us went out to lunch and we started talking about how impactful it’s been, and I said, I think this would be a great thing to teach to entrepreneurs, but I think it goes much deeper than the way you wrote it. And that started our path on really taking a deeper dive into each one of the disciplines and how they actually help us understand ourselves better once we have a better understanding of ourselves, how we can protect ourselves in our lives, meaning having really clear boundaries. So we are focused on the things that make the most impact in this life.

John (06:56): So the 10 disciplines show up as a big large part of this new offering shine. So rather than buy the book, if you want to know what the 10 disciplines are, we might talk about a couple of them, but how do they show up differently in Shine than they did in EOS life?

Rob (07:13): So what we do is we take a deeper dive into five of ’em and really help you understand yourself at a deeper level. Okay, so I’m going to give you a simple example. One of the disciplines is say no often, and this is where we encourage people to get really clear about saying no to anything that doesn’t fit into what their purpose is, how they’re going to make the greatest impact. And what we notice in working with our clients is that they have a hard time saying no. In fact, they’re saying yes to 90% of the requests that come their way. And so that’s high level. So now we have to go a little bit deeper and ask ourselves why do we say yes to so many things that we know don’t really fit into the type of impact that we want to make? And so we go a little bit deeper and then we go a little bit deeper from there as we keep peeling off the layers and helping ourselves to understand better why we’re doing the things that we’re doing so we can change our behavior.

John (08:20): Well, I’ll tell you why we say no or why we say yes to everything is because I think in a lot of ways that’s a protective mechanism, believe it or not, to stop us from doing maybe some of the hard work that we’re afraid to do.

Rob (08:34): Thank you for that, John. That’s definitely one of the things that’s happening. And we see fomo, fear of missing out on a great opportunity, things like that, not wanting to disappoint people. And so when you start to identify those, we’ve just named three between the two of us, you can go deeper. Why am I afraid to disappoint people? What’s that saying about me? And you keep going deeper into that. Where does that come from, et cetera. So that’s why these are so impactful. They really help us take a better look at ourselves

John (09:10): And now a word from our sponsor. Work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better now. Professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit, work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. Yeah. And in the end we conclude that it was always our parents’ fault, right? That’s easy out. There’s one of the disciplines is simply stated as know yourself. And while that sounds, I don’t think anybody argue with that. Certainly every leader that has some self-awareness is a better leader. How do you from a practical standpoint, break that down in a way that’s actually going to serve?

Rob (10:43): Yeah, so what we want, what our hope for you is that you realize what your true self is, that you free your true self. And so this is you starting to understand the most authentic version of who you are, and that’s when you start looking at society and the expectations that you’re working with in your life. You start to notice how your identity oftentimes is wrapped around what you do professionally and also your social circles and the things that seem important in those social circles, and really questioning that. This is a very deep dive. Now, practically speaking, how can we start? Well, it depends where you’re at on the continuum. You can do simple things, which I imagine many of your listeners have already done to some degree, which is take a personality profiling tool, take as many as you can and start uncovering all the things that are you.

(11:43): And you can go from there. You mentioned kind of in a funny way about must be our parents’ fault. Well, you can go to therapy. That’s very common days. When I started going many years ago, it didn’t have that same comfort level for many, but you could go to therapy and those are a way to start to understand cause and effect, et cetera. And there are all sorts of modalities that you can explore that really help you to understand yourself better. And we write about those of the books, so there’s a very large list and you can pick and choose what seems to ping you.

John (12:17): Yeah, yeah. So one of the disciplines, probably possibly my favorite, although it took a long time to realize this, and it’s just stated as be still, and I live in a national forest, I have lots of ability to get out into nature and be still. But for a lot of entrepreneurs, that’s actually probably one of the hardest ones for them to do. I mean, we’re so used to the chatter, the noise, the what’s next on my to-do list. What are some of the remedies, I guess for that? Well, let’s start with what are some of the benefits of approaching this discipline and then what are some of the ways to do it?

Rob (12:57): Yeah, so the first thing I always like to share is one of my favorite quotes from the author Ann Lamont. And she says, my mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try to never go there alone. And so as someone who’s having trouble with the Be still, I encourage you to reflect on that quote from Ann Lamont. Sitting is hard because subconsciously we know exactly what’s about to happen. We’re about to put ourselves through all the anxiety and stresses and all the wonderful, beautiful things that happened over the last 24, 48 hours and maybe the last 24 years. You never know what’s going to come up. So why would we put ourselves through that? Well, it starts with our ability to come into the present moment and realizing with great perspective, that’s really all we have, and we want to reinforce that as much as we can.

(13:59): The next thing we want to do is be able to pay close attention to our thoughts and our patterns and our loops and our dramas, and again, allowing for us to bring perspective to what those are and what’s actually going on. And by doing that, we have a greater ability to begin to settle our mind and also settle our nervous system so our bodies and our minds aren’t made to go at the speed that we’re going at. So we’re really adapting real time these days, and it’s of great benefit for our overall health to just settle down much different than sleep. Sleep has incredible benefits and we must do that and get enough of it. But this is different because we are an awake state and we are fully aware of everything that’s going on around us. The sensations, the sensations of sight and smell and hearing and tasting and touching and bringing our awareness to those things. And this, again, I’ll always go back to the word that I like to use, which is perspective. It all brings it into great perspective, whatever it is that we have going on, and hopefully that helps us to carry that through into our regular everyday lives where we get caught up into the many dramas of life or challenges or successes where we can pause and notice that moment as Viktor Frankl says, between stimulus and response and make a choice. And that’s why we encourage people to be still for 30 minutes every day.

John (15:43): And I know probably everybody needs to work out their own rituals or own habits that they practice. Right. Are there some that you think, yeah, make up your own mind, but here’s a couple that you really ought to explore or consider? Are there certain habits, certain rituals? I know you talk about a nightly preparation routine and a morning ritual. Are there some that you think probably work for almost anybody?

Rob (16:10): Well, as it relates to be still, some of the ones that we write about are prayer, contemplation, journaling. You and I just talked about meditation. Those are simple. You can play around with each and every one of them. You could spend 10 minutes journaling, 10 minutes in a quiet meditation, and then 10 minutes in a contemplation, and you could do five, 10 minutes of prayer. So you do have to find what works for you and try your best to not get discouraged. People quickly get discouraged. Primarily the feedback that I get is that they’re just really busy and it feels like a waste of time, so you have to stick with it and know that there’s great benefit down the road for you. This isn’t a quick fix pill that brings you calm because you tried it for a few days or 21 days. It’s a lifelong practice having a routine, same time, same place every day. Maybe it’s the morning before you get your day started or the evening before you go to bed or anything in between. You really do have to play around and find what’s perfect for you.

John (17:25): I know you do, or we were talking about, you’ve been doing a retreat for a number of years that is really a compact way to practice some of what you write about in the book, and I assume that you have worked with some leaders to help them implement some of the ideas and shine. Is there anybody that, I don’t know if you can talk about personal case studies, but have you seen significant discoveries that people have by taking up this type of practice as a leader?

Rob (17:52): Absolutely. I mean, in my retreat, I have high performing entrepreneurs that come once per year. They come for five days. Three of the days are a complete silence, which many of them are very nervous about doing that. At the end of the retreat, we do a closing circle and the emotion and the deep love and peace that comes out of these high performing people that are going a thousand miles an hour, and the inspiration and motivation they have to carry that with them when they come down off the mountain because we do it in the mountains and bring that into their leadership, into their family lives is truly amazing. I always share with them, please bring this practice with you into your daily life. So carry it through and keep it going for 30 minutes a day because it will continue to cultivate and grow, and your mind will be at greater peace not a hundred percent of the time, but it will have greater peace and you will have a greater energy with those around you.

John (19:11): Yeah. You know what I find you talked about mentioned that idea of maybe it won’t be a hundred percent of the time, but I think what does happen, or at least for me, my own experience, is you start to recognize it when it’s not happening, when that piece is not happening. And that to me is that’s half the battle because you get off of the autopilot, you’re like, oh, I’m witnessing this now, and so now I know what to do about it. And I think that’s one of, there is no, like you said, magic pill. I’m going to be happy a hundred percent of the time, but now I’m going to lose some of the stress because I understand it now, if that makes sense.

Rob (19:43): Right? Yep, absolutely.

John (19:45): Well, Rob, I want to thank you for something by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there some place you’d invite people to find out more about your work and obviously pick up a copy of Shine?

Rob (19:55): Yes, absolutely. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that. And the listeners can go to the and you can find the link to the book there. And many of the things that you and I have spoken about today and many more, we always like to encourage people to take our true self-assessment, a 20-question assessment that will give you a sense of where you are with each one of the 10 disciplines. And then we have 10 additional questions that help you understand where you are in terms of freeing your true self. That’s a great assessment that you could take every 90 days just to shine light where light needs to be shine.

John (20:40): Again, I appreciate you taking a moment, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Navigating Global Relationships

Navigating Global Relationships written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Andy Molinsky, a distinguished professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. With a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and a master’s in psychology from Harvard University, Andy is renowned for his expertise in cross-cultural communication and global workplace dynamics. His research and writing has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine, Psychology Today, the Financial Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and his latest book Forging Bonds in a Global Workforce: Build Rapport, Camaraderie, and Optimal Performance No Matter the Time Zone.

Key Takeaways

Join Andy Molinsky as he navigates the complexities of global relationships, emphasizing the pivotal role of cultural understanding in fostering effective collaboration across time zones. Through genuine curiosity and respect for cultural differences, individuals can transcend barriers and cultivate authentic connections. Andy highlights the importance of making informed first impressions, navigating small talk nuances, and addressing hidden biases to foster mutual understanding. By integrating cultural awareness into business practices, particularly in distributed teams, organizations can promote inclusivity and harness the power of diverse perspectives for enhanced collaboration and resilience in today’s globalized world.


Questions I ask Andy Molinsky:

[00:51] What are the inherent big challenges in working across time zones?

[02:17] Where does understanding cultural nuances play out in relationship building?

[05:53] How crucial is first impressions in forging bonds?

[10:16] What are some of the actions that teams can do in implementing multiple cultures as an asset that can benefit company culture?

[13:38] What impact do you think the current political trend will have in forging cultural bonds?

[17:18] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work and pick a copy of your book?


More About Andy Molinsky:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


(00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Andy Molinsky. He’s a professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology. Andy received his PhD in organizational behavior and a master’s in psychology from Harvard University. His research and writing has been featured in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Inc Magazine and the New York Times. We’re going to talk about his latest book, forging Bonds in a Global Workplace, build Rapport, comradery, and Optimal Performance no matter The Time Zone. So Andy, welcome back to the show. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here. So let’s start with the big picture. What are the inherent big challenges in working across time zones? Gosh, there are lots. I think that the biggest challenge in terms of building relationships across time zones, I think in terms of that, I think there are two core challenges.

(01:05): The first is understanding differences, cultural differences, and anyone listening has probably read an article, heard something about cultural differences, about how people from this culture tend to do this and people from this other culture tend to do this, and that’s fair. That can cause misperceptions, misunderstandings, and so on. And it’s really important to be aware of those. In our new book we certainly talk about that, but we also talk about the flip side, which is now that you’ve recognized the differences and you’ve avoided the misperceptions, how then can you actually create the connections? Because when in our own culture, the way we build relationships in our own culture isn’t just by maniacally avoiding difference. That’s not how you build a connection. Yeah, that’s interesting though, because in your own culture, the differences maybe are maybe subtle, whereas there complete cultural differences. I remember one time I was with a group and we were in an international audience, and it was a gentleman from Japan that came up and was introduced to the group and he does the whole, you’ve probably seen people talk about the whole ritual with the business card and the person that he presented to just took it and stuck in his pocket and everybody you could see, everybody just was like, what do we do now?

(02:12): So those are kind of the things that I think people tend to think about, but really where do they actually play out in terms of relationship building? Well, I think that by the way, I wouldn’t discount something like that because the importance of something like that is that if someone’s not aware of the cultural difference, they could draw conclusions very quickly about the person that they don’t care about us, that they’re not respectful, they don’t like our culture and so on. That can pretty much short circuit relationship before it starts. But in our research, so we interviewed a hundred people from around the world for this new book, and we found we ultimately found six different kind of dimensions along which relationship building differs. I mean, I could mention a couple. Yeah, give maybe an example or two of a couple of ’em. That’s probably usually that’s more Sure, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(03:01): So one’s power who can have a relationship with whom? So for instance, in certain let’s say hierarchical cultures, like let’s say Korea, you were taught your whole life to respect authority, be deferential, be polite, and so when you’re in a Korean workplace, you’re not going to chit chat about the weather or last night’s baseball game with your boss. It’s just not going to happen. Whereas in the US it’s a much flatter, less hierarchical society. And then if you travel over to Scandinavia, you’re going to get even flatter. So power, power is definitely one thing to be attuned to. Another one is on that, I wanted to interrupt another example. I was in a small middle Eastern country for an event and there were a lot of dignitaries at the event in kind of a preconference. And it was interesting to me as somebody new would come in who was maybe perceived to be a higher up the run diplomatically, people would literally get up and rearrange chairs because that person got to sit closer to the esteemed guest or something.

(04:01): So those are the types of, I mean that’s a definite example, right, of that type of structure. Absolutely. And it’s so important to try to step inside the logic of that other culture if you can, because that then, and to be curious about it, right? I think our instinct often is to think that’s different. For me, that’s weird. But if you can just take a beat and be curious about it, I think that’s key for ask questions about it, be curious. And that actually in and of itself, sometimes cultural differences if you approach them in sort of a curious, interested, respectful way, can themselves be the seeds of a connection that can grow discussing them. I’ll just give you one other example is pacing, pacing speed. So in certain relationships, I’m sorry, in certain cultures you can build relationships very quickly. In Brazil for instance, people will, well, this actually blends two of the dimensions.

(05:00): So this example I’ll talk to you about is blends the notion of pacing but also privacy. And so in Brazil you might talk very quickly about very personal things you might be, whereas in another culture, like say Germany, you’re not as apt to talk about the personal side of things, at least initially. And it can take a very long time in terms of the pacing. And again, there’s nothing bad or good about that inherently, but what’s challenging is that if you’re not aware of it and you don’t respect and understand it and can’t step inside the logic of that culture, you can misperceive it and draw very quick conclusions about the other person. And that can be a relationship killer. So when it comes to somebody who is maybe for the first time interacting, there’s a lot of first impression stuff. I mean that happens no matter what in relationships.

(05:52): So is it important to make that first impression by understanding the cultural differences? Say even in things like you mentioned small talk for example. I mean, should I go into a meeting going, oh, I need to have a little information about this small talk that we’re going to do. So generic advice is always really hard, but I also think it’s really important, so I’m not going to sidestep the question. So what I would say is that I think it’s important to do your homework to try to understand what might be the case in the other culture. And I really emphasize and double click on the might because not everyone’s going to be characteristic of that culture. You’re going to, you might go to Germany, you might go to Korea, you might go anywhere and you might meet someone who spent 20 years in Australia or 10 years in the us.

(06:42): So I think what you want to come in with is kind of like a guess a hypothesis and be ready to have a disconfirm. I think it’s also good to show genuine curiosity and interest. I think that travels genuine curiosity and interest travels. So I think those are two things. In terms of small talk in particular, we actually just published a Harvard Business Review article about small talk. In doing the book, we did a parallel study of small talk across cultures. So key and what we found is that small talk is I would say quasi universal. It’s not universal. There are some cultures, some situations, again, in Korea for instance, Koreans don’t tend to make small talk that frequently and certainly in a power relationship, you’re not going to be making small talk with your boss most likely. Whereas in other cultures, small talk is just part of the culture.

(07:39): Like in Mexico, in Brazil, in Latin America, south America, the US small talk is very common. And then in some other cultures it is common but maybe less common and so on. But the point that I want to make is that when you’re doing business in a global multicultural, cosmopolitan context with people who themselves have had exposure to different countries and cultures, you are operating under a global code sort of. So it’s a little bit different. And now a word from our sponsor, work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness and professionalism.

(08:39): They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better Now professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit work better, mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. So what role do hidden biases play this? All Americans just want to get to the sale. They don’t want to build a relationship. I mean, whatever. Absolutely. I mean, I think a good hack actually is to be aware of the hidden bias that people might have of your culture and to try to disconfirm it, try to act kind of against it in some ways, and then also to be aware of hidden biases that you might have of other cultures.

(09:44): I don’t think it’s a problem to have to, everyone has hidden biases. That’s what psychology research teaches us. We all have them. The question is how aware are we of them and how hard do we work to really to not let them interfere with our relationship building. So increasingly, myself included, I have a small team of about 16, 17, and we are in about eight countries and increasingly we are trying to blend the culture. I mean these are multi-cultures, but we have a culture as a business. So what are some of the actions or maybe even habits or rituals that companies, particularly since we’re not getting together in meeting rooms so much anymore can do to do what I just talked about, take multiple culturals, use it as an asset to actually benefit the company culture. I think it’s really important in the case that you’re talking about with these globally distributed teams to build in time to sort of put relationship building on the agenda.

(10:44): If it’s not on the official agenda, it’s on the mind of the leader. It’s on the mind of the person who’s organizing the meeting that there’s built in time to actually build connections. And those can happen in small little bits at the beginning of a meeting. They also can happen asynchronously, in other words, not in the meeting itself. So I’ll give you an example. I have a very small team and we have a certification course based on my first book, global Dexterity, where we certify people in this idea of global dexterity and we’ve created on Slack, which is a common messaging and work platform, we created a channel in our workspace called, I think it’s called Photos and Fun or something like that. And that very quickly became the most popular channel and people sort of on an asynchronous way were posting pictures. I mean, it took a little courage to get a kickstarted, but after a while it became a great place because then people would refer to that even in our live calls and so on.

(11:45): And so I think on a team you’re talking about, I think that’s really important. I think also showing respect to showing respect to people in another culture of their time zone even, which is that not all the meetings prioritize the American time zone, the east coast time zone let’s say. And that’s a very common default on a team and that can cause a lot of latent frustration and anger. What I think I hear you saying is that a lot of this team building as people may be called it at some point, really the focus is to get deeper engagement than just like, here’s the agenda for the meeting or here’s what we want to accomplish and next month’s rollout or whatever the topic may be. So you’re talking about intentionally going beyond on the surface, and there’s a real reason for that because I think that increases the odds that you’re going to have trust and when when someone does do something that disconfirms your expectations, if someone does deviate, it’s maybe built on a solid foundation of trust and connection.

(12:58): So that doesn’t ruin the relationship. But that might even inspire a conversation. And since people already have some degree of connection, the cultural differences can potentially actually be a source of learning as opposed to a ticking time bomb. And that’s why I think that the relationship building ends up being really critical. I’m probably going to venture outside of your thesis in your book, but I want to go down just a little bit of a different path. There’s no question we are a global economy. People are, what you’re talking about in your book is important for anybody in a career, but we’re also maybe at a point in history where there’s a little bit of nationalization going on as opposed to globalization. What impact do you think that current political, which again, I’m not saying it’s everywhere, everyone, but that current political trend, if you will, is impacting this idea.

(13:54): Say more about what you mean by nationalization. Just a little bit of the, you see, I’ll use the United States for example, but there are certainly some European countries that are going through that right now, A move towards the right that does include a little bit of American made and don’t go outside the borders. A little bit of that. Well, I just heard this morning actually on the radio, and this is of course, I don’t know when people will listen to this, but I just heard this morning that the Netherlands, I didn’t know much about the politics in the Netherlands, but there’s sort of an anti-immigrant bent to the current policies right now in 2024 in March, and A SML, which is one of the biggest companies in Europe and one of the most important companies in the world actually in the semiconductor industry is thinking of leaving the Netherlands. So there you go.

(14:47): I think that the nationalism that you do see, like America First Made in America and so on, I mean, this is just my opinion, but around it runs counter to the history of this country, which is born on immigrants. All of us are immigrants who knew? So every one of us, not every one of us, I suppose the Native Americans and their ancestors, but everyone else are immigrants. And so I think that’s really important to remember. And I think the countries that, this is just my opinion, but I think that the countries who recognize that and recognize that power of diversity recognize the potential benefits to their workforce, I think that’s just going to be a source of strength and it ultimately is a liability, I think economically. No question. That’s my 2 cents anyway. So talk to the millennials or I don’t know, they’re getting old now, the Gen Z that could look at this as, would you look at this as mastering these skills as a career skill that somebody should add to just like programming language?

(15:53): I think so. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the stuff, I have a PhD in organizational behavior and psychology and people will often say, oh, it’s really squishy, and let’s say MBA students, they maybe want to avoid our classes and take the STEM classes and the hardcore quant classes. But what’s funny is that when they come back for executive education, it’s not the STEM classes they’re looking for, it’s the leadership classes and it’s all the people stuff. Because what people realize is that in order to get that first job, you do need those quant skills. You need those hard skills, but to keep your job to succeed at your job to all that stuff, it’s the softer stuff, softer sounds, pejorative. It’s more the subtler stuff. It’s more the interpersonal stuff. And so that’s why I think that stuff is critical.

(16:43): That’s part of my mission. I want to try to help people, and that’s the entire reason that I write books. So I could, as a professor, I’m a tenured professor, I could just continue writing articles in the dusty shelves of academic journals, but that’s not my purpose. I want to try to actually impact people in the world and give people resources like that. So I really actually strongly believe in that. Yeah, it’s funny you call it the softer things. I think it’s really just developing a level of self-awareness is really where it starts if you’re going to be a leader. So Andy, you want, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. You want to tell people where they might find more about you, your work, and obviously forging bonds? Yeah, sure. So I guess the easiest place is either my website or LinkedIn. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, so you can find me on LinkedIn, Andy Molinsky, and my website’s andy So pretty easy. Maybe it’ll be in the show notes and you can find me there and kind of go from there. Awesome. Again, appreciate you taking a few moments, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Remote Work Revolution: Drive Sustainable Growth with Virtual Teams

Remote Work Revolution: Drive Sustainable Growth with Virtual Teams written by Tosin Jerugba read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Scott Cox. Scott brings a wealth of experience in the ever-evolving world of sales and marketing, with a career spanning over a decade. Scott is best known for founding Social Reach in 2017, which is a marketing agency that caters to small business owners in varying industries.

Today, he provides business coaching, where he helps business owners grow and scale their businesses from 6 to 7 figures by implementing the right systems and processes, as well incorporating Virtual Assistants.

Key Takeaways

Scott shares insights into leveraging remote work for sustainable growth. He highlights the importance of embracing virtual teams, navigating growth challenges, and balancing automation with human interaction. Scott also discusses the potential of integrating AI technologies to enhance productivity and creativity. By building resilient businesses through remote work and technology, entrepreneurs can thrive in today’s fast-paced world.


Questions I ask Scott Cox:

[00:59] What made you decide to exit the agency world and become a coach?

[03:22] How do you help your customers stay ahead with the changes in Marketing?

[06:58] How do you see the world of virtual assistants giving small businesses a competitive edge?

[10:47] What are some of the hurdles that people have to overcome in order to effectively engage remote workers?

[13:51] Do you screen, place and train virtual assistants for your clients or do you just show them how to do it?

[15:57] How do you balance automation with the human touch when working with virtual assistants?

[17:55] Where can people connect with you, and learn more about your work?

More About Scott Cox:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Scott Cox. He brings a wealth of experience in the ever evolving world of sales and marketing with a career spanning over a decade. Scott’s best known for founding social reach in 2017, which is a marketing agency that caters to small business owners in varying industries. Today he provides business coaching where he helps business owners grow and scale their businesses from six to seven figures by implementing the right systems and processes as well as incorporating virtual assistance. So Scott, welcome to the show.

Scott (00:45): Thank you so much for having me, John. Really appreciate the time and happy to bring as much value as I can to you and your audience.

John (00:51): So let’s start first, I work with a lot of agency owners and there are challenges with that business model. There are challenges in every business, in every industry. What made you decide that I’m going to get out of the agency world and become a coach?

Scott (01:04): Oh, that’s a great question. I don’t get asked a lot. For me, it was, as an agency provider, you’re busy providing services, you’re busy managing a team, and especially if you have multiple clients and if you’re across different industries, it’s just marketing and agencies are a chaotic world. There’s just so much going on and to really do it right. And so I had typically been working with small business owners, so this is maybe mid to high six figures to low seven figures. My niche was helping those mid to high six figure business owners get to seven figures and the low seven figures get to multiple sevens and scale through those processes and all the challenges that come at that level, which are many doing. Working with that audience, there was a lot of need for my clients to solve challenges in their business that were coming from growth that were not directly related to the marketing.

(02:08): They were challenges caused because the marketing was working and bringing in new leads, new customers, new business. But then my customer was, Hey, great, but what I don’t have systems. I don’t have processes. I need to hire people. And so there was so many bottlenecks that these clients of mine, these small business owners had. And so I really just saw it as a massive opportunity to bring value in a different way. And honestly, I was just burned out from the agency life after doing it for a long period of time. And I just felt a more natural calling to saying, Hey, I can help business owners build these teams within their own businesses, solve these problems as they grow, focus more on just that and actually help them reach more success and not just, Hey, hire an agency and get some marketing, but then hit some other hurdles and have to stop because they aren’t doing what they need to do in their business.

John (03:05): I guess this is the point where I should say that marketing is everything. That’s how I view it. I’ve been doing this about 30 years and obviously marketing’s evolved. There’s new platforms, new technologies, how do you help? I will say that’s probably the biggest complaint I hear from business owners is like, how do I keep up with all of it? How do you keep up with the changes in marketing, and then how do you bring those to your customers to help them stay ahead?

Scott (03:29): Yeah, I think it’s really important to stay focused on the basics, right? There’s fundamentals of marketing that will work regardless of the platform you’re on, regardless of the medium that you have and everything like that. And so I think making sure that you’re focused on the fundamentals first, doing the core marketing tasks and objectives that need to be done to create a good effective message, get it in front of the right people, and then give them an opportunity to convert. And then it comes down to just your personal style and brand. And if we’re specifically talking about small business owners, you as a small business owner are pretty much going to be the driver of content in your business for good long time. So if you like recording videos, maybe you have a YouTube channel if you like writing copy, maybe you’re on LinkedIn if you like making funny gif, maybe you’re on Instagram.

(04:21): Obviously your audience is a big dictator of what platform and medium you use. But I think you should also be looking at your own personal skillsets and what kind of fits into your workflow. Look at how many businesses, small businesses specifically are on TikTok just recording what they’re doing in their business. They’re making stuff and they’re just recording it and they’re having a ton of success. An agency can’t just sit here and record their process. So you have to look at those core things like what is your business? What kind of content does it lean towards? Where’s your audience? What kind of medium and content do they want to absorb? And then what specifically fits to you and your style, your skillset, and how you communicate best.

John (05:04): So when I go out and speak, I’ll give people the seven ways to do blah, blah, blah. And then inevitably somebody comes up and says, okay, that’s great, but what’s the one thing I need to do? Because everybody wants the simple magic pill. But have you found that there are, I don’t know, a handful of tactics that when it comes to sales and marketing, pretty much every business needs to understand and do?

Scott (05:27): Yeah, every business needs to get as much exposure as they affordably can. They need to stay in front of that exposed audience as consistently as possible, and they need to craft a really good message. And look, we have the Alex from Moeys of the world who’s absolutely brilliant in marketing and explaining terminologies and how these different concepts work. But if you have a business where you can create an irresistible offer, obviously that’s going to make a massive difference. But even just having a message is effective and effective means connects with your audience, leaves them with a good impression of how their life is going to be different after they’ve interacted with your business. That is the core things you need to do. Exposure, stay in front of that exposure and then have a really good message that leaves an impact with people.

John (06:18): I mentioned in your bio that you help place and figure out systems for working with virtual assistants. My organization’s been like a lot of companies I think has been virtual probably for 15 years. Many of my team’s been distributed. I haven’t tell you the last time I sat in a client’s office, it’s been at least 15 years ago. It’s a pleasure, right? For the pandemic, certainly. Yeah, exactly. The pandemic certainly accelerated that for a lot of folks that hadn’t even considered it, it’s now the norm. Talk a little bit about how somebody might, and I know we’re recording this, it’s morning for you or it’s morning for me, it’s later in the day for you because you’re in Thailand. Talk a little bit about how you see the world of virtual assistants connecting with small business and how we can go into some other one. Let’s just talk about how you see that connecting right now.

Scott (07:09): Yeah. There’s all kinds of small businesses out there. There’s virtual businesses like ours, and then there’s brick and mortar, there’s local businesses. And look, I think at a fundamental general level across the board, utilizing remote workers, virtual assistants gives you a much larger talent pool to choose from. When you’re looking to hire and source talent for the business, it gives you a much more affordable resource to find that talent. And look, I’ll tell you, a big part of success for small businesses is if they can understand that there’s multiple ways to grow your business, and there’s definitely an avenue and a medium where you should have an agency come in and help your business grow. But there’s also a way where you can hire your own core team to do some of your core functions and affordably scale to the point where you actually can utilize, really, truly utilize what an agency can do for you, but have this core team in place and have the consistency in your business and in your marketing to, I talk a lot about this in my videos.

(08:26): One of the biggest challenges that small business go through, especially when they’re going from six to seven figures, is the cyclical effect, right? It’s just the ups and downs of business, the high seasons and the low seasons. And what most business owners do is when their busy, they tend to spend money on marketing and they market, but then when things get slow, they tend to stop spending money on marketing and stop marketing. And really what you need to do is you need to just be consistent throughout. So that means don’t overload the marketing when you’re busy. And that means don’t cut off the marketing when you’re slower. Pick a strategy and a budget that will allow you to market consistently. And remote workers are a massive part of that because if you can lower your overhead as far as human resources, then that’s just going to allow you to do so much more for so much longer.

John (09:18): And now a word from our sponsor, work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing, there are a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest hassle-free. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator. And we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better Now. Professional is 2350 per month, and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit, work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months.

(10:17): That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. Yeah. I talk to a lot of business owners that you’re not the first person to talk about remote workers, right? That’s been something people have been talking about for 10 years offshore, they used to call it, I don’t think they call it that so much anymore, but the idea of there are actually places you can get remote workers for much less than say a US wage would be for various reasons. But what are some, I’ve also talked to a lot of people said, yeah, I tried that and I couldn’t make it work. What are some of the mistakes or the hurdles that people have to overcome in order to effectively engage remote workers?

Scott (10:55): So a lot of mistakes just come from employee management in general. And so I think a lot of it’s as small business owners, we’re not trained on marketing, we’re not trained on sales, we’re not trained on business operations, and much less are we trained on employee and people management. And so I think you just have a lot of general mistakes from lack of systems and processes. So having a way to organize your projects, your tasks, your notes, all of those communications, lack of training, method, process, resources. And then I think honestly, a big part of it is just expectations. I think as people, we have a lot of expectations of, oh, I’m going to go hire this person. They say they can do this thing. I just trust that or expect that they can do what they say they’re going to do, and then we give them tasks and they fail at it for one reason or another.

(11:46): And so then we go, oh, that didn’t work. I’m never going to do that again. And so there’s a lot of things that come into play and lot of reasons why these failed. But those are some of the big things that’s really honestly just lack of understanding of how to manage people. And when it comes to remote workers specifically in VAs, these systems become so much more important and crucial because you’re not with that person, can’t just, there’s a difference when you’re working with someone through the computer versus if they’re in your office, there’s a comfortability there where they can come talk to you, they can see your facial expressions, your body expressions, all that. And honestly, we have video chat now. So a lot of that stuff is not a moot point in my opinion, but it’s just different. And so even more so with remote workers, you have to really have these systems in place because ideally, you’re not going to be sitting with them eight hours a day, right?

(12:43): You’re a business owner, you have stuff to do. Having these systems in place to manage them effectively, giving them resources to be able to reach out, get support, SOPs, standard operating procedures, how long have employees been around? When businesses still don’t use standard operating procedures, they don’t even know what they are. A lot of these, again, it’s just fundamentals, but we’re not taught and trained small business owners on these things. And so we don’t know. We don’t implement them. And then we hear about, oh, you can go hire a cheap $3 an hour copywriter and just expect to be able to write copy and it can work. It does work. Just doesn’t work the way the marketing people who are trying to, I don’t know, sell your freelancer or something or saying it. So I don’t know. I love the market. It’s beautiful, but it’s also still one of the last wild west of the world. Anything almost goes in marketing.

John (13:37): Yeah. Yeah, that’s too, and a large part too, the fact that a lot of business owners don’t really understand marketing. A lot of marketers don’t really understand marketing, and you get a lot of this, oh, I just have to take what they say. Talk a little bit. Do you screen and place and train virtual assistants for your clients, or do you just show them how to do it?

Scott (13:58): Yeah, so I do both. I’ve got programs from where I can build out. I have an audit that I do that to the first interaction, one of the first interactions with me besides a one-on-one consultation, I do an audit where I’ll come work with business owners and we go through a checklist and highlight all of their, Hey, these are where all your gaps missed opportunities are. Here’s what you can do to fix it. And then, yeah, one of my services, again, besides one-on-one consulting or doing a preset program of, Hey, you need to hire sales person, let’s take you through that process. Where are the SOPs, the job description, all that. But yeah, I actually am able to work with my clients on saying, Hey, I need a marketing team. I need a sales team. Great. I can actually come in. I can help you source, vet interview, and then train and get your own internal team set up for that.

John (14:49): Let’s talk a little bit about technology and automation is great. I think a lot of people lean on it maybe too much. You see some of these AI chatbots now that are more frustrating than helpful. So how do you balance the fact that there is a lot of automation that can create some efficiencies, but then you lose the human touch, which is I think probably people are craving more than ever. How do you create that balance,

Scott (15:11): The rule of automate everything you can that isn’t human interaction, and then when you have human interaction, make that human to human as much as possible? Obviously, we’re going to automate things that are like emails or maybe text messages or marketing campaigns, but if you’re going to have a chat system, if you have the volume, if it makes sense for your business, having a live person respond to that, it’s not convenient, but it makes a difference. And I think something, especially in a country like the US or in a lot of other Western countries, I think what small business owners have lost sight of is the fact that as small business owners, the way we can compete with large corporations is by offering that really amazing personalized service. And that’s really the only way. We can’t compete on cost. We can’t compete on fulfillment. We can’t compete on refunds and warranties and exchanges and all of that.

(16:11): The big corporations are always going to beat us out on those things. Where small business owners can win is that human to human look. We have systems and processes, but we’re not a large corporation where you have a unique situation. And look, we just have a system and a process. So that’s it. You just have to, we are small business owners. We can make exceptions. We can really work with people and give that really specific touch. And that’s been my model when it comes to what should you automate and what should you leave human to human? And I’ll just say on a note of tech and ai, I think one of the most undervalued or underutilized pairings right now is using AI with remote workers. So a lot of people talking about remote workers, a lot of people talking about ai, but maybe where three years ago I had to pay a remote worker copywriter 10 to $15 an hour to get a decent English speaking or English writing copywriter.

(17:08): Now maybe I can hire a three to five. They’re not as proficient, but they can use something like chat, GPT, Grammarly Hemingway, and they can actually produce really quality copy. And again, I’m lowering my overhead and using the software to, even if you have a really quality remote worker, and let’s say you’re paying them a little bit more than the average, you’re going to enhance the quality of work they do, the speed of the work that they can do, and the creative output. And when it comes to tech, a big focus of mine too is saying, Hey, let’s pair the AI and these enhancing tools, which I think is a really cool perspective to think about them with your team and just make your team more productive, more creative.

John (17:51): Awesome. Scott, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Where would you want people to connect with you or find out more about your work?

Scott (17:59): Yeah, you can find me on pretty much any of the social media channels, mainly Instagram, Facebook. I have my YouTube channel, nomad Talk N zero Mad Talk, and my website STO. You can go there and find out about my consulting and my programs for VA sales and marketing, and you can send me an email or shoot me a friend request on Facebook or Instagram and we can chat.

John (18:23): Awesome. Again, I appreciate you stopping by. Hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Navigating Failure: The Science of Failing Well in Entrepreneurship

Navigating Failure: The Science of Failing Well in Entrepreneurship written by Tosin Jerugba read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Amy Edmondson, the Novartis professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School. Renowned for her research on psychological safety and author of several acclaimed books, including The Fearless Organization, and the Science of Failing Well – winner of the 2023 Financial Times Business Book of the Year. Amy shares her insights on the science of failing well in entrepreneurship.


Key Takeaways

Amy Edmondson challenges the conventional view of failure, advocating for a shift towards intelligent risk-taking in entrepreneurship. By emphasizing the importance of clear goals, informed hypotheses, and systematic risk assessment, she guides listeners towards embracing failure as a catalyst for growth and innovation. Amy underscores the role of organizational leaders in cultivating a culture where intelligent risk-taking is encouraged and celebrated, empowering teams to experiment, learn, and adapt. Through reframing failure as a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey, Amy inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to navigate challenges with resilience and optimism, unlocking their full potential in today’s dynamic business landscape.


Questions I ask Amy Edmondson:

[00:51] Why do a lot of business gurus promote the concept of failing?

[02:58] How do we create a methodological approach to failing?

[05:21] Explain the gap between rhetoric and action when it comes to failure?

[08:11] What are some of the characteristics of smart failure versus just failure?

[10:39] Do you ever run the risk of people sort of preparing to fail on purpose?

[11:45] Does expecting failure to a certain degree a mentality?

[12:59] What are some of examples of ROI an organization can start to see by well designed failure experiments?

[15:43] How do we empower our managers and team leaders to give people permission?

[17:35] What are your thoughts on thinking big: 10x vs 2x. Could it help people fail faster?

[19:15] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work and pick a copy of your book?



More About Amy Edmondson:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jansen. My guest today is Amy Edmondson. She is the Novartis professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School, renowned for her research on psychological safety for over 20 years. She’s the author of the Fearless Organization and Teaming, and a book we’re going to talk about today, right? Kind of wrong, the Science of Failing Well, which was a winner of the 2023 Financial Times Business Book of the year. So Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy (00:41): Thank you for having me.

John (00:43): Alright, so I’m just going to toss this up and let you bat it out of the park because it’s a softball question. But there’s a lot of literature lately, a lot of gurus online talking about how entrepreneurs have to fail and fail fast and fail often. And frankly, I don’t like failing. So why are you telling me I have to do it?

Amy (01:05): So I don’t like failing either, and that’s why I wrote this book because actually really it’s a book about success, but success in an uncertain world where we cannot prevent all failure, it turns out we can prevent an awful lot of failure. We can prevent unintelligent failures, we can prevent the kinds of failures that happen when you mail it in, you don’t do your homework and you fail the exam. Those are preventable. And I think the reason why there’s all this sort of literature or sometimes happy talk about failure is that we recognize it as a necessity for progress in any field. And if you’re a startup, by definition, you’re doing something that doesn’t yet exist and you’ve got a hypothesis that it might work. In fact, don’t do it if you have no confidence that this could work at all, stay out of the game, but you have a sense that this could work.

(02:03): In fact, you’re probably pretty sure it could work, but because it’s new territory, there is a possibility that you were wrong. That with all the effort, all the brains, that this thing might not work. That would be what I would call, especially if you’ve done your thinking and had good reason to believe it would work, that would be an intelligent failure. And that is the kind of failure that the Silicon Valley talk, fail, fast, fail often is implicitly referring to, but often they’re not explicit enough. And it sort of sounds like they’re saying, yeah, go ahead and fail at everything. No, nobody wants to fail.

John (02:42): So not doing your research and not understanding if there’s product market fit, that would be silly failure, right?

Amy (02:50): Right. Not doing your research to find out what we know, what we don’t know, and what’s worth trying next.

John (02:58): So how do we make this a science that obviously implies that there’s a very methodical approach to it. How do we make that a science?

Amy (03:07): Well, I think it is really the science of assessing risk thoughtfully. And of course there’s technical work on assessing risk thoughtfully, but in a more colloquial way, I offer three, four criteria that are from first principles really. But any scientist is either implicitly or explicitly using them. So first of all, do you have a goal? Is there somewhere you’re trying to get, whether that’s a new business or a new invention or a new relationship, you have a goal. And second, there’s no way to look up the answer that it’s in new territory. And third, you’ve done, as we’ve talked about before, your homework, you’ve found out what is known, what isn’t known, and you have a theory or a hypothesis about what’s worth trying. And then fourth and importantly, the risk you’re taking is no bigger than necessary. You do not bet your entire net worth on this new company that may not work. You borrow as much as you can afford to borrow, you bet as much as you can afford to bet, but you’re mitigating risk because there’s uncertainty. And that is true whether you’re starting a company or developing a new product in a company or going on a blind date, you mitigate the risk. You don’t agree to go off for a weekend with someone. You agree to meet for coffee and you

John (04:39): Tell a

Amy (04:39): Friend. Sense what I’m saying?

John (04:41): You tell a friend to text you and text you in 10 minutes,

Amy (04:45): Got to go. So we all know, we know how to mitigate risk when we’re thoughtful about it, but sometimes we’re not. We just don’t think systematically. So the science part refers to the fact that you can be a very logical, very systematic, very thoughtful about the risks you take. In fact, I advise it.

John (05:05): Yeah. Yeah. So there with your reference to the date, there was actually a rom-com movie. I don’t know if you know that that was titled the Right Kind of Wrong.

Amy (05:15): Oh, I didn’t, and I dunno it. That’s terrible. It’s a

John (05:20): Terrible movie. But you talk in the book about the gap between rhetoric and action when it comes to failure. Can you elaborate on that gap?

Amy (05:29): Yeah. So the rhetoric is, I think my challenge with the rhetoric is it’s a little glib. When you see fail fast, fail often, or celebrate failure, it sounds like it applies to everything evenly. All failures are the same and all failures are not the same. And I think the last thing you want to do, and of course the last thing you would do is celebrate preventable and occasionally tragic failures. Go into a manufacturing company and tell the plant manager to fail. Often she’ll just look at you, what are you talking about?

John (06:07): Get people

Amy (06:07): Killed. We’re going for six s signal. Yeah. Yeah. That’s not what we do around here. We’ve got a really good processes that are in control and capable and you say applaud. And similarly, scientists who fail, which they do all the time are not, you don’t want them failing because they mixed up the chemicals that they were supposed to be using in the experiment. You only want failures that are truly new tests in new environments that haven’t been done before. So the rhetoric is just a little sloppy and a little non nuanced. Whereas the reality of failing well is thoughtful risks in new territory are to be applauded whether they end in success, which we hoped for or failure, which we didn’t hope for, but we still must welcome the new knowledge and in familiar territory for which there is a recipe or a protocol or a process, we should use it and use it thoughtfully.

John (07:09): Yeah, I think about all the times I’ve heard the cliche Edison, 10,000 failures was just giving him like 9,999 that were of the wrong answers. And I think a lot of people really look at it that way as you’re eliminating wrong answers when it’s more, this was a hypothesis that had some thought behind it and

Amy (07:30): We

John (07:31): Either made it or didn’t, right? Yes,

Amy (07:32): I love the Edison quote, but it is right. It gives the wrong impression of scattershot. And I think because the 10,000 is probably not a scientific number, but a kind of poetic number. What he’s saying is, I didn’t mind all of the false starts on the way to the phonograph or the electric light bulb. I understand that’s a necessary part of being an inventor, not scattershot,

John (07:59): Right? So I think you’re actually calling this smart failure, but you may have already said that already, but I know it’s in the book Smart Failure. So in the context of say, an organization, what are some of the characteristics of smart failure versus just failure?

Amy (08:16): Smart failure is anything that’s legitimately in new territory in pursuit of a goal and with a hypothesis and no bigger than it had to be. And that literally could be a formal r and d project, a clinical trial, or it could be a salesperson making a call on a potential client and trying an approach, a script, a way of describing the product that hasn’t been tried before and it falls flat. And that’s a smart failure as long as some thought has gone into it. So I think in companies day in and day out, depending on which part of the operation you’re in, which tasks you have, there’s ample opportunity for smart failures, but they are more numerous in r and d than in execution of operations. But even in operations, let’s say you have an idea, a hypothesis about a way to speed up the line a little bit and you test it in a small way and it doesn’t work, right? That’s an intelligent failure in a routine setting, but it’s a very small one indeed.

John (09:31): And now a word from our sponsor. Work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator. And we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better Now. Professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code, do you ever run the risk with a lot of emphasis on failure? Do you ever run the risk of people sort of preparing to fail and so it’s like, yeah, we’re going to try this thing, it’s probably not going to work, and so then it doesn’t, right? Does that ever crop up?

Amy (10:51): I haven’t actually thought of that. I haven’t seen that. But I love the question and it would be worth keeping an eye out for it. I think most of the time that risk is counterbalanced by our very human desire to do well. Even when we know we’re in novel territory and there’s a real risk that it might not go well, we’re still hoping that we’re going to be the ones who gets it right? So even a scientist who, like my husband who says 70% of the experiments in his lab fail even there every day, every scientist, every young scientist is sort of hoping that they’re the ones who are in the 70, not in the 30 that day. So I think of course, motivation can be missing. You can have a place when people aren’t, are apathetic and don’t really care. And then it would be a bigger risk.

John (11:44): I think of a lot of venture capitals that often talk about, they bet on 10 companies kind of almost with the hope that one’s going to be a unicorn, knowing that seven are going to fail. And that probably becomes a bit of a mentality. It

Amy (11:59): Can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because, and this goes back to the old research on teachers where if you start to expect this one’s a winner and this one’s not a winner, you’ll start to unconsciously do things that help the winners and toward the losers. And so you do have to be honest with yourself and thoughtful about how am I thinking about this company, this project, this person? And if your honest answer is, I don’t think they can make it, test that, think a little more carefully if you really think so. Maybe it’s time to pull out now, maybe you’re wrong. What are you missing? Have an honest, difficult conversation with them or with the executive team. It’s always important to step, be able to step back later and say, I think I did everything I could.

John (12:50): Yeah. So it’s very common. People will say it was only a failure if you didn’t learn something from it. What are some of the, other than learning from failure, what are some of the other return on investments that an organization can start to see by, well-designed failure experiments.

Amy (13:07): It’s mostly learning. And learning means learning’s a pretty encompassing category. It means a lot of different things. It can mean very technical things that now we know to do this and it’ll work. Or it could mean just, Ooh, when we don’t try hard enough, we don’t get the results we want. So there’s lots of things we can learn and those are really important dividends from any failure. But I think we also, the other positive output from a failure that we take the time to learn from is that we learn, sorry, I used the word we discover that we didn’t die of embarrassment or something else. So our failure muscles become a little strengthened. We learned that we’re still okay. And so that’s a kind of confidence enhancer, even though it was a failure. There’s a little bit of a more robust and healthy ego as opposed to unhealthy ego.

John (14:06): I don’t know if you have any examples of this, but there are some people that tried something as a hypothesis experiment, it didn’t work, but they accidentally created Velcro or Right. Like that mean, so are there some potential benefits of by trying more stuff, you’re going to accidentally, right? That was the one I was trying to think of. Yeah, this guy, right?

Amy (14:28): Yeah. Post-it, the epitome of that story. But penicillin was an accident in the book I described oyster sauce, which was a small failure of overcooking the oysters, and they burnt and turned into yucky goo. And then it turns out, if you taste that yucky goo, it’s delicious. And there was born a multi-billion dollar industry from that young chef more than a hundred years ago. So yes, I call that the happy accident failure. And those are not the dominant category, needless to say. So if you’re sort of hoping that your screw ups will always yield like wonderful dividends, that’s probably not the best strategy for failing. Well, but if you don’t take the time to pause and taste or dig into the failure, the glue that wouldn’t stick properly and think deeply about and create the conditions where other people can team up to think deeply about the implications of that failure, then you stand no chance of a real success at the end of the tunnel.

John (15:36): I know a great deal of this work is targeted at the decision makers, strategic thinkers, but down the line, how do we empower our managers and team leaders to give people permission? Because part of it, we’re not going to try stuff that we think will work better if we don’t. Culturally, it’s not acceptable. So how do they bring that environment?

Amy (16:01): I wish more than anything to speak to the team leaders, to the managers, to anyone in a project or people management role, because they’re the ones who are shaping the climate far more than executive leadership. They matter, but it’s the local interactions that are really shaping our mental models about what’s possible, what’s acceptable, what’s not. Okay. And if you get that message either explicitly or implicitly that ever coming up short is not okay, then you’re going to either hide when the news isn’t good, or under undershoot specified targets or goals that you know can make rather than ones that are a stretch and bring a risk, and you don’t want people doing that. So I speak, I think primarily to all of those sort of leaders in the middle who are responsible for setting the stage, for describing the world in which we are working as one that brings necessary uncertainty and necessary human fallibility. And when we accept that, those two things like uncertainty in the world around us and fallibility of ourselves and our teams, then and only then are we well set up to actually do our best because we can be honest about it. We can be as ambitious as possible about beating the odds, but we can be honest about when things aren’t working.

John (17:35): There was a book I had the author on recently, and the premise of the book was that it’s actually easier sometimes to think in terms of doing something really big. 10 x is actually how he defined it as opposed to just two x, which is basically like 20% more. We can probably just do a little of what we’re doing harder, but 10% or 10 times growth. We truly have to innovate. We truly have to take big risks. I’m curious of how your thoughts on that mentality. That’s

Amy (18:02): Interesting. Okay, so my first thought when you said that was, well, that’s kind of crazy. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we’re not going to just do 20 x or 10 x next year. We can’t. But I thought so that might by saying, so that might lead people to kind of go, okay, it’s not discussable, but that’s nuts. As long as it’s actually an explicit exercise, then I think it’s brilliant because then the idea is we won’t think differently if we just say, okay, this piece. But if we say, just for fun, let’s imagine 10 x, what would have to be true? So it’s a way of unlocking our team’s thinking rather than a kind of new ogre who’s come in and said, you must do 10 x, which would be crazy.

John (18:53): Exactly.

Amy (18:54): But as a thought device to get us to think out of the box as it were, I think that’s really fun.

John (19:03): You’d have to have a whole different set of hypotheses, right, for that. Right.

Amy (19:08): You couldn’t just do more of, you’d have to

John (19:11): Do different. Exactly. Yeah. Well, Amy, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there someplace that you would invite people to find out more about your work and obviously find a copy of right kind of wrong?

Amy (19:22): Sure. So the book is for sale everywhere, I think, more or less. But if you go to amy c, there are links to the book, which I really hope you’ll read, and also to other papers and articles, and even some fun little videos here and there. Awesome.

John (19:40): Again, I appreciate you taking a few moments to speak with our audience, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Unlocking Your Leadership Potential: From Hero to Human Leader with Empathy

Unlocking Your Leadership Potential: From Hero to Human Leader with Empathy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Hortense le Gentil, a world-renowned executive leadership coach, speaker, and author. With over 30 years of experience across various industries, including media consulting and advertising, Hortense guides CEOs and senior executives on their journey from hero leaders to human leaders.

Key Takeaways

Join Hortense le Gentil on a transformative journey as she discusses the evolution of leadership in today’s world. Learn to identify and overcome mental obstacles, embrace authenticity and vulnerability, and lead with empathy. Gain actionable insights into unlocking your true leadership potential and thriving in both your personal and professional life. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or an aspiring leader, Hortense’s expertise will empower you to inspire and connect with others on a deeper level, driving sustainable growth and success in today’s rapidly changing landscape.


Questions I ask Hortense le Gentil:

[01:08] What is a mind trap and how does it impact us?

[02:06] How is a mind trap different from a limiting belief?

[02:48] Tell us the personal case study of when you were stuck 15 years ago?

[04:46] What do you do when you can’t trust that inner voice?

[06:41] Explain the concept of transforming from a hero leader to a human leader ?

[08:58] What does the process of unlocking yourself as a human leader look like?

[13:54] How does a leader help their team adjust to their embracing empathy?

[16:25] Is there a level of self awareness needed to embrace empathy as a leader?

[16:56] Do you get some pushback from experienced leaders who deny the relevancy of developing their consciousness?

[17:47] What is the one tip you have for beginners looking to start unlocking their leadership potential?

[18:45] Where can people connect with you, learn more about your work and pick a copy of your book?


More About Hortense le Gentil:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Hortense le Gentil. She’s a world renowned executive leadership coach, speaker and author. She guides CEOs and senior executives on their journey. From hero leaders to human leaders guided by 30 years in business, working across industries, including media consulting and advertising. And as an entrepreneur, she’s the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, the Unlocked Leader, dare to Free Your Own Voice, lead with Empathy, and shine your light in the world. So Hortense Bienvenue.

Hortense (00:49): Thank you for having John. Happy here.

John (00:52): That’s all of the French that I’m going to attempt today, but I nailed that one, didn’t I?

Hortense (00:57): Oh, you did great. You just love this one.

John (01:01): Alright, so in the book there is a concept called you call Mind Traps. That’s a big part of the book. So let’s start there and let’s define what a mind trap is and how it impacts us.

Hortense (01:14): I’d like to say that the mind trap is, it’s a mental obstacle that is on your way to move forward. This is something that holds you back. It can be something that you used to be, for example, like I used to be perfect or to try to reach perfection. It was a driver for me, but now I feel like it doesn’t work anymore. So when you feel like something is hold you back, holds you back, and you can even feel unhappy and satisfied, you cannot be completely yourself and journeys happen to everyone. I dunno if it happened to you, but every moment, a lot of moment in our life, it happened to us and it happened to me and I remember it was more than 15 years ago.

John (02:04): So let’s get into that. But I want to clarify how is that different than excuse, than a limiting belief? I’m not good enough to lead or something. How is it different from that?

Hortense (02:14): So let’s say that can be cousin. They can be cousin because mine trap is really for me, it’s where you are stuck. So limiting belief when you think I’m not enough, for example, yes, that could be because this is a consequence, let’s say because you are trapped somewhere and then you begin to think, okay, why do I think like that? What is behind that? The scene. So behind the scene you will find the real reason, and this is what I call the mind trap.

John (02:48): So let’s use your example that you were starting to bring up there from 15 years ago to maybe even help clarify that further.

Hortense (02:54): Okay, yes, no, I just wanted to explain that. 15 years ago I felt completely lost and stuck in my life, personal life and professional life. And then I was lost, John, I didn’t know what to do. And then of course everything went south and I went stuck in bed for months. So I had plenty of time to think. And then at that time I had the dream. I had the dream. And my grandmother, it was a grandmother that I just loved and she came back in my dream and she told me something very simple. She told me, you have to find the bus of roses. And I had no idea it was a pass of roses. So I asked her in my dream and I said, okay, where is that and where is it? Because more important, where is it? I want to find the rose.

(03:46): And she said, you just look at me and smile. And she said, you know where it is. And then I woke up. Of course I was furious. She didn’t give me the answer, but I will understand later what she meant was very important. She meant that I had to listen to my inner voice. And very often this is why we are stuck somewhere because we are not listening our own voice. We are not confident enough because it can be risky, it can be difficult. You need to be courageous to take sometimes difficult decision. And then this is what I learned and when I began to listen to my own voice, yes I could do that. Yes, I could change my life personally and professionally. Yes, I could do that and that this is what I did and I began to free myself.

John (04:35): Alright, so what if you can’t trust that inner voice? I mean there’s a lot of things that we call an inner voice that are telling us things that aren’t together altogether positive. I mean, how do you tell the difference between yeah, that’s the right guidance as opposed to that’s just continue to keep me locked.

Hortense (04:51): Interesting. Okay, listen. So what we know, I think it’s more a feeling. So when you want to take a decision, whatever the decision is, I think we know the decision. And when it’s a hard decision to take, we need someone with who that shares this decision. And you’re looking for someone who say yes, do it. But sometimes you can wait a long time before anybody is like, I agree with you. So I will say that this voice is the one that you feel. So we all know exactly what we should do and sometimes we are not ready. But one day when you are stuck, it’s time to face that and to listen to that voice. So what do you really want to do and not the voices behind that because of course when you are stuck somewhere, you need to track the source. So who said you that, for example, who said that you cannot be a CEO, for example. I had a client like that and who said that it was a professor, it was a teacher years ago, this professor was told that young person that you will never be a CEO because I can see all the emotion on your face.

(06:12): And so it was so surprised. So we are making association because we are living with the voices that the community authority, whatever the voices around us and also our brain is cooking voices for us because we are looking for meaning. Okay, why? Yes, I should do that. No I don’t all the time. So silence,

John (06:38): I think I read it in your intro, but it certainly shows up in the book, this idea of taking people from the hero leader to the human leader. Explain that concept.

Hortense (06:49): You know that we need to free ourself from those mind trap to become human leader. And what should we become human. It’s because the world has changed and the expectation has changed. Also, people now they want to connect with you. They don’t need another hero like said, no, we don’t need another hero. We need someone with who we can relate, we can understand, we can connect. And the only way to do that is by being human, by using your secret weapon. That is the empathy. And you need that. And I think that every leader know that because a lot have been said about why we should lead with empathy. But when it comes to the how do we do that and you need courage to do it, it’s very courageous because you have to unlearn what you learned. But it’s another dimension I would say. So now you have to inspire and take care of people. It’s completely different.

John (08:00): And I think a lot of leaders fall into the trap of believing I have to have this strong front that I’m in charge of everything, I have all the answers. And that’s probably an aspect that right or wrong holds a lot of people back, doesn’t it?

Hortense (08:14): Exactly, exactly. Because we are raised like that. Your education at school, I’m sure everyone was telling you, oh don’t show your emotion, right? And how all the answer, but who has all the answer? John, tell me. Who could predict a pandemic? Who can predict every, can we say that we are living in a crazy world today, every day something happen? How can you alone have all the answer? That’s absolutely not possible.

John (08:48): So the core concept of the book of course is unlocking yourself as a leader. What does that process look like? Obviously it’s very drawn out in the book, but give us the high level. What is the process of unlocking yourself as a leader look like?

Hortense (09:01): So it’s going to this process of, okay, be aware that we are locked and okay, are we ready to start this journey? Because it’s a journey, it’s not a destination. And how we do that. So we face our fears first because we are afraid. Maybe we are used to do another way. You need to change. And then we go to, okay, where am I trap? Where I am stuck? And you track the source like who said? And then when you track the source, you found the source. Then you go to what I call the mind shift. So you change your mindset and with some questions, powerful questions you ask yourself. Okay, so you track the source and you said, is it true? Is it relevant? Is it helpful? What I’m thinking right now? And then you’re let go and then you are free yourself and you are able to write your own story.

(09:57): But maybe let me share very quickly an example. So I have this client, he was considered to be the next EO of the company. And so he went through a process in front of a panel of their leaders in order to be the next CEO. And then out of nowhere, out of the blue, his behavior changed and he became very talkative. He was talking all the time, didn’t listen, he changed completely. So he was surprised. Everybody was surprised. And of course he didn’t get the job. Then we had this conversation and he told me, I don’t know, I don’t know what happened, tto, I don’t know. I said, okay, so let’s figure out. And then revisiting his life, he remembered that years ago he had to pass an exam, not to pass an exam, it has to be in front of a panel of teachers.

(10:54): And then one of the teacher didn’t let him talk. So he was shocked. It was a trauma, one of the cos when what is behind it became a trauma. And then it was the same story that I shared before. This teacher told him, I don’t know what you’re going to do young guy, but you will never be a CEO because I can see all your emotion on your face. Young guy, very smart, begin his life thinking that you don’t have to show your emotion. And second, he was not aware. He forgots his conversation, but his unconscious didn’t. And the way the day, the first opportunity that unconscious has to remember that talk in order to not have the same situation that he had before. So going through this process of you track the source, where it’s coming from, it was coming from there. In this case there were trauma and voices.

(11:58): So they are the two main families, the source of your mind trap. So he found the source and then I asked him is the three question, is it true? Is it relevant? Is it helpful today that you cannot be a CEO and you don’t have to show your emotion? He said, no, I know. I said, okay. So we let go. So we walk on, let go. And then you begin to write your own story. What is important for you? How you want to be? Remember, how do you want to show up as a leader, what difference you want to make in the world or around you and all that? What have your values? And you begin to write your own story because you don’t. You live your own life. You don’t live the life that someone wants for you.

John (12:48): And now a word from our sponsor, work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest hassle-free. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator. And we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better. Now professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit, work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. So after you’ve worked with somebody or somebody goes through this process and they are embracing empathy, they are becoming maybe more human, but that’s not how their team has experienced them to date. Is that a bit jarring? It’s like, where’s the old John? Or does it just take consistency and proving that you mean it

Hortense (14:16): So good? Of course, but what I recommend very often is it’s difficult to change how people think about you. So what I always recommend is to share with your team. So at fun point you say, okay, my name is, and I want to work on being a better leader and connect better with yourself and have more empathy, whatever it is, or communicate better with you. And then your team or your environ is aware, oh, oh great, she want to change, okay. And you ask for help and say, and I need help. And then everyone wants to help you. No worries about that. And then they say, okay, so let’s do it together. Then it’s faster for two reasons. First, they’re aware that you’re doing something and they appreciate the fact that you want to be better. Then you give the tone so they can also be, okay, I can walk also to be better.

(15:17): It’s all right to not be perfect. Then you set the tone and also they help you because you are in the middle of a meeting and things like that. And after you maybe you ask for feedback and said, what feedback do you have for me? Maybe not every day, I mean, but when you feel it or when you decide and then it’s all together that you’re going to work on that. So on your side you do your homework of unlocking yourself and in fact of telling, be sure of the message and vision that you have and really who you are. Connect with yourself because empathy begin to start with yourself first. You have to connect with yourself. Who am I? What do I want? Can you really say how you are to yourself? Can you say that? Who are you? And then when you are very clear on that, because that is a personal walk, when you’re very clear on that, you’re ready to practice, you’re ready to do it. And after, again, it’s a journey. It’s not a destination. So every day we learn something and every day we evolve and then it’s, it’s wonderful because it changed everything.

John (16:25): I imagine a level of self-awareness, or at least a desire to uncover some self-awareness is really the starting point for all this, right? I mean you can’t really do that. You can’t do the work you’re talking about unless you discover some level of self-awareness. Exactly. I mean, would you say that’s accurate

Hortense (16:41): If you don’t know where to start? Yes, that’s absolutely accurate, right?

John (16:45): So a lot of the leadership I have, a lot of people have written books on leadership. I speak with people that have development programs and a lot of them really try to focus on competencies and skills. Do you get some pushback when, I mean you’re literally telling people that they have to develop their consciousness. So do you get some pushback from people that feel like, how is that relevant?

Hortense (17:08): Not that much in fact, because I think if we are honest with ourself, all of us, we know where we have to evolve and we know that part is very hard and we don’t know where to begin when to start, as I said. So no, I don’t think so. And because most of the leader that I know, they know after you need courage to come and to ask for that. So if you’re not ready, if you, but most of the leaders, they are courageous so they can do it, but it’s because you did courage.

John (17:42): Alright, so I’m going to invite people or ask you to invite people where they can connect with you. But what’s one thing, if somebody came to you and said, give me one thing I could start doing today to really unlock my leadership potential, what would that be?

Hortense (17:56): The first thing I think

John (17:57): Everybody always wants the one tip, right?

Hortense (18:00): I know. So the one tip would be, okay, reflect and do the three colon exercise in your life, personal, professional, whatever, both of them is even better. And do first colon, what do you want to keep? What is good in your life? What gives you energy? Second colon, what do you want to drop? What you drain? You don’t want that anymore. And third colon. So what do you want to add to live to your life today? And then begin your journey. What is the first step? Look at that and begin your journey to the process of maybe unlocking yourself.

John (18:41): Love it. Well, I appreciate you taking a few moments to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there anywhere you’d invite people to connect with you, learn about your work, and obviously pick up a copy of The Unlocked Leader?

Hortense (18:51): So I have a website, so it’s my name, And also we can on LinkedIn, everywhere. On LinkedIn, on social Instagram. So I try to be active.

John (19:05): The book is, we’ll have a link to your website in the show notes, but the book could be purchased pretty much anywhere people purchase books. Again, I appreciate you taking a moment or dance and hopefully we’ll run into you on these days out there on the road.

Mastering SEO in the Age of AI

Mastering SEO in the Age of AI written by Tosin Jerugba read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Stephan Spencer, an acclaimed SEO expert and founder of net Concepts, an interactive agency specializing in search engine optimization. Stephan is also a bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, and host of two popular podcasts, “Get Yourself Optimized” and “Marketing Speak.” With a wealth of experience in the field, In this episode Stephan and I uncover the evolving landscape of SEO in the age of AI, sharing invaluable insights and strategies for success.

Key Takeaways

Embark on a transformative journey with Stephan Spencer as he discusses the intersection of SEO and artificial intelligence. Learn how to leverage AI to optimize your website for search engines and stay ahead of the competition. Discover the importance of adapting traditional SEO tactics to accommodate the advancements in AI technology, from content creation to technical optimization.

Unlock the secrets to mastering SEO in the age of AI, and position your business for sustainable growth and success in the digital realm. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO professional or a business owner looking to enhance your online presence, Stephan’s expertise will guide you towards achieving your goals in the ever-evolving world of search engine optimization in 2024.


Questions I ask Stephan Spencer:

[00:58] What are the highlights of the new edition of The Art of SEO?

[04:45] What are some of the core tactics that are still proving effective in 2024?

[07:57] How would generative search impact SEO tactics?

[13:37] What do we need to prepare for and come to expect from voice search?

[15:08] What new updates have come to light concerning local search?

[17:41] What are your favourite AI tools for optimizing content?

[22:10] Where can people connect with you and grab the latest edition of your book?



More About Stephan Spencer:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Stephan Spencer. He’s an SEO expert founder of the Interactive Agency, net Concepts and bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, life hacker, podcaster, and contributor to Harvard Business Review and Adweek. He also host his own podcast, in fact, two podcast shows, get Yourself Optimized and Marketing Speak. He’s the author of three books, including one we’re going to talk about today that is now in its fourth edition, the Art of SEO, mastering Search Engine Optimization. So Steven or Stephan, welcome to the show.

Stephan (00:48): Thanks for having me.

John (00:49): I have a brother that spells his name that way, but it’s Stephan, so forgive me if I say it wrong. It

Stephan (00:55): Happens all the time.

John (00:57): I bet it does. So I guess if there’s a need for a fourth edition of a book as big as the art of SEO, it must be that some things keep changing. So what are the highlights? We’ll drill down into them, but what are some of the highlights of this new edition?

Stephan (01:13): Yeah, was so much. I mean, it was pretty much a rewrite from the bottom up. So actually the previous edition, the third edition was a thousand pages, and so we had to cut down quite a lot because the more material in a book, the fewer copies that sell it gets a little bit ridiculous. Who wants to read a thousand page book?

(01:33): So there’s a whole chapter now on AI that wasn’t present in the third edition, and that’s using LLMs generative AI to create everything from keyword strategies and processing your keyword lists into different kinds of use cases, categorizing and grouping keywords together, everything like that to doing the more technical stuff like writing blocks of Etre Lang tags. I’m getting a little geeky here. I don’t want to make this full of acronyms and buzzwords and so forth, but there’s a lot of technical stuff that you can do the heavy lifting using AI now and not have to do it the old fashioned way. So there’s a lot on that. There’s material on things like page speed and core web vitals or three different metrics and core web vitals. That’s a Google innovation that’s coming out of Google. They want you to have a fast loading website, and that relates to what they call their page experience update.

(02:41): So there’s material on that. There’s material on the helpful content update, and that’s actually a series of updates. They want to ensure that people are not creating a huge RAF of content using LMS AI that will fill the internet with a bunch of croft things that are not really that valuable or are not properly fact checked. There’s already lots of issues with AI creating and just making up facts, references, studies and that sort of thing. So if you’re putting out AI material as if it’s handcrafted, you could end up getting by the helpful content updates or by other algorithmic adjustments from Google or a manual penalty even. So you got to keep up with the times.

John (03:28): And there’s a few things you mentioned. Again, I’m getting off of the order of my questioning here that I’ve had prepared, but there’s a few things you mentioned that I’ve seen immediate impact. I mean, we’ve had a couple websites that for whatever reason got really slow. They fell off the core web core vitals threshold and just immediately started seeing results tank when you fix ’em and they come back. So there’s no debating that that’s a ranking factor, is there? So

Stephan (03:59): Maybe let’s, yeah, actually sometimes less is more. So there’s this tactic or this approach in SEO called content pruning, which means you actually take old obsolete content off of your website, or at least no index it, so it’s not part of Google’s search index anymore, and that can actually help your overall website perform better in the search results.

John (04:23): Yeah, we had a 2000 page site that we did just that to 1400 pages and immediately lifted their results. They had a lot of stuff on there that just was probably just not relevant anymore to the reader. So let’s talk about, maybe if we can categorize what are some of the core tactics that are still proving effective in 2024?

Stephan (04:45): So it’s important to understand that the tried and true techniques and tactics of SEO still apply in terms of identifying good keywords, topics that resonate or relate to your audience. So we don’t want to lose track of these tried and true things, optimizing title tags and the body copy and all that sort of stuff, doing proper keyword research, optimizing the technical underpinnings of your website, doing all the configuration of your server and so forth using Yost SEO plugin for WordPress. These sorts of things are still applicable, but now with the advent of ai, we need to find ways to differentiate your website to make it seem like it’s handcrafted, it’s fact checked, it is authoritative and trustworthy. So there’s this acronym from Google Quality Rater Guidelines. It’s EAT, it to be EAT. This is a Google acronym, and it stands for experience expertise, authorit and Trustworthiness.

(06:05): And AI does not have any experience. It cannot write about its experiences, learning how to downhill ski or how to basket weave, or how to, I don’t know, train for an Olympic sport. So that’s where the experience of a human really differentiates. And if you can prove that to an algorithm at Google, that’s going to be very important. So it’s not just about showing your credentials of the different degrees, diplomas that you’ve earned and all that, but actually having the experience displayed in a way that looks super legit. It’s almost like you’re going to look super credible. And this idea of being super credible, I am going to steal a page from Peter Diamandis playbook, and that is that when he announced the xprize, he did not just, and it’s a $10 million purse, so the winning team would get $10 million. Well, guess what? He didn’t have the money. So he announced it without the funding, but he had super credibility because he had on stage with him making the announcement, multiple NASA astronauts and the former deputy director of nasa, it was super credible. Nobody asked him, do you have the money? So for years he didn’t have the money until finally he found the donor, the patron. So if you can show yourself as super credible to an AI and a human visitors and do that in a way that doesn’t look like you’re being bragga, braggadocious, whatever, that’s really the winning formula.

John (07:55): I mean, just from a practical business standpoint, would you say things like case studies of real life, examples of doing the work that you’re describing, or even FAQs, I mean things like that, does that add another level of experience

Stephan (08:08): Potentially? Yep. I would say if you can provide, let’s say a testimonial that’s not just a written testimonial with a person’s first name and the first initial of their last name, but you actually have all their details, their full name, their title, their company, their location. You have a video of them, you have a headshot of them that looks really quite credible, and if you can even better get them to talk about what didn’t work or why they almost didn’t sign up with your service or buy your product, that’s really quite compelling. So anytime that you can augment your and your assumptions with hard data and with real world examples, screenshots, charts, graphs, stuff that helps build your case and substantiate your claims, you’re going to be in much better shape.

John (09:10): You know what I think is always funny is over the years, what you just mentioned, that’s how you are more credible to a potential buyer, even without search. I mean that just comes to your website, sees the data, sees the proof, and it just feels like with every change in SEO or optimization techniques, it’s really just getting it closer to what would be good for a human period,

Stephan (09:34): Right? That’s right, yeah. But on top of that, you have considerations now that you are writing for ais as well as for humans. You’re not going to write primarily for an ai. You’re not going to try and keyword stuff. Your article. I hope that’s been done in the past and it’s never worked well and it won’t work in the future. But if you are keeping in mind a core audience of ais as an audience, reading your quote, reading your article, I think you’re going to end up with a better outcome. So that includes things like how do I interlink these different pages together? How do I lead people on a story arc or a hero’s journey? Because leading the AI through that hero’s journey too.

John (10:22): So you mentioned AI’s reading and playing a part in search, so this might be a good time to ask about the whole concept of generative search and how that’s going to impact probably two things, not only SEO tactics, but certainly search

Stephan (10:38): Behavior. That’s right. If you go to search generative experience, SGE from Google and you start asking it questions, you can get some misinformation from it, just like with any ai, because remember, we have hallucinations. Those are not going to go away in the future. Those issues of it’s essentially an auto complete, it’s an auto complete on steroids, what’s the next word? What’s the next word? What’s the next word? And if it doesn’t have an answer ready and available, we’ll just make it up. So there’s going to be a lot of fact checking and gatekeeping to make sure that wrong information isn’t served up, especially when it relates to financial matters or with medical advice or anything like that. So I personally don’t anticipate search generative experience being the primetime kind of answer engine that people have been touting it to be because of those risks.

(11:37): I mean, think of the liability for Google. If it tells you to take some sort of pharmaceutical and there’s a contraindication or some sort of side effect, lawsuits will abound. So I think that it will be more of an add-on feature for who knows how many months or even years. But I do see it as the future, and we’ll be talking to our computers and our devices more than we’ll be looking at them I think, in the future. So it’ll be like Star Trek computer, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And if your website has that future in mind when you’re creating content, then you’re going to be in a much better position. You’re going to lead competitors when they’re just writing for today. You know the Wayne Gretzky quote, skate to where the puck is going to be, not where the puck is at.

John (12:29): And now a word from our sponsor. Work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest hassle-free. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off each dedicated and full-time work better now, professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code. So you led really right into my next question. We’ve been talking about voice search probably since Syria came around. So where do we stand in voice search? You just talked about talking to our computers more than viewing them. So where do we stand today in that? What do we need to be prepared for? Because again, it’s one of those things I feel like we’ve been talking about for 10 years and

Stephan (13:56): We’re still talking about it. It’s still coming when you have a result that is less than awesome. When you’re asking, for example, your Amazon device, I’m not going to say the word begins with an A and she’s listening right now for it’s wake word and it’s going to start chiming in on this conversation. So that device, when you ask it simple questions that Google would just nail on the first try and it completely gets it a hundred percent wrong or just doesn’t give you any answer whatsoever and say, I don’t know the answer to your question, that’s frustrating. And it makes people just not want to even try this. There will be a tipping point though, where you get much more than just, or a recipe or a timer from your Amazon Echo. And that is the point. That tipping point is where this will completely take off. And if you are not prepared for that, you’re going to be chasing after a train that’s left the station. So plan on this being an eventuality because it is an eventuality. It’s just a matter of the timing.

John (15:06): So talk a little bit about, I know you cover local search, obviously there are a lot of businesses that they’re only trying to people in their town find them. So what are some new realities, if you will, in that kind of business that’s the remodeling contractor that just wants people to find them?

Stephan (15:23): Yeah, there’s been a lot of innovations with local search, and if you’re familiar with that world, there’s this kind of a blending of paid search and local SEO with LSA

(15:40): Local search ads. You’ve got these tools that I just can’t imagine not using them for local SEO, like local Falcon, which will show your physician in Google Maps results, the three pack, the local pack and the Google results. If you are, let’s say even 10 miles away from your current location, your headquarters, your local results could be markedly different. And how are you going to know without VPNs or traveling around town and doing searches from your mobile phone? You need to use a tool like Local Falcon. It’ll show you a grid of whether you’re in the top three positions and what position you’re at, and it’s kind of like a heat map sort of thing and across a whole metro area. So you can see, oh, I’m really strong in this part of town, but not at like I’m invisible in this other part of town.

(16:41): Maybe I need to start up a satellite office by appointment only. Not a sketchy thing like a UPS store location, but a real legit office there. And you don’t have to pay a fortune for that. It might be under a thousand dollars a month for an office that has signage that is really a real office, not a PO box, and that could make a world of difference. And now you’ve got two locations and now you’re really strong in that other part of town that you were invisible for. How are you going to know this and track this without a tool like Local Falcon? So yeah, you need different tools and strategies for local search than just regular SEL.

John (17:27): You said 10 miles. I’ve seen half a mile in a very competitive, like I live salon, a hair salon or something where there’s one on every corner. Really, geographic proximity is tough. You mentioned tools like Local Falcon. What are some AI tools, business people who are trying to optimize their content, create new content, be more efficient in creating content? What are your favorite current tools? I know tomorrow I’ll ask you and it’ll change, but what are they

Stephan (17:55): Today I’m going to start with the tried and true obvious AI tools, and that would be Chat g, pt, and Claude, which I would think I consider to be, it’s it’s big rival or Arch Enemy. Anthropic is the creator of Claude, and Open AI is the creator of Chat, GPT. And some of the folks, some of the top leadership at Open AI left and started Anthropic and created this competing Claude AI tool. And it’s amazing. It’s got a hundred thousand at this point in time, a hundred thousand token limit on input, meaning that you could upload an entire book and have it use that as part of your input. So you could upload, let’s say a manifesto or how you think and operate in the world and your values and philosophy on life and business or whatever for your industry. You have that manifesto, you upload that and you ask Claude or chat GPT questions based on your understanding of my company, my brand from this uploaded manifesto, come up with a voice and tone guideline for me, come up with a social media strategy for me, come up with an editorial calendar for my blog for me, and it will do incredibly well.

(19:19): And that is so much better than just typing in a prompt. I mean, yeah, you get sophisticated with prompts and do your prompt engineering, but why not upload something that’s really representative of your company, your brand, your unique differentiating point of difference, and then you let the AI come up with all sorts of different things, social media posts and draft blog articles and strategy documents and positioning statements and so forth based on its understanding of you from that kind of cornerstone piece of content that you’ve uploaded. So there’s that. There’s using super prompts, which are prompts, the input that you type in. It’s on steroids because everything has been thought through, and you don’t have to think through all these things yourself. You don’t have to come up with like, please ignore all prior prompts. I want it to not be influenced by a whole series of previous questions that I asked.

(20:23): I want it to create, let’s say a table marked down table. So it’s nice pretty formatted table. I want it to not display any kind of narration or explanation around why it’s outputting particular things. Just want the output file of whatever my editorial calendar is that I don’t want to explain. Its thinking as it’s going along. So all these things baked into what’s called a super prompt, which might be 250 words of stuff. If you can paste somebody’s super prompt, whether it’s on creating a keyword strategy or on even creating other super prompts or on writing a blog post or something, you are going to end up with such better output because the old adage from the programmer days of garbage in, garbage out still applies. If you write a lousy prompt, you’ll get lousy output. So that’s the difference maker right there. And you don’t have to go to all the fancy new tools, which may not exist in six months. They might go out of business. So if you’ve got a podcast, you could be using, let’s say, cap show or Cast Magic or decipher without, it’s like decipher without the E at the end. It’s just R without ER. So these tools are awesome, and who knows which ones will exist in six months from now chat, GPT, that’ll exist, Claude will exist, Google Bard will exist. So you get masterful at those. Wow. You’re going to be definitely leapfrogging your competitors.

John (22:05): Yeah. Awesome advice. Well, Stefan, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there somewhere you’d invite people to connect with you, learn about your work? Obviously pick up a copy of the latest edition of The Art

Stephan (22:16): Of sel? Yeah. In fact, if let’s say, if Handful, I’ve got the publisher is O’Reilly, and so I can’t just give away copies of the book, just add infinitum. But I did get permission from my publisher to give away a handful of copies. So if somebody wants to email and just say they want to kind of put themselves into the lottery for a free art of SEO fourth edition digital copy, I’ll send some of them and actually everyone can get a copy of Google Power Search, which is in its third edition, which I do have a hundred percent of the rights of. So I can send that to everybody who sends an inquiry. My personal website’s, stephan and net is my agency. And you mentioned at the beginning my two podcast shows Marketing Speak, which you’ve been on, john marketing, and then get yourself optimized, which is get yourself Not an SEO podcast may sound like one, but it’s actually personal development.

John (23:20): Nice. Awesome.

The Future of Remote Work: Navigating the Talent Crisis, Harnessing Diversity & AI Upskilling

The Future of Remote Work: Navigating the Talent Crisis, Harnessing Diversity & AI Upskilling written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Rob Levin, a seasoned entrepreneur and co-founder of WorkBetterNow, a company specializing in providing talent from Latin America & The Caribbean for US-based businesses. Prior to that he started and built a media company serving small businesses in the New York area. Rob has served as a CEO and CFO of several fast growing businesses and began his career as a CPA.  Our conversation dives into the future of remote work, addressing the challenges of the talent crisis, the need to harness diversity, and the role of AI upskilling.

Key Takeaways

Embark on a transformative journey with Rob Levin as he talks about strategies for navigating the talent crisis, harnessing diversity, and implementing AI upskilling in remote work environments. Discover the importance of accessing a wider pool of talent, integrating remote team members into company culture, and investing in continuous learning initiatives. Whether you’re a business owner seeking to optimize your remote team or exploring opportunities in the remote work sphere, Rob’s insights will empower you to build a thriving business that stands the test of time.


Questions I ask Rob Levin:

[01:03] How was WorkBetterNow founded?

[02:48] What did you learn from the difference between your first and second assistant?

[04:33] Why the decision to focus on talent from Latin America?

[06:50] What have you observed trend-wise in the virtual assistant industry?

[12:21] What is Upskilling and how do you apply that as a value at WorkBetterNow?

[16:53] How important are documented processes in WorkBetterNow?

[20:02] How does AI come into play in the smooth running of your business and the efficiency of Virtual Assistants?

[21:25] Where can people connect with you?


More About Rob Levin:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Rob Levin. He’s a co-founder and chairman of Work Better Now, which provides talent from Latin America for US based businesses. Prior to that, he started and built a media company and serving small businesses in the New York. Rob has served as the CEO and CFO of several fast growing businesses, McGann’s career as a CPA. He lives in New York City plays guitar, has seen over a thousand concerts and even promoted Big Rock Xmen in college. That’s new to your bio, but Rob, I didn’t know that about you, but welcome back to the show.

Rob (00:46): Thanks, John. It’s new to the bio, but it actually happened quite a long time ago,

John (00:50): So let’s just talk about music then.

Rob (00:52): Sure. Let’s do it

John (00:54): Actually. So I’m curious, going from your media business before then, starting a placement for all intent and purposes company, what’s the origin story of how you got work better now going?

Rob (01:06): Yeah, I hired my first assistant in 2013. First assistant didn’t work out. It was part-time, which I don’t recommend except it, except if it’s really necessary. The second assistant just changed my life, actually. The first assistant was pretty good, but the second assistant changed my life because I was now free from so many things. I can’t believe I didn’t think about this sooner. It was free from so many things that were keeping me from the things I like to do and the things that really added value not only to my business, but even to my personal life. And as time went, and as you know John, I know a lot of business owners like you do, and everybody was asking me, and this assistant was from El Salvador and everybody was asking me constantly, where’s your assistant from, et cetera. And I was referring them to another company. So what happened over the years is I just realized that the assistance that my friends were getting from this company just weren’t as good as my assistant.

(02:02): I said, you know what? I think I can do this. I was on the west coast on a business trip and a friend of mine from college joined me and I was saying, I’m going to start this business. And I was telling him every business owner should have an assistant. And he goes, I’m in. And I said, what do you mean you’re in? He goes, I’m doing this with you. And I said, okay, well, you’re going to do all the work and we’re going to split everything 50 50. That was 2018 actually about six years ago, February, 2018, and we started the business and we were providing assistance by the end of the year. And then I think as then, I’m not going to say we pivoted, we evolved into not only providing executive assistance for business owners, but providing over 40 different roles for small and mid-sized businesses.

John (02:47): I’m curious, did you learn anything, or maybe in hindsight you learned something like why the first assistant worked? Second one, I’m sorry, didn’t work out as well as the second one worked? I mean, was there some dynamic in either what you did or who they were or did you learn anything from that?

Rob (03:04): Yeah, I did. In this case, the first assistant I had was part-time and she ended up taking a full-time gig with the other client that she had. So there were two reasons why I decided that I don’t really like this part-time option for not only for me, but for anybody. Number one for that reason is that they’re going to have another client and they’re probably want the security of full-time work. And number two, well actually three reasons. Number two, what I also realized after two months is you think you only have 10 hours a week for an assistant, and then that gets blown out of the water very quickly, and before you know it, you’re well over 40. There’s plenty of work for them to do, and you even think about hiring another one. And then the last one is, and this one’s really important, I want somebody who’s dedicated to me. So when they’re working from nine to five or whatever it is, I want them just thinking about me and my business.

John (03:55): Yeah, that second point that you made I think is a really valuable one because I’ve talked to a lot of business owners and I’m telling ’em all that’s the first hire you should make is get yourself out of the grunt work so that you can focus on marketing or sales or client fulfillment. And a lot of ’em say, well, I just wouldn’t have that much for ’em to do. And I think you’re absolutely right. Once you actually started experiencing somebody taking some stuff off your plate, you start thinking, oh, well they can do this and this. I hadn’t even thought of. We’ve done the same thing. I mean, we’ve hired part-time folks, and fortunately some of ’em have worked out and grown to full-time roles because we realized that you have particularly focused on finding assistance in Latin America. I’m wonder if you could talk about is there something unique about folks that come from some of those parts of the world that make them such a great fit for us businesses?

Rob (04:47): I think there’s a few things. Let’s see where to start. So number one, there’s great talent in Latin America. They have great experience, they have incredible attitudes. People who just show up ready to work, they’re focused on your mission and just dedicated to helping you and with a smile on their face. Also, if you compare it to other parts of the world, the culture is a lot more similar in Latin America to the US as it is compared to other parts of the world. And then I think their English, there’s plenty of people with fantastic English. And then the last one, which a lot of people don’t talk about is time zone alignment. And that’s really important because in other parts of the world, either people are working when they should be sleeping or they’re working at a different time than you are. And our clients, they kind of embrace the talent that we provide to them, the professionals we provide to them as part of their team, they just integrate them in part of their team. And it’s hard to do it when either A, they should be sleeping or when they’re not working at the same time.

John (05:51): Yeah, I know over the years, many years ago I hired an assistant out of the Asia area and the only way to align, as you said, was that they were going to work overnight. It was like, that’s part of the culture, that’s what everybody does here. And I was like, I’m not sure I want to make somebody work overnight, like you said, when they should be sleeping. So I think the time zone alignment is huge, especially if you’re going to have them start doing things with clients and things like that. I mean obviously they’ve got all aligned that way. Before I go any farther, listeners should know that we actually employ to work better now full-time folks on our staff. And I think some of the things you mentioned are very true. We have fully integrated them into our meeting rhythm on Slack and our standup calls and our culture building type of activities. And I think that if you were to ask them, they feel like they are a part of the team as much as really anybody on our team. So it’s definitely very, very doable.

Rob (06:50): Happy to hear that. Let’s

John (06:51): Talk a little bit, yeah, let’s talk a little bit about the landscape in general remote work. I mean, there’s some pretty obvious things that have gone on, but is there anything that you’ve observed from a trend standpoint right now?

Rob (07:06): Yeah, so it starts first with what’s going on here in the United States, and this applies to Canada as far as we can tell as well. And we have been and we will continue to be in a talent crisis. What do I mean by that? I mean several things. Number one, productivity of the US workers actually dropped despite all of the technology that is out there. Number two, there are more job openings than there are people looking for work. So just the numbers are not in the favor of the smaller mid-size business. By the way, I don’t know if big companies are in a talent crisis. Quite frankly, I don’t care. My world is small and mid-size businesses, companies seem to be laying off people, and yet small businesses can’t seem to hire small and mid-size businesses seem to hire the salary expectations here in the states are way up. And the time it takes to hire somebody is according to LinkedIn is like six or seven weeks, which in the world of a small business is years. So there’s a challenge finding exceptional people. And as you know John, in a small and mid-sized business, you can’t get somebody who’s just good. You’ve got to get somebody who’s exceptional because every single role counts. So you have

John (08:16): That and they got to wear a lot of hats

Rob (08:19): And wearing a lot of hats and just somebody who says, Hey, whoever it is you need me to do, I’ll do it. And at the same time I, I do think having had talent from Latin America now for over 10 years, I can start to see an inflection point. So if you think about it, large companies were offshoring, I don’t know, 30, 40 years ago they started. And that trend has picked up small and mid-size businesses have started to do it. I would say maybe 10 years ago, slowly in different parts of the world, Asia was really big. But now we’re starting to see a trend of two trends. Number one, more small and mid-sized businesses being open to offshoring. And I think that all happened in the pandemic when they got comfortable with remote because after all, going offshore subject, a couple of things, going offshore is really no different than going remote. And those couple of things are if you hire directly and you have your own payroll, that can get a little complicated. But if you use a talent provider, companies like work better now. That’s no longer your problem. And then we’re now starting to see trends of more companies wanting to hire from Latin America. So it’s a combination of all of those things happening. And I’m really knocking on wood, happy to say that we got a little lucky with the timing starting this business in 2018

John (09:37): When everybody all of a sudden realized, hey, maybe this remote work thing might actually be something to it.

Rob (09:44): It’s really about access to a wider pool of talent. It’s about access to the wider pool of talent which businesses need today.

John (09:51): And I think most people, you’re absolutely right, have realized that if I can get somebody that can do X, Y, Z, it really doesn’t matter the world we live in where they are. Talk a little bit about some of the cultural diversity that it brings. Again, large organizations have HR departments that help create diversity in the organization, right? Small businesses, I mean, again, that may be a goal that may be part of something they believe in, but much harder to achieve as a small business. Have you felt that at all? Did bring some diversity actually to the organizations?

Rob (10:27): So it’s a really good question, John. I think when it comes to small and midsize businesses, as I mentioned earlier, every position counts. And I think what’s most important to business owners is how can I find somebody amazing for this role who’s going to help me deliver a better customer experience, who’s going to fit in with my culture and is going to help the company achieve its goals? That’s how I feel that we are helping people. Yes, they’re from Latin America. They speak in at least one other language, which is sometimes advantageous. But I really think that what business owners are trying to do, whether they’re working with us or in general and not working with us, I think that everybody really just knows how important it is to get the best talent they can at any given time.

John (11:15): And now a word from our sponsor, work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest hassle free. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off each dedicated and full-time work better now professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit, mention the referral code DTM podcast and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months. That’s And don’t forget that DTM podcast code, you mentioned the word offshoring or outsourcing, but I’ve also heard you talk about a term that I don’t hear too many people saying, and I think it has an implication of something bigger and broader and that’s the term upskilling. You want to talk a little bit about how you apply that idea?

Rob (12:40): Yeah, upskilling. So upskilling is a trend that I think over the next five years you’re going to start to see a lot more of, right upskilling. The way we look at upskilling is you are looking for somebody with certain types of experience, certain types of skills, and you might find somebody that has most, but maybe not all of them. And what the smart employers are doing, and a lot of our clients are doing this, is they’re saying, alright, I know I needed A, B, C, D and E. This person only is A, B, and C, but culturally they’ll fit within our company. We’ll hire them and then either we will train them or we’ll use some outsource training, whether it’s LinkedIn or any of these other training platforms to acquire some of those other skills that they need. That’s a much smarter approach rather than trying to find that right person, which might take six or 12 months, which will have a huge negative impact on your company.

(13:38): And there’s another part to this too, which is with the talent that you already have. So the pace of change in business keeps increasing when you’re running a smaller mid-size business. To get good, you have to be better at so many more things today than just five years ago. So where is that expertise going to come from? And if you follow the who not how principle of Dan Sullivan and Strategic Coach, it should’t all be on the business owner. So the idea is you have really good people, get them trained again, whether it’s internal training or external training, and then they can bring those new capabilities into your company. And by the way, when you do that, you’re accomplishing two other goals, which is today’s workforce wants advancement opportunities and they’re also looking to learn more on the job. And so it’s like a triple win. You’re getting the capabilities you need, you’re keeping your employees really happy because they’re advancing and they’re acquiring new skills.

John (14:43): So particularly somebody who’s listening to this and hasn’t hired maybe remote at all, but certainly hasn’t hired an assistant, what are some of the things where I could ask this the negative way or the positive way, but how do you get them started or obviously what are the things that you’ve seen that have really made it not work for people?

Rob (15:05): Well, okay, so let’s start with what works really well and then what doesn’t work well is actually pretty short list. What works really well is really good onboarding. So we assist with that. We have a whole onboarding program. Some clients need it more than others. Other clients, they probably onboard better than we do. So it starts with really good onboarding and then it starts with something I alluded to earlier, which is integrating your remote professionals, whether they’re in Latin America or anywhere else, integrating them within the company, they’re like any other team member. That’s definitely a best practice. What tends not to work well?

(15:49): Oh, let me just add to one other thing that works well, and this probably goes for anybody that you have working in your company, which is clarity on communications in terms of how we communicate in the company, clarity, how we work, what are some of the cultural norms in the company, and also clarity on what if you do your job well, this is what it looks like. A lot of people can skip that step. And of course, on the contrary, what doesn’t work well is not setting up your remote professional for success, not being clear on how we communicate, not integrating them into the company, not explaining to them what success looks like and not also empowering them with just enough training so they understand in this remote world where you don’t have somebody next to you, where do you find, who do you go to when you have a question? Because when you start, you’re going to have questions. So really what doesn’t work is just the opposite of what works,

John (16:51): Right? Right. How important are documented processes? I know a lot of companies are big on here’s our user manual or here’s all these documented process, but that also that can be a distraction, that can be maybe a lot of work that isn’t really that valuable. How important do you think that is for getting a remote person going?

Rob (17:14): Yeah, so I’ll start with, I think the first thing, the most important thing that a company needs to do is establish its core values. And I’m going to explain why. Because you’re thinking like process core values, what do they have to do with each other? The core values, which shouldn’t only be just a list that’s up on a wall, it should be things that are actually adhered to and appreciated throughout the company day in and day out. When you start with those, what good core values do is if somebody doesn’t know what to do and they don’t have somebody to ask at a time that they have to make a decision, they should be able to turn to those core values for the right answer. So that’s where you start. As far as processes go, we’re big on with our team of about 30 or so people, most of which by the way are in Latin America as well, almost all.

(18:01): And what we’re really big on is processes. In some cases they have to be very detailed in terms of how to use HubSpot, for example, the way we’ve set it up. But in general, what we do, we don’t want to over go crazy with the details on the processes. We want to just basically say, here’s a general idea of how you do it. That’s enough enough for somebody who understands the core values and has some talent and the experience that you want to follow that and then do what they need to do. But I’ll take it a step further too.

(18:37): We still provide executive assistance in addition to those 40 other roles to people. And a lot of business owners, when they’re getting their first assistant, they’re like, Hey, I have to try to, I don’t have a manual, right? Well, one of the things we always do is say, that’s great, and I know you don’t want to create one because you’re a business owner. Last thing you want to do is create a manual, have your new assistant do it, and they will just have them document as they go along. And that’s very handy. First of all, the first few times they can go back to the documentation where they’re doing a task, but if they’re out for a maternity or paternity leave, somebody else can then just pick up that process manual. Very important on the executive assistant side, yeah,

John (19:20): I’ve become pretty obsessed with using video tools like Loom and stuff to just go through it. And I’m doing it. I just recapture myself doing it, and it’s a lot easier to create a process out of that. The other term that I read one time that I thought really made a lot of sense, a lot of times we’ll give people, here’s what done looks like. This is the definition of this being done. And then a lot of times they can go, oh, okay, well how I get there probably doesn’t matter to some degree. And I think that’s a great guidance too. So looking ahead, crystal ball, right? What’s up for maybe something you’re actually working on or watching? Obviously every show, I think in the last two years I’ve said the words ai. I don’t know if that comes into play into your business, but what’s the future look like for work better now?

Rob (20:11): So I have two answers to that. The first one is we trying to become a talent partner for our clients, and many of our clients now see us as a talent partner. What that means is if they have a job that can be done remotely and it’s not too specialized, let’s say like a software developer, they just start us. And that’s exactly where we want to be and we’re constantly orienting ourselves to do that. But getting to your AI question, we just launched a pilot of what we’re calling the WBN Academy, and that’s going to be a continuous learning program for our professionals so that they can expand the capabilities of our clients. And AI is obviously one of the core elements of that academy. We should be rolling that out to, all right now we’re up to about 330 or so professionals working for our clients. We should be able to roll that out to them by the end of the year, and we’re really excited about it.

John (21:07): Yeah, that’s really, when you think about it, you look at resumes and they say, oh, I know how to use Word in Excel or whatever programs. I think today it’s going to be, I have a full understanding of AI prompts. That’s just going to be a pretty mandatory skill these days, I think. Is there anywhere we’ve mentioned work better now? Several times work better, but is there anywhere else you’d invite people to connect with you

Rob (21:34): On LinkedIn? Rob Levin, Rob Levin, work better now. There are a few Rob Levins, but if you type in Rob Levin work better now. You’ll definitely find me and you can also reach out to me through the website work better

John (21:49): Awesome. Well, again, I appreciate you stopping by. I think if you actually mentioned, you heard this on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I think that Rob might even give you a special offer of some sort. I believe so. Keep that in mind.

Rob (22:03): Yeah, thanks for, I totally forgot about that. John just mentioned Duct Tape Marketing and you get $150 off for each of the first three months for each professional that you

John (22:13): Hire. Awesome. Well, again, it was great catching up with you and hopefully we will run into you soon, one of these days out there on the road.

Lifting the Founder’s Curse: Unlocking Business Value Beyond Yourself

Lifting the Founder’s Curse: Unlocking Business Value Beyond Yourself written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Ryan Deiss, a serial entrepreneur, author, and the founder of Our discussion begins with his latest book, “Get Scalable: The Operating System Your Business Needs to Run and Scale Without You.” and pivots to invaluable insights on breaking free from the Founder’s Curse and unlocking business value beyond yourself.

Key Takeaways

Embark on a transformative journey with Ryan Deiss in this Duct Tape Marketing Podcast episode, where he unveils strategies unlock scalable business growth, gain insights into the power of value engines, strategic rhythms, and high-output teams. Learn the art of overcoming founder indispensability, mapping value creation flows, and implementing a meeting rhythm that actually works. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, Ryan’s actionable insights will empower you to build a thriving business that stands the test of time.


Questions I ask Ryan Deiss:

[00:50] What is the founder’s curse?

[01:44] Would you say that what you developed in your book came from the mistakes you made along the way?

[04:05] How does the operating system viewpoint apply to business owners?

[05:54] Would you say focus and priorities are the main benefits of value engines in business?

[07:42] How many value engines are needed to run a business?

[09:07] How do you recognize opportunities that add value to the engine?

[11:48] Tell us about the high-output-team approach and how it aids recruitment, onboarding, and performance ?

[16:29] What is Meeting Rhythm?

[20:12] Where can people find your book, the tools mentioned and connect with you?


More About Ryan Deiss:


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

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Work Better Now

Visit mention the referral code DTM Podcast and get $150 off for your first 3 months.


John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Ryan Deiss. He’s a serial entrepreneur, author and investor, and the founder and CEO of the scalable company digital, and a founding partner at Scalable Equity LLC. He’s also the founder and host of Traffic and Conversion Summit, the largest digital marketing conference in North America. Today we’re going to talk about a new book called Get Scalable, the Operating System. Your Business Needs to Run and Scale Without You. So Ryan, welcome back.

Ryan (00:44): Thanks for having me. Good to be here.

John (00:46): So I want to start right off the bat, and actually you do in the book start off with this idea of the founder’s curse. So it sounds so evil. I think we ought to start there and have you kind of unpack what that is and how that impacts so many entrepreneurs.

Ryan (01:00): It kind of is evil. I mean, the founders curse states that the more valuable you are to your business, the less valuable your business is. And that is one of the harshest truths for any entrepreneur to have to come to face to face with because most of us got into this game. We were independent minded and we had our specific idea and we wanted to do it our way and we sort wanted to stay that way. And it can, as long as your business stays small, but your business, if only, if you’re always the most valuable person in your business, then your business will never be that valuable. I don’t care how awesome you are.

John (01:30): So a lot of authors come to things on their own and discover things on their own, and when they write about them, they almost become a little bit autobiographical. I have heard you talk at length about some of your challenges in your business. I mean, would you say that some of what you’ve developed in this book came about from all of us, the mistakes that you made along the way?

Ryan (01:51): Absolutely. This book was one part trying to write the book that I wish I had when I was scaling my business in two parts therapy because go back to 2016, and I don’t know how much your listeners will know about me, but in general out there in the world, I’m known as a marketer, I’m a growth guy, I mean founder of digital, traffic and Conversion Summit. In general, when I speak, I’m talking about marketing. That’s how you and I got to know each other. But in 2016, I had to learn the hard lesson. That growth isn’t everything. That year I had three different companies within our portfolio group that all grew enough to hit the ink, 500 or 5,000 lists of those three companies, one of ’em went on to experience really great success. It had a profitable exit, and the remainder of that business is still very profitable and successful today.

(02:38): One of those businesses failed after a number of years because our partner in the business, the CEO, wouldn’t get out of his own way. And that business kind of went flatlined, trudged along and a couple years ago was sold to a competitor for basically nothing. The other business failed spectacularly. And within about three months of appearing on the list, we had to lay off 180 people and within another six months the business was fundamentally bankrupt. That business was the one that grew the fastest. And so the lesson I had to learn there is that growth isn’t everything. And that same year that all that was happening, if somebody were to look at from the outside in, they’d be like, oh, you’re very successful. Businesses are growing. You must be doing well. I wasn’t. I was making less money than ever because money was getting poured back in. I was working longer and I mean, I was missing family dinners. I was missing dance recitals. And it wasn’t until I came home after midnight one night, my wife was like, Hey, look, you can keep doing what you’re doing. I know who I’m married, but you can’t pretend like you’re doing it for us anymore. We just want you, this is ridiculous. That was kind of the wake up call that I had. And so yeah, man, it all came from pain.

John (03:42): So this book is, I mean, you have sort of a linear fashion to the stuff that you build and the frameworks that you’ve built here. And this book is literally we could go chapter by chapter and you’d say, yeah, that’s next, and that’s next and that’s next. Which obviously makes it really easy on my standpoint to just kind of break it down that way. But let’s start with probably the basis of the entire book is this operating system viewpoint. So talk a little bit about that and how that applies to anybody trying to build a business.

Ryan (04:13): Yeah, the fundamental thing that every business has an operating system, the problem is that in most businesses the operating system is the CEO. It’s a UOS, right? So if you’re the ceo EO, if you’re the founder, you are the operating system and the operating system is you. So what we’re trying to do through the book, going back to the founder’s curse, is to make the founder less valuable to the business. It doesn’t mean they don’t still add value, that they aren’t still important, but we got to get it to a point where if they’re not there, the business can still go on. This is not a new concept. Plenty of books have been written on this very concept where I think all the other books either got it wrong or just it was incomplete, is they started from the perspective of goal setting. So if we’re going to build an operating system, we first have to decide what is this business going to achieve and then how are we going to do it and what are the projects and the people and the meetings and all that stuff.

(05:02): I’ve tried that it doesn’t work. What works is answering the question, how do we create value in the marketplace? How do we capture and create marketplace value? And that’s just not just a question to answer broadly for us. We want to answer that question visually. And so the very first step that we do when working with customers or clients after we acquire a business, what I talk about in the book is to map what’s known as your value engines, your business process maps, how do you get customers and clients and what do you do with them once you got ’em, how do you serve ’em? How do you sell ’em? How do you serve? And we want to visually map that in flowchart form. Then we can start building an operating system around that. So we don’t give people an operating system and say, plug your business into it. We don’t say, what are your goals? And then give you a meeting rhythm as though that’s an operating system. We start from how your business creates value and build an operating system around the value creation process.

John (05:54): And I think what I love about that too is it automatically creates priorities, creating those value engines. A lot of people talk about mapping processes and things and they go down this rabbit hole of, okay, well we got 670 things here that we do, let’s map them all. And when you really break it down to those two value engines or those two categories of value engines, it sort of focuses the attention, right? I mean, that’s the only thing to focus on if those aren’t done, none of that other stuff matters. I mean, would you say that’s an accurate assessment of what value engines do to a business?

Ryan (06:28): Absolutely. And that is the goal. The goal is to get, as businesses scale, they get more complex, and as systems get more complex, they start to break down. So I think one of the biggest things that we’re looking to do is to thatcomplicate this stuff. And the way you do that is by asking first principles questions. And so a question of, okay, how do customers happen? Just how do they happen? A lot of businesses could generally explain it, but can you show me? And so if you can show me in flowchart form, okay, well, they see an ad on Instagram or Facebook, and when they do that, then they go to this landing page and then if they opt in, then this happens. And if they don’t, they get put on a retargeting list and then they go through this whole process and then eventually down the road they give us money.

(07:05): Great. Now what you can do is you could say of these different processes, what are the ones of these stages within this value flow? What do we want to make sure that we get right every time? Okay, now we can build an SOP or a checklist or what we call playbook around just that, not everything, just that. You can also ask the question, who is uniquely responsible or accountable to each of these stages? That’s going to define your hiring plan and job descriptions. You can say, how do we know this stuff’s working? That creates your scorecards. All of these things combined are what form a company operating system. But the foundation of all of it is just answering the question, how do we capture and create marketplace value?

John (07:42): So break it down again. You’re essentially saying there’s two value engines like fulfillment and how we get a customer or are there

Ryan (07:51): Two, I wish we were always that areas, each area. So for most businesses at scale, let’s say you’re over 10 million in revenue, you’re probably going to have two, maybe three growth engines. Maybe you’ve got a growth engine where you’re doing online media buying, and then maybe you’ve got another growth engine where maybe you have an outbound sales motion or maybe you have one where you’re doing trade shows and it just is a different flow. Customers happen differently depending on the entry point of the, you might have fundamentally different value in growth engines for your different products in your product line. But I’ll tell you, John, I mean we run really large companies, mid eight figure businesses. I say really large by small medium sized business standards figure businesses. It’s rare for them to have more than three or four growth engines. It’s rare for them to have more than a couple fulfillment engines. It’s just rare. Most of them will map, they start to look the same. Most big successful businesses are actually pretty simple if you pull all the crud away.

John (08:48): So let’s drill down into a business of yours that I’m somewhat familiar with, digital marketer. So essentially that started one type of offering, and that was if you’d done a value engine for that, you’d have mapped out the fulfillment of that offer, but then you decided, oh, we could have this kind of thing or we could license agencies to do different, how do you add things when you realize there are other opportunities? Then I mean, do those just become new engines?

Ryan (09:13): So usually when you add new products to your product line, they become new squares on the existing growth engine. So somebody will come through and you’ll say, well, what happens when somebody buys this? Let’s just say when they become a member of Digital Marketer Lab, let’s say they become a member of Digital Marketer Lab. That’s kind of our main membership at Digital Marketer. Once they bought that, we’ve sold ’em everything that we can sell, we’re done. Well, wouldn’t it be better if we kept selling ‘EM stuff for all involved? Okay, well, what else can we sell? Well, there’s a lot of agencies who are joining this program who they would like to license this. So what if we had a certified partner program? Now that doesn’t, but in the beginning stages, it probably doesn’t have its own fulfillment engine. What we’re probably going to do is market this program to our existing clients so it becomes another stage, and now it’s after somebody’s bought this, let’s try to sell ’em this. If they buy it, then they go into a different fulfillment engine. If they don’t, then that’s that. And then once it exists and they’ll say, let’s give this its own dedicated growth engine. It’s almost always going to have its own dedicated fulfillment engine though.

John (10:21): And now a word from our sponsor. Work better now. Work better now provides outstanding talent from Latin America, hand matched to your business with over 40 roles across various industries, including marketing. They’re a reliable partner for consistently finding the perfect fit for your business. Simply tell them what you need and they’ll handle the rest. We have two work better now, professionals on our team, a marketing assistant and a marketing coordinator, and we’ve been blown away by their abilities, responsiveness, and professionalism. They’ve really become an essential part of our growing team. And to top it off, each dedicated and full-time work better. Now professional is 2350 per month and there are no contracts to schedule a 15 minute consultation with a work better now rep and see how they’ll support your business growth goals, visit work better Mention the referral code DTM podcast, and you’re going to get $150 off for your first three months.

(11:20): That’s work better And don’t forget that DTM podcast code, right? Because something has to happen when somebody says yes, right? I want to buy that right now. I’m going to skip around a little bit, but this is probably everything you’re talking about. A lot of businesses need to build, but I would say if you were going to ask a hundred businesses, the place where they say they struggle the most is with people, teams getting output, getting productivity. So you have a very somewhat systematic approach to really not only the recruitment and onboarding of folks, but how to make sure that they’re actually performing. You want to unpack the high output team approach.

Ryan (12:02): Sure. So I’ll say that the two mistakes that most entrepreneurs CEOs make, number one, they find a problem, a challenge, a constraint in a business, and they just hire someone and they basically hurl ’em at that problem. So we’ve got this issue, we’re going to hire Bob, we’re going to throw Bob at it. And the problem with this is number one, Bob doesn’t know how to solve that problem day one, and number two, you don’t have the time to teach him and you might also not know how to solve it either, hence the reason it’s not solved and you need Bob. And so we’ll hire people to solve problems that we don’t know how to solve. They don’t know how to solve. And so we get frustrated with them. We say, I don’t know why I hire all these people, I should just do it myself.

(12:39): The other challenge that mistake that we’ll make with people is we’ll go to individuals and we’ll ask them, Hey, what do you do? I want to make sure that everybody’s on task and I want to make sure that we’re measuring your performance. So what do you do and how do you think? What are the metrics that you believe we should track you by? And we do this at an individual level that doesn’t work. Okay, here’s what does work. Go back to the value creation flow, the value engine that you mapped, and don’t start with the individual and say, what does this person do? And don’t start with a problem and say, who can we get to solve this problem? Go back to your value creation process and say, okay, back to step number one of this flowchart. Who or whom are uniquely accountable, responsible for getting this one done the right way?

(13:23): Then based on that description, you would put, we call it a critical accountability bullet. You say, okay, well we got Jim, and Jim is our media buyer, so Jim needs to run and optimize Facebook and Instagram ads. Got it. Okay, we’re going to keep going. What about this next one, the landing page? Okay, well, that’s going to be Fred. Fred is going to build and track landing page conversion rate. Got it. So we don’t start with the person and ask what do they do? We start with the value creation process and ask, who does this? In doing that, you’re essentially building job descriptions in reverse, and now what you can do is you can ask the person, how do we know that all this stuff is working? Now we can begin to build scorecards again, not based on an individual’s performance, but based on the flow through one of these particular value engines.

(14:06): In doing that, if you start with the value creation process and work backwards to the individual, you figure out a couple things. Number one, you figure out the people who are overwhelmed with a lot of work and very often as the founder’s, ceo, EO, it’s you who’s responsible for this? Me? What about the next step? Me? What about the next one me? And you’re giving yourself all these critical accountability bolts, but now you can look at it and say, who can I hand these off to? Or who can I hire to bring this in? So it’ll inform your hiring plan. If you don’t have the people or who needs help on your team, whether it’s, you’re also going to find some people who are superstars, but they don’t have a lot of work, and you can diamonds in the rough. You’re also going to find people on your team who they talk a good game, they’re good at politics, but they really don’t do anything, and this uncovers all of that. And so yes, don’t start with the person asks, what do they do? Start with the value creation process and ask who does this? You find out who your real players are.

John (14:58): You get more than about 10 people, and people can start hiding. They, I mean in terms of what actually gets done and we fill up the time, so it seems like everybody’s busy, but when you really do map ’em to those critical things, it’s like what are you busy at? And I think that’s a really key

Ryan (15:14): Metric, and that’s the other piece to that point, once you’ve done the value engine audit and said, who’s responsible for all these things? Now you can go to individuals and you can ask ’em, what are you currently doing that isn’t reflected on this? And you’ll just find that they’re doing all these things that just don’t matter. And sometimes because they thought that it mattered sometimes because some manager two years ago told ’em they should do it, and so they just kept doing it what they were told to do.

(15:40): And you can find all these things that people are doing that are either disconnected from a value creation process that you can plug in. I’ll give you an example. We had a content marketing manager who was producing five to seven pieces of content for one of our websites for one of our blogs every single week. Exactly. None of those content pieces was directing back to some type of lead capture mechanisms, none of them. And so it was this orphaned activity that it didn’t come up when we were auditing our growth engine because nobody opted in for anything. As a result of this, we were able to say, well either stop doing this or we got to get marketing to come over and start adding some of these things. It didn’t make any sense. It wound up being a whole lot of free leads that we had missed and got back.

John (16:24): So you mentioned it a couple times, everybody’s least favorite thing, and that is meetings. You have a fairly particular take on meeting rhythm, so you want to unpack that one?

Ryan (16:35): Yeah, so one thing I really don’t like doing is having some kind of 10 year big, hairy, audacious goal for small, medium, medium-sized businesses. You have no idea where you’re going to be. If you want to set a company purpose, I love that. I think every company should have a core purpose. If you want to call that a vision or a mission, fine, don’t nobody ever agrees on what those things are. So we just say, what is your company purpose? And that should be something that really doesn’t have a timeline. So that’s as big as we get when we’re doing goal setting. We’re going to set a three year target. I love three years. It is enough time to do something really big and meaningful, but not so long that you can’t imagine it. So that’s kind of meeting number one. About every three years we’re going to set a three year target.

(17:16): Pretty simple. Now we take those three years and we break ’em up into 1290 day sprints, 12 quarterly sprints. There are obviously four quarters in a year, three years, four quarters, 12. And so every quarter we’re going to do what we call our quarterly sprint planning meeting. And this is where we look at our three year target and we ask the question, what needs to be true that isn’t true today? What are those actions, these key initiatives that need to be completed to get us closer to that goal? And so we’re going to usually come up with three to five of those. We’re going to assign tasks and responsibilities. We’re going to get clear on the metrics that we really want to focus on optimizing. We’re going to set up a goal for that quarter, and that’s a one to two day deal. So every 90 days we got a one to two day planning meeting. By the way, if you’re planning every 90 days, you don’t need to do an annual plan. So that isn’t a part of my planning process.

John (18:05): Do a three year target. The annual part just flies by the next quarter, right?

Ryan (18:09): It’s amazing. It’s going to show up about once every four quarters, and that’s important because so many people do annual planning in December when you’re the most optimistic, the most hopeful. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s just not a good time to do it. By the way, I’m fine if you want to do an annual financial performer, fine, but in terms of your strategic plans and what are you going to get done, do that on a 90 day planning rhythm. Now, once we’ve done that, we have a monthly business review. And so each month we’ll get together and look at our scorecards, and then every week each team, including the leadership team, is going to have a scorecard meeting. Now, that may sound like a lot of meetings, but in reality, if you’re meeting to look at scorecards and we got a rule, no scorecard, no recurring meeting, so we’re meeting once a week at the leadership level, and then the teams are also meeting to discuss their scorecards to see are they doing the things that need to get done?

(19:06): Are we achieving the metrics? Are the projects we’re doing having an impact? Is that happening? If it’s not, then we can schedule an ad hoc meeting to discuss how do we improve, how do we optimize? It’s amazing when you have a regular meeting rhythm, you actually have less meetings. You don’t need as many ad hoc. The next one’s a week away. You know that you’re going to have an opportunity to discuss any necessarily pivots and tweaks to the plan at the quarterly business review, I’m sorry, at the monthly business review. And then at the next quarter, you’re going to reset plans and priorities. So somebody comes in with, we need to do this now. Do we really? Or can that wait until next quarter? And so that’s our planning rhythm, weekly scorecard meetings, monthly review and pivot meetings, quarterly strategic planning meetings, and every three years we’re set in our targets.

John (19:54): And I like the term rhythm because that’s really what it ends up feeling like once you get into it, right? It’s like, no, this is just humming along this way, this whole process, the book, everything that you do is very tool driven. You’ve got a few tools that you give away. So I guess this is the point in the show where I’d invite you to lead us to where we need to go to find the book, to find the tools to find out more about connecting with you.

Ryan (20:17): So you can get the book at Amazon or anywhere. Books are sold. Mostly Amazon though. But if you were to buy the book and open the book right there inside the flap, there is a link to get And what this gives you is all the tools that we use internally to create our own operating system. And so it is the same tools that we use. Now, I want to clarify something. These tools aren’t always overly fancy. We’re talking Google sheets, but they’re what we use. So our scorecards are all manual, and that’s by design. We want people to manually input their numbers so they know their numbers. We want them to manually decide is this red, yellow, or green so that they’re the ones own it who are objectively thinking, are we ahead of schedule? Are we behind? What do I think? I want people to own their stuff, but yeah, what we’re giving you is here all the exact same tools that we use internally. The book is going to teach you how to use ’em, how to deploy ’em, how to install ’em, but we’re not upcharging or anything like that for the tools themselves. I thought about it, the marketer in me was like, Ooh, let me have a book that tells ’em how to do it, but it tells ’em what

John (21:19): To do, not how to do,

Ryan (21:21): Yeah, exactly what, that’s what the marketer in me want to do. But I said I wanted to write the book that I wish I had and I didn’t want to leave anything out. And so we just went ahead and gave you all the tools.

John (21:31): And I’m sure when people get the book, they’re also going to find out that this is something they can hire a coach for as well, right?

Ryan (21:37): Yeah. Obviously if you want our help actually building out the operating system in your business, we would love to do that. We’ve had plenty of clients though, self administrate and you certainly can do that as well. But yes, if you want help, we do have a team of people behind the scenes that would love nothing more than to work with you and actually getting this implemented. The tools are good, the setup is good, but that last little bit of figuring out how do we specifically implement this into your business, some one-on-one help can be useful there.

John (22:07): Yeah, absolutely. Well again, appreciate you stopping the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days soon out there on the road.

The Human Mind And What Drives Our Decisions

The Human Mind And What Drives Our Decisions written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Michael Liebowitz

michael-liebowitzIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Michael Liebowitz. Michael is the CEO of Magnetic Mind Studio. Magnetic Mind Studio is a laboratory for clear messaging and deeply felt value articulation founded from Michael’s passion for understanding how the human mind works to drive our decisions.

Key Takeaway:

Being able to effectively communicate your value and connect with your audience starts with understanding how and why people make decisions the way we do. The truth is: people don’t want your thing; they want what your thing means to them. In this episode, I talk with Michael Liebowitz about how the human mind works to drive our decisions, and how we can align our messages with how the brain is wired to feel trust.

Questions I ask Michael Liebowitz:

  • [1:23] Can you talk about the basis of your work around the idea that survival is a key driver for decision-making?
  • [3:01] Is the human survival decision you’re referring to “I have to feel like you like me” or “I have to feel like you understand me”?
  • [3:29] We obviously make far fewer life and death decisions today in comparison to the ancestors that you’ve referenced – so why haven’t our brains evolved?
  • [6:10] Does this idea suggest that our marketing should become more tribal in our communication, messaging, design, etc.?
  • [7:33] A line on your website says – People don’t want your thing. They want what your thing means to them. So how do we make that distinction?
  • [10:33] So at what point does the approach of influence turn from being truthful and authentic to manipulation?
  • [12:20] What kind of messages are the best at creating that attraction and desire that you’re talking about?
  • [17:50] Oftentimes the main outcome of what people desire isn’t what they say it is or we make assumptions about what it is – how do you know or uncover the main outcome of what people are after?
  • [20:59] How can people find out more about your work and your masterclass workshop?

More About Michael Liebowitz:

More About The Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network:

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

John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the Gain Grow, Retain podcast, hosted by Jeff Brunsbach and Jay Nathan brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network gain grow retain is built to inspire SAS and technology leaders who are facing day to day. Challenges of scaling Jeff and Jay share conversations about grow, growing and scaling subscription businesses with a customer first approach, check out all the episodes. Recently, they did one on onboarding, such a key thing when you wanna get going, keep and retain those clients. So listen to gain, grow, retain wherever you get your podcast.

John Jantsch (00:48): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Michael Liebowitz. He’s the CEO of magnetic mind studio, a laboratory for clear messaging and deep. We felt value articulation founded for Michael’s passion for understanding how the human mind works to drive our decision. So, Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Liebowitz (01:13): Thank you, John. This

John Jantsch (01:14): Is gonna be just some light and fluffy stuff. We’re not gonna get in anything very deep at all.

Michael Liebowitz (01:19): Darn it. Cuz I had a whole treaties on the meaning of what I’ve all prepared. Oh, well,

John Jantsch (01:23): All right. Well let’s uh, dive right in. I think you contend that most of our decisions or key driver of many of our decisions is survival. I mean that’s a little bit of what your work is based on. So maybe I’ll just let you start there.

Michael Liebowitz (01:37): Sure. You know, between making a sort of a rational decision or a survival to decision, well, guess what wins every single time, right? We make survival decisions. I always say to, um, when I get my presentations, you know, all of us are the very proud descendant of some long ago. Ancestor who, when walking on the across the planes did not turn to the right and say, oh, I wonder if that line is hungry. No, we, they ran away. Survival decisions win every time. And the core thesis of my approach to messaging is that one of the primary ways, if not the primary way, our neurology is set up to maintain survival is to make sure we surround ourselves with like kind people who are like ourselves are considered safe. And anything that is not considered like kind is to this neurology considered to be a potential threat to survival. So in messaging, the name of the game is how do you present yourself as like kind so that you get them to that safe zone from which in business, by what you’re selling. Cuz if they’re in not like kind survival safety mode, no matter how much they need, what you’re offering, they will not buy it. Cause there there’s a part of their brain saying if we do this, we will die.

John Jantsch (03:00): So is it, I have to feel like you’re like me or is it I have to feel like you get me, are those two different things.

Michael Liebowitz (03:08): Those are two different expressions of the same root that we are like each other. And therefore the quote unquote finger quotes, logic of part of the brain goes, I don’t want me to die. Therefore things like me probably don’t want me to die either. So let’s go hang out with things like me.

John Jantsch (03:28): Why, you know, obviously we make far fewer life and death decisions than these ancestors that you, uh, referenced. So why haven’t we evolved? I mean, picking the wrong toothpaste, uh, shouldn’t be a life or death, uh, decision.

Michael Liebowitz (03:43): Yeah, that’s an excellent question. So even though this neurology is going on the way it gets operationalized is not necessarily an actual life or death decision, it really comes down to identity the like kind, this neurology, which I call the critter brain, the light kind, the critter brain is looking for is, does your identity match my identity? And so when it comes to toothpaste or a spatula, whatever, what we do is we choose the one that is presenting itself in a way that matches my identity. Because what if someone sees like an actual person or the, of judge cosmic judges, whatever’s gonna notice if we associate ourselves with the wrong identity. Oh no, right then we’re gonna get punished or whatever. I mean, this isn’t literal this sort of like a metaphor for what’s going on in, in, in the mind. But uh, we want to, we want to choose the things that reinforce and match our identity.

John Jantsch (04:50): So, so in some cases, maybe we could soften it and say, it’s not necessarily life or death, but maybe it’s safer feeling or I, or I,

Michael Liebowitz (04:57): It all

John Jantsch (04:58): Comest make a mistake if I make this choice. Is that more like that? Probably

Michael Liebowitz (05:03): The critter brain doesn’t think in those terms, it does only two things. It does survival and it does emotions. All right, this is why there’s that saying? Like all buying decisions are emotional, but no one ever said, what the hell they’re talking about or which emotion, right? Well, this is the core of it. It just does survival. And it, it communicate it’s in the language of emotions. This is safer, not safe, gives all these good feelings, not safe, gives all the bad feelings and safer, not safe is determined. Like, is this match my identity? Or doesn’t it. Now these signals get picked up by the human brain, all the logic and all the other stuff that we associate with being human. And that just interprets it to, in the words that you just said, right. That, so the critter brain gives off a signal of, Hey, it’s like kind the happy juices go off in the chemistry, human brain picks up and says, oh, I like this because, and it just fills in a story around a rationalization really around why it is that we like it, but it was the critter brain making the real decision.

Michael Liebowitz (06:06): Yeah.

John Jantsch (06:07): So does that suggest that we in our marketing should become even more tribal than, you know, in other words, real trying to appeal to a certain, you know, you’re like me and you know, in your ads and your messaging and your choices about design and everything.

Michael Liebowitz (06:26): Yeah. The word tribal is now getting a bad

John Jantsch (06:28): Name. It is, it is these days.

Michael Liebowitz (06:30): However, the term I use and actually part of my process, working with clients is we, the belonging traits, what are the traits that signify belonging and belonging is a baseline state in all human beings. It is without belonging. Life is not survivable, quite literally not survivable. We will all find ways of belonging. This is where you see confirmation bias and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s old motions of trying to find belonging. It’s also what Seth Goden was pointing at when he is talking about tribes. Right. He’s really just talking about belonging. So how do you signal belonging is, is the answer to that question is like, and to me, if you can dial that up to 11, you are

John Jantsch (07:14): Good. Just know your market is as, as narrow as you focus. It’s probably big enough. Yeah. So I have, for years been saying, people don’t want what we sell. They want their problem solved. And I read a line off your website that, uh, gets at the same point, but maybe a little more subtle than me. People don’t want your thing. They want what your thing means to them. So how do we make that distinction? Yeah. We don’t talk about our thing for right.

Michael Liebowitz (07:41): Well, yeah. It’s better to talk about what your thing means rather than what it’s at least yeah. Human beings. It seems our brains are designed for, to do two things above all else. Number one is to filter out most of reality. Yeah. Right. There’s too much to pay attention to. So it filter most of it out based on our belief systems, which tell us what is important to notice. And the second thing is to attach a meaning, to nearly everything meanings, help us make sense of our world. Right? They give us context for understanding. They help us figure out the relative value between things, right. And really when anyone buys anything, what they’re really buying into is the meaning. It holds in their world big or small or even micro, right? It’s like when I work with someone, the first movement we do is we figure out what’s the belief systems underpinning the business.

Michael Liebowitz (08:41): And I like the pressure’s off your belief system does not have to be profound. The heavens do not have to part. And there’s this universal cosmic knowledge that is imparted upon the, upon your customers. Like no beliefs do not have to be profound. They just have to be true. And when you target your messaging towards beliefs, again, what your beliefs are and your goal is to find other people who believe the same thing. That’s the combination of light kind, right? When you’re clear on that. And you’re clear on what that means to both you and the, and the customer, that’s the, the, the magic, the secret sauce fill in whatever metaphor you want that really gets the brain excited. And it says, and that’s what creates the, and if along the way, you can identify the problem and solve it. Excellent.

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John Jantsch (10:30): I had Robert chill Downey on this show a few years ago, author of influence. And he had told a story that he actually wrote that book so that people would be armed with the knowledge to not be influenced. And of course it turned actually into the Bible of influence of, you know, how to influence. So at what point does this sort of approach turn from being, you know, truthful and authentic to manipul obviously in the wrong hands, of course we’re

Michael Liebowitz (10:55): Talking about, but yeah, exactly. It’s tent and focus on what you, if you focus on what you believe to be true about why you do what you do, the beliefs underpinning the business and just say, Hey, we believe X, Y, and Z either explicitly like that, or implied by other ways of, of turning a phrase, it can only result in sort of like the white hat version of it when it comes from a place of, of honesty and introspection and, and truth to answer, like what happens when someone uses it for bad intent? I don’t know. I don’t go there. And if I sense a someone wants to hire me who in that space, it just doesn’t happen. But I, I tend not to attract them and they self select like, oh, this Michael Guy, he’s definitely not going there because I’m so clear about my belief system and the meaning behind it, that the wrong customers actually self select out of my system.

John Jantsch (11:56): Well, we could go very far down the, the, the rabbit hole of certain tribes being, uh, conned, uh, into, uh, believing that they’re hearing, uh, the truth, but we won’t go there. So let’s get let’s all right. Hopefully we’ve kind of percolated up, you know, the value of what it is you’re talking about. So now let’s kind of get practical. Like what kinds of messages, you know, are we talking about being kind of the best at creating that attraction and, and desire that you’re talking about?

Michael Liebowitz (12:25): Yeah. There are only from my perspective, there are only two things your audience needs to hear first and foremost, everything else, you is a supporting cast member to these two main players. And in no particular order, number one, what’s the main outcome I get from working with you. And for the sake of your listeners, your outcome may or may not be the thing you deliver. Yeah. Right. There’s an old saying. I, I, I forget who coined it, it, it may have been Leo Burnett or some other, a golden age of marketing person, but the paraphrase is people don’t want a drill. What they want as a hole in the wall. Right. It’s like it’s classic and everyone knows it. Like the outcome is not, I purchased a drill, the outcome I’m looking for as a whole, right. So what’s the main outcome of what you do, what this does in orient your audience in what I call space and time when it relates to marketing, which is, am I in the right space with you right now?

Michael Liebowitz (13:28): Right? What’s the context that we’re in together. And is it the one I want? So when you clearly communicate the outcome, come, you help them answer that question quickly. Now, most businesses, I mean, this makes sense, right? It’s like, you gotta tell ’em what the outcome is. Of course, that makes sense. To me, it’s logical. And most businesses do some version of this. Not many of them well do it well, but they do some version of it. The second thing almost no one does. And to me, it’s more important than the first one, which is, so number one is, what’s the main outcome I get from you. And the second question they’re asking is, do we share the same beliefs? Cause this gets back to that safety. If we share the same beliefs, you’re safe, I will not quote unquote die. And therefore I can buy from you.

Michael Liebowitz (14:17): And if we don’t, oh no, all the red flashes start going off. And by speaking clearly about your belief system, you take the question mark away from your audience, cuz trust me, our neurology is looking for it. Do what do you believe? Do we share the same values or whatever term you wanna put on the, are you like me? And if we give vague or sort of like indeterminate answers to that question, it freaks our brains out. We start going, you know, you’re giving me something but not enough. So that’s where babies come from a foot. You’re like kind a foot and you’re not like kind. And we’ll usually default to no cuz why risk it? But we just wanna know, are you safe to be around? And the way you do is another word for this is called trust. Of course. Right? And the fastest way to trust is simply to share what you believe like the fastest

John Jantsch (15:18): And that’s to me, that’s why storytelling has, you know, has become a standard element of marketing today. I, I remember when I started telling people 30 years ago, you know, tell ’em what you believe, tell ’em your story. They’re like, no, they don’t care about me. Yep. You know, they wanna know what they, what they get. But now it’s, you can’t pick up a marketing book that doesn’t have some aspect of storytelling

Michael Liebowitz (15:40): It.

John Jantsch (15:41): Um,

Michael Liebowitz (15:42): Yeah. Yeah. It is. You really? I mean, there’s two. What seem to be opposite facing pieces of advice. Don’t talk about, you talk about your company, tell them what you believe. Right? It’s like, wait, isn’t that about me? It’s like, well, yes, they definitely wanna know what you, what your business believes. Now, if you’re a, so operator that’s you specifically, if you’re in a business where there’s multiple people, it’s the collective here’s leadership. Here’s what we believe. Once they know that the safety system just calms down. It really does.

John Jantsch (16:18): But there’s really a lot of demonstrating that though, too. It’s really easy to say, you know, here’s our tagline. Here’s what we believe. But it’s how they see you respond to complaints on Twitter. It’s, you know, there’s so many things that really go into to really proving that you like saying, trust me,

Michael Liebowitz (16:34): There’s two parts to that. One part is from a very early age, we become excellent BS detectors. And what I mean by BS is actually belief system from a very young age, we can Mrs. Morris, when someone is saying something, they don’t actually

John Jantsch (16:50): My kindergarten teacher. Okay, go ahead.

Michael Liebowitz (16:53): Yeah, exactly. And it comes out in how we communicate you. We can get a sense for disingenuous communication, right? When, back in the day, when Ford was saying quality is job number one, and yet you could tell it’s kind of not right. It’s like, okay, you can talk all you want about quality, but you’re not embodying it. Not just showing it. You’re not embodying it. And the rest of everything you’re telling me. So that’s a moment. We are excellent BS detectors. And number two. You’re absolutely right. When you say it, it’s a promise and you have to follow through on that promise various different ways in, you know, how you communicate. And to me, everything is communication. Not just the message. Everything is

John Jantsch (17:44): Communication. I wanna circle back to one of the things you said earlier, because I think this is a real challenge for a lot of people I work with. Anyway, you talked about what’s the main outcome I’m gonna get. And I think a lot of times we don’t know our customers actually don’t always know or they, or you’re making assumptions and they’re making, you know, like people come to me as a marketer and they tell me they want leads. Well, half the time they just want control over their marketing. You know, they say they want leads. And if we promise ’em leads, we had, you know, were saying, here’s the main outcome. But when you get in there and work with a client for many years, you realize that’s not actually what they were after. I mean, it kind of was, but it wasn’t the, it wasn’t the emotional driver.

Michael Liebowitz (18:27): Right? I’ll answer that by you. An example of a previous, a past, uh, client of mine. This is a client. They make, uh, cooking gadgets and they were marketing like, Hey, cook your meal fast and always Mo or whatever. Right? All the buzzwords. And this also gets back to beliefs. Don’t have to be profound. So the first movement is to find the belief and it turns out after much digging and my background being behavioral neurology, this is actually a therapeutic technique. So I’m actually doing therapy on the, the C-suite during the whole thing. Finally comes out from the CEO. He says, you know, I know this is gonna make me sound superficial, but I love that moment at the dinner party when everyone eats what I, I created and they just look at me like, oh my God, I can’t believe you made this right.

Michael Liebowitz (19:18): And digging deeper. The belief was simply, it’s fun to show off, right? Like fantastic legit. It’s fun to show off. That’s the closely held belief underpinning this business and why these people started this business in the first. Well, now you can ask another question, which I, which is the meaning behind the belief. All beliefs have meaning connected to them. Meanings, give context, which is then you ask. Great. So what good things come to you when you’re able to show off dig a little deeper turns out well, because everyone deserves to feel valued. Oh my gosh, what’s the main outcome of this business. It’s not fast, moist, blah, blah, blah, food. It’s feeling valued through the creation of foods and such like that. Well, now, you know what the real outcome is. This turned into a message of, do you wanna be the star of the dinner party? Because what circles that square is like, I like get to show off and I get to feel valued from showing off. So now they’re talking about dinner parties and these are tools you can use to be the star of the dinner party and notice being the star of the dinner party as an identity, you can say, I am, if anything that starts with I am can be formulated into identity. I am the star of the dinner party, but you can’t say I am moist fast cooking.

John Jantsch (20:43): What?

Michael Liebowitz (20:44): Yeah. Does it

John Jantsch (20:44): Make sense? Plus, I’m guessing that you charge more now for which is even better, right? You have first, I’m gonna invite you to tell people how they can find out more about your work. We’ve obviously scratched the surface, but I noticed you have a, like a two hour kind of masterclass workshop, you know, to everything that you offer monthly. And I, I will have a link to the website and, and that opportunity, because I’m guessing that’s probably is easier way to, to dip your toe in the water of, you know, what my, what Michael teaches.

Michael Liebowitz (21:11): Absolutely. Yeah. The thank you for bring up the workshop. The first half is put this in finger quotes for everyone listening is my Ted talk. I haven’t actually been on the Ted stage. I just wanna make that clear, but it is that kind of talk about how our neurology is wired up to receive and respond to messaging and the whole psychology and neurology behind the whole system. Well, now that you learn that stuff, how do I apply it to my business? Well, that’s the second half is we actually apply what you learn to your specific business in the workshop. So I love learning on opportunities. It’s even better when learning opportunities get, turn into, like, how do I apply this to my business right now? So that’s what we is really

John Jantsch (21:56): What everybody wants. Yeah. And that’s at

Michael Liebowitz (21:58): You come out with a better message than you had coming

John Jantsch (22:00): In, and that’s a mind Right? Awesome.

Michael Liebowitz (22:04): Correct. Yeah. That’s the website and you can go register there and all month through the rest of the year is, is you get able

John Jantsch (22:12): To sign up for, and those are small cohorts or

Michael Liebowitz (22:16): My max me cohort is 10 people.

John Jantsch (22:18): So a little bit of interaction. Yeah.

Michael Liebowitz (22:20): So everyone can get individual attention. When I first started this, I had 15 people in the room and that was a lot of work. So I limited 10.

John Jantsch (22:27): Awesome. Well, Michael, thanks for taking time. Stop by the, a duct tape marketing, uh, podcast. And, uh, hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Michael Liebowitz (22:35): Thank you, John. It’s been a pleasure.

John Jantsch (22:37): All right. So that wraps up another episode. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in and you know, we love those reviews and comments. And just generally tell me what you think also did you know that you could offer the duct tape marketing system, our system, your clients, and build a complete marketing consulting coaching business, or maybe level up an agency with some additional services. That’s right. Check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. You can find it at and just scroll down a little and find that offer our system to your clients’ tab.

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