Baby Got Backstory
BGBS 073: Lauren Gropper | Repurpose | It’s More About the Mission

BGBS 073: Lauren Gropper | Repurpose | It’s More About the Mission

July 28, 2021

BGBS 073: Lauren Gropper | Repurpose | It's More About the Mission

Lauren Gropper is the founder and CEO of Repurpose, the leader in plant-based tableware. An eco-entrepreneur and green architecture pioneer, Lauren began her career in sustainable design. 

Her early success led to a surprising career in Hollywood, working as a consultant to the industry with customers like Discovery Networks. 

Confronted with the waste generated by craft services, Lauren had an aha moment on-set. She founded Repurpose to extend the disposable lifespan of single use products and reduce waste. 

Today, Lauren leads Repurpose on its quest to change the world one low-impact cup, plate and fork at a time.

In this episode, you'll learn…

  • Repurpose products not only replace plastic, but also use around 70% less water and 65% less CO2 to make them. Now, about 70% of the product line is compostable as well.
  • Before Repurpose, Lauren worked in LA to make sustainable set designs in film and TV. She noticed that the set would be sustainable but people still needed to use disposable plastic all day, which first led her to question how to tackle this issue.
  • Use the code Repurpose20 when checking out at repurpose.com to get a 20% discount on any Repurpose product.

Quotes

[10:28] When you study sustainability and materials, I think you're just obsessed with how things are made and how they're disposed of. And so to me, it was like this design challenge, like, we still need to use these disposable products, so how do we make them more sustainable?

[11:00] Why are we using petroleum, oil from the ground, which is a finite resource and dirty and full of chemicals to make a product that we use for five minutes and then throw away, but then it lasts forever in the environment? That just makes zero sense. There has to be a better way.

[36:15] It is about the product, but it's so much more about the mission. And you know, that's what gets me excited is just kind of like, well, how much how much waste are we diverting? What are we doing to get rid of plastic and actually educate people and get people to change their ways?

Resources

Repurpose.com

Facebook: @repurpose

Twitter: @repurpose

Pinterest: @repurposetableware

Instagram: @repurpose

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Podcast Transcript

Lauren Gropper  0:02 

We absolutely are trying to do the right thing. We come from a sustainability background like we are working our butts off to make the best product available. And to give people an opportunity to use a disposable product that replaces plastic and No, it can't always be composted everywhere, but it's still significantly more sustainable than a plastic alternative. And I think people are so quick to point a finger to be like, well, if I can't, if I can't compost it, then what's the point of even having it and the fact is, you're still using 70% less water to make the product 65% less co2 to make it like the carbon footprint is significantly less. So I think people will just pick it apart and tear it apart. And it's like, well, you're sitting on your couch picking this apart and we're I'm like literally working my butt off to try and get the most sustainable option into your home.

 

Marc Gutman  0:56 

Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Backstory Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today's most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today's episode of Baby got backstory. I hope you're enjoying the summer barbecues, cocktail parties and dinner parties and all the plastic cups and forks you're throwing into landfills. Well, don't you worry. Today we're talking to a founder and CEO who solved that problem with plants. That's right, plants instead of plastic. And before we get into this episode, I want to welcome you back to another summer episode of Baby Got Back story. These episodes are recorded in boardshorts. Instead of our normal studio in Colorado, a shared room in my family summer cottage in Michigan. When I'm not recording, the room is occupied by one of my young nieces in the crib that you can see if you're watching on video. Hey, we're in the mid zone of summer, you're happy. You're feeling Spry, you're on vacation, or you can't get work done because everyone you work with is on vacation when you're not. Let's be honest, you don't have much to do. So here's one thing to fill your schedule, head over to Apple or Spotify and give us a five star rating and review. Ratings really do matter. Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts, even during the summer, especially during the summer. Oh, and we like likes and follows and ratings and all that too. So thank you for your reviews. I really do appreciate it. Today's guest is Lauren Gropper, CEO and founder of Repurpose the leader in plant based tableware. an eco entrepreneur in green architecture pioneer, Lauren began her career in sustainable design. Her early success led to a surprising career in Hollywood, working as a consultant to the industry with customers like discovery networks. confronted with the waste generated by craft services, Lauren had an aha moment onset, she founded Repurpose to extend the disposable lifespan of single use products and reduce waste. Today Lauren leads Repurpose on its quest to change the world. One low impact cup plate and fork at a time in this is her story.

 

I am here with Lauren Gropper, founder and CEO of Repurpose, Lauren. Welcome to the Baby Got Back story podcast summer edition. We're both having some summer sort of things in the background. So you might have a little bit of construction. I have a baby crib for those of you that are watching the video. Welcome to the show. Thanks Mark. And I actually have that same ball that I see in your background. Yes, it says my back it's for when I'm when I'm doing serious work and what would I do without a yoga ball? Definitely not yo can tell you that. But thanks again for coming on the show. Lauren. Once you tell us a little bit about Repurpose. What is Repurpose?

 

Lauren Gropper  4:26 

So Repurpose is a brand that makes plant based compostable alternatives to everyday disposable plastic. Essentially, we're trying to get rid of plastic with more sustainable alternatives.

 

Marc Gutman  4:38 

Yeah. And so is this something that is you know, help us educate some of the listeners out there those that may or may not be familiar with this type of of cutlery if you will, in plates and things like that. Is this common or do we see this a lot or is this a pretty new idea?

 

Lauren Gropper  4:59 

I think this is Pretty common now, actually, we've been We've been in business for just over 10 years, which is kind of crazy. But yes, we are, we are everywhere. So you can find us, everywhere in the US and most grocery stores from your local natural food store to your Walmart, and kind of everything in between. So we are very widely available out there in the world that of course on Amazon and our website, repurpose.com. You can find us everywhere, everywhere.

 

Marc Gutman  5:29 

And so, you know, I know a bit of your story takes place in Southern California. Is that where you grew up? Or did you grew up someplace differently? No, I'm I'm Canadian. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. All right. Well, hey there for Canadian friends out there to the north. I am a big fan of Canada's you know, if you listen to the podcast, I grew up in Detroit. So we you know, it's kind of our cousin, or sibling, just to the south. Actually. That's a question that every grandparent will ask you. What's the first foreign country you come to when you go south from Detroit? And it's actually Brooks thunder, but I digress a little bit. And so when you were growing up in Vancouver, is a younger girls, young lady, Was this something that you were like, concerned about? Were you concerned about? plastics and thinking, even at that time of how do I how do I solve this problem?

 

Lauren Gropper  6:28 

No. I mean, I grew up very much interested in environmental issues. I, you know, I think growing up in Canada, you have a lot of access to nature. And my parents weren't particularly outdoorsy at all. But through school, we got to do bunch of trips. And I ended up doing actually a program in high school, where do you spend six months of the year for not six months, but half the year doing outdoor education and you're not in the classroom, your snow campaign, you're rock climbing, you're kayaking, you're doing big back country hiking trips. And that's kind of the education then you cram the rest into the other part of the year. It's called Trek. And I think I mean, I did it when I was 15, super formative time, and just became really interested in environmental issues in the outdoors. I think at one point, I thought I was gonna be like a, you know, a back country guide. That was that was a trade early on. But yeah, I think that's what really kind of created the the passion about all things environmental. And I went on to study that in college. And so I just sort of like kept building and building but it was always my interest from not always but you know, from young high school age. I had no idea about plastic or what was wrong with plastic, but the environment was kind of the thing for me sustainability. Yeah. And so

 

Marc Gutman  7:53 

if that was the dream to be a back country guide to be in the sustainability business, is that what happened after you left school?

 

Lauren Gropper  8:01 

No, I know, I, that was sort of the early dream. And I just didn't really know where I wanted to be. I studied geography, environmental studies, I ended up doing a lot of international travel after college. So I spent a significant amount of time and in Costa Rica, it was like a Canadian Peace Corps program I did. And that was incredible. And then spent some time in Southeast Asia. And just really, I wanted to do something, I think internationally and something in sustainability. But it's hard to find a career in that. Or at least I couldn't at the time. But in my travels, got really interested in design and architecture. And then like urban planning, and cities and design, and I found a program in New York, that basically was the study of stainable design and green building. And that was a project in New York. So I went and met with them and became really interested in the program. And so I ended up studying there. And my career was was on on track to be in this sustainable building sustainable design world. And I was obsessed with it. So that was my that was my dream. And that was my early career.

 

Marc Gutman  9:11 

No, yeah. And that was your early career. But then what happened? How did you get involved in this idea for Repurpose?

 

Lauren Gropper  9:21 

So I was doing green building work mostly in in New York and a little bit in Toronto. And through that, I had kind of like dabbled in television production. So I had hosted a show very early on and on HGTV in Toronto. And that got me kind of interested in just the whole film intelligence side of things and opened my eyes to kind of set building and set design and in that world, and I randomly had an opportunity to come to LA to do sustainable design for sets. And I thought, that sounds really cool. I'd love to do that. I'd love to sort of like take what I've learned From the building world, and bring it to film and TV. And so came out to LA this just now probably 12 years ago, 13 years ago, maybe, and started working on on sets and set design and making them more sustainable. And lo and behold, you make a set really sustainable, but you still need to use disposable plastic all day. That's where I was like, Ooh, there's got to be a solution for this too. And, you know, when you study sustainability and materials, I think you're just obsessed with how things are made and how they're disposed of. And so to me, it was like this design challenge, like, how can we still need to use these disposable products? So how, how do we make them more sustainable? At the time, I really wasn't thinking in kind of like, how do we, how do we shake up this model? And maybe move to like a reusable model? I actually didn't have that kind of foresight. But at the time, I was like, how can we just look at the materials we're using? As in? Why are we using petroleum? Well, from the ground, which is a finite resource, and dirty and full of chemicals to make a product that we use for five minutes and then throw away, but then it lasts forever in the environment, like that just makes zero sense. So I just there has, there has to be a better way. And of course, there is and there was, and that was to use plant based plastic, it's plant based chemistry, essentially. And the technology was just in its infancy back then. But it seemed to me like this is going to be huge, this is going to be the future. And we can't be using this old stuff anymore. I just, I sort of viewed it the way that I had seen kind of the the green building space really blossom. Like in the early days, everything was kind of clunky and really expensive and didn't work as well. But then it sort of as it gained momentum. And as demand increased for new building technologies and materials, the industry matured and the price came down and trails got better. And I thought that sort of same trajectory could be applied to this plastic disposable plastic space. And I was really interested in creating a brand, kind of, you know, being the Kleenex of compostable plant based products. And so I just figured, you know what, I am young enough. If this all blows up in my face, I can go back to doing what I was doing before, which I loved anyway. And why not go for it? It seemed like there was just like a right place, right time kind of opportunity. And what do I have to lose was kind of the thought I didn't have any idea what I was getting into though. Like it's that typical entrepreneurial naivete where you're like, Oh, of course, I can do it. But had no idea kind of the challenges that lay ahead.

 

Marc Gutman  12:46 

Yeah, totally. And you make it sound so easy. And like, let's take a step back. Because here you are, you're doing sustainable set design. You know, I come up literally with 100 ideas a day that are all amazing, I execute none of them, you know? And so like, and I get even like, I mean, I can't tell you how many times I hang out with people that are very angry about sustainable issues. Hey, why are we Why are we using this silverware? And when it could be you know, for five minutes and it goes back to the ground? Why are we doing this? Why are we doing that? But the reality is, not many people take action, right? And I have to imagine so if you could take us back a little bit take us back to like that moment. And okay, your your pod, you're like you're angry about plastic, but you have a day job to like what like, like, like, how did you actually like, like, figure like, maybe there's something here? Maybe there's even a business? I mean, like, like, how did that all come about?

 

Lauren Gropper  13:48 

Really, it was that there was just an incredible kind of confluence of factors all happening at the same time, that sort of felt like, Okay, I have to act on this, because all of these things are coming together without me trying that hard. There was a supplier relationship through a connection that we had that was just sort of fell in our lap, and one of our early partners, Brian Chung, who had this family relationship to one of the biggest producers of these products in the world. And so that kind of felt like, well, that's super unique, and we have this unique access. And then I think being in LA and the proximity to the sets and then sort of the Hollywood aspect and celebrity influencers etc. It kind of felt like we can if we're trying to build a brand and this was before like real influencers, you know, but it was like, Okay, we have access to some celebrities and and we can get on TV and we can do product placement really easily. So in the early days, we were getting our product on like all these different shows, which is really great. And it was just like all these factors, we felt like this gives us a unique leg up and let's give it a shot. Like, we've got the supply relationship, we've got a place to put this stuff with all the elements are kind of in place. They weren't all in place, but we thought they were like, I mean, I had the limited knowledge we had of how do you start a company? You know, we had some of the basic building blocks. And so it sort of felt like, Well, you know, this is all here, let's, let's give it a shot. It just kind of felt like we can start small scale. And if we get some traction, great, and if not, like we haven't, you know, I'm keeping my day job. Yeah, who

 

Marc Gutman  15:31 

was that first customer like, like, how did you even like solve this or like, actually transact for something like revenue.

 

Lauren Gropper  15:39 

Our first customer was, we were doing some stuff on on sets, but it was such small potatoes and like catering, you know, like, it was like a small catering kind of company. And then we were doing some PR around kind of the company and it caught the Bed, Bath and Beyond. And you're the president of Bed, Bath and Beyond. And they wanted our product, they want to try it. And we were like, Oh my god, jackpot, even though whatever it was the tiny Po, but we really felt like, Oh, this is something. And that, you know, I think just having like that 100% like, wide eyed super cane attitude and like, no knowledge of what it really was going, like, we were just so enthusiastic and thought we'd you know, any little when it was like the biggest win for us. And we didn't really have a sense of kind of, you know, what is what what a real business entails, and kind of like, what those mechanics are. And so we were just thrilled to be selling our products, you know, like, wow, this company switch from plastic, like, it was just this, like youthful name tags. And, and very kind of altruistic, genuine, you know, we're really trying to change something here. And it's kind of working. Looking back, we were like, way too early. Like, there was zero mass, you know, awareness or adoption. But, you know, those little wins, like meant everything to us. And we were like, Yeah, let's do it. We just were just so gung ho on, you know, having a product that we designed and was out there in the world, like that was just so cool to us.

 

Marc Gutman  17:31 

A common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we'll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email, we'll get you booked right away. So whether you're just getting started with a new business, or whether you've done some work and need a refresh, for whether you're a brand that's high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book, your brand clarity call, you'll learn about our brand audit and strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you'll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We'll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Build the brand you've always dreamed of. Again, we'll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email. Now back to the show.

 

Yeah, and so what was that early product like like, you know, talked a lot. And it was it like fully baked and like did it come back the way you wanted. I talked to a lot of entrepreneurs, you get their first prototype, and they're like, Oh, this is not it. You know,

 

Lauren Gropper  19:02 

we have just we had started actually in the cup business. So we weren't making cutlery or plates or you know, in a trash bag or anything we're making today. But we had a cup that was like to replace kind of like a plastic cup for cold drinks. And so we had a cold cup and then we had this hot cup that was very unique. It was made from all plant based materials. And it felt like this kind of like velvet, felt like velvet on the outside, which acted kind of like an insulation barrier and you didn't need a sleeve. And it just had this amazing feel. And then we had our logo and all like the plant based info was our old brand but old branding look and feel same Repurpose brand, but just different, different kind of look and feel but just have this amazing feel. And anyone that had in their hands was like What is this? This is so cool. Oh, and it's plant based and lid was also plant based. So the whole thing was compostable. It was like we went all these awards for like most Innovative cup, blah, blah, blah. And that was our super cool entry product. But it's actually the factory since shutdown. So that product is no longer but it was an awesome product when we launched it.

 

Marc Gutman  20:16 

And when you started the business, What did it look like in terms of the organization? It was you and and how many people?

 

Lauren Gropper  20:23 

Yeah, it was myself, I had the original original co founder who actually left the business after about a year. So him, Brian Chung, who is our supply partner, and we produced in Taiwan. So he was the, he's Taiwanese American, but it was his family. And then Cory, co founder, who was really came in from the PR and marketing side, and did all of our early kind of PR and marketing and actually sales as well. So that was the core team. And then in Jordan, to who's one of our co founders. He was a very early investor and who came on actually as our CEO, and co founder. So his tiny team, our first employer is still with us today. Her name is Sarah harden, she was our initially kind of like our office manager. And now she's our, basically our controller slash, you know, how to finance and is amazing. So yeah, it was tiny, tiny literally was out of a living room. Now,

 

Marc Gutman  21:21 

and you mentioned that you're everywhere today, what's the organization look like today, now that you've grown 1012 years later,

 

Lauren Gropper  21:28 

we're still small, we're about 25. Full time, we probably got another 10 or so part time. And then we've got probably, that in the 50 to 100, kind of boots on the ground wraps. And that doesn't include any, like our warehousing is outsourced our, our supplier partners, I mean, if you count all them, it's in the hundreds. But core team like head office is 25. Yeah,

 

Marc Gutman  21:54 

and so like, what's hard about plant based silverware and cups in in this business? Like, what's, what's hard about it?

 

Unknown Speaker  22:04 

Everything. I think it's it's been a real challenge on a number of fronts, I think what's always been a challenge is kind of staying ahead of the sustainability curve. So the technology's changing it up, but every couple of years, it changes. And so number one, you have to stay ahead of those changes. And sometimes those changes are more expensive, sometimes those changes are really difficult to produce. Sometimes those changes aren't feasible or can't happen all at once. And so you're constantly having to manage for a change in your, in your product. It's not just like, okay, mass produced, mass produced, keep going, you're constantly iterating and constantly changing. And that's a huge kind of operational challenge in itself. And then also, from a messaging point of view, like you're changing your ingredients, you're making them more sustainable, which is which is great. I mean, it was one of the methods, that's a positive, but it is hard, and then how do you manage the kind of economics of it? That's, that's hard. I think the early days of fundraising were very challenging. We had you know, we were in a new industry, we're trying to disrupt a humungous, you know, well established industry and category with a little tiny team with the dream like it was, we didn't have a lot of, I'd say institutional investors that really believe we could pull it off. So, you know, raising money was tough. You know, hiring the right people, everything about it. Everything is is it's the most challenging thing I've ever done by a mile by a million miles. Just it's super fun, because it is I like challenging things. I like being challenged. But sometimes I wish there was a bit of a break. I mean, it just is kind of relentless. You kind of you handle one area, and then another one was that and then you handle that, then you're you know, it's just, I'm sure you hear this from every every entrepreneur, it's like juggling the plates.

 

Unknown Speaker  24:12 

A lot of juggling.

 

Marc Gutman  24:14 

A lot of juggling. So that's that's what's hard about it, like what do people get wrong? Right, like, what do you what do you want people to know? What do people miss understand about your space and your product?

 

Lauren Gropper  24:27 

I think with any sustainability business, there's so much kind of like, I don't know, there's there's a lot of greenwash out there from companies sort of claiming to do the right thing and not and so you're held to a higher standard, you have to be more accountable. And people will pick apart every little thing that you do. And I think what I would want people to know is that all of us come from this, at least in our company, we come from a real place of we absolutely try and do the right thing. We come from sustainability. backround like we are working our butts off to make the best product available. And to give people an opportunity to use a disposable product that replaces plastic and No, it can't always be composted everywhere, but it's still significantly more sustainable than a plastic alternative. And I think people are so quick to point a finger to be like, well, if I can't, if I can't compost it, then what's the point of even having it and the fact is, you're still using 70% less water to make the product 65% less co2 to make it like the carbon footprint is significantly less. So I think people will just pick it apart and tear it apart. It's like, well, you're sitting on your couch, picking this apart, and we're I'm like, literally working my butt off to try and get the most sustainable option into your home. So relax.

 

It's like, Oh, God, we're trying, you only knew like the blood, sweat and tears that are going into this from a very altruistic place. Like, very annoying when, when people don't get that.

 

Marc Gutman  26:04 

No, it's great. And the idea that, look, this isn't like black and white, we need to get there over time. And we don't always have the technology, but like using the technology we do have is infinitely better than not using it. And so I think that you know, whether it is, yeah, whether it's plant based utensils, or anything else for that matter. I mean, this happens in a lot of different industries. It's like we kind of use the the technology we have at the time, and we got to we got to build on it. And so I could see how that could be a real challenge. You know, you mentioned branding, a lot brand building, like what role does this mean, the the idea of brand strategy and brand building play in your business? How important is that to your business?

 

Lauren Gropper  26:45 

It's interesting, it's, it's, we're in a very unique category. Because at these, it's sort of a big question for us Do people really care about the brain that they're getting their their plates and forks and comes from, or they just want it to be sustainable, and they don't really care what the brand is, I think there are people that don't really care, they just want to know that it's sustainable. But I think there's a growing number, especially the younger generation, like Gen Z and millennial that do care, that really, really care about who they're buying these products from, and they want to know who this company is like they don't want to be buying, you know, from a company that makes plastic out of one hand, and then they've got you know, a line of compost and a lot of the other side of their business, I think they want to know that they're supporting an authentic company that is really doing the right thing. So for us, it's really important to continue to tell our story, and talk about what we're doing and why we're doing it and be really transparent and engage with our community. And I think it's more and more important, especially as kind of the people are buying more online and can really kind of dig into like, who the companies are, it's not just about convenience, like, Okay, this one's on the shelf. So I'll just put in my basket, like they're actually they're on Amazon, or they're on our site, or wherever they are, they can access in an instant, like, Who is this company? And, you know, why am I buying it. But we are in a category, I will say where it's price sensitive, you know, price plays a big factor. So we always have to keep that in mind. Like we have to be price competitive, but at the same time offer kind of like that, that brand. And that authentic experience, and sometimes that you know, those, those are difficult things to Mary. But that's our challenge. That's what we're trying to do.

 

Marc Gutman  28:40 

Yeah, I mean, and I think that this is a really interesting topic when it comes to branding, because a lot of people think, you know, the, the old, the old definition was your logo and your identity. And I think most people have, a lot of people have evolved past that. And I understand it's the, the underlying ethos of what you do. It's how you act, it's how you behave, it's how you communicate. But at the end of the day, a brand, which is a business most often, typically needs to make money. And so like how do you marry those two, right? Like, because you can't, you have to service that and you can't ignore that. And you can't say that, well, I'm just gonna do all this stuff. I've heard of those discussions happen in your business.

 

Lauren Gropper  29:24 

It's a constant. It's a constant discussion. It's a constant challenge of sort of like, cuz you can put all your budget into marketing and branding. I mean, for us, what we do feel that we need to do and need to do more of is build awareness. I think a lot of people have no idea that we exist. Or if they do, they just kind of notice in general as a category, they don't know that we're a particular brand. They don't know about the technology necessarily. They don't know anything about composting, they don't know that even plant base, alternative to plastic could exist. I think more so now. But when we first started, that was like we had to educate people on what the product even was, and why should even exist. Now, it's different people are really interested, they're looking for it. So we need to be out there presenting ourselves saying, Here we are, please, you know, take a look at us. So for us, it's about, you know, and you can track, you can track ROI in marketing efforts now. So, you know, of course, you need to make money, but you can understand kind of what's working and what's not. And so we just do more of what's working unless of what's not, but there is kind of that top of funnel awareness play, that you can always trace to ROI that you still need to do, because people need to know who we are looking at, when they when they know about us. And in general, we find that they buy us because we're not we're not a niche product, we're not priced significantly more like we're priced competitively. We offer a better product. I mean, there's all the reasons to buy. So it's just you have to know that we exist.

 

Marc Gutman  31:12 

Yeah, and it makes me think about like, back to even when you started this and probably the the competitive fight that you're in today. I mean, there are you kind of alluded to this, I mean, there's some multinational global conglomerates that are in this space, like, yeah, like like, like, hey, what made you think that you could take them on I love that you're like, I'm just gonna take on the biggest companies in the world and with the biggest distribution networks and whatever else they have, and be what's that like today? Like, like, how do you outmaneuver them from a competitive standpoint, and keep keep them on their toes, we had

 

Lauren Gropper  31:47 

sort of looked at the CPG space as a whole and just kind of like these better for you organic brands, and more in food and beverage, and I guess cleaning as well as examples. Like we had seen all these tiny little brands when we started take on these huge players. And when, like, we were looking at like method cleaning and Mrs. Myers and these are like they're taking on tide. I mean, they're just, and they were they weren't doing well. And so it felt like there was an appetite at least there was an appetite in other areas like organic food was already taking off all the organic, better few baby food, toys, you know, cleaning products, personal care, beauty, all these things were kind of changing when we came in. And we sort of felt like, well, then why in this category is everything still so old school, like nothing has changed in 50 years. Everything looks exactly the same. And I think it's just like, because there was no distribute, like, people didn't know that there could be an alternative. So I think we figured let's just, you know, this market is gigantic. And yes, it is controlled by these large multinationals. But there's room there's room for a challenger brand like us. And so that's I guess we just had kind of the balls to, to go after it. Of course, it's still a challenge. Like they can win on it. They've got the distribution, they've got the marketing dollars, they've got the muscle. But it all comes down to what does the consumer want to they want the green product from the green, authentic brand? That's woman owned and women land and has a diverse team, or do they want the green product from the big plastic company. And what we're seeing this in in these early days is they want the green product from the green company. You know, and so that's when you go back to the brand piece, like we have to tell our story. And we have to make people aware of who we are because when they know who we are, they will choose us over the big bad plastic company. Not everybody. But a growing number of people. Well, yeah.

 

Marc Gutman  34:03 

Like what are you most excited about? As you look towards the future with Repurpose,

 

Lauren Gropper  34:10 

we are just dipping our toes into e commerce and kind of B to C and really building brand in a way that we haven't before. And I am super excited to get that going and get that started. We're launching a bunch of new products. So now our products are about 70% of our line is home compostable, which means it will break down in the backyard environment in less than a year. Which is amazing from a sustainability standpoint. We'd like to get that 200% and we're getting closer and the tech and technology is changing to get us there. So we're on top of that and we're very ahead of that which is so exciting. And I think it's only going to improve more. So from a sustainability standpoint, super excited about kind of where things are going with our products, we have a whole new line coming out. So we're launching with bamboo toilet paper that's FSC certified, so it's sustainably grown bamboo, bamboo toilet paper, bamboo paper towel. We're doing sandwich bags that are home compostable claim wrap. We have a big launch coming out next year, which I can't say yet, but it's an alternative to the party red cup. So a lot of really cool items that I think just make kind of convenience more sustainable. And going back to our conversation earlier, like, we totally are all about, use reusable items first, like, do as much as you can reusable, but there are always instances where you need to use a disposable product, and it should be something as sustainable as possible. By Repurpose.

 

Marc Gutman  35:53 

Did you ever think prior to starting this business that you'd be Geeking? out on clean rap? Oh, my God, plastic? Toilet paper? paper towel?

 

Lauren Gropper  36:02 

No, it's like, see, that's what it's so funny. Because I have relatives that are like, Oh my god, she makes plates and cups and like, how's the dish were going? And it's so much less about the actual I mean, it is about the product, but it's so much more about the mission. And you know, that's what gets me excited is just kind of like, well, how much how much waste? Are we diverting? What are we doing to get rid of plastic and actually educate people and get people to change their ways? So funny because yeah, it's always like, well, do I really geek out? I do geek out on plates now. But it's funny anytime I look at a cup. I'm like looking at this and like looking at the you know, what is the main? But yeah, it's it's all about the whys.

 

Marc Gutman  36:45 

Well and as we come to the end of our time here. I'd like to think back to young Lauren on that six month outdoor ed program backpacking around high ideals and what do you think she'd say if she saw where you are today?

 

Lauren Gropper  37:01 

What would little Lauren say? I think she'd be pretty proud. I think she'd be happy.

 

Marc Gutman  37:13 

And that is Lauren Gropper, CEO and founder of Repurpose. A big thank you to Lauren and the team at Repurpose, we will link to all things Lauren and Repurpose in the shownotes. We even have a special promo code of Repurpose20 for anyone that would like a 20% discount on any Repurpose products. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast@wildstory .com. Our best guests like Lauren come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that's the show. keep enjoying your summer. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www dot wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS see you'll never miss an episode a lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can't deny

BGBS 072: Chad Hutson | Leviathan | The Business of Creativity

BGBS 072: Chad Hutson | Leviathan | The Business of Creativity

July 14, 2021

BGBS 072: Chad Hutson | Leviathan | The Business of Creativity

As Leviathan's co-founder and CEO, Chad facilitates creative strategy and all key business developments for the specialized creative agency, including managing the company's overall operations. His efforts have led to client relationships with Nike, Disney, Amazon, T-Mobile, Kohler, Universal, McDonald’s, and Airbus among others.

 

Chad previously co-founded the digital creative agency eatdrink in 2002, which merged with Leviathan in 2012. Over the years, that firm produced breakthrough broadcast and interactive work for an amazing roster of brands and agencies. His prior experience includes highly productive stints with experiential marketing firm MC2 as an entertainment and technology project manager, and with leading Hollywood post-production sound company Soundelux as operations manager.

 

A native of the Southeastern United States, Chad earned his Bachelors of Recording Industry Management at MTSU. A past presenter at multiple SXSW conferences, Chad has also spoken at many other high-profile events, including InfoComm, TIDE, the American Marketing Association's High Five Conference, VCU Brandcenter's Friday Forum series, and numerous Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) events.

In this episode, you'll learn...

Quotes

[4:49] "Leviathan is a specialized design firm. We like to transform environments into bespoke experiences using a lot of digital wizardry in the way of constant interaction to make people's jaws drop."

[24:25] "I once had another agency owner telling me that, 'Hey, man, you're in the service industry. You are paid for a service, you are not paid to be an artist. So you kind of have to get over your self-righteousness of trying to be—always trying to create art. You're in your marketing. You need to just accept that."

[25:10] "What do you see at a Disney or Universal theme park? It seems to be magical, and it defies reality. And those are the exact types of projects that we work on outside of, say, a corporate headquarters or a museum…So [we try] to focus on, what would make this special? What could no one else do? Or at least not do very easily that we could do from a technology perspective? And then how can we make that technology invisible, so you feel like you are experiencing something that is sprinkled in pixie dust, that is magical?"

Resources

Instagram

@chad.not.work

@lvthn

Website

https://www.lvthn.com/

Linkedin

Chad Hutson

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Podcast Transcript

Chad Hutson  0:00 

I met another guy who was a creative director who had been a painter and sculptor in his previous life. And at the time, he was running another animation studio. So we all got together and start talking about why I have this company. It's kind of coming back to life. We all love building things for physical environments. We like doing things kind of going beyond what is what is expected within those spaces. So maybe we just take what's left of my old company, and let's turn into something new. And that's literally what Leviathan was my old Rolodex. I'll use air quotes for people who might still remember that term, but my list of contacts money in the bank and started over with with those assets. And that was the vibe.

 

Marc Gutman  0:47 

Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today's most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today's episode of Baby got backstory. You know those amazing set displays at concerts that have crazy visuals projected all over them are those three storey digital display walls with all sorts of content you might see in the lobby of a big fancy New York City media skyscraper. Well today, we're talking to the guy who makes those. Before we get into this episode, I want to welcome you to the summer edition of Baby got backstory. The pace is a little more laid back, and my feet are perpetually Sandy. My tan is starting to come in. And every episode is recorded in boardshorts. And if that doesn't get you excited to leave a five star review and rating over at Apple podcasts or Spotify, nothing will, Hey, I know it's summer. I know you're probably about six white claws in while you're listening to this, you're going on post pandemic crazy. But ratings really do matter. Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. Even during the summer, especially during the summer. I guarantee you a better summer than Kid Rock if you leave a review. Oh, and we like the likes and the follows and ratings too. So thank you for all that. Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it.

 

Today's guest is Chad Hudson, CEO and co founder of the award winning Chicago based experiencial creative firm, Leviathan, Leviathan. Chad facilitates creative strategy in all key business developments for the specialized creative agency, including managing the company's overall operations. His efforts have led to client relationships with Nike, Disney, Amazon, T Mobile, Kohler, universal, McDonald's, and Airbus, among others. Over here, if any of those companies I'm thinking you have Chad previously co founded the digital creative agency he drink in 2002, which merged with Leviathan in 2012. And over the years that firm produced breakthrough broadcasts and interactive work for an amazing roster of brands and agencies. His prior experience includes highly productive stints with the experiential marketing firm MC two is an entertainment and technology project manager with leading Hollywood post production sound company sound Deluxe is operations manager, a native of South Eastern United States, Chad earned his bachelor's of recording industry management at mtsu and a past present or multiple South by Southwest conferences.

 

Chad has also spoken at many other high profile events, including infocomm tied the American marketing Association's High Five conference, VCU brand centers Friday forum series, the numerous society for experiential graphic design events. If that didn't impress you enough. This is his story.

 

I am here with Chad Hudson, the CEO of Leviathan and Chad, thank you so much for coming on to the baby got backstory podcast. Before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about what is Leviathan cool name I know it's a you know, kind of historic, weird sea creature but in your context, what is Leviathan?

 

Chad Hutson  4:47 

Thanks for having me on Marc, appreciate it. Leviathan is a specialized design firm. We like to transform environments into bespoke experiences using a lot of digital wizardry and The way of constant interaction to make people's jaws drop. So hopefully that's a apt description of what we do.

 

Marc Gutman  5:06 

Yeah. And why don't we just get right to my burning question? Where's the name Leviathan come from?

 

Chad Hutson  5:12 

Whew, that was a hotly debated topic, we went round and round for a few different reasons. So I'd say out of the 100 or so names that we had come up with, Leviathan kept coming, this coming full circle, for us, the game part because we want it to be being in Chicago. Architecture is such an important part of the city, very, very classic city in regards to architecture as well. So that led to, okay, what's the classic name and Leviathan, as you may have seen, goes back from the days of the, of the, when the Bible was written, or at least how it was translated to essay by Titan by Thomas Hobbes about the Commonwealth. And also, if you look at the dictionary, there's something definition, something enormous. And that just kind of spoke volumes as far as we want to be probably somewhat intimidating to our competitors. But we also want to create the field of something big and something something unique. So all those different factors combined contributed to why we call Leviathan Leviathan. Awesome. And so

 

Marc Gutman  6:23 

as the CEO of a creative firm, like creative services firm like Leviathan, I mean, is this what you thought you'd always be doing? Like, you know, eight year old Chad, are you running around thinking you're gonna be, you know, running a creative services firm thinking big and doing big things?

 

Chad Hutson  6:40 

No, I'm kind of a kind of a shy guy in some ways. And so I'd never really thought I would be the CEO of anything. But as far as interests go, when I was a kid, I, I'm dating myself now, but I had what was known as the Radio Shack Color Computer. So I guess if you had a personal computer as a kid, you probably either had an apple, two e, or something like that, or Radio Shack Color Computer. So that in early age, I love to play around with computers I loved. We live in the woods. So I've always be outside and wanting to experience what nature had to offer. So I suppose that part doesn't surprise me. Love going to theme parks loves understanding how how the sausage is made and how things were were done. So the Creative Services part, glad to have, I guess, tapped into those childhood roots, but but leading an organization that does what we do. Yeah, a bit of a surprise for me.

 

Marc Gutman  7:37 

And did you grew up in the Chicago area?

 

Chad Hutson  7:39 

No, I grew up in the southeast. For the most part, I lived in rural Georgia, in a valley, lots of mountains nearby, I had a stream that ran behind our house in less fields. So it's a pretty interesting place to be raised. But a lot of childhood in Georgia, spent some time in LA suburbs as a kid as well. And I was born in Nashville. But Chicago has been my home for the last 16 years now.

 

Marc Gutman  8:06 

As a young kid in Georgia, did you were you a creative kid? I mean, were you into those types of pursuits? Or do you have other interests,

 

Chad Hutson  8:16 

I love to draw even though I sucked at it. I loved being musician, also not necessarily my greatest accomplishment. But I've learned how to play with a variety of different instruments within all the school bands and was in a rock band as a teenager, and even went to college to study audio engineering, just taking walk work in the music industry, man, it could be a producer. And certainly picked up some of the technical aspects of it, but just was blown away by by the talent that would go to go to my classes and be incredible audio engineers, as well as great musicians, I just realized, oh, man, I just don't know if I have what it takes to cut it. But it's also one school that I picked up not only the technical side of the music industry, to a certain extent, but also the business side. So I had that sort of more of a, a free form degree program where you could pick up essentially any number of classes that interest you, and that would formulate your degree. So everything from artist management, copyright, law, Music Publishing, as well as a business minor as well. So the finance side mix with audio engineering, mixed with other forms of management is a pretty, pretty unique kind of program of study. So I think that was also fortuitous for my experience later on in life.

 

Marc Gutman  9:37 

Yeah. And I imagine you into that program and that school so you could go out into the world and work in the recording industry. Is that what happened? I mean is, you know, did you get out and you just like, you know, we're here now, so something happened along the way.

 

Chad Hutson  9:57 

Sure. Yeah, I did. I did. Live in Nashville. For a number of years and worked in the music industry never really climbed too many rungs of the ladder there. But I would say, I spent Gosh, about five years worked for a country musician named Alan Jackson, who was, I guess, kind of a big deal at the time. So I worked for his management company, I worked for a music venue development company that never quite developed the music venue, I worked in, worked in publishing, work for indie record label for an artist named john prine, who recently passed. And in all those times, I thought, Wow, it's so cool to be close to the creative people in the industry, I get to see, see how it's all done. But the downside was, you got to see how things were done. And any sort of, I guess, business of creativity has the side where, at least in the music industry at the time, and this was right before the dawn of the mp3 and how that really transformed the whole industry. But that's a different topic. But just seeing how artists were treated as a, as a commodity as a thing versus as a human, and just how hard they were pushed. That, to me was a turning point where I realized, anytime you have someone who is an artist who is creative, those people should be better protected. And that's something that I think really resonated with me in coming years, as I became more of a producer project management of multimedia projects, that I understood just enough of what they needed to accomplish, and what what the process was for that. And being able to, again, protect them to a certain extent, or at least explain that to the outside world of here's the process, here's what needs to be done, and trying to shelter them, or shield them from some of the some of the crap that they may normally do so but actually discovered down the road that there's a career in that, and that is being a liaison, or middleman or producer. So that's what I became

 

Marc Gutman  11:58 

it was that what happened right away? or How was that transition from kind of bridging that dream. And that fallen dream? It's really interesting, because I have a lot of stories like that to where like the, the vision doesn't meet the reality. You know, like you get there. You're like, Oh, I mean, I had, I did the same thing. I went out to the movie business. And I was like, Oh, this is great. And I can have a career, but I'm not sure I want one. And you know, and we could talk about that at length, but it just didn't match my sort of fantasy revision of what that experience was like. So how did you make that then jump or leap into to marketing as a as a career?

 

Chad Hutson  12:36 

Yeah, this was a moment of frustration to a certain degree, as I mentioned, the ladder was was really tall in the music industry. And most people never really make it above a certain level. So while I was hovering towards the bottom of the ladder, some friends of mine, their company had been acquired out Las Vegas of all places. And it was a Hollywood based company called sound Deluxe. And they had a a themed entertainment, audio, visual, and Creative Services arm of that company. So they were supporting, like the Hard Rock Hotel and developing that music library. There were a lot of other themed places, universal studios in Hollywood, where different attractions that had audio visual hardware and components, but also sound design and sometimes content to a vibrating theater seats to robotics. So it's pretty interesting mixture of these physical elements with with media elements as well. And then the nuts and bolts that kind of stitch it all together. So I think the transition out of the music industry was pretty Swift. Even though sound Deluxe had its roots. In an audio, I thought, well, I'm getting on Nashville and leaving the industry behind, and then jumping right into this field, which then led to another gig with an exhibit company that also had a division that focused on developing these media rich, physical environments. I was, I was pretty hooked. And that's when I realized, I can still use some of the education I've had over the years, both in school and in my short lived music industry career. But I mean, just the combination of everything that I love on the on the technology side, as well as seeing, seeing these people that I worked with, create magic and doing it within the physical environment was a special. So that's what really stuck with me and caused that transition happened.

 

Marc Gutman  14:32 

Yeah, and when we started the show, and you kind of talked about Leviathan, you gave us you know, an answer that, hey, we do these big things, and this and that, and you've talked a little bit about multimedia. But I don't think people really are going to understand like, if we go to your website, we see these amazing installations. I mean, I'm I got a couple scrolling right here in the background and they're like blowing my mind. And so, you know, I want to also set the like contrast between That work and we'll kind of get into that. But so that's what we're seeing today. What were some of those early, big sort of multimedia projects back in the day that now you look at and you're like, well, maybe it's not so fantastical now. But at the time, it was groundbreaking.

 

Chad Hutson  15:16 

I have to admit, some of the early stuff still really resonates me I'm biased. So naturally, I'm going to pick favorites. But I think some of that early work still resonates even today with with people outside of the organization. There was within I think, probably the first seven or eight months of after Leviathan open, which was in 2010, there was an electronic musician named Amanda Tobin. And on top it's been around for a number of years, he was performing at a music festival electronic music festival called New Tech, and I believe in Montreal, and a friend of ours, a DJ, by the name of velo workhouse, had done lots of you remember the genre EDM, he did lots of electronic musicians and DJs sets, doing concert visuals for them. But what what Amman Tobin wanted to do was something a bit different. A lot of DJ sets, or electronic musicians would literally just be sitting in front of either a computer or, or turntables. And I'd have the cups of the earphones on their head. And there may be some lights blinking and then they would shake their head back and forth in the crowd would probably go crazy. But his idea was, let's give him something more to react to you. I want to have a think in terms of like an IMAX movie, something very cinematic, had a narrative experience, which would accompany his album Isom, which I think it was somewhat of a concept album for him. So now he just having visuals, but having those narrative visuals projection mapped on two crazy stage set. And for those of you who don't know, project projection mapping at home, that's okay. It's a technical term, if you can imagine wrapping a three dimensional object in a projected image or in light, and having it seem to be very form fitted for that object. So this the stage that was a bunch of white cubes look like they were stacked, stacked on top of each other. And these crazy visuals were projection onto that surface, as as music played, and turned out that the crowd loved it. And the work garnered a lot of press in wired and Fast Company, New York Times, much of the publication. So that was really a watershed moment for us and helped build our career. So I'll flag that one as a as a favorite that I'd say, from a financial perspective, not our shiny spot, but it's okay and paid dividends over the years just being a calling card for us.

 

Marc Gutman  17:51 

Speaking of holding up and still resonating, it looks like it still might be on your reel on your site. If I see it cycling through Is that right? Is that what I'm looking at?

 

Chad Hutson  17:59 

Yeah, it's again, it's kind of a legacy project from from the early days. But we it's been pretty remarkable. We've had people from, again, 10 years ago when that show was going on tour. But whenever I have conversations with folks, and they see that clients even seeing that on our we'll say, Yeah, I went to that show a decade ago, and I'd never seen anything before. Like it just completely blew my mind and I'll never forget it. So when you hear compliments like that mean, even though it's not, it's not marketing or advertising in the traditional sense. There's not a brand logo associated with it or no Grand Prix award that comes with that. Being that is probably one of the best competency and get some people have their mind blown and that they remember even 10 years later.

 

Marc Gutman  18:48 

That is incredible. You mentioned the early years Leviathan, let's let's go back there like how what was the, the genesis of the business like why Why? Why did you start this firm?

 

Chad Hutson  19:00 

Wow, yeah, definitely going in the Wayback Machine. I had started another smaller, called a web and motion production company. We did work for other advertising agencies and other smaller groups, building websites did some for for record labels, and some for big agencies like DDP. We also had some motion designers or animator errs on our staff that had been going along from how the early days of 2002 up through about 2008 2009. And that's when one of the previous big financial crises hits hit the US, and we had to layoff everyone. The other partners that had they were not interested in sticking around. So there was this company that we'd built over the years and just kind of sitting dead in the water. I was the last man standing literally, in a lofty warehouse space in Chicago, thinking what The hell am I gonna do? We, we had the work wasn't coming in, we had had dead at that point. So I'll save you the sob story to say over probably about six, eight months, the work came back, had the company to myself and had cash in the bank. So then it became a matter of what, what do I do next? And how can I do it differently. So I had met another gentleman by the name of Matt Daly, he was freelancing with with my organization. And he just turned to be a brilliant fellow, he was not only really talented and in 3d, but he was also a crazy artist. in other respects, he had graduated from the school, the artists stitute, designed and built robots for like a touring robotics troupe in Europe. And he had some of these other crazy techniques he was trying out so very much, we call them the nutty professor just as a nickname, because he really was that, that brilliant guy, he could do his day job as an animator, but he really had passion for doing these other, more technically advanced things, then met another guy who was a creative director who had been a painter and sculptor in his previous life. And at the time, he was running another animation studio. So we also got together and start talking about why have this company, it's kind of coming back to life. We all love building things for physical environments, and we like doing things kind of going beyond what is what is expected within those spaces. So maybe we just take what's left of my old company, and let's turn into something new. And that's literally what what Leviathan was, was my old Rolodex, I'll use air quotes for people who might still remember that term, my list of contacts the money in the bank, and started over with with those assets. And that was Leviathan.

 

Marc Gutman  21:45 

Was that hard? taken on partners? Was there any pause there? Were you? Was there any concern? Or was it pretty easy?

 

Chad Hutson  21:51 

Oh, getting married is never easy. It certainly came with its with its benefits too, though, having having to lead my own organization for a while having some other strong personalities come into the organization was I think was, it can be challenging, but it's also a very healthy thing to happen to have a balance between the business side and just called pure artistic side. And then the technical side, we kept the organization honest, for a number of years, we were able to, to at least support ourselves, I have just had a someone in the finance industry Tell me like, hey, a business is not. It's not to support a hobby. But in some ways, it kind of was because we got to build beautiful work. Some of it was very commercial. But I think it was just a good balanced organization for a number of years. But I think as, as we grew in size, and as we just wanted to keep it going, I think that's where the diversion of opinions between partners can sometimes come into play. It's not necessarily a matter of there was misalignment. The no one was necessarily wrong or, right. But the the aspiration is to be a pure artist and do nothing, nothing commercial and still make a healthy living. That's not that's not always a common happening. So, so some wanted to just have stability in their lives, and others want to be artists. And I think that's where some of the complications came in. But being I'd say as, quote unquote, parents who got married and had a baby that is Leviathan, certainly, we'd all be proud of the Leviathan that that exists today because of that parenting, if you will.

 

Marc Gutman  23:39 

Yeah, that's such an interesting topic of that you just brought up in that. I think a lot of creatives struggle with this, this tension between wanting to be an artist and wanting to make money. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. I think sometimes we feel guilty about it, we're like, oh, there's some like sin and being commercial or getting money, or we've sold our soul or compromising our what we do. But at the end of the day, you know, we're one of times very fortunate that we can do this for a living and solve business problems and get paid, but like, how do you reconcile that what was what was the sort of the, the recipe Leviathan for balancing that, that need to to be an artist yet be commercial?

 

Chad Hutson  24:25 

I once had another agency owner telling me that like, Hey, man, you're in the service industry, you are paid for a service, you are not paid to be an artist. So you kind of have to get over your self righteousness of trying to be not always trying to create art now your, your in your in marketing, you need to you need to just accept that. So that was a moment where I had to pause and wanted to push back and say, well, that's, that's a bunch of crap. But the more I thought about it, I think it did resonate. So that being said, we wouldn't Next Leviathan or at least what made Leviathan great in the early days was really trying to push the boundaries of what? what is possible within the physical space. If you think about, what do you see at a Disney or universal theme park, it seems to be magical and it defies reality. And that's those are the exact types of projects that we work on outside of, say, a corporate headquarters or, or Museum, we love working in the theme space as well. So in trying to focus on if it's not, well, we try to make it beautiful as well. But what would make this special? What could no one else do? Or at least not do very easily that we could do from a technology perspective? And then how can we make that technology invisible, so you feel like you are experiencing something that is sprinkled in pixie dust that it is magical, but there's no reason why we can't make it beautiful as well. So I think just always trying to recruit the right talent that understands what is what is cutting edge, but feasible. Avoid the bleeding edge so that you don't fall on your face from trying technology, it's not been tried and true. And then also making sure you have people who are who value design above a lot of other things. And so therefore, you don't compromise you make it make it bespoke and unique in its execution, and you make it as beautiful as you can, and as beautiful as a client's and branding will allow and you can't nail it every time. But as long as you strive for that and you do have some some end results that meet that criteria, then I consider that a win for sure.

 

Marc Gutman  26:44 

A common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we'll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email, we'll get you booked right away. So whether you're just getting started with a new business, or whether you've done some work and need a refresh, or whether you're a brand that's high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book your brand clarity call, you'll learn about our brand audit and strategy process. we'll identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you'll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We'll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Build the brand you've always dreamed of. Again, we'll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email. Now back to the show.

 

As a hearing you speak it actually took me back to my very first job, which was I was working for Disney Imagineering in Cali. You were an Imagineer. I Well, I don't think I don't know if I was technically I worked there I was on the payroll. I don't think I was an Imagineer though I was like a runner. Right. And for your total projects. Yeah, for different projects. But I would report to this total skunkworks kind of warehouse in Van Nuys that was very nondescript, and you'd walk in through different security and you know, and then there'd be like, look like the land of Misfit Toys with robots and welding. And then I go through all that. And then I'd actually walk into a private theater that had three panels, 70 millimeter, and we'd be screening, screening movies for Epcot and stuff like that. But as we're as we're talking, I was like, wow, do they have their own version? Because I'm looking at your website like work? Where are these things fabricated? And do you have like your own sort of secret Imagineering Leviathan lab, if you will, where these were these projects are assembled? What's that? Like?

 

Chad Hutson  29:07 

Yeah, I wish we had a gigantic fabrication facility where you could 3d prints something the size of a human being or to have tons of robots that are at our disposal. For the most part, we do have a a an engineering space where the team can work on prototyping things. We have other partners that will work with where they can fabricate other physical structures. But as far as like hooking computers up to that and projecting onto the wall and setting up different monitor arrays or testing out augmented virtual reality, any sort of installations that we might work on, we always try to set up a working prototype for that in our space. And it's, it's absolutely necessary that imagine designing a product and never really testing it and then just like sending out to the market and saying, Well, here it is. We really have to test out Those kinds of prototypes long before we get to the point of trying to roll it out or even showing it to the client. So it's been, it's always intriguing to see what, what works and what doesn't. When you just when you think you have the right plan, that plan is foiled by reality. And then you have to pivot. But a lot of important learnings come out of those, those mistakes. same can be said about live, as well as business. But prototyping, I think it's really important for us to test testings out, we learn new tricks, new processes from that. And, again, I love I love seeing much like those who work in in film, like you have looking behind the scenes and seeing how it's all made is, is intriguing in and of itself. So I love that process.

 

Marc Gutman  30:47 

Yeah, absolutely. And you're talking about like prototyping and getting it right. I mean, are there any projects that like, you just wish you could have had to do overrun? Or wish you're never even took on? Like, do you have any that just didn't? didn't quite work?

 

Chad Hutson  31:01 

I certainly I'd hate to bring up the the names of the of the innocent or the client names, either. But yeah, I mean, we have absolutely had some projects where, if anything, it's probably usually just a shortage of time. And when you, we don't have enough time to get something right. Even if it's less about being a perfectionist, and trying to do it over again, and maybe doing it even better the second or third time, sometimes you just don't have the luxury of finishing the work at all. So it's, you feel like you're stringing it together with with duct tape at the very end. So I would say sometimes those those projects happen. And all you can really do is stick with it, and work with clients and have them be as understanding as I possibly can. And you as much as you want to go back to them and say, Hey, we told you so we told you we needed more time, and still didn't happen. All you can do is let them know that, hey, we want to avoid what happened last time, right? So we need the ample time to to not only prototype this, but to install it and finish it out. So yeah, I can't really say a specific project. But I would just say time can be the enemy of of that kind of work. And anytime perfect.

 

Marc Gutman  32:19 

Yeah. So what do you want clients to know about this work? Like? Like, how do how do we get it? Right?

 

Chad Hutson  32:25 

Great question, I could probably come up with a pretty long list. So I'll just think of a few key points, I think that might be might be important for for future clients. No. I think for one, sometimes the the bells and whistles are not what makes these experiences as good as we all want them. technology's absolutely an important part. But if you are in a corporate headquarters, and you have a, say a gorgeous, giant display, floor to ceiling goes three storeys high. I've seen those where clients have cnn running on those screens versus having something that can be a valuable branded moment. So they invested all that money into probably millions of dollars in these gigantic view displays, and they don't think about what what the content is that goes on those. So that is that's kind of marketing 101, right, you need to have the right message to the right story. So I'd say think less about the technology and more about those, those immersive branded moments, you have to get that right. And you have to balance out the investment in, in the content in the story and in the design as much as you are on the technology side. If not, then you have a big expensive TV in your living room that you don't even have Netflix to play on. And you have a big screen that plays a screensaver. And that's, that's not doing anyone any great service, I'd say something else that's important about about these kinds of moments is that if you if you want to have a an environment that is cutting edge from a technology standpoint, you you have to understand that that comes with an investment of time and you have to experiment and some things you aren't always going to get right and it kind of comes back to the time aspect you need time to prototype and test and think that's what groups like, like a Disney or universal get right is they they spend a lot of time developing new technology new IP before they release it out into the world. So that's not always possible in the in the call the brand environments. So So I'd say maybe to come first. So first full circle on that point. It is clients sometimes want to push the envelope further than then should be possible and you need to kind of work with solid state technologies and techniques that that we know will work over the test of time and and can't always push the envelope as far as we'd like. There we go. That narrative first and foremost, and investing in content over technology, and then just kind of being realistic with expectations and what you can do within a branded environment.

 

Marc Gutman  35:12 

Yeah, totally. And so when you think about all that, and you're talking about solid state technologies and tried and true, let's flip it and kind of go the other way, like, what are you most excited about in terms of technologies that are coming up in ways that can be applicable to how you work with your clients?

 

Chad Hutson  35:30 

Yeah, I'd say, a lot of what we've been doing lately is I try to use a simple term real time content. This could be anything from say data visualization to artificial intelligence or computer vision, it's it's kind of taking taking some these technologies and putting it on steroids and making the content not just playing back a video, but having having real time aspects to it having data that's refreshed at the very, in the very second that you're looking at a screen. other technologies like game engines, so unity, or unreal, are the same kinds of technologies used to build console video games. And that kind of engine can also be very powerful with creating beautiful graphics, and affecting it real time, either through cards, sensing physical gestures, or using other external controllers. But I think the evolution of all that real time content has been pretty remarkable. And it's a cornerstone of what we do. And when you have that in the Brandon environment, I mean, you can have different types of industrial simulations or, or different types of data visualizations helps communicate to, to your organization or to your clients. Just how dynamically something can change. And it does it in a way that's compelling and beautiful. And that's what honestly, that's what creating all the these experiences is about. Much like in a, in a theme park as a kid, those kind of magical moments resonate with you for a long time. And that's what that's the kind of tools that we build for our clients is create an experience for them that they're not seeing, gonna forget. And for for those clients, it leads to, to either engage employees or transactions with clients. So those real time technologies, I think, are, are very exciting for us, and adds levels of personalization as well. So that if, if you enter to a space, this is an overused analogy of Minority Report, if you recall that film, but the the moment where Tom Cruise is running around, he has someone else's identity, but everywhere he runs within the retail space, these ads pop up that that speak his name, and supposedly cater to what his interests are. So while that's a bit, can you say it's a bit far fetched anymore, but Well, that would be a bit intrusive in real life, I think, when applied in the right way, if you share that kind of information, much like you would with a website or an app, to share it in the right way, within the physical environment, the real time personalized experiences that can come with that I think are it can almost be worth the worth sharing information. And to get that kind of payoff for that experience.

 

Marc Gutman  38:29 

Yeah. And so I think about that, and I think about it's like using data for good versus data for bad. And it's, how do we do that? Because Because I want to be a part of that world where I get the personalized, customized experience that you just described. That sounds amazing, right? Like sounds like but like then there's always this like, other shoe that will drop of data being used against us. Is there a way to, to live in that cooler world without the dark side?

 

Chad Hutson  39:00 

Yeah, it's a difficult question to answer. I would say, I know, I keep throwing out these Disney theme park examples. But I'd say it's a good model to think about what what Disney had created a few years back is something called the magic band. And I think they've since pivoted more to using mobile devices if people don't want to use the magic band, but it's more or less an RFID wristband that is that identifies you as a person. And when you register for the magic band, you also attach a credit card or a bank card to that so that when you go into the park, yes, you can use the park to get in to get in kind of recognize you and say okay, yeah, they've paid to their admission fee. But when they're going to a restaurant and they want to, to order a pick up their food, they know Okay, well this is this is Chad, he picked up the hot dog he ordered from his mobile device. But then there's also moments where if you're going through a ride and I think we worked on this for for the Haunted Mansion, which is an attraction, as you're riding through. It's called the dune buggy. There's an identifier where knows if you're sitting in a certain seat within the the buggy and the ghosts that's projected onto a surface in front of you hold up a science, that's Chicago or bust, it knows that I'm from Chicago. And it pulled that information and and displayed it, which made it a pretty remarkable move for me like, hey, how did they they know that they know us from Chicago. So that's a one specific case. I suppose that happening. But are they using that information for marketing purposes? Very likely. But again, I think it kind of comes back to the debate of a customer paid for this experience. Did it make it a better experience? for them? It's is it more remarkable? Is that more amazing or magical? I think the answer is yes. Then the customers are okay with that. But But that said, I think whenever whenever the question of ethics comes into play is transparency is key. So if you don't know what you're signing up for when you're sharing that kind of information, then yeah, that's one of the bad things start happening. And you don't always want to read through a 45 page agreement to see if, like, Am I really giving up information that I shouldn't? That's an invasion of my privacy or not. But that's our perspective. If it's, if it's worth the trade off to the customer, then I suppose it's okay. Question mark.

 

Marc Gutman  41:33 

And I haven't been to Disney in so long and made me want to go back. Sounds awesome. And you sold it like it sounds great. I want the personalized experience. I want my magic band to work. So that sounds that sounds great. And a few years ago, you actually went through was it an acquisition or a merger with with the envoy group?

 

Chad Hutson  41:51 

Yeah, absolutely. There's a group called envoy, and it's based in Southern California, specifically Orange County. And we had worked together with them. If you've ever seen a Vizio television, it seems like there's one in almost every household. But when Vizio first came on to the scene, as an electronics manufacturer, Ondoy was like their first digital agency. And at the time, they were doing a ton of work for them. And they'd collaborated with us on doing some 3d animation, software products. So what started as a successful collaboration some years ago, and the continued relationship, it just evolved into conversations around, hey, on voices, we're, we're trying to build something bigger. And we were looking for the right family members. So with them being a phone call, called a traditional digital agency, where they were focused more on creating websites and apps and digital products for their clients. And we were doing more of the call to digital spaces or environments. It just seemed like a great match. So they, when they purchase gas in four years ago, and now it's, yeah, I'm really glad to happen, especially in light of pandemic, having a larger family with with a greater resources, it's certainly been very, very important for our organization to, to stay strong and, and even thrive in those times. So it's been a, I'd say much to my comment earlier, sometimes when it comes to marriage. It's not always easy, but I think that we are like minded individuals, and we're making something bigger and better. That's been great.

 

Marc Gutman  43:36 

Was it difficult at that time? I mean, I know, I know. Now looking back, you're like, this is great. And we got through the pandemic, and we're part of this happy family. But at the time, was it hard to think about giving up your autonomy and doing that and becoming a part of a different group?

 

Chad Hutson  43:53 

very fair question. I would say there were mixed emotions that they're there and how was a boss of sorts, whenever you are, whenever someone buys you for what you have, I think that their hope is to, to make more money off of that. And that's the fair assumption. That's what when you run a business, you want to be profitable. And as I described, in our earlier years, we were probably more focused on making great work and at least supporting ourselves and not really going beyond that. So I think it was an important lesson to learn if you you can make great work, but you also have to if you want to grow if you want to have more stability, you need to need to earn money for your shareholders. So I think that that was while it was difficult to shift the mindset of being more businesslike versus being more suppose creative. I, the other part of my brain completely got it. And I think that was also the other part of my brain is what wanted to learn more about the Beside of how do larger businesses operate? What? What are the better financial models to pursue? And how can we be more efficient at doing things, we can't always just be the experimenters at some point in time, okay, we have to move on to the next project, we can't always just fund experimentation ourselves. While we try to do that, when we can, I think learning on the job shouldn't necessarily be something that that you have to pay for, you can build that into projects. So, so there were definitely some adjustments. But again, I feel like it's built a it's helped us to build a better operation, all the way around. And we serve a wide range of clients now. And they're still really good about giving us enough autonomy. If anything, they're there in Southern California, we're in Chicago. So even though everything is virtual, at the moment, it's still a good a good balance of letting us to what we do best and being a support system. And, and I guess a boss when, whenever needed.

 

Marc Gutman  46:05 

Sometimes a little accountability doesn't hurt, right? Like I talked about this morning with someone I was like, wow, like not being accountable, because I have my own thing, but like I fully can recognize that some accountability will also go a long way.

 

Chad Hutson  46:19 

Yeah, I mean, we all push ourselves, right? If we're business owners or operators, we push ourselves, but sometimes you need the outside influence. And that's, that's a bit of, yeah, I think we're on the same page.

 

Marc Gutman  46:29 

Yeah, that's really cool. So as you look to the future, what do you what are you most excited about these days? What what are you looking forward to?

 

Chad Hutson  46:37 

I don't think the Android had acquired Leviathan, as well as another company called Bulldog Drummond. And I don't think they're gonna stop there. I think they are certainly looking to find other like minded organizations that fit the mold. So having a bigger family having greater capabilities, it'll allow our team the ability to cross pollinate that much more. Our different offices have definitely started to team up more. And we're learning from those experiences and growing from them. Not only does it give our clients get some more, more offerings and more support, but it just gives our other employees opportunities to try new things and work in different offices. That that kind of growth, I think, is what's really exciting for us. But I'm also excited for, for the world to start opening up again, because everything we do is pretty much centered around physical environments and physical environments have been taboo for the last 1518 months almost. So having having theme parks, museums, reopen corporate headquarters, that are reopening and being able to put experiences in those spaces, because we've remained very busy during, even during the lockdown. But as the world opens up, and there's experiences that we've been building, have have also opened with them. I just think that, that people are going to be so excited about getting back into spaces and experiencing things that it's going to be a very busy next few years for us.

 

Marc Gutman  48:14 

Yeah, I for one, I'm very excited about reemerging into the world and experiencing life once again. So Chad, as we come to a close here, I'd like you to think back to your time growing up in Georgia young boy and plan along the stream. And you know, if he was able to see you now, what do you think he'd say,

 

Chad Hutson  48:38 

wow. Now what I just see today, or what I see the whole movie of the last 35 years or so.

 

Marc Gutman  48:47 

That's up to you. What are you going to share with them?

 

Chad Hutson  48:51 

Oh, no, I think I would have to say I want to take a moment to at least say You know what? We did all right. But I think the one important ones, important things that I always try to remind myself of is to is to not be so hard on ourselves. Now to say that good enough is truly good enough. It's not just it's adequate. Like No, I did. I did well, it's good. And we don't always have to keep flogging ourselves to say could have done better should have done better. Because we you try you fail and you learn from it. And so I guess I would just say that. Hey, man, you've done pretty well for yourself and be proud of it. But now get back out there and and do more do better. So yeah, I would just tell myself that it's going to be okay, and hang in there and don't give up and just know that you tried your best. Probably not the strongest answer I could give them but that's that's honestly what goes through my mind a lot of times some maybe you could have done more or could have done better but you did pretty well. So be good with

 

Marc Gutman  50:07 

that is Chad Hutson, CEO and co founder of Leviathan. I've always wondered who made all those amazing digital experiences, I would interact with it performances, theme parks and office buildings. And now I know it's most likely Leviathan. I can't stop thinking about what Chad said that sometimes good enough really is good enough. Throughout my career, I haven't always agreed with that sentiment. But coincidentally, this summer my personal theme is, be content, not complacent, but be content with the good things. lean in. Remember why we're here to enjoy this experience. I also really resonated with Chad's notion that we should invest in content over technology. After all these years and all the technological advancements we've seen, from film, to radio, to television to the internet, one thing has remained constant, great and compelling storytelling wins above all else. A big thank you to Chad Hutson and the team at Leviathan. We will link to all things Chad and Leviathan in the show notes. And if you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast at wildstory.com. Our best guests like Chad come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that's the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS see you'll never miss an episode. A lot of big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can't deny

BGBS 071: Maurice Cherry | Creative Strategist | The Restorative Power of Play

BGBS 071: Maurice Cherry | Creative Strategist | The Restorative Power of Play

June 9, 2021

BGBS 071: Maurice Cherry | Creative Strategist | The Restorative Power of Play

Maurice Cherry is the creative strategist for CodeSandbox, an online code editor tailored for web applications. Prior to this, he served principal and creative director at Lunch, an award-winning multidisciplinary studio he created in 2008 that helps creative brands craft messages and tell stories for their targeted audiences, including fostering relationships with underrepresented communities. Past clients and collaborators included Facebook, Mailchimp, Vox Media, NIKE, Mediabistro, Site5, SitePoint, and The City of Atlanta.

Maurice is a pioneering digital creator who is most well-known for Revision Path™, an award-winning podcast which is the first podcast to be added to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Other projects of Maurice’s include the Black Weblog Awards, 28 Days of the Web, The Year of Tea, and the design anthology RECOGNIZE.

Maurice’s projects and overall design work and advocacy have been recognized by Apple, Adobe, NPR, Lifehacker, Design Observer, Entrepreneur, AIGA, the Columbia Journalism Review, Forbes, Fast Company, and many other print and digital outlets. Maurice is also an educator, and has built curricula and taught courses on web design, web development, email marketing, WordPress, and podcasting for thousands of students over the past ten years.

Maurice is the 2018 recipient of the Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary from AIGA, Creative Loafing Atlanta’s 2018 Influentials in the fields of business and technology, was named as one of GDUSA’s “People to Watch” in 2018, and was included in the 2018 edition of The Root 100 (#60), their annual list of the most influential African-Americans ages 25 to 45. In previous years, Maurice was awarded as one of Atlanta’s “Power 30 Under 30″ in the field of Science and Technology by the Apex Society. He was also selected as one of HP’s “50 Tech Tastemakers” in conjunction with Black Web 2.0, and was profiled by Atlanta Tribune as one of 2014's Young Professionals. He is also a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

Maurice holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Morehouse College and a Master's degree in telecommunications management from Keller Graduate School of Management.

In this episode, you'll learn...

  • As a creative on the web, it's beneficial to stay fluid and agile enough to go where the market goes. It's detrimental to focus on only one specialty because the industry changes so quickly that it may become obsolete.
  • When done correctly, brands can put forth an image that is discordant with people's initial perception of them, through storytelling in marketing. This can draw in an entirely new audience based on the brand's "personality."
  • Podcasting is not as easy as it looks. Everything is deliberate, and a lot of care goes into each episode.

Quotes

[8:10] It almost is a detriment to be kind of a specialist, because your specialty may end up getting absorbed or may become obsolescent or something like that. So you kind of have to stay fluid and kind of see where different trends are going and see how you can fit in there.

[12:45] Brands may try to put forth an image of who they are or who they want to be. And that may not even mesh with how people are thinking about them…but it makes people remember them in a way that perhaps people may not think of, and so they may gain a whole new level of audience just based off of that kind of storytelling and interaction that draws them in to who they are as a brand and what they sort of represent in terms of company values.

[1:00:43] I think people will look at the 400 episodes of revision path and just see a monolithic set of people. But I mean, there's so much diversity within the people that I have interviewed, whether it's age diversity, whether it's what they do in the industry, years of experience, there's men, there's women, there's trans folk, there's folks in the US and the Caribbean, throughout Europe, throughout Africa, throughout Asia and Australia. They're everywhere. The thing that sort of ties them all together is they're practicing designers, or they're practicing techies, or they're doing something creative on the web that is worthy of kind of falling into line with everything that I'm doing with revision paths.

[1:04:53] I just turned 40 this year. And there's still a lot of things about myself that I feel like I've managed to still keep a very playful spirit and still be able to kind of tap into the restorative power of play, even into the work that I do. I mean, even what I'm doing with creative strategy, it's kind of playing at work a little bit. I get to really dive into myself and come up with inspiring things that we can do and fantastic campaigns that we can execute.

Resources

Podcast: Revision Path

LinkedIn: Maurice Cherry

Twitter: @mauricecherry

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Podcast Transcript

Maurice Cherry 0:02
And I started doing these long form interviews, maybe about 1500 to 2000 words or so. But it just took so long to put together. I was doing it by myself. And it was someone that actually was a reader of revision path, who one day wrote me and said that she was a fan of revision path as you would really like to be on revision path, but wanted to record a podcast because she had a podcast that she was doing in Chicago. At the time. I'm like, yeah, we can record that's fine. thinking to myself, I have no recording equipment. So we ended up recording our interview, the very first episode of revision path on my mobile phone in a restaurant. Terrible quality. I still keep the episode out. I mean, it's somewhat listable, I guess, I don't know. But that was kind of where the genesis of the podcast started.

Marc Gutman 0:54
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today's most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today's episode of Baby got backstory, we are talking with Maurice cherry, the award winning podcaster, creative strategist, and designer. And before we get into this episode, I feel so lucky that I get to talk to people. And I get to talk to people on this show. And I get to talk to people on this show, and share it with you, the audience. I truly, truly, truly thank you and appreciate you. If you like this show, and want to show your like an appreciation for me or the show, please head over to Apple podcasts or Spotify and give us a five star review and rating. Ratings really do matter. Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on third charts. And we're human. We like likes and follows and ratings too. So thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today's guest is Maurice cherri, creative strategist, designer and host of the award winning podcast revision path. past clients and collaborators included Facebook, MailChimp, Vox media nyck Media Bistro site five sitepoint in the city of Atlanta. Maria is a pioneering digital creator, who is most well known for revision path and award winning podcast, which is the first podcast to be added to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Other projects of maurices include the black weblog awards 28 days of the web, the year of t in the design anthology recognize Murray says projects and overall design work and advocacy have been recognized by Apple, Adobe NPR, life hacker design observer entrepreneur, the AI GA, the Columbia Journalism Review, Forbes Fast Company in many other print and digital outlets. He says the 2018 recipient of the Steven Heller prize for cultural commentary from the AI GA, creative loafing Atlanta's 2018 influentials in the fields of business and technology was named one of GED USA people to watch in 2018. It was included in the 2018 edition of the route 100. He was number 60 and their annual list of the most influential African Americans ages 25 to 45. In previous years, Maurice was awarded one of Atlanta's power 30 under 30 in the field of science and technology by the apex society. He was also selected as one of HPS 50 tech tastemakers in conjunction with black web to Dotto. It was profiled by Atlanta Tribune is one of 2014 young professionals. He is also a member of the International Academy of digital arts and sciences. And this is his story.

I am here with Maurice cherry who is a creative strategist, designer and podcaster. You may know him from his very popular podcast revision path, and that's because they just recorded their 400th episode which is a major, major milestone Marie's Welcome to the baby. Got back History podcast.

Maurice Cherry 5:01
Thank you so much for having me, Mark, this is great.

Marc Gutman 5:04
That's so great to have you here. Why don't we just hop right into it? I mean, you, you have this varied what I'd call a hybrid background of creative strategist designer podcaster. Like, how did that come to be like, like, how do you make that all work in today's environment?

Maurice Cherry 5:24
You know, I'm kind of still trying to figure that out myself. I'm lucky to be able to kind of remain a bit fluid and hybrid in some sorts as it relates to my skill set, which allows me to kind of go where the market goes, but I mean, my background, I have a undergraduate degree in mathematics. my graduate degree is in telecommunications, management's. I've worked in media, I've worked in web, I've worked with nonprofits, I've worked with tech startups, I've had my own business for nine years. So I've done a little bit of everything and a lot of different places. And I've had the opportunity to work with everyone from, you know, startup founders and entrepreneurs to like, captains of industry at fortune 100 companies. So I've kind of been a little all over the place. And like I said, being able to remain fluid has helped me as things have changed in the market. I mean, I started off working for companies here, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia, I started off working for companies here and then quit the last place I was working out, which was at&t and working as a senior web designer, started my own studio did that for nine years, sort of wound that down and then jump back into working for places design working for tech startups. And just kind of going from there. Yeah, and

Marc Gutman 6:40
you use that word, fluid and fluidity. And you know, the old way of doing things used to be very specialized used to be very siloed not not bouncing between disciplines. Why do you think it's important to to be fluid in in your skill set in your career? What advantage is that given you,

Maurice Cherry 7:01
um, for me, the advantage that it's given is being able to have the perspective to see where commonalities lie, as the market, or as you really the industry sort of changes. I mean, when I first came about on the web, you were either a web designer, a web developer, or a webmaster, like those are kind of the three particular titles that you had. And now you've got all different types of product designers and UX designers and things like that, despite the fact that there are new titles and the way that things have changed. There's still some sort of common threads between a lot of these different types of titles. And even as companies have come along and introduced new types of technology into the world, which therefore mean that there are new types of people that work on these things. Like, there's conversation designers, there's mixed reality designers like you know, a couple of weeks ago, I was first introduced to the metaverse, which sounds like something you'd hear in like a 90s sci fi afternoon kids show her something. So there's so many Tell that to say that the market and the industry changes so much, it almost is a detriment to be kind of a specialist, because your specialty may end up getting, you know, absorbed or may become obsolescent or something like that. So you kind of have to stay fluid and kind of see where different trends are going and see how you can fit in there.

Marc Gutman 8:29
Yeah, and

I want to be a part of the metaverse like that sounds awesome. I don't even know what that is. But I want to like tell people that I am part of the metaverse or that I work in the metaverse, that'd be great. And it's really interesting because the person that introduced us, Douglas Davis, who is appeared on this show, he was talking about something really, really similar in his conversation, his interview, which was a lot of what we're doing today hasn't been invented yet. Right? And we're kind of in this next wave of, of that. And so he gave the example back when he was starting out, like no one had really invented, like how to build web pages and websites. And so it was real time, right? And then we started to grow up in no one had invented how to be an expert on Twitter when Twitter first came out, we all just kind of did it, you know. And now you know, what I'm hearing you say is that business is again, moving technology is moving so fast. And it's you know, they're intertwined, right Business and Technology and it's moving so quickly, that you have to be fluid that you have to be nimble, and you have to be kind of you can't be an expert at anything, if anything because it's moving so fast, but what you probably can be is a really good thinker and a really good strategist in order to bring all these disciplines together. Did I didn't get that right.

Maurice Cherry 9:52
Yeah, that's pretty accurate. I mean, the the beauty of my particular title of being a creative strategist Is that no matter what business that I'm put in, I'm still able to kind of function because what I do, but one of the top one of the things that I'm sort of tasked to do is kind of be a company's in house creative experts. So I'm working across teams to discover opportunities for storytelling. I'm working maybe with a marketing team on campaigns, I'm working with a sales team on ways that they can reach new audiences. So I can kind of be very flexible, you know, no matter what sort of business that I'm putting in, which is pretty good.

Marc Gutman 10:31
Yeah. And that sounds like awesome, like, I hear you talk. And I'm like, wow, I want to be a creative strategist, you know, how, you know? How does that show up in business? are more and more businesses recognizing the need for it? And what really is the the, the impetus for bringing on a creative strategist? Like why? Why do they say like, hey, Maria, we need you to come in and help us out.

Maurice Cherry 10:55
In my experience has mostly been when it's boiled down to needing help with storytelling, or with some sort of brand awareness or brand campaign strategy tends to be tied. In my experience, that strategy has tended to be tied to branding fairly easily. So say, at the past few places that I've worked at, I've done a lot of sort of brand centric work with what they're doing in order to take the story of what their business is, and what it is that they're trying to sort of put forth to their customers. And then really kind of, I don't know, tell that in a way that their audience would find compelling or that potential audiences may find compelling. And that could be video, that could be a podcast, that could be a really well done marketing campaign. It could be a drip campaign of newsletters, it could be a series of white papers, it can really sort of manifest in a number of different ways, depending on who we're trying to reach and what the story is that we're trying to tell.

Marc Gutman 11:51
Yeah. And so as I think about it, I mean, I get excited about this idea of creative strategist and working at a brand level across departments, because that's typically where we run into problems, right, is that this type of initiative is siloed, into the marketing department into the creative department. And so having that influence across departments is really, you know, what I see is the magic of this type of work. But when you were, in your experience, when you look at this, what do brands that get this right? Like, what do they do? What are you seeing them do to get this this type of work? Right?

Maurice Cherry 12:31
One thing I'm seeing is that they're doing a lot of listening, they're listening to their audience there, whether that's through social media, or through any sort of, you know, other channel or back channel, they're listening to what their audience is telling them. Oftentimes, brands may try to put forth an image of who they are or who they want to be. And then that may not even mesh with how, you know, people are thinking about them. Sometimes that works to a brand's advantage. Sometimes it doesn't. I think we've mostly seen this on social media, where you see brands like, Oh, God, what's a good brand that that's kind of subversive stay comes. The stake of his brand, for example, is weirdly stoic and philosophic. On Twitter, which you would not associate with a brand of like frozen meat products, like, why are they so deep right now, I don't understand this. But it makes people remember them in a way that perhaps, you know, people may not think of steak gums. And so they may gain a whole new level of audience just based off of that kind of storytelling and interaction that draws them in to like, who they are as a brand, and what they sort of represent in terms of company values. And such, I certainly thinks that as social media has grown as that and and as more people have tapped into social media, they're kind of starting to hold brands accountable a lot for the causes that they find the people that they hire, a number of companies get taken the task for these sorts of things that have nothing to do with their actual product at all. But if you're hiring someone who might be unknown abuser, for example, that's going to look bad on the brand. Or if you know your your company is funding a politician that might be taken away, or might be funding voting rights or something well taken away voting rights or something like that. These are the kinds of things that people are now keyed into. And they're looking at brands to kind of be these while they're there. They're wanting to make sure that the brands that they support with their dollars are also kind of, you know, in accordance with their values as well.

Marc Gutman 14:37
Absolutely. And it's, it's crazy and amazing at the same time to me, I mean, I love the amount of power that consumers have on brands at the same time. Everybody has a voice right? And so how can brands even navigate all this? pressure and criticism to be something Different, right? You can't You can't please everybody all of the time, like, where do you see the challenges for brands in this new landscape?

Maurice Cherry 15:09
I mean, I think the biggest challenge that happens is just making sure that you are being consistent with your voice. Often times I've seen brands try to like adopt a certain kind of you know, cheeky haha Twitter voice or whatever, that may be completely discordant with how they treat employees or, or you know how they treat customers or something like that. This is particularly the case I've seen with a lot of tech startups that try to like get in on certain little you know, punny things that are happening. But then something hits the verge where they mistreated a number of employees or something like that. And it's like, oh, you can't be you can't be cheeky and sarcastic on Twitter, and then you're treating your employees like crap, you know, behind the scenes. So I think love just trying to be consistent throughout everything that you're doing is one thing that that companies should think about as they kind of navigate the space, I would, I would also say, you know, it helps to just be agile and nimble, because sometimes these you know, if a certain catastrophe befalls a brand, sometimes it happens completely out of the blue for something they don't even know about. So, for example, say, a company has a particular actor or actress as a spokesperson. And this actor or actress did something on Instagram. Well, the first thing people are going to do, yes, they're going to take that particular actor or actress to task, but then they're also going to take the company to task and think, Oh, well, is this the kind of person that you want speaking for your product? And now it's like, oh, now we have to kind of go into crisis mode, and figure out how do we either distance ourselves from this? Or say, Yes, we are a part of what it is that this actor actress is about, here's what we're doing, as a company or as a brand to support them. So it's, it's tricky, but you have to kind of be, you know, pretty nimble to these sorts of things, because they can happen really out of the blue.

Marc Gutman 17:08
Yeah, and there's a lot going on. And so, you know, it really lays out the, you know, the the framework for why a company might need a creative strategist. Yeah, there. It's not just this omni directional unit, or is it? I mean, I guess it'd be one directional conversation. It's not a one way conversation, right, this massive dialogue, and there's comments and insights and, and opinions, ping pong all over from every direction, and to really have someone at a higher level thinking like, how are we going to manage this conversation as something that is no longer a luxury for brands, but really a necessity?

Maurice Cherry 17:44
Yeah, there's a lot of thought that has to go into so many things, the imagery that you use the hashtags that you use, the colors that you're using, all of that ends up sort of falling under the purview, usually of creative strategist. And I will say, you know, a lot of advertising firms employ creative strategist as well. So they know fully kind of what it means to have someone that's really thinking about the brand from like this 360 view, but also from this bird's eye view of being able to zoom out and really see all parts of where a particular campaign or something may touch, and realize those sort of points where something may go wrong, or maybe misconstrued and try to figure out a way to kind of circumvent that or fix that issue, you know, so it doesn't occur.

Marc Gutman 18:29
Yeah. And so switching gears a little bit, you mentioned that you're in Atlanta. Now. Is that where you grew up?

Maurice Cherry 18:35
No, I grew up originally in Selma, Alabama. But I've been here in Atlanta now for a little over 20 years. Now. I came here in 1999. So I've been here for what that's 21 years or something like that. I've been here longer than I've been in Alabama.

Marc Gutman 18:56
Well, looking back to Alabama, assuming that you were there when you know, Murray was a young Murray's, like eight years old and you're hanging out. And were you there in Selma when you were eight?

Maurice Cherry 19:06
Yeah, yeah, I grew up there. went to elementary, middle and high school there. Cool. Cool. So

Marc Gutman 19:11
eight year old Morrison, did he think he was going to be a creative strategist?

Maurice Cherry 19:18
I'm pretty sure eight year old Mario had no idea what a creative strategist was. I think eight year old Mario is probably either wanted to be a firefighter. I have an uncle, that's a fire chief. Or probably a writer. Probably one of those two is when I probably wanted to be at that age.

Marc Gutman 19:37
Then I was gonna ask, but a writer might fill in this answer. So did you have a tendency towards either creativity or strategy or both? or What were you into at that age and as you started to matriculate through through the years and sama

Maurice Cherry 19:54
Oh my god, eight years old. I really was into writing. I mean, that sounds like such an old hobby for a kid but I had been writing probably since around, let's see eight years old. What's that like, second grade, second, third grade, something like that. I have been writing since first grade like stories and also drawing along with them. I have an older brother, he's four years older. And he's really like, the super visual creative in the family, he paints he draws he sculpts. I mean, he's, he's a fantastic artist. And I remember growing up wanting to be like him, but I could not draw, I could do like little stick figures or whatever. I would say my work was very abstract at that age when I look back on it now. But I would draw that I would write these stories that would correspond with the drawings. And I remember, my teachers would give us this sheet of paper where it's like, blank on top, and then there's ruled lines on the bottom. And so you draw whatever top the picture or what have you. And then you write your story. Down below, I remember doing a lot of those, I have a whole, like binder full of those in my storage unit from when I was a kid, like just doing a ton of writing and drawing and exploring, I guess, I mean, trying to explore my creativity in that rather limited space. I mean, Soma is a is a very small town in South Central Alabama, most people know about it from the civil rights movement. I can tell you growing up there as a kid, I mean, it's the country, it's not super fun. Like, there's not, there's no, you know, big amusement parks, or movie theaters and things like that, that you would, you know, kind of hang out and do stuff with as a kid. So it was very much, you having to kind of find your own entertainment, maybe you're hanging out with other kids, maybe you're at home. A lot of people would be in church, because almost a big church town is like 100 plus churches there. So that's usually kind of what you were doing. You were trying to find something to do. Maybe watch TV, let's see eight years old that I haven't intended. I probably had an intent though back then also. So I was most likely playing Super Mario Brothers or pro wrestling. Probably pro wrestling, I was probably star man in pro wrestling back then.

Marc Gutman 22:17
Good, good hobby, good hobby. And you mentioned that you know, you were creative with words, your brother visually creative. Were your parents creative? Did they instill this in your Where'd that come from?

Maurice Cherry 22:32
Um, no, they're not creative at all. Let me let me take them. I mean, I think you know, as I think parents have to be creative to some capacity, just dealing with children, but they weren't in particularly creative fields. My dad at the time, was an engineer at GE, working on plastics. And my mom was working at the local community college as a lab assistant in the biology department. So they were very much like in the sciences kind of feel. So not a lot of, you know, creativity there, I would imagine, but I did have the opportunity at times to maybe go like with my dad to work or maybe go up my mom to work and like, see where they work and like, see the machines and see the lab equipment and all that sort of stuff, at least get interested in it like, like, know that this is like a possibility for me, perhaps but no one say anything creative. Like we don't think like someone doesn't have any, at least not to my recollection, any art museums or, or anything like that, where you would go and like be overwhelmed with visual creative inspiration. At that age, maybe probably when I was a little older, I certainly remember getting a lot of visual and creative inspiration from magazines. So I think probably when I was maybe about 10, or 11 or so I remember us getting maybe I had to be old enough that maybe I was a teenager at this point. But we would get subscriptions to like zillions magazine, which was Consumer Reports. They had this like kids vertical that they called zillions. And I remember we would get vive magazine and source the source magazine and stuff like that. So I'm gonna get visual inspiration from magazines a lot. Growing up,

Marc Gutman 24:18
what an awesome like, sub brand for kids zillions like

Maurice Cherry 24:23
yeah, I don't know, if they do that anymore. It was it was like they were teaching kids how to be like, responsible consumers. So they would like for example, talk about fruit juice and say how most fruit juice is not made of actual juice. If you check the labels, it's actually more you know, it's actually water and sugar and all this sort of stuff. So they were kind of like teaching you how to, you know, be a good consumer as a kid. It was like, it was like a kid's magazine about money, which was very interesting.

Marc Gutman 24:52
That's so cool.

I love it. And

as you got older and as you got into high school was this creative like writing And in this creative outlet, was that still coming out of you? Or what were your interests at that time?

Maurice Cherry 25:06
It was, I mean, I was all over the place for people that knew me in high school, I was all over the place I was writing. Let's see, I think I was in eighth grade or so. And I started taking college English courses in writing. So I was like, always writing something writing poems and like, getting published and stuff. But also right around seventh or eighth grade, I discovered music. And I discovered why once I discovered music, we had a band in middle school. And I wanted to join the band because the band could get out of sixth and seventh period. And I'm like, Well, I want to get out of 67 period. How do I make that happen? And they had like this open session where you, you know, go to the band room and you choose the instrument like, I remember going in and the band director, Mr. Ruffin would say, like, you know, you choose the instrument and turn the instrument will choose you like you just pick the one that you think you'll do best on it. I really wanted to play trumpet. I was like, yeah, I'm gonna play trumpet, but the mouthpiece was just too small. I just couldn't get the right on the shore. And then my band director switched me over to trombone. And that was like a match made in heaven. That was perfect. So I played music, from seventh grade all the way through high school, all the way through college, all throughout my 20s. I played trombone, in marching bands, and jazz bands and like, house bands, at clubs and all sorts of stuff. So in high school, I was doing music, I was writing. Also just doing class, I was kept in the math club. I was sort of all over the place in high school, doing a lot of different things. I was really though getting more into music, because I'm with the marching band. My band director also allowed me to kind of try my hand at composing. So I would like listen to songs like mostly songs from video games, I would listen to songs like say the fanfare from Final Fantasy when you beat an enemy. And I would say, Okay, how can I turn this into like four parts for trombone. So that means me sitting down on my keyboard, and like, dissecting out each part, and then go into my section, and then we practice it. And then we take it to the game, and we play it at the game and stuff like that. So I got a chance to really sort of cut my teeth with doing a bit of like arranging and composing there. And then my band director also introduced me to so much good music, mostly, like Earth, Wind and Fire. And he was a big Earth Wind and Fire fan. So he introduced me to like their whole catalogue at the time. And we were also playing some popular songs from off the radio. See, this was 95. So we were playing. Like, this is how we do it. For montell Jordan, water runs dry boys to man that might have been 96. But like, we were playing like radio hits, but then also playing like these, you know, well known songs from like the 70s and 80s from Earth, Wind and Fire and stuff. So I was I was all over the place in high school. I really was like, I was always doing something different mostly with the band, though. I think most people knew me for that. But also, I was just like, in class and making A's and you know, it was I, I really enjoyed high school. I enjoy high school a lot.

Marc Gutman 28:23
Yeah, and are you still skilled and playing the trombone.

Maurice Cherry 28:29
I haven't played the trombone and over 10 years, so I don't know, I would imagine, it's probably just like picking up, you know, like riding a bike, I would suppose because the trombone, unlike other brass instruments has no keys. And so it's just one long, interconnected tube. And it's there's only seven positions to the trombone are not marked either. So you have to know them just by memory. And you have to get the note right really by ear. So like this a lot of like active listening as you're playing. And because you're sort of like varying the length of air in this long tube as you're playing. You don't have a lot of room for error. But you also have a lot of room for improvisation, because you can easily slide in between notes without having to exactly know, the right fingering to get there, you can just get there based on how it sounds. And so like even doing something as simple as the chromatic scale, which you know, takes into account all the flats and sharps, you're just going up and down the slide. And so if you hit an F, then you know, if I need to get down to a flat, I just keep sliding down until I get there. So you sort of in your mind, you know, kind of the connective tissue between the notes that you have to reach. So I say like trombone is easy to pick up but hard to master. Because you have to be thinking about all of that while you're playing. So sad.

Marc Gutman 29:49
I thought you would be the first guest that we would have on the Baby Got Back story podcast that would break out the trombone and it doesn't sound like you have one within arm's reach right now. I'll give you I'll give you a pass on that. But

Maurice Cherry 30:02
I saw I saw my trombone when I was 30. Because I was like, I'm gonna hang it up because I really wanted to focus on, like, at the time, like, focus on my career and on tech and stuff, and I couldn't be playing, you know, like pickup songs and stuff like that, like I was a session musician for a while about 20s. Like, it's it's fun until it's not, you know, like, it's just not stable. And I don't know, I wonder what I wonder who I would have been if I kept up with it, though. Yeah, I still have kind of in the back of my mind. Like when all this tech stuff is said and done. To start my own Afro Cuban jazz, big bands. That may still happen. Like when I turned 50 maybe I'll I'll make that happen. I don't know. But it's in the cards.

Marc Gutman 30:49
The future vision and you know, who knows, maybe we can get a crowdfunding campaign going for Murray's here to get them a new trombone? It's Yeah, seems like you should, you should be playing the trumpet, trombone, and you shouldn't be, shouldn't be selling your trombone. But as you were growing up in so many getting into high school, what do you think you were going to do? I mean, I see that you went to Morehouse, and I'm sure your parents were very proud. Where are they? What were their hopes and dreams for you? And what did you think you were going to do with your life as you were starting to get a little older, and, you know, into high school and looking into college?

Maurice Cherry 31:24
So I, this is so interesting, and I don't know if this will make your viewers angry or not, or jealous, I don't know. But like, I was not thinking about, the only thing I was really thinking about at that age was getting out of Selma. That was like, my number one. Main imperative is like, get out of this town. This is a small town, I mean, to kind of give you some context with this. I mean, I came about in the generation right after, like civil rights movement, Bloody Sunday, all that sort of stuff. And so the city itself already has this, like, deep, like, just ghost of history about it everywhere that you go. I mean, Selma itself is a very haunted town, like there's a number of haunted houses and things of that nature, but like to live that close to history, and then also be so detached from the rest of the world is a very eerie feeling. I think about that, in hindsight, you know, growing up, like I really did not know, much of the world outside of Selma, until I left. And I think about well, who would I have been if I stayed there? Like I probably would have, you know, I don't know that a pastor or something. I don't know, who knows. But it's such a small, insular type of community. And it's very easy to like stay in that and never change and never go anywhere and never experienced anything new. For me, the main thing I wanted to do was just get out of Selma. So the reason I say this is because I didn't really have a plan as to what I wanted to do. My plan was just how do I get out of here? What what way do I make that happen? I don't care what the way is, it just has to happen. And so in seventh grade, I remember being part of the, I think it was called the Duke talent identification program, or tip for short. And what they will do is they will take like, high achieving middle schoolers, and you would spend a weekend at Duke University. And then they would also give you an opportunity to take one of the like, standardized tests early being the LSAT, or the a CT. So seventh grade, I took the a CT, and I scored a 30 on it. Now, I think the AC T goes up to a 36. So 30 out of 36 was very good that I think that's like analog to maybe like a high 1400 or low 1500. On the SSAT like it's pretty good. So when I took that in seventh grade, that pretty much wrote my ticket to any school that I wanted to go to. I didn't think at all about like, Oh, I'm really want to go to these colleges, so I have to apply or I really wanted colleges were coming to me. I didn't have to do it. And I don't mean to sound like a bragging sort of way. But I mean, you know, my mom wanted she tell you to like colleges, were contacting us left and right, sending us all sorts of materials. And I was really for me to just think, Oh, well, where do I want to go. And I didn't want to stay in Alabama. Because again, my thing was like I wanted to get out of Selma, but really, I just wanted to get out of like the state and experience something new. But my mom was very much like you know, wherever you go, I'm not getting on a plane. So you have to go somewhere close. Like you have to be still in the south because I'm not getting on a plane. I'm not taking a bus anywhere. It has to be fairly close. And Morehouse ended up being the choice because they came to me on my senior awards day and presented me with two full scholarships, which was more than any other The school had presented me with at the time and I mean, like every major school in Alabama and presented it was like a full ride or something. But I didn't want to go to like, no, no shade to the University of Alabama. I don't want to go to the University of Alabama. I didn't want to go to Auburn. I didn't want to go to Alabama State, no snow shade. The Alabama State. I didn't want to go there. But Morehouse came and Morehouse has this big reputation. And people are like, Oh, well, Martin Luther King went to Morehouse. And, you know, I should go to Morehouse. And I'm like, you know what, I should go to Morehouse. I want to go to Morehouse. And part of the reason of going was one, I knew that was a quick ticket out of out of Selma, but that also, and I think anyone who grew up in the south, probably in the 80s, and 90s, that wasn't near a big city, came to Atlanta at some point, like, there was a field trip to Six Flags, it was all your your class, they were on sa t we're going to Six Flags like everything was going to Six Flags. So there were always all these trips to Atlanta. And Atlanta was always sort of the destination, I think for a lot of us because it was the nearest really big city. Plus around that time. I mean, Atlanta in the 90s was a magical place. I mean, yes, you have the Olympics, but you also had freakness. So you've got like this combination of all this electricity happening in the city. And it was just the place like Atlanta was just the place to be. And so I'm thinking, well, if I can go to Atlanta, and it's a free ride, and I don't have to pay it, my parents will have to pay. Yeah, we'll do it. Let's do Atlanta. And so Morehouse ended up being the choice for me. I didn't even apply to Morehouse, they came to me. And, and the rest is history.

Marc Gutman 36:44
A common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we'll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email, we'll get you booked right away. So whether you're just getting started with a new business, or whether you've done some work and need a refresh, or whether you're a brand that's high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book, your brand clarity call, you'll learn about our brand audit strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you'll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We'll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for, build the brand you've always dreamed of. Again, we'll link to that in the show notes. or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email. Now back to the show.

All I could think about when you were talking about music in Atlanta in the 90s was salt and pepper. So that's what it triggered for me. But so you went to Morehouse and sounds like you know, first and foremost, you're like a lot of young people. You're like, I just want to go someplace, I just want to change my life. I just want to start my life, you know, and kind of figure things out. When you got to Morehouse, what did you think you were going to do with with yourself?

Maurice Cherry 38:30
Oh, my goodness, you know, I'm gonna be completely honest with you, Mark, I had no plans in college. I'm telling you that back then I didn't plan anything. I was such a easy going go with the flow kind of person to kind of give you a sense of that. I graduated from high school in late May of 1999. And then two weeks later, I packed up moved everything and went somewhere else because the the program that I was a part of for my scholarship, had a summer program is called project space. So I was at Morehouse in June of 99. Like, it was such a magical feeling. I'm like I'm in this big city, by myself. No one can tell me what to do. I could do whatever I want. But of course, it's still like within the confines of college and you have to kind of be, you know, aware of your surroundings. Morehouse is in that it's not in the best neighborhood. I mean, certainly back then it was it was not that great. It's probably better now. But back then it was a pretty rough neighborhood that the school was in so they really wanted to make sure that we stayed on campus where it was safe and not venture out into the neighborhood. But we could easily like catch a bus to the train station and like, go to all parts of the city where the train would go and so you know, the city kind of ended up being like our oyster but when I got there, I mean, I had no plans. I was in the summer program. And we were taking oh my goodness, we were taking like calculus two courses and we were taking care computer programming courses and Spelman, the program that we had on the head of cohort at Spelman College, which is the all female college that's across the street from Morehouse, which is all male college. And so we will take classes together with the girls from Spelman, we would hang out together. But mostly everything we did was kind of in and around. And on campus, like there wasn't a lot of off campus kind of stuff. Except for the people who were from Atlanta who could, you know, like, they could like get in their car, like take us somewhere, like take it to the grocery store or something like that. But they were they really highly discouraged us from going out and about in the city. And then once the school year started proper, I mean, I was just trying everything that I could like I was meeting new people that were into different things that was sort of my first real deep introduction to like anime, and trans music. Was that Morehouse, I was, like I mentioned, I was also still playing trombone. Just like discovering different things and different people, honestly, I mean, I'm just coming from Alabama, just being like this country bumpkin. Like now I'm all of a sudden, meeting all these people from the Caribbean, and from other parts of the country, and like, you know, them being really proud of where they're from, and their culture and everything like that. And so, just getting introduced to so many different things at once made it really, really hard to like, focus, like, I'll be honest, I almost almost flunked out. Freshman year, like first semester was, I was lost in the sauce. As

I was going out to the clubs, I was hanging out late. I was getting back to the dorm room 234 in the morning for and then like sleeping for a few hours and then have an eight o'clock, Cal three class like I was reckless. I was so reckless freshman year, and it caught up to me to the point where I ended up getting evicted from my dorm. I was homeless for a slight bit like about a week or two, and then ended up getting placed into another dorm. And then that ended up being like a weird kind of situation, because the rd was kind of a creepy, like kind of a creepy guy, and got moved to another dorm. And then that was weird because my roommate in that dorm clearly had been suffering physical abuse from his roommate, and was very like, I don't know, very jumpy, like, anytime I will come around. And he's like, oh, like, don't you know, don't look at me that way, don't you know or something like that. So freshman year was a lot, at least the first half of freshman year was a lot. During that time. One thing I would say that was like, the stabilizing force outside of my classes was that I had joined a website and started working for them. So there was a website called college club calm. I don't know if people remember college club. And it was sort of like a precursor to Facebook. And basically, every college had their own campus on college club. And you could upload pictures. Every person had like a college club email, and they had this number that you could call that would read your email to you over the phone. There was live chat. I mean, comms club was lit. I mean, they ended up going bankrupt. for good reason. I think at one point, they were giving away like $10,000 a week to people, they were really just like that early, calm money was coming in. But I worked for college club as a campus representative first at Morehouse, and then for the entire Atlanta University Center. So I had three or four other people under me. And we had devised the system. Why am I telling this might be illegal actually know what comes out of the system? Well, that's fine. So we had devised a system where we basically would get paid from college club for every account that was created after every photo that we uploaded. So one of my good friends, good good friends, Chris wrote this macro that would allow us to basically just like dump a bunch of photos into a folder, and they would automatically get uploaded to college club. And so we would get, you know, money for that. And then he also came up with this other macro that will automatically create accounts. So we had these cameras, we have these huge Sony mavica cameras that actually were so big, you had to put a floppy disk in it for storage, like three and a quarter floppy disk. And we would go and take pictures and swap out the disk. And then at the end of the night, we would dump everything into this Network Folder. We run the macro, the macro would upload the stuff from the Network Folder, we would literally be making money while we slept. I mean I was making at that point. roughly about $4,000 a month.

Marc Gutman 44:46
Pretty good for a college kid.

Maurice Cherry 44:48
This is this is my This was my, like second half of freshman year and I mean, we did not know how to act with that with that much money we were just doing just spending money on just the dumbest stupid shit just like, go to Linux and like, you know, buy a whole bunch of people's stuff in the food court or just buying like extravagant clothes. And so I mean, in hindsight, just dumb, dumb stuff. But at the time, you know, you're 19 was 19 then trying to think now I was 18 and I was 18 then, and just like have money hand over fist. It was it was ridiculous. Um, eventually college club ended up going bankrupt. And so that job didn't last too long. But for the time that we had it, it was great. And so yeah, I didn't really have ambition. My freshman year, I was too busy having fun. Like, we would go out to the strip and take pictures and like, and then I mean, I guess I kind of have to set the scene here. I mean, so the Atlanta University Center is six colleges. It's Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark, Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, they entered the interdenominational theological center and Morehouse School of Medicine. So like six schools, all together and like this one huge meta campus. And now the schools kind of have their own like, sort of divisions like Spellman, for example, has a huge wall around and it's basically like fort Spellman. But the other colleges, you can easily walk between and through and everything like that. And so the connective kind of tissue between the main colleges is this long brick thoroughfare called the strip. And it's basically just for walking. So like, you know, cars were coming up and down, it was just, you could walk, there were benches, there were booths, all sort of stuff. So you could hang out all day on the strip, and like, people watch, then walk down to seagulls and like, get some wings and then go sit on the bench and listen to some music and then go to the bookstore, go to the library, like everything was just connected in this big, almost like a marketplace. And then on Fridays, at the very end of the strip at Spelman, they would open their gates and you could go into Spelman to their lower courtyard that they called lower manly, and they had market Friday, and they would be DJs. there and dance. I mean, it was so much fun, that you didn't think about class, like class was almost like, why would I go to class, but I could just hang out on the strip all day, you know. So that was very easy. That first year as a freshman and you have money to it was very easy to just get completely sidetracked. And I completely fell deep into all of that. Well,

Marc Gutman 47:37
and as we know, Time marches on. And it sounds like you know, had a very similar experience. I went crazy my freshman year and pulled it together primarily because my parents told me I had no choice. It was gonna be big trouble if I didn't. But Time marches on, and you get through Morehouse and like, how did you start a career in creativity and strategy

Maurice Cherry 48:00
that really kind of came about almost as a almost as circumstance. So and I'll try to fast forward through, like past like post college on but so I graduated from Morehouse, I didn't have anything lined up like I'm to be completely honest. When I graduated, I had no plans whatsoever, partially because our scholarship program, they pulled the funding from it in 2001, because of 911. So they pulled funding from that and funding went to which was then created the Homeland Security Department. So we didn't have funding to kind of continue out what we thought the end result of our internships and stuff was going to be so with my scholarship program, basically, I would intern for two years for NASA. And then after that, we would get placed at a NASA facility. So in my mind, I'm like, as long as I keep Baba 3.0 I got a job at NASA. So that's all I have to do. jr came along and completely dashed all of that. And so by the time I graduated, I had nothing lined up. I was working at the Woodruff Arts Center, selling tickets to the symphony, and to the art museum into the theater, just like you know, selling old patriots tickets and stuff like that. And they took away the calculator at my station because I had a math degree, which was kind of degrading but whatever. Did that for a little while, left that job, worked at autotrader. Like, as a dealer concierge is basically just like a glorified customer service rep. Did that for a while, quit that job. And then on a whim, I found in the back of our local weekly newspaper, creative loafing. I found a listing to become an electronic media specialist for the state of Georgia, applied for it on a whim, got the job. I worked for there for about a year and a half left went to at&t as a junior designer. What worked my way up to being a senior designer left there in 2008. After Obama got elected, I started my own studio. I did my studio for nine years. And I would say that was kind of the genesis of this whole creative strategy career. Because even though I had my studio where I was doing web design and graphic design and email marketing and stuff like that, I really was able to branch out and do a lot of other creative stuff like I was able to do. Like DNI consulting for tech companies, like I did that for Vox media. For a while I did that with Netflix for a short period of time, did a lot of writing still, like I was still writing during that time. So I wrote four sight points. And for psych five, and I wrote for media B's show for a while I taught classes at the Bri and at Savannah College of Art and Design, I did a lot of different stuff in the studio. And so because I was doing all these different things, like I was gaining all this knowledge and other parts of the, you know, the business and the really in other parts of the industry, and was able to really kind of bring it all together. So by the time I Wow, my studio down in 2017, I knew that there was more that I wanted to do that I couldn't accomplish and sort of the current state that the studio was in. Also the market was changing, like, bespoke web design was sort of going out as more people started to use kind of drag and drop options like a Squarespace or Wix or something like that. So it made more sense for me to kind of phase out of that market and get more into the actual like, strategy portion of it. Because now there are these tools that allow me that allow people to do the things they would pay a designer to do. But the tools don't really give you the strategy behind why you would use certain things or something like that. And so I tried to kind of brand myself more in this strategy route. As I wind my studio down, um, at the end of 2017, I started at a tech startup, or there's a tech company at that time called Fog Creek software as starting, they're just kind of doing content marketing and getting a sense of the business and what they were doing. As I stayed there, they switched over to become the startup called glitch. And then as they were growing, and they look, we're looking to me, as someone that sort of had this thought leadership that was built up to this point, I was able to then kind of come in on a strategy aspect, and then help out with, you know, bizdev opportunities or partnerships or, you know, things of that nature. And so that really kind of set the stage for me to take all of the cumulative knowledge that I gained throughout my studio time and even the time prior to that working for companies and use that to kind of be this this sort of creative thought leadership at a company that needed it at the time.

Marc Gutman 52:44
And when did revision path come about? Like how did you get into podcasting? Because it 400 episodes, I'm guessing you were a bit of an early adopter?

Maurice Cherry 52:55
Yeah. So I started podcasting, initially in 2005. So I have old shows that will never see the light of day. I have old old shows from back then. And Atlanta, to its credit actually had a very vibrant podcasting. Community back then we had this thing called the Georgia Podcast Network that was put on by this couple rusty and Amber. And I mean, that was big for maybe about five or six years, there were meetups and things of that nature. And it was mostly Georgia, but also included like South Carolina, Tennessee, kind of like that tri state area. So I have been doing podcasting for a while but never really looked at it as a viable thing, then it was sort of this first wave of podcasting. Because, really, it wasn't something that caught on then like people were more so starting to latch on to video. During that time, it wasn't about, oh, we're gonna listen to this podcast. And even then what podcast were normally was just stuff that was on the radio that they didn't put out as an mp3. So like, The New York Times, NPR, etc, would have these little shows. And that's how you sort of picked up on like maybe a radio show that you've missed, you can subscribe to the podcast, which is really just that day is episode that they downloaded and made into an mp3 or whatever. I first started doing revision path in 2013. And at that time, it wasn't a podcast, it was gonna be just an online magazine. I wanted to do something which showcased what black designers and developers were doing in the field like peers of mine, etc. to kind of counteract what I wasn't seeing in design media. And I started doing these long form interviews, maybe about 1500 to 2000 words or so. But it just took so long to put together I was doing it by myself. And it was someone that actually was a reader of revision path is woman named Raquel Rodriguez, who one day wrote me and said that she was a fan of revision paths. She would really like to be on revision path, but wanted to record a podcast. Because she had a podcast that she was doing in Chicago, and at the time, I'm like, yeah, we can record that's fine thinking to myself, I have no recording equipment. So we ended up recording our interview, the very first episode of revision path on my mobile phone, in a restaurant. Terrible quality. I still keep the episode out. I mean, it's somewhat listable, I guess, I don't know. But, uh, that was kind of where the genesis of the podcast started. And then as I continue to keep doing revision path throughout 2013, I would give guests the option to either record, or we could do like the long form interview. So I sort of alternated. And then when 2014 came around, and it was a full year of revision path, I just decided it's just easier to do the podcast, so switched over to becoming a podcast in March of 2014, officially, but when we launched, we still had about, I say, about 15 episodes prior that we had done. So we launched with a pretty big catalog already. So technically, we launched that like, Episode 16. But we have been recording since episode one. Back in June of 2013.

Marc Gutman 56:11
Yeah, and as you mentioned, you just recorded your 400th episode, you've been doing this for a while. I'm terrible at math, but it sounds like about eight years or something like that, which is a long time. Like I'm, I think you're gonna be Episode 71 for the baby backstory podcast, and I can tell you, I mean, it's been difficult it you know, sometimes I hear, I hear 71. And I'm like, Ah, that's not that much. But there is a lot of energy, a lot of effort and a lot of time that's gone into it, like 400 episodes, do you ever think like, enough's enough? Are you just gonna keep keep recording?

Maurice Cherry 56:48
I mean, at this point, I'm going to keep recording. As we're talking, I've already got episodes recorded through 405. And then I've got five more in the queue. So we're up to like, 409, I think, technically, I, you know, I'll be honest, there's really no shortage of people for me to have on the show, I've got a running potential guests list in the 1000s of people that I could have on the show. And then, of course, folks recommend others, I've started to bring back old guests on the show, just to kind of see what their, their updates have been since they first came on the show, you know, like, so it's been fun to kind of chart that journey, in some ways. And then honestly, as the industry has changed, what the show has really allowed me to do is keep up. Because I mean, at this point, I'm not really a practicing designer anymore. Like I'm not, you know, in Photoshop, or sketch or figma, or whatever. But being able to talk to so many practitioners still keeps me up to date with what's going on, and what are the new technologies? And what are folks talking about? What are folks passionate about? It keeps me up to date with, with that sort of stuff. And also just being able to introduce design still to a whole new generation of people that may not have known that there were people in design who looked like them. People who think like, Oh, I'm just alone in this by myself, and then they can look and see no, you're not, there's like 400 other people here that you're in this thing with? So I don't I personally don't see it stopping anytime soon. I mean, we're still, you know, you know, knock on wood, getting funding and able to keep things going. So I'll keep it going for as long as the industry will have me.

Marc Gutman 58:34
Yeah, let's talk about that really quickly. You know, you mentioned that revision path is really this outlet to showcase those those folks who typically aren't showcased and to show people that, hey, there's other people like them out there. Like when you think about revision path, like what's the one thing you want people to know, like, really now about what you're doing with this podcast? Hmm,

Maurice Cherry 59:00
that's a good question. I mean, I think, off the top of my head, I would want people to know that this is not easy. And I think people will look at what I'm doing and think that it's pretty easy. And it's not, I mean, I think that might be the case for most podcasters. But for me, in particular, like I've had to continually work and try new things to get to a system that I know works with me and my team, like and it's bulletproof. It's a time to get there, that wasn't just something that I was able to kind of pull out from, you know, from scratch, and it was something I had to build myself. I had to find the right tools to pull in to make sure all of this work. So it's really about that. I would say for any podcast, it's really about building systems that allow you to be able to do this work. I don't necessarily want to say at scale because I think honestly, the the production level that we're doing is not really changed that much over the years. But it's refined to the point where I can take long breaks between interviews and not get burned out from this. And I'd say yeah, like, it's not easy. People will look at me and will look at me and look at the show and think that it's easy like oh, is, it just seems so easy for you to get people to come on the show. I'm like, no, it's still, it. Honestly, it's still a challenge sometimes to get people to come on the show. Just making sure that everything sort of flows regularly. Like, even though we have our system down, that could still be one thing and that system that could cause it all to, you know, tumble like a house of cards or something. So definitely, that it's it's not easy that it's a lot of thought that goes into it. I think people will look at the 400 episodes of revision path and just see like a monolithic set of people. But I mean, there's so much diversity within the people that I have interviewed, whether it's age diversity, whether it's what they do in the industry, years of experience, as men, there's women, there's trans folk, there's folks in the US and the Caribbean, throughout Europe, throughout Africa, throughout Asia and Australia. Like they're, they're everywhere, the thing that sort of ties them all together, is you know, they're practicing designers, or they're practicing techies, or they're doing something creative on the web that is worthy of kind of falling into line with everything that I'm doing with revision paths. So yeah, I would say that's probably the the main thing I think now as the show has started to, I don't want to say become mainstream, I'd say the older that the show gets. I've seen the more people maybe not understand what it is. And I tell people right off the bat, that revision path is a design podcast granted, I do have developers on the show, I have had software engineers on the show. Just lately, like I was talking about the metaverse, like we have all kinds of people doing like crazy things on the show. But to me, it's still all kind of boils down to design. And I tend to be very deliberate in who I choose, I'm deliberate about the frequency in terms of making sure I try to have pretty equal parody, I want to make sure underrepresented voices just in the black community are being showcased on the show. So I am very deliberate about who I reach out to who I want to have on the show why I want to have them on the show. So it may look easy, but there is a lot of thought and, and care that goes into it.

Marc Gutman 1:02:29
Yeah, and for those of you listening, it's a it's won several different awards. I do want to point out that in July of 2019, the Smith's Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture acquired a selection of revision paths episodes for inclusion in their permanent archives. And it's the first podcast to be added to the permanent collection. So what we're talking about here is, is something of merit and significance. We'll make sure to link to all the resources and contact information for revision path in the show notes. Burris. As we come to the end of our time here. I'd love for you to think back to that eight year old boy and sama who's just kind of hanging out. What do you think he would say? If he saw you today?

Maurice Cherry 1:03:21
Oh, wow. I think if that eight year old boy saw me today, huh? He I think the first thing he will wonder about is my hair. Cuz I really kept my hair cut close. Probably until I got to college. I think. I think in college, I started like, growing it out. And I was still cut it but like I didn't think to like keep it as a fro. So that might be the first thing. Um, I think he would be astonished by the possibilities that I've been able to kind of create just based off of talking to people. Like, I think anyone that does this sort of media type thing, whether they are a practicing designer, or whomever, like the benefit that you get from talking to so many people and learning so many different perspectives just changes you as a person with every conversation. I would like to think that young me would sort of think that's pretty cool that I get to talk to people all the time and learn about the work that they do and showcase it. I think he would be surprised that I still can't draw. That probably be the biggest thing he probably be surprised about that. But I still can draw and probably that I'm not writing as much as I used to. Um, back then it was a lot of writing. And so I think he'd be interested to know I still like video games. I tell him about the switch that would blow his mind.

I'm sure.

It will be stuff like that. I think I mean, it's it's interesting how you know, even now I'm like, I just turned 40 this year and there's still a lot of things about myself. That I feel like I've managed to still keep a very playful spirit, and still be able to kind of tap into the restorative power of play even into the work that I do. I mean, even like what I'm doing with creative strategy, it's kind of playing at work a little bit like I get to really dive into myself and come up with, you know, inspiring things that we can do and like, fantastic campaigns that we can execute and stuff like that. And I get to work to make those things that I just thought of a reality. Like, that's pretty cool. I don't think that even was a possibility. Back then, in Jesus, I was eight in 1989. I wasn't a possibility. I didn't know about that. So I would be really excited to know that that's an option that I could have as a career I can basically be like, a professional storyteller in a way.

Marc Gutman 1:05:59
And that is Maurice cherri, creative strategist, designer and host for the return path podcast. I could have chatted with Murray's for hours. So make sure to check out his podcast and subscribe while you're there. A big big thank you to Maurice cherry. We will link to all things Murray's and revision path in the show notes. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast that wild story calm. Our best guests like Murray's come from referrals from past guests and her listeners. Well that's the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www dot wildstorm comm where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you'll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can't deny

 

 

BGBS 070: Gregg Treinish | Adventure Scientists | Moving at a Human Pace

BGBS 070: Gregg Treinish | Adventure Scientists | Moving at a Human Pace

June 2, 2021

BGBS 070: Gregg Treinish | Adventure Scientists | Moving at a Human Pace

Gregg founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration.

National Geographic named Gregg an Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor’s 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine “hero”, in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men’s Journal’s “50 Most Adventurous Men.” In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow and in 2018 one of the Grist 50 “Fixers.” Gregg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2020 and is a member of their Global Futures Council on Sustainable Tourism.

Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • The creativity, optimism, and persistence required of expeditions translate very well into entrepreneurship and keeping a business profitable over time.
  • Adventure is pursuing passion and pushing your personal boundaries in the outdoors.

Quotes

[31:05] Adventure is pursuing passion in the outdoors. It’s certainly outdoor sport based, but that can be hiking for some people and just adventuring into a place you haven’t been before to look at birds, or it can be climbing peaks and skiing down. It’s pursuing your own boundaries in the outdoors.

[41:08] The cool thing about expeditions for me is not like this, “Ooh, adrenaline-seeking.” That’s not my type of Expedition. It’s persistence, it’s creativity, it’s problem-solving. It’s “you’re in this sh!tty situation, how you can get yourself out?” And it’s avoiding those situations to begin with. I think that is exactly what running a business is.

[44:09] We’ve had a tremendous impact on a number of different fields, from antibiotic resistance to microplastics, to improving crop yields, to helping to restore and preserve species that are extirpated from ecosystems. And it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in 10 short years, and I’m so proud of the impacts that we’ve already had. But I’m always thinking about how we do that on a bigger scale, and how we make sure that the data we’ve collected and the data we will collect are going to have as much impact on as many lives, human and otherwise as possible.

Resources

Website: www.adventurescientists.org

LinkedIn: Gregg Treinish

Instagram: @adventurescientists

Facebook: Adventure Scientists

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  • Learn about our Brand Audit and Strategy process
  • Identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh
  • Determine if your business has a branding problem
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Podcast Transcript

Gregg Treinish 0:02
So we got a call. Three weeks after we gave that presentation in a parking lot. It’s in Salt Lake City at a hotel that since burned down the city Creek in and they were like, can you be in Washington and a month or whatever it was there like Why? And he said if you’ve been selected as adventure of the Year by natgeo, and we went there and Andy skorpa had gotten it the year before. So he was on stage presenting and talking about it, you know, his year of adventure the year and then looked at us and just said, this will change your life. And I had no idea what he meant that but it did.

Marc Gutman 0:45
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the baby got backstory podcast, we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like to think back stories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman. What if you could help scientists cure cancer, or develop medicines that save lives? Or find answers to some of our biggest crises that face us today? All while doing what you love doing anyway. I’m Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby got backstory, we are talking about adventure in science, and how one adventure brings the two to work together to collect data at scale. And before we get into this episode, I want you to live at scale to adventure and truly feel alive. And that all starts by heading over to Apple podcasts or Spotify and giving us a five star review and rating. By this point in our lives. We all know that algorithms rule the world. And as such apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. But look, we’re humans, not robots. So go show that algo that the humans are in control, and rate this podcast. Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today’s guest is Greg rhenish, founder and CEO of adventure scientists. And as you’ll hear, Greg founded adventure scientists in 2011, with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration of helping scientists solve the world’s problems wasn’t enough. National Geographic named Greg and adventure of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7800 mile trek along the spine of the Andes mountain range. He was included on the Christian Science monitors 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a national geographic emerging Explorer for his work with adventure scientists. In 2013. He was named a backpacker magazine hero in 2015 at Draper Richards, Kaplan entrepreneur, and one of men journals 50 most adventurous men. In 2017, he was named in a shoka fellow, and in 2018, one of the grist 50 fixers. Greg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2020. And as a member of their global futures Council on sustainable tourism. Oh, yeah. And he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. And this is his story.

I am here with Greg trennis, the founder and CEO of adventure scientist, Greg, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks so much for having me. Yeah. So Greg, let’s just get right into it. Like what is adventure sciences? sounds really cool. But like, what is it? Yeah, we’re

Gregg Treinish 3:57
a nonprofit organization. We’re based in Bozeman, Montana. And the idea here is that we want to be the world’s greatest field data collectors at scale. So we look for opportunities where we can amplify and accelerate scientists impact and getting them to solutions for the environment. So examples of that are everything from we’re creating genetic and chemical reference libraries for trees, so that they can be used by law enforcement to compare seizures or shipments that they think were illegally sourced with the standing trees across a range of species. So you can use genetics to actually compare wood with trees, and it’s being used for all kinds of things. And we collected the largest data set on earth for microplastics. We’ve collected plant life up at 20,000 feet on Mount Everest, which 22,000 feet which was the highest known plant life on Earth, that is being used to inoculate crops and improve crop yields around the world. So we look for these projects where there’s a solution tied to it, where data can unlock some solution. And we deploy volunteers from the onshore community to go and get those data.

Marc Gutman 5:15
Yeah, and this is the part that I think is really interesting. And I want to make really clear to our listeners is that there are there are these projects where scientists and please correct me if I get this wrong, because I want to, I want to make sure that I put it in, in simple terms, but there’s these projects where scientists are like, hey, it would be really cool to grab this plant life from Everest, but there’s no way that I can get up there, or I’m not going there. Or it’s restrictive, restrictive. And then there’s all these adventurers who are like, I’m going to Everest, or I’m going into the Amazon, or I’m going down to Antarctica. And what you’re really doing is matching these two parties so that adventurers can help out in this collection of scientific data, wherever they’re going. I mean, do I have that right? Is that the what this this is all about?

Gregg Treinish 6:00
Yeah, it is, it’s a lot more detailed and nuanced than that we’ve spent a ton of time building these projects and designing them. That’s something that is so essential for success of the volunteers as they’re out there. But yeah, at the end of the day, there’s this army of people who love the outdoors are traveling around the world and have the skill set that can be really useful. And we find them we give them the mission, we train them, and then we deploy them.

Marc Gutman 6:29
That is an adventure myself, I mean, I can’t think of anything greater than having a purpose behind, you know, beyond just the achievement of whatever we do. And we like to get out and, and, and hit our goals, to have a purpose and to be helping other other scientists and potentially furthering humankind.

Gregg Treinish 6:47
That’s exactly right. And it’s the same for me when I was that on my expeditions. And the reason I started this organization is because of that. It will I had a selfish feeling. I felt really, when I was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, which I did in 2000, for a walk the length of the Andes in 2006, through eight. And on those expeditions, I was just like, Man, I’m spending so much time and couldn’t be doing something much more meaningful with this time. How can I get back to these places and really longed for a way that I can make a difference while I get after it? And and that’s what adventure scientist is.

Marc Gutman 7:24
Yeah, so let’s talk about a little bit let’s go way back to the younger egg. And have you always as a kid, have you always had a penchant for adventuring? and science or did one come before the other?

Gregg Treinish 7:36
I was always fascinated by wildlife and nature, like you know, like most kids are think catching fireflies and Willy bugs and that kind of thing. My family didn’t go camping. We didn’t like we weren’t an outdoors family at all. And it wasn’t until I went on a backpacking trip when I was 16 to British Columbia to the Provincial Park, Garibaldi Provincial Park there. And that was where I really fell in love with outdoors and adventure. And it was the first trip and then you know, I did some more backpacking trips and a few things but it wasn’t until the Appalachian Trail that I really had a big adventure like that.

Marc Gutman 8:20
Yeah. And so you said you didn’t grow up camping? What was life like for you? Where did you grow up?

Gregg Treinish 8:25
I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, East Cleveland and a lot of mountains. No, no, we hills we I grew up skiing on a garbage dump on a covered over garments down.

Marc Gutman 8:34
I did too. I grew up in Detroit. So Maui pine knob, you know, inverted trash heaps. That’s how I learned to ski as well.

Gregg Treinish 8:42
That’s right. Ours are called Boston Mills. The coolest adventure from my kid days was those probably 10 years old and skiing at a place called Boston mills and Glen plake, at the time was on his like World Tour or North American tour trying to hit every ski resort across the US and there’s this run called tiger and I skied it with Glen plake, when I was like 10, which was the coolest thing ever. And then, years later, after I had become a natgeo adventure of the year, and I met Glenn again at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake where it was back then. And he remembered me he remembered skiing with me at Boston Mills is like coolest thing ever. For me.

Marc Gutman 9:27
That is the coolest thing ever. I love that. And so, you know at 10 years old, you know, skiena, Boston mills and hanging out in Cleveland, did you think that you were gonna make a life and a career out of adventure? If you wouldn’t have told

Gregg Treinish 9:40
me that I was gonna do that. I had to believe i’d figure out some way to do that. But I would have been surprised that I would have chosen a life of adventure and, and nature and you know, I, I think I was I love Jacques Cousteau and and Jane Goodall. I actually have named my daughter after age. Didn’t get all of my son after john Muir. Their middle names anyway. But back then, like, I think I saw him on TV and I, you know, loved that they were doing good by those animals. I used to have a little statues of whales and wolves. But it wasn’t like, it wasn’t my. I didn’t know I was gonna go into wildlife biology or conservation or adventure. It was cool to me, but it wasn’t like Michael Jordan was cooler to me than Glen plake at that time.

Marc Gutman 10:31
Oh, absolutely. Those were the days. And Jordan was was was a figure against the calves. And so what did you think you were gonna do? Like, what was the plan? Like you’re, you know, you’re in Cleveland, and you’re, you’re starting to get older. What do you what do you what was your plan? Yeah, we’re

Gregg Treinish 10:47
going way back here. I don’t know. Let me think like, after I got out of the firefighter astronauts age, I probably didn’t want to be an astronaut at some point for sure. I didn’t used to, I realized I just said that. It wasn’t like my obsession, or anything I did used to think wildlife or marine biologists were incredibly cool. And I did have a period of time when I said I’d be a marine biologist, for sure. I don’t know, a lawyer, like my dad’s a lawyer. Maybe I was gonna be aware. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think I always knew I would run my own business that I would probably start something or run something. I never really took direction. Well, which is what that’s probably about. I definitely had a period of marine biologist, I think that was pretty consistent. I can’t remember what those ages were. Or why even other than maybe TV shows about the ocean and thinking that was super cool. I had a big cousin who was a surfer, and maybe that was part of it. I have a big cousin who’s a surfer? Maybe that was part of it. I don’t know.

Marc Gutman 11:58
Yeah, you know, my father’s a lawyer, too, out of the Midwest. And all I got out of that was Don’t be a lawyer. That’s what he was told me. He was like, Don’t do this. And he loved it. He was just like, there’s too many lawyers and go do something. Go do something different with yourself. But so when you when you left Cleveland, when you when you when you left high school, would you go do? Yeah,

Gregg Treinish 12:16
I actually got I went to Boulder. And was a junior because I had gotten kicked out of high school and started going to junior college in Cleveland when I was 16. And so I got a two year headstart and went out to Boulder as a junior and had just two and a half years there, moved up to Breckenridge from there and started being a ski instructor raft guide, live in the ski bum lifestyle for a while. And then when I went and hiked the Appalachian Trail, there wasn’t this moment that I’ve talked about frequently, but it was halfway through. And I was pretty low. I’m just asking myself like, what the hell am I doing out here and worn down and it had rained for God knows how many street days. And I just had this one moment where I picked up a rock constructed at a tree and just started sobbing and fell down in frustration and kind of vowed a life of service in that moment. That was where I really decided that I was really fortunate growing up, you know, we weren’t, we certainly weren’t living in bel air or anything, but we were fine. And my dad did well, and my mom was a teacher and did well. And I just think that living a life of purpose really matters. And it was kind of that moment that helped me see that it had been building up to that, obviously. So I went and worked in wilderness therapy and worked with kids who had struggled and I was I struggled as a teenager, for sure, and was labeled an at risk youth and all kinds of things. And so I thought that would be my passion. But the more I was in the outdoors, exploring the more I I realized how much I wanted to understand what I was seeing and understand the ecology around me. But that my passion is really for representing all those creatures that don’t have a voice and representing nature and wildlife and the environment. Because I think it’s one of the greatest atrocities what our species is ever has done to every other species on the planet. I think every other species who were here in many cases before us have been completely disrupted by humans. And I’d really love us to find ways to live in more balance with the rest of the species on this planet. Yeah. And in getting

Marc Gutman 14:36
back to that moment of frustration on the 80 what do you think triggered that? What what brought that all about? Like, where would your life been going?

Gregg Treinish 14:45
Yeah, I mean, I did have the opportunity to go and spend some time in South Africa when I was a kid and I traveled a little bit and just saw poverty and saw how other people live and realize that my life is not like everybody else’s in the world. And I even saw that in the Appalachians, right. Like in the southern Appalachians, man, like, they’re that lifestyle is different than suburbia in Cleveland. And so I just was exposed to that. And it really struck me like, Man, I’m so lucky. The fact that I can go hiking for six months, I feel really lucky, you know, I worked my butt off to receive up enough money to be able to pay for it and, and have always had a really strong work ethic. And yet I was given such a head start at life, when I think I realized that then and, and I just felt like, as I said, selfish for being out there and not doing anything beneficial. I was maybe inspiring a few people to get off the couch. But that wasn’t what I meant by living a life of purpose. And I think it was a combination of exhaustion and being out physically exhausting myself every day mentally exhausting myself. And when you hike like that, when you’re on an expedition, and this is still true for me today is is 99% of what you’re doing is just this mental gymnastics, you’re constantly looking at relationships and interactions you’ve had, and it’s reflective by nature, because you’re you’re just you’re brought down to the core, right? Like, you’re depleted and your and your emotional. And so it was a lot of that. And it was it was thinking about that privilege, combined with the exhaustion, I was feeling that I had a pretty low point at that moment. And decided that that what mattered to me most at that point in my life was that my life mattered, and that my life was gonna be about others. And not just myself.

Marc Gutman 16:56
Yeah, and so you had some time in wilderness therapy, and I’m familiar with how that works, and what that’s all about. And, you know, for people that don’t know, that’s where a lot of times at risk are other other kids that are working through things go. And it’s in a therapy environment. So there are therapists, and it’s in using kind of the, the everything, Greg just talking about getting outside really, really revealing yourself, and figuring some things out. So it’s great, great programs, and you’re doing that. But there comes a point where you and a friend go on a massive trek across the Andes. How does that come about? And what’s what’s the purpose behind that? Yeah.

Gregg Treinish 17:37
So on the Appalachian Trail I just absolutely fell in love with with going at a human pace. You know, when you’re on a bike, you got to get off that bike to go and talk to somebody, same thing on a horse, same same thing with really any other mode of travel. But when you’re on foot, you just, you’re there in the moment, right, like you’re moving at the way our brains evolved to move. So something about that really captured me. And then this idea of Expedition travel like long distances, you know, the Appalachian trails Georgia domain, which is quite a large distance and the topography changes so much that the ecosystems changed so much. So, I just fell in love with that. After about two and a half years working wilderness therapy, I really wanted more of that I really wanted some more personal adventure and more introspection and, and I wanted to do it in a place where I was going to be exposed to new languages to new 20,000 feet. It wasn’t and we looked all around the world, right? Like I looked at, there’s a long trail in New Zealand, there’s this trail of the Great Divide trail, which I’d still love to do someday up in Canada, but

Marc Gutman 18:55
none of them were

Gregg Treinish 18:57
as enticing as the Andes because the Andes was, again 20,000 feet, the Amazon ketua Myra, the Incan history that was there. expanish. Obviously, throughout it, the Atacama Desert really intrigued me. And it was just this. There was so much I just finished reading into thin air, which takes place in the quarter whitewash. And obviously didn’t want to have that kind of experience there. But it was just this this one thing after another and then at some point, I’m sure there was just a confirmation bias taking over where that was where we had to go. And so I’ve researched it and we researched it and and I reached out to about 10 friends and in the end, there was just the one friend Dale who was last who is like, yeah, I’ll go and it was excited to go. And yeah, we thought there would be hundreds of people doing it. We thought there would be so many and it turns

Marc Gutman 19:56
out we were the first to ever do it. And how long did that Taking is that how then you were recognized as adventure of the year because you were the first to to make that Trek.

Gregg Treinish 20:07
Yeah, it was 667 days or 22 months that it took us to do it straight, straight, with the exception of three weeks when I came home with typhoid fever to recover from typhoid fever. So I flew home. And then we went right back after about three weeks. And, and I had other diseases along the way that I probably should have come home for, but I did. So yeah. And then the recognition from natgeo was for that track. I don’t know if it was as much because we were the first or just because how we did it, we kind of went down with no plan. And the plan was just to go to the equator and head south. And and we did, we thought we would probably have to skip the Atacama Desert, we figured out a way to do that. We again didn’t know we would be the first to do it, we just kind of along the way realize that nobody else had done it. There was no information about it. There was three other guys who had done heights, the length of South America, Kyle Busch, B. We actually did it through all the Americas and then got arrested in Russia, once he crossed the Bering Strait. But he had done it on on frontcountry. Really with cart, George meegan in the 70s had done it with a card and then Ian Reeves had just finished it hiking mostly on roads and knowing known pathways. So we were the first to really do it off trail off. We were on trails as much as possible. There’s aren’t that many trails. And we were trying to stay as close to the spine of the Andes as we could without

Marc Gutman 21:46
relying on roads. And so what what happens when your adventure of the year like what don’t mean now

Gregg Treinish 21:54
you get a call. So that happened because I gave a presentation in a parking lot at that Outdoor Retailer. So that I mentioned earlier for granite gear, who was a sponsor, a sponsor, they gave us some free packs. To me, that was a sponsor that I wrote like 300 letters to companies and three wrote back and I was like kotula steri pen and granite gear. So we got a call. Three weeks after we gave that presentation in a parking lot. It’s in Salt Lake City at a hotel that since burned down the city Creek in and they were like, can you be in Washington in a month or whatever it was. And we’re like, why? And he said, You’ve been selected as adventure of the Year by natgeo. And we went there and Andy skorpa had gotten it the year before. So he was on stage presenting and talking about, you know, his year of adventure the year and then looked at us and just said this will change your life. And I had no idea what he meant then, but it did. It was amazing.

Marc Gutman 23:00
In what ways I mean, I’m sure you can’t say all of them, but like, how did it change your life? Like, like what happened? Yeah,

Gregg Treinish 23:07
right. Like I can’t say all cuz I don’t know, like, I don’t know what my life would have been the other way right without that. But what it did is give me access to World Class explorers, it gave me a credential to be able to really have some momentum behind what I wanted to do and and my path from there. I hadn’t known that I was gonna start this when I got adventure year by any means. But it gave me the, I guess the credibility to be able to start adventure scientists. And yeah, it was from deepening the relationship in that geo and being able to lead expeditions around the world to having some public awareness about what we had done, being featured in magazines and stuff like that really gave us the the, again, the opportunity to then go out and get additional sponsorship to do biological expeditions, which we started doing after that. And it just, it was just the opportunity. It was a stepping stone for sure.

Marc Gutman 24:16
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Yeah, and that’s, that’s a great segue. So like, what was the impetus or the inspiration or the lightbulb moment for adventure scientists, because your things are going good, right? Like why? Why why start this business? Yeah, so

Gregg Treinish 25:46
I totally kill it, I think just continued doing mega expeditions and, and live that life and now would have been incredibly fun. But as I said, like, purpose was what really mattered to me and the enemies. You know, ostensibly, we’re, we are trying to learn about sustainability and and we’re really passionate about human sustainability. Even then, you know, we learned a lot we saw people who had been living with traditional methods of light of agriculture and and solar cookers and all kinds of things, we learned a ton there, how to treat water with just the pop bottle, throw it up on your roof, and UV light works like pretty cool. So there was some purpose there. And we had hoped to share some of the lessons we learned. I think we were in our early 20s. And, and still, like a new adventure, and a little naive as to how real change happens in the world. But anyway, on that trip, I was asking myself like what’s next, and really fell even deeper into the ecology space and thought I would work with lions and learn how to save lion some way and wrote a professor Scott Creel, who’s here and asked if I could come study, how to save lions with him, and came up here and started working on my second degree, which was in wildlife ecology. And started before I ever made it to Africa with Scott, I started tracking links, and Wolverines, and grizzly bears here. So I’d go out on my boss’s truck and take his snowmobiles out and would park as far as we could go. And then I’d hop on my skis, and go for two or three days following Wolverine tracks and documenting their behavior and collecting DNA samples. And it was awesome. What a fun trip, or projects really. And then we were I started working on owls in California, and I worked with other species, and just really felt like I was making a difference. And using my outdoor skill set to do it. In my outdoor skill set, let’s be clear, I’m not a world class climber. I’m not a I’m not really good at any sports, I just have persistence and creativity and optimism was, is so translatable to the business world and what I do now. But anyway, yeah, I was doing those things and feeling good about it. But it just occurred to me that if we could rally, others who love the outdoors and get them to do it, the impact would be so much bigger. I had also been taking biological expedition. So I’ve worked with some scientists. In the course of my degree, they actually used it for part of my degree and developed a protocol to put my brain in the in the headspace of a grizzly bear Wolverine and make decisions like they would make as they moved across large landscapes. And so I walked from the eastern end of Yellowstone to the western end of Idaho, which is about 600 miles and a month, and tested these least cost path analyses or predictions on how wildlife will move across the ecosystem and documented how many fences they have to cross and got a lot of information that way. And then went on to do expeditions in Mongolia tracking Wolverines. And, and I just saw that that there was this real opportunity to mobilize people who wish there was a way they could give back, we thought it would be cool to do that, at least, maybe they didn’t have the same selfish feeling I did, but they thought it would be meaningful and cool to do that. And then I was doing these things as a scientist that I didn’t know much about, like, take seven years of training to learn how to track hours and it didn’t take seven years of training to learn how to identify Wolverine tracks. So I just knew that that possibility was there and I googled how do you start a nonprofit and reached out to Conrad Anker, who’s one of the world’s greatest mountaineers here in Bozeman and he said he joined my board and then it was just one thing after another with Conrad, I was able to get Celine Cousteau and john Bower master and and Ross savage who’s the first person to row across all three oceans and first woman to row across the Pacific and Atlantic. And I just got these heroes of mine together and and started doing started figuring out how do you run a nonprofit?

Marc Gutman 30:15
It’s incredible. And, and I want to pick that up there. But as you’re talking, it also really dawned on me. And you may have a different definition than most people have two words. And so I’d like you to think about, like, how do you define adventure or an adventure? And then how do you define science or scientist? Because you were just talking like, to me, a scientist is someone with a bazillion years of training and they wear a lab coat and they you know, and they do all this stuff. But clearly, you found sort of a different definition. Yeah,

Gregg Treinish 30:53
so adventure. First of all, like, I think it’s more traditional than than not, I don’t know, Explorer is a different term and is pushing any boundary in my mind. But adventure is is pursuing passion in the outdoors. It’s it’s like, it’s certainly outdoor sport bass, but that can be hiking for some people and just like, adventuring into a place you haven’t been before to look at birds, or it can be climbing peaks and, and skiing down or whatever. Yeah, it’s pursuing your own boundaries in the outdoors is my definition of adventure adventure. People who volunteer for us are everything from day hikers to World Class climbers. So it’s a huge spectrum. Scientists are scientific, you know, I do think it takes training, I do think it takes method and following a scientific process. But man, there are field technicians, which is what I was a field technician that are doing real science and really important science and our volunteers are doing science and really important science. So would they call themselves scientists? No. What a lot of people allow me to call myself a scientist, absolutely not. No way. Any PhDs who are listening to this, like, I get it, you guys are scientists. I am a wannabe for sure. But it’s like I hang around a lot of scientists and I’ve learned a lot about science and how science works. And, and it’s exploration, right, it’s under, it’s pushing boundaries. It’s looking at things with a new lens, it’s looking at things with innovation and technology and entrepreneurial spirit behind it. You know, at the end of the day, I’m not really an adventure. Most I’m an adventure, but I’m not a scientist, I am an entrepreneur, I’m a community organizer. I bring people together with a common purpose and a common goal. And make sure they have the skills that they need to be successful. In order to go out and pick up animals, cats so that a Harvard Medical School can read research, I can look at them for antibiotic resistance, you don’t have to be a PhD, you have to know how to identify scat. Like say this is poop, you don’t even have to know whose poop it is. And you have to be trained how to properly pick it up. So you don’t can’t contaminate the sample. That’s not rocket science. It’s important, it’s meaningful. It’s contributing to science. But you know, so you’re a citizen scientists or community scientists you’re not a you’re not a PhD Nobel Prize winning scientists for doing that though.

Marc Gutman 33:38
No and and I wouldn’t make that assertion right but the the idea that we can be additive that we can use our day hiking our adventures these things that you know, I have the same feeling I feel self for sometimes when I’m up in a helicopter going through a mountain or you know, doing whatever, it’s, it’s really an amazing opportunity. And, you know, a moment of confession, my 11 year old daughter and I last night we were doing a word game around poop yet it’s a different word for poop. And scat was one that you know, I had that helped to stump her but to think that you know, us having this like, you know, how many words can we come up with poop? that we could go out and be additive to a harvard medical researchers project is really empowering and really amazing. So when you started this business, you googled it you got Connor at anchor, you got some other famous people to help me your board and give you some visibility. I mean, was it an immediate success? Did it take off or what happened?

Gregg Treinish 34:36
Yeah, it was pretty cool. Like so that was in January or February maybe it was late January, and then by May, we have collected the highest known plant life on Earth, up to 22,000 feet and we started that got a bunch of press. And then it was like one thing after another there was people rolling across the Arctic Ocean and we met up we connected them with a researcher looking at whale olfaction and playing plankton and trying to understand how whales track points and and then we, we had projects that would just build back then it was actually the adventurers who were saying, like, I’m going here, I’m doing this, I’m going there, what do you have for me to do? And then I would find a researcher and put them together, we realized after some time that the impact, there’s tough, you’ve got these one off expeditions, in many cases, yeah, you get some great samples for scientists. But what we do now is everything is driven by the scientists. So the scientists come to us and they say, I need samples from here, I need this many samples over this period of time. And the real value proposition is scale, they can’t get the temporal or spatial scale that we can get, and certainly access to these places, too. But there’s a lot of scientists, scientists go into this because they love the or these field scientists do. Science is a huge, huge category, obviously, everything from solving the pandemic to field biologist studying tree kangaroos and Papa New Guinea. But so a lot of them do have outdoor skills. But the reality is, is you can go to one peak, and you raise a ton of money and to be to be able to do that you get a grant to be able to do that. And it’s $40,000 expedition and go climb one of these Himalayan peaks. And what we do is, it’s like, oh, you need data from every 8000 meter peak on the planet, or in the Himalaya, you need data from everything above 6000 meters on the planet, it’s just not possible any other way. And so when we flipped it and started being scientist driven, the impact really became clear and what this organization can be really started to crystallize.

Marc Gutman 36:46
Yeah, and what is your sort of day to day in life? Like is the CEO and founder Are you just off on expeditions hanging out? Like just you know, hanging off a mountain being cool? Or like, what’s what’s your day to day? Like?

Gregg Treinish 36:59
Yeah, no, I am doing that I, I try to do at least one awesome adventure every year. And and I have two small kids. So admittedly have have slacked at that a bit. I’ve had to do Alaska on attended packraft this year, in the Brooks Range. But those are the exception. Those are the most fun parts of my job, for sure. I raise money, I manage a team, I set vision and strategy. I work on developing new projects and finding leads working with our networks, through the World Economic Forum, or TED or National Geographic, to come up with new projects, and what’s going to be the most impactful work with our donors on understanding the opportunities that their connections could provide on partnering with them to build these projects and actually get them off the ground. I spend a lot of time managing the team and dealing with the, the ups and downs of that. And yeah, and and thinking strategically about what’s next what the chess pieces are, and what the moves are, that are going to help grow this organization and help it reach its potential.

Marc Gutman 38:18
Yeah. And so is there anything that you didn’t share? that reveals like, what’s hard about this, like, what’s hard about running a nonprofit that not only just a nonprofit, but that one that deals with kind of this idea of adventure in science and putting it all together? Like, what, what’s hard about this thing?

Gregg Treinish 38:36
Yeah, there’s the kind of the basic layers of everything that any business owner or entrepreneur deals with, right? It’s like, you got to sell your idea, you got to market your idea, you got to have proof of concept. You have to, you know, have good market strategy and all this. So it’s those basic things for sure. I think nonprofit is not always taken as seriously in the business community. I think there’s challenges with that. Yet, we have a fee for service revenue stream, too. So I’ve had to build out the business model on the business as well. We also have philanthropic support, which has been essential to our success. With a with a for profit, you take on investment, and you know, and that really to get it off the ground. You can’t do that with a nonprofit, you can’t sell equity in the company. And so you have to be profitable from day one. That that’s a huge challenge. You have to be in the black every year, unless you’ve got a reserve fund, which we now do, but you’ve got to build that up and it’s taken a decade to be able to even think about spending more than we make in a year. So that’s a huge challenge. I think that the the competition with for profit for getting talented individuals is real. You know, by being able to take on that debt and can offer bigger salaries right away, it’s hard to compete with those salaries, though, I’m really proud of what we can offer our staff now. But it’s taken a long time to get there, I spent the first nine months doing this selling bumper stickers. So I would like I brought those three letter like BGN, bumper stickers to Bozeman, and nobody was selling me here. So I print off a bunch. And then I’d walk around to the people who sell bumper stickers and then say, Hey, you know, I didn’t tell him this, but it was, Hey, I just bought these for 30 cents, you want them for $1. And they would sell them for $4. And it was like, that’s how I had enough money to eat. So it took starting the second business to be able to do that. And I didn’t pay myself until probably September of that first year. And that was eight bucks an hour. So it was it was a long slog to do that. And then I think by March, I was able to hire my first employee. So it’s it’s been slow incremental growth. And, you know, it’s no different than adventure and expeditions to like, the cool thing about expeditions for me is not like this, like, ooh, adrenaline seeking. That’s not my type of Expedition. It’s its persistence, its creativity, its problem solving. It’s you’re in this shitty situation, how you can get yourself out. And it’s avoiding those situations to begin with. I think that is exactly what running a business is. It’s looking ahead and coming up with where you’re headed and your route or your strategy, and it’s avoiding pitfalls and trying to see around corners, and then inevitably, you’re in shitty situations that you didn’t foresee. And it’s using creativity, optimism and persistence, navigate around those things. And keeping a clear head while you’re doing it and making sure that you’re looking at all options, getting advice where you can, can’t always do that on expeditions, but you can sometimes, and and looking at people who have been there before you so that you’re not reinventing the wheel all the time. So it translates really well. Absolutely. And you must be doing something right, because I’m doing the math correctly.

Marc Gutman 42:14
Your business is coming up on 10 years, or did you just celebrate 10 years of Yeah, January

Gregg Treinish 42:20
this year was our 10th anniversary, and we’re using the whole year to celebrate our 10th

Marc Gutman 42:25
year anniversary. Congratulations. That’s an amazing accomplishment. Most businesses don’t make it to like year two. So to make it 10 years is huge. So 10 years for adventure scientists, what you mentioned a big part of your, your job is thinking about the future, thinking about the future vision. What What’s next? What’s the future for adventure scientists? What’s that look like? Yeah, we

Gregg Treinish 42:47
want to be the greatest data collectors at scale on the planet. And we’ve got some work to make that true. We want to gain experience internationally and are exploring projects in many different fields, but in timber and, and in wildlife connectivity and in agriculture, and really helping to improve crop yields using natural nature based solutions is the field. And we’re looking at how to really do that, with this organization. And what we’ve built here has incredible potential to accelerate impact accelerate the ability for our species to operate with less impacts with less negative impact on the planet. And I there’s this line in a Bronx tale, which is great movie from God knows when in the 90s I think and Robert De Niro’s in it, and he’s talking to his son, and it’s, there’s nothing worse than wasted potential. And that’s what this organization is, isn’t certainly not wasted potential, but so much potential, and is just look forward to the future of us becoming a real resource for problem solvers to get there quickly, more quickly than they otherwise would. And we’re not we already there. And it’s important to recognize the accomplishments already. And it’s important to recognize that we’ve had a tremendous impact on on a number of different fields, from antibiotic resistance to microplastics, to improving crop yields to helping to restore and preserve species that are extirpated from ecosystems. And it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in 10, short years, and I’m so proud of our impacts that we’ve already had. But I’m always thinking about how we do that on a bigger scale and how we make sure that the data we’ve collected and the data we will collect are going to have as much impact on as many lives human and otherwise as possible.

Marc Gutman 44:47
Yeah. And so with that in mind, if people want to help you collect data at scale, how do they get involved? How do they learn more about adventure scientists?

Gregg Treinish 44:56
Yeah, adventure. scientists.org is a great place to go where on all the social media channels on adventure scientists, as well, you know, we need a lot of people, this is a movement, and we need a lot of people working together to make it happen. It’s the volunteers. Absolutely. If you like being in the outdoors, we don’t always have project everywhere on Earth, we are working towards that, and hope for that to be true at some point. But we have great opportunities to use your outdoor skills to further a number of different fields. And we need money to do what we do. We need that through philanthropy and and also through projects. If you’re scientists who could benefit from data collection at scale, you got to reach out to us talk to us, we also really need a lot of business acumen that like I said, we’re building the fee for service revenue stream at the same time that we’re learning how to market our overall mission and overall organization better, as well as marketing these projects better. So we need support like that as well. advice, and, and connections. So we welcome everybody to come and reach out through the website. And I’m Greg and adventure scientists.org. So people can email me as well.

Marc Gutman 46:17
Fantastic. And we’ll make sure to link to all those resources in the show notes. So it makes it really easy for people to click and be able to, to contact you and either volunteer, donate or help in other ways. So Greg, as we come to the end of our time here, I’d love you and I, we kind of touched on this, but I’d love you to think back to that that young version of yourself whose skin at eight years old and living in Cleveland, and, you know, what do you think he would say, if he saw you today? See, cool, do more.

Gregg Treinish 46:51
I don’t know. He’d say, that’s pretty cool, man. I think he would be proud of me. You know, more importantly, I think I’ve got an amazing wife and two amazing kids and the organization is is great. But I think that those other things matter as much to me and, and my family, my parents are still with me. And I’m amazing. And my brothers, my little brothers just had a baby two days ago. And I’m really close with both my brothers. And I think those are the things that matters much to me as anything I’ve built at work, and it’s just one part of a much broader picture for me. So I think he would be proud that all those things are true for me today too.

Marc Gutman 47:37
And that is Greg reinisch, founder and CEO of adventure scientists. I love this idea that we as those that love the outdoors can help contribute to science by doing what we love. I want to stress that you can be an Everest mountaineer, or a day hiker or anything in between. Adventure scientist probably has a project for you. Congratulations to Greg and the entire team that adventure scientists is they celebrate their 10th anniversary this year. Here’s the 10 more 10 more years of creating impact. This is truly the entrepreneurial spirit, rewriting the script and impacting our world. The big thank you to Greg trench and the team it adventure scientists. We will link to all things Greg and adventure scientists in the show notes. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line that podcast@wildstorm.com our best guests like Greg come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstorm.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny

BGBS 069: Don Wenner | DLP Real Estate Capital | How Do You Instill Grit?

BGBS 069: Don Wenner | DLP Real Estate Capital | How Do You Instill Grit?

May 26, 2021

BGBS 069: Don Wenner | DLP Real Estate Capital | How Do You Instill Grit?

Don Wenner is the founder and CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital, a multi-faceted company that leads and inspires the building of wealth and prosperity through the execution of innovative real estate solutions. DLP Real Estate Capital is the parent company to 7 subsidiary companies with the purpose to “Dream. Live. Prosper.” They are located in Pennsylvania and Florida and conduct business throughout the United States.  

DLP has been ranked in the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in the US for 8 consecutive years. They have earned the #3 spot for Americas’ Fastest Growing Companies 2020 in the real estate and property category by Financial Times and have been named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top 15 real estate firms in the U.S. for the sixth straight year, including the #1 team in PA and NJ for sales. Don has built a track record of generating consistent profits in all market conditions and cycles. In less than 10 years, he has grown his business to over $100 million in annual revenue, and in less than 15 years, he has amassed over $1 billion in assets under management. His company has grown by 60% every year for the past 13 years. Since DLP’s founding in 2006, they have closed more than 16,000 real estate transactions totaling $4 billion+ and have over 500 loans in our portfolio. They currently have over 1,000 real estate investors and a portfolio of 11,000 units.

Don is also an author and speaker. His first book, Building An Elite Organization: The Blueprint to Scaling a High Growth, High-Profit Business, along with its companion – The Elite Journal was published in April 2021. In 2019, he founded the DLP Positive Returns Foundation, focused on making a monumental impact on two epidemics: the creation of well-paying, stable jobs and providing safe, affordable housing. DLP has made a pledge to donate ¼% of all capital, ¼% net revenue, 100% of all book proceeds, and 100% of all American Institute of Investment Housing (AIIH) proceeds to the Foundation. They are focused on raising $1 million by the end of 2021.

Don studied Finance and Marketing at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, PA. He and his wife, along with his two young sons, reside in St. Augustine, FL where he is active in faith and community. He is passionate about fitness & health, devours books on a weekly basis, and enjoys many outdoor activities and discovering new places with his family. He also spends time at his homes in Asheville, NC and Bethlehem, PA.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • Many Americans are struggling with depression and feelings of inadequacy from the current state of the world. As a leader, you can bring significance and happiness into your team member’s lives by helping them live fully and feel connected to an impact bigger than themselves.
  • Every problem is a leadership problem at its core.
  • Affordable rent has skyrocketed disproportionately from the slow rise of income in the US, on top of many future jobs being lost to automation. It’s a challenge to keep housing affordable without sacrificing a decent standard of living in this age of inflation, but DLP Real Estate Capital is committed to doing so.

Resources

Website: dlprealestate.com

Instagram: @don_wenner

LinkedIn: Don Wenner

Facebook: Don Wenner

Quotes

[9:45] I do believe that grit is what separates the most successful people in the world from everybody else. And I believe that’s a fact, not a theory. But the question is, how do you instill grit? How do you instill that drive?

[19:09] What I believe is every organization has four quadrants: their strategy, people, operations, and acceleration — acceleration is sales and marketing integrated — and you need to be able to grow all of that together, part of one plan in order to be able to grow consistently and profitably.

[28:45] I believe it’s our job as leaders to help our team members connect their day to day work with making impact bigger than themselves…and we focus heavily on helping our team members live fully across the eight F’s of life, which are faith, family, friends, freedom, fun fulfillment, fitness, and finance.

[37:34] The first fundamental part of the challenge is aligning what’s good for society or the world with what’s good for us or for our investors and trying to align that always because a lot of real estate — good, great companies — are actually a part of the problem, not the solution.

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Podcast Transcript

Don Wenner 0:02
You know, that sort of taken off so we couldn’t we didn’t have enough capital. So I launched private investment funds and started taking in capital into our funds. And then we start having too much capital more than we could deploy. And we said, well, how do we help other people trying to run businesses similar to us and we started in lending money to others do a running business similar to as other real estate investors. So it’s happened in a very natural manner of progression off of helping home sellers and are beginning days.

Marc Gutman 0:34
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman. How in the world can anyone afford housing expenses these days, the market is going crazy and the rising cost of housing is far outpacing the rise in wages. It’s truly the crisis of our time. I’m Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby Got Back story we are talking about, you guessed it, real estate, housing, and living fully. And before we get into this episode, I want you to live fully. I want you to excel in all eight apps, you’re going to need to listen today’s episode to understand what that truly means. That all starts by heading over to Apple podcasts or Spotify, and giving us a five star review and rating. By this point in our lives. We all know that algorithms rule the world. And as such apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. Show that algo who’s boss and rate this podcast, own the algorithm. Don’t let it own you. Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today’s guest is Don Wenner founder and CEO of DLP real estate capital. And as you’ll hear DLP capital has $1.6 billion in assets under management and they are on track to be a fortune 500 company. You could say they are going places. DLP real estate capital is a multifaceted company that leads and inspires the building of wealth and prosperity through the execution of innovative real estate solutions. DLP real estate capital is the parent company to DLP elite DLP Capital Partners DLP lending, DLP realty DLP, real estate management, Alliance servicing and Alliance property transfer and they are located in Pennsylvania and Florida and conduct business all throughout the United States. So what does all this mean? DLP is taking on the workforce housing crisis head on. They’re on a mission to align affordable housing with investor returns. no easy task. In addition to running DLP, Don winter is an author and speaker. He is passionate about fitness and health, devours books on a weekly basis and enjoys many outdoor activities in discovering new places with his family. And this is his story.

I am here with Don Wenner, the CEO of DLP capital. Don, welcome to the show.

Don Wenner 3:40
Hey, thank you, Marc. Really excited to be here.

Marc Gutman 3:42
Oh, really excited to have you before we get into it. Can you tell what is DLP capital? Like? What do you guys do?

Don Wenner 3:50
We do it we do a few things. So So yeah, so DLP capital is the parent company to about a dozen operating businesses that operate under the DLP brand. And then short we’re a private real estate investment and financial services company. easier way to say it is we invest in, in housing, specifically workforce housing, and then we do a lot of different ways we do that and execute on that. And we’re really focused on, you know, making an impact on the affordable workforce housing crisis in America today.

Marc Gutman 4:21
Yeah, and affordable housing. It’s a topic that I’m sure we’ll get into deeper later in the episode, but it’s, it’s a hot topic right now. It’s a real real issue.

Don Wenner 4:30
That’s not never never been a bigger issue than it is today. That’s for sure.

Marc Gutman 4:34
Well, I’m happy to hear that you’re working on that problem. And looking forward to talking more about what that looks like. But before we get into that, you know, is real estate something that you’ve always been interested in when you were young and a young young kid? Where’d you grew up done?

Don Wenner 4:51
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, known for Lehigh University. Probably most of anything today.

Marc Gutman 4:58
Yeah. So you know, when little was running around Bethlehem? Like, were you into real estate? Did you think that this was going to be something that you’d be into as a career,

Don Wenner 5:08
and no, never never gave real estate a moment, I thought until I was probably up until about two weeks before I got into real estate. So it was never on my mind in any way, shape, shape or form. So I think I don’t know, I don’t know, I guess today, you know, more and more, we have a lot of kids coming out of college, you know, who are getting degrees in real estate, and it’s, I guess, more in vogue today. But at the time, certainly real estate was not a something I thought over I knew any other kids thinking that real estate was going to be their, their career path.

Marc Gutman 5:39
So what were your influences growing up? I mean, did you come from a family that was entrepreneurial,

Don Wenner 5:46
I did not. So So my parents had me at 16 so like most 16 year olds, my parents had no money and so grew up in you know, lower middle classes, I guess the nice way to put it, you know, working family you know, bought our clothes either made them or bought them at a yard sale and and, you know, scraping to make ends meet each and every week and month and, and it was you know, great, humble, humble way to to grow up. I’m the oldest of four grown up five now as an adopted sister and, and my parents got divorced when I was four though, and so made made ends a little even tighter and grown up. And in the eighth grade, kind of a big influence for me was I was already entrepreneurial.

You know, my dad told that my wedding story how he knew I was going to be an entrepreneur in kindergarten, when he started packing doughnuts into my lunch bag, and I started selling them to my classmates for 50 cents apiece, and, and when the school found out and call them cut my donut supply, that’s, you know, kind of when he knew and I never heard that story, and I remembered it when he said I hadn’t heard it until my wedding when he when he told it but but that was kind of my first entrepreneur experience and did that all through elementary selling, selling different things, running landscaping businesses and employing my friends and stuff like that. And in in the eighth grade, a financial advisor came into career day. And he showed this little chart that said, financial advisors made more money than doctors, lawyers, accountants, you know, all the jobs your parents tell you to become. And so I was entrepreneurial. And he explained to you know, financial advisors independent and kinda is in control of their own business, and you have to be good at math. And I was like, well, that’s me. That’s what I’m gonna do. And literally, I was, you know, very annoying eighth grader, shadowing financial advisors and spending my summer trying to learn the business. And I was set.

That’s what I was going to do. moved out of my parents house in high school at 17 years old and supported my way through the rest of high school and into college and had my mindset while I was at Drexel University studying finance, I was going to be a financial advisor and worked at BlackRock and McGladrey and Poland and some good sized companies, but knew I was going to be a financial advisor. And, and that was until I would wait tables on the weekends to help make, you know, make ends meet and pay for my room and board and whatnot.

And a guy kept coming into the restaurant was working at and his name is Nathan Robinson. And Nathan convinced me one day to come meet with him because he wanted to, he kept wanting me to come work for him, and didn’t really know what he did. He told me he was in the security business. So I finally sat down and met with them and turned out he was in the ADT, you know, alarm system security business. And he told me, I would make $2,000 a week, if I came to work for him. And I was 19 at that time, and, and $2,000 a week sounded, you know, pretty good. And it was a lot of money. You know, 19 years old now says, Yeah, yeah, 1617 years ago, and, and so, I, for some reason, believed him. And I started working for him the next day. And my first paycheck was $5,280. That was one of my worst paychecks I’d ever I ever earned from there forward. Later in life. Many years later, I found out no one had ever earned $1,000 a week for him less than $2,000 a week but because he gave me that belief, that’s what I thought was supposed to earn and my whole job was, you know, knocking on doors.

That’s literally what I did all day was I knocked on doors, and you know, became the top sales rep in the country for ADT, and making a lot of money and saving a lot of money and, and Nathan also happened to be in real estate. He was a real estate agent at Keller Williams and he convinced me if I got my real estate license, I would do really well. Still in college, kind of didn’t sleep for a couple weeks, took my classes online, took my exam and and that weekend, I flew out to a marketing conference the weekend I got my real estate license and I learned the concept of direct response marketing and having a unique selling proposition. My message from that first weekend before ever you know how to sign up at Keller Real Estate was your home sold, guaranteed or buy it? And it was October 2006, which was the peak of the real estate market. So it was a good time and seriousness, it was a good time to get into business. We didn’t many didn’t think it would be but it was that kind of was the start of my my real estate career.

Marc Gutman 10:16
Yeah. And so, what do you think Nathan saw in you? That 19 is someone you know, working as a waiter in a restaurant, you know, and what do you think he saw on you were like, what, what did you exhibit at that time?

Don Wenner 10:32
So I know one of the specific things that would grab his attention as you know, I worked at the time I was working at a Texas Roadhouse. So yes, I had the line down. So it was a it was a it was a interesting job. But uh, you know, every night they would do, and maybe we’ve ever worked at restaurants, you probably experienced this, you know, you had, they would have a contest of, you know, whoever sells the most filets tonight, or ribeyes, or whatever earns, you know, whatever it was 100 bucks, or, or, you know, some sort of incentive.

So, when that when we started off that shift, whatever the item was, that was the hot item for the night, that’s what everybody was eating. So, so Nathan, realize that, you know, he didn’t really get to dictate what he was having. And he was, you know, you know, a lively charismatic guy, and, you know, have a lot of fun with it, that, you know, he was going to eat whatever, you know, he knew what the special was, and he knew that’s what he was having. So, after the third or fourth time of me selling him on on some sort of special, you know, he saw saw some sort of, you know, energy and excitement that, you know, he wanted to explore and I don’t think I was the first he recruited after restaurants out that I was so special, he, you know, he realized it was a great place to find people willing to work hard and used to be out in front of people and, and so gave me Give me a chance.

Marc Gutman 11:50
Yeah, you know, I think there’s a rite of passage work in a chain restaurant and knowing like either line dancing, I worked at ci G’s. And so I just sing the birthday song, I just actually sang it last week for a friend because I’ll never ever forget it. Maybe maybe at the end of this episode, I will delight listeners with that. Awesome. But yeah, and so that’s all cool. And you’re working hard. And you know, you’re, you’re catching Nathan’s attention. But I’m really curious, like, where does this drive come from? Because I sense like, you know, yeah, there was some, some financial incentive there, you wanted to make money? But why?

Don Wenner 12:28
That’s an interesting question. So you know, not to detour a little bit, but you know, I just published a book called Building an elite organization. And, and, and I, I’ve said this a couple times, I joke, like, if I, if I could answer your question, you just asked me, I wouldn’t have wrote the book building in the organization, I’d be writing books on parenting. Because if we could all, you know, figure out as the father of two young boys, you know, if I knew the exact formula to what, you know, what creates that drive, and I, you know, grit as we like to call it, you know, that, that’s, that’s what I’d be, I’d be an expert in today. And, and, you know, I do believe that grit is what separates the most successful people in the world from everybody else. And I believe that’s a fact not a not a theory.

But, you know, the question is, how do you instill, you know, grit? How do you instill that, that drive? And I think there’s lots of things that you know, and I try to do as a parent, such as an example, is, you know, I don’t I don’t tell my children, you know, my children are eight, nine today, I don’t I don’t tell them, you know, you’re so smart, or you’re so handsome, or you’re so athletic, I reward the behavior. And so I record you know, man, three touchdowns today. That’s a man so impressed with three dozen and man, I’m really proud of how hard you worked this week in practice, and, and how you really, you know, improved on on this and they get, you know, high honor on all A’s. I’m not saying man, you’re so smart. I’m saying, I’m really proud of how hard you’ve been working on your homework and not after you’ve been putting forth and kind of rewarding the things you can control versus what you can’t control the effort and the behavior.

But, you know, for me, you know, I didn’t grow up from entrepreneurs. You said, Actually, my my mom’s been working for me now for 14 years, my father for 12 years, my stepmother for seven years, my stepfather for four years, much of my family works in the business, none of them came from an entrepreneurial background or none of them, frankly, have the sort of drive that I’ve always had. So but I think part of it is coming from humble background helps and that’s definitely a concern. I know many who children are growing up in an environment of abundance trying to make sure you keep that that drive and that that focus so I don’t have the exact answer. I feel though growing up with your limited limited means and dealing with some embarrassment as it is in you know, kind of middle school age of not having the cool clothes or shoes or, or whatnot. I think those things help shape and shape kind of the drive to take control of these things and more are certainly impactful for me.

Marc Gutman 15:00
Yeah, and so you’re working in the real estate business, you’re getting your start offering to buy houses guaranteed if you can’t sell it, how do you make the leap from that from getting into the business to starting a business like DLP?

Don Wenner 15:17
You know, for us it everything you know, so it looks today, like, you know, I work with, you know, we help a lot of entrepreneurs who are looking to scale their businesses, and especially, especially, we help a lot in the, in the world of real estate. And, and a lot look at what we do. And we have, you know, we have a, we can show a pretty slide or pretty page of our family of businesses, and they look like they just worked so well together. And like, you know, I must have sat back 15 years ago and crafted this, this vision, and, and, you know, and poof, like, you know, we have this, this is perfectly set up organization. But, you know, the reality is that that’s not how it how it happened. And really, you know, what we did is we looked for, you know, challenges that are the clients, the people we were coming in touch with, were struggling with, and trying to find solutions. And so it happened very, very naturally, you know, started with as you said, I was a real estate agent offering the guaranteed to sell your home.

So I was going out to home sellers homes and offering to guarantee their sale, and that led to some people couldn’t even wait to put their home on the market. And we would just start buying their home because they were in such need of selling, especially in the great, you know, recession time. And we had some people who were upside down on their home, and we started a short sale negotiation company and, and scaled that before there was such thing as short sales. And, and you know, and then you know, we started having people who didn’t want to, you know, couldn’t sell their home because they were upside down, didn’t want to do a short sale and kind of destroy their credit, and but needed to move, they were relocating for a job or whatnot. So we started doing property management so that we could help them rent that home, because they needed to move out or move somewhere else. And so it all just came out of helping, you know, home sellers in the beginning stages. And then, you know, as we started growing and helping more and more people and started growing this home flipping business, we couldn’t find enough good contractors, I found one really good contractor, but he couldn’t keep up. So I hired him to come inside into my organization launch our own construction company, help us, you know, scale a construction company and, and you know, that, you know, really started growing and then you know, the bottom of the market, we said, hey, it’s the bottom of the market and 2011 2012 it must be near it. And we said this is the time to build a portfolio. And so we started really building a portfolio of rental properties and providing housing to those who couldn’t qualify to buy and in need of homes. And, you know, that started taking off.

So we couldn’t we didn’t have enough capital. So I launched private investment funds and started taking in capital into our funds. And then we started having too much capital more than we could deploy. And we said, well, how do we help other people trying to run businesses somewhat, and we started then lending money to others who were running business similar to us other real estate investors. So it’s happened in a very natural manner of progression off of helping home sellers and our beginning days and has taken shape where it is today, which today we’re you know, closing in, bender this month, 450 employees, team members, you know, 1.6 billion and a u m, and and you know, doing hundreds of millions a year in revenue, but it’s happened, you know, very naturally over these last 15 years.

Marc Gutman 18:14
Yeah, and for those of you listening A u m is assets under management. So yeah, thank you get clarification on the jargon there. So, thanks for that, Don. Yeah, I mean, I think about that, and I have so many questions on that, on that last segment there. Because how do you do it? Like, how do you keep starting businesses, in ensuring that they fall underneath DLP in a way that is, is satisfactory to you? Right? I have to imagine that you have very high standards that you you’re creating this, this business empire, if you will, and, but it’s not just like, Hey, I’m just gonna, you know, you know, throw something on the wall and see if it sticks, it has to, you know, be up to your state, like, how do you do that? And you yourself not get caught up in the details and not get mired down in being a doer versus a leader?

Don Wenner 19:08
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I, I’ll start first start with the last part of that notice, you know, I, I believe strongly my job today here at DLP, and over the past 15 years in each of our, you know, senior executives is still to be doers. So, you know, we expect our executives to be doers, managers and leaders at the same time, and that’s not easy. But that’s been, you know, really critical, you know, for our success and, and, and I’m still roll up my sleeves, you know, every every single day and, and it helps a ton staying, you know, keeping your feet in the dirt and understanding what’s really going on. But, you know, I’d say a couple things to answer your your question, though, is you know, first is I was never afraid to hire.

And I realized early on, you know, in sales, you know, I realized that, you know, my fundamental stage we’re all salespeople in every every business then they your core. Your core function is is sales. And so my beginning days of being a real estate agent, I realized if I wasn’t on the phone prospecting to potential clients, or I wasn’t sitting in front of a potential client, my time wasn’t being best used. And so I was in the business for maybe 60 days, when I took another agent in my office who wasn’t doing very well and offered her a part time job. By the end of that first week, she was working more than full time. And two weeks later, she was so busy, I hired another assistant. And then about a month later, I hired the third two of those three young ladies are still working for me today.

But I was willing to put people in place to free me up for to do what I knew was most impactful, where I can make the biggest difference. And, and in the beginning, that was, you know, that was really impactful. And I put built an organization around, you know, some people who are willing to follow me and work really hard and, and in free me up and follow me towards my, my vision, and, and I was, you know, constantly trying to learn and grow and realize, especially in the world of big businesses, such as real estate and financial services, and lending, there’s lots and lots of people have done this, and I’ve done this successfully. And there’s other people walk before me who who’ve done it. And so a constant wanting to learn from from others. And so still, to this day, you know, I’m an incredibly avid learner, I read, you know, three, four books every week. And, and so I was reading and learning and going to masterminds and learning for 20 great people and getting all these great ideas and concepts from the greats like Jim Collins, and john Maxwell, and so forth. And, and, but getting all that information and into in a manner that you can put it all into place, right, because you read one great book about leadership and tells you that’s all you need to grow great business and other one is just management.

Other one is content marketing. And another one, it’s, you know, it’s execution, another book, it’s all about hiring, right. And but the reality is, you need to be good at all these things at the same time, as part of one system. And, and so we set out, you know, about 10 years ago now, and realizing we needed a system to, and a system that can get everybody in the organization around to be able to really have consistent results. And, and that’s where what I wrote a book on called Building an organization is about, it’s what we’ve built over the last decade called the elite execution system. And what I believe is every organization has four quadrants, their strategy, people, operations, and acceleration, acceleration is sales and marketing integrated. And you need to be able to grow all of that together a part of one plan in order to be able to grow consistently and profitably.

And that’s been really key to how we’ve grown, you know, by over 60%, every year now for 15 years, while growing our margins is putting that discipline in place. And when you get put that structure in place, and language and terminology that that every business in our DLP business operates under. And you realize most all businesses are more similar than dissimilar. And and as we’ve gone through a lot of businesses 12 that we run today, I’ve run over 20 businesses in total, over this past decade, they’re all very, very similar, and they have the same challenges, and are very, very similar challenges. And in putting the right structure in place that allows you to be able to execute each day and put the right people in place has been really instrumental in the success we’ve been able to have and be able to grow multiple business at the same time, without yet coming up with a way to add more hours in the day.

Marc Gutman 23:16
And I imagine that staying consistent, staying cohesive, staying connected across all those business units in different businesses is a bit of a challenge. And like So from my perspective, you know, I think, you know, what role does brand play and brand building play in the DLP story?

Don Wenner 23:36
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s tremendous. For us and so the way I think about it is, is and I think more and more people today are realizing the connection between brand and culture. And so you know, we have a full time executive here at DLP, Patrick, whose title is chief experience officer, and his he’s the connection, you know, in in from an executive leadership standpoint, between your cx customer experience in E x and employee experience, and, and I think what’s been really powerful for us and growing our brand is, is the level of, of, of transparency between our culture and our brand. And, and there’s no difference, right, who we say we are, to potential employees or to our existing employees is exactly the same, as well as exactly the same as who we portray ourselves to be to all the different types of clients or stakeholders we serve. And, you know, are the book again, building the organization, we’re teaching this system that we run to other other companies, and many, many cases, these companies were helping implement the lead execution system who were teaching Hey, this is how to grow a great organization. Well, they’re coming to our meetings, they’re seeing the internal operations we let them come and see a lot of things hands on right.

So if we’re going to saying hey, this is how you should run a an elite organization, but then they come into our organization realize Wait, they don’t You’re not actually doing what you said you’re going to do, right? Or, you know, we run these big events that we bring are kind of our world revolves around kind of two groups, those who invest money with us into our funds, and then those who we invest money with, that we lend money to and invest equity with. And we’ll run these big events where the same, these two groups of people come to the same events, right? And so if we’re a different person to those investing with us, and we tell a different story to them, then we tell it to those we’re lending to, right. If I tell my investors who are investing with us, hey, we pay you these really great returns and incredible returns, and that’s because we overcharge our borrowers, right, and then we tell our borrowers that we’re giving them really great rates over here, right? If our stories aren’t matching between all the different stakeholders, from our team members to our residents who live in our properties to our investors, to our our borrowers, it becomes very, very hard. So So we really focus on that first and foremost in terms of growing our brand and then, you know, we’re going through a process literally right now you referenced that I run a company called DLP capital.

Actually today our company is called DLP real estate capital. And we’re actually going through a rebrand process right now of knocking out the real estate and DLP capital, and realigning our businesses. Right now. We were on DLP real estate capital and we have DLP lending. We have DLP Realty, we have DLP, property management, we have DLP, construction, management, etc. We’re actually going through a process right now of rebranding everybody under DLP capital. So now instead of the DLP, capital lending division, DLP capital, Property Management Division, DLP capital, so everybody’s under one brand. If you work at DLP, you’re not gonna say I work for DLP lender, you’re gonna say I work for DLP, capital lending division, right? One LinkedIn page one, you know, main website. And that’s a really big, you know, move that we’re going through right now to better align the brand and be able to better align all the products and values we can bring to clients under under one umbrella. So that’s, you know, in a very active process we’re going through right now, which has been a lot of fun, a lot of a lot have been a lot of excitement.

Marc Gutman 27:02
A common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we’ll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email, we’ll get you booked right away. So whether you’re just getting started with the new business, or whether you’ve done some work and need a refresh, or whether you’re a brand that’s high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book, your brand clarity call, you’ll learn about our brand audit and strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you’ll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We’ll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for, build the brand you’ve always dreamed of. Again, we’ll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email. Now back to the show.

I think what I’m hearing is something that I like to touch on and talk about is that branding is always an ongoing process, right? Even though right now you’re going through some identity work to bring all the companies under one banner and one look and feel that’s not going to end just with that process. And it’s an it’s an ongoing process. And I don’t want to make a point of that. And I think you’ve articulated that. And so, as you’re speaking I have to ask, you’ve got like 1.6 you said billion right and assets under management, yet now you’re even starting to teach other businesses, how to run a company like yours, like, why?

Don Wenner 28:56
Yeah, that’s a great question. So the first, you know, root reason at the end of the day is is as first foremost, I believe it’s it’s my responsibility. So, you know, I believe, you know, I’m, I’m very, I’ve been very blessed with, you know, we’re living in this time living in this country, with the skills and abilities that I’ve been blessed with from from the Lord and it’s my job to do those for the best, you know, good of, of this this world and, and feel called to, to help other companies succeed, help individuals grow, it’s not not easy and I’ve been, you know, figured out certain things through through a lot of hard work and teachings and, and other people willing to give me their time and and and, you know, share it share into into me and and so that’s the first reason second is you know, we are very focused here at DLP on on impact. And we have four areas of impact where we’re, we’re focused on first and foremost is in most obvious is is housing. That’s what our whole world revolves. Round is, is housing.

So we focus on investing in workforce housing that is and will remain affordable for the local workforce. And that’s really everything we do impacts that. The second big area of impact we’re focused on is jobs. And right now, in America, mainly due to automation technology, 30 to 50% of jobs will be gone in the next 10 to 20 years. I don’t think it’s doom and gloom, that doesn’t mean our country’s ending society’s going to hell, I think technology is going to create a big wave of job creation and new types of jobs. But those jobs are only going to be created by small businesses, or I should say, predominantly by small businesses, right, they’re not going to be created by governments, they’re going to be created by small businesses. And I know firsthand how difficult it is to grow a business despite being an amazing time that we’re faced with the global competition, it’s very challenging to grow to grow consistently and grow profitably.

And so I believe that it’s needed, you know, a system to scale entrepreneurial businesses is needed and can be the difference between an organization hitting a plateau of a really great CEO and some, you know, followers who get to a million or 3 million or 5 million or whatever revenue and just can’t, can’t grow beyond that can’t create more jobs can’t really make the level of impact that they like. And then we’re also really focused on two other areas of impact which tie in the third is on legacy. And we want to help people live and leave a legacy and, and right now those who work really hard and have success, unfortunately, the majority of first generation wealth creators, wealth is lost by the second or third generation, and doesn’t have to be that way. And not only is the wealth loss, but often they didn’t really leave a legacy or get to live one and for a number of reasons, which we could get into if we wanted to. And and the fourth crisis we’re really focused on which ties all these all these other crisis is really together is, is happiness. And, you know, right now, we’ve never been in a state of a higher percentage of people suffering from mental illness.

The number one mental illness people suffer from is depression. And stats are kind of all over the place, but it’s somewhere around 40% of Americans are struggling with depression is the most recent stats I’ve heard COVID has dramatically sparked that up and, and I believe that historically, you know, meaning the last many generations, people get their, their feeling their happiness, and their, you know, derive Your happiness is derived from the feeling of importance and significance. And people you know, Dale Carnegie and the great book, you know how to win friends and influence people. You know, it says that the number one human desire is that of the feeling of importance and significance. And historically, we’ve get that feeling from our work. And more and more today, people don’t have that same connection with their job with their employer with their careers they once did.

Couple that with social media and the feelings of inadequacy that that many face, I believe it’s our job as leaders to help our team members connect their day to day work with with making impact bigger than themselves. And that by doing that, that that’ll help them get the feeling of significance and importance they can carry into their their home life into the end of their faith life. And, and we focus on we have a whole chapter of the book is on living fully. And we focus heavily on helping our team members live fully across the eight F’s of life, which are faith, family, friends, freedom, fun, fulfillment, fitness and finance. And, and I believe that’s our job as business leaders, helping our team members get gaining importance and fulfillment in all areas of their life. And, and so I want to help not only grow great organizations, but also help those organizations organizations create happy, impactful people who can make an impact at work and outside of work.

Marc Gutman 33:51
Yeah, can you give us an example of how you support which is a EFS? That I get the PDFs? Yeah, it is.

Don Wenner 33:58
Yeah, absolutely. So so one of the the core fundamental tools, kind of where things start with our operating system called the lead execution system is developing what we call a compass, which is laying out a clear direction to where the company is going starting with purpose and mission and a clear B hag and understanding your core client and your brand promises and, and then getting into what your three year aim is for the organization and laying out a very clear one year bull’s eye. And that’s kind of the centering point of of our lead execution system. Well, we have a similar tool we call the personal compass. And so here at DLP, every one of our team members creates a personal compass where we help them evaluate their own personal mission statement, help them do we call a life assessment and go and assess their life across these eight areas of life, and evaluate where they’re at today. And then we help them set a living fully dashboard, which is setting generally about 10 goals each year across these eight apps of what they want to accomplish in Next year to live fully, and just going through that process of really evaluating your life, looking at it holistically, setting clear goals, and then building a culture of helping them achieve those goals. And we don’t just do it once a year as an exercise.

We live it throughout the year we have a living fully day where we spent a whole day focused on everything but work and bring in all kinds of experts on personal finance, meditation, fitness, etc. We do Miracle Morning, every morning with actual workout group every morning on zoom people all over the country do we have a morning prayer group, we have a FitLife group, we have a single mom support group, we have a lot of things focused on whatever the needs of our team members are, we have this group called driven for greatness we have meaning for 12 years, we read a book together, we buy everybody audible accounts, we buy everybody fitbits we buy everybody Beachbody on demand accounts, a lot of personal tools. And we read a book together and different frontline team members lead us to the discussion of that book every other week and getting people who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to self improvement in these types of ideas in this in this environment, think about construction workers and maintenance technicians such who think would never have haven’t listened to a business book in their whole life before coming to DLP. And now you know, leading a group on on a book on you know, a personal development book, I mean, it’s just really, really cool process.

So you know, then doing things helping people be able to you know, have appropriate time off helping show firsthand, you know, I coach my kids soccer, I don’t know nothing about soccer still, even though I coach this past season, but I also coach their football and their and their basketball sports, I know a little bit more of how and, and, and, you know, so much so and I and I highlight that and show that organization that Yeah, I leave, you know, work at 530 and go coach my kids sports and, and, and having that in it work life integration, as we call it, where you’re focusing on being fulfilled and succeeding in each of these areas at the same time, which is where real success, I feel comes from. And so our leaders, not just myself lead by example. And, and, and we want to really create a great environment. I had a team member a few years ago, probably about eight years ago now, who had a heart attack. And he had some other you know, he was a smoker and had some other, you know, issues. But you know, he’d been working really, really hard and a lot of us had known he had been really stressed out and been, you know, really pushed himself too hard. And luckily, he’s he he ended up living, but we thought he was he might die and and it was it was on it was touching go for a while. And you know, that hit me.

And I was like, man, I never want to be looking back saying, Man, somebody literally died here because they work so hard. They didn’t take care of themselves. I don’t want to find out that one of my team members, they got a divorce because they’re not home, and they’re not attentive to their wife. And, and because I’m working so hard, right? So so so those are some of the, you know, simple concepts and things that we’ve put into place to really help our people live fully. And there’s the lessons, we teach and provide very specific tools to help put this in action into into other businesses.

Marc Gutman 38:01
That’s super inspirational. And thank you for sharing, it’s no question or no wonder why DLP is seeing such success, you can really feel it in that explanation of going through the eight apps. And so when you think about your business, what’s hard about it? What don’t we know? What don’t we see? What don’t maybe even most of your team members see, like, what what’s hard about it?

Don Wenner 38:25
You know, I’d say the hardest part, you know, I think about every business, no matter what its size is really every problem starts in many ways or stops around leadership. So I believe every problem we have is a leadership problem at its at its core. So you know, from a simple standpoint, the hardest part when you’re growing at you know, 60 plus percent a year is in leadership development. And our focus and we believe the key to having a truly enduring organization over many, many decades is our ability to develop leaders, you know, develop people from the frontline coming in, in the front end of our frontline of the organization, be able to develop them into senior executive roles. And but when you’re growing in this kind of pace, we’ve also had to supplement with hiring great leaders from outside the organization and integrate them into the culture and, and it’s hard. I mean, it’s it’s hard as much as we’ve heard over the last, you know, year about high unemployment, different cases.

The reality is every company, especially every growing company is struggling to find enough good people, let alone strong, strong leaders. So that’s the biggest day to day challenge. And that’s been the number one place where I spend my time the number one place I spent my time in the past decade, pretty much the same thing every week, every month is on hiring. And then the second biggest place I spend spend my time for the past decade is on the development of our people, especially our leaders. So that’s the biggest challenge.

I’d say the hardest part though, of that is when you get when you have people who are really loved the organization who who work really hard, but just can’t get to the next level to keep up with the pace of growth and when you have to Either, you know, some cases part ways or have to, you know, sort of higher above somebody’s capability despite that person’s well intentions and wanting to be able to own that, that job not being able to grow at a fast enough pace, kind of the saying that, you know, I’ve heard in the past is, you know, those who got you here can’t get you to where you need to go and, and and certainly I look at first and foremost, when that happens as a as my fault and that it’s a leadership shortfall that I didn’t get my people to the point of being able to handle the growth fast enough.

And so that’s the hardest part we have such great people who are well intentioned and want to be successful want the company be successful, but just simply have a have a lid today anyway. And we’ve had to, you know, go and higher above and some of those cases have turned out to be incredible success stories where they’ve been repurposed or been okay, having some reporting somebody else and have thrived and grown and other cases where they’re, you know, people’s, even though we’re, you know, one of our core values is humble confidence. And we have very limited egos here are some of the People’s, you know, egos can’t, a lot can’t accept kind of when that happens. And we’ve we’ve lost some some good people. So that’s, that’s been, I’d say, the biggest actual challenge on a day to day basis.

Marc Gutman 41:16
Yeah. And as you as I’m processing those thoughts around the challenges you have internally in running the business, what are some of the challenges that you’re experiencing in this affordable workforce environment? Like, you know, I’m not that familiar with it. I’m guessing a lot of our listeners may not be like, what, what’s that challenge?

Don Wenner 41:35
No, say the first fundamental part of the challenge is, is make is aligning what’s good for, you know, what’s good for society, or the world or with what’s good for, for us or for our investors and trying to align that always right, because a lot of real estate, good, great companies, good real estate operators, developers, are actually a part of the problem, not the solution. And what I mean by that is a lot of companies out there they go and buy, say, an apartment community, where the rents are $900 a month, which almost every place in America today needs more $900 month apartments. And so they buy that community where rents are $90 a month, and they come in, they have an investment plan, that makes sense, and they dump a ton of money into that property. And they drive the rents up to 14 $100 a month. So when they bought the property, it was affordable for the working families, you know, for the local, you know, teachers and nurses and so forth, their families could live there and afford for it to be there. And they come in there and they put so much money to the property makes great sense for the company and make great sense for their investors. But it doesn’t make great sense in that you just displaced hundreds of families, who now already there wasn’t enough affordable housing in that market.

Now, there’s even even less than estimated 500,000 units of that are affordable for local local workforce, in America today, per year are being removed from the affordability pool. And that’s one of the reasons and and by affordability, what I mean is that, that the local working families are spending less than 30% of their income on rent. And about half of Americans today are spending more than that. And over a quarter of Americans, they’re spending more than half of their income on rent, you just simply can’t afford health care, food education, when that much of your income is going for the basic need of housing. So that’s the you know, that’s, that’s, you know, challenge one is making sure we certainly have investors and we certainly want to do good for our investors, but while not being part of the problem, but instead being part of the solution here. So so that’s that’s difficult. And and and we’ve done it and that’s that’s our business thesis. And that means some deals that otherwise would work for us don’t work, because we’re not willing to, to make investments that aren’t gonna make a positive impact and keep and preserve housing that’s affordable for local workforce. So that that’s one challenge.

The other challenge is right now and was never been, it’s never been harder than it is today is right now rent growth is just incredible. We’re going through the greatest growth in rent in the affordable sector, meaning you own the, you know, in the space of markets of 789 100 1011 1200 a month housing across the United States, rents are going up right now faster than they’ve ever gone up. Since COVID. It’s only skyrocketed the growth and rents to a pace that we’ve never seen. In the last decade, rents have gone up 70% in America 70% incomes have gone up four to 6% rent has gone up 70% that’s not a sustainable formula. So again, it’s a balance of certainly we want to for investors young to take part in some growth and rent and that helps our investors but we don’t want to be in a situation where we’re making our housing unaffordable for the local workforce. So you know it building cost and and and you know, the whole kind of Supply Chain right now pricing is going up. And it’s making it harder and harder because incomes just simply aren’t aren’t keeping pace.

So it’s a, it’s a heck of a challenge and doing so keeping your housing affordable, while not sacrificing, making sure you’re truly creating a great lifestyle for your residents. And we want our communities to be safe. We want to invest heavily in enrichment of our residents, we do a lot around, Enriching them helping we call choose prosperity, giving them access to education and knowledge that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. Helping them with jobs and career advancement and health care and, and so forth. And it’s it’s a major, major challenge. And it continues to seem to get harder and harder. And this this demands, you know, whether it’s short term or permanent, this inflationary environment we’re in today is making it you know, even harder.

Marc Gutman 45:52
Yeah, I mean, it seems like given the numbers that you stated, and the scenario that you outlined an almost impossible challenge. So I mean, thank you for taking that on. It’s, it seems like, you know, deck is certainly stacked against so you know, finding success, there is a real accomplishment. And as you look to the future, Don, like, what does the future look like for DLP? Like what’s what’s what’s next? Yeah, so,

Don Wenner 46:18
you know, we’ve we have a family of businesses is talked about before today that are all growing really quickly, and all serving, you know, tremendous need and making an impact, which is exciting. And, you know, as we look ahead at our pace of growth, and of our growth and our assets, you know, we’re growing at an incredible pace and is incredible, it is what we can do with the capital and employing more people and making a direct impact through our hands on investment into these affordable housing communities, workforce, housing communities I mentioned and so forth, what we’ve realized the biggest impact we were gonna be able to make is to take the certainly the capital, but also the knowledge and resources and systems that we’ve developed and making them available to more businesses and entrepreneurs and families. And that’s where the book comes into play.

And that’s where we spend a lot of our time are spent a lot of my time is helping companies, a lot of our focus is certainly around other real estate companies who are also investing in this space of making impact on on workforce affordability. But helping more and more companies can make an impact on this jobs crisis and happiness crisis. And so our ability to kind of expand our platform and our and our footprint to, to make a much larger impact is that is the kind of the challenge we’re, we’re tackling right now. And and it’s been been a lot of fun and exciting. And, you know, our B hag right now, you know, big hairy audacious goal is to be a fortune 500 company and at our current pace, we’ll be there and really a blink of an eye and is a few years which is exciting and humbling at the same time.

But realizing that if we keep doing you know, doing what we believe to be right and doing the right thing, and building building our brand and culture around the our values, and you know, we’re really just just getting started and you know, there’s great books out there on topics like small giants is a classic one that you know that hey, you can have a small business that’s, that’s great. And, and I challenge anybody looking to grow a business that if it’s a great business, and you’re really helping people, there’s no way you can stay small. It can’t be a great business and stay small and, and I’ve accepted a while ago for a short period of time in my life, I looked at Wow, when all of a sudden I realized I had a couple 100 employees, I thought well what if you started feeling like that was a liability and started feeling like wow, that’s that’s I didn’t really set out to employ hundreds of people.

And now I’ve quickly learned that you know, it’s my greatest asset and, and the greatest opportunity I have is the ability to employ people and directly and indirectly through through our investments and and partnerships in education of other businesses is our greatest opportunity we face today and it’s a lot of fun and exciting and haven’t been more excited in a 15 point 15 year journey so far as I am today at the kind of the opportunities right right in front of us. It’s it’s we’re having a blast.

Marc Gutman 49:12
Fantastic any Oh, and we’ll make sure to link to all things Don Wenner in the show notes will link to the books DLP, Evernote have access to all those resources so they can easily connect with you and and look you up that as we come to the end of our conversation here. I’d like you to think back to little Don solid doughnuts, making 50 cents 50 cents a donut and you know if he saw you today, what do you think he’d say?

Don Wenner 49:40
Well, it’s so interesting question. No one’s asked me that one before but funny side story. Well, I think about that. So So I tell this the story of this donut story and kind of beginning of the book. And yes, just yesterday for the first time ever. I met with a gentleman who runs a actually a bank, a CEO of a bank, and he handed me a card have these little hostess doughnuts. No one had ever done that, that I sold back when I was a kindergartener. It was a it was a pretty pretty, pretty cool moment is that was definitely you could say a pivotal moment. You know, I hope that if I you know, look back I’d be I certainly think I was old as it’s a it’s amazing thing you know, I grew up with my parents have me at 16.

So, you know, I was, you know, 20 years old and my parents were my age and so, so probably thinking I’m pretty, pretty old because that was my grandparents age at five years old. And I hope hope, hope I’d be proud and I guess the best way I think about that is you know, I have a nine year old and, and hope hope they’re proud I funny story. I was talking to my I was in the car taking my kids to a flag football practice a lot about two weeks ago. And so I have my two sons back there and one of their other teammates, another kid back there and, and I asked the little boy, so what does your dad do? And he tells me in long detail, his dad worked for Johnson and Johnson and he’s the software engineer and, and he builds these prosthetic arms and great detail right? And, and I asked my son I said, I said is Donnie and Donnie, what do I do? He says he does something with money in real estate.

So didn’t quite know even though he’s been to my events and dinners, but as money in real estate, so I guess he was he was a partial, pretty pretty right there. But uh, but but hopefully they’re proud of they tell me I’m really cool, because my book launch is going on right now. And they keep seeing my book ads pop up on their iPads. So right now I’m a celebrity and I’m really cool because I’m on YouTube. And I’m on NBA touquet. So I’m winning right now in my kids eyes I guess.

Marc Gutman 51:49
In that is Don Wenner, founder and CEO of DLP real estate capital. quite inspiring, isn’t it? Our conversation made me ask, am I living fully? am I playing all out? Or am I thinking too small? It’s always amazing to see financially successful companies solving real social issues, such as affordable workforce housing. It furthers my belief that entrepreneurs are the answer to most of our problems. Congratulations to Don, who I think might be the first ever eighth grader who grew up dreaming of being a financial planner.

A big thank you to Don Wenner and the team at DLP real estate capital. We will link to all things down winner including his two books in the show notes. Make sure to check them out. There’s tons of valuable insights and information there. And if you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast at wild street comm our best guests like Don come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Wait, and I did promise to flex my own cheese restaurant experience. So here we go. Happy Happy Happy birthday. Happy Happy Happy birthday. Happy, Happy Happy birthday to you, to you to you. Oh les. That’s how you do it. Well, that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot of big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny.

BGBS 068: Coach Jimmy | Speaker/Story Coach | Are You Willing to Be Willing?

BGBS 068: Coach Jimmy | Speaker/Story Coach | Are You Willing to Be Willing?

May 19, 2021

BGBS 068: Coach Jimmy | Speaker/Story Coach | Are You Willing to Be Willing?

Jimmy Hays Nelson, aka Coach Jimmy, has been a high-performance business coach for over a decade. Jimmy’s unique skill is helping his clients to seamlessly connect their personal stories to their product or service, creating a strong “know, like, and trust factor.”

Using his 20+ years of experience as a stage and film performer, he has shared his own personal story of being a former 100-pound overweight 3x college dropout to successful entrepreneur to create a 7-figure business and now dedicates his life to helping professionals craft their own stories to attract and impact the lives of their ideal audiences. He is a sought-after keynote speaker, emcee, and event host, now honing his expertise as a virtual emcee as well.

He has dedicated his life to helping people live a life WellCrafted. As Coach Jimmy says, “Create a story, change the world.”

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • There is no treading water in life. We are always getting better or worse, so you might as well build your daily habits to get better.
  • You will be rewarded in public for what you do in private. There is no overnight success. Everyone you look up to has worked very hard behind closed doors to get where they are.
  • Until you learn to fall in love with the process over the performance, you’re always going to be disappointed somewhere along the way.

Resources

Website: thecoachjimmy.com

LinkedIn: Jimmy Nelson

Instagram: @thecoachjimmy

Facebook: @CoachJimmy

Quotes

[20:46] I don’t know that we ever know when we’re going to arrive, but I love chasing the next version of me.

[25:41] I want to feed the doers, the people that are hungry to take action, and that that’s what lights me up all day long because at the end of working with those people, I’m never exhausted. I think that’s a big telltale for us to figure out where we’re supposed to be is, what are those things that we do that fills our bucket and doesn’t drain us?

[28:39] You can’t argue with my story—doesn’t mean you’re going to convert, doesn’t mean you’re going to be in my tribe, or agree with me. But you can’t argue with my story. And it just feels like it diffuses any of that negative feedback immediately.

[54:38] Personal storytelling is the fastest way to create know, like, and trust with an audience. And who do people do business with? People they know, like, and trust.

Have a Brand Problem? We can help.

Book your no-obligation, Wildstory Brand Clarity Call now.

  • Learn about our Brand Audit and Strategy process
  • Identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh
  • Determine if your business has a branding problem
  • See examples of our work and get relevant case studies
  • See if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level

Book Your Brand Clarity Call TODAY

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Podcast Transcript

Coach Jimmy 0:02
Honestly, I dropped out of school anything business wise or like what look like a real job or to make actual money outside of getting lucky and booking the movie or the Broadway show. I was like, there was nothing in my history that I was gonna be good at any of this because I quit stuff really easy, you know. And so I gotten there. And I was still struggling because I still saw that Jimmy when I looked in the mirror, there was still a lot of it like a mental things. And so I had a mentor early on that said, cool, Jimmy, what are you reading? What are you listening to? And I was like, What do you mean? He’s like, in the morning? What do you do when you wake up? I’m like, I don’t know. I throw on ESPN or the news on or he’s like, I’m gonna challenge you to read 10 pages of a good book a day. I’m like, dude, reading me outside of a script. I’m like, it’s just not my jam. He’s like, I didn’t ask him. What’s your jam? It’s like 10 pages.

Marc Gutman 0:56
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman. Are you constantly chasing the next version of yourself? Hi, I’m Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby got backstory, we are talking about drive ambition, turning our lives around Beachbody fitness, acting in New York City, and storytelling. And before we get into this episode, I want you to be the best version of you to live your best life. And that all starts by heading over to Apple podcasts or Spotify and giving us a five star review and rating. Look by this point in our lives. We all know that algorithms rule the world. And as such apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. Go show that algo who’s boss and rate this podcast only algorithm. Don’t let it own you. Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today’s guest is Jimmy Nelson, better known as coach Jimmy. Jimmy is an international speaker, speaker, coach and storytelling expert. And I’m particularly excited about today’s show, because I’ve worked alongside Jimmy previously judging speaking competitions, as well as recently I’ve been coached by Jimmy as I’m developing my public speaking game, and Jimmy’s unique skill is helping his clients to seamlessly connect their personal stories to their product or service, creating a strong know, like and trust factor. Using his 20 plus years of experience as a stage and film performer. He has shared his own personal story of being a former 100 pound overweight, three time college dropout to successful entrepreneur. And now dedicates his life to helping professionals craft their own stories to attract and impact the lives of their ideal audiences. Much of which we’ll hear in today’s episode. He is a sought after keynote speaker emcee event host now honing his expertise is a virtual MC as well. Thank you. Coronavirus pandemic, he has dedicated his life to helping people live a life well crafted in his coach Jimmy says, create a story change the world. And this is his story.

I am here with Jimmy Nelson also known and more fondly known to me as coach Jimmy I prefer that much more than than Jimmy Nelson and, and Jimmy is an international speaker and story coach. So if you listen to this show, you know there’s two things that are near and dear to my heart. I’m currently working quite a bit on my speaking and I I love stories. So I know we are going to have an awesome conversation here today with Jimmy Jimmy, welcome to the show. Thanks, Mark. I’ve

Coach Jimmy 4:29
been looking forward to this all day. Well, before even just today. This is a conversation with you as one I feel is way overdue. So this is gonna be fun.

Marc Gutman 4:37
Yeah, I’m super excited. Jim and I were just talking what’s really special about this conversation today is Jimmy and I have had the chance to work together several times in different capacities but most recently, like Jimmy coaching me on my my talk and and my story and so, you know, I’ll just start off by saying it’s it’s not a question. It’s more of a comment that maybe we can talk about this that even people They are seen as experts in one field still need to be coached by mutual experts in that field. So, you know, everyone knows that I love story and I’m really into it. But having someone like Jimmy and his perspective allows me to see things that I can’t see and reveals blind spots and just another perspective. So it’s gonna be really fun to to have a conversation. So as we get into it, Jimmy when you were growing up, first of all, where’d you grow up?

Coach Jimmy 5:24
West Texas.

Marc Gutman 5:25
West Texas. And when little Jimmy was running around West Texas, what was life like for you? Did you always want to be an international speaker?

Coach Jimmy 5:35
This whole thing sets up so nice, because it was it was in first grade, this whole thing started. First grade West Texas and Lubbock, Texas, Murphy elementary school, the entire elementary school was we were doing like a Christmas play and every grade get a different number. And my first grade class, we got picked to do this musical number called too fat for the chimney. This was the early 80s and there was no childhood obesity epidemic. I was the fat kid my class. And I just thought the fat kid class I think at the time I think I was the only kid I knew who came from like a family that had split up so there just wasn’t a really super confident kid. But I thought you know, this is a this is a story about Santa Claus. Here’s my big break. But they actually cast my best friend Justin Martin, who was the skinniest kid in class to be Santa wrapped a bunch of pillows around me stuck him up stage with all my friends and like these Jane Fonda, 1980s headbands and leg warmers. And they did basically a step aerobics number upstage me, they put me in this ridiculous like, like long john feeding pajamas with the drop bottom and the stupid little stocking cap, pushed me out to the edge of the stage to sing the solos the two to fat to the chimney. And I was terrified. And I just wanted to be up there with my friends and some kind of like, Hey, we can do all this together. And something happened in that moment, man, I opened my mouth. And I started singing. And I got like a nod and a smile. And it was literally like the first time I get a positive response from a peer group. And when I look back on this entire storytelling thing, you know, obviously you don’t know that in the moment in first grade. But I can look back at that moment and thought that’s where it became really clear to me that I just wanted to be able to get an emotional response from an audience was way back in the day, West Texas with fat little Jimmy and pajamas singing to you know, the rest of the elementary school?

Marc Gutman 7:30
Why was that so important to you having an emotional response? Like what do you think that does for you? And why like seeing that and chasing that? How did that fill you up?

Coach Jimmy 7:41
It gave me some sense of significance. There was a there was a power piece there. I feel that way. Now, when I get on the stage, I look, you know, somebody hands me a mic. It’s almost like my weapon, right? It’s my, it’s my weapon of choice. And when I can look out and an audience that I see a nod, or I can click in and I can see when somebody’s really connected. Man, there’s something that just there’s this sense of pride that comes over. And I think for that little kid, there was a lot of things that didn’t feel like I was making a difference. And even going forward thinking I wanted to be a performer and not being able to go to the colleges that I wanted to go to and always feeling like the deck was stacked against me. I had just growing up after that point. I had this real bad what I call kind of a victim mentality, which I got really good at explaining why other people were achieving things and how it was easier for them. And why this was harder for me. And, and it was always like, Well, I have to work twice as hard to get somewhere I have to. So I really created this really kind of BS story in my head about how things are harder for me. And it was like this badge of honor. And so I kept thinking, Well, I’m going to continue to fight because I know that I want that. I want to feel that significance that I felt on stage in the first grade, I want to make a difference. And it really wasn’t until I found myself in my like early 20s. I was 100 pounds overweight. I dropped out of college three times, my mom had called me and said hey, we see all like the collection agencies sending stuff to the house and we think you should move home. And that was the most humiliating peace at 22 years old moving back home and wanting to like bow up and tell my mom No, this is my fight this you know, this is me against the world. And I was just I just surrendered man. I was just like, nope, Okay, I’m gonna move home. And that, you know, you ask why does it matter so much to me why, what that significance piece is and to go from that give up moment to where I’d be where I am now. And I know where that shift happened. Because I stopped performing. I stopped speaking I stopped chasing that seed that was in that first grade Jimmy and I was bartending I was we moved here to Dallas where I am now. And I remember I was just getting ready for another like lunch shift. It was like, you know, Groundhog’s Day, and I stepped out of the shower, wrap the towel around me and stopped in front of the mirror. And I just thought I just didn’t respect that guy. At mark. I literally thought it is cheesy as it sounds, I just thought, who’s gonna love this? I’m like, who wants to follow this guy like, this is you Nelson at 22. And there was no like, well, you’re a young kid like you’re an adult. And it was like, that was the pivot moment for me and everything didn’t change the next day. But that’s where I was like, I took full responsibility to where I was and stop pointing fingers and go, look, I’ve gone from Dallas, to Oklahoma to Florida at the time, and the same problems kept following me. And it wasn’t until I had that moment in the mirror is like, Look, where you are right now today is 1,000%, your responsibility and your fault. So you’ve got your 1,000% to change it. And that’s, you know, 15 years later, I’m sitting here talking to you, it started taking those steps to change it.

Marc Gutman 10:48
That’s like what happened between first grade Jimmy who’s upstaging Justin Martin, who I wonder where he is today. But, you know, first grade Jimmy and 22 year old Jimmy who’s looking in the mirror and saying, I’m not where I want to be like, what kind of happened in between there because it sounds like you had some you had some successes, some wins some some ups, but also some downs. Like what was what was going on, like when, when you were going through like high school, were you thinking like, hey, like, I’m going to, I’m going to take the world by storm and be a performer.

Coach Jimmy 11:21
There was the want to be a performer. But as far as take the world by storm, no. And it’s crazy, because there are times this version of me forgets how I used to think. But literally in high school, I remember telling a it was either a teacher or a guidance counselor. They’re asking about goals. And I said something along the the effects of, yeah, I don’t set a whole lot of goals, because I just don’t want to be disappointed or let myself down. And knowing the animals that I am now, I really thought that was like a responsible way to live. I’m like, well, that’s safe, you’re never going to be disappointed. Why put yourself out there? Why? Why set an actual metric, because all you’re doing is setting yourself up for disappointment. And that’s really how I went through high school. And when it became apparent that I wanted to perform, but my mom would say things like, hey, Jimmy, and I also knew I wanted to perform. And I was only specific, okay, I want to go learn from the best. I did have that in me, I wanted to be teachable, I wanted to learn from the best. And she’s like, we don’t even have the money for you to go audition for these schools, much less go. And again, that’s where this like seat of resentment just came in, I felt like there was this VIP rope in life that I wasn’t allowed across, like, hey, all these other people get to go on the other side of this thing they get to pursue they even get, and it was like I didn’t even get to try like like the dream was shut down before I even got to go in and try to fail because I wasn’t even given access to go audition or do any of those things. And and that’s really where that guy was in 22. Because, you know, I went to a two year school here. And then I transferred to the University of Oklahoma and then ran out to Florida. And it was like, anytime things got hard I ran. So I was this kind of fight or flight I would like and I and I’d always have some great excuse why it wasn’t my fault. I would move. But the same issues. Follow me wherever I went

Marc Gutman 13:12
until that moment in the mirror. And then so you have this switch, you have this moment. What’s sort of the flip look like what what’s the other side look like? Like? What was the first step you took? After having that realization?

Coach Jimmy 13:24
I keep this I keep this note here on my, on my computer that looks at me all the time. And it says are you willing to be willing? And it’s just a reminder to me because that was the shift up to that point. I wasn’t teachable. It wasn’t that people hadn’t tried to help me before. Whether it be you know, the fact that I was heavy was it would have been professionally. For some reason. I just was really quick on to explain explain what we’re good at explaining why that wasn’t gonna work for me. Yeah, that works for you. This isn’t going to work for me. This is why things and I think that shift was willing to be willing to not immediately judge something before trying without, I wasn’t ever willing to do the work before I wasn’t willing to be coachable. I wasn’t willing to look at things a different way. I wasn’t willing to be open minded, I had already decided how things are what’s already harder won’t won’t. What won’t work for me. So it was a combination of that. And then looking around and thinking well, what what is already in my world that I can start with, you know, so if I’m looking at, you know, physically it’s like, cool, you can go walk around the block, you can go start jogging, Oh, you’ve been given certain books about mindset, or ultimately things about storytelling or things in acting things that you’re not even taken advantage of the resources that you have with you for free right now. And it was just these tiny little baby steps. I never during this entire journey. There was never this huge overhaul and I think that’s what I attribute my long term success to it was take a baby step change something small Watch, give it some time before you try to take on the next thing, see the results, see the benefits of that master that, then take home the next piece, then take on the next day, if I if I had tried to jump from a 22 year old Jimmy in the mirror, to the way I think or the way I operate my life now in this huge gap, it wouldn’t have stuck. And I see that in mistaken people all the time, whether it’s with a nutrition diet situation where it’s like, Hey, I’m going to completely revamp everything, or whether it’s in their mindset or in their business. They think they have to it’s zero or 100. And man, I’m saying I’m here because I went zero to point 5.5 to one and so I really, I don’t know that I was a plan to think long term, but I know it’s benefited me.

Marc Gutman 15:46
Yeah, totally. And it’s interesting, like, I still resonate with that, like I, the phrase, I always uses the game of inches, you know, I just I always feel like even when we’re doing speaking or whatever it is, in my mind, I think I’m gonna have this quantum jump. But it’s actually like these little little iterative steps to get to where we are. But it’s interesting because my perception of you. Now certainly, I didn’t know you at 22. But the way you describe that 22 year old Jimmy is like night and day to the Jimmy I know today because I would classify you like if I had cut away like say three words. I mean, one of the things that I would say about you’re like you’re dedicated, you’re committed, you are right. You are a hard worker, right. Like you’re you’re a grinder and do you think that that commitment that that kind of relentless commitment to work? And when I say work, I mean, you know, self development. If you you can’t really see Jimmy on the video right now, but Jimmy is extremely fit. Physical Fitness is a passion of his it’s not natural, he works his tail off at it. And, and, and then same with with work, but I mean, what I’m sensing This is a direct reflection of, you know, of that inspired by that 22 year old Jimmy I mean, do you think that you scared I mean, is one of the reasons you continue to grind because you’re scared of regressing back to 22 year old Jimmy in the mirror.

Coach Jimmy 17:07
It’s not scared of aggression. It’s I don’t know my potential. And it what scares me is not knowing that guy. Right. And so if let’s take weight loss as an example, you know, I had a decade career in in health and fitness with Beachbody, right lost 100 pounds. And then I worked with so many people, and most of the people I worked with were trying to recapture some former version of themselves, right? I think it only looked the way I did in high school. Oh, man, it was kicking in college. And they were chasing some former version themselves. Dude, I and the other part that was hard for them is they never had to deal. They never had to live with the consequences of their choices when they were young, because their metabolism was higher. They could eat whatever they want you right? I lived with the consequences of all my crappy decisions throughout my childhood, whether that be my mindset, physically, all those things. I lived with that guy until 2223 years old. So when I started making these changes, and I saw the benefits of doing something differently, I became obsessed with what else is possible? Where can I go from here? What’s the next thing and so it isn’t so much scared of becoming the guy that I was. It’s a fear of never becoming the guy that I could be. Because right now at 43 years old, I’ve never felt better. I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m in you know, I’m career wise, I’m having a blast. I’m stepping into new and exciting places. I’m on stages, that these virtual cool stages that I’ve never been on before. It’s like the next thing and I don’t want to stop this ride. And so I show up every morning excited because I feel like I’m being everybody is rewarded in public for what they do in private. And so this grinder mentality that you know of me now, this guy that gets up early, and I’m very regimented now, like my routine is a huge deal to me, I tell people all the time, I feel I live the life of freedom that I do. Because somewhere along the way, I chose to become a slave to a few daily things that just are non negotiables for me now. And so no longer is it about getting ready. It’s staying ready. So when that opportunity knocks you jump and you go for it and so no, it’s I’m not scared of going back to the dude I was it’s what if I never What’s next? And you know, it’s been so cool this journey so far. And it’s a lot of hard work and there’s been ups and downs and all the things but it’s chasing that next version of me.

Marc Gutman 19:35
How will you know when you’ve sort of reached your potential?

Coach Jimmy 19:39
You don’t you know, and I think somewhere like if I can go back to my acting thing I had a I had an acting mentor. That really ingrained to me Jimmy until you learn to fall in love with the process over the performance. You’re always going to be kind of disappointed and somewhere along the way. I the same way did an acting classes. Or, you know, working on a play or it wasn’t about opening night, it was all the little trying to figure out who this character is, who this person is, and showing up daily and trying things and, you know, the the wins and the losses and trying so Well, that didn’t work. And so it became this analogy for my entire life of, instead of looking for a time where I can put it in cruise control, you know, I thought that was my business forever, oh, when I get when I start making this much money, right? Help this many people, I can throw it in cruise control and just coast. And then I would reach whatever metric that was, and it would never feel like what I thought it was gonna feel like I was proud of myself. I took time to celebrate. And then there was just the next horizon the next challenge. And so that’s a great question. I don’t know that we ever know when we’re going to arrive. But I love chasing the next version of me. And so it isn’t this burden to me, it isn’t this. Oh, well, you know, gotta keep grinding because I find I find ways to celebrate along the way. I see this all the time. People don’t take the time to celebrate these little victories. If people watch me on my especially on my social media, my Instagram, you’ll see a lot of my workouts right on my Instagram stories. And after a lift, I tend to I’ll get up and I tend to pack my leg. And I was gonna what’s what’s the length pack? And I’ve heard a story, a pastor tell the story one time about how he was playing tennis. And his his his tennis instructor said, Man, you’re really hard on yourself every time you do something wrong, but you have like a great forehand, and they never see you celebrate the things you do well, he’s like, well, there’s always something else to work on. He said it true. He said, but if you never celebrate the things that you do well, and he’s like, Yeah, but I don’t, you know, I don’t wanna make a big deal about it. I don’t want to be, you know, Tiger Woods fist pump. He’s like, we got to find a way for you to at least acknowledge these little things you’re doing. And so what they found for him, was this little tap on the leg. And I really took that to heart and started finding ways in my life, whether that’s physically whether that’s business wise, working with the next client, whatever that thing is to go do to me, you showed up today. Good job, winter, lots of cute man you gave it, you shut up and took a swing today, you know, and so Pat, and give yourself a little bit of recognition, because I think that’s where people burn out. Because they never do take the time to take, you know, celebrate these little victories.

Marc Gutman 22:23
I love that. So it’s such an awesome little nugget there, this idea of giving yourself a device or a way of having muscle memory for celebration like that, that stuff. So that’s so cool. I love it. So like, let’s just kind of go back. So you had this awakening you had this moment, you’re a bartender. For some reason. I’m imagining like your tending bar at Chili’s, or something like that was probably cooler, but are

Coach Jimmy 22:48
pretty similar.

Marc Gutman 22:48
Yeah, we’re in your flare or whatever. But um, so so you have this flip and you start looking forward. What do you want to do? Like what’s what’s, what’s the dream? What’s the plan?

Coach Jimmy 22:59
Man? That’s what a great question. I think it’s continued to it’s continued to morph. Right. So you know, I’m so thankful when that shift happened when I was bartending. I was waiting tables bartending with this guy, that I had gone to school with his cousin in Lubbock. And this dude, I started watching him lose weight, right. And this is where, especially with a lot of the A lot of my female clients, I say, Man, when it comes to marketing and branding and stuff, I was like, You ladies, y’all have it down so much better than we do. Because y’all are great at sharing and asking each other questions, right? Like, Oh, what’s that makeup? How’s this work? You know, so I’m watching my buddy lose weight. And we as guys don’t just roll up and go like, yo, Mark, you’re looking pretty good in those jeans, buddy. What are you doing? Like, we watch somebody else have what we want. And this stupid male ego won’t allow us to ask. And so finally I asked him, you know, and and he’s telling me he’s doing these in home workouts. And I’m like, Oh, no, no, no, I go back to this is where I’m still reverting back to old gym, and like, oh, that doesn’t work. And it’s so crazy. Because as I’ve been in business for 15 years, it’s amazing to me that we see somebody that has a lifestyle we want doing something well on a business has a podcast, it’s kicking ass. And so we go, we’ve never asked a we already have a story in our head about how, why it’s easier for them, or why I could never do what they do, or Oh, they started with 100,000 followers or 1 million downloads, like it’s always been this way for them, which it hasn’t. But let’s say we finally swallow our ego, and ask, and then they tell us something. And they’re like, oh, that won’t work. And it’s fascinating to me how we as people want to eliminate ourselves from what worked for somebody else. And I and I think for me, what I want to do now is I just want to find the people that are hungry, like I became hungry. And the people I love working with is not the person that hears me and says Jimmy, you’re a great speaker or Yeah, I’ve heard that before. That’s a great tip or wants to turn around and tell somebody else why, oh, I heard Jimmy say this, you should do that. I, what lights me up is the person that goes, dude, I heard what you said, I went and put it into action the past seven days. And let me tell you how things have been better. Let me tell you how I took these baby steps that you taught me and went forward, whether it’s helping somebody like yourself craft a story. And then you come back and you’re like, Hey, I tried that on the podcast, I did that on an ID live. The last time I was on stage, I led with this story. And let me tell you how it changed. I think that that’s now what I crave the most is just going and I want to feed the doers, the people that are hungry to take action, and that that’s what lights me up all day long. Because Because at the end of working with those people, I’m never exhausted, you know. And I think that that’s a big telltale for us to figure out where we’re supposed to be is what’s those things that that we do that fills our bucket and doesn’t drain us?

Marc Gutman 26:00
Yeah. And it’s nothing better when someone comes up in and tells you how they what you said or what you talked about impacted their life. And then there’s that that’s, there’s just it’s just so energetic. And like you said, it’s a it’s a faucet versus a drain. But how do you handle those people that either give you harsh criticism, or are like look like your talk stuck? Like it didn’t work? Or like I don’t know if anyone’s ever been that harsh, but like, I mean, even I get feedback, where they’re probably saying, hey, this could use improvement, and I heard your talk sock, but you know, the, you know, I’m much less better, much less better at receiving, you know, that criticism than I am the Praise, praise is easy. Like, that’s what I’m looking for. But how do you? How do you handle that when someone might not be receptive to your message or your talk? Or even if you bombed, right? I mean, we just don’t come out and crush it.

Coach Jimmy 26:52
I think the first thing you have to do is you have to look at the source. Where’s this criticism coming from? Right? It’s do or is it somebody that I needed there? You know, it’s different. If I’m going to a coach or a mentor, somebody I respect and say, yo, be honest with me, because my best mentors in my world, they’ve all had this double edged sword. They weren’t the person that told me I was the best, but I knew they were tough on me, because of what they saw in me. Had they not seen any potential had they not seen, like the strands of potential greatness, they wouldn’t have been hard on me. And so those people that gave me that feedback, I was thankful for that that kind of had that. Two ways of like, hey, you’re doing good man. I’m definitely one that I respond to positive reinforcement. I’m not one of those guys that are motivated by somebody telling me I can’t do something like, hey, it comes more like this. I know you can do this, and that efforts not getting you there, I will go run through a brick wall for those mentors, right? Like, Yo, I see what your pot to fit your potential is. And what you’re doing right now is not going to get you there. And it’s not that you can’t do it. But as far as like just public, that doesn’t resonate. I don’t hear a lot of it. You know, and and the people that just want to disagree with me. This is what I love about storytelling. I think stories are the greatest way to handle any objection, right? Somebody’s like, yeah, Jimmy, but you know, usually it’s like, let’s say I’m trying to get them into, you know, an offer some kind of business or service or whatever. And there’s like, Yeah, I don’t have time for that, or I don’t have money for this. So those things don’t work. My favorite like, Yeah, I don’t know about that. All I know is and I tell a story. And you, you you and I we can debate about facts and figures all day long. You can’t argue with my story, doesn’t mean you’re going to convert doesn’t mean you’re going to be in my tribe or agree with me. But you can’t argue with my story. And it just feels like it diffuses any of that negative feedback immediately. It’s just like, Yeah, I don’t know about that. Let me tell you about Billy. And usually I will find a story, whether it’s my own, or somebody I’ve worked with, that has the exact same pushback that person just gave me. And I’m like, yeah, I’m sorry, you feel that way. I’m going to tell you why Billy had the exact same situation you did, and came out a winner on the other side. You know, Hey, I know you don’t have any time. Let me tell you about Billy, who you know, has three jobs and four kids and to her, you know, special needs. And he just he built this business. Are you busier than Billy? Yeah, I don’t know, man, you know, and I just, I just get, I just get kind of just, it’s becoming like this collector of stories. And that’s usually where I combat those and just tell another story and keep moving forward. Yeah, man.

Marc Gutman 29:37
I love that. That’s such a powerful, powerful way to use stories and I want to get to that in a second. But like, how did you even get into speaking so I’m still like, you know, you’ve had this you know, we’re where we’re at now is you’re at the restaurant. you’re checking out some guy’s pants. Yeah. And then he’d said he looks good. And I’m and you’re like, hey, how did you you know, lose some weight? Like how’d you How’d you end up in the speaking?

Coach Jimmy 30:01
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, back to my buddy, you know, Jeremy, at the at the bar, he tells me Hey, I’m doing these DVDs this at home fitness stuff. And I you know, I tell him No, but I keep watching me, right? I tell them no, this is why it doesn’t work. And then I keep watching and I keep watching and finally Mike cool, dude. Let me start. And so that’s where I was introduced to Beachbody. That was where my health and fitness part started. And so I started just it was literally, you know, it was just two workouts you just alternated every other day. And it was a baby step, right? It wasn’t anything crazy. It was like, okay, there’s a lot my world right now I can’t control. I can push play on this DVD at the time. Every day. This is these 30 minutes I can control. There’s a lot of other things in my world. And so for me, it became some certainty. So baby steps and baby steps. And this is where I go to lose 100 pounds. And as I transformed outside, inside, I started getting a little bit of that mojo back of that dream that that first grade, Jimmy had to be on stage as reignited. And I started putting myself out there more in auditioning and doing theater here in Dallas, to the point where I actually started working quite a bit and somebody said, Well, why don’t why aren’t you in New York City pursuing this? And I was like, I can’t do that. And it was like, I needed somebody else to give me permission to go dream big. I was like, Oh, this is cute. I’m just gonna do a little, you know, community theater here in Dallas. And somebody’s like, you’re good. Like, why don’t you go, dude, once you go try it in the end. So that was, and it just it stopped me cold because I didn’t have a good excuse. And so I made the jump. And while I was in New York City, pursuing this acting career, and I started, and it was funny because I kept dropping out of school. So what I said when I went to New York City is, Hey, I’m gonna finish my, that city is going to be my bachelor’s and master’s degree, I’m going to go take acting and scene study classes with people that are literally working, you know, I go to class every Tuesday afternoon. And people in that class are working on soaps or in Broadway shows. And I was super intimidated. But it was so cool about going to the shows and seeing people that were actually working and just going that they’re they’re just better than me, was watching them struggle with the same stuff I did, watching them get up and completely suck at something one day, and I was like, Oh, and I don’t know if this sounds terrible to say that. That was more. That gave me more confidence, watching people that had made it suck at something, then anything I was doing any better. Because we get it in our head that the people that we’re looking at that we emulate, or we want to be like them, we think they have it all figured out. We think that they don’t struggle in anything. They think that everything they touch is gold, and watching these people who were working actors, still struggle with the scene or get really harsh feedback, the same feedback I was getting from the guy running the class. And again, you went back. Okay, so let’s go. But you were saying how do you know when you’ve made it? This is where I think I really did learn to fall in love with the process. It was like, Oh, those people didn’t make it there. they’ve they’ve, they’re a step ahead of me. But they’re still trying to get better. They’re still trying to find the potential part of themselves. And that comes with being coachable. It’s It comes with being able to get this feedback. And so in New York, I started to do this. And that’s where the health and fitness business said, Hey, Jimmy, I think you could do this as well. And so I would go to these events of different people that were losing weight. And usually I would get asked, like, who wants to who wants to share a testimony, he wants to tell a story. And because of my background in theater, I was using one of the only people that wasn’t terrified to talk in front of somebody. And so it was like me in front of five people that I’m like, Yeah, sure. So you know, my name is Jimmy and I used to weigh 100 pounds, or we used to be 100 pounds heavier. And so it was these little baby steps. And what I realized as my acting career that had some success, ultimately wasn’t going where I thought it was. And I’m spending days like passing out chocolates and doing these bullshit things, you know, to try to make ends meet in Times Square. And I’m looking at these billboards of like a Broadway show or the next movie. And I’m like, this is Don’t they know, this is how the story is supposed to end a little first grade, Jimmy comes to the big city, and then he’s on a billboard. And there was like this, this quiet whisper in my gut that said, Jimmy, stop waiting for other people to put you on their stages and go make your own Dude, don’t quit, quit, quit asking the gatekeeper to let you in this other world. And I realized that I got just as much fulfillment. Speaking on a stage seeing people’s eyes light up or changing their belief system or taking action for the first time in their life. That lit me up just as much, if not more than any musical or TV show or indie film or anything else I done. Because there I felt like I was I wasn’t just entertaining someone. I had the power to change somebody’s life on a stage. And that’s where I was like, cool. It was really easy to put the acting stuff behind me and go down this path where you know me Now,

Marc Gutman 35:05
a common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we’ll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email, we’ll get you booked right away. So whether you’re just getting started with a new business, or whether you’ve done some work and need a refresh, or whether you’re a brand that’s high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book, your brand clarity call, you’ll learn about our brand audit and strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you’ll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We’ll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for, build the brand you’ve always dreamed of. Again, we’ll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email. Now back to the show. So that’s so interesting to me. So you’re in New York, and you had a clear vision at that point that you wanted to be on stages and a different kind of speaker rather than an actor had you seen? Like, what was your model for that? Like I you know, I think like, for me, you know, for so long my my model of a speaker was like the bad motivational speaker from high school, you know, like, I didn’t have that much experience. And I actually don’t think it was until, you know, I became an entrepreneur and I started going to conferences and things like that, that I saw this kind of whole different world like, Hey, you can speak and people can share things. And wow, like in an hour you, you might learn something that might transform your business or your life. So what was your like? How did you even know that existed? Like, what was your model for that?

Coach Jimmy 37:06
You know, I didn’t initially I really, I’m thankful I accidentally stumbled into my early career with Beachbody, right. Like I accidentally stumbled into network marketing. I don’t even know what it was. But what network marketing did for me is it introduced me to personal development. So I didn’t know that like motivational speaking or any of the people that we think of that are the big wigs in that world. I didn’t know that existed. But I had a lot physically outside, I lost 100 pounds, but I had a lot to work on in my mindset. And so as I started trying to pursue this career, and the only reason I stumbled into it is because I had had success with the products. I had a friend that said, Hey, I think you’d be good at this. I never saw myself as a salesman. I had no like actual career experience. Obviously, I dropped out of school, anything business wise, or like what look like a real job or to make actual money outside of getting lucky and booking the movie or the Broadway show. Like there was nothing in my history that I was gonna be good at any of this because I quit stuff really easy, you know. And so I got in there. And I was still struggling because I still saw that Jimmy when I looked in the mirror, there was still a lot of it like a mental things. And so I had a mentor early on that said, cool, Jimmy, what are you reading? What are you listening to? And I was like, What do you mean, he’s like, in the morning? What do you do when you wake up? I’m like, I don’t know, I throw on ESPN or the news on or he’s like, I’m gonna challenge you to read 10 pages of a good book a day. I’m like, dude, reading me outside of a script. I’m like, it’s just not my jam. He’s like, I didn’t ask if it’s your jam. It’s like 10 pages. He’s like looking at the way you did your weight loss. He’s like, Can you give me 10 pages a day. And so the very first personal development book I ever read was The slight edge by Jeff Olson, I think is his name. I have it here behind me. And so I was like, Okay, I can do that. 10 pages a day. And so that’s where I was introduced to this world of these authors, and then eventually speakers that were having this impact that I knew I had in me somewhere, you know, on a higher level than cool, you do a musical and somebody super entertained for two hours. And they’re applauding at the end, you’re like, gosh, you helped me escape my world for two hours. It was this flip of instead of helping you escape your life for two hours, what if I can help change your life over the next 30 minutes, or the next keynote or the next 90 minute speech? And instead of just having you go, Man, that was awesome. Now I’m going back to this life that I’ve just satisfied with? What if I actually give you steps and things you can take outside of this theater outside of this room that can go with you. And that’s again, it was step by step that way I realized, Oh, this is a thing. And people need this and I and I’m watching how people are reacting to me. And it really wasn’t until I have other people. Again, pointing out. You have a gift in this. You can do this and it’s no different than what I say. Before you can do this, if you’re willing to do the work, right, you have potential in you. But you’re not going to get there if you if you’re just happy with where you are now. And I responded to that, and it was like that was that was the next step. And it was just saying yes to all these little stages, I don’t think I ever thought, okay, I someday I’m going to be on a virtual, I’m going to be on a stage in front of 5000 people or 40,000 people or any of the stages that I’ve had an opportunity to be on, it was just saying yes to the next one. How can I be the best I can be for these people that are in front of me at the at the time, and then continue to work on getting better until the next opportunity shows up? And you know, I know that’s just it’s not sexy. But that’s that’s literally it was the step by step process. And then, you know, when somebody like Pete Vargas with adventure, reach last December, calls me and he’s like, hey, in four days, can you be in Vegas, we’re doing a virtual event, in this 360 degrees stage with 50 foot high walls with a giant zoom interactive stage for 40,000 people in 100 countries. I need you there in four days, can you be there, there was no time to get ready. It’s just Yes. And I can do that. Because like I said, I show up every day you stay ready, at some point, like I like having this edge about me. Because I don’t know when the next opportunity is gonna and what happens? Do what happens if that the thing that’s going to maybe be the thing that your signature moment your entire life comes and we weren’t ready for it? Because you’re not always gonna get two weeks to prep for things like this? And you’re asking, do you have this fear of regressing? No, I am scared to death, that my moment that’s going to impact the world, my moment, it’s going to like, introduce me to somebody that might change something that may flip the big Domino, whatever, whatever legacy I get to leave on this world, that that opportunity comes and I wasn’t ready. And that’s what keeps me going every day.

Marc Gutman 41:57
You know, I so relate to your experience of how you, you know, term it, needing someone to give you permission to do different things. So when I look back throughout New York, a lot of the inflection points in my life, and I went back to my alma mater at University of Michigan and spoke about this, it was just like, those little moments where someone gave me permission. And it was like, the slightest permission, it wasn’t like, I give you permission, right? It was like, Hey, you can do this, right? See this in you. And, you know, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I do see it like it myself. I’m like, oh, why did I need that permission. But what I want people to take away from that is like, be the person that spots potential in others. And know that by speaking up and giving that permission to others and telling someone that you see something in them or you believe in them, like, how much of an impact that can have because I just again, I know in my life, like a professor was like, Hey, I think you should go out to the movie business. That’s like, that’s all he said. It wasn’t like he, you know, open up doors for me or anything. And that’s I took But before that, I was like, No, I can’t do that. That’s a crazy talk. I’m just some kid from from Michigan. So thank you for sharing all that. Jimmy is you think about all the work you’ve done and being prepped, you know, and you know, for your moment and not letting that slip by? Like, what’s hard about speaking like, What don’t we see? And you talk a lot about what goes on behind the scenes? Like what don’t we know, that it takes to be a good speaker?

Coach Jimmy 43:24
Yeah. I think for me, the toughest part about being a good speaker, is that staying prepared and ready. But if I think about if I if I use a Broadway actor, as as an example, if I go see a play, that this person is doing eight times a week, It better not feel like they’ve done it eight times a week, I kind of need to live some of this with them for the first time. And I think for me speaking is living in that spine line between preparation, but not becoming so stale. And I think we’ve all seen that speaker, where you’re like, Man, this is now just coming across as a bad monologue. They said so many times, they’re no longer emotionally connected to it. And it’s tough. And it’s that’s what’s being a professional is. There are people that have been on Broadway stages and have been in shows for over a decade, think about that, over a decade, doing the same show for eight times a week, and having to relive it and the audience has to come across as they’re going through this for the very first time. I saw john Maxwell. Last year, I was at an event in Vegas, I saw that he was going to speak and I hadn’t seen him in like five years on stage. I’m like, ah, love to hear what John’s doing these days and I sit down. And it was still it was the same speech I had heard five years ago, and I was just as riveted. Like I went through the whole thing with him even it was like it was like watching a great movie all over again. And I think what people don’t realize is the amount of to really be great at this. The amount of practice and preparation that The non sexy standing up in my office trying something new with maybe the same story. You know, sometimes it’s the same story is like, Can this be better? Can I tweak this? You know, early on, I wrote this down when you were giving me my intro and talk about how we work together. Even storytelling in different mediums like I’ve been working on a written version of my story. And it’s been a completely different challenge, because I literally, I took the transcription of one of my YouTube videos of my keynote, and I thought I just put it down here. And then as you start reading, you realize how much of what I do on stage does not translate to the page. And so it’s so but in having to rewrite and make this story just as riveting for a reader, it’s informed me different things that could be doing on stage for a story I’ve told a million times. And so I think what people don’t see is, you don’t see the preparation, the people that just think, oh, what you’re a good speaker, you just get up there and wing it. To an extent Yes, there are parts of me because I had done the basics so much. If I got thrown into something and had to rip off the cuff, I’m able to do that. But if I just stopped preparing from now for the rest of my career, I’m gonna start getting worse, there is no treading water in life, we are getting better or worse at something, we are moving closer to a goal or further away, we are becoming fitter and healthier, or more lethargic and sicker, we are getting smarter or dumber, like there is no treading water. And I guess that’s just what I want to get across to people is that if these little tiny unsexy, well, nobody’s around, they’re easy to do, but they’re easy not to do Jim Rohn talks about that all the time, the keys to success, these simple little daily disciplines that are easy to do. The problem is, they’re also easy not to do and most people aren’t willing to show up every day without somebody making them continue to try to get better every day.

Marc Gutman 46:56
Absolutely. And so, you’ve alluded to this several times. But I think, you know, what’s unique about a lot of the work you do is, you are so focused on story and storytelling in speaking and as I’ve been kind of taking notes, here, I’ve got all these like different Venn diagrams, and your whole life has been, um, that that might be an extreme to say your whole life, but what I can gather is you’re really talented at sort of mashing up disciplines. And for example, you were able to mash up health and fitness into your into acting, and that became something a bit different, right? You’re able to mash up your ability to perform, and, and speak and tell story. And it’s and for me, it’s like all these like different Venn diagrams of kinda like, where you’ve been able to find this unique ability. And so when you talk about storytelling, and I’m sure that wasn’t something that always that you always saw as a tool, you might have been, you know, like, for me, I was naturally good at it until like, I learned about it. And then I was like, oh, and it’s almost like, once you’ve learned about, it’s harder to, to use it because it becomes a thing you want to, you know, be good at and be structured and understand how it works. But can you talk a little bit about, you know, your realization of when storytelling became important to you, and then also like, how you work it into your speaking and working with the people that you coach?

Coach Jimmy 48:23
Yeah, there’s, there’s two points there that you just crossed. So the fact that these mashups I love the way you put that, if there’s a quote that says how you do anything, is how you do everything. And somewhere along the way that I started connecting these pieces, and I and for me, it all started with taking control of my health and fitness. And once I that, and this, I don’t know, just the background as an actor, anybody think about that, like a dancer, a painter, any artists, it’s this meticulous thing to show up every day and work on their art. One of my favorite books is the War of Art by Steven pressfield. And he talks about that, that willingness to show up every day. And I think that, that acting was the acting part. And the fitness part prepped me for this life. You know, this four years in New York City, I’d go to three or four auditions a day knowing I’m going to hear no way more than I hear Yes. No clue that that was preparing me for my life as

Marc Gutman 49:15
an entrepreneur

Coach Jimmy 49:16
that I was going to the know wasn’t going to scare me anymore. Because I’m like, Well, whatever. That’s just always I know, I’m going to hear no wave as an actor, you know, you’re going to hear no way more than Yes. And most people I was gifted with that blessing not knowing it at the time, that I had friends that were in other jobs and like how do you do that every day? I could go and they say thank you never hear from again, like, I don’t know, do you go when you give it your best swing? And you come out, you know, the next day like you just keep showing up as far as I didn’t know story was so important to me. When I started my business initially in with health and fitness. It was 2007 2008. So we’re talking early social media and I tried to do all the traditional network marketing things of, Hey, I got a space and we’re going to have a meeting and like nobody was showing up in New York. So I was working on a TV show. And anybody that’s ever worked in TV or if you don’t know, so want to hurry up and wait. And I was working on Ugly Betty on ABC, I had a buddy of mine. That was one of the leads in it that I got to college with. They’ve moved the show from LA to New York. And he’s like, hey, do you want a gig, they need them. The show was set in a fashion magazine. They want the same employees everyday there. I was like, yeah, that’s how I got my sag card. It was it was a steady paycheck as an actor. And so what I started doing is, with all this downtime, I take my laptop out, and I was like, Alright, well, maybe there’s a way to find people that might want to, like help have my health help with health and fitness on Facebook, right. And so this was right when Facebook had kind of opened up to everybody, I missed it when it was just in college. I you know, I was older than that. So I started playing around on there, and I started having a lot of success. And then eventually my dad, who’s been in real estate for 30 plus years, start seeing what I’m doing. And he’s like, Hey, can you come teach my real estate agents who’s a broker? And he’s like, can you come teach my agents to do what you do? And I was like, they want to lose some weight. He’s like, No, he’s like, you do such a great job of just leading with you. You don’t lead with your program, or your supplements, or Beachbody or he’s like, people just fall in love with you. And then they don’t even know what they what you do, but they just know they want to be around you. And that’s where we’re sometimes we’re so close to what we do naturally what we’ve been working on, or we see something that we’ve worked on in another compartment of our lives that shows up in this other area. And that was the first moment I took a step back and looked at what I was doing. I was like, Oh, I’m just doing what I always knew as an actor, that now had come naturally to me because as a professional actor for over a decade by that point. I was like, oh, okay, yeah. And so I started looking and seeing how most real estate agents do their business. And I’m like, Yeah, I don’t know any of these people. I know who their broker is, I know they have for sale signs. But I don’t know you. And so I started going in and working with those agents to help them find like a personal story of something they overcame, even if it had nothing to do with real estate, because I was like, Look, I’ve watched my parents for 30 years. And I know it’s not if there’s a hiccup in your whole real estate transaction. It’s when what if we told the story about how you mister real estate agent overcame something as in your adolescence or is your childhood or in your adult life, that lets me know, when things go sideways in this deal, you’re the person that I want in my foxhole, because you’ve already set the expectation, hey, I’m not going to be the agent that promises nothing’s gonna go wrong. I’m gonna be the agent. That’s gonna promise you when it does, you’re gonna want me on your side, we’re going to get through this. And that was the first step outside of just doing it for myself that I realized, oh, there were other people that I can help do this as well.

Marc Gutman 52:59
So many questions, but I want to ask you about something you just said right there. Because I think it’s an insight that people listening, we really need to take a moment kind of step back and rewind there. Because I think a lot of people struggle with this idea of personal storytelling. And I wish we had about five hours to get into this. But, you know, they think like, I don’t have a story, that’s interesting. You know, they also might say something, and you just brought this up as an example, like, I don’t have an exact story that is in my business that illustrates what I wanted to do. And you kind of just talked about that, and gave a great example. And I’d love for you to share a little bit that that technique that you just used, where you can tell a story that has a similar emotion or a similar arc, but isn’t really related directly to what you’re talking about. Do you know what I’m talking about? And

Coach Jimmy 53:56
it’s like when I get done with my keynote speech, or when I’m working with one of my workshops that I share the story of first grade, Jim, and I’m like, okay, when does first grade me in pajamas singing us Christmas song have to do with what I do working with entrepreneurs, nothing and everything. Because you know why this is important to me, right? And so we worked on this before, I think if you can tell me a story about why you’re a normal person, just like I am, you’ve struggled with something. It doesn’t even have to be what’s in your, what’s your occupation is, but then you tell me a way that you overcame that you tell me something about yourself, like you’re letting me know, you and we that’s why I feel like personal storytelling is the fastest way to create know, like and trust with an audience. And who do people do business with people they know like and trust. And if you share me, show me a little bit of your personal side. maybe be a little vulnerable with me. Show me some of your wounds. Either Show me how you overcame something or just something Where you messed up once you’re like, man, I never want to be that guy again. Or I never, you know, I went through this and I messed this up, I never want you to have to deal with the pain that I dealt with. So let me work with you. There’s so many stories there. And it doesn’t have to be. And there’s times, I’m so thankful for my story, there’s times I wish 100 pound weight loss wasn’t a part of my story. Because that’s where people go, Oh, I need a seven figure story. I need 100 pound weight loss, I need to I climb Mount Everest. And I’m like, No, really, man, if you’ll just tell me the one little time that you know, somebody disappointed you or you disappointed somebody, or something went sideways. And then you came through that. Those are the things that are going to resonate. Because really, and you said it to when we’re telling our story. We’re really not even thinking about what we went through. They’re thinking about an emotion that they dealt with as well. If I talk about me, in New York City, passing out chocolates in Times Square, looking at these billboards thinking that’s where I was supposed to be you in the audience are just thinking about a time in your life where you felt behind like you were supposed to be further along than where you were. And that’s man, when somebody finds themselves in your story, emotionally, that game over by game over because you’re like, Okay, this person understands how I feel, even if our details are different.

Marc Gutman 56:22
Well, Jimmy, as we come to an end here, I’ve got two more questions. And the first is because less of a question and more of an opportunity. Where can I listeners learn more about you, I understand you might have a free gift for them that you can talk about. But where can people learn more about coach Jimmy more about storytelling, and everything that you do and bring to this world?

Coach Jimmy 56:44
Yeah, I’m glad this is what we ended with this. Because the number one question I get all the time is Jimmy, I don’t even know if I have a story. And so what I put together is a checklist, you got a story well crafted, calm and get my checklist, what it is, it’s literally my personal checklist of what makes a good story. What it does, is it just helps you maybe think of some stories that you haven’t thought of before. And what that means is you can start figuring out where that personal story ties into what you do with your product and service. So just get a story well crafted calm, and you can get that for free.

Marc Gutman 57:14
Thank you, Jimmy. And as we come to a close here, I want you to think back to that little first grade Jimmy and that kind of funny outfit at the front of the stage. And if we saw you today, ran into you today, what do you think he’d say?

Coach Jimmy 57:29
He’d be really proud, he’d be really proud. And because he would see that he had an impact that he mattered that he was seen, and that he’d be super proud.

Marc Gutman 57:45
And that is coach Jimmy Nelson. So many gold nuggets in that conversation. There is no treading water in life. Loved Jimmy’s insight that you can’t argue with my story. No one can argue with your story is a story about talking about tapping on his leg to celebrate to give self praise. I think that’s something I’m going to take away from this personally, again, to start doing as I’m tapping my leg right now, because I’m very excited about how I’m delivering this End of Episode outro. And I think the number one insight that really is blowing my mind is that you will be rewarded in public for what you do. In private Look, there is no overnight success. Everyone that you see being successful, has been working very, very hard behind closed doors to get there. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. It was such a treat to talk with Jimmy and hear how he grinds every day to work towards his best self as well to find out who he can really become. I know I’m looking forward to seeing Where’s Jimmy is going and I asked you what version of yourself is in your potential. big big thank you to coach Jimmy. We will link to all things coach Jimmy in the show notes. link to his extremely valuable story checklist and his Instagram. And if you don’t follow Jimmy on Instagram start today. I thoroughly enjoy the lean coach Jimmy lifting massive amounts of weight like some Norwegian strong man, it really is cool. Follow me on Insta you won’t be disappointed. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show. please drop me a line at podcast at wild story.com. Our best guests like Jimmy come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that’s the show. Until next time Make sure to visit our website www.wildstorm.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS, so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny

BGBS 067: Margaret Hartwell | Archetypes In Branding | What’s the Deeper Meaning?

BGBS 067: Margaret Hartwell | Archetypes In Branding | What’s the Deeper Meaning?

May 10, 2021

BGBS 067: Margaret Hartwell | Archetypes In Branding | What’s the Deeper Meaning?

Margaret Hartwell is an innovation and strategy leader on a mission to empower purpose-driven change at the intersection of design, brand & culture, and technology. Her diverse accomplishments range from co-founding and establishing the innovation practice for Cognition Studio, a subsidiary of Certus Solutions, to authoring Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists. She uses a transformative approach to everyday innovation and employs skills and best practices from a range of disciplines: archetypal branding, transpersonal psychology, sustainable management, and design thinking. 

Her experience spans 20+ years developing design-led businesses in the US, UK, Europe, and APAC. Industries include technology, social and environmental advocacy, health and wellness, media, entertainment and the arts, leadership development, automotive, telecommunications, packaged goods, and travel. She holds her MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, her BA from UC Berkeley, and an advanced coaching certification from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. She thinks in systems, strategies, and surprises. She creates in metaphor, music, and story and relates with empathy and curiosity.

Recognized for a breadth and depth of applied skills and experience across multiple creative disciplines and business sectors, Margaret began her career as a designer as one of the founding members of Suissa Miller Advertising where she served in various roles from studio director to art director to vice president. In London, she was Director of Development for the London Design Festival and Head of Marketing for the Design Council. Returning to the U.S., consulting and coaching includes work with Saatchi & Saatchi S, PayPal, Jive, BVG, Inc., Flextronics, BFG Communications, Omegawave, Stanford Lively Arts, Verve Coffee Roasters, TwoFish Bakery, and the San Francisco Symphony. She taught "Live Exchange" in the pioneering MBA in Design Strategy (DMBA) program at the California College of the Arts, and is an engaging speaker/presenter/facilitator.

Margaret has been called an information junkie with a childlike curiosity and is known for having an insatiable appetite for travel, trends, and technologies. She has been an actor, singer, improv player, photographer, scriptwriter, environmental advocate, and founder of a line of infant sportswear called zerosomething. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

In this episode, you'll learn...

  • An archetypal approach opens a door to a deeper level of connection to yourself, society, and any relationship. This helps particularly in the branding space because it is no longer about pushing your ideals, it's about relatedness.
  • Once you recognize that failure is to be embraced, that is where your brilliance will shine through. These lessons become the tools you use throughout life.
  • Archetypal strategy brings about a unique curiosity about life and people. It can apply to benefits beyond branding by helping people understand themselves and how they want to move in the world.

Resources

Websites

www.margarethartwell.com
www.archetypesinbranding.com
www.liveworkcoaching.org
www.thedowagercountess.com

Clubhouse: @mphpov

Twitter: @MPHpov

Facebook: @ArchetypesinBrandingToolkit

LinkedIn: Margaret Hartwell

Instagram: @margarethartwell

Quotes

[33:20] The process of this kind of introspection and alignment of everything changes the way that people hold on to right and wrong. They're not as much about finding a solution, as opposed to finding a process that continues to reveal value…This is actually something that is going to grow along and with and inside and outside of us.

[40:58] Branding is really about increasing the value of a relationship, much in the way that you would increase the value of a relationship with your family or a friend or your community.

[56:33] It's hard to have the courage because we've been taught that we can't fail. And that's not real. Good relationships don't have conflict. No way. As human beings, you know, the more we can just say, 'Yes, awesome. That just came up; let's go there'…I think that's really where everybody's unique brilliance is, is recognizing that all those things are baseline, all those things are to be embraced. And if you just left them out of the right 'wrong box', then they're all actually just gifts and tools to be applied to however you want to live and be and do.

Have a Brand Problem? We can help.

Book your no-obligation, Wildstory Brand Clarity Call now. 

  • Learn about our Brand Audit and Strategy process
  • Identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh
  • Determine if your business has a branding problem
  • See examples of our work and get relevant case studies
  • See if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level

Book Your Brand Clarity Call TODAY

Podcast Transcript

Margaret Hartwell 0:02
I used the vulnerability and shame work in my startup in New Zealand a lot to build the innovation process that change people to that change their reactions, because using innovation tools requires you to let go of that kind of judgment. And then we're never going to get to the kind of creativity or the kind of satisfaction from the daily work if they were constantly protecting something, you know, shaming someone else judging someone else. So I've seen an architectural approach have all kinds of secondary and tertiary benefits to people's relationships to people's understanding of themselves and how they want to move in the world. So it definitely can apply and way more levels than just in your brand. And for me, it's moved a lot into the culture space.

Marc Gutman 1:05
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today's most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman is your brand the provoca tour. Maybe it's the activist. Perhaps it's the muse, Marc Gutman, and on today's episode of Baby got backstory, we are talking about meaning deeper meaning and connection. And one of my favorite topics, archetypes in branding. And before we get into this amazing episode, and I do promise that once you hear who the guest is, you'll agree that it is amazing. I'm asking you to take on the archetype of the advocate, or the companion or the cheerleader, and rate and review this podcast on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. And we want them to identify this show with the archetype of the podcaster. Don't we? Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today's guest is Margaret Hartwell. Margaret Hartwell is such a great name. Sounds very harrowing, yet playful as well. And I didn't even realize that until I just said it. But that's how I kind of see today's guest. Margaret is one of my true real life heroes, because she's the author of a book and toolkit that has transformed who I see the world and how I interact with clients, her book, archetypes and branding. The toolkit for creatives and strategists is a must read, whether you're in branding, or not. archetypes, and archetypal analysis, are all about stripping away the noise in getting down to the essence, the core, and that's also the aim of today's interview. In addition to being an author, Margaret Hartwell is an innovation and strategy leader on a mission to empower purpose driven change at the intersection of design, brand, and culture and technology. By developing people centered solutions, she serves as a guide, mentor, an alchemist. Those are all archetypes by the way. To help senior executives in teams solve complex issues. She uses a transformative approach to everyday innovation employs skills and best practices from a range of disciplines, archetypal branding, transpersonal, psychology, sustainable management, and design thinking. All topics we touch on in today's episode. Her experience spans 20 plus years developing design led businesses in the US, UK, Europe and APAC industries include technology social and environmental advocacy, health and wellness, media, entertainment and the arts, leadership development, automotive, telecommunications, packaged goods and travel, and she draws upon and expands on toolkits from the design council UK, the grove society for organizational learning, IDEO Stanford D school in Jean Lukas work at the Darden School of Business, to name just a few sources of inspiration. Recognize recognized for a breadth and depth of applied skills and experience across multiple creative disciplines and business sectors. Margaret began her career as a designer is one of the founding members of swiza Miller advertising, where she served in various roles from Studio director, the art director to Vice President. In London. She was the Director of Development for the London design festival and head of marketing for the design Council. When she returned to the US she consulted and coached with Saatchi and Saatchi Pay Pal jive Flextronics BFG communications, Stanford Lively Arts, to fish bakery in the San Francisco Symphony. She has teaching experience as she taught live exchange in the pioneering MBA and design strategy program at the California College of the Arts, and is an engaging speaker, presenter and facilitator. Margaret has been called an information junkie with a childlike curiosity is known for having an insatiable appetite for travel trends and technologies. She has been an actor, singer, improv player, photographer, script writer, environmental advocate and founder of a line of infant sport were called zero something and she currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts. And this is her story.

I am here with Margaret Hartwell, innovation consultant, innovation coach, and yeah, that's all great. We're gonna talk about that. But I know Margaret, from a book that she wrote called archetypes in branding, and I have it right here. And it is literally like it's well law that got like, the corners are like kind of, you know, dinged up a little bit. And things are like noted and ripped in here. And I like more than any other book. You can see here, Margaret, like, you know, and people that are on the listen to the podcast, I'm here at the halfway house studio, I am surrounded by books. And I believe that books have energy and power. And I just love books. And so I get a lot of books. And this book is probably the one that I reach for more often than any other book because it's, we're going to talk about this book, but it's because it has knowledge that you receive when you read it. But it's like a working book, it's a book that like, has like a purpose that I work with in my job, like, on a daily basis. Now I want to talk to you about that. So I'm extremely, extremely excited to have you on the podcast. So welcome. And as we get into this, like to me, archetypes are definitely about the universal, the the essence, but they're also like sort of mystical and magical. They're like a portal or a window to me, you know, in a lens. And so with that kind of definition at least and I'm sure you have your own. When you were like a young girl, were you into these types of like portals in Windows and translation like what was what was young Margaret like?

Margaret Hartwell 7:58
Gosh, well, thanks, Mark, I really pleased and chuffed that I get to chat with you on your great podcast. And that's a great opening question. Because one of the things as I was reviewing the kinds of influences and and trajectories and defining moments and stuff is I had imaginary friends that I was asked by the kin urban, my mother was asked by the kindergarten teacher to have me leave them at home because it was taking too long for me to answer questions and to do things because I was doing everything in collaboration. So yeah, I think that was huge, because my sisters are eight years older than I am. And they're identical twins. And so I had to go to the magical mystery portal world to find my twin was like, hey, they thought each other. So I made up my own and I made three, so I outnumbered them. So, but um, you know, I think combining that with super bad eyesight.

Also, this

is where I went into books. So for me, I love what you just said about books too. I do think they're alive. And they they are portals as well. So you combine those things together. And yeah, it was it was pretty evident early on that I had a very favorite place in my imagination.

Marc Gutman 9:22
And were you a creative as a child, or did you think that you'd have a creative career did you want to do something else?

Margaret Hartwell 9:28
All I wanted to do was sing? Well, I should say all I wanted to do was anything creative. You know, let's paint let's work with clay. Let's sing Let's dance, let's act let's make diagramas just anything kind of maker ish was really, I loved it. And but music was my wheel. You know, that was really where it all came together in terms of what it felt like as your body as an instrument and playing the piano. No, and story. So you know, every song that we sing has huge story too. And I think that that became like a third way of going into the mystical in a way because music so amazing in terms of its portal.

Marc Gutman 10:16
Yeah, absolutely. And so you're into music and you're creative. I mean, Was this something that was supported in your household as a child did? Or did your parents want you to do something else? Yes, it

Margaret Hartwell 10:30
was supported in so much is that it was the child like thing to do, and that when you grew up, you should be a doctor. So that was, that was kind of what I was told is that, ultimately, that the arts weren't a career, they were just a hobby. And I tried to debunk that. But I did go to Berkeley and Gosh, studied medicine or pre med at the time. And it was,

I don't know, it's kind of funny, I

look back on it now. And I kind of see the paradigm. And the paradigm was is that it was kind of like cheating to go and do something that you were already really good at. They should do things that you're not so good at. And then you are a whole and complete person. So hard work meant everything in my family. I'm a third culture kid, Canadian mother and a Chinese father. That doesn't, you don't really see it so much. But I'm actually more Chinese than my sisters from what the ancestry 23andme says. But yeah, so you know, it's a great, my parents were awesome, don't get me wrong. I mean, they really supported everything that I loved and wanted to do. And they, they were just like any parent, they wanted to make sure that I was going to be self sufficient, and be able to make a living, and they didn't see how it all works gonna come together if I was just doing the arts. So they were very happy when I got my MBA. Instead of, you know, I'm not going to med school. I'm leaving for London, and I'm doing a Shakespeare program. And my father's like,

Why?

I said, Well, because every doctor, you know, needs to know how to speak. And I am big pentameter, right? And it just looked to me like you've lost your mind. And my mother says, Let her go. She'll get it out of her system. Yeah, no, never got it out of my system.

Marc Gutman 12:28
But I just love imagining you and your sisters having arguments about who's more Chinese, I can see it now. It's the holidays. And so take me back there to Berkeley, you're in pre med, I imagine that you've at least convinced yourself you want to be pre med, you know, like we all do, we tell ourselves that, okay, this is my path. And then something's kind of welling up in you something is saying maybe this isn't my path. What was that decision like to, to go to London,

Margaret Hartwell 12:56
but like barely passing all my science classes. Fear has a way of doing that to you. But yeah, I think I got three days the whole time I was there. And it was in kinesiology, exercise, physiology and psychology and photography. So, um, what was welling up, I was singing all during college, I sang in the perfect fifth and then in the golden overtones. And that was really what I loved to do. And so I was seeing that I was kind of dying inside. And I was getting unhappy. And I was kind of isolating myself at that point. And I thought What's going on? It was, you know, I always look back and go, whatever, the first kind of crises or existential moments of awakening, and I think, before going choosing to go to London, that was mine, where I just feel like why am I doing any of this? What what's the point? I mean, it was, wasn't that I was super bad at and I was really good at, you know, intuiting people's needs and really listening to people and all that, but, but to spend the time. So yeah, that was the moment of thinking, well, I, let's see what this is going to be like. And quite frankly, that's really what kind of changed everything for me. Because I just came alive in London, and not just from the tack on the you know, the tactics and the skills building that that the Shakespeare program gave me, but really from the interest in people, and in kind of the myth and metaphor just popped. And I think if I look back, I think that was probably where the notion for an archetypical approach, kind of which I would never have been able to put the words to, but that's where it kind of took hold is I was constantly looking around corners sideways and looking for meaning what's the what's the deal. Meaning here, how does it translate into other arenas or cultures or to different people? So and, you know, Shakespeare is an amazing primmer for that kind of symbology and metaphor. So, yeah, that's where it kind of took hold.

Marc Gutman 15:20
So the question I always disliked when I was going through school, because I never really knew what I wanted to do was people always ask me, they always say, what are you going to do with that? Yeah, what are you going to do with that? And so I as much as I disliked that question, I mean, were people asking you that about the Shakespeare program? What are you going to do with that? So you're going to wonder why don't you have Shakespeare but what after Margaret? What are you going to do?

Margaret Hartwell 15:43
Oh, totally. Well, yes. So I was told to come home to finish my degree at Berkeley. And because three years at Berkeley didn't mean anything. So my parents said, Wait, if you want to go back, you can go back because I what I really wanted to do was go to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, because musical theater then had become my thing. So what did I really want? You know, what were you going to do with that? Well, I was just going to keep studying.

I love learning.

I love being in school, I love, you know, playing essential. And that's what this program was, but came back and finished my degree. And my parents said, Well, what are you going to do

with that?

I was like, Well, I'm going to move to LA. And I'm going to try my hand at acting, and her shaking their heads completely. But at that point, being an actor, without a lot of credits, you either become an aerobics instructor or a waiter. And so I started teaching aerobics. And then I found my way into a theatre company. And at that point, I met somebody who was working on a commercial shoot. And she introduced me to my then former future boss in advertising.

Unknown Speaker 16:55
So

Margaret Hartwell 16:56
it was a complete like pinball of, I had no idea what I was gonna do with that. And I said, I have no idea. But you know what? I'm, again, I think I've always had a certain level of faith that whatever happened, you know, I came from a great background, and my family always had my back. And I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, anything was possible. So I went with it. And my parents were thrilled that I got into advertising. You know, finally, something that sounded like a job. So,

Marc Gutman 17:31
absolutely. What was that first advertising job? Like when you were in LA? And who were you working for? And what was your responsibilities?

Margaret Hartwell 17:39
So I joined suissa suissa group when we had 13 people. And I left after we had gotten the accurate account, as we said, Miller, and we've been sold to IPG, so the trajectory of this tiny little agency, I mean, when we got accurate, the headline said, you know, there's a snowball's chance in hell, that this agency is going to get this, but I was the designer on that pitch. So that's kind of where I, I was able, then at that point, to kind of parse out all my responsibilities, because in a smaller agency, I was running the studio, I was doing my own, you know, art direction for clients. I was also doing all the it, which is the joke of that of everything. But nobody else had the confidence to do it. So I was like, Okay, I'll learn this. And do that. So, yeah. So I was able, what was it like it was, it was like a total roller coaster, and really fun. I mean, la advertising in your, in your 20s and early 30s is super fun. People are unencumbered. And yeah, then it was a good support. It was it was a nice family. And I was able to have my daughter during that time. So as a single mom, that was a huge support network. So I learned a ton. And I think that's really where I learned about brand strategy. And marketing is from the creative side of advertising.

Marc Gutman 19:13
Yeah, at what moment in that advertising journey? Did you think to yourself, oh, wait, like, I might be an advertising. I might make a career out of this. This might be like what the future holds for me? Yeah,

Margaret Hartwell 19:25
I what moment was that? I think it was truly winning the accurate account. Because up until that point, I had just been kind of like a Swiss Army knife in terms of being our art director, designer, creative director all around whatever you need. And at that point, I thought, Hmm, maybe I really do have a knack for this for understanding people's needs and wants and finding a way to connect with them. So that there was some exchange that was mutually beneficial and so that there were a couple of great strategists at the agency to, and then ultimately, they were a huge influence. And so that when I left my agency, actually, I gotta be honest, I got laid off because it was at a really difficult time for the agency. And, and so I got laid off. And I thought, huh, what do we do when we're at our lowest moments, all change moments, we go back to London. So that's what I did.

Marc Gutman 20:31
When was your first interaction with archetypes like, when did you those even become on your radar and something that you're like, Ah, this is interesting. I

Margaret Hartwell 20:41
was actually in my coaching program that I took at the Institute of transpersonal psychology in Palo Alto. And we, it was goddesses and every woman, the Jean Shinoda bowling book, she also wrote gods in every man, and reading that brought all of you know, Edith Hamilton's mythology back because I studied that in high school, but never really never took hold. And Joseph Campbell, and I've been on the path with James Hellman, and, you know, and other kinds of, you know, I guess the suit, you know, the source code was a huge impact for me. But that's when I first found it. And then I found Carolyn meses work. Have you been across her?

Marc Gutman 21:25
I don't know her. So the

Margaret Hartwell 21:26
book, so she

isn't a medical intuitive. And she wrote a book called sacred contracts, that has outlined very descriptions of a lot of archetypes. And she uses archetypes as a way of doing just like we would in branding as a shorthand for understanding people's drives and journeys and motivations. And that's a nice, so I found that book. And I thought, this is pretty cool. I don't know what. And I looked more into it. And she actually had a deck of cards. So I could backup that at the time, I was doing brand strategy work as a consultant, just kind of for hire. And so when I found these cards that Carolyn mace had done, I went to the guy that I was working with, who's actually my co author, Josh chin. And I said, you know, can I trial working with the right kind of client with these cards and lists? Let's see if the brand strategy process goes differently, or let's just experiment with it. And the feedback that we got was the cards were way too, whoo. And it just, it made them feel like, you know, somebody was trying to read their Tarot or something. And that it, that it wasn't validated. And it wasn't real at that point. So, so yeah, so Josh, and I, you can clap, well, maybe this is an opportunity. And he had had an agreement with his publisher for previous books that they had the agency had published. And they had been kind of after him saying, well, what's next? So Josh came to me and said, you want to write a book about archetypes and branding? I went, sure. Okay. Because it was working, you know, the, the process, the dialogue, the kind of different conversations that we were having, were actually unlocking areas that were resistances in a business, that by using this archetypical kind of world, somehow it gave them a 30,000 foot view, and they soften some of the ego identity attachments that people had about what their brand was supposed to be or how they were going to do things. So yeah, that's a long winded answer to your How did you first find archetypes?

Marc Gutman 23:49
No, it's amazing. I want to know and it's funny that you say woo so you know as I mentioned, I love them and I'm a little like, you know, little dislike neurotic and like the little perforations on the cards bother him. So I bought some of your cards like the Korean version like back when you could get them real easily. And then I had someone at Etsy make me a special leather case because when I bring them out that's like I'm like this is this is some This is magic little bit you know, and we're gonna learn to go through the deck and I agree there's just something that you conversate because I don't think most client especially when you want to involve like the leadership team half the words like they don't have the words and so the conversation that comes up out of these is so amazing. But look, summon another team had already written kind of what was considered the book on archetypes, you know, and Carolyn Pearson and Margaret mark and, and they they wrote they wrote about 12 of them so like, why not? Like, why is that not just enough? Like, why did you create this amazing book with six because now it seems so easy and obvious to me, but like, also must seem really daunting. You know? Like, like, why didn't you think that there was a market for this? Well, first

Margaret Hartwell 25:02
off, I mean, the here on the outlaw wow, you know, this is all the work is standing on their shoulders totally I give them massive props, they were at the forefront of bringing this, of course into the business and branding world. And so it just wasn't nuanced enough for me. I from I started out, you know, looking at things and they, they felt like they were bordering on stereotypes, or, like so many words that kind of find their way into their vernacular that they end up losing their meaning losing their unique essence and stuff. And I think that's true as culture evolves is that, you know, words go in and out of having meanings. So I didn't see any thing wrong with trying to, you know, nuance something a little bit, you know, nuanced the magician, to an alchemist.

You know, why,

why wouldn't you do that? And so I guess, I mean, then the next probably another theme, you know, people ask me, why do you do this? I think or why did I do anything? Like in my life, man? Pretty much my answers were Why not? Do it? So, yeah, it was a little daunting. And on the first to say that, you know, we're here with writing any book that gets published? Like, I go back, and I shake my head, like, No, no, I should put that there should have put that there. You know, there's always improved room for improvement. So, yeah, just, I've got a list on my computer of the next kind of set to flesh out with people. And I'm looking for a way to, to maybe do that in a collaborative sense.

So,

you know, somebody came to me and said, will you work with me, as a brand new practitioner, we work with me to find this as a unique expression of an architect for this client. And we did and we completely front fleshed out the connoisseur. And it was super fun and super cool to work together like that. But I love your cover. And that makes me You just can't know how much it means to know that something that I've poured my heart and soul into, has meaning for people. It's really, it's really lovely. And I love that they've got the little cover for it and everything.

Marc Gutman 27:25
No, I mean, means a lot to me, it's meant a lot to people I've worked with and clients, and did you do the artwork on these cards? Is these your design creative,

Margaret Hartwell 27:33
creative director, creative director, with Josh, he and I both, but we had an amazing team of designers. So the breadth of designers, you know, of course, you see different styles all throughout there, but we all know so so we're kinda It was kind of our, our backstop if you will, like, if this wasn't going to work, we thought, Well, at least we'll have something that we could say, well, I don't like green or, you know, like, I like that style of design that clients could say. So we're backing ourselves up with some some other layer of meaning or usefulness in the design world for that, hence, the different designs. Oh,

Marc Gutman 28:14
yeah. And I find archetypes. So interesting. I've often just thought about, like, completely writing an entire agency process around our top the bottom, like just being like, like archetypes, I haven't gotten there yet. But when you work with clients, what's kind of your go to way of using archetypes? How do you like to start with the cards and the conversation? And what do you ultimately hoping they're going to, they're going to land on or discover,

Margaret Hartwell 28:40
right? So I'm rarely hired to do the one thing to do just the archetype work. It's, it's odd how the first they'll come, because they want to do architectural work. And then we have the initial conversation. And it always kind of flushes out into something that's more what you would just call a big brand strategy, like the work that you do. So the archetypes are, I see them as part of the Gestalt of your brand strategy in a sense that you can't ask them to do all the heavy lifting. And also, I think that they're evolving. So as as stakeholders change and their relationships with the brand change, then they have to, they have to have a certain developmental path to them as well. So I usually include a developmental path for an architectural approach. But to your question about how do I, how do I usually start? It's kind of a classic design thinking process where I do a kind of discovery phase to understand where there may be gaps or potential alignments to be found. And then we go into really exploring what has been done before because I don't want people thinking that you Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. What What can we use moving forward? And and then they usually just it's a codification of truly what value they're providing what values they have, what is their mission, you know, and getting them to distill that. And at that point, I do it pretty much the same way that that I said, I do it in the book, which is that you you just sort with a facilitated question process. And I think that's probably, if I will, you know, say the secret sauce is because you can't just do this digitally and go, Oh, I've got my archetype. Now, there's a deep reflection that says, You don't even tell you because you're doing it all the time to it reflects back something that resonates like you're almost you can feel it in the room when it when it's happening. There's that term entrainment, which is that musical term, where a frequency will start to create another frequency at the same resonant vibration, that's what I feel when we're starting to get close in the sorting process and in the questioning process. And then before we actually decide is not really the right word, because we've been revealing things all along. But before we say commit, choosing commit to a process of including archetypes throughout the value chain, we actually dig into the value chain, and see whether or not this this archetypical expression can come to life. In all the different areas of the business in the operations in the you know, in the processes and the systems in marketing and sales? How can it become a organizing principle for both the brand and the culture? So those are the kinds of questions I asked. And it's really more about chunking them down into modules that I do in the different workshops. And I use a lot of other exercises to, to elicit this, the kind of resonance that you will. And a lot of them are design thinking exercises, I like to really see how an art we put it to the test before we choose and commit. So what would this how would this affect the customer journey? Right?

Does does this

affect your value proposition? How does this align with, you know, the strategic path for the business? Because that might shift things as well? Like, are they on an m&a track? Because at that point, we're actually dressing up something differently than we would if we were a startup. So those overlays, the developmental overlays of the business come into factor as well.

Marc Gutman 32:57
Do you find it hard to sort of back up or back out if you've chosen a archetype? And you've gone through this prototyping, if you will? And you're like, that's not working design? Everyone just kind of says, Yeah, like, it's not working?

Margaret Hartwell 33:11
Pretty much at that point. No, you know, what, I'm curious to see what your experience with the process is. But for me, the process of this kind of introspection, and alignment of everything changes the way that people hold on to right and wrong. They, there's not as much about finding a solution, as opposed to finding a process that continues to reveal value. And it's not so solution based. So it's not just one and done, you know, everybody understands that this we're going this is some actually something that is going to grow along. And with an inside and outside of us, we've actually changed the game. And it you know, it's not for everybody. Some people really want just a solution. And it's pretty amazing to watch them fight. Yeah. And you just go Okay, well, this isn't the right time. I'm not the right one for you. So that's okay.

Marc Gutman 34:19
A lot of it. And, you know, I think about that, I mean, one of the challenges I have with clients is they are so like, solution oriented, even when it comes down to working with archetypes. And so they're like, like, okay, like, what are we doing here? Like, what are we trying to get to and right, and, you know, so I've, I have put some parameters around it. You know, I'll say things like, Oh, well, we want to find your archetype that makes you want your like the resonates with your why or the architecture that makes you unique in your space. But that's just kind of the way I've done it because I feel like you have to put these like these parameters, so the client can understand what we're Trying to get otherwise, it's harder for them, it's a little too little too woowoo, you know, and

Margaret Hartwell 35:05
I totally agree. And I'm kinda like them down the edge to kind of calm down the cognitive dissonance if you will. And usually, I've done a poll pre education about the value of archetypes and how they, you know, increase your economic value, when you know what a brand lead valuation looks like, and how it actually translate into an intangible asset for your m&a if that's what you're doing. And then also just, you know, really looking at educating them in a way that gets them on the same page, so that they, they'd let go a little bit to kind of shake some loose, so and then you can do those things without that. The other piece that I think that's been really important lately, for me, is Bernie Browns work fitting out founded, seemingly, you know, a long time ago, but I used the vulnerability and shame work in my startup in New Zealand a lot to build the innovation process, and that change people to that change their reactions, because using innovation tools requires you to let go of that kind of judgment. And then we're never going to get to the kind of creativity, or the kind of satisfaction from the daily work, if they were constantly protecting something, you know, shaming someone else judging someone else. So I've seen an architectural approach, have all kinds of, you know, secondary and tertiary benefits to people's relationships to people's understanding of themselves and how they want to move in the world. So it definitely can apply on way more levels than just in your brand. And for me, it's moved a lot into the culture space.

Marc Gutman 37:04
A common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we'll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email, we'll get you booked right away. So whether you're just getting started with a new business, or whether you've done some work and need a refresh, or whether you're a brand that's high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book, your brand clarity call, you'll learn about our brand audit and strategy process, we'll identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh, will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you'll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies. We'll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for, build the brand you've always dreamed of. Again, we'll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstorm comm and send us an email. Now back to the show.

So my friend assha she's a brand strategist, she knew I was talking to you and she wanted me to ask you a question she she wants to know why some brand strategist like us use archetypes, then why some don't like what's your what's your thought on that? Like? We'd like sort of in what and perhaps, I think to broaden the scope of the question, What might those other brand strategist be be missing by not employing archetypes in their work?

Margaret Hartwell 38:50
Oh, gosh,

why do some users and some not?

Well,

I think there are a lot of people, regardless of what they do Alicia's in brand strategy, the think that there's a way, a way for the way. And that if you just do the way, then you'll just get what you want. There's like this linear, aided, you know, Zed kind of thing that you get. And they like they have a certain commitment to that kind of process. They give some confidence. They can replicate it, there's bits, it's something that they have identified with and studied with. But, gosh, I'm stopping myself, but I'm gonna go ahead and say it. You know, it's there was this guy who put archetypes in brain as he put it on his bullshit meter. And he said it was the sixth biggest marketing bullshit thing that ever was, and I just burst out laughing I and I thought it was great because it's like, we were right after Seth Godin work. And it was like, yeah, you made it right after so But I think that the gig is up for people in, in any form of consulting or business, or helping or creativity, maybe even anyone, that you can't bring your whole self to things anymore. And I think that archetypes, you have to do that. Now, what I mean to say, probably got my negatives caught up there. But the art and architectural approach, I think, just opens a door to a deeper level of connection with yourself, with your society with any any relationships. And I think understanding that branding now isn't is about is no longer push and telling it's relatedness. And we and I'm not saying anything that you are meant all of your listeners are already across. But it's an orienting principle to understand that a brand. Branding is really about increasing the value of a relationship, so much in the way that you would increase the value of relationship with your family or a friend or your community. So why do they not use them? I think they're scared of them, because they don't know how to flesh them out into a 360 degree, living and bodied way of being. And I will admit, I probably have a leg up here, because I studied acting,

I mean, you

I know how to step into a character and kind of feel what that is. Right? You know, I've done a ton of improv. So, you know, just the idea of sparking new thing of new ideas off of other people and being able to play in that space. I've studied a ton of psychology. So I understand motivation and behavior and how to move people in that sense. And I've also been in the art world and the sustainability world, where you understand that everything is connected on some level. And it's just, it's we're working in a system. So to answer your question, in the most long winded way, is that I think that people don't use them because they don't really grok the depth of them, and that they're part of a system. So they still see it as a separate, you know, branding is still something separate. I think it's like the thread that is, who we are, and who a company is. So that's why I think people who are naturally curious, and always continuously learning are the most successful brand. Practitioners out there for an archetypal strategy or for even if they don't use archetypes, because they're just, they're just curious about life and curious about people. And they look at the cross sections, which is what I think archetypes do.

Marc Gutman 42:57
Absolutely. And that was a great answer. Not long winded. And you touched on this, but I just want to clarify, when when you're using archetypes in the archetypal analysis, are you starting off that way? and using it as a centering device? Are you doing it later? Like a lot of times? I'll do it later in the process, especially like when we're in a more typical brand strategy process like personality, voice and tone. That's where, you know, it comes up a lot for me, because I heard you speaking. Sounds like it could be very useful. Maybe in the beginning of the process, especially when you're talking about like purpose and why and why do we exist? Is that how do you approach that? Well,

Margaret Hartwell 43:36
I've been criticized for always approaching everything uniquely, which is why I probably work harder than I have to. Because everything seems like it's some bespoke thing. Again, I have to say, I think I just feel my way, I wish I could say that there was a process but you can from the discovery, half an hour with with a company and a discovery session about what it is they're saying they want, what it is that they're doing, and asking them where they want to be revealed something that tells me then, where this needs to happen. And I've done it at the very beginning,

just to kind of ground them into the notion of talking about what's going on in a story fashion with people that have specific drivers and motivations and then universal stories to them. I've done it in the middle, and I've done it with with each one of the little teams too. So that was an interesting one. Instead of doing it with the C suite. I went in and did the exercise with each one of the kinds of teams marketing and sales, Ops, HR, and even finance. So he did one with each one of those. And then I asked one person out of each one of those to come with me, and then we did it with the C suite Bigger. And those people were, were so that they were, of course, really engaged at that point. And loving the process, that they were the greatest kind of contagion excitement for the process that the C suite had to give up their Oh, boohoo on it all. And, and they were fed by the people that worked really were on the front lines, I don't like to use those metaphors. But you know that in the trenches with that with the company's purpose, and not just directing it, so I've used them at every different phase, it's this crazy, but it's really satisfying to walk back into a client's office and see the image of the car, somebody has it on their t shirt, or somebody is using it within a mug, or, or, or they're actually sitting there because we do some, some grounding work, I guess you could say, for creativity purposes, to get you in a place where you can hear your own creative news. And so they have a little technique that I teach them. So I'm watching them do it, it's pretty cool. It comes from Eric Moselle, who's a renowned kind of artistic and creativity coach. And so you know, it's a breathing process, but it it puts people quickly into a space of being able to channel the archetype, the story of that archetype. So, so yeah, it's it's everywhere. At the beginning, I think it was more that we use it right, we use it more in a kind of more traditional sense that it came, it came after, usually, after the collage, I used to do a lot of collaging, with people to try and get them to, to elicit what was going on visually for them, and also to hear how they would tell a story because we'd have them collage on a certain theme. And then they would have to tell the story back to the group, while listening to music telling me then which music actually worked for them, too. So it was it was a little bit more of a predictable process at that time. But then, I've seen it just it seems to work everywhere now.

So

lots of applications.

Marc Gutman 47:14
So many. And that's and that's what's so great about archetypes, and archetypal analysis. What's it like? Being the archetypes and branding person being the expert? Like what's hard about it? Like what I mean, I imagine that a lot of people come to you for different things, you get a lot of probably comments and criticism, like the like, like the person that said, You were the six most bullshit marketing trend or whatever, like, exactly, yeah, I mean, what's what's hard about it, like, like being having put this work into the world, and so many people resonating with it and using it, which is great, but like, what, what don't we see about that?

Margaret Hartwell 47:54
I guess, based on who I am, and I'm, you know, which is a overlay all unto itself to the work, I guess what's hard is that sometimes it does make me want to hide, like, I'm going to disappoint people, or that I won't be able to find it with them, or, you know, sometimes getting too egoic about and find it for them, you know, that somehow I will let them down. And I think that's been the gift and the challenge of having this work kind of fall into my lap, where the threads of my, all of my education and training and everything kind of came together is that the task now is again, to just recognize that, whatever is going to be is needs to be and to trust that we will get there together. And so to not get too attached, I think that's what's hard is that it's like having a baby in a way is like, Hey, don't criticize my baby. But do whatever, you know, good days and bad days, too. There's there's definitely people that like to criticize, and all I think back to is the way that Bernie Brown has brought the the quote about being, you know, kudos to the man in the arena, as like, Hey, I'm in the arena. Like maybe bloody but I'm, I'm in there, you know, one thing sincerely, to help and to, to guide in a way business to be the powerful force for change that I know it is, and I know it can be. So that's my whole driver of why I'm in it. So I just have to keep reminding myself that's what's hard. is even when you forget sometimes in the midst of it all that this is you have to return to your why, like you said earlier, you know, always

Marc Gutman 49:55
so I imagine this is a lot like picking your favorite child But everyone, you know, and and, you know, I tell people, you know, I have three, I have three kids and I tell people, I don't have a favorite overall child. But I always do have a favorite at any given moment. And so yes, you know, do you have a favorite archetype? At this moment? Or what? What right now would you say? Is your your favorite archetype and why? Well,

Margaret Hartwell 50:25
so I'll answer it from two different places. One from a play place, and one from a meaning place. Not that the two are, are not together. But what's happening in the world right now from a social justice perspective is soul destroying to me. And to me then, but I really, if we can awaken the strength of the activist in people that think that doesn't touch them, but it is shifting them. It's, I love the power of the activist. I love the confidence and the, the giving ness of it, you know, the, the infusion of doing what's really right for humanity. So that one's high on my, my favorite slash right now. I think from the play position. I cannot lie. You like big stories. I cannot like I like the provocateur, I cannot lie. I just, it's anything that wakes people up is totally my favorite thing.

Marc Gutman 51:36
So what's your favorite? What's your favorite provocateur brand right now?

Margaret Hartwell 51:41
Oh,

Marc Gutman 51:43
that's such a tough question. But like what's like, just what's one that's on your mind? And that represents that archetype? Well, well.

Margaret Hartwell 51:50
So this is where I think that what I'm going to name is, is actually a company where I think that the provocateur is either a secondary or tertiary. But the insurance company lemonade, has they're they're disrupting and provoking a different mindset around the insurance industry. Are you across their work?

Marc Gutman 52:11
Yeah, I'm familiar with lemonade. Oh, yeah.

Margaret Hartwell 52:13
It's I just think it's amazing what they've done with, you know, machine learning to get claims processed quickly, and, and that it's actually in the benefit for that the collaborative in a way. So I think that that's part of they've provoked people to say, I don't need to accept this. So I think I think there's probably a big provocateur in that company right now. But I wouldn't say that they're provocative or bland. I really think they're citizen brand. Citizen Jester, actually, cuz I just think they're fun. You know, funny.

Marc Gutman 52:54
Talk a little bit about that really quick. I mean, you mentioned primary, secondary, tertiary, like, how do you organize that and use that as overlapping lenses? when you're when you're talking about archetypes?

Margaret Hartwell 53:05
Yeah. Um, I do. Again, I know I said this in the book, but I do kind of think of it as you're wearing different clothes, you're still the same person. But when you go hiking, you're not going to wear black tie, you know. And so the primary and secondary and tertiary show up, like you just said, as lenses for I like to think of them as facets of, you know, like a, like looking at a kaleidoscope if you if you change the the orientation just a little bit, you get a completely different color picture and all that it's still the same Kaleidoscope and it still has all the same parts, you're just choosing to put one part of it forward with the intent of not being what kind of sycophant Would you like me to be, but with the intent of actually connecting? So what part of me is going to connect the most what authentic part of me, so if that's my tertiary, or you know, the fine, if that's the tertiary archetype, that's fine. Um, for I'm just thinking of a way that this was kind of quantified is that we had metrics, we established metrics for kind of how much of certain pieces of communication would be in the primary, secondary and tertiary. So we tried to keep a balance, we graded basically how the writing was netting out in terms of the stories so that we understood that we weren't over indexing on one or another. And that if we did find ourselves shifting around, or being uncomfortable with it, it was time to refresh

Marc Gutman 54:47
of it. I love it. And so, you know, I started off the show, introducing you as an innovation consultant, innovation coach. What is that like? Like, what is like, what does that mean? And how does that show up for you? Because that's where you're focusing your time right now,

Margaret Hartwell 55:01
I think I, basically,

I'm a change person, I just am a change agent. And that's usually what I get hired to do is to do some kind of change with people, whether it's on a one to one basis, or on a company basis or a family basis, because I, I also do just coaching with people as well, executive coaching. So, you know, I have attorneys and CEOs that are looking for a different way of showing up and recognizing, much like you said earlier in the, in our chat, is that you kind of know, something is going on inside of you. And an architectural lens can help with that, and other kinds of connection as well. So, innovation is just a thing for me a fancy word for creative change. So I like to say that I instill creative courage in people. And that's what I do, and help to do.

Marc Gutman 56:07
Why is it hard for people, your clients to have creative courage? You know, it's not easy?

Margaret Hartwell 56:13
Yeah. Well,

we've been fed a pretty steady stream of fear breaks, you know, steady diet of fear, recently, a lot. And I think that the, the macro world is also making us feel very, you know, insecure, and, and changing. And so it's hard to have the courage because we've been taught that we can't fail. And that's not real. You know, it's like, like, good relationships don't have conflict. No way. You know, like, yeah, and if you're a successful person, you don't fail. Sorry, the human beings, you know, the more we can just say, yes, awesome, that just came up, let's go there. I think that I'm just keep looking at your hat mark. And I think that's really where everybody's unique brilliance is, is recognizing that all those things are baseline, all those things are to be embraced. And if you if you just left them out of the right wrong box, then they're all actually just gifts and tools to be applied to however you want to live and be and do.

Marc Gutman 57:25
And so we're in the midst of a pandemic, pandemic, hopefully winding down. But how have you been dealing with archetypes because I talked a lot about, you know, my box and my cards, and it's so magical to be in a room. So how have you translated this into a tool that people can use virtually? Well,

Margaret Hartwell 57:45
I think I've mentioned to you that my favorite tool is Miro, how give them a shameless plug, I don't own any stock or anything. But to me, that has changed everything. The ability to collaborate in a virtual space on a whiteboard in that way with post its I mean, I can run innovation workshops in the same way that I did, you know, physically, it is what I had to get used to was using a couple of different monitors to make sure that I could still really catch into people's reactions and in their engagement. And so how is it changed the way I facilitate? Well, I, I'm much more cognizant of getting people to, to play specific roles for me, I don't because I'm needing to watch in a way where I can't sense it as much. I have, I always have a timekeeper with me, that's only doing that somebody who's looking at my time to Agenda sit, you know, saying, Hey, we only got five more minutes for this one, what do we want to move. And also great note takers, because I can't do all those things. Virtually, I can actually take notes, when I'm there physically, and going around, because somehow that works out because it's kind of part of the making of it all. But it can't seem to do that in a virtual space. So having good note takers and people who are actually listening, and putting in putting the stuff into the boards has been important. I found that Nero was an easy way for people to sort as well, because they just, I just put up all of the archetypes and then they would just pull into piles. And then we'd sword again. So that's what it is. I think I've worked only with Miro and zoom. And now they have an integration. Thank you safeer

Marc Gutman 59:40
Yeah, I like mirror to mirror if you're listening, I don't like your pricing model, we have to talk about that. We're not gonna use time, it takes a lot of management on my time. Like, I don't need to be managing like seats and things. But what I also wanted you to mention, you kind of alluded to it, but I just want everyone to know that Margaret has also digitized all the cards and so you You can go to her website, we'll link to that in the show notes. You can grab a licensed version of those cards and bring them into Miro, so that you can play around with them, which I think is amazing. You know, and I think it really, look, is it as good? No. But is it the next best thing? Absolutely. And I think it's really made things amazing. So I just want people to be aware of that if people are looking to get into archetypal analysis, like how would you suggest they get started? I mean, you know, I'm assuming get your book and then what?

Margaret Hartwell 1:00:30
Well, I would like to get them sooner than that, in so much is, gosh, be curious, be hungry, you know, be a hedonist at the shore gets bored of life and just study and look and observe and witness anything that you can. And then once you've identified that this is really a path for you in terms of, of brand, don't stop learning about yourself and learning about myth and story and narrative. You know, that to me, I

think is

deepening your, your resonance with the impact that different messages have is one of the best ways to hone your skill at on earthing and revealing a true archetypical brand rallying cry, if you will. So, yeah, that's what I would say. And then yes, of course, you know, read Margaret, Mark,

read Carolyn mace, read Joseph Campbell, you know, just read, read, read, read and watch. I think films are one of the greatest ways of learning about,

you know, what is alive in a culture? What are the influences, so I guess it's really more just about being really hungry, and for knowledge, and for input stimulus, and looking for the intersections and then making sure that they also somehow come together for positive meaning, and that you take responsibility for the impact that you create. So that the way I would say get in how to get into this business, you know, follow your nose, you'll be led.

Marc Gutman 1:02:12
And if you're listening, I'll just say, Margaret's being humble. Her book synthesizes everything. I'll admit something right here on the show, I have tried to read Joseph Campbell's work like 100 times I get through maybe 30%. Each time at best. I want to tell everybody that I'm a Joseph Campbell person. It's pretty, it's pretty rough. So if you want to go through that, you know, some of that academia Be my guest. But if you want to have something that's quick and actionable, and synthesizes it with some beautiful artwork, as well, as great words, I highly, highly recommend the book, Margaret.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:48
Thanks, Mark.

Marc Gutman 1:02:49
What's Yeah, by the way, I keep seeing your name Margaret Hartwell on zoom. I'm like, What a cool name like Margaret. Well, like it sounds like like, like, maybe work like at the newspaper and a comic book or something like murder. I just love it. But what's next for Margaret Hartwell? What? What are you most looking forward to?

Margaret Hartwell 1:03:07
Well, I'm looking forward to getting back with people. Gosh, I missed I mean, I'm kind of an introvert. I am an introvert. And I didn't realize how much I really wanted to be around people. So what's next is really enjoying being able to just connect with people in all areas of work and play and community and everything. I think your question was probably more in terms of what am I going to do next? Or where is my work taking me?

Unknown Speaker 1:03:36
Am I right? That's one

Marc Gutman 1:03:37
way to take it. Absolutely.

Margaret Hartwell 1:03:39
Well, so strangely enough, I've gotten to travel the world with work, and I've just loved being able to do it. And I really am traveling hard, you know, three, four trips to China, New Zealand, Australia, it gets really hard. And I I've been getting a little tired of it. So my partner and I actually bought a huge Victorian in Salem, and we've been renovating it. So now the hope is that we bring kind of the world to us here. So that's one component of it. Because it's amazing how many people that have booked into our Airbnb have actually read the book, this wild lady, well, I guess Salem's kind of all archetypes, right? So that's kind of just in the background for fun, but it's really, I'm really keen to move into more of a coaching and teaching place at this point. I'd like to keep on, you know, maybe 234 clients, but teachings really amazing. I taught at the California College of the Arts, and it was one of in the design MBA program and I loved it and so I think the future is going to hold more Teaching and building out an online course right now again, when came out when the book was first published, but it was less than what I'd be proud of. So doing that building that out. And, and we'll see how the coaching goes really working with individuals, practitioners who want another sounding board or another input for bigger clients that they're doing this work with.

Marc Gutman 1:05:26
And we'll make sure to link to all your contact info in the show notes, if anyone's interested in continuing that work with you.

Margaret Hartwell 1:05:32
Yeah, I will say Mark if people want to, you know, if they want to follow me on Instagram, and then send me a message, just put the vgts or what does that maybe not backstory did GPS. There it is. What is it again? Mark,

Marc Gutman 1:05:47
BG bs? No, no. Yeah, PGP

Margaret Hartwell 1:05:51
got back. So yes, sir. Just put that in your message. And I'll send you an email to give you a discount on the the course when it comes out. So

Marc Gutman 1:05:59
that's fantastic. Thank you for that. I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of people who are interested, Margaret, as we come to a close here, and we're running out of time, I'm going to think back, I want to think back to that. That little Margaret version of yourself that was singing and dancing and, you know, didn't have a care in the world. And what do you think she'd say, if she saw you today?

Margaret Hartwell 1:06:24
She's probably say, See, I told you so. And that she, she had such faith, that being a hybrid divergent was okay. And that she just lived it and all that and expend a lot of time trying to get back to that place. So they are an archetypical perspective, the book, all of it came together. And that would be her closing shot. I think it's like, See, I told you, so he told you, it'd be okay. You'd get it all, all the creativity, all the fun people, all the arts, you know, all the meaning. It's all there.

Marc Gutman 1:07:08
Then that is Margaret Hartwell, author of archetypes in branding, go buy the book, we'll link to it in the show notes. And look, I get nothing from your purchase, I have no vested interest or incentive in you buying this book. Other than I want you to open up your aperture, broaden your possibilities. And think, a little more human. One thing we touched on, but didn't really explain is that the book explains all this awesome archetype stuff. But there are also 60 cards in the back that punch out. So you can get a full deck of cards too. You can apply this in your branding work, professional life, writing personal life, there really are so many applications, go to Amazon and get the book right now. One nugget that stood out to me was when Margaret said, brand is about increasing the value of a relationship. And at the end of the day, that's it. Now how we get there isn't always simple or easy, just like real relationships. But I think what matters is that we show up. We keep working at it, because we want to because we care. And over time, the value of that relationship increases even when we make mistakes, put her foot in her mouth, or have a bad day. brands are no different. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. It was such a treat to talk with Margaret here her perspective and learn about what she's doing next. I'm not joking when I say Margaret is a hero to me. And I hope you got as much from this episode as I did. A big thank you to Margaret Hartwell. I want to be your BFF let me know if I can send you one half of a branding BFF locket and we can make it official. We will link to all things Margaret Hartwell in the show notes, her book, her website, her course. Well, all things and if you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast at wildstorm calm. Our best guests like Margaret come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that's the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstorm.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you'll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can't deny

 

BGBS 066: Gregg Bagni | Alien Truth Communications | Only the Clever Survive

BGBS 066: Gregg Bagni | Alien Truth Communications | Only the Clever Survive

May 4, 2021

BGBS 066: Gregg Bagni | Alien Truth Communications | Only the Clever Survive

Gregg Bagni is the founder of Alien Truth Communications. He works behind the scenes with organizations in the outdoor, bike and natural food worlds where he offers up energy, direction and expert business strategy around branding, marketing & product development.

He is also a partner with White Road Investments and claims to be the luckiest being on this planet.

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In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • Define your goals and keep them somewhere you can see so when you’re discouraged, you can always remind yourself where you are headed. It will give you the motivation to make it happen
  • Greg’s experience turning a dead brand around in the public’s minds and helping it succeed
  • It does take incredible intensity and tenacity to get from $0-10 million, but always remember, only the clever survive

Resources

LinkedIn: Gregg Bagni

Quotes

[21:33] I have always been a product developer, first and foremost. I don’t know jack about brand, or marketing, or sales or investment, and I’ve got experience in all those areas but at the end of the day, I’m a product geek. I love building stuff and building it from the ground up.

[49:24] I’m hoping to get another 20 years on this planet, but I’m planning for 20 seconds.

[55:16] Saying no is probably one of the most important pieces of doing business.

[56:13] I’ve always over-delivered. I’ve never been afraid to go the extra mile. It’s just the little sh*t sometimes.

Have a Brand Problem? We can help.

Book your no-obligation, Wildstory Brand Clarity Call now.

  • Learn about our Brand Audit and Strategy process
  • Identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh
  • Determine if your business has a branding problem
  • See examples of our work and get relevant case studies
  • See if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level

Book Your Brand Clarity Call TODAY

Podcast Transcript

Greg Bagni 0:02
In that guy’s little sort of work area, he had one of our ads cut out of the magazine taped up on the side of the wall. And I’m not kidding you, I went in the bathroom and I kind of wept for a second. And I walked back out, I said, Hey, dude, what’s up with the ad in your cube? There he goes, Hey, and then the headline was no calves nor glory. That was the headline. He goes, What do you mean? no gas, no glory. And I wept again. I thought this could work. We might get over on this one. It was such an exciting time to to be able to take a dead brand and turn around both financially and perceptually. You know, in people’s minds, it was just, I had to tell you, it’s hard to put it into words how exciting it was.

Marc Gutman 1:00
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and today’s episode of Baby got backstory. We’re talking to a real life alien. Well, sort of, for all you Earthlings that only understand Earthling type labels. We’re not an alien. We’re talking to a career brand builder than mission driven investor. And before we get into the alien episode of this show, I am asking all you Earthlings to rate review this other worldly podcast on Apple podcasts or Spotify, Apple and Spotify use these ratings, this part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. And when life from other planets does come to earth, and learns about podcasts. Don’t you want it to be the baby got backstory podcast that is representative of all our human accomplishments. I thought so. Thanks for the review. Today’s guest is Greg bagni. Greg is you’ll hear has been on this planet for most of his life, and currently is the founder of the brand consultancy alien truth communications, as well as a partner at the esteemed mission driven investment firm, white road investments. Greg works behind the scenes with organizations in the outdoor bike and natural food worlds, where he offers up energy direction and expert business strategy around branding, marketing and product development. As you’ll hear in today’s episode, Greg claims to be the luckiest being on this planet. And I believe him. Greg’s experience is vast. from helping to turn around the then bankrupt iconic brand Schwinn to advising mission driven businesses and entrepreneurs. Greg doles out the golden nuggets and my notepad is full of stars and scribbles. And I think yours will be too. Here’s Greg bagni. In this is his story. All right. I am here with Greg bagni, the founder of alien truth, communications and partner at White road investments.

Greg, welcome to the show.

Greg Bagni 3:40
Ack ack Nice to be here. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here today. Ack Ack that’s

Marc Gutman 3:47
such a great lead in because why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of what Ack Ack means to you and why you open up that way?

Greg Bagni 3:56
Well, you know, actually, the greatest movie ever made on this planet? Is Mars attack. I mean, that’s it. I mean, I’m not saying there aren’t other good movies but that is the greatest movie that’s ever been produced. And if you watch the movie, all the aliens in that movie sort of say Ack Ack I got that good. It’s that’s how they communicate. So I brought it up as a just kind of a greeting and actually have colleagues and friends that we will talk back and forth on the phone for several minutes just using that one word and it’s actually kind of interesting.

Marc Gutman 4:35
Well, I like that social experiment and and why I ask as well is that you are a how do you how do you say it? I want to say it right? You’re a self described alien or you are an alien. How do you phrase it? Oh, you know,

Greg Bagni 4:52
I’m trapped here on planet earth and my only escape is mind adjustment. Yeah. You know what, I will We’ll say this, you know, I’ve always struggled to fit in here, I had to try extra hard to sort of get in the groove here. I’ve always been a bit of a dork and a geek. So with that said, I never really felt like I was from here. So, you know, when I went out on my own 21 years, four months, in one day ago, I sort of said, Well, you know, let’s call a business alien truth communications, LLC. You know, I mean, I’m sort of into what we call for authenticity, fa UX, where, you know, there are times when you’ll talk to me where I am dead serious about not being from here. And there are other times where you know, that I’m absolutely foolish it. So it’s, it’s kind of by design that way. And I’ve always tried to solve problems a little differently. And things do look differently when you’re standing on the earth, or whether you’re orbiting, it’s a completely different viewpoint. And I think that’s kind of the alien truth is to sort of look at problems from a different viewpoint, and solve them differently. So you really can be distinct and strategic about it. Right?

Marc Gutman 6:07
Absolutely. I love that. I love that. That perspective that’s rooted in your, in the name of alien truth. And let’s talk a little bit about what you said about this idea of never really feeling like you fit in here feeling like that, you know, you’re been a bit of an outsider. And is that something that has always been with you from as long as you can remember? I mean, was little Greg having trouble to fit in?

Greg Bagni 6:31
Dude, I need to lay down on your couch now, don’t I? Is that what’s going down here? Well, perhaps perhaps, I’ll be vulnerable doc. I’m okay. You know, I’m physically I’m different. You know, it’s funny, I’m, I’m old now. So it’s been I’ve always been a ginger. So I was the redheaded, freckled, short, little chubby black glasses geeky, you know, one in the neighborhood. So that was the first step of really not fitting in, I don’t know what the percentages of redheads versus others, but it’s a small percentage, and that automatically set me apart. And I and so because of that I I think that was part of it, you know, just not fitting in. So because of that, because you didn’t have that visual. Now, dude, you’re a good looking humanoid, you know, you got that look about you, I can see you here on zoom. And you’re, you’re there. I always had to sort of rely on humor and being clever to survive. And then finally, when I was about a senior in high school, I actually started to grow. And I went from like, I grew like six inches, and in a year, year and a half, something like that. So that helped a little bit. But I’ve always been, I’ve always been a little bit off that way. Without a doubt.

Marc Gutman 7:56
Oh, thank you for your kind words about my appearance. It must be my my zoom filter. I appreciate that very much that is it in my head a little bit. But in so where did you get your start? Where did you grow up?

Greg Bagni 8:09
You know, when I basically grew up in the Chicago Chicago suburbs, born on East Coast, but got dragged here when I was relatively young, and grew up in Chicago suburbs and learned to cut my teeth here. You know, I was, since I’m on your couch, you know, I was supposed to be my parents told me I was supposed to either be a dentist or an insurance agent. That was the plan. Excited? Yeah. And I was kind of, I was not on that program. And you know what, when I, when I was in college, I read I got into college radio, and was a DJ and ran the radio station for a year we had staff, volunteer staff of 70 people, you know, I mean, it was a really great experience for me. But I’ve always been a music lover I I still play my cello and and I’m a bad drummer and a terrible guitar player. But I was always into music. And then when I got out of college, I just couldn’t get close enough to it. I worked in a couple of small commercial stations in the suburbs that sucked. Wk DC the sound of D page. Okay, I don’t know. I don’t see anything else more than that. And, you know, when I got into the music business in a really roundabout way, I just had some friends that were in bands and I started I started as a roadie and started pushing cases around road cases and setting breaking shit down. And then I built a commercial stage lighting system from the ground up. And at the time, as it was a bicycle shortage and outdoor gear shortage. Now there was a lighting instrument shortage at that time and this was this is way back. This is like in the Oh probably 1979 or 80 shows you how old I am. And I ended up selling my system to somebody who wanted all my gear. I was ready At the time to, usually to rock, commercial and fashion is what I was doing and making a living, it was actually pretty cool. I was in my 20s. And so I sold all my stuff I did the smartest financial move I ever made. And I put a down payment on a house with that money. And then one of the bands that I was working with, I went to work for them.

And I became their tour manager on a scale of one to 10. If one’s a GarageBand, and 10 is a national act, we were about a seven and a half. So between maybe, I don’t know, I don’t know, between like 81 and 84. I was in it for about seven years. But that last three years, we opened or did double bills for everybody. We had a couple of hit singles and some records out. And it was a really great learning experience. And I had a crew 13 and trucks and motorhomes and hotels and shit and all the rest of that stuff. So I learned all about management by crisis

Marc Gutman 10:55
was the name of that

Greg Bagni 10:56
bad and professional babysitting. So it was really a great sort of that was really kind of my first job. But then, in the meantime, I did all these other crazy stuff. I became a I was a carpenter, I you know, I worked retail, I promoted events. You know, I did all sorts of crazy shit on the side. And then when I was I was a late bloomer. When I was 37, I got my first real job. And that’s when I went to work for Schwinn, I was lucky, I was an independent sales rep at the time, driving around about a nine state Midwest region, selling bikes and bike parts, shitty ones, actually, to retailers. And I was standing in the right place at the right time. And I got that gig at Schwinn. And then we picked them up and moved them from Chicago to Boulder. They were bankrupt. And it took us four years. And we brought him back to number one in the US and units. And then we were owned by typical private equity. And they got ready to flip this for the third time in seven years. And I said, You know what, I think I know enough now that I can do this on my own. I don’t want 2000 employees anymore. So alien truth is a one person shop by design with, you know, 2030 years of subcontractor experience around me, you know, people I’ve known that long. And I just started working for brands, mainly helping them figure out who they are and what to sell and who to sell it to. And can I drop an F bomb?

Marc Gutman 12:21
Of course, friendly. So,

Greg Bagni 12:23
So was this it was like, Who are you? What were you sell who you sell it to? And what the fuck Will you say no to? And that was it. That was kind of the start of it. And I started, I started getting people hiring me. And it was amazing. I mean, great brands. But you know, I had a target. I usually worked with companies somewhere between 10 and 20 million in revenue up to about maybe 250 300 million, because after that was really tough for them to sell me. And yeah, we get this guy is one person shop, he says he’s an alien, and we really want to work with them, the board would be like, get the fuck out of here.

Marc Gutman 13:03
Market Fit, right?

Greg Bagni 13:04
There’s my story in like two to three minutes. And so I went out on my own. And I’ve been doing that ever since. And then about 10 years ago, I started working 1011 years ago, I started working part time for white road investments. And we’re a mission driven investment fund. And we’re kind of a family office, we Gary Erickson and Kate Crawford, the founders of Clif Bar, they’ve done very well. And they always wanted to give back to small companies. And that’s what we do. So I’m, I can’t tell you how lucky I am. First of all, to not be a dentist or an insurance agent, and second to have landed here in this spot that I’m standing on right now. Dude, it’s incredible. And I’m not kidding you. I really mean that when I say it.

Marc Gutman 13:52
I believe. Let’s back up a little bit. What was the name of the band that you were the tour manager for?

Greg Bagni 13:58
They were called the kind? Ghandi. Yeah, and and I know that’s playing for good weed. But at the time, it was more slang for not fitting in, it was more about the band would walk into somewhere like a restaurant or whatever, and then say we don’t serve your kind here. And, and so I fit right in with that group, you know, and it was really, it was really a fascinating way to hit singles. And we’re based out of Chicago, and it was an incredible experience. And I played from the shittiest clubs, you know, where they’ve, you know, it’s a couple 300 people to 20,000 seat halls. So it was all sorts of just a really good well rounded experience of I learned so much about production. I learned so much about people. I learned a lot about scheduling. And you know, the show when they tell you when you’re opening for another band and there’s 20,000 people in a room and then You start exactly at 805. It takes a lot of management skill and execution of skill to get everybody together there at 805 claim. So I learned a shitload about that. And it was a fascinating education. And I had a lot of fun too at the same time.

Marc Gutman 15:16
Yeah. And what is what’s hard about running a band like that? You know, from from the outside, it seems like it’s all fun. And it’s, it’s a bit like a mash up of like, almost famous or something like that, you know, like, we’re all hanging out and just being with the band. But what’s hard about it?

Greg Bagni 15:32
The character, the personalities, there, you know, did you get banned level personalities Did you get to put together, and then there’s this crew level personality, too, you got to go out and be out on the road, y’all got to get along. You know, you know, as a matter of fact, on a side note, I live by three rules. One of them I learned in the music business, and that rule, and I still use it today, my colleagues, we refer to it all the time. It’s called one asshole comment per day. So I believe that everyone is allowed one asshole comment per day, when you’re out on the road, and you got to live with these guys. And you got to get along because guess what you’re on that night at 805. You know, and you have to get along. The asshole comet roll comes in. So the way it works is pretty simple. You say something to me, we’re in a, we’re in a vehicle driving from point A to point v b for hours. And you say something to me. And like, it is not nice. And I look at you and I go, Hey, man, that is your one answer or comment per day, you know, I’m going to give you a flyer on that one, I’m going to give you a pass at the same time, when you get to know the rule, you can actually use it in reverse. I’m about to say something to you that I know might piss you off. So I’m gonna say excuse me, but can I make my one asshole comment for the day? And then they say yes. And then it’s a really, it kind of breaks a wall down. And when I say hey, you know, about 10 minutes ago, you did this or you said something or you know, this went down. And then you can kind of talk about it. So, to this day, I learned about the one household comment per day. The problem is most people say is resent mean, I can make an SEO comment per day per person. And when and then I go, Hey, when you’re starting to ask questions like that you’re abusing the rule, right? You’re only making one per day in general to all humanoids as a as a group, right?

Marc Gutman 17:29
Yeah, let’s let’s lay that, that framework down one per day, don’t go crazy with the one asil comment rule. But I love that that’s so great. And when you’re going through that experience, I mean, it’s quite a, it’s quite a jump from being in the music business and being on the road and doing those sorts of things to the bike business. Like what, what was that gap? And what was going on at that time? Can you set the stage for us? Like, where was Schwinn? What did it look like? Like I was,

Greg Bagni 18:01
I made the mistake of making my hobby, my business. I’ve always loved bicycles from a little kid. It was to me as close as you could get to flying while still being on the planet. So I was always a bike freak. I love bicycles. And then you know what I said, you know, I’m going to I’m going to try and get a job in a bank business and no one would hire me. I finally convinced a Japanese company whose product was overpriced, the wrong color, the wrong SPECT and weighed too much, you know, I convinced them to hire me and I became a sales rep and then eventually started doing the marketing forum. And I was there for about three, three and a half years. But it was really a setup. It was like playing pool, I was setting up an X shot Schwinn was in Chicago, this company was in the suburbs. And I started positioning myself and really learned that the retailer base in the Midwest. And that’s kind of how and why I ended up in the bike business. But I thought, you know, this is perfect. It’s something I really love. And I think I can kind of take that love that what we call the intensity of complete attention as a monomaniac around it. I mean, I purposely put myself out of balance for that seven years, 49 dog years, that was that chillin.

And I knew what I knew that I needed to do that, but all that road time that I spent, and all the time I spent with unique personalities. And it really, it really paid off for me, you know, I mean, hey, I’m not proud of this, but I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms, you know, I mean, I haven’t flown since March 2 of last year. And I think that that year before I did, like, I don’t know 60 to one ways, you know what I mean? I know people that are traveling more, but at the same time, so a lot of travel and you know, music business kind of warmed me up for that. So I was ready to go out on the road and do what I needed to do. So getting a Schwinn was Kind of a, you know what, I am a little bit of a weirdo I had this thing in my head, I’ve always been pretty goal oriented is goofy as that sounds or is stayed is that is I said, you know what I’m going to go to work for a US based company, they’re going to either be number one, number two, or number three in the marketplace. And I’m either going to run or be an integral part of their marketing department. And I had that written down on a little piece of paper and I looked at that mofo every single day. After I went on a sales call the company I work for what’s called Miyata is a Japanese company, I would go on and call on a retailer, and I would just get my ass kicked. I mean, it was a great exercise and understanding and dealing with rejection. So every time I get my ass kicked, I pull that little piece of paper on my pocket and look at and I’m gonna, I’m, this is where I’m added. And then I got lucky again, and started meeting some people that were connected inside the Schwinn building. And I knew enough to be dangerous to say the right things to sort of say, hey, the reason you guys are going bankrupt? I’ll give you a couple of thoughts around that, you know. So I started there, and it worked out. But back up

Marc Gutman 21:14
a little bit like you’re getting your tail handed to you, at this Japanese company, like what makes you think that you can go into some other company, and and fix it and be the hero, if you’re, you know, working for this competitor? That’s not very strong.

Greg Bagni 21:30
You asked good questions. By the way, you know what, I have always been a product developer. First and foremost, I don’t know jack about brand, or marketing, or sales or investment. And I’ve got experience in all those areas. But at the end of the day, I’m a Product geek. I love building stuff and building it from the ground up. So I really understood the product side of things. And I understood how much potential there was, you know, this was 1993, when I went to work for twin, and the mountain bike boom was on fire. It was starting, it was rolling. And it was just like Schwinn had gotten behind on that they were to lock down and sell it and varsities and collegiates and all the other junk they were selling. And I just saw this huge opportunity to have this brand with unbelievable awareness. You know, and not in the bike industry in the sporting goods industry. They had like, top 5%, but their association sucked. You knew about them. But when you heard the name, you went, Oh, those guys. They suck. So I thought, Well, you know what? I understand rejection. So well, I bet you we can go in there. And we can start changing the product and start changing the perception of the brand and turn this baby around. And we got lucky and it worked

Marc Gutman 22:49
out. And so how did you do that? Like, what was the insight you had about Schwinn? I mean, you mentioned a little bit that they had great awareness. But everyone thought there wasn’t a cool brand. Like, it’s one thing to see that like Then how did you go about actually turning that ship?

Greg Bagni 23:05
Well, to get two years of bad press around bankruptcy, and I’m not kidding, it was two straight years of just bad press, always talking about the bankruptcy. And so we came up with this three step deal. The first one was you know what Schwinn gets it. So we started running, advertising and content, and creative all around the fact that we were different. And we kind of get it and we weren’t afraid to admit what happened. We had an ad, we had a headline that said, we’ve see when you we’ve had one line and said that when you were bleeding like we were there’s only one tourniquet, clean, wicked new product. We fell we got up and up apology was another one. So you know, I mean, from that standpoint, once they saw that we understood what it was like to be a hardcore cyclist and understand the market. And we hired when went to Boulder. We started with 75 people in that office. And when I left there was like 375. And everybody, you know, the customer service reps, when we got there were all people that didn’t ride. They weren’t fit, they smoke cigarettes, you know, and that was the customer service person to the retailer, the trade person, and we ended up bringing a bunch of bike geeks in so that first step was we get it and then it took us two years for the product development group to catch up. The second step was Schwinn builds it so all of a sudden we started coming out with product that was the right color that was the right spec that was lightweight that performed really well. You know, they told us that we would never sell a bike over $1,000 and I was just like that belt that thing came at the perfect time. Did it just perfect.

Marc Gutman 24:57
Yeah, it’s like a like a sideboard.

Greg Bagni 24:59
Whoa. Can I turn that better? But you know, we said no, we will sell bikes over $1,000. And we did. And so then Schwinn gets it. Schwinn builds it. Step two. And finally, the third step was Schwinn is it? Meaning? Can we get to a point where people say, Hey, you know what, I’m gonna buy a new mountain bike. And I’m looking at this specialized. And I’m looking at a Yeti. And I’m looking at that Schwinn homegrown. And so you became part of that considered set. And it took us about five or six years, but we got there. And every single high end bike that we made, and we made limited runs, we sold out, we were backordered, our biggest problem was being on time for delivery. And I would always get pissed off at the product department. And technically, my title there was, what was it Senior Vice President of Marketing and product development. So I ran the marketing in the product group when I left when I was finally out of there, but I had a business card that said, balloons, banners and marketing on it. That was my technical title. That would be the card I would hand out. And then when the bankers came in, I’d give them the other card.

Marc Gutman 26:13
That’s why is it important to have a card like that, that says balloons,

Greg Bagni 26:17
banners, and marketing? Because we all take ourselves way too seriously? Yeah. And you know, what, the, here’s the thing, you know, I used to get in these huge arguments with the product group about this, they’d say, Well, you know, we ate this, this is, uh, you know, this particular ad, it’s got to have, you know, we got to talk about the double butted spokes. And you know, it’s got to, you know, but tubing, and it’s all assuaged. And this and that, I’m not saying any of that stuff was cool. But in the first couple, three, four years on, we talked about, we just saw escape. That was it. We just, you know, there was an emotional attachment to the brand. And we sold escape, rather than getting down and dirty was back. And you know, what the goal was, and that was when magazines were still around. Now, granted, listen, I have adapted Well, I mean, I work with, with white row, we’ve done 25 deals. In 10 or 11 years, I work with 16 different companies, sometimes on a daily basis, it’s an informed boards. With that said, I understand what it’s like now. But at that time, when you had a magazine, we’d run these spreads. And the objective was the, the ads were so cool and so beautiful, that we wanted somebody to cut it out and tape it together, and then hang it on the inside of their cube. You know, about two years into this thing. I walked into a retailer, I don’t even remember where it was somewhere in America. I walk into a retailer and I walked back to the area, the wrench area, the shop area. And in that guy’s little sort of work area, he had one of our ads cut out of the magazine, taped up on the side of the wall. And I’m not kidding you. I went in the bathroom, and I kind of wept for a second pulled my shit together. And I walked back out. I said, Hey, man, What’s up, dude, what’s up with the ad and your cube there? And he goes, Hey, in that the headline was no calves nor glory. That was the headline. He goes, What do you mean, no gas, no glory. And I wept again. I thought, holy shit, this could work. We might we might get over on this one. It was such an exciting time to to be able to take a dead brand and turn it around both financially and perceptually. You know, and people’s minds. It was just, I had to tell you, it’s hard to put it into words how exciting it was. And I moved to Boulder from Chicago, which was great. And I and I rode my bike into work every single day. Even when it was snowing. I wouldn’t give a shit. And people were like, dude, you’re the most hardcore guy in the office. I’m like, Chicago, it’s nice here. You get me? As long as it was above 18 degrees I would ride is

Marc Gutman 29:08
a common question I get all the time is Mark, can you help me with our brand? Yes, we help companies solve branding problems. And the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call, we’ll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email, we’ll get you booked right away. So whether you’re just getting started with a new business, or whether you’ve done some work and need a refresh, or whether you’re a brand that’s high performing and wants to stay there, we can help. After you book your brand clarity call, you’ll learn about our brand audit and strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh will determine if your business has a branding problem. And you’ll see examples of our work and get relevant cases. studies will also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Build the brand you’ve always dreamed of. Again, we’ll link to that in the show notes, or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email. Now back to the show.

It makes me think, like, how deprived this generation this kind of upcoming younger generation is that they don’t have print media the way that we did, because as we’re talking, I remembered, I mean, so much of like, how I would self actualize or how I would see myself was by taking like magazine adverts and spreads and put them on my bulletin board and whether it was, you know, a Burton ad or kaitou or, you know, something from a bike company. I mean, there was just this really interesting and and that that Now today’s I don’t know what they do, like, what do they do they pin something digitally, right, like, you just don’t have that same. And I remember like the adverts on my bulletin board. I mean, some of them are like taped together, you know, like I had to like, mock them up. And it wasn’t it wasn’t pretty, but it like, I have one that I remember specifically from Vernay. And to this day, I still wear Vernay sunglasses as a result. But that’s really cool.

Greg Bagni 31:22
Yeah, there is something to be said about the tactile paper and ink thing. It’s sensory, you know. So you’re not only taking the visual side of it, but actually you can feel in touch it, you’re flipping the page, or ripping

Marc Gutman 31:36
it out, right and interacting and then putting it somewhere on your cube. I mean, that’s a whole kind of interaction you’re having with that advert that you just don’t have. There’s something

Greg Bagni 31:44
he said for that. And you’re right, it is missing. But I mean, now with visual displays and everything else, you can still get their reproduction. And now, you don’t put you don’t put the ad on the wall in your office or your bedroom. Now it’s the wallpaper on your screen, right? Yeah. So it’s all everything’s still the same. It’s just the medium changes. It’s, I swear to God, you know, I’m watching some movie last night online streaming and in our ads that are coming on every 15 or 20 minutes, and I’m just laughing. When I see him. My wife goes, it’s so funny, I go, nothing’s changed. It’s still the same. It’s just

Marc Gutman 32:22
just a different medium. So you were talking a bit about the turnaround plan. And it all sounds like hey, you had it together yet a three step plan, you hammered it and you did execute. You did awesome. But I have to imagine it wasn’t all that easy. That it was like, from the beginning. It was like staring into the abyss. You mentioned you had two years of just trying to live down, you know, bankruptcy and what you had done, like, how did you keep the faith? Like how did you know that this plan was gonna work? Because I see so many marketers who are really quick to attack, you know, like they they set a plan, they have a strategy, they start to put it in place. But whether it’s because of impatience and marketing pressures from things like you know, external boards and and investors, I see people tack all the time, and I even look back at my career, I look, if we just would have stayed on this one strategy, we would have been way better off, like, how did you keep it together and fight through what I have to imagine were dark times.

Greg Bagni 33:28
Oh, it was, I’m glad you brought that up. Because it was not easy. It was very difficult. And there were a lot of personalities and, and you had the retailer base, there was no such thing as direct to consumer at that time, you know. So it was, it was really challenging. It was not easy. But the one thing we all had in common in the office was we all kind of had a Schwinn when you were a kid. So there was this emotional attachment, not just with the consumer, but between us in the office and, and we were given the big ftu to the industry. We were all all of us there had a chip on our shoulder. You know, we’re like, we’re gonna turn this mofo around whether you like it or not. And if you don’t want to get on cool, you don’t have to get on, you know, but we’re going to do this really differently. And we, we shook it up, meaning whether it was the way we communicated the way our tradeshow booths looked, the way we ran advertising the way we use paint and colors and graphics on bicycles. We just shook it all up and went absolutely nuts. And, you know, I was just a piece there. It was a piece of that team. You know, there were so many other people there that had this incredible intensity to make it happen. So we managed to bounce back nicely from rejection because it happened to us a lot where people would say no to us, but then it got to a point where it was hard to say no, you know, and there was something to be loved about us because We were scrappy. And we took this, here it is, we took thi