Onward Nation

America's best podcast for learning how today's top business owners Think, Act, and Achieve. Onward Nation is a five-day-a-week podcast hosted by Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI. Business owners share the most influential lessons learned throughout their careers, including insights into their daily habits, their most vital priorities that have contributed to their business and personal success, and the most challenging time or situation that could have devastated or even ruined their businesses or careers. Business owners share their "recipes for success" including those systems they wish they had put into practice inside their business when first starting out. Each episode concludes with guests sharing two or three practical and tactical strategies they would recommend to brand new business owners in order to best ensure success in their new business and careers. Onward Nation provides business owners with the strategies and tactical step-by-step "recipe" that will help anyone make their business more systematic, predictable, measurable, and repeatable.
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May 8, 2020

Ryan Tansom became a business junkie early in life as he watched his father grow a small technology company into one of the market leaders in Minneapolis. He joined Imaging Path full-time during the financial crisis when the business was in rough shape. Ryan started in sales and eventually worked his way up to Executive VP after helping turn the distressed company into a profitable B2B technology provider.

In 2014, he and his dad decided to sell their business to a local competitor for a multitude of reasons. The exit process was an unexpectedly difficult undertaking, but the lessons that were learned have proven to be invaluable and he has taken his experience into multiple business ventures.

Ryan is now a serial entrepreneur, podcast host of Life After Business, Co-Founder of Growth & Exit Planning (GEXP) Collaborative, speaker and soon to be author. He has devoted every waking minute since the sale helping owners grow and exit their companies by developing a framework that guides entrepreneurs through the process.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Ryan inherited his father’s entrepreneurial bug, and how he learned firsthand the importance of proper exit planning
  • What particular factors help make a business salable, and why 80% of businesses have glaring weaknesses that make them unsellable
  • Why buyers assume significant risk when buying an existing business, and why outside factors can quickly devalue a business after a new owner comes in
  • Why research shows that 75% of business owners who do successfully sell their businesses are unhappy and regret the sale twelve months later
  • Why it is important for business owners to be clear on how they personally define success for themselves and their companies
  • Why knowing what your business is worth today and what it will need to be worth to give you financial freedom when you sell it is vital
  • How each exit option has a direct impact on the value, how much money you will get up front vs. over time, and what relationship you will have with the business post closing
  • Why creating a stable, predictable and transferable cash flow for your business is the key to increasing its value, and why you need a team of advisors to help you sell
  • Ryan explains the difference between “two-dimensional thinking” and “three-dimensional thinking”
  • Why you need to see improvements to your business as a worthwhile investment, and what steps you can take to shift your thinking about your business


Additional Resources:

May 6, 2020

Polly is co-founder and Chief Strategist at A Brave New, a Seattle digital marketing agency focused on helping businesses accelerate their growth through inbound marketing, branding, and web design. She specializes in working with clients to identify barriers to their growth and overcoming them with strategic content and marketing tactics. She has more than fifteen years of experience in digital marketing and branding.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Why Polly and her business partner Josh decided to become entrepreneurs and found A Brave New, and what areas of marketing they specialize in for their clients
  • Why Polly and Josh wanted to move away from nonprofit organizations and specialize in the B2B space when they founded A Brave New
  • What early challenges the A Brave New team faced when making the jump to B2B, and why Polly and Josh had to learn to believe in the value they were offering
  • How trial and error and experimentation helped Polly and Josh fine-tune their area of focus and helped them develop and grow the firm
  • How mentorship and good advice became the foundation of A Brave New’s direction, and why having mentors believe in them was a strong motivator for Polly and Josh
  • Why Polly believes it is important to be intentional and focus on a clear plan for the future, even if you are busy with the day-to-day grind
  • Why you shouldn’t try to start from scratch but should learn from established business leaders who have already gone where you hope to go
  • Why Polly and the team at A Brave New used their own company as an experimentation space to develop new offerings for clients
  • Why focusing on helping and adding value can help new clients discover your company, and why the A Brave New team developed a new level of discipline in decision-making


Additional Resources:

Apr 29, 2020

Good Morning Onward Nation – I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host. Thanks for coming back – and if you’re new to Onward Nation – please know – I greatly appreciate your time and it’s wonderful to have you here.

Today’s episode is going to be a solocast – just you and me exploring a topic with some real depth.

And sort of a house-keeping heads up – this may very well be one of the longest solocast I’ve ever recorded – if not the longest. In fact – during one of the morning kick-start meetings with my Predictive team this week – I shared with them that I felt like I was back at the university getting ready to teach a half-day session on campus.

For the last several days — I’ve been writing on my whiteboards…erasing…starting over…scouring through literally 400 pages of research reports…and then refining my thoughts.

This will be a long one – but my hope is that when you and I are finished walking through it – you’ll feel it was well worth your time.

As I considered topics that would be helpful to you and your team — I thought about the daily phone calls I’ve had over the last several weeks with business owners…or the emails I have received from owners within our Onward Nation community…business owners just like you…who wanted some help brainstorm strategies, or to have an opportunity to get a sanity check on the next steps they were considering, or to help them talk through decisions they were thinking about making within their business.

Here’s the reality, Onward Nation – without question – we’re facing new and historic challenges

But – even though sometimes the challenges may seem insurmountable – I’m telling you – they aren’t.

I get it — none of us have ever had to deal with something exactly like COVID-19 before – but – we have certainly worked through and navigated some very major crises before…and we survived through it all.

Look – you know that I’m not a rah-rah, blow inspiration your way in order to make you feel better kind of person. I like data. I like examples. I like research. I like proven methods.

So I built the content of this episode from the ground up to be a resource that you and your team can use to market – yes, market – your way through the crisis.

I’m going to share some big golden nuggets from the research that I have curated from a variety of sources – and special thanks to Drew McLellan and Susan Baier for helping me knit the data points together.

I’m grateful for how you always generously share your smarts.

So that’s what you and I are going to talk through today – how you and your team can proactively market your business through this crisis – and at the same time – get through to the other side in a healthy position and ready for the rebound in the economy.

Make no mistake. It is not a quick fix. It isn’t easy. It will take hard work. And it may require that you make some difficult decisions. But — if you do all we talk about in this solocast…you will not only put your business in a position to make it through to the other side…but you will have also future-proofed your business for when the next crisis, challenge, or recession lands on our doorsteps.

Okay – so that’s the plan for today. Deal?

But – before we dive into all of that…I feel like I’d be remiss if we didn’t squarely address the emotional side of what we…as owners…are dealing with right now.

I hope you’ll forgive me here – because the next several minutes might sound like venting…because I kind of am…but my guess is…you might take this opportunity to vent right alongside me as I share this.

Candidly — part of what drove me to do the research, to write, and record this solocast was my own anger — my own frustration, my disappointment, and my sadness around what is happening right now.

I will tell you — there have been some days where I’ve felt bruised, battered, bewildered, and quite frankly…exhausted. My lens through which I normally view the world is to always look for the silver lining – and there are indeed silver linings with today’s crisis – but I admit…it’s taken me longer than normal to see them.

These are some big emotions so I wanted to tackle each of them in front of you because I know many of you have felt the same. You’ve shared that with me in our calls and emails.

Or – maybe you’re wrestling with or feeling something entirely different. Either way – maybe we’ll find some common ground here together.

I’m going to start with sadness.

I’m so sad for all of the families here in the United States and abroad that have had to say goodbye to a loved one, way too soon, because of COVID. I have several at-risk family members and friends — as I’m sure you do, too — and we’d be devastated if we were to lose any of them…ever.

My heart is also broken for business owners who have had to shut down…who are now questioning the livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees. And to make matters worse — many owners played by all the rules when seeking financial assistance…and yet…they were left out in the cold.

How could this possibly happen?

And — I’m embarrassed to admit…when I think about my feelings of sadness…they quickly transition to anger and frustration.

Even as I thought through and then wrote out what I wanted to share with you today — I felt my eyes welling up as I reflected on my sadness and then I heard my fingers pounding on my keyboard harder and harder because my level of tension grew.

I’m angry and frustrated when I hear of instances where our courageous healthcare workers and first responders who were asked to run toward the fight…yet had to do it at great personal risk because they didn’t have the gear they needed. And yet – our brave men and women didn’t stop — they did their duty because we all needed them to.

Or – I feel myself get angry when I hear politicians on both sides of the aisle and bureaucrats seemingly make decisions with their own best interests in mind and not their constituents. With the end result being that many small business owners were left out of the original stimulus – and have been forced to dangle in the wind and hope they get the assistance they desperately need — because someone, somewhere, was playing favorites.

Yet through it all — as I talk with business owners, Onward Nation – as I’m hearing similar emotions felt — I will tell you what I’m NOT hearing…and that’s the word QUIT.

Out of all of those calls — and all of the emails I have received — literally — not one person has said to me that they had decided to throw in the towel and quit. Not a single person. And that is one of the many reasons why I love business owners as much as I do.

You’re some of the most tenacious, generous, and committed people I know. You give, you sacrifice, and you lend support wherever you can. I love that about you.

So when the roles are reversed and support is promised to you…and you’re told by a big box bank that they’ll be there for you…and then we come to find out that that was never their intention…you bet, Onward Nation…that makes me really, really angry.

I’m angry for every business owner who was given a promise and then that promise was broken. Yes, I get it…life isn’t fair but I was hoping that during this crisis we would have demonstrated that we learned some important lessons from the mistakes of the past.

I’m frustrated that the answers and next steps for business owners have been few and far between.

So – I built this solocast as a way to provide a roadmap for where we as owners can and should go next in the coming weeks. What can we do to rebuild — and if we work hard at it — could it be possible to come out of this crisis in a better position than when we went in?

And that’s is what drove me to do the research. To look back through past recessions, past recoveries…to study the winners and the losers…and to share with you what they did…so we can all take some lessons out of their playbooks and put them to work right now.

I’m going to give you the data points and examples to show it’s possible. And — I’m going to share the next steps that you and your team can take and apply.

Okay — two final housekeeping items before we dive in.

First — thanks for listening to me vent — and I hope you were able to blow off a little steam in the process, too. We all need to give ourselves the grace of being able to do that from time-to-time. Yes, our teams deserve the best leadership and direction we can provide. But — you’re also human — you’re not a rock and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to take a step back and to honor the fact that this is an emotional time…even if that’s for 5 minutes. So thank you for giving me that grace just now, Onward Nation.

Second — all of the citation and references sources that I have included can be found in the endnotes section of today’s show notes on

And third — as I mapped out all of this content on my whiteboards and worked through the written drafts — holy bananas — I quickly saw that there was no way I could cover everything in the level of detail necessary within one solocast. It would be too long and too overwhelming.

So today’s solocast is Part 1 of 2. But by the time you listen to this episode — I will have likely finished up Part 2 so we will be airing it very soon.

Stepping through the research…

Okay, Onward Nation — with all that said — let’s start stepping through how to market your way through the crisis.

And we will start off by reviewing three research studies and articles published in the Harvard Business Review. Again all linked within today’s show notes.

Okay, Onward Nation — with all that said — let’s start stepping through how to market your way through the crisis.

And we will start off by reviewing three research studies and articles published in the Harvard Business Review. Again all linked within today’s show notes.

The first article is entitled “Preparing your business for a post-pandemic world”, which was published by HBR on April 10, 2020 and was written by Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritter, both professors at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

I decided to pull golden nuggets out of Pedersen and Ritter’s work and share it with you because of their emphasis on planning before and during a crisis — and how if your planning process was sound, Onward Nation — that the end-result could be that you will not only survive the current crisis but you will have future-proofed your business so you can survive and thrive future threats.

But in order to prep the proper response plan with smart strategic decisions, you must first understand the position your business holds in the market. You can do that by asking yourself and your team some fundamental questions like, “who are we in our market”, “what role do we play in the market? (Are we price-sensitive suppliers, are we market leaders, do our clients and prospects see us as thought leaders, etc.?).” And — what if we make immediate course corrections…could we emerge as a market leader fueled by developments, new ideas, service offerings, or new markets that we invest in during the lockdown? [1]

Onward Nation — we all know that a plan is a course of action pointing the way to the position you hope to attain. But — the right plan should also map out what you need to do today to achieve your objectives tomorrow. And this is where business owners get snagged. Their plans consist of either lofty ideas without any of the tactical detail their team can challenge, make better, and then implement — or often times — there’s no plan at all because the business owner relies on winging it. Winging it may work during good economic times — but it doesn’t work during a crisis.

And yes, I think Mike Tyson had a point when he famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” And that is exactly why when the U.S. Navy Seals create a mission plan along with 13 contingencies for each mission they execute. They recognize that there will be ebb and flow to the mission plan as the situation evolves and changes with new data points, variables difficult to predict, or sudden changes. But if they didn’t have a plan – they wouldn’t know what gear to take, how much gear, transportation, extraction, and the litany of other things that need to be considered.

And yet – I know many business owners who bristle at planning because they don’t want to feel boxed in or the constraint on flexibility. The Seals would tell you that it is because of the intensity of their planning process that they can be more flexible on the battlefield because they have already anticipated their options – and – have everything they need to proceed with a new direction.

Here’s the reality — and I think the authors of the article were spot on when they wrote, “the lack of a plan only exacerbates disorientation in an already confusing situation.”[2]

Yes, this crisis is confusing. It’s stressful. And there have been times when working with my leadership team at Predictive when I felt overwhelmed and just wanted to start doing things to see if anything would stick. But — we didn’t until we had a plan. I encourage you to take a step back…have discipline…look around…ask yourself and your team questions…look at today…this week…this month…and map out in writing the steps you intend to take quickly for both the short-term — and — identify how those steps will set your business up for success in 12-months as it relates to your 3-year mission.

In addition to the planning process that you and your fellow leaders within your business need to be working through — you also need to communicate the plan as well as the process to create the plan — with your entire team. If you or your leadership team works through the planning process in a vacuum and doesn’t share highlights, milestones, or progress as the plan is evolving — I’m telling you — your team will feel lost and your culture will suffer.

Your team is just as confused, scared, and concerned as you are. And many of them might be super scared and concerned for you – way more so than their own job security. So — I’m not suggesting that your entire team needs to be involved in the creation of the core plan.

But what I am suggesting is that you take a lesson out of the book, “Extreme Ownership” where you and your leadership team create the core plan — brief your entire team on the objectives and intent of the plan — and then ask junior members of your team to meet and work out the tactical details for implementing the plan.[3]

Your job is to make sure you are clear on the objectives and the intent of the plan. Then set your expectations for the timing for the completion of the plan — quickly…like 24- to 48-hours — and have each of the junior team members present their portion of the plan back to you and your leadership team. Then everyone asks questions and in doing so – does some stress testing of the plan. It’s crucial to create space for the plan to evolve but that doesn’t mean your planning process needs to take weeks. It can be days and you will be off and running.

I assure you — your greatest challenge during the planning process will be to prioritize. You need to be careful that you don’t start numerous projects that all depend on the same critical resources. If you do — you will burn out your team and nothing will get done with excellence. Instead — take your five, six, or 10 great ideas…apply pressure to them…and distill them down to one to two great ideas with clear steps for the next 30-days. And then keep a list of all of the other ideas and come back to it in 30-days and re-evaluate what should be next.

Okay — before we move on to another ingredient in the planning process – I want to give you a warning so you don’t fall into a mental trap. I learned this lesson during my mentorship with Darren Hardy, former publisher of SUCCESS Magazine when he was on our board of advisors at Predictive. And one day he shared some marketing strategies and tactics with me…and candidly…while he was sharing them with me…I was arrogantly thinking to myself, “Yes, good ideas, Darren but I’ve heard these before.” And then came the two-part question from Darren.

“Stephen – you may have heard these ideas before but…”

Question 1: Are you doing them?

And as soon as he asked me the question – I immediately felt embarrassed. When he was sharing the ideas – I was affirming my own smarts in my head because I wanted to show myself that I had similar ideas to Darren. When instead I should have been thinking… “Yes, I have heard this before…and why aren’t we doing this?” So his challenge landed exactly the way he wanted it to land.

And then the second question…

Question #2: If you are doing it…can you do it better, greater, with more excellence?

So – if you’re already planning…rock solid awesome. I commend you because most business owners aren’t planning right now — they are reacting without a plan, which is dangerous because it forces them to aimlessly wandering through the wilderness while trying to wing it.

So my challenge to you is — can you take a nugget out of what Pedersen, Ritter, and the Navy Seals do for planning and make your planning process even better?

My guess is…we all can.

Now let’s shift our attention to imagination — because we need it now more than ever.

Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, both part of the Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute, wrote a brilliant article entitled, We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever which was published by the Harvard Business Review on April 10, 2020. A link to the full text of the article can be found in the endnotes section of today’s show notes.

Reeves and Fuller put forth the argument that imagination — in the face of uncertainty, economic crisis, and the historic challenges we are facing right now as a nation/world — is exactly what we need to solve the problem. But it is difficult to apply imagination and all of its benefits when we are in full-on crisis management mode.

Why? Because when something unexpected and significant happens our first instinct is to defend against it. Then we later move to understand and manage whatever caused the crisis so we can get back to the status quo.
But we may not be able to return to our familiar pre-crisis reality. Onward Nation – no one knows for sure of course – but if I had to guess – I’d predict that COVID-19 is going to permanently change attitudes, needs, behaviors, and industries.

The authors believe – and I agree – “that your capacity to imagine…to create, to evolve, and to pursue ideas — is a crucial factor in seizing and creating new opportunities, and finding new paths to growth.”[4]

But the challenge is — and my guess is when I impressed upon you the importance of planning a few minutes ago — you felt the pressure to act and may have said to yourself “Stephen…there’s no time for planning – I need to take action now.” Same thing with imagination — because of the pressure of COVID-19 — it will be one of the hardest things to keep alive within your business right now.

However — imagination — re-thinking how you can double down in being helpful to your clients and prospects right now is exactly what can help your business survive this recession.

For example — in recessions and downturns, 14 percent of companies outperform both historically and competitively because they invested in new growth areas. Apple released its first iPod in 2001 — the same year the U.S. economy experienced a recession that contributed to a 33 percent drop in Apple’s total revenue. Still – Apple saw the iPod’s ability to transform its product portfolio so the company increased R&D spending by double digits, which sparked an era of high growth for the company.[5]

Later in today’s solocast — I will share with you some data points from a special coronavirus report from Edelman, which shows that what your clients and prospects want from you right now is to be helpful. Share, communicate, educate, teach, and be supportive. Onward Nation — you cannot do any of those things at a high level, with excellence, by reacting…by winging it…without a plan…and with no imagination.

The authors also surveyed more than 250 multi-national companies to understand what leaders were doing to manage the COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on their businesses. Interestingly, only a small number of companies are at a stage where they’re identifying and sharing strategic opportunities. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising since big companies take longer to pivot than what our teams within our small businesses can do. But it also paints a picture of opportunity, too, doesn’t it?

If you can rally your teams — create an imaginative plan that everyone buys into because they had a hand in building it — you will likely be way of ahead of your competitors.

And yes I get it – you likely don’t own a multi-national company and you don’t have an R&D budget like Apple did back in 2001. But think of it this way – if multi-national companies that have budgets capable of doubling down on R&D – yet aren’t because they are in reactive mode – just think of the possibilities if you could actual reimage what’s next for you in your industry.

You might be the only one serving your niche that is actually thinking about how best to double down on being helpful. The rest of your industry might be thinking about that next promotional push…something…anything in order to get in a few dollars to survive. But you can imagine a completely different path. One that shares your smarts, your insights, the best of what you have in a generous way while everyone else is reacting and frozen.

You may have a blue ocean of possibilities in front of you if you can take the time to imagine all that can be.

But how do you do that? Let me help by giving you a push from the authors. Instead of asking yourself and your team passive questions like “What will happen to us during this crisis?” — flip the script — by asking active, open questions like “How can we create new options?”

Or — “How can we double down and be even more helpful to our clients and prospects during this crisis?”

What could we teach?

What research could we share?

What online event, webinar, or forum could we host for our audience that would share the best of what we’ve got to help them navigate what’s next?

I know — there are no easy solutions. And my Predictive team and I have wrestled through many options when we were building out our 30-day Priorities. Rest assured — we have worked through everything I’m recommending to you…I have seen it in action. But through it all – in order for this to work for you – you need to be open to new possibilities and not constrict the funnel.

Okay – the last nugget I want to share with you was a game-changer for me. I have been a student of mindset, attraction theory, and the power of the mastermind for years. I am a firm believer in that which we focus on we get more of. Perseverating over negative thoughts produces negative results and I have seen the reverse happen, too. And when blended with a great plan, intentional execution, and hard work – that within the plan becomes reality.

But what I learned from this article and wanted to share with you is how this actually plays out in the world of statistics, too.

For example — “when we lose hope and adopt a passive mindset, we cease to believe that we can meet our ideals or fix our problems. In statistics, Bayesian learning involves taking a belief about a statistical distribution – prior results – and updating it in the light of each new piece of information obtained. The outcome of the entire process can be determined by the initial belief. Pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”[6]

So – if you focus on being imaginative, being open to the possibilities, giving your team grounds for hope, encouraging them to be innovative…and all of this is done with the intent of being helpful to your clients and prospects in a way you never have been before…you will make progress. Meanwhile – your competitors will be bogged down in the thickness of things and trapped in a short-term survival mentality that requires them to TAKE from their clients and prospects…and it won’t work.

Onward Nation – as a leader in your business – ask yourself whether you are giving people grounds for hope, imagination, and innovation, or whether you are using pessimistic or fatalistic language, which could create a downward spiral in organizational creativity. Dealing with real risks involves taking imaginative risks, which requires hope.[7]

Trust me when I say that the trench you are fighting in every day – that trench of pressure, doubt, fear, anxiety, and at times…overwhelm…yes, I know that trench well, too. And I’m right there with you…slugging it out, too…and working hard.

But one thing I’m grateful for is that we quickly built a plan at Predictive, we prioritized, we mapped out how we could be helpful to clients and prospects…and we did all of that from the spirit of imagination…and then we shared it with our team. Now – taking you behind the curtain in full transparency…we did all of that in 48-hours. This is not a 4-6 week process. Don’t get bogged down…get moving.

Let’s keep up the momentum of the planning process and begin to think about how you should deal with the myriad of business pressures right now. Do you cut operating costs, do you furlough employees, do you work to open new markets and invest in R&D, or some other combination of strategies? And – is there an ideal combination or blend of the strategies – and if so – what have been the result outcomes from other companies as they worked to navigate past crises.

Thankfully – there is some excellent research available on all of the above. With that said – it might seem a bit odd that I am going to now turn our attention toward an article / published study in the Harvard Business Review from 2010. Why would I pull from an article that is 10-years old?

The article is entitled, Roaring Out of Recession and was published in HBR on March 3, 2010. I’m recommending you and your team study it because the data points within the article provide a whole lot of context that matters during today’s crisis.

Back in 2010 of course – the country was looking for any and all help in pulling itself out of the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. But in order to make smart recommendations to their 2010 readers – the authors went back and gathered data from the past three global recessions: the 1980 crisis (which lasted from 1980 to 1982), the 1990 slowdown (1990 to 1991) and the 2000 bust (2000 to 2002). They studied 4,700 public companies, breaking down the data into three periods: the three years before a recession, the three years after, and the recession years themselves.[8] It took the researchers over 12-months to complete the research project and they focused on publicly traded companies because of the availability and access to data.

At the high level — and I will slice the big nuggets apart in just a minute — but as a business owner this data is helpful because right now you are in the heat of battle. You are a battlefield general. You’re commanding your troops…you’re asking for the best intel…and you and your fellow leaders are trying to react and respond. But without taking the time to plan…to imagine…to think about long-term positioning…I assure you…you will be busy tackling short term priorities and your outlook on the future will continue to be obscured by the fog of war.

Here are some of the highlights…

Seventeen percent of the companies in the study didn’t survive the recession.

About 80 percent of 4,700 companies in the study (3,760 companies) had not yet regained their pre-recession growth rate for sales and profits three years after the recession.

Forty percent of the 4,700 companies (1,880 companies) hadn’t even returned to their prerecession sales and profits levels by the end of the three years post-recession.

So for the majority of the companies – the financial impact of the recession were long lasting.

Only nine percent of companies flourished after a slowdown, doing better on key financial parameters than they had before and outperforming rivals in their industry by at least 10 percent in terms of sales and profits growth.

Interestingly — companies that cut costs faster and deeper than their competitors didn’t necessarily flourish. In fact – these were the companies in the study with the lowest probability — 21 percent — of pulling ahead of their competition when the economy rebounded.

Counter-intuitively — the company leaders that decided to double down and boldly invest more than their rivals during a recession also didn’t fare well. They only enjoyed a 26 percent chance of becoming leaders after a downturn and then into an economic rebound.

And most surprising to me was learning that 85 percent of growth leaders heading into a recession are then toppled because of the crisis. So if you’re not currently the leader in your niche – the current crisis could absolutely be your opportunity if you lead your team correctly over the next several months.

The post-recession winners were companies that mastered the balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow. And the proof is in the results with 37 percent of the post-recession winners breaking away from the pack.

“The post-recession winners were the companies that cut costs selectively by focusing on increasing operational efficiency — meanwhile — they invested relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets. This is the best antidote to a recession.”[9]

The researchers called the segment of companies that had taken this strategic approach, “Progressive.”

Progressive companies deploy the optimal combination of defense and offense. Conversely — the “prevention-focused companies” in the study were the ones whose leaders quickly implemented policies that reduced operating costs, shrunk discretionary expenditures, eliminated frills, lowered headcount, and preserved cash. They also postponed making new investments in R&D, developing new businesses, or buying assets such as plants and machinery to expand their capacity. Prevention-focused leaders cut back on almost every item of cost and investment and reduce expenditures significantly more than competitors.

Focusing solely on cost-cutting causes executives and employees to approach every decision through a loss-minimizing lens and pessimism permeates the organization.

Post-recession profits for prevention-focused enterprises typically rose by only $600 million, whereas for progressive companies they increased by an average of $6.6 billion. Prevention-focused companies were the ones that suffered the most during the recession – and – took the longest to recover. Or – never recovered to their pre-recession levels for sales and profit.

So let’s flip that — is doubling down on promotion is the right strategy?

Unfortunately – no – it’s not that simple. A focus purely on promotion develops a culture of optimism that led companies to deny the gravity of a crisis for a long time. They ignored early warning signs, such as customer’s budget cuts, and were steadfast in the belief that as long as they innovate, their sales and profits will continue to rise. They didn’t notice that because the pie was shrinking, they must capture an even larger share from rivals to keep growing. And this typically leads to intense price competition and a zero-sum game. No one wins in a race to the bottom.

However — progressive companies — which is where I’m urging you to begin thinking, Onward Nation — they are the companies that cut costs by improving operational efficiency rather than by slashing the number of employees. Only 23 percent of progressive companies cut staff — whereas 56% of prevention-focused companies do—and they lay off fewer people.

And the offensive moves by progressive are even comprehensive. Progression companies develop new business opportunities by making significantly greater investments than their rivals in R&D and marketing, and they invest in expanding their capacity. Progressive companies develop new markets and invest to enlarge their asset bases. They take advantage of depressed prices to buy property, plants, and equipment.

All of that combined is why the post-recession growth in sales and earnings by the progressive lead companies was the best among the 4,700 within the study.

Okay — let’s do a quick recap from what we have covered so far. First — by the data — you need to have a plan that involves your entire team – you cannot afford to wing it through any crisis…and definitely not this one. Second — you need to find ways to stay open to imagination and letting it impact your R&D and how you approach doubling down on being helpful to your clients and prospects. And third — if you want your business to make it through the other side of this crisis…and potentially…be in an even better position than when you entered it…now is the time to be progressive. Yes, reduce your operating expenses to boost efficiency…keep your team intact the best you can…and make investments in your marketing and R&D.

Let’s take the ROI around marketing investments a bit deeper with some data points collected from a study commissioned by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).

“ASI studied 2,662 firms from 1970 – 1991 to determine the effect of marketing on a company during a recession. Firms that marketed during a recession increased in value and got more marketing bang for their investment. In some cases – up to three years after the recession had ended. It seems like common sense – if you market when everyone else stops marketing – your message is more likely to be noticed due to a less cluttered market and your business is more likely to be remembered once your competitors begin marketing again.”

In my opinion, Onward Nation — this crisis is the time for you not to be silent. You need to be in front of your clients, prospects, and audience — and yes — that is marketing. But — this isn’t the time to be selling. This is the time to be helping. So yes — I want you to have a progressive mindset about how to lead your business to the other side of this but I want you to be very thoughtful about the content you and your team create and shares.

This is why I also want to share some highlights from a recent special report from Edelman because the context here will help guide the context of your content.

You can access a full copy of the report from the Edelman website using the link at the bottom of today’s show notes.

Edelman is a global communications firm that partners with businesses and organizations to evolve, promote, and protect their brands and reputations. Edelman employs 6,000 people in more than 60 offices. And they have been studying, researching, reporting on the topic of trust for the last 20-years. Their report has become the standard for excellence on the topic.

Edelman just conducted a 12-market study on the critical role brands are expected to play during the coronavirus pandemic, completed on March 26. We interviewed 12,000 people in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the U.S. This follows on a study that we released two weeks ago on the role of the private sector during the pandemic.

I’m going to walk through a high-level overview of the key points…

If you were ever in doubt that your brand(s) mattered, this new data reveals the power and necessity of brand as well as the urgent need for you to act.

You and your team need to find solutions (think “imagination” – remember that from earlier in this solocast?) instead of selling passion or image.

Your solutions need to be tangible and fast, not impressionistic and conceptual.

Respondents recognized the need for specific actions to help address the societal challenges posed by COVID-19, from protecting the wellbeing of employees to shifting products, services, and pricing to create a sense of community. This crisis is indeed an opportunity for you to step up in a whole new way to be helpful in your niche.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said that their country won’t make it through this crisis without businesses playing a critical role in addressing the challenges. At the same time, 71 percent agree that if they perceive that a business is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that business forever.[10]

So Onward Nation – if you’re not smart about your context ensuring it’s on-point – you could cause more harm than good from your marketing effort.

Businesses must focus their messaging on solutions, not selling.

Eighty-four percent of respondents said they want brand advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges.[11]

Seventy-seven percent said they want brands only to speak about products and services in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives.[12]

And Onward Nation — the study showed that there’s a deep desire for expertise. Eighty-four percent of respondents globally said that they want businesses to be a reliable news source that keeps people informed. They want to receive this information from multiple sources, in part because they are skeptical about any individual medium given the epidemic of fake news. The most credible combination is mainstream media plus email.

Taking that further — eighty-five percent of respondents want you to be an educator, offering your audience instructional information about the virus and its effects and how to protect yourselves from it.

With the said — I’m suggesting that you play doctor or infectious disease expert. But what I am recommending that you do is pick up the torch and lead the conversations in your niche about the business impact the virus is having on your customers, your vendors, your industry as a whole. And — champion the distribution of resources, research, or anything else you think will be helpful to your community of clients and prospects who are desperately seeking answers.

If you’re on our email list – you’ve likely received updates from me with PPP resources, calculators, applications, etc. Our expertise isn’t in the public health arena – but – we absolutely believe we can be helpful to business owners within our community by sharing resources we have curated. And the response from our community has been incredible because we shared the right resources, at the right time, with absolutely no expectation of return.

Helping – not selling, Onward Nation.

The team at Edelman believes that this global crisis will fundamentally change how we think, behave, and consume. There will not be a rapid return to normal. And the new world will have trust at its core, with the brand mandate expanded to solve problems for all, protect all, care for all, collaborate with all, and innovate in the public interest.

Business owners that act in the interest of their employees, clients, prospects, and other stakeholders will reinforce their expertise, leadership, and trust and immeasurably strengthen those bonds. Your community is looking to you to share your thought leadership and expertise – and you can’t do that by shrinking or by being quiet. They want you to demonstrate your authority.

Don’t be promotional – be helpful. Don’t focus on selling – but be solutions focused. Double down on sharing your expertise like you never have before. We’re all faced with economic challenges right now – no one is immune – and if you can resist the temptation to sell…I assure you…creating an authority position will deliver a financial return on your investment.

In an upcoming episode of Onward Nation — Susan Baier, founder of Audience Audit – an exceptional research firm and our partner on a recent study on the ROI of Thought Leadership will join me to walk through the findings with you. I will tell you – the results are shocking. Yes, there is an ROI on your thought leadership when done well.

For example…

When a prospect chooses to work with you and your team instead of a competitor – 62 percent of the time that choice was made because of whether they consider you to be an authority or not.

Susan and I are preparing an executive summary with some of the biggest findings from the research. It will be available soon. If you’d like to ensure you receive it when it’s available – go to our Resources Library at and download one of the resources to ensure you’re on our mailing list – or – you can also email me directly at and I’ll make sure you get on the distribution list.

Okay – let’s begin to wrap up an come in for a landing by circling back to the Edelman data and then some additional framing about what makes someone an authority.

Onward Nation — all of the data points to the fact that we’ve entered the era of the Authority…even before COVID-19…and now even more so as a result of the virus. And while you may be sick of the phrase “thought leader”, the truth is there aren’t that many of them in the niches where you have decided to focus your business. If you haven’t yet niched down – I highly recommend you listen to Episode 930 where Eric Lanel and I talked through the importance of claiming your niche.

But what makes a thought leader a thought leader?

Thought leaders don’t write content that anyone else could claim. Thought leaders don’t write about anything and everything. And thought leaders don’t compete on price. And because of COVID, the data from Edelman, the data from our own ROI of Thought Leadership study, and many other relevant sources — I will argue — that the ideal time for you to double down on your own thought leadership to build your authority in your niche is now.

Churning out generic content to get ahead in Google rankings may have worked 20 years ago – but it doesn’t work today and it’s not helpful to your audience.

In our recent book entitled, “Sell with Authority”, my co-author, Drew McLellan, and I shared highlights from the 2019 Trust Barometer study from Edelman, a global PR agency, which has conducted the study each year for the last 20-years. It’s a worldwide study with 33,000 consumers participating in 27 countries.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study was that buyers assign a high level of trust to people they believe are just like themselves. When you think about the impact that ratings, reviews, and influencers have with their audiences, you begin to see the power of that belief.

But Edelman’s research isn’t about the celebrity influencer. This study documents the rise of the common man influencer – business owners just like you and me, Onward Nation. It’s noteworthy because it gives statistical validity to the idea of real people as influencers and the impact they can have on the beliefs around a brand.

The one attribute that ranked higher than the trust we have in people like you and me is the trust we have in highly educated experts. The only three groups of people we trust more than people like ourselves are company, industry, and academic experts.

Experts are afforded the highest level of confidence and trust because they have a depth of knowledge in a specific industry or niche. So why in the world wouldn’t you capitalize on that? Instead of creating generic content that looks and sounds like everyone else during this crisis – take the opportunity to create thought leadership content that is unique, different, and helpful – not promotional. Your competitors aren’t. So you should.

Now more than ever — you can own an authority position – you can do it – and it will help you future proof your business. There has never been a better time in history to start.

The data is all on your side.

The 10 Truths of an Authority

If you were asked to think of an authority on any subject, who would come to mind? What about them designates them as an authority? What’s true about them? And what does someone have to do to earn and keep the title of authority?

Truth #1: They have a focus area or subject matter expertise.

Truth #2: They don’t just repeat what everyone else is saying.

Truth #3: They have a public presence where they share their expertise.

Truth #4: They don’t stray from their area of expertise—think specialist versus a generalist.

Truth #5: They aren’t equally attractive to everyone. In fact, they probably bore most people to tears.

Truth #6: They’re significant—which is different from prolific—in terms of content creation.

Truth #7: They don’t create any generic content that someone with far less knowledge or experience could have just as easily written.

Truth #8: They’re perceived as an educator in some way.

Truth #9: They have a passion for their subject matter.

Truth #10: They have a strong point of view, which is the foundation of all of their content.

A true authority has something specific to teach us, and they want to be helpful or illuminating. They’re eager to share what they know because they have a genuine passion for it, and they don’t fear giving away the recipe to their secret sauce (or so it’s perceived).

That confidence and generosity are contagious. Their expertise is something specific groups of people (their sweet-spot prospects) are hungry to access. Call them an expert, a thought leader, an authority, a sought-after pundit, advisor, or specialist. They’re all words for the same thing—a trusted resource that has earned that trust by demonstrating and generously sharing the depth of their specialized knowledge over and over again.

One way to recognize an authority is the ability to define them in a single sentence, like Simon Sinek. He’s “the why guy.” Brené Brown is “the dare-to-be-vulnerable woman.” They’ve so narrowly and so carefully defined their expertise that we can capture it with a word or phrase.

Does Simon Sinek talk about other things? Of course. But he always ties it back to his thing—the “why.”

Does Brené Brown write about additional topics? Absolutely. But she always loops it back to being vulnerable and the power that comes from being brave enough to embrace vulnerability.

Beyond that, Drew and I would argue that a true authority has a strong point-of-view or belief that influences how they talk about their subject area. A narrow niche, a strong point-of-view, and being findable in multiple places are the hallmarks of an authority position.

And — they have a plan for creating content that is helpful to their niche and not focused on selling. All of the data points to the validity of leveraging your own thought leadership as your core strategy to proactively market your way through the crisis and to make it through to the other side in a stronger position than when all of this happened. You need a plan, with some imagination, some hard work, progressive ideas, and the willingness to invest your time and attention toward execution.

But if you do that – and your clients, prospects, and audience can see that you are being helpful and not selling…when they are ready to enter the market again…you will have put yourself in the best possible position for a new trajectory of growth.

Your plan – will need to address what my team and I call the 6 tenets of how to Sell with Authority. And I will cover those in full transparent detail in Part 2 of this solocast series.

Okay – whew – was that a lot?

Holy bananas – it sure felt like a lot.

And remember — all of the research sources can be found in the endnotes in today’s show notes on

As always — I look forward to your feedback. The emails you send me — and your comments on social media — all help us get better every day — so thank you for that Onward Nation and keep them coming.

And if you need me — you can reach me directly at Rest assured — that’s my actual Inbox and I read and reply to every email.

Okay, Onward Nation — this is the time to double down like no other in history. But — be smart about it. Invest in the right areas. Make progressive decisions. And if you do all that — you will market your way through this crisis.

I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

Until our next episode — onward with gusto!

[1] “Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World”, Carsten Lund Pederson and Thomas Ritter, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[2] “Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World”, Carsten Lund Pederson and Thomas Ritter, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[3] “Extreme Ownership”, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

[4] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[5] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[6] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[7] “We Need Imagination Now More Than Ever”, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2020.

[8] “Roaring Out of Recession”, Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria, Franz Wohlgezogen, Harvard Business Review, March 3, 2010.

[9] “Roaring Out of Recession”, Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria, Franz Wohlgezogen, Harvard Business Review, March 3, 2010.

[10] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

[11] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

[12] “Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Richard Edelman, Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, March 30, 2020.

Apr 22, 2020

Cate Stillman founded in 2001, a $1M+ revenue a year business. Cate is a leader and author in the field of Ayurveda, Peak Performance, and Habits (titles: Body Thrive; Master of You), podcaster with 2M downloads, and global community builder. She runs Yogahealer with her remote team (10 contractors + 40 work studies), so she can ski, surf and run rivers with her family in the Tetons and Mexico.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Cate found her purpose and recognized the problems caused by our materialism and consumerism, and how she came to study Ayurveda medicine and yoga
  • Why your mind, body, and spirit are necessary components for your own success, and why bringing these components into balance is critically important
  • Why the western version of yoga is an incomplete version that is missing basic connections and important habits that strengthen your mind, body, and spirit
  • Why when you eat your meals is as important as what you eat, and why eating your biggest meal late in the day can impact your mental capabilities
  • Why holistic medicine teaches that you don’t necessarily feel worse and slow down as you get older
  • Why there are visible signs that a person is out of balance, and how you can learn to identify the cause of these symptoms
  • Why it is important to reflect on your performance over the course of your day and note whether you were energized and present throughout the day
  • Why a major focus in Ayurveda is on digestion, not just physical digestion but also mental and emotional digestion
  • What questions to ask yourself to determine where you want to make progress and to determine what areas of your life need more attention
  • What key takeaways Cate hopes readers will receive from her new book, Master of You: A Five-Point System to Synchronize Your Body, Your Home, and Your Time with Your Ambition


Additional Resources:

Apr 15, 2020

Robin Ryan has appeared on over 2000 TV and Radio shows including Oprah, Dr. Phil, CNN, ABC News, Fox, NBC News, and NPR. Her advice has been seen in most major magazines and newspapers including USA Today, the NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She currently writes a weekly career column for

Robin Ryan has a busy career counseling practice offering individual career coaching, resume writing, interview coaching, LinkedIn Profile writing, and job search services to clients nationwide.

She is the best-selling author of 60 Seconds & You’re Hired!Soaring On Your StrengthsWhat to Do with the Rest of Your LifeWinning ResumesWinning Cover Letters, Retirement Reinvention, and Over 40 & You’re Hired. Robin donates the profits from her book sales to Breast Cancer Research.

A popular speaker and corporate trainer, Robin has spoken to over a thousand audiences on careers, LinkedIn and job search topics. She holds a master’s degree in counseling and education from Suffolk University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. She is the former director of counseling services at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

“Robin Ryan is America’s top Career Coach.” — Houston Chronicle

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Why Robin chose to become a career counselor in the early 1990s, before it was a viable career path, and why she is passionate about her work
  • How a guest appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show helped Robin’s career explode, and how a breast cancer diagnosis brought everything to a halt in 2012
  • How marketing, networking, and writing have been the cornerstones of Robin’s efforts to rebuild her business, and how she is finding success once again
  • Which “three LinkedIn blunders” business leaders often make, why they are a problem, and how to avoid falling into the trap of making these common blunders
  • How applicants often use LinkedIn profiles to determine if a business and its culture are a good fit for them, and what steps you can take to improve your profile
  • Why your LinkedIn profile should be written in the first person rather than in the third person
  • Why 500 networking connections on LinkedIn is the magic number, and why you should accept connections from people outside the circle of people you personally know
  • Why your background image should include something to do with your industry, your company name, and logo, and why everyone in your company should use the same image
  • What resources are available to learn to better use LinkedIn and create compelling content on the platform
  • How mentors have influenced Robin and offered her important lessons she has used throughout her career


Additional Resources:

Apr 8, 2020

Eric Lanel was born on January 26, 1968, in Queens, New York. He is the only child and son of Julius, a psychotherapist, and Barbara, a social worker, and spent many a dinner conversation discussing human behavior. Eric worked through high school as a mason and started a residential painting company that continued through college. Upon graduating with a degree in marketing from Hartford, Eric worked at CBS Television, Walt Disney Company, and Doubleclick before taking the role of President of GWPinc., a strategy agency. Today Eric lives in Livingston, New Jersey with his wife Francine and daughter Zoe. Eric has two adult sons: Adam who works in advertising and Griffin in the building industry. When not working with companies on strategy and developing content he can be found on a golf course or a stream.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Eric’s diverse career journey taught him the importance of learning, and how he brings that passion to his work at GWP Inc.
  • How a set of unique circumstances led Eric to purchase and take control of GWP Inc., and how Eric has learned throughout his career to create a vision for his companies
  • How GWP was operating prior to Eric taking it over, and why he decided to focus the company’s efforts on the particular vertical of the building industry
  • How Eric and his team navigated the process of focusing on a specific niche, and what complexities they overcame during the process
  • Why “opportunity cost” is a fear that many business owners experience when deciding whether to niche down, and how Eric overcame his own fear
  • How one of the first steps Eric took was to determine what the “best” agency in the building space would look like, and how he and his team worked toward that vision
  • Why Eric sees his role as a leader as one of always learning, growing, and anticipating the needs of his clients
  • How Eric’s podcast, Constructing Brands, offers GWP a platform to better understand their clients’ questions and needs while offering them greater value
  • How Eric’s early career experience and family background helped provide him a greater respect for the building trades


Additional Resources:

Apr 1, 2020

If you’ve been listening to the show for a while now — you know that I like to bring you conversations with guests who are strategic — as well as practical and tactical — and who will generously give you the best of what they’ve got so you can take it and apply it — and move your business onward.

And each of us as business owners — as people — are facing unprecedented challenges right now.

Things many of us could have never imagined as a result of the coronavirus.

And each day — we need to show up as the best leader we can — because our teams, our clients, and communities need that from us.

The business owners I meet with each day are doing everything they can to effectively lead during these challenging times.

But candidly, Onward Nation — today’s business environment requires another level in leadership — it requires proven strategies, a process, and the willingness to put systems into place.

And because of that, I’m grateful that Brett Gilliland, CEO and founder of Elite Entrepreneurs, said yes to my invitation to come back for an encore interview so we could talk through leadership strategies, processes, and systems — which you can take and apply into your business and be better for it.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Beyond “flight” and “fight” — there is a 3rd defensive mechanism that we have — and as business owners — it can actually hurt us the most
  • Why the “Stockdale Paradox” is just a relevant today as it was when Admiral James Stockdale first shared it
  • Why you need to go narrow in what you allow into your inner circle — from people to media — and why you need to block out everything else
  • Now more than ever — business owners need to stay focused on the Big 3 of their role
  • Why “Fighting F.U.D” should be your number one priority as a business owner
  • Why Brett believes that the best leaders build the best businesses — and — the best businesses win
  • Why helping and leading others begins with leading yourself to clarity
  • Why you should rest easy — you have a 100 percent track record of getting through hard times…otherwise you wouldn’t be here

Ways to contact Brett:

Additional Resources:

Mar 25, 2020

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is an international career, executive and leadership coach, writer, speaker and trainer dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is a former corporate Vice President, trained marriage and family therapist, seasoned coach and the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough. Kathy is also the Founder of Ellia Communications, Inc., a premier career coaching and consulting firm which offers career and leadership development programs including the Amazing Career Project online course, her Finding Brave podcast, and the Amazing Career Certification training for coaches. Kathy is a leading contributor on Forbes, Thrive Global and LinkedIn, a TEDx and keynote speaker, and a top media source on careers, leadership, and women’s issues.

For more info, visit and connect with Kathy on Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How career crisis after career crisis led Kathy to realize she urgently needed a change, and how she realized her focus and passion was to help professional women
  • Why professional expectations and attitude expectations differ between men and women, and why women
  • Kathy shares insights from her interview with Susan Sobbott, President of American Express OPEN, on how men and women need different things to succeed in business
  • How Kathy defines “power gaps” and why many women struggle to speak about how they stand out and what their special skills and talents are
  • Kathy defines her seven power gaps and explains why each is a problem that many women in business experience
  • Why it is important to recognize your talents and abilities that you are uniquely good at, rather than being modest
  • Why scary experiences are an opportunity to grow and strengthen yourself and should be embraced rather than avoided
  • Why the blocks and challenges you experience now are often a result of past trauma that you experienced at an earlier point in your life


Additional Resources:

Mar 18, 2020

Upon graduating from college, John Dameron started a career with Marriott International. After almost seven years as a hotel manager, John was seeking more autonomy over his future and decided to change his course. He entered the financial services industry in 1997 and quickly found his niche in helping physicians with their personal finances. As he continued to gain experience in the medical community, John co-founded Spaugh Dameron Tenny in 2002. Today, Spaugh Dameron Tenny educates and advises physicians and dentists in more than 26 states.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Why a family tradition of working in the financial sector inspired John to go into financial planning himself, and how he and his partners founded their business
  • Why financial issues are the number two cause of physician burnout, and how John and his team recognized they could assist with that issue through thought leadership
  • Why intentionality and team-driven content creation has been the secret sauce powering the growth of the business
  • What strong client feedback John and his team are receiving with regards to their thought leadership channels
  • Now niching down and focusing on just doctors and dentists was a difficult leap that proved to be one of the best moves the practice made
  • Why focusing on a specific niche helped the firm streamline their efforts and helped keep them from spreading themselves too thin
  • How John’s team taps into their deep well of experience to utilize in their thought leadership efforts
  • Why learning to delegate is a difficult challenge that business owners must master if they want their businesses to grow
  • Why, when you’re stuck on a project or idea, you shouldn’t be asking “how” to do it but should instead be asking “who” has the answers


Additional Resources:

Mar 11, 2020

Laura Gassner Otting speaks with change agents, entrepreneurs, investors, leaders, and donors to get them past the doubt and indecision that consign their great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom, and catalytic perspective informed by decades of navigating change across the start-up, nonprofit, political, and philanthropic landscapes.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Laura shares her fascinating career path and explains how she ended up working in the White House at age 21 helping to develop AmeriCorps
  • How Laura established her own firm, the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and why she chose to exit the firm after nearly 15 years
  • Why exiting her firm was one of the greatest challenges of Laura’s life, and how she came up with an innovative exit strategy
  • Why everyone defines success differently, and why Laura defines her own success not by profitability but by happiness and free time
  • Why Laura decided to write her book Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life
  • Why Laura began to experience a lack of self-confidence, and how she wrote Limitless in just three weeks once inspiration struck
  • How Laura realized that putting clients’ problems first and offering clear solutions was the right path to take in her business
  • Laura shares a story of giving a signed copy of Limitless to Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and then getting a booking on the show as a result
  • Why Laura believes that being authentic, offering value, and being open to possibility have been the keys to some of the incredible opportunities she has had


Additional Resources:

Mar 4, 2020

As founder and President of Callis, a full-service ad agency located in Missouri in the heart of the Midwest, Cliff offers his agency’s clients more than 30 years of experience and expertise in marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Cliff has shared his marketing expertise speaking at events, as a contributing author to books and through his agency’s OUTthink thought leadership series. Cliff grew up in the retail business, working alongside his father and brother, where he first learned about the customer experience.

Cliff has been integral in leading the agency through the digital revolution. Callis specializes in the development of strategic and creative solutions with a focus on digital marketing and leveraging digital strategies with proven traditional approaches to get results. Today, he focuses his efforts on client, employee and public relations and working with clients to help grow their business.

He is also President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Human Services, a nationally acclaimed not-for-profit organization that serves those with disabilities. Cliff and his family reside outside Sedalia, Missouri, where he enjoys outdoor sports, travel, and the inspiration of life’s experiences.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Cliff founded his advertising agency, Callis, and why he chose to set up his business in the rural Midwest
  • How Cliff and his team at Callis decided to niche down and focus on advertising for rural American business clients
  • Why shifting their focus to rural businesses was a “scary” transition, and how positioning Callis as experts in rural business marketing has benefited the company
  • Why specializing in businesses wanting to market to rural America has brought new, unexpected business to Callis
  • What key daily habits, routines, and rituals help Cliff get into the right mindset and prepare himself for his day
  • Why Cliff believes that listening and people skills are vital components of his success, and why being able to communicate with a diverse audience is key
  • Cliff shares the story of an important lesson he learned from a mentor in his career and why he feels passionate about his role as a mentor to his team
  • Why Cliff meets with his direct reports once a week to work with them and provide mentorship and feedback, and why doing so is more than worth the time spent
  • Why bringing in a mentor who understood the advertising agency environment was a key change that made a tremendous impact on Cliff and his business


Additional Resources:

Feb 26, 2020

Drew McLellan is a 25-year marketing veteran who helps clients create authentic love affairs with their customers. Drew has run his own agency, the McLellan Marketing Group, for over 20 years and helps the owners of over 250 small to mid-size agencies a year learn how to take their business to the next level through his consultancy, the Agency Management Institute. Drew has appeared in the New York TimesEntrepreneur MagazineBusinessweek, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls Drew one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How the internet has disrupted buyer behavior and changed the way B2B sales are conducted today
  • Why establishing yourself as an authority or expert in a particular niche can be a powerful way to boost your sales
  • How being the expert of your niche opens up a larger geographical area for your sales and can allow you to charge a premium
  • Why your unique point of view allows you to stand out from competitors and is what you uniquely bring to your business that your competitors lack
  • What steps business owners can take to define their point of view and establish their expertise in a niche
  • Why attracting “sweet spot” clients is the key to building a base of loyal clients who spend more money and offer better referrals
  • Why you should start with robust, informative “cornerstone content” and how your preference between writing and talking can help determine what content to create
  • How cornerstone content can be broken up into “cobblestone content” that can be shared across social media and other locations
  • Why it is important to develop a relationship through your content before you try to sell to your prospective clients, and why showing authenticity is key


Additional Resources:

Feb 19, 2020

Alana Tillim is the founder, president and driving force behind Santa Barbara Dance Arts (SBDA) and the non-profit Arts Mentorship Program in Santa Barbara California. They have been featured in Dance Studio Life Magazine as a national model of for-profit and nonprofit programs working together. Founded in 1998, SBDA has received awards for excellence in business, leadership, and community stewardship. She has reached over 100,000 artists through her work and continues to extend her reach by inviting visiting artists and world-renowned choreographers to her space.

She co-founded the Arts Mentorship Program in 2004 with Steven Lovelace, and they have awarded over $500,000 in scholarships for underserved at-risk youth. In addition, she founded the No Limits dance program that provides free dance lessons for children with special needs, and “I am Her. She is Me,” a mother-daughter empowerment workshop.

She is also a Certified Coach for More Than Just Great Dancing and a sought-after speaker, she has been recognized by Pacific Coast Business Times’ Top 40 under 40, received the ‘Inspiration Award’ for her leadership through the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow (More Than Just Great Dancing), and is an Apogee Award for her legacy in dance education in Santa Barbara County (Nebula Dance Lab).

Alana is a devoted mentor and entrepreneur and in addition to her studio and non-profit, she owns a dancewear store, and is currently working on writing her first book. She is a dedicated mother and wife, and her family is the driving motivation behind her passion to make a change through the arts.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How a chance meeting led to Alana owning her own dance studio, and why she considers herself an “accidental” business owner
  • How Alana’s side job as a dance instructor turned into a successful business, and why she followed her heart and chose to leave her corporate career path
  • How Alana’s business partner served as her mentor, and why their shared values were the key to their strong professional relationship
  • Why Alana feels passionate about her work and her role as a powerful role model to the young people she teaches
  • Why Alana’s personal growth involved learning from those around her and tempering her passion with wisdom
  • Why Alana’s role as a mother served as motivation and pushed her to take a chance on herself and on her unexpected career path
  • How Alana balances her time as a mother, wife, entrepreneur and business owner, and why the relationships she has with the people around her are key


Feb 12, 2020

Tevis Trower is the founder and CEO of Balance Integration Corporation, focused on helping build corporate cultures that allow employees to thrive. Their remarkable client list includes companies like Google, Yahoo, Disney, Viacom, AOL, Soros, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, and more. Tevis is considered a pioneer and leader in the field of cultural transformation at work, with significant expertise in imposter syndrome, trust, innovation, emotionally sustainable leadership, and fostering an environment of resilience. She has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Business Week, Fortune CIO, The New York Post, Yoga Journal and many more.

Early in Tevis’s business career, she recognized that there is a need for more human-focused leadership in today’s business world. Many companies say “people are their most valuable asset,” but not enough companies focus on creating powerful people-focused cultures that allow their employees to shine. Tevis believes that the key to being a stronger, more effective and empowering leader is to recognize and embrace the reality that you bring your whole self to work, both your strengths and your weaknesses.

Tevis sees imposter syndrome as a sort of “default human state” that we all experience, created by our fear of failure and our strong need for success. She believes that what pushes many high performers to succeed is not a desire to win but a drive to avoid failure and the stigma associated with it. In her work, she helps people recognize their focus on the things that create discontent rather than the things that bring them joy, and she helps them reconnect with their heart and with the things they love.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Tevis’s upbringing taught her the value of curiosity and how she realized the importance of leadership engagement
  • Why imposter syndrome is a common problem in the C-suite that often affects the people we least expect
  • Why Tevis started her company in 2002, and how the needs of her clients caused the company to evolve its focus to culture and wellness
  • How, after seventeen years in business, Tevis realized that something was missing from the work she and her team were doing, and what eye-opening realizations she had
  • Why Tevis realized the most important contribution she could make to her team was to back up and let them work through their own realizations about what needed to change
  • Why employees want their leaders to be vulnerable, human, and unpolished and want to feel a sense that their own voice is helping shape their company
  • Why people are trained their whole lives to believe that they don’t have a role in shaping the culture around them and why this creates blind spots in leaders
  • Why getting input from your team doesn’t mean that you are an indecisive leader and why that input can be a powerful resource for your business
  • Why self-awareness at work helps you further your leadership growth and form stronger relationships with the people around you


Additional Resources:

Feb 5, 2020

Joey Vitale is an attorney and business strategist for thriving entrepreneurs. As the Founding Attorney of Indie Law, Joey works with small business owners to protect their passions and give them the legal foundation they need to thrive and make an impact. Outside of his firm, Joey provides courses, presentations, and workshops that focus on the legal issues that matter most: trademarks, business formation, copyrights, and contracts. While based in Chicago, Indie Law serves business owners all over the country.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Why Joey decided to break out on his own and began working with small businesses to help them protect their assets
  • Why trademark issues are particularly thorny for many business owners, and how Joey helps his clients better understand and navigate these issues
  • Why niching down and becoming the expert in his niche has been tremendously helpful in growing Joey’s business
  • Why half of the 500,000 trademark applications filed last year failed, primarily due to an existing or very similar trademark in place
  • Why trademarking descriptive words and phrases is becoming a major trend impacting sellers on e-commerce sites like Etsy
  • How Joey and his team help business owners monitor words and phrases that appear on their goods to help protect them from others who attempt to trademark those words
  • Why it is important for business owners to be proactive in protecting themselves, and what resources business owners can use to better understand trademark
  • How “common law trademark” and “registered trademark” differ, and how to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) located at
  • Why protecting yourself with trademarks proactively is far more cost-effective than trying to fix problems after the fact, and why an attorney’s assistance is invaluable
  • How social media platforms are increasingly becoming protective of their names and are going after educators for using the platform name in the title of their courses


Jan 29, 2020

Joe Battista is a professional speaker, instructor, author, and Owner of Pragmatic Passion LLC Consulting. His first book “The Power of Pragmatic Passion” was released in September of 2018. He serves as Vice President and an Executive Coach for the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy. In 19 seasons as the head coach of the Penn State Icers his teams won 512 games and six American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national championships. Joe helped secure the largest gift in Penn State history from Terry and Kim Pegula ($88 Million) in 2010 to establish NCAA hockey teams and construct the Pegula Ice Arena. He was named Associate Athletic Director to oversee the project. The American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) named Joe the 2014 winner of the “Lou Lamoriello Award” for his career contributions to college hockey. Joe was a Vice President of the Buffalo Sabres and a Director of Amateur Hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is a member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. Joe is a 1983 graduate of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and he resides in State College, PA with his wife Heidi and they have 3 children, Brianna (26), Jon (24), and Ryan (18).

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How wise mentorship and coaching from others helped guide Joe to follow his passion into a career in the business and coaching sides of hockey
  • How Joe’s time at Penn State was capped by helping raise the largest single financial gift in the university’s history to establish Penn State’s hockey program
  • How Joe’s book “The Power of Pragmatic Passion” has been a powerful networking and business development tool for his business
  • How Joe defines a “pragmatic passion”, and why he believes passion alone isn’t enough to succeed
  • How turning his “pragmatic passion” into a career has given Joe a deeper feeling of fulfillment and purpose
  • What Joe’s “seven common sense principles” are, and how business leaders can integrate these principles into their leadership
  • Why you should give yourself a quarterly or semi-annual “you review” evaluation of where you are in life and in your career
  • Why purpose and passion can be incredible tools to help you get through the “grind” parts of your career
  • Why convenience store brand Sheetz employs someone specifically to figure out how to put the company out of business five years from now


Jan 22, 2020

Mark Smith is the Business Development Director of The ChannelPro Network, the premier resource for growing IT service companies. Mark was the Founder of Windows NT Magazine, with a reach of 1.5M unique enterprise IT professionals in 160 countries. Mark sold Windows NT Magazine to Penton Media for $100M. EH Media has helped customers generate thousands of leads, and Mark teaches these marketing automation techniques to MSPs through his online mentoring program called Recurring Profits Mastery.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • How Mark helps media companies launch new products and do business development
  • Why Mark chose podcasting and video over other media channels
  • How Mark found success as a media professional by niching down in the IT industry
  • The process and timeframe Mark followed to develop his webinar and online course
  • Mark’s N.A.T.I.O.N. framework and how you can use it to generate traction within your market
  • The obstacles that entrepreneurs have to overcome to make progress as a media company
  • The litmus test (pyramid) Mark developed for his guest funnel


Jan 15, 2020

Frank Lunn is a life-long enTREPreneur leading other enTREPreneurs & enTREPreneurial companies in the creation of a collaborative enTREPreneurial support ecosystem! Frank is a proven small business entrepreneur with a passion for maximizing resources and inspiring both individual and business growth. Currently, he is the President/CEO of Kahuna Business Group Inc., a business development company for empowering entrepreneurship.

As President of Kahuna, Frank has played a vital role in the vision, facilitation and leadership of KBGI and its client companies. His unique experience and entrepreneurial leadership has helped transform Kahuna Business Group, Inc. into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

In addition to being an expert business leader and small business entrepreneur, Lunn is a respected authority on leadership, motivation and opportunity. In his books, Frank shares his own life changing experiences providing readers with the proven tools they need to convert life challenges into opportunities for success. Lunn’s books include Stack the Logs!: Building a Success Framework to Reach Your Dreams, Carpe Aqualis! Seize the Wave, and Blessings in Adversity: Convert Challenges, Difficulties & Hardships Into Blessings & New Opportunities.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Why not appropriately planning for an exit from his business ended up costing Frank millions of dollars, and how that experience sparked his current work
  • Why the business valuation process was a painful and eye-opening experience, and why Frank was unprepared for the results
  • How Kahuna Business Group came to be, why their focus is on helping entrepreneurs, and how the lessons Frank learned exiting his business play a part
  • What Frank considers to be the drivers of a business’s value, and why some of the things that give your business value may not be immediately obvious
  • Why it is important for the business owner to not be the real driver of the value of the business
  • Why having a great CFO who is willing to gently tap the brakes on your big ideas rather than slamming the emergency brake is key
  • Why you should be thinking about your future goals and making decisions based around those goals
  • What modern valuation tools are available to business owners, and why technology like cloud computing has created new opportunities for entrepreneurs
  • Why it is important to identify and understand what is truly driving the value of your business


Jan 8, 2020

Good Morning Onward Nation — I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host. And holy bananas — it’s a New Year and a brand new DECADE!

This time of year is special…maybe it’s because how much I love Christmas…or maybe it’s the second chance to get things right that each New Year represents.

Between Thanksgiving and New Years — I intentionally take time to reflect back on what was accomplished in the previous year — and — consciously direct my attention toward the year ahead.

I map out strategies, action steps, draw out illustrations in my journal of how it will all coming together — and when it’s done — I feel at peace with what is about to be put into place.

Then with each passing day — as we get closer to January 1st — the excitement builds and I can’t wait for the starting line to get here!!!

Because that line was just a few day ago — I elected to focus today’s solocast on two topics that will be helpful to you and your team if your goal for 2020 is to Double Down!

And for covering the two topics — I’m going to take you behind the curtain to shine a light on some of the biggest obstacles to building and scaling that we experienced during the early days of Predictive ROI.

I decided to share these lessons with you in full transparency — although embarrassing — because getting them right was a key to stabilizing and then growing Predictive. And — I wanted to share tangible examples with you…not marketing hyperbole or theory.

I also decided to share these lessons in the hopes that if I can help you avoid some of the mistakes, missed opportunity, or gain traction faster than we did…well…that’s rock solid awesome!

So buckle in — here we go…

The early years of Predictive ROI started over a decade ago.

I wrote my first book — The Small Business Owner’s Handbook to Search Engine Optimization — back in 2009. Shortly after it was published — I started getting offers to do side work projects for companies.

At the time — I was part of faculty and academic staff at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and happy with my position within the College of Business. I was teaching at UW-La Crosse and several other UW campuses include the School of Business at UW-Madison.

I was also involved in on-campus research, publishing, and serving our community through board seats and committee work.

I loved being on campus and my plate was full.

For a while — I just declined the side work that came as a result of my book. I said “thank you but no” because I didn’t want there to be any conflict of interest with the university.

But then I did some research — determined that it would be fine to say yes here and there — did a project — and holy bananas…it was a lot of fun.

The side work grew to the point that I had to make a difficult decision. Was I going to stay at the university — or — take on the challenge of trying to build a company?

I couldn’t say no to the challenge — so I resigned from the university and most of the people who knew me thought I was making a mistake.

Not going to sugar coat it for you — the first 5 years of Predictive ROI felt like an impossible grind. There were exceptionally long hours, we aimlessly wandered through wins, losses, and tried to figure out our identity.

On the personal side — my wife and I invested everything we had into the company — and we racked up personal debt.

We were beyond “all in.”

Now that we’re on the other side of it — Praise God — I can see that we struggled because of several fundamental flaws within the business.

One — we lacked clarity around a vision for Predictive.

Two — we had zero idea of what an ideal client or prospect looked like.

And Three — because of points One and Two…we said “yes” to every project and every client, which cost us time and money each and every time but we were too blind to see it.

But thankfully — with the help of incredible mentors and lessons learned from our generous Onward Nation guests — we began to see that in order to be excellent at points 2 and 3 — we had to get our vision for the business down on paper and begin living by it.

So we dug in. And when we did — we learned that “vision” actually meant three things:

1) defining our core values

2) getting clear on our purpose

3) constructing a mission that embodied a bold and audacious goal for Predictive

We didn’t have any of these in the early years.

Because here’s the reality. We were working hard just to survive and we didn’t give ourselves the time to think strategically about the direction of the business.

Candidly — I would have rolled my eyes at the notion of taking the time to work on it. I likely would have said, “Yeah, that’s all well and good — but I have sales to make.”

It’s really hard to think about vision when the pressure of making payroll is upon you.

Sound familiar?

Ever heard the expression, “Running a business feels a lot like fixing the plane while flying it”. Whoever came up with that line was so spot on.

My team and I did a lot of “fixing while flying” and we knitted the early years of the business together.

Then — we got a little breathing room. Then a little bit more. We paid off several chunks of debt and began to see the sun through the clouds.

But as nice as the breathing room was — we also felt some obstacles to going further. We could see ahead but also felt stuck.

Then it clicked — we had taken Predictive as far as we could without putting a proper foundation into place.

Thanks to lessons from our mentors (Drew McLellan and Brett Gilliland if you’re reading this…THANK YOU!), and the hard work put in by my leadership team — and all of our teammates — we now have a foundation (vision) for Predictive that include values, purpose, and mission.

You can find our core values on here.

And funny thing…

As we were going down the path of doing our vision work — I was also interviewing successful business owners for Onward Nation episodes — and I kept hearing our guests talk about the importance of vision, values, purpose, and mission and how completely that work made a huge difference in the trajectory of their companies.

Quick aside for a second…

Have you ever bought what you think is a unique car? And then “all of a sudden” as you’re driving along — you see versions of your new car driving down the road?

The cars were of course there all the time but you didn’t see them because of the “reticular activating system” — or RAS — inside your brain.

Your brain was literally blocking your ability to see the other cars. But your RAS let them in once there was commonality and that data point became relevant to you.

Weird how our brains work, right?

The lessons around vision were always there in front of me — either from mentors or Onward Nation guests — but my brain blocked the knowledge until I was ready to receive it.

So I’m hopeful that if your goal is to DOUBLE DOWN in 2020 — you’ll be open to what I’m sharing with you.

Getting your vision down on paper, building the right team around your vision, and having a structure in place to measure progress is critical if you’re going to scale to an 8-figure business and reach $10 million+ in annual revenue.

I’m going to share two resources that will be helpful as you do your visioning work.

First — I recommend reading some of Jim Collins’ earlier work. You may be familiar with Jim as the author of “Good to Great”, which is a rock solid awesome book to be sure.

But in my opinion — Jim’s earlier and a lesser-known book, “Beyond Entrepreneurship” is better because of the deep dive around vision, values, purpose, and mission.

You can find Jim’s book on Amazon here.

Second — I encourage you to attend the free training that I’m co-hosting tomorrow (January 9th) with Brett Gilliland, CEO of Elite Entrepreneurs. As I mention earlier — Brett is one of my mentors and he’s also a 2-time alum of Onward Nation.

Before founding Elite Entrepreneurs, Brett was one of the key executives at Infusionsoft that helped grow the company from $10 million in annual sales to over $100 million. He now teaches his Elite members the principles he and the team at Infusionsoft used to build, scale, and dominate their industry.

Because I felt the tremendous impact of working through vision alongside Brett and his team — I asked if he would be open to sharing his expertise in a free training session so you could learn directly from him, too.

He graciously agreed. The free training is TOMORROW, January 9th at 1:00 Eastern. This is a private training — just for you and other business owners in our community.

You can find the details here. If you can’t make it live — still register so you get the recorded replay.

Okay — just a couple more insights around the visioning work we did at Predictive.

One — it doesn’t have to take you and your team years to get the work done. I wish we put ours on paper WAY BEFORE year 8 in our journey. Good grief.

Learn the framework from Brett on January 9th, study Jim’s book, and get your vision down on paper…quickly.

If you do that — you will be YEARS ahead of your competition as you step into 2020. Most of them are aimlessly wandering through the wilderness — but you won’t be and that’s a powerful advantage.

And Two — no matter what you put down on paper…just recognize it will evolve over time.

As you bring more people onto your team — they will make it better by pushing against it in new ways. And they will add things to it that you would have never thought of and likely help make it even more audacious. Awesome.

Stop waiting. Push the fear to the curb — take an afternoon. It won’t kill your business if you step away for a few hours (you just think it will — trust me — been there).

Promise yourself that you’ll get it done.


Okay — I look forward to hearing more about your 2020 plan with your newly defined — or updated — vision. Drop me a line at — would love to hear from you.

Now that the foundation of a vision has been set in your business — let’s work through how to go about building a sales funnel to ensure you have enough opportunity flowing into your business…so there’s enough cash to fund all of the things you need to get done in order to DOUBLE DOWN in 2020.

And let’s start off with setting some expectations and some definitions around what sales funnels are — and — what sales funnels are not.

I’m starting us here because there is so much marketing hyperbole around sales funnels that I can barely spend time on Facebook any more.

If I have to see one more Facebook ad from “business coach” claiming that all I need to do in order to build my business is to download his or her 7-figure email swipe file…I think I might scream.

Most of those ads are gimmicks and are being promoted by coaches who don’t really have an actual business. They have built a revenue stream by selling you a thing that will show you have to build a similar revenue stream by selling the same thing to other people just like you.

Do you remember back in the day the classified ads…mail in $7.00 and you will get this thing that will show you how to place classified ads and you will make a ton of money?

Same game — it’s just now being played on Facebook.

That’s not a business. And that’s not a sales funnel that will help you build a 7-figure or 8-figure business delivering real value to your clients.

And here’s another reality check about those 7-figure business coaches we see and hear on Facebook.

Did you know that…

According to the US Department of Labor — only 4% of the 28 million businesses in this country ever…like ever…reach over 1 million in annual sales.

And I’m pretty sure that the majority of coaches and quasi-experts making the 7-figure claim haven’t truly reached a million dollars in their business, they haven’t owned an actual business, or they’ve never built and scaled a company like what you and I are building.

So our discussion around how to build a sales funnel is going to be much different.

You and I are going to focus on the content you need to create to establish yourself as THE AUTHORITY in your market — and — how to structure your service offering into a VALUE LADDER that actually works for filling the sales pipeline in your business.

No gimmicks. But instead — it will take time and effort but you will have something in the end that is actually helpful to your business.


The speed at which you build and scale your business will largely depend on two things:

1) your ability to teach and share your expertise to build and nurture your audience through consistent cornerstone content…

And 2) how well you construct your value ladder.

Okay — let’s tackle each of these.

How do you build and nurture your audience?

You do that by creating “Cornerstone Content” and sharing it with your audience.

So what is cornerstone content?

Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute and host of the Build a Better Agency Podcast, and I recently finished writing a book entitled, Sell with Authority. So here’s how Drew defines Cornerstone Content…it’s content that’s:

  • Meaty enough to produce lost of smaller pieces
  • Significiant enough to serve as the epicenter of your promotion, activity, and eventual fame within your circle of influence
  • Consistent in how often you create content and how much you stay focused on one topic or area of subject matter
  • Sales-free. This is about teaching and helping. Stop. Period. End of story.
  • It’s always about your audience. That should be your primary goal.
  • It’s a long term play. No one’s going to recognize you as an Authority after three months.

Now do you see why I think the 7-figure email swipe file sounds ridiculous? Argh.

Cornerstone Content is meaty, dense content that gives you plenty of opportunities to slice and dice into what Drew and I call, smaller “Cobblestones.”

Depending on the channel you choose for your cornerstone content, you might only need to create it once a year — like a research study — or in the case of a video or podcast series…it should be once per week.

As you and your team talk through how, what, where, why that you should be creating cornerstone content for your 2020 content strategy — I encourage you to go back to Episode 676 of Onward Nation…because I break it all down.

I think it will be helpful to you and your team.

And it is through consistent cornerstone content that you will build and nurture your audience.

Drew and I are often asked, “But…how long will it take?” And as you may have guessed — the answer is…it depends and there are several factors…

First — the consistency of your content creation. Are you disciplined with a weekly schedule?

Second — the quality of your content. Are you saying something fresh or just repeating old news?

Third — the amount of time and effort you spend promoting and sharing your content.

Fourth — the hunger of your audience. Some of them are starving and will gobble up everything you share. Others may only consume the tastiest of offers.

Fifth — the level of competiton and how narrow you decide to go. If you’re writing about general healthcare marketing, for example, it’s going to be a long haul. If you’re writing about marketing to women over 50 with breast cancer…you’ll have much quicker adoption.

And sixth — those luckly-strike moments like having someone else with a similar audience share your content in their world.

But as I said earlier — building a nurturing your audience is not a get rich quick scheme. Drew and I will often say that you should count on taking six months to a year before you reap any significant benefit from your efforts. By year two, you should be dancing a jig at how well it’s working, and by year three, you should be well-established as the authority you are.

If you go back to Episode 864 of Onward Nation — I walk through the pros of going narrow…and how going narrow is the secret to monetizing faster.

Now that you have a framework for your 2020 content strategy — we can turn our attention to how your content ought to be structured in a sales funnel that will act as a pipeline to grow your business. In order to do that…you need to think of your audience in four different categories.

You have a MACRO audience…a MICRO audience…a NANO audience…and an EXISTING audience.

Let’s break each of these down.

When someone is part of your MACRO audience — they engage with your cornerstone content from the sidelines…at a distance. They consume…they may even subscribe to your podcast via iTunes or your YouTube series…but they are not addressable. Meaning — they yet haven’t stepped forward and shared their email address with you in exchange for a downloadable thing or some other resource.

Website visitors, most social media traffic, and podcast subscribers are all part of your MACRO audience.

For example, iTunes doesn’t allow you to download an email list of your podcast subscribers. You also can’t download an email list of everyone who visits your website on a daily basis.

Yes, your website visitors can be retargeted through paid ads — but even then — they’re still not addressable one-to-one via email.

So your goal is to grow your MACRO audience while remaining focused on your niche. You don’t need a million downloads of your podcast episodes if you’re focused on serving a small, super profitable niche.

Now for MICRO…

Once someone decides to share their email address with you in exchange for a piece of content like an eBook or some other resource…they become part of your “addressable” MICRO audience.

They have moved to the second stage of your sales funnel. MACRO is stage one — and MICRO is stage two. They have raised their hand and said — “Okay — you have earned enough of my trust that I am willing to give you my email address to get access to X resource.”

Yes, one could argue that social media followers are addressable because you could send a direct or a private message to a specific follower.

Or…you could download the email addresses of all your LinkedIn connections and send them an email campaign.

All true.

But — in reality — you have a business to run and will not likely have the time to do much one-to-one messaging on social — and — GDPR made downloading the email list of a LinkedIn connections and hitting “send” — pretty risky.

So — in thinking about what’s realistic — MICRO for you is most likely when someone opts in for your e-newsletter or downloads a helpful resource from your website.

Before we move on to NANO — I want to share another lesson from Drew that had a significant impact on me…and my guess is…it will be helpful to you, too.

And that is that someone may stay in your MICRO audience for a day or a decade. All you can do is be helpful over that period of time. Provide them with helpful resources, great recommendations they can take and apply, and be patient.

When someone in your MICRO audience feels comfortable — and you have delivered the best of what you’ve got — and have done that for years — and have always put their interest ahead of your own — some of them will be ready to move on to stage three…or NANO.

NANO is where the monetization happens.

A whole lot of trust needs to be built before someone moved to NANO.

For example, if one of the podcast guests who happens to be a member of your “Dream 25 Prospect List” decides to engage you and team for a project…or a guest books you teach a workshop, deliver keynote at their conference…or you offer a course to your MICRO audience and it sells…these are all examples of monetizing at the NANO level.

But — and this ties directly into the next chunk of what I wanted to share with you during this solocast. It will be difficult for you to monetize at NANO — or to build a consistent sales pipeline for your business if you haven’t taken the time to build out a value ladder.

Your value ladder provides new and existing clients with defined ways to begin or continue doing business with you. It starts with a low price point and limited scope of work…and progressively increases in price and scope.

When you have your value ladder fully built out — it might include 3, 5, or 8 different rungs that go from free all the way up to your highest priced, and most valuable service level.

But for the ease of discussion and getting started…I want you to think of just three rungs on your ladder…and then you can build it from there and make it more sophisticated over time.

The price point on the first rung on your ladder is FREE. So if you’ve completed the MICRO stage in the sales funnel…you’ve already got the first rung of your value ladder built.

But don’t stop with just one downloadable eBook, guide, or tip sheet. Because if you offer up one thing…it will appeal to a segment of your MACRO audience…but of course…not everyone.

So I encourage you to build out a Resource Library where you are offering your MACRO audience many FREE resources that can be helpful to them across a number of different situations or scenarios.

The Resources Library on could be a helpful example as you and your team build out your own.

Okay — the second rung on your value ladder should be a service offering that you can provide a client priced at about 10-15% of your desired gross profit. Gross Profit is your revenue less any cost of goods sold.

So let’s say your ideal client represents annual gross profit of $50,000 to $200,000 for your company…then the second rung on your value ladder would be scope of work that you could price anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 in gross profit.

The goal of the second rung is for your prospect client to step into a relationship with you. To evaluate what it’s like to work with you and your team. To see if you can deliver what you promise for a $5,000 project before they commit to a $50,000 spend with you.

So maybe that’s you and your team building out a strategic plan for them. Doing some research with defined scope. Maybe delivering a training program on-site for their team that they can take and apply internally for the remainder of the year.

You decide how you want to knit it together — but the second rung on the ladder is your foot in the door — and your opportunity to demonstrate the smarts of your team in action.

With that said — will some clients step into a larger relationship with you right away and essentially by-pass rung two?

Yes, it will happen and has likely already happened with you.

But you also know — that it doesn’t always happen that way, and my guess is, if your sales strategy is to only present your full scope of work at the maximum price point…you have lost more opportunity than you have won.

So if rung one is free…and rung two is 10-15% of your ideal client spend…then rung three is 50-100% of the ideal clients spend.

Or in this example…$50,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue.

This is where your team is delivering everything. Putting all of their smarts to work in order to solve a client’s business challenges. You’re delivering the best of what you have to offer at rung three — and — this is where you are establishing what will hopefully turn into a long-term relationship with your new client because you and your team have demonstrated how you can deliver significant value.

So let’s sum up a few points before we close out and say goodbye.

Building a scaling a business is hard — I know you don’t need me to tell you that — but sometimes having someone from the outside acknowledge the struggle and the super courageous thing you are doing…well, quite frankly…it feels good.

Next — get your vision down on paper. Read Jim Collin’s book Beyond Entrepreneurship and attend tomorrow’s webinar with Brett Gilliland.

After that — build your strategy for cornerstone content.

Then take that content strategy and map it against the MACRO, MICRO, and NANO sales funnel.

And lastly — build your value ladder so it’s as easy as possible for a prospective client to move from MICRO into the NANO stage and begin a relationship with you and your team.

Okay — with that said – I’m over the moon excited for you as you step into 2020.

This is the start of more than just the New Year. It’s the start of a new decade…and my bold prediction is…if you take and apply even just slices of what you and I reviewed during this solocast…you and your team will Double Down in some key areas in 2020.

That’s darn exciting and I’m grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to walk alongside you on the path.

And one last thing before we close out and say goodbye, Onward Nation — I want to give you a very big thank you…in fact…let’s call it a virtual hug.

There’s absolutely no way we’d be approaching 1,000 episodes — and — there’s no way we’d have this opportunity to serve business owners in 120 countries without your support, your encouragement, and your feedback.

Here’s the reality — you help us get better every day, Onward Nation.

To have you here means a lot — so THANK YOU!

I look forward to being back with you again next week – until then – Double Down – and move Onward with Gusto into 2020!

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