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The X-Factor

Episode description

Blair gives David some homework to identify patterns in the principals of creative practices who are successful and have that "je ne sais quoi."

 

LINKS

2Bobs Episode 28 - "Positioning Cheats"

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

"Top 10 Podcasts Agency Owners Listen To" by Daniel de la Cruz

Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

 

TRANSCRIPT

DAVID C. BAKER: Blair today, we are going to catch up with the rest of the world. I can't even say that with a straight face. We're only 80 years, 90 years behind. We're going to talk about the X-Factor. Okay. And the first time that phrase was used was in 1930, and we're just now getting ready to talk about it. 

BLAIR ENNS: You've actually done homework. That's not fair.

DAVID: Well, a little bit. 

BLAIR: You went and looked up the first use of the word X-Factor... But hold on - you have to explain who used it. What was the context? 

DAVID: Well, it was like in the urban dictionary, so it's totally unreferenced, it's just somebody's idea of when it was first used. I probably shouldn't even brought that up. But the phrase that popped up a lot when I was researching the X-Factor 'cause you really wanted to talk about this and I'm intrigued too. It's the "je ne sais quoi" which means, "I do not know more." Have you heard that phrase?

BLAIR: Yeah, "je ne sais quoi." I always thought it just meant ... And I should know because I'm Canadian. It's one of our official languages. I always it meant, I don't know. So it's, I do not know more. 

DAVID: I do not know more, it's a French phrase "je ne sais quoi." In other words, there's this X-Factor. I don't know more. There's just something about them. There's this X-Factor about them. It was pretty interesting. We're going to talk about principals that exhibit this X-Factor. 

BLAIR: Principles, the people: ...P-A-L-S.

DAVID: Yeah, right. 

BLAIR: Not ...P-L-E-S.

DAVID: I never use the other word anymore 'cause I'm so used to using principals ...A-L-S. 

BLAIR: So principals of creative practices who are successful, who have this "je ne sais quoi," this X-Factor of success right?

DAVID: Yeah. You really enjoyed saying that with such a great accent didn't you. So you gave me homework. 

BLAIR: Yes.

DAVID: Here's what you said to me: think of one recent client - this presumes I even have clients, right? But think of one recent client who is very successful, what three things come to mind about that person? So I dutifully answered my questions here just following the script. And then you said, "Now do it for two or three more clients." And so I did that. Now what do you want me to do with this?

BLAIR: I want to talk about the patterns. If you've done it for three or four clients, when you think about the attributes of that person, how common are those attributes across those three or four people? 

DAVID: They were just surprisingly common, and I hadn't ever really thought about it quite like this. But I almost felt like I was wasting my time as I extrapolated to others, because they all came up about the same. Maybe the order of the three things is different from principal to principle but the same ones kept coming up. Did you do the same thing? 

BLAIR: Yeah and I thought of a couple of people and then I just kind of thought of a group of people and made my list even a little bit longer. So I've got six things, but I would say those six things, they all roll up into one word. So if you had to take all of those different attributes that you've identified of these successful agency principals, and you had to put them all under the banner of one word, what would that one word be? 

DAVID: So I popped back and forth between these two. But I think the one word would be confident. 

BLAIR: Yeah, me too. 

DAVID: Really? The same word? OK.

BLAIR: Yeah. So the X-Factor is confidence. But I think we'll get into this and maybe a little bit later on, we'll talk about some kind of big picture ideas around confidence and the subject of overconfidence and how important confidence is. Did you write down different manifestations of confidence or different forms of confidence? What's on your list?

DAVID: The early form of confidence would be just starting the business, like, "I can do this." That's one. Another where it seems to show up a lot is just in sales or prospect conversations and I've even actually listened to them and then of course, most of the time I haven't, they're just reporting to me what the conversation was. Then that's where it probably strikes me the most is just this confidence, even when they don't have a lot of experience in the promises that they are making to a prospect. You and I have probably done this in our own practices years ago too.

BLAIR: Oh yeah. 

DAVID: You get on the phone on the way back to the office and you're saying you will not believe what I just promised we could do? 

BLAIR: Yeah. 

DAVID: That's where it seems to show up. 

BLAIR: Well, I think some of the best sales people in the world you cannot tell from the way the salesperson is behaving, what their external conditions or what their financial situation is, from the way they're behaving. So a really good salesperson can be standing in front of you on the brink of bankruptcy and you can't tell because they are not transmitting panic or neediness of any kind.

DAVID: Wow. So they must be good poker players I would think.

BLAIR: They're confident, but they're also good actors. But isn't that the same thing? I was talking about this last week in another podcast? Yeah, I actually step out on you and do other podcasts from time to time. I was saying the phrase, 'fake it till you make it', somebody on Twitter was saying, "That's just such a horrible saying, it's such bad advice." And I don't think that's true at all. And especially when it comes to confidence. You develop confidence, I believe, in part by faking, being confident, you just pretend you're confident and then you do that long enough, often enough, lo and behold! You become confident. I think good salespeople are able to fake, fake may not be the right word but just act confident even when the circumstances are dire.

DAVID: Wow! Because all of us are growing by stepping slightly over our current capabilities. And that includes sales.

BLAIR: Yeah. 

DAVID: There's just a fine line I mean, that I guess is technically the line but if we never do that we never grow, if we do too much of it then we really are cheating our clients and I think you're going to talk a little bit later about this overconfidence thing. So back up a little bit, what got you thinking about this in the first place? What intrigues you about this concept? 

BLAIR: I think when you work with enough people over time you start to make some initial assessments of how likely some people are to succeed and I was thinking some people have it and some don't. And in showbiz, it's not just conference, there's this star quality that really is "je ne sais quoi." I don't know more, other than to say, it's like, they've got it, they've got the X-Factor. That's why I assume the show is called The X-Factor. And it's really hard to nail down what it is but I think in business and in running a creative firm, I think that X-Factor it really is confidence but not going too far and having unchecked overconfidence. Which is actually kind of common in creative professions for reasons we'll get into a little bit later.

So I think you've probably seen those patterns too, you talk to somebody and in the very early parts of the conversation, you get a sense of how successful this person is. Is that correct?

DAVID: Yes, for sure. And like you were just saying, I couldn't tell you how I'm picking it up. But I do. I don't know if you remember many years ago, probably 15 years ago, I called you up late in the day, maybe even had been in the evening. And we've referenced this in an earlier podcast.

BLAIR: You were in a snowstorm. 

DAVID: Yeah, exactly. And it hit me for the first time. It's like, "Oh, my goodness!" What I'm in the business of doing is being a substitute for the confidence that people lack. So most of the people that wouldn't hire me have enough confidence and they figure things out. Some people that are in that category would still hire me and then others need the marketplace to replace that lack of confidence they have. So many times I go into a situation and I believe more highly in their skills than they do but it doesn't matter what I believe they just simply are not going to absorb what I believe about how good they are. It will only be the marketplace that does. 

I remember talking with you about that, it became such a big light in my mind. So what are the things on your list? So confidence rolls up. But can you get more specific here about what you're saying?

BLAIR: Yeah. The first thing you had in your list about like their presence in a sales situation is similar to what I have. I have talking about money. And what I have seen is the successful agency principals over the years and the successful new business development folks, they can have a conversation with a client or prospect about money and the size of the number does not faze them. So they can say $10 million, they can say $10 million, just as easily as they can say, $10,000 and vice versa. The size of the number is essentially meaningless to them from an emotional or a stressor, point of view. So that's, I think, a big one and I don't actually see that strength or skill very often, but when I see it, I know this is somebody worth betting on. 

DAVID: They might not even have a fantastic positioning. But this cover some of that.

BLAIR: Yeah, we did a really early episode on things that mask poor positioning and I think we talked about that being one, the confidence of the principal. 

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: So that's the first one. I had the ability to talk about money. And the second point I had, I wrote down the word entitlement. A sense of entitlement. I also wrote next to it and assumption of success. Entitlement can be a bad word. It can have negative connotations depending on kind of how you use it, or even just how you're thinking about it in the moment. But I actually in this context, I really like it the idea that somebody feels entitled to success and there's just no question about whether they're going to succeed in what they do. 

DAVID: So does this show up in bad ways as well? I know you don't mean entitlement in the sense like a political program or something like that, that you're not talking about that.

BLAIR: Yeah, or a rich kid or something like that, where the world owes me with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, because I'm not getting what I feel I'm entitled to. I mean, a healthy, positive sort of entitlement, which is that, of course, I'm going to be successful. Of course, there are lots of businesses out there that would see the value in what I do. Of course, the future ahead of me is big. Of course, I'm going to take advantage of most of the opportunities that come my way, of course, everything's going to be okay. All of these things, and I think maybe without being polar opposite of that conflicting idea that's still valid, is the idea of the healthy paranoia of a principle. I don't think that's part of the X-Factor. I think that's a part of kind of general success as an entrepreneur, I think you have to have a healthy paranoia. 

But I think these people that really have it the X-Factor, they're not really driven by paranoia. They're not driven by fear. They're driven by almost entirely positive things. I think both of those are valid. But I'm just saying in the X-Factor, these people who have that kind of special X-Factor, there's just no doubt that they're going to succeed. 

DAVID: Almost unapologetically, which is not necessarily arrogant. You've talked quite a bit about the fact that one of the mental, I guess, principles of the newer entrepreneur is that it's not a zero sum game. So when there's this entitlement or this assumption, or this confidence, it's not at the cost of the client, it's not like we're taking things from the client. It's like we're both going to succeed here and I'm unapologetic for mine and unapologetic for yours between us we're going to do great things. 

So first one was how they talked about money, that's really interesting to me, especially the way you phrase that the other is entitlement or assumption, an unapologetic approach to this What's the next one? 

BLAIR: The next one is leadership. They lead their people and their clients. I don't know if they're natural leaders, it's probably fair to say that when we're talking about X-Factor, we're talking about natural leaders. I know some really strong leaders who've had to work to develop their leadership skills, whether it comes naturally or not. I saw this in a couple successful clients and then I was thinking of some other clients that I've worked with, that are still kind of successful, but struggle with this issue. You probably see this too where you're offering guidance to an agency principal and his or her response is "Yeah, I know I should do that. But I'd have a hard time selling that to my people." When I hear that I think, "who's running the show here?" 

DAVID: Apparently, "my people" are. 

BLAIR: Somebody with that X-Factor is never going to push back on a valid idea by saying, "I'm going to have a hard time selling that to my people." Unless it's something that's really ridiculous. Remember that seminar I did years ago in Bermuda in the beginning of 2009? 

DAVID: I do. Yeah. 

BLAIR: It was you and me and four other people. We drank $1500 worth of champagne, because I had to hit the food and beverage minimum. 

DAVID: Great food. And a lot of it. 

BLAIR: I had two different agency principal say to me, "I really want to go to the seminar you're doing in Bermuda, but I just laid off people and I can't justify to my people that I am going on this thing and I think that is perfectly valid. That's not what I'm talking about. I think in both those cases, and probably the other cases that just weren't stated to me, I think that's a perfectly legitimate area where you should be concerned about what your people think. But when it comes to say, the positioning of the firm or how you're going to go about selling these more strategic decisions, those people who have the X-Factor those leaders with supreme confidence, they don't stop and think, "Well, I hope my people are going to go along with me." There's the sense of, they look to me to lead it's my job to lead I'm going to lead, and even if they're unsure in the beginning, they will follow me because they trust me to lead. 

BLAIR: So that's one aspect of it is they lead their people, but they also do the same thing with their clients.

DAVID: Yeah. Is that the same as directing their relationship? Or is that something different? I've heard you use that phrase.

BLAIR: I use what I think is a healthy generalization when I say there are really only two positions you can occupy in your client relationships. You can be the vendor or you can be the expert practitioner, and the expert practitioner leads they don't dominate. It's got to be this kind of servant leadership role where the client willingly lets you lead but they are seen as the expert and they lead. So you should have that relationship with your people and you should have that relationship with your clients. These people who have this X-Factor, they're able to grow these usually large but just always successful and profitable firms. They show up to a client engagement or a new business meeting and they feel like they should be occupying the expert practitioner position, and they feel it's their job to lead in this situation. And they don't comfortably slot into that polite, compliant, rule follower role that is the vendor, where you sit and take notes and nod your head.

DAVID: There's some overlap here between what you just explained and the personality theory stuff that we've talked about multiple times. And that's that somebody with the personality profile of a leader like you're describing is typically somebody who sees a situation and says, "This could be improved." That's the opposite from the other half who says, "Oh, this is good enough, we can work within it." So they say, "This can be improved." Then they go on to the second part B and says, "And I'm the person to improve it. Right? 

BLAIR: Those are the four dichotomies or quadrants. Right? It's the situation can be improved or not.

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: And I'm the one to do it or not.

DAVID: Right exactly.

BLAIR: And that's essentially the basics of most personality theory. 

DAVID: Yeah exactly.

 

BLAIR: So those are the first three things I have three other things. You said the first one on your list was how they sell, what do you have after that?

DAVID: I have risk taker and I'm cheating a little bit because I did a research project on that. So they are risk taker, they don't always take the right risks, but they do take risks. 

BLAIR: Yep. 

DAVID: And then the third one is that they - and I haven't heard you talk about this, it's interesting that it's on my list and not yours - it's that they soak up all kinds of knowledge and then they ruthlessly choose just a small part of it to follow. 

BLAIR: Oh yeah. 

DAVID: Some people read voraciously and other people don't read at all. Then other people latch on to some expert or somebody else, and they have their favorite ones, and so on. But they're always just soaking up knowledge but they don't try to incorporate all of it. They make a quick snap decision like, "Yeah, there is something there. I'm going to follow them." Or, "No, that's really interesting. But no, I think I'm going to go over here to this other expert." That's one thing I see everywhere.

BLAIR: That's a keen observation because those are the two categories of people who don't read it all. You see that not a lot, but you see it, it's a pattern. But the other pattern is actually fairly common, isn't it? Creative people are naturally curious. It's kind of in their nature to gather information from all sorts of different places. But there are these trends, we won't name names. But there's like the TED Talk du jour or the business book du jour and that comes out and it peaks. And for the next two and a half years, every third agency principal you talk about is building some sort of proprietary methodology around one point that came up in a TED talk or came up in a book and it's like, "Oh, man, you too.?" Yeah. How proprietary, is it if ... Yeah, I probably, yeah, I'm not going to name names, but... 

DAVID: I will. I'll name names. The thing is that there's some really good truth in these movements, right?

BLAIR: I agree. 

DAVID: Michael Gerber was one for sure. 

BLAIR: Work on the business...

DAVID: Not in it. Yeah. Exactly. That is brilliant principle. But then there have been three or four since then. And currently it's traction. That's what everybody is doing. 

BLAIR: So the one that comes up for me all the time is Simon Sinek's Start With Why.

DAVID: Oh yeah, right.

BLAIR: "What's your why?" And I'm a huge fan of that. But you see people trying to work it into something that they think is a meaningfully differentiated offering to their clients. Well, first, we start with your why? Well, everybody is starting with their why now. That's not to pick on Simon Sinek. I quote him too. He's got some great stuff. It's just for whatever reason. It's just a sign of his success. But then so many of these creative firm principals glom onto that and try to make it something that's theirs, that helps to differentiate them.

DAVID: Which is separate than traction, traction is more of a management system. It's interesting. We kind of grow through these things. Who's the guy that occupies the number one podcast position above us? 

BLAIR: Tom Ferriss. 

DAVID: Oh, Tim Ferriss. Let's not talk about that... 

BLAIR: Yeah, we better say - somebody did a poll recently, he polled a thousand agency principals on what podcasts they listened to, and we came up number two. We're right behind ... We're probably really far away behind the Tim Ferriss and I joke to you on Twitter, "well, let's find out who this Tom Ferriss guy is.

DAVID: We'll take him out." I'm just kidding. 

BLAIR: What's next on your list? 

DAVID: Okay, next on my list then is that they are visionary/persuasive. I think there's a lot of overlap between this and your leadership idea. So they not only have a vision for the future, which is not all that useful unless you can successfully bring other people around you into that same excitement. So the two things together, visionary and persuasive, that's one. Another is that they make really quick decisions, so quick that it drives people nuts. And I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying that this is almost a universal characteristic of these people with the X-Factor, is that they do not deliberate a long time before they make a decision. They tend to make quick ones. That's another one I've seen. 

BLAIR: Do you think that's maybe too broad to be in the category of X-Factor? Do you think like all agency principals and entrepreneurs are like that? 

DAVID: I don't know, you might be right. 

BLAIR: I usually am. 

DAVID: Well, I'm just going to skip right past that too. 

BLAIR: Can I back up to what you said earlier about visionary and persuasive? So I had they lead their people and their clients. Then the next item I had was eyes on the horizon. So that's your visionary part.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: Visionary and persuasive, that really is leadership, right? When I think of these people who are the most successful agency principals that I know that have the kind of it thing, they see things so much earlier than their people do, and they see things in their business so much earlier than I do. In fact, I think of a friend of mine, he's, one of the most successful friends I have. 

DAVID: You can mention my name, it's okay. 

BLAIR: You're very successful David. But by almost every professional measure, he is even more successful. He's one of these people where we don't speak very often, but we're talking he tells me what he's thinking, and I hang up the phone, I think you're straddling the line between genius and insane because that conversation didn't really make sense. Then I swear to God, it's a really long time later, it's like three, four years later, I'm seeing everywhere that thing that he mentioned to me years ago, and now that conversation made sense. He is so far out ahead of anybody else I know and it really shown up in his business success. The stuff that he sees and thinks about and acts on, before it's even on my radar is just mind blowing.

So I characterize that as eyes on the horizon, they don't have their eyes down on the minutiae of their business. They're not dealing with all the kind of ankle-biter issues for whatever reason, or whatever mechanisms they've used, just good delegation or great team members, or whatever it is, they're able to focus on the horizon and not just focus on the horizon, see further out than other people. Then this kind of speaks to what you were talking about before, the ability to act on it, the courage and the decisiveness to act on it. So these people act on trends that are way further out than most of us are even capable of seeing let alone seeing and making a decision to act on.

DAVID: Yeah, and for them to be able to do that, it presupposes so many things about how they're running their business. You alluded to some of them, they can't be down in the minutiae. They had to be inventing, or however you say, inventing future value, creating future value as you talk about. Absolutely. But I'll bet you that a lot of his near certain ease about the future do not come true. But that doesn't dissuade him. So he throws things at the wall and then he sees fairly early on whether or not it's actually going to be true and if it isn't, then he moves on. What I like about that is he's looking up and he's making quick decisions. 

BLAIR: Yeah, agreed. Anything else on your list? 

DAVID: I have a burning question. I have to ask you at some point, when we're done with this list here. But I've found that they are not generally conflict averse. And I mean, with employees or with clients... 

BLAIR: That's so funny 'cause I wrote down crucial conversations. That's the next thing on my list.

DAVID: Yeah, same thing, exact, same thing. 

BLAIR: The ability to have those crucial conversations and not avoid conflict. 

DAVID: Right, exactly. The ones who avoid conflict tend to not really thrive except I know some exceptions to that where they do even though they're conflict averse, but generally yeah, they have to be willing to have those ... And conflict averse is not as good a way to say it as you did, those conversations are. That's a better way to say it, 'cause we're not really trying to butt heads with people. We're just having the tough conversations.

BLAIR: There's the great book called Crucial Conversations and it's written by five people (if five people can write a book). So it's written essentially by a consulting company. In the introduction, they're talking about following an executive team around for a while to figure out what the traits of the best leaders were. They talk about this meeting where the CEO is saying there's an invitation to be challenged on all the key issues. But in the meeting, he steamrolls over top of his executive team, and the executive team just kind of sits there quietly and takes it. Then one VP speaks up and challenges the CEO very politely and said, "Okay, you just kind of ramrodded us here. Can we back up and have that conversation again."

So the CEO, apologizes and then he opens up the floor and a real discussion happens. As they're leaving the room, somebody says to the consultant, "Do you see what that guy just did? If you can figure out what that is, that is the key to his success." And that's where the book Crucial Conversations came from. I read that book and I remember I wanted to have a crucial conversation with my wife, who's also my business partner. She was driving me to the airport, I was driving and she's in the passenger seat. We're going to the airport and I've read the book and I still myself to have the conversation. I don't even remember what it was about. And I say what I have to say, and I've got my eyes on the road and I'm thinking, "Oh my god! This book works great. I feel fantastic." And I look over at her and she's crying. 

DAVID: I thought you were going to say she was asleep. And that's why it went over so well. 

BLAIR: Then I thought, "Okay, there's probably other chapters of the book I need to go back and read." So I'm not great at those crucial conversations but that is absolutely a trait that I see in the most successful agency principals, is that they don't steer away from conflict. But they head right into it and when it's done, it doesn't feel a conflict, it feels like a big step forward for everybody.

DAVID: Yeah, absolutely. I've learned so much just from you on a personal basis about not being afraid of the truth. So if you swallow that, if you can get to the point where you're not afraid of the truth, then the second thing I've learned just listening to you talk about this stuff is like, "Okay, if you're not afraid of the truth, then let's find the truth as soon as possible." I'm not talking about just in a sale setting, which is where you talk about a lot I'm also talking about it like in relationships. As you were telling that story about the leader who backtracked successfully you know what was even just as significant is the key manager who was capable of stopping that conversation without embarrassing the leader. That is an amazing skill too. That person probably went on to be a fantastic leader in his or her own right as well.

BLAIR: That's who the feedback was on the team member said, "Okay got you." That vice president if you can figure out what he just did that's his key to success the ability to basically confront the CEO in a polite way to challenge, to have that conversation that everybody wanted to have and nobody else could bring themselves to have. So that is the key. 

DAVID: Yeah, without embarrassing him. So both of those are good. 

BLAIR: Well, I appreciate the credit you've given me for your successful marriage for all these years 'Cause I will take credit for that. You're welcome. 

DAVID: Yeah, 38 years now. Okay. So here's the big question. I have of you, it's this. When you come across a situation and you've discovered you've said already you've admitted that confidence is a really significant, maybe the most significant factor and you come across somebody who struggles with that. What do you do? 

BLAIR: That is a good question. I've heard you talk about this. It's really hard to build up somebody's confidence. I was in Strategic Coach for a few years founder Dan Sullivan is a brilliant, brilliant man. One of the brilliant things I heard him say is the most valuable asset that an entrepreneur has is his or her confidence. When I heard that I just almost screamed, "Yes." Then all of these crazy things that I do that I'm somewhat embarrassed about to build my own confidence all started to make so much sense to me. Then I went home and explained to my wife like, "These things that I do that drive you crazy and I'm a little bit embarrassed, like some of the things or things that I spend money on." If I want to feel like a million dollars if I want to feel my most confident I pay somebody to ... You cannot put a monetary value for me. I cannot put a monetary value on having shined shoes because it's the world of difference. 

BLAIR: I've heard people say that underwear does that for them. I've never experienced that where you go out in the world thinking, "This underwear feels great. If anybody could see me without these clothes on, they would be super impressed. I feel like I could walk on water." I've never experienced that. But I've heard women say that a few times and I'll just take their word for it. But for me, it's having my shoes shined. 

DAVID: And the flip side of this too is, since we're in a little bit of the confidence business, you can see how an undermined confidence just can wreak havoc in your mind. Whether you're in a consulting world, or whether you're in the marketing world or design world, whatever it is. Because part of what makes you work is this confidence and if you've struggled with some mental health issues, depression issues, I've struggled with depression issues. It just messes with you and it takes this internal fortification that you have to just hold on to while you get through that tough stretch, because this innate confidence is so central to your own success. 

BLAIR: I'm so glad you brought that up. I think that's entirely valid in my entrepreneurial career I've never really had that moment where my confidence has disappeared on me. But it happened when I was an employee for a really large ad agency. I worked for somebody who was very good at eroding the confidence of the people who worked for her. I felt like I was in an abusive relationship and I doubted my ability to do anything. If I've felt this way, for any extended period of time, in my own business, I don't know how the business would survive it. I used to think you could take my entire business away from me, as long as I had my list my opt in subscriber list, I would be fine. Then I thought you could take my list away from me, as long as I had my reputation, I would be fine. Then I realized you can tarnish my reputation. But if you just took it away, and I was unknown to anybody, I would still succeed. In fact, I think I could probably even build a better business as long as I had my confidence. But if you took my confidence away from me, I'm done. 

DAVID: Wow!

BLAIR: I'm done. I think once that was pointed out to me by Strategic Coach and Dan Sullivan, I realized all these crazy things that I do and that others do, we need to keep doing them. And the people around us need to understand that in the agency, the most valuable asset in the firm is the confidence of the principal. There are no categories for this, whatever anybody else in the firm is doing, if it is eroding the confidence of the principal, it is counter productive. 

DAVID: We should probably just end on that, it's such a great thought. I'm thinking too, about putting employees in places that erodes their confidence promoting them when they shouldn't have been promoted or whatever and they're swimming around feeling very uncomfortable or sentencing them to something rather than blessing them with something. All of this works in so many different areas. This is such an interesting that makes me wish that we were on a like a live town hall, where we could answer questions from people and get some of their thoughts on this stuff. Too bad it's a two way conversation here. 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: Fantastic. This is really interesting. Thank you for bringing this idea. Say the French thing one more time for me. Say it really well. 

BLAIR: Eh, je ne sais quoi David.

DAVID: Okay. Bye Blair. 

BLAIR: Apologies to all my French friends. Francois if you're listening I'm sorry.

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Size Matters

June 19th, 2019

32:48

David and Blair address the obsession that many principals have with the size of firms, and the advantages of being either big or small.

Different Pricing Models

June 5th, 2019

34:48

Blair is struck by how creative businesses have trouble applying their creativity to their revenue models, so he and David discuss some of the best ways firms can get paid.

 

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Greatness Requires Discomfort

May 22nd, 2019

28:27

David and Blair each share their own perspectives on how chasing comfort has kept them and their clients making the right decisions in both management and sales situations.

 

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Selling to Clients With In-house Resources

May 8th, 2019

29:34

Blair wants creative firms to quit viewing in-house resources as the enemy and demonstrates how the arrangements between the two can be mutually beneficial.

 

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Things Principals Should Do More Of

April 24th, 2019

22:05

David and Blair each share a list of things that they wish agency principals would do more of to take their firms to the next level of success.

 

There Are NOT Seven Reasons Why Clients Hire You

April 10th, 2019

30:13

Blair and David work on clarifying things by coming up with only six reasons why businesses hire creative firms.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

March 27th, 2019

32:28

Blair and David share the places they find good ideas that they turn into content, the best of which end up being incorporated into their services.

 

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It's a Small World After All

March 13th, 2019

29:49

David finds Blair's thoughts fascinating on how far agencies should service or pursue clients geographically, and whether or not the location of a …

Why Account People Should Close New Business

February 27th, 2019

23:14

David gives Blair four practical reasons for sales people to hand off new business to the account person before the deal is closed instead of after.

A Beginner's Guide to Negotiating

February 13th, 2019

35:11

David gets into Blair's head to get his 10 basic negotiating tips that he has worked with clients on over the years.

 

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Seven Positioning Mistakes to Avoid

January 30th, 2019

34:07

After having discussed positioning in multiple previous episodes, David puts together in this one episode the seven most common mistakes firms make …

Debriefing After a New Business Call

January 16th, 2019

30:29

David asks Blair about using "after action reviews" following sales calls, and the two key questions that should be asked as a part of that …

Shoot - Now What Do We Do?

January 2nd, 2019

34:10

Blair asks David to make some predictions about the new year, and then they discuss some ways that businesses can prepare for and react to (God forbid) an economic downturn.

 

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Selling in One Lesson

December 19th, 2018

34:55

Blair describes to David how he was able to distill his Win Without Pitching approach into a simple formula:

P=db/D

Power = desirability / Desire

 

The Risk Episode

December 5th, 2018

31:02

After touching on the topic of risk in many other episodes of this podcast, David and Blair finally take a full episode to discuss at length the role …

Open Book Management

November 21st, 2018

24:04

Blair gets David to admit that he was kind of wrong about open book management being just a fad when he originally wrote about it almost two decades ago, and David offers ways that it can actually benefit both employees …

Alternative Forms of Reassurance

November 7th, 2018

29:33

Blair and David analyze and then look beyond the requests for reassurance potential clients make during the late stage of a sale to address their underlying motivations.

 

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Seven Strategies to Grow Accounts

October 24th, 2018

31:33

David disagrees with Blair (sort of) on his model for growing existing accounts in the post-AOR era, and then offers his list of 6 ideas on the topic.

 

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The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and …

The Best Ways to Disrespect Account People

October 10th, 2018

29:28

Blair remembers what it was like when he was an account person himself, and David shares five ways firms can treat their account people better.

 

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The Seven Masteries of the Rainmaker

September 26th, 2018

33:01

Blair offers seven mindsets that any seller of expertise needs to master so that they can behave like the expert in the sales cycle.

 

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Starting...Existing...Thriving

August 15th, 2018

34:25

Blair interviews David on what each of the three levels of success in running a creative firm looks like.

 

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Replacing Presentations With Conversations

August 1st, 2018

28:43

David re-reads the 2nd chapter of Blair’s first book, leading to a discussion about how sales people have to choose between either presenting to clients or being present to them.

 

TRANSCRIPT

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Reviewing the "Surveillance Footage"

July 18th, 2018

26:35

There are seven patterns that almost all principals are guilty of. When David and Blair point them out, it leads their clients to say, “you must have hidden cameras in my office!"

Hacking Heuristics

July 4th, 2018

40:58

 

Blair leads a discussion on how clients tend to take mental shortcuts in making business decisions, and how we can nudge clients without …

Collaborating with Competitors

June 20th, 2018

27:21

David and Blair compare each other's competitiveness, and then offer some specific ways principals can actually collaborate with their competitors as …

Four Segments of New Business

June 6th, 2018

27:31

Blair and David come up with descriptive words that help clarify each of the four parts of what David calls the "pantheon" for new business: positioning, lead generation, sales, and pricing.

Pricing Creativity: A Guide …

Using Assessment Instruments in Your Firm

May 16th, 2018

33:49

David and Blair explore the big topic of personality assessment tools that can help firms “get the right people on the bus.”

Not Your Typical …

Thoughts on Partnership

May 2nd, 2018

34:35

Blair and David dive into a discussion on ownership structures, looking at the results of a survey that David did recently about partnerships.

What Good Clients Are Really Looking For

April 18th, 2018

34:13

Listeners on Twitter wanted to know what clients actually want from creative firms, so David makes a list based on his experience of what good clients want, while Blair's reaction is "who cares what clients want... all …

Mastering the Value Conversation

April 4th, 2018

35:00

David gets Blair to expound on his statement that “the value conversation is where value pricing theory goes to die,” and how crucial that conversation is within the sales framework he lays out in his new book, "Pricing …

Defining Success for Creatives

March 21st, 2018

30:51

David and Blair take a stab at answering the complicated question of what success looks like for each of them personally, as well as what it means for their clients.

Words That Make Us Wince

March 7th, 2018

33:40

Blair and David try to wind each other up by going through a list of phrases they hear from their clients way too often.

Positioning Cheats

February 21st, 2018

31:48

David is bothered by the notion of helping people cheat, especially at positioning. So Blair discusses 10 ways firms could succeed even if they …

Words We Try to Define

February 7th, 2018

38:05

Expertise, selling, marketing, entrepreneurship, branding, positioning, and consultant. Blair and David do their best to come up with definitions for …

The Business of Expertise - Part 3, Live from London

January 24th, 2018

29:04

Blair revisits David's new book, "The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth" in front of a live audience in London, who get to ask their own questions.

Pricing Creativity

January 10th, 2018

28:21

Blair talks about his new book, "Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour," and the process it took to write it. David gets him …

Planning for the New Year

December 27th, 2017

32:11

David and Blair each share some goals that they have for their clients and themselves for the upcoming year, which turns into somewhat of a therapy session.

Valuing and Selling Your Firm

December 13th, 2017

34:46

Blair and David discuss why, when, and how principals sell their firms, and Blair reveals he is skeptical about selling his own firm.

The Complexities of Commission Culture

November 29th, 2017

35:41

David picks Blair's brain about new business compensation, and what principals need to consider in finding their firm's place on the spectrum between …

The Role of Profit in a Creative Enterprise

November 15th, 2017

27:57

Blair has some questions this week and David has answers. The topic is profit - what it is and the targets firms should be setting.

Mea Culpa

November 1st, 2017

31:30

David offers to help Blair remember all the times he's been wrong over the past couple decades. Then Blair says he'll be happy to reveal all of the places he's wrong now but doesn't even know it yet.

The Science Behind Structuring Roles

October 18th, 2017

33:35

David reveals some of the science behind the extensive research he has done over the past couple decades to develop a key part of his Total Business …

The Business of Expertise - Part 2

October 4th, 2017

34:56

Blair revisits David's new book, interviewing him on the two chapters that cover the important topic of positioning: "Distinguishing Between Vertical and Horizontal Expertise," and "Principles for the Less Exchangeable …

Seven Words You Can't Say in Business Development

September 20th, 2017

32:04

David and Blair discuss a list of words Blair came up with that you should avoid to keep you out of trouble and in control of the buy-sell …

Paid Time Off or Earned Time On

September 6th, 2017

26:47

Blair needs a vacation. And David is blown away by how little time principals take off.

An Introduction to Blair Enns

August 23rd, 2017

18:57

David asks Blair to describe his work and his passion for the creative entrepreneurial community, and they discuss how where he lives has such a huge impact on what he does.

How to Drive Your Employees Bat Sh*t Crazy

August 9th, 2017

28:21

The issue of how principals manage their employees continues to pop up for David year after year, and Blair is worried that he might have this problem in his own firm.

Being Like Everyone Else

July 26th, 2017

30:24

Blair restrains himself from going off on a rant about who his clients choose to learn from.

An Introduction to David C. Baker

July 12th, 2017

19:33

Blair interviews David about who he is and why people should pay attention to what he has to say - if they should at all...

The Business of Expertise - Part 1

June 14th, 2017

33:27

David Baker wrote a book! And Blair asks him about his authoring process, publishing, and the book's topic.

What Happens When You're Away

May 31st, 2017

33:53

David and Blair list good and bad things that can happen when the principal steps away from their creative firm for a period of time, which is based on David's blog post on the matter.

Why Advertising Agencies Don't Advertise

May 17th, 2017

29:48

Blair revisits the first piece of thought leadership he ever wrote, taking a look at why firms may or may not do for themselves what they do for their clients.

Thriving In the Middle of the Road

May 3rd, 2017

30:34

Blair questions David on an article he wrote about identifying the risks on either side of the road and navigating a path between both extremes.

A Sales Skeptic Interviews a Sales Expert

April 19th, 2017

34:48

Blair does his best to reform David's skepticism of sales, discussing what works well and what fails miserably in the sales process.

Five Irrational Fears

April 5th, 2017

25:34

What keeps you up at night? Blair interviews David about the five most common fears that he has seen in the consulting work he has done with over 900 …

The New Entrepreneur

March 15th, 2017

28:59

David and Blair discuss how the nature of entrepreneurship is changing and what the new entrepreneur is facing today.

Truths and Myths About Money

March 1st, 2017

30:31

Do you have trouble talking about money with clients? David makes seven common statements about money and Blair states whether they are true or false and why.

Say What You Think

February 15th, 2017

33:51

David interviews Blair about the art of effectively communicating with clients and coworkers.

How Not to Act Like an Expert

February 1st, 2017

31:10

David and Blair make a list of the common mistakes that people make in trying to portray themselves as experts.

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