Words That Make Us Wince

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



BLAIR ENNS: David, do you know what my biggest fear is, professionally?

DAVID C. BAKER: Could we start with an earlier question like, "David, do you care what my biggest fear is?" Okay, I'm going to say, yes I care, but no I don't. Because I know you want to tell me what it is. So tell me, what's your biggest fear? And then we can move on.

BLAIR: No, no. I'll tell you later. Let's get into the podcast.

DAVID: Okay.

BLAIR: No, my biggest fear is I just denigrate into this angry old white man and they're going to give me a show on CNN and I'm just going to complain about things.

DAVID: You'd be like Stephen A. on ESPN. He's just ranting about something every day and people just don't even listen, they're like, "Oh my God. Stephen A. What is he ranting about today?" That's your biggest fear huh?

BLAIR: Yeah, I have no idea who that guy is.

DAVID: Who's further along on that path, me or you?

BLAIR: I think by the end of today it'll be you, because the objective of today's podcast is to whip you into a frenzy, because the topic is words that make us wince. You suggested this, we're going to both tackle these words because I think it was a topic that we both said, "Yes, let's do this."

But then as I look through the list of things, there's no way we're going to get through the entire list of all these words or phrases that we hear from time to time that make us wince. But as I look through the list, I think, "Oh yeah, we're going to get super wound up here." So let's try to retain our calm.

DAVID: Okay, right.

BLAIR: And you know, one of the things that occurred to me, just before we went live here is this podcast is supposed to be about us solving our client's problems or giving advice to our clients. But we're really just complaining here about words that our clients say to us.

DAVID: Yeah, clients to me are just incidental. And I know they are to me. You tell me ... They're just a reason to get wound up.

BLAIR: They're just the grist that allow us to do this podcast.

DAVID: Right, right exactly. No, so there is something about, we're wincing when we're hearing certain things but we're also assuming that our clients are wincing when they hear the same thing. So let's give us a little more credit.

BLAIR: Yeah, good save.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: Alright, the first one on the list. This one's all yours because I'm not sure why this would make you wince, but a question that clearly you get from time to time, and that is this, "Can you describe the deliverables?"

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: What's the problem there?

DAVID: You didn't get this question when you were in the consulting world?

BLAIR: Can you describe the deliverables?

DAVID: Yeah. You didn't get that question when you were back in the consulting world, when you gave up and built a training organization? You didn't get that question? Or you did and it just didn't bother you?

BLAIR: Well, yeah I guess, but you get it in different forms, like, "Do I get a report?" And I would respond with this great Alan Weiss-ism which is, "If you want a report, take good notes."

DAVID: Okay, so why does this bother me? Partly, it bothers me because it doesn't seem like a legitimate question when a prospect asks you this. It's almost like they don't know what to do at this point. They don't necessarily feel like they have enough information to say yes or no to the engagement. So they just keep giving you homework to do. Like, "How desperately do you want this? If you want this bad enough, you're going to tell me about the deliverables." 

But it also moves people downstream as if somehow, putting something in a 20 page report is more valuable than having a brilliant conversation with somebody. It also mirrors my own consulting career. Like when I think about over the last 25 years, I was so terrified of delivering value in the very beginning, I would write these 110 page reports that bored even me. And then they got shortened down to 25 and then they're down to 12 and now they're down to about 8.

And in many cases, like last week I was working with a firm, I just said in the middle, I was like, "Listen, you've got somebody. Your executive assistant is there taking notes about everything we said. I'm not sure it's a good use of my time to hibernate for an hour and a half and put ... Like let's just keep talking." That seems ... But people are nervous about not getting deliverables. I honestly don't understand why they're nervous about it. But it just sets me off a little bit. Maybe I could lay down here and still keep the mic close to me and you can tell me why this bothers me.

BLAIR: Yeah, it's clear to me now. You're challenged by this because you're still over-delivering on deliverables. The fact that you're still delivering an 8 page report. There's no need. You just happened upon the solution, I think. If I can play your consultant here.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: And I think maybe if you could go back in time 20 years ago, there are a whole bunch of reports that maybe you didn't have to write. Especially a larger firm where they do have somebody who is a capable note-taker. You could just ask that person to be, of course you're talking about really sensitive information from time to time.

DAVID: In some cases, right, yeah.

BLAIR: Yeah. In other cases, maybe you just point to somebody and say, "If you want a report, take good notes." Now the more detail or the more technical your findings and recommendations are then the greater the obligation you have to provide some writing. 

Maybe you're not completely free of report writing. But I'm sensing that you're still feeling like you're delivering more than you need to. But you also raise a great point, because it's really not about the deliverables in a consulting engagement, is it?

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: It's really about the desired future state, or the improvement or the outcomes where the value that would be created, when they're asking for deliverables, I think maybe you're right, they're just saying, "Well how long is the report going to be?"

DAVID: Yeah, but both of our clients, the people you work with, the people I work with, the agencies, they're doing a mix of things. They're providing really brilliant insight to their clients and they're also moving into that, what I call the second room, the more implementation stuff. I understand the value of the deliverables and the implementation stuff. But isn't it viable just to say, "Listen, the deliverable in the first room is brilliant insight. It's solving your problem."

The other thing that I think is coming into play here sometimes, not with me and you but with our clients is that they don't sometimes have access to the decision-maker and so they need a deliverable that helps them re-present those ideas to the higher-level decision-maker. So they need to be able to justify the spend that they're making on this agency. I think that might be part of it as well.

BLAIR: Yeah, and to clarify for people who maybe missed your reference of the two rooms. You talk about there's two rooms and two ways into your firm, the first is the strategy room and the second is the implementation room.

DAVID: Right, right.

BLAIR: I'm fond of saying that when you're presenting findings and recommendations, which is most consulting engagements and it's the strategy portion, or the upfront strategic portion of most creative engagements, there's an inverse correlation between the value of your thinking and the number of words it takes you to communicate it.

DAVID: Wow. Yeah, I've never heard you say it quite like that. Although you've mentioned that point multiple times and said it in different ways. But if people would just sit with that phrase that you just said, the inverse relationship between those two, it's an amazing thought. And not just in the delivering advice that these agencies are getting hired for, but also in their proposal stages as well. Right? That's fascinating.

BLAIR: Yeah, and when you talked about the early part of your career, everybody goes through this. Especially if your firm is on the tactical end of the spectrum and you start moving up stream to the left, I suppose, to the more strategic end of the spectrum, you start charging more and more up front for that strategic work where you're diagnosing and prescribing. Then you start have this panicky moment before you're about to deliver your findings and recommendations. And to assuage your panic, your fear that the client might not see enough value, you start typing, right?

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: And so you start typing this report that gets longer and longer and longer. So you sold this strategic engagement which at the point of sale, you saw as really profitable. It's all margin. And then you erode that profit with every single word that you type.

DAVID: Wow, yeah.

BLAIR: And so that's just a place that you want to get further and further from ... You want to get to the place where you show up and say, "Here, I'm going to share with you my findings and recommendations." So this is what I used to do at the end of my consulting career. I'm going to share my findings and recommendations. 

It would always be over the phone, because I'm in the middle of nowhere. And then I would say, "And I've got a bullet list, a few pages long that I'm referring to and I'm happy to send you the list about 24 hours after this conversation. I want you to take good notes and you're going to record the things that are most meaningful to you." 

And the truth was, my list would be half done. And through the conversation, through the delivery of the findings and the recommendations and the conversations that ensued, I would actually learn more and we would together craft the nuance or the detail of what the client needed to do next. And then that would go into the report. 

So I would have half a report and it was just bullet lists, and then I would send it over 24 hours later, if they had asked for it. I found that to be an effective approach.

DAVID: Yeah. If they didn't ask for it you didn't send it.

BLAIR: Yeah, it was half done, right?

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: Why would I have to finish something if somebody didn't ask me to finish it? Duh.

DAVID: Yeah duh. Do you want to move onto the next one on the list?

BLAIR: Yeah, let's do, yeah.

DAVID: Alright, so this is a question that you apparently have received and had some PTSD around. Blair, so I'm interviewing you from my podcast.

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: It's David C. Baker, the world's ... We'll finish that later.

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: Blair, before we finish our conversation today-

BLAIR: Exactly.

DAVID: What advice would you give your younger self? If you could roll back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, Blair?

BLAIR: Yeah, and the reason it's on the list is I've been doing, and as I know you have been, a lot of podcast interviews over the last couple of months with the launch of the book. It's surprising how often that question comes up. The first time I saw it, I saw it in writing, Tim Ferris asks it of his podcast guests and I saw it in his book and I thought, "Oh, that's a pretty good question." 

And then I started getting asked the question, and at some point, after I was asked two or three times, I thought, "This is a ridiculous question." And maybe it isn't. Maybe it's just ridiculous to me and I need to just not project out onto the world. So here's how I now answer that question, I get it fairly often now.

I say, "I would say to my younger self, beware of old men pretending to be you from the future. And don't listen to that guy, 'cause he doesn't know shit." And then once I said, "You know what my younger self would say to my older self?" "What? What would young Blair say to old Blair?" "He'd say, 'Fuck off old man.'"

DAVID: Okay, so I'm going to tell you, I get asked that question a lot too. And I don't mind the substance of it so much. But what I mind is that somebody read that somewhere and now everybody thinks it's a good idea.

Like I don't like formulaic interviews and this feels like a formulaic interview. Like, "Tell me, what's the best decision you've ever made? What's the worst decision? What's the best software tool you've ever ... It's like, "Come on people. Get together and figure out that only one of you needs to ask me this stuff." Right?

BLAIR: You point out you don't mind the substance of the question, I think the truth behind this question, as far as I'm concerned is, it's not a bad question.

DAVID: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BLAIR: I think just after thinking about it for a while, I realized if I could go back in time and say anything to my younger self, I would say, "You're doing great kid. Keep going." That's all I would do. 

I wouldn't propose to change anything. Even if I can look back on my life and say, "Ah, maybe if I would have done this differently things would have ... I just don't view life that way. So it's an interesting question and I have seen interesting answers to it. I just decided it's a question that I don't like for me, personally.

DAVID: The way I view my life is, I've reached a certain level of whatever. But there are many paths to that. The paths to happiness. The paths to money, whatever. There are many ways to reach that and I could have taken different paths, but I don't have regrets. 

Well I have some regrets from personal standpoint, decisions I made, but not from the business. It's like, "How in the world would I have learned this stuff if I hadn't screwed up?" It's like, "Advise yourself to not make that mistake." Well now I'd be stupid if I didn't make that mistake.

BLAIR: Yeah, I save regret for the things that I don't do, because action yields information, right? So even all those screw-ups, all the hardships, all the things you did wrong, you learn so much from those things. And maybe it takes you a while to learn. So if I have any regrets, and I can't think of many. It's probably the things that I didn't do.

Okay, let's move on. This is the next one on your list. David, what other questions should I be asking you?

DAVID: Oh man, that pisses me off just hearing it. And even though we're just playing.

BLAIR: It's funny how your questions aren't my questions. We're going to get to the ones that rankle both of us, but this one is like, "What other questions should I be asking you?"

DAVID: Yeah, and I feel like, "Do your homework."

BLAIR: Ladies and gentlemen, angry white man, David Baker.

DAVID: Now I do think there's some legitimate stuff here. If I'm at a consulting engagement and I wonder why one of the most important questions you haven't asked me yet. So this is a great opportunity for me to step in and to raise that or to talk about it. I think our clients would be in that same boat. There's an elephant in this room here. It's like, "Why haven't we talked about this?" 

So when they get that question, I think it might be very legitimate. But it feels to me like when I get this question, the conversation should have already ended and we're just dragging it out. So in my case, I'm hyper-efficient and I'm very engaged when we're talking about substantive things. But when we're starting to waste each other's times, my engagement level drops off. So when somebody asks me this question, it feels, I do think as I talk about this, I just sound so grumpy.

I think this is my problem, honestly. Especially if you've never, like this one doesn't strike you as real, right? This one strikes you as, why is he so upset about it?

BLAIR: Well, as you're talking, I realize it's your 5% affiliation score. Your uni bomber level need for affiliation or to connect with others in a business context and to be liked by others. This is the bridge from meaningful discussion into chit-chat. Whenever people have a question for me and they preface it with, "Hey, I have a question for you." I always say, "I know. How do I do it, right?"

DAVID: [crosstalk 00:13:53] and is that usually the question?

BLAIR: That's an easy question, right? How do I do it? No, it's never the question.

DAVID: Oh, okay.

BLAIR: So next time somebody says, "David, what other questions should I be asking you?" "Well, why don't you ask me how I do it."

DAVID: Yeah, okay.

BLAIR: "How you do what?" "Just maintain this level of awesomeness every day. That's what you want to know, right?"

DAVID: Oh, that's a good one. Okay, now your turn. So Blair, what's your exit strategy? What's next for you?

BLAIR: Yeah, this one rankles me, for a couple of reasons. Number one, I think 'cause you know my exit strategy is death. I think the idea of-

DAVID: I can help you with that.

BLAIR: And we're going to see each other in a few days, so let's just not help me next week.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: So I think the idea of having an exit strategy as an entrepreneur is a ridiculous idea and is a harmful idea. There are some exceptions to that. And there are some times when you should be thinking about exit. But largely, this idea that you're going to spin-up this business in exit is a silly one, for the most part, not entirely. It's silly when it comes to me and most of the people I know who are entrepreneurs.

But I've also seen this as when you see sales people go from robot to this place of being able to facilitate a meaningful discussion where you're asking these blue sky questions and really getting people to think, "Oh wow, I've never thought about that before and nobody's ever asked me that before." And I think in sales, everybody wants to get to this place where you ask this beautiful question that shocks the client and gets them to reveal things that have never been revealed and by the nature of the question you demonstrate your level of expertise and your intelligence.

I just feel like this is the first question on the road from sales robot to facilitator of a meaningful question. I just see it being asked by sophomore sales people who are trying to move into this area of high game questions. I think the thinking is that it puts you on the same level as the owner of another business and it shows that you're thinking about bigger, longer term issues.

There are times when maybe that question is relevant. Most of the examples, when it's been put to me, or I've been told of conversations where it's put to others, I just shake my head and think, "Oh man, you gotta move through this phase real quickly and get to the place where you discover some real questions and you're really focused on the client and really engaged in what it is that they want."

DAVID: Do you think that in part, even if it's just subconsciously they're trying to hook into some emotional, deep desire that the prospect has and then tie that desire to what you're trying to sell to them. It's like, "Well what's your exit plan? Oh, if your exit plan is that, then here's why you need to hire me because I can make ... Is part of that what happening, or not necessarily?

BLAIR: Yeah, then I'm going to sell you four more units. Oh, you want to exit quickly. No, I think there's meaningful information to be gleaned in certain situations if you assume that somebody is spinning up a business to sell it. So I think that's probably a valid area to probe if you're dealing with high-tech or you're dealing with a serial entrepreneur. Really, it's a really question that gets under my skin as it's posed to me.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: The implication that I should have an exit strategy.

DAVID: As if you're somehow not as deeply connected and engaged in the business as you could be otherwise.

BLAIR: Yeah.


Okay, so let's go over to you. I'm going to combine a couple of questions here, of the same theme. Other ones of yours that get under your skin, or make you wince.

DAVID: There's a lot of them.

BLAIR: And don't necessarily make me wince. One is, could I talk to some references? And, can you put me in touch with anyone who's gone through this before I decide? What problem do you have, angry white man, with people wanting to speak to references?

DAVID: Well, I don't. So the answer is, "No, you can't." If you're asking. I don't do that.

BLAIR: That is the answer?

DAVID: That is the answer, yes.

BLAIR: Can I talk to some references? No.

DAVID: Yeah, no.

BLAIR: So I'll be the client. "Can I talk to some references, David?"

DAVID: And here I'm reading to you right from my frequently asked questions says, "We'll sometimes make exceptions to this but rarely. When we do, we'll trade references so that each of us can call the other party's references."

BLAIR: Oh, that's a good one, yeah.

DAVID: Because it's like, ""Wait a second. I'm the one that ought to be deciding if I want to work with you. There's no question about whether you should work with me." I mean.

BLAIR: Well clearly there is right? If somebody's asking for references?

DAVID: But obviously there is, right. And I don't mean to be arrogant about it. But I've basically spilled everything I think in public in all kinds of forms, and it's there for everybody to look at. So there can't be any question about my perspective on certain things. The question is, what is it, if I'm going to apply this specifically to help you. So in that sense, it's legitimate, like, "Okay, what's it like to work with David?" 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: And I do think that, that's a legitimate question. 

BLAIR: Let's say the answer was, "Oh it's horrible. It was painful. He's got a horrible bedside manner."

DAVID: Quite possibly the answer.

BLAIR: Turn this around financially and we're on an all new trajectory. But it was like, "Oh God. I hope I never have to go through that again."

DAVID: And that's probably what a lot of them would say, honestly. Here's why I don't give references, one is that my clients have not signed up to give you advice. 

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: Even though some of them are very happy to do it. But you're going to spend an hour on the phone with three or four different people who are not getting compensated. Secondly, they don't know your situation as well as I will know your situation. I don't have confidence that their advice is necessarily going to be applicable to you. 

And I do get some people that abuse it. That's why you never give email addresses when you're giving out references. As an agency Principal in sales, you never do that. You always make phone calls. It's too easy just to copy and paste 17 questions in an email and send them out to 20 people. That's a ridiculous abuse of the reference process.

But mainly, it's because references are a sign of skepticism to me. And actually I learned this from you and as I started to think more about it years ago, it's really, really true. When somebody is asking for references, they have some doubt about the engagement that should be answered in another way, not solved with references. That's something I definitely learned from you and I found it to be very, very true in life, in real life in a consulting world. 

So we haven't even talked about this, but who's going to give you bad references? These are carefully curated people, I told them what to say. I do understand a little bit. But it doesn't seem like references should be the panacea that they seem to be. Now I don't feel that way in terms of hiring people. But in terms of hiring a firm, I do think they're not the panacea we make them out to be.

BLAIR: Yeah, and I think in your world where your clients are entrepreneurs. So when somebody who wants references, they're unsure and they're probably the most successful who in Colby terms have high quick starts. So they're big risk takers, they make decisions quickly.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: And somebody who's dragging out the process, they're unsure, they're unsure. It's not really you they're unsure about. They just not easy ... They're not comfortable with making quick decisions. Maybe that's a sign of, this is going to be a frustrating engagement to begin with.

But that wouldn't necessarily translate to our clients world. But what the hell, we're just venting here aren't we? It's not about our clients. We established that. Alright, what's next?

DAVID: Alright, so Blair. I want to pick your brain over coffee and here's why, it's because I can't even do this with a straight face.

BLAIR: Yeah. I have a better idea David, go ahead and finish.

DAVID: Well, I've noticed that you serve a market that's kind of, there's some synergies here that are possible. Or I don't really need a consultant. But could I pick your brain? I mean not for free, I'm going to buy you coffee, how's that?

BLAIR: I have a better idea.

DAVID: Okay.

BLAIR: Why don't you pick my brain over a steak dinner, in the Bahamas, first class accommodations, travel and a weeks of accommodation?

DAVID: Have you ever said that to somebody?

BLAIR: No, but as we were preparing for this, I thought, "Well let's just establish the two points of absurdity on the spectrum."

DAVID: Coffee is one.

BLAIR: Right.

DAVID: $30,000 vacation with you is another one.

BLAIR: Right. So on one end, you buy me coffee and on the other end, you fly me to the Bahamas, first class for a week and buy me a steak dinner. Both of those are absurd. So let's find some common ground in the middle. Have you ever had this question?

DAVID: Oh my God. I get it all the time. I got it yesterday. 

BLAIR: And what was your response?

DAVID: I didn't even answer it.

BLAIR: Yeah. But then, from time to time, I got a note from somebody that you and I both know former agency Principal, he texted me and said, "Hey, I'd love to have dinner with you and this other guy when you're in town next." And he's somebody, I think he's been quasi client, a close acquaintance, I guess. We're not friends, we haven't stayed at each other's houses etc. We've lost touch over the years. It's business. He's looking for some free advice. Maybe there's some engagement at some point down the road, some training engagement.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: If it were coming from most other people, I would just pass on it and not reply. So it's not an entirely ridiculous question. But it's a question ... Like if I texted you and said, "Hey can I pick your brain over coffee?" I hope the answer would be yes.

DAVID: Yeah, it would be.

BLAIR: And then there are people who you don't have as close a relationship with. So let's back away from where I stand in your life and let's just keep backing away. At some point there is a line where it's like, "Well this is a little bit awkward. We don't actually know each other that well." Where's the line?

DAVID: Yeah, so I'm having breakfast next week with somebody who's a friend who's father died recently and his father was one of my best friends. He wants to get together regularly. Sometimes he reaches out to me. Sometimes I reach out to him. I absolutely love doing that. To me, there's no money involved. He's never going to do anything for me business-wise. I'm never going to do anything for him. This is just communicating as humans, right? We're talking about in a business setting. So the question that always comes to me is, "Well, what can you do for me?" Like, "What is in it for me?" 

BLAIR: No, if I can interrupt, I think the challenge here is it's the blurring of the lines between business and personal. "Hey, let's get together. We'll have a coffee." There will be as much enjoyment in it for you as there is for me.

DAVID: Yeah, but you're getting that question from somebody that's not one of your friends, right?

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: So then it's like, "What's in it for me?" That's the question.

BLAIR: You know, I think as we talked through this, I mentioned affiliation score. So people with high affiliation needs, that's not me, and it certainly isn't you. They want to connect with the people that they do business with. They want to look into the whites of their eyes.

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: And so it's by natural reflex, they just assume that the next step is, "Let's sit down and have a cup of coffee." We don't have that need to sit down with people face-to-face before we decide whether or not we're going to do business with them. 

I think it's a largely personal thing, and I think there are lots of people out there in the world who are saying to each other, "Hey, do you mind if I pick your brain over coffee?" And the other party's thinking, "Yeah sure." And they have 10 coffees a week and 9.9 of those end up amounting to nothing business-wise. But they still feel good about that use of time, where as you and I wouldn't feel good about that use of time unless it was just a purely friend request, or a friend wanted some business advice.

DAVID: Yeah, exactly. And I would give away free business advice to friends all day long. I do that frequently. But I want a really firm line between the business and the personal side and I want to decide when to violate that.

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: And when a prospective client says to an agency Principal, "Hey, can I get together and pick your brain over coffee?" I would say that it probably makes sense to say yes in many cases, because the potential upside in that case is a million dollars worth of business and even if you don't get business from this person, you may be introduced to some people and that makes sense.

Now our world is increasingly without borders, so it's hard to get together for coffee. So I think that could make sense. But if you're talking about somebody who just wants to pick your brain, but they don't have the capability, they don't have the power, the position, or the access to money to hire you, you have to think carefully about whether you want to do that. If you want a more sustainable life.

BLAIR: Yeah. Okay, we're going to move quickly through as many of these as we can. This one should have been at the top. "Yeah, that won't work at my firm, David. Unfortunately, our market is different."

DAVID: Yeah. And the problem is that sometimes it's true.

BLAIR: Everybody's market is different, right? In their own mind.

DAVID: I was just talking with a firm a couple weeks ago in Louisiana and the truth is that running a firm in Louisiana is different. It really is different. You don't have access to the same people, employee pool. Wages are less expensive. It's harder to manage a position.

But when I hear that phrase, I hear people making excuses. It's like, "You have no idea how expensive talent is in my market. The problem is that I want to say, "Well you have no idea that everybody says the same thing. But I want to be honest, right. So I don't want to shut that off entirely. But I'm afraid that if I'm honest, it'll give them the tow-hold into dismissing all good advice because they just say, "You don't understand my market." And that's my fear is that people just write it off because they want to say, "Well I'm different." I'm interested in your thoughts on this as well.

BLAIR: Yeah, the most common place I hear this is when I'm talking about how to have money conversations. So I've heard, right from the beginning of my consulting practice, I've heard, "Oh, you don't understand Blair. In the South, we don't talk about money. In the Midwest we don't talk about money." I actually had one person say to me, "In New York, we don't talk about money." I had somebody say, "In Saudi Arabia, we don't talk about money."

DAVID: Are you serious?

BLAIR: So in all these market, these money-fueled, money-driven markets, you just imagine everywhere, in fairness to the person in New York, they were outside of the city, they were upstate a little bit. So I think they're implying that in upstate New York, we don't talk about money.

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: Somebody in Manhattan, it would be hard to imagine them saying that. But it's only a matter of time before somebody says it. So I get that all the time on the subjects of money. I get that all the time on our approach to selling this idea that you don't have to pitch for free. And as you pointed out, sometimes that is right and that's the challenge.

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: Here's another example. You pointed out a great example of how business conditions are different in Louisiana. If you're in Hollywood, if you're in California and you're selling creative services to the movie industry, it is all meeting based. And I'm adamant that you don't go and have a meeting with somebody before you've properly qualified them, set the agenda for the meeting. 

It just doesn't work that way in Hollywood. You get a meeting, you go take the meeting. That's one example of where the typical approach that I advocate maybe wouldn't work so well. So there is a rare exception. You tell me, what percentage of the time when somebody says, "Oh you don't understand, that won't work in my market, is that wrong?"

DAVID: 82.5%

BLAIR: Oh that's low. I thought you'd say higher.

DAVID: I just wanted you to think I'd thought really carefully about it and researched it.

BLAIR: No, I knew you were bluffing.

DAVID: Well 80 to 90%, I would say.

BLAIR: Let me throw a couple other ones real quickly at you, here. We've got maybe a minute and a half.

DAVID: Okay.

BLAIR: We literally do nothing for these small clients. They just keep sending us $200 a month.

DAVID: Yeah, and that usually comes because I've said, "Listen, you cannot make much money. You can't make profit and you can't do effective work for anybody as an agency that doesn't represent at least 3% to 4% of your billings." And it's just true. I've just demonstrated it so many times. And they say, "Well that's not really true." I mean, these people, it's just like automatic money.

It's like it's all set up, we're basically running, hosting their website. There's one question every three months. Then all the rest of the people in the room are rolling their eyes that says, "Do you have any idea what it's like to support email for somebody that doesn't understand how to set up Outlook?" Yeah, I hear that quite a bit and I just have to say, "Okay, I'm not going to fight about that. But every client of mine that has dropped the low end of their stuff doesn't look back and say, 'Oh, I wish I hadn't done that.'"

BLAIR: Valuable lesson. Alright next one, "Well that's what our website says, but it's pretty out of date and doesn't apply now."

DAVID: Do we even need to talk about that one? It's like, well what do we do with prospects that don't know that, right? I do think that one solution here is to pull the website down and put up a one or two page website that has the right message and don't worry about all the rest of the stuff on there, but has the right positioning.

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: Blair, how do you define success?

BLAIR: Okay, so this is another interview question. I think this one's too big because I really want to go on a lengthy rant on this one.

DAVID: Okay, we'll save this one.

BLAIR: We'll save this one. I'm going to pose the next one to you.

DAVID: Okay.

BLAIR: And I think maybe we'll wrap up on this one. Alright David, here's the next one. David, I'm so tired of people who stay for two years and then leave.

DAVID: Talking about employees?

BLAIR: These are your clients, agency Principals saying that, "Oh my God. What's with these people? They stay for two years and then they leave?"

DAVID: Yeah, like they're always changing jobs. They're not loyal.

BLAIR: They're not loyal. Nobody's loyal anymore.

DAVID: Yeah, these damn millennials and it's usually the millennials.

BLAIR: They're so entitled.

DAVID: Yeah. And I used to feel the same sort of panic about that. I don't anymore. To me, it's the difference between a pool of water that's sitting in an old spare tire in your backyard that's growing mosquitoes versus a stream of water that's always refreshing the whole thing, there aren't any standing pools of water. 

Whether we like it or not, this is the new reality. Let's figure out a way to keep bringing all this great enthusiasm and talent in here and swapping out people that we're going to over pay to try to keep them and let's focus on systems, processes so that we can replicate the great people we have. 

We have great culture and let's transfer, the knowledge transfer stuff that you and I have talked about and we have some clients that do, let's formalize the knowledge transfer process so that we aren't panicky about it and we don't try to keep people here that don't want to stay here and overpay them in the process.

BLAIR: Yeah, let's learn to get the most out of these people as soon as we can, grow them quickly. When they move on, everybody's happy.

DAVID: Yeah, and celebrate it.

BLAIR: Yeah. Let's do one last one and then we'll wrap. We have a combined 154 years of experience.

DAVID: Which means there's three really old people who are selling this stuff they learned in their 20s. 

BLAIR: I don't see that line much anymore. But you're referring to a line on a website somewhere.

DAVID: On a website, yeah. We have a combined X number of years of experience. Which is almost as bad as saying, "We've got offices in six places across the US." When in fact they've got one office and five freelancers working out of their home. Yeah, same idea.

BLAIR: Okay, well I'm still smiling and I think you are too. So we did alright. We resisted the urge to-

DAVID: Nobody's listening. But yeah, they left us a long time ago. But this was a lot of fun, at least for us.

BLAIR: I'll have to check the stats one day. I'm not even sure that people listen to this. No, I know they do. We get notes all the time but yeah.

DAVID: Okay, so we're going to come back and we're going to pick up that one about defining success. We could really spend a lot of time talking about that one in terms of how our clients think about that and how they talk about that with their clients. So we'll have to come back and do that one.

BLAIR: This has been great. Why don't we do that one next?

DAVID: Okay, we'll do it.

BLAIR: Okay, deal.

DAVID: Deal. Alright, talk to you then.


David Baker