How Persistence Is Crucial To Business Growth With Jeff Blackman

Business growth never has—and never will—come easy, but even so, there are ways to keep yourself on a consistent path to growth just by following a few guiding principles. Growing your business will, for sure, require abundant consideration about a variety of factors from your end, but once you hit that sweet spot, you’re never going to want to stop. Jeff Blackman heads Blackman & Associates, a results-producing business-growth firm in the Chicagoland area. He chats with Dr. Diane Hamilton about the often-unsaid principles of business growth that you should be keeping close to your heart. Are you ready to work towards the even better next step for your business?

TTL 681 | Business Growth

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How Persistence Is Crucial To Business Growth With Jeff Blackman

I am here with Jeff Blackman, who’s a speaker, author, success coach, broadcast personality and lawyer. He leads Blackman & Associates, a results-producing business-growth firm in the Chicago area. His clients call him a business growth specialist. His customized Referrals: Your Road to Results learning system helped one financial service client generate $230 million directly from referrals in only 23 months. He shared his positive profit-producing messages with Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurial driven organizations, you name it. He has spoken to audiences throughout the world. I have watched his speaking reels. He is amazing. It’s nice to have you here, Jeff.

Thanks, Diane.

I was looking forward to this because I looked at some of your speaking reels and I love that you’re a question asker since I’m a curiosity expert, and that was a nice thing to think. We’re going to have plenty of things to talk about on this show. I want to get a little background on you because you don’t all of a sudden become this unbelievable speaker, there had to be a little path to that area. Let’s learn a bit of your background.

It’s an intriguing question to begin with because often what happens when people will meet me, hear me speak or I’m interviewed, they draw an assumption, and the assumption is, “Jeff, you are a talented speaker. What a gift to be born with.” I go, “I wasn’t.” They go, “What do you mean?” If you’d like I can share with you a story that’s one that I often share, depending upon the group and what we’re attempting to accomplish during an actual results session or keynote or it’s in the pages, for example, of Peak Your Profits. This is about persistence and that’s a topic I know that you’ve covered on your show in the past.

I stress the people, “Persistence is crucial.” I tell them that when I think of persistence, I think of a little boy. This is a little boy who at the age of six stood in his first-grade classroom and he was asked to utter two words, the words were listen and rabbit. He stood and to the best of his ability, he said, “Wissen and wabbit.” Everybody laughed and he didn’t know why. He repeated those words even louder, and he said, “Wissen, wabbit.” They laughed even louder. This little boy went home and he was tired, depressed, and frustrated and he said to his parents, “My teacher, Miss Nofwab, she’s crazy. She claims I need speech correction lessons. Can you believe her? She is wrong.” That little boy worked hard for two and a half to almost three years until eventually, he could enunciate and articulate and communicate. I know that little guy well. Eventually, he grew up to become an attorney, a speaker, an author, a TV radio broadcaster.

An essay speaker Hall of Famer?

That is also true.

That’s a great story. I was thinking of my daughter. She used to say, “Lellow,” instead of yellow, and it’s funny.

Our youngest daughter, Amanda, the same thing, she could not say, “Yellow.” It was, “Lellow.”

I couldn’t say my sister name was Leslie so I called her, “Hey.” We all have to get past this certain thing. You mentioned a word which is tied into my research, right off the bat, you said, “Assumptions.” When I researched curiosity to find out what keeps people from asking questions and being curious, one of those things is our assumptions, the voice in our head that tells us what we’re going to be interested in, what we could do, what’s going to happen. We do all these things in our mind that can shut us down. A lot of speakers have a challenge with that. They worry about how they’ll come across and they talk themselves out of stuff. To be a speaker Hall of Famer like you are and all the people I’ve had on my show, I’ve had Scott McKain, Joe Calloway, all those guys.

[bctt tweet=”All your customers want you to do is improve their condition.” via=”no”]

They’re buddies. They’ve been friends for 30 years, those guys.

They’re all close, all good and all different. They have their own unique spin. Larry Winget, for one, he was funny on the show. He was saying how he looks at it this way and that way. Everybody’s got their unique perspective of it. I agree with you that it’s challenging to become a great speaker. You guys all have that perfect speaker voice, that’s the one thing you guys all have in common. There are certain styles that come across well. Did you guys all have to work on that perfect speaker voice too or did you have a naturally inclined voice for that?

In terms of the voice, you and I both know, you’re born with whatever voice you’re born with. I gravitated toward the spoken word because it was something, as we now know, I couldn’t do. At a young age I was fascinated by the spoken word. If we had to give a presentation in third grade, fourth grade, I would turn it into a little broadcast opportunity, as if I was on the radio or if I was on television. For me, that was easy because I focus on the spoken word. Eventually, I spent eight years doing radio here in Chicago. As a matter of fact, my radio partner for some time retired from your neck of the woods. Did you ever watch a fellow named Steve Krafft as a TV reporter on Fox and CBS?

That sounds familiar. I did.

Steve is a dear friend. Steve has been a friend since 1982. We were on the air together from ‘82 to ‘85. We hosted a show on WFYR together and that’s when it was part of the RKO Radio Network. Steve, like me, is trained as an attorney. He left Chicago and started a full-time career in television. He retired in March of 2019 after 34 years on the air. To this day, we’re still close friends. We talk all the time. When I’m in Phoenix or when he’s here, we’ll often see each other. In terms of the voice, you’re blessed with whatever voice you’ve got. Scott McKain has a broadcast background. Me, broadcast background, both radio and TV. What’s fun is when McKain and I are together and you can tell my tendency is I don’t call these guys by the first name, it’s, “Hey, McKain.” “Hey, Blackman.” We were in Hawaii in the same hotel for two different clients and I saw him walk through the hall. I didn’t see him, I only saw the back of his head. McKain got this distinctive mane of hair, but I knew it was him. I yelled out, “McKain.” Because he knows my voice, before he turns around, he goes, “Blackman.”

He’s funny. He told me his Schwarzenegger story from the White House. He had some funny stories that he shared. Willie Jolley has been on. I had him sing to me on the show. Do you sing too? Are you going to sing to me?

What’s funny about that is I once got a call from someone who said, “We’d like you to sing in our choir.” I went, “Really? Why?” They go, “Jeff, we’ve heard you speak and we’ve heard your voice so we assume you can also sing.” I go, “Do you want anyone to attend this performance?” I have no ability to sing.

I can’t sing at all and people go, “If you can speak on the radio, you probably can sing.” I’m like, “No. Paint will peel off the walls. We don’t want that.”

Willie, he can rock it.

He can and he did on the show. I have the little video of him too, it was great. Bob Burg was funny on the show because he did an imitation of Zig Ziglar and that was great. Zig had his unique cadence of how he spoke and his son, of course, was on the show, Tom. All these people, I know you’re friends with many of them and some of them are here in Arizona. We’ve got a lot of great celebrities here, believe it or not. Sharon Lechter has been on the show. I’m on board with Harvey Mackay. There are many great experts in the field. You have been honored to do some amazing talks and you’ve been with Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale, some of these people you have shared the stage with.

TTL 681 | Business Growth
Business Growth: It’s not a question of what you know, it’s a question of who you know and who knows you.


Those are folks that are part of the CPAE Hall of Fame for the National Speakers Association.

You’re part of that.

Some of the people that you reference like Willie Jolley, Joe Calloway, Scott McKain, Larry Winget, other people you’ve interviewed Randy Pennington, Mark Sanborn, we’ve been members of NSA National Speakers Association for years and we happen to be Hall of Fame members as well. Folks like Ronald Reagan, some of the others that you referenced including Zig. Although I’ve known Zig for years, because I did interview Zig. He passed away some time ago. This would have been back in the early ‘80s, I interviewed Zig for my radio show and then Zig provided for one of my books, a wonderful testimonial. Zig was always kind and nice to be. He was a nice guy who, as you know, would have the ability to say, “I’ll see you at the top.”

He was great. He was the classic. I used to listen to all those CDs and probably tapes back then. You mentioned people you’ve interviewed. I’m looking at your radio and talk show career and some of your guest. Did you interview Oprah and Ted Koppel and Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Lovell, Bruce Jenner? I’m sorry. This is a huge list it. Are those the people that you’ve had on your show?

The answer is yes to all of the people you referenced. All of them were guests one time, where I interview them on radio. I was also doing TV at the time here in Chicago. The folks you referenced i.e. Ted Koppel, Oprah, Bruce Jenner. People will often think, for example, my introduction when I speak it references Bruce Jenner. Sometimes there’s a chuckle because people think it’s a joke and I go, “I don’t know Caitlyn, but I do know Bruce.” They go, “Tell me about him.” I’ve written about this. People can go to my website at There is a story about my radio interview experience with Bruce Jenner. I tell folks, Bruce is one of the kindest, most charming, funniest, most intelligent guests that I ever had. He was terrific. I don’t know Caitlyn, but I do know Bruce. I’ve got nothing but fond memories about Bruce and everybody else that you referenced as well. Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut. Oprah was a ball. This was right before The Color Purple came up, which I interviewed Oprah.

How do you get somebody as big as Oprah on your show? I know everybody would love to interview Oprah. You have the chops and the background, but still was it difficult?

It’s interesting how that came about. There’s this old theory which is, it’s not a question of what you know, it’s a question of who you know. I also subscribe to the theory of who knows you. What happened is when Oprah started to host her show here in Chicago, she used to work in Baltimore with Erin Moriarty. You probably recognize that name because Erin has spent a lot of years with CBS. Before she was at CBS at the network locally here in Chicago, which is where we live. I live in a northern suburb of Chicago called Glenview. From downtown Chicago, we’re about 23 miles north west. From O’Hare, we’re about thirteen miles north east. Erin Moriarty was here at NBC in Chicago. My radio partner, Steve Krafft, like me, he trained as an attorney. Steve, at the time, also was working not only in law but he became eventually an intern here locally at NBC Channel 5 to Erin. Because of the relationship that Erin had with Oprah from the WBLA days, BLA, Baltimore, Erin and Oprah knew each other. Steve simply asked Erin if she would contact Oprah to arrange an interview for Steve and I, and she said, “Sure.” It was that simple.

I know what it’s like to interview. You and I had talked before the show about interviewing Ken Fisher or different people. How challenging is it to know what it is to focus on? People ask me that a lot. How do I decide what I talk to people about? How did you decide? Did they direct you? I’ve had a couple of big experts in the field surprise me, had specific like, “You could only ask me these questions.” 99.9% of people don’t do that. What was your experience?

What’s interesting is that one of the things that Steve and I did and then once Steve left in 1985, and that’s when he left Chicago. He went to Arizona to begin his television career with both CBS and then Fox, and I had additional partners at the time. I continued the show until 1989. One of the things that Steve and I did, and that I did as well, as we were always well prepared for an interview is if there was a book, we’d read it. Larry King’s theory was, “I am not going to read it, that way I’ll be more interested in what’s taking place.” Although I’ve heard Larry King, when a guest had a long response, he would take a nap. Not apocryphal, I heard someone share that story about Larry King. He would catch shut-eye while there was a long answer.

I’m sorry, I fell asleep. What did you say? I’m kidding. I can’t even imagine. He was on video though. You can’t do that on video. When he got the TV show, he had to change his ways.

[bctt tweet=”Fear is one of the things that keep people from being curious.” via=”no”]

In TV, you can’t pull that off. You can pull it off though on radio. I was always well prepared. Steve was always well prepared. We would try to ask questions that others hadn’t asked on previous shows. Most people want to appear on radio or TV solely to promote something. Every other sentence they’re going to stick in the name of their book, the name of their play. We tried to ask questions that they had never heard before and that made for a fantastic radio, in the sense that it was either entertaining or it was challenging. Steve is a lawyer. I’m a lawyer. Howard Cosell is a lawyer. He attempted to intimidate Steve and I, but it did not work, Diane. It made for great radio because it was combative. It was conflictual. It made for terrific radio because he discovered he couldn’t get our goat, he couldn’t intimidate us.

Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali had the best. The two of them, my dad used to listen to that nonstop. My dad died years ago, but he wouldn’t believe it because I moved into my neighborhood after I bought my house and they’d go, “By the way, did you know Muhammad Ali lives two doors down from you?” I’m like, “You might have told me that. Why wouldn’t you start with that?” He was a salesperson. It’s funny they never even mentioned it. Howard Cosell was an incredible, combative interviewer. He would be hard to hold your own. That would have been fun though. Was it fun?

It was a ball. The same thing happened with Carol Channing. I had heard, and this is when I was now doing the show by myself, Steve had already left Tim Jackson who hosted the show with for a little while as well. Tim was no longer my partner so I was hosting the show by myself and I interviewed Carol Channing in her hotel room. When I interviewed her in her hotel room it was right before Christmas, and this is decades ago in the 1980s. Previous interviews that I had heard with her on radio and TV, they were fawning. All the interviewers are sick of fats, phrasing for work, careless about your show. I discovered things about her background by doing some additional research and I said, “Carol, this is radio. We’re in your hotel suite. It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas. You are surrounded by Christmas ornaments and you’re surrounded by Christmas cards. Share with my listeners, one of your earliest memories of what Christmas was like.” I thought that was good question. She got offended. No one is interested in my early Christmases. They are only interested in my upcoming show.

How’d you handle it? I want to know how you handled it.

I politely continued with other questions that she did not expect. It was a 30-minute radio show that we paid that would be then broadcasted on a Sunday night. At the halfway mark, in about fifteen minutes, she stood and she said, “If I weren’t a lady, I would bring this to a conclusion now and ask you to leave. Why are you asking me these questions?” I said, “Carol, if I asked you the same questions as everybody else has, no one has learned anything about you. This is an opportunity for Chicago to learn who you are, as opposed to what your show is all about.” She said nothing, she sat down, and we had another fifteen minutes. What was good is that at times it was conflictual, it made for great radio. I challenged her with good questions. That’s one of the things that I do with my clients. I challenge my clients with questions and they will say to me, “Jeff, no one has ever asked me questions like that before.” If you like, I can share with your readers the philosophy behind asking great questions, Diane.

I would like that. That’s the first thing that drew me to when I was watching, you said it’s simple. There are certain things that you go to ask. That ties well into what I’m trying to get people to do with developing curiosity. Please share that.

Your business as an example is about curiosity and about creating engagement and how do you improve behavior and performance and workplace culture. That’s what your business is all about. Conceptually, even though I’m focused on business growth with respect to sales, marketing, negotiations, customer service, etc. Those are the strategies i.e. in the fifth edition of Peak Your Profits, we accomplish the same thing what you and I are focused on which is why I stress to clients, “You have to ask great questions, but understand why you’re asking them.” They go, “What do you mean?” I go, “First, you have to understand the two driving motivators of your decision-maker.” They go, “What do you mean?” I go, “It doesn’t matter what your product is, what your service is, what your solution is, there are only two driving motivators that will influence every decision being made by the decision-maker.”

Here’s the first one. All customers, clients, prospects, decision-makers, buyers want you to do is to improve their condition. That’s the present. Someone’s got a problem, fix it. Someone’s got a need, fill it. Someone’s got a goal, help me realize it. Improve my condition. Once you improve their condition, then you want to be able to help them attain a more favorable future. That’s it. Those are the two driving motivators. Improve my condition, help me attain a more favorable future. That will never happen if someone shows up and does a data dump or as was my buddy Jeffrey Gitomer says, “If they show up and throw up, that is a business blunder. That’s a financial faux pas.” That’s why people have got to create power probes.

Power probes are these open ended need development questions. I’ll share some in a sec. First, let me focus on why you want to ask them, because what they do is they maximize the relationship. People say, “My business is a relationship business.” I go, “It is, but it’s not enough.” They say, “What do you mean?” I go, “You must have relationship power.” They go, “Okay. Tell me more.” I tell folks that relationship power is about the little R and then it’s also about the big R. Here’s the distinction. Little Rs is what you and I traditionally know and all your followers traditionally know they attempt to take the lead, little R is about humanity, sincerity, dignity, courtesy, being a good human being. That’s a little R, important. Not enough, you need a big R. Big R is the ability of anyone reading to do the following, to be a growth specialist.

In some way, they’re helping others maximize gain, minimize loss, improve performance, productivity, profitability. The only way you can do those things is by asking great questions, which I call power probes. A power probe is an open-ended need development question that begins with a who, what, when, where, why, which, how, or a tell me more about where we can add ED and ED is E explained to me how and the D is describe for me. The only yay or nay question you ask are related to qualification to make sure you’re dealing with a player, not a pretender and then decision time. It’s okay to ask a yay or nay question. If you like, I’ll share some examples of power probes.

TTL 681 | Business Growth
Business Growth: Once you improve their condition, then you want to be able to help them attain a more favorable future.


Can I share one that you shared that I loved?

Flutter away.

What is the biggest frustration you have with your industry? I love that question.

What do you love about it?

You’re saying the problem is about the competition. You can find out their pain points without putting them on the spot, but yet you find out without making statements. Many salespeople make statements. In fact, when I’ve been in sales for decades, they’ve taught us all the things to say but never the questions to ask. I love that question.

Here’s the power of that question. That question is tied to unique selling proposition or differential competitive advantage. Before I became a lawyer, and I’ve been a lawyer since 1982, the good news is I have never practiced law. I chose not to practice law. For me, it was the right decision. I was an undergraduate from the University of Illinois as advertising. That’s when I first heard about a unique selling proposition. This question, what are the frustrations you have with the industry? It’s tied to USP or differential competitive advantage. Here’s why. It lets your decision-maker share with you, “Here’s what bugs me about the industry.” When they do that, they’re telling you what bugs them about your competition. You don’t need to take a shot at your competition and you never should. When you discover the frustration, what it enables you to do is eliminate the frustration. You become a partner, not a vendor. I stress the people, partners, invaluable. Vendors expendable.

Let me share a couple of power probes and then I want to give your followers an opportunity to get even more. These are a couple. They’re applicable to any kind of business. What are your priorities? What’s the biggest challenge you face in, fill in the blank? Share with me more about your decision-making process. How will we measure success? What’s the risk of doing nothing? This next question I call the world’s fastest strategic plan, it’s applicable to any business, “Where are you now? Where would you like to be and how would you like to get there?”

I’ve created specifically for your followers a sweet sixteen. Here’s the game plan. Anyone following Take The Lead, if you would like to get the sweet sixteen, I’ve got sixteen power probe that I will be more than happy to send via email. Here’s all you need to do. In the subject, simply put Dr. Diane Rocks. When Sheryl, in my office, sees Dr. Diane Rocks, she’ll know exactly what that means, that you heard it here at Take The Lead. She will then send you the sweet sixteen. Here’s Sheryl’s email address,, in the subject, Dr. Diane Rocks. Sheryl will send you the sweet sixteen which others have found incredibly valuable because they work immediately.

You do a thing that Ford Saeks does that I love, and it’s when I talk to you throughout the interview, you refer back to something, “This is something on the site. You can find this is something that is helpful.” Sales people need to do more of that. Sometimes you wait until the end to get focused on certain things that your offerings, certain things you’re doing. Is that something you guys focus on as part of your speaker training? Do you naturally come to that? I know nothing is natural. We all develop it. I know you and Ford are both great at that.

Ford is talented at what he does. I know Ford, I don’t know him well, but I know of the success he’s been able to help others in our industry with respect to their marketing initiatives, their website initiatives. He’s a talented guy. That’s one of the great advantages of many of the people that we’ve already referenced, i.e. Mark Sanborn, Joe Calloway, Scott McKain, Randy Pennington, they’ve been friends for years. I’ve featured them in my writings, whether it’s our free eZine, The Results Report, whether it’s been in my newspaper columns. That’s the great advantage of being surrounded by smart people.

[bctt tweet=”You cannot outsource leadership. Leaders have to come from within the team.” via=”no”]

One of the things that I stress to my clients is that their folks, because that’s what I’m focused on is business growth. Under that purview, its sales, marketing negotiations, customer service, and a variety of formats, it could be a keynote, it could be a seminar, and we do a lot of long-term learning systems because it drives three things, it drives skills, attitude and behaviors. You need all three of those things: working skills, attitude and behavior, because that’s what drives results.

I stress to clients, “You and your folks have got to stop focusing on the is and focus on the does.” They go, “What do you mean?” I go, “The is are your facts and features.” Your decision-makers don’t care about your facts and features. It is meaningless. You’ve got to focus on the does. The does is the result, the benefit, the advantage, the outcome, the successful consequence of using your product, your service or your solution. You only get there though by first asking these great questions, and here’s a simple strategy. When trust is high, fear is low.

That’s critical because fear is one of the number one things that keeps people from being curious and it’s such a huge thing that I deal with. How are we building trust and getting the fear low? Is it more than focusing on benefits over features? What other things can we do to build trust?

Let’s take a look at a word that you mentioned right at the top of the interview, you spoke about the significance of assumptions as it relates to the work that you do related to curiosity. I say this to clients often, and my real decision-maker is the C-suite. My decision-maker is the president, the chairman, the CEO, the business owner, the entrepreneur, the VP, executive director, whomever it might be. I often share with them one of the things that we’re attempting to do is to eliminate assumptions and confirm expectations. They too have got to do the same thing with their people from a leadership perspective and they’ve got to also do it with their customers, clients, or prospective customers or clients.

When I work with clients, and again I’m with the C-suite, I asked them this question, “How do you want me to share information with you?” They go, “What do you mean?” I politely say, “You want me to be honest or diplomatic?” They say, “Be honest.” They know I will never say the words, “Let me be honest. I will be honest. Honestly.” I will never say those words. When I hear a client say them, I politely correct them immediately and they go, “You’ve mentioned that before.” Obviously, what does that mean? If you don’t say it, then you’re not. Always be straight with people. I tell CEO stuff they don’t necessarily want to hear, but they have to. One of the greatest compliments that I’ve ever got in business is when the CEO of a multibillion-dollar corporation said to me, “Blackman, one of the things that I dig about you in our relationship is that you never protect your butt and you never kissed mine.”

I love that too, but there are a lot of leaders out there who are looking to have their butt kissed and they’re the ones who aren’t changing the culture within their company. I assume that if you’re talking to people in this level of being that honest and straightforward, you’re dealing with somebody who’s looked for this, they want to make changes. They’ve got an open mind doing these things. The problem I hear is many people come to me and say, “Our culture is awful. The CEO doesn’t want to make changes.” Do you ever get people come outside working with the high-level companies who know that this is important and say, “How do I make my job better if the top doesn’t buy into this?”

That happens all the time and it’s challenging. Aside from the work that I do with a company where I might speak at an event, many times I’ve been continually working with them over time. I could be coaching the CEO. I could be coaching VP of sales and marketing or their sales people or the top producers. We talk about, sometimes, how they need to manage the relationship up. That’s a common topic of discussion because folks have got to learn how they manage not only their people, the relationships they have with customers, clients and prospects, but also how they manage leadership.

I have had people who on occasion will call me in the span of 38 years of being a business growth specialist. I’m not a speaker. I’m not a trainer. I’m not a consultant. A client years ago said, “You’re a business growth specialist.” It was years ago. It was probably closer to about 30 years ago because it took me 7 to 8 years to start to establish the business. This client and I have helped him grow three companies and he said to me, “Jeff, you’ve helped me grow three companies. I look upon you as being a business growth specialist.” As a result of that, what he and many others are dependent upon is an outside perspective. They know that I will politely challenge.

I’ll hold the CEO accountable as well. I’ll stress that to CEO. I did it with the CEO and I said, “You’ve asked me repeatedly to hold you accountable. Every time I start to hold you accountable, your initial tendency is to get disturbed. We’ve got to eliminate that behavior.” He acknowledged, “My bad. I appreciate you bringing it up.” That only happens when we’re dealing at a high level, someone who eventually can accept that information. If I’m merely acquiesced, it’s not in his best interest. Relationships are important, but I stress to my clients relationship also has to include the ability to challenge your customers, clients and prospects to think differently. That means have them reconsider, reexamine, re-engineer, rethink, and that’s what generates results. I challenge my clients.

I love that because you’re talking about change and that’s what I’m helping out with. I talk to people about curiosity and developing it in them and a lot of it is looking at how they can go through change. Change is a difficult thing for a lot of people. It’s hard. We talked about fear and assumptions and I came up with the four factors that keep people from being curious and they’re fear, assumptions, technology, over use or under use of it, and environment. Environment is everybody you’ve ever known. I know you had a strong relationship with your father. He had an influence in different things. Even our first-grade teacher had an influence on you as I saw. Everybody that we’ve ever come in contact with makes it either easier for us or harder for us to deal with change. You give advice for how to deal with change. I’m curious what that is.

TTL 681 | Business Growth
Business Growth: Don’t go through life with the wizard of Oz philosophy–no heart, no brain, no courage.


When it comes to change, several things come to mind. I sent to a client who I chatted with, the CEO, and one of the things we discussed was change. I sent him a link to a blog post. This is a blog post from February 2020 about change and a true story. It’s a quick story and it’s under 200 words about a client of mine based out of Houston that happens to be in the pipe industry. When I worked with them, how they handled the status quo and they said, “Sayonara to the status quo.” I encourage people to go to our website,, take a peek at the blog and this is specifically called A Fiesta To Your Future and it’s about how this client sent an invitation to her team about how we’re going to say goodbye to the status quo. Things aren’t going to be the same around here anymore. This was years ago. She’s no longer the president. She’s retired since 2012.

I shared the story at the blog because it’s appropriate in anytime, in any course of history. When it comes to change, which is a topic I write about, it’s in Peak Your Profits. It’s a topic I speak about. I say to folks, “You don’t have to change. We don’t know what your choice is, it’s up to you.” I stress to folks, “Everything that I suggest is on a continuum.” They go, “What do you mean? What’s the continuum?” I go, “You can either ignore it, and I’m fine with that. You can adapt it or you can use it as is. This is your call. This is your choice. This is your life. This is your career.” When it comes to change, I tell folks, “You can either innovate, imitate or vegetate.” A client of mine once said, “If you choose to vegetate, you might as well abdicate.” Mitch was right. That’s why I tell folks, “Don’t go through life with the Wizard of Oz philosophy.” Folks say, “Wizard of Oz philosophy, what does that mean?” I go, “No heart. No brain. No courage.”

I love that you have stories of saying goodbye to status quo because that’s what I think is the value of curiosity is getting away from status quo. We’ve seen the research that people will go along with whatever everybody else is doing and they don’t ask why. These rules get put into place and nobody’s questioning anything and it continues to go on that way. You’ve worked with some top companies FedEx, New York Life, AT&T, Marriott, Hilton, IBM, I’m going through your list, Nabisco, there are many. Do you have any great stories of how they got out of status quo? You say you have this blog, any other ones you’d like to share?

A key thing about change, a key thing about success of any type, it starts with belief. Often, when I speak, I’ll begin with a simple question and I’ll ask people, “How many of you have a monstrous ego?” They look at each other and they go, “What?” When we think of ego, people think of it in the wrong way. Here’s the typical definition of ego in most people’s minds. They think of it as an inflated sense of self, this feeling of superiority, and I go, “That’s only one definition.” Don’t allow your assumptions of the past to drive your success of the future. Here’s another definition. It’s an appreciation for your value, your worth and your contribution, and it’s appreciated at an appropriate level. The folks will often shout out of the audience, “That’s what I meant. That second definition.”

What you said.

“I like that one better.” I stress to them, the second one is about confidence. I had a client, smart guy, Bruce Arnold, an attorney. I was working with the law firm of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek. The name has been changed because they’ve been part of a larger firm. Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, I worked at several years ago in Wisconsin. For a Wisconsin sized firm, they were big, about 150 to 200 lawyers. Bruce Arnold said to me, “Jeff, you talk about confidence. Do you know where it comes from, the word?” I went, “I don’t have a clue, Bruce.” He said, “Two Latin words.” I said, “What are they?” He said, “Con fide.” Here’s what he said to me and I never forgot it, he said, “Jeff, con fide means with faith.” He said, “If you don’t have faith with you, how can anyone else have faith with you?” I went, “That’s brilliant.”

On a daily basis, you and I, everybody reading, we’ve got to convey faith to customers, clients, prospects, decision-makers, our people, our industry vendors, partners, stakeholders, shareholders, community, industry, peers, whomever it might be. That’s crucial to success, which is belief. If you want things to change, you first have got to have a belief system that things can indeed change. That’s where it starts. I’ll share with you three simple words that can help people turn garbage to gold and break down to break through.

Most people say things like, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Here are the three words, up until now. We don’t have time for that, up until now. There’s no money in the budget, up until now. We tried it once, it wouldn’t work, up until now. Three simple words can immediately start to transform what you think is a breakdown to a breakthrough, what you think is garbage to gold. I’ve got clients that have said to me, written to me, emailed me, they suggest, anytime someone immediately starts to dismiss an idea is not doable, we simply say politely, “Up until now.” We start to figure out how to get it done.

How do you get the money if it’s not in the budget then?

You can always redirect resources. If people want to do something, they will find a way to do something. When someone will ask me to speak, for example, before they had read a newspaper column or picked up a book like Peak Your Profits or heard about me, there was no Blackman budget, it didn’t exist. I am never a line item because they didn’t know about me until they know about me. I’ve always found that when people want to make something happen when they know I have only one desire, and that’s to help them grow their business quickly, ethically and dramatically. It will far greater impact their business than it will mine, then they find a way to make it happen.

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You probably saw at our website, I’ve also got something called the No-Risk Assurance. A lot of folks in my industry don’t. I will put my butt on the line with everything that we do. Whatever the investment is, whether it’s a keynote, a learning system, if a client thinks, but not going to generate dollars equal to or far greater than the investment, Sheryl will write them a check for the difference or the entire amount. I insist that language goes into our agreements and it’s a bet that we have never, ever lost.

How much time do you give them to show results?

The time that requires for results is up to them and their people. If a client came back and said, “We did everything that you suggested and it didn’t work.” I honor the no-risk assurance, but it’s never happened. My assumption is, it’s about the only time that I assume that my clients are honest, fair and reasonable. There have been some folks that are the anomaly, yet of course, but still, no one has ever challenged us and said, “I want my money back.” That has never happened. I always tell folks, “This will work as long as your folks do what’s been suggested and you as a leader also help keep your people accountable.” That’s your responsibility. It’s your team’s responsibility. I’ll be with you every step of the way, but you cannot outsource leadership. Leadership has to come internal, not external.

A lot of people that are reading aren’t CEOs, though they might be entrepreneurs starting their own business and I know you help grow your business. You have something that you call the world’s fastest strategic plan. I’m curious what that is. What questions should they ask themselves? What is that?

The world’s fastest strategic plan goes back to what I alluded about where are you? Where would you like to be? How do you want to get there? It’s what I call the great eight. The great eight doesn’t appear in the pages of Peak Your Profits. It’s in another book called Stop Whining! Start Selling!. I’ll share with your reader because they work. These are questions that anyone reading can ask themselves at any point in their life or in their career. It’s quick. Let me share them with your folks. Here’s the first one. Let’s imagine we walk out together into your future for X years and fill in the blank with whatever the number of years are, Diane. When you look back at that time, what would you have liked to accomplish with you, your career and your family? Here’s the second one. If anything in your world or your future could come true, what would that include? Third one. What would you most like to change in your life? How willing are you to make these changes and when will you make them? That’s the key, when will you make them? It’s about taking action.

I always stress to folks, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do.” You’re not measured by intent, you’re measured by activity, the right activity, the right action, and obviously results. Here’s the fourth one. What’s your biggest piece of unfinished business in your professional life? How about your personal life? What steps will you take to finish them? Number five. What brings you the greatest happiness? Are you going to make sure that you’ve got more of that happiness in your life? Number six. What kinds of time, energy and resources can be directed to achieve your goals? Number seven. What activities, experiences, events or moments would make your life complete? What steps will you take to make those things happen? Here’s the last one and perhaps the most challenging question, what’s the risk of doing nothing?

Many people forget about the cost of not taking options or making decisions on things. I love that question. As you’re listing those questions, I’m curious to your answer to the unfinished business one.

We’re talking personally or professionally?

You decide.

I’ll give you an answer to both. Professionally, there are many additional things conceptually and I’m in a strong creative mode right now. The tendency is I’ll pop up at 3:30 or 4:00 AM and I’ve got ideas. There’s no way I’m going to be able to sleep for another two hours so typically, I’m up early anyway, 5:30-ish to 6:00-ish. I try to work out in the morning. My knees don’t work anymore, that’s why I hop on the bike. When the weather is nice in Chicago, which is about 72 hours during the entire year, then I can bike outside. If not, I can bike on the trainer in the basement. Before I hop on the bike, I’ll write. I’ll be writing at 4:00 AM or 4:30 AM.

TTL 681 | Business Growth
Business Growth: Transform what you think is a breakdown to a breakthrough, what you think is garbage to gold.


Professionally, I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas related to things that would be related to business growth or inspiration whether it’s a book, a poster. There are a whole bunch of ideas related to that, a learning management system, etc. Personally, what I think about on a regular basis before I get out of bed in the morning, I affirm. I’ve got a series of self-affirmations. Some are personal and some are professional, but I focus on my family. Sheryl and I have been married for years. Our son Chad is 30. He’s out in California. Brittany is 29 and Amanda is 25. I focus on my family’s health, their happiness and their success. Personally, we’re looking forward to Brittany getting married to a terrific guy.


Thanks. I’m focused on both personal and professional. The hierarchy though, is always personal first. I started with professional in the example that I gave you, but in my life, personal is always number one. Number two is professional. The number three is the Chicago Cubs. That’s my hierarchy.

I assume you’re like me, you’re probably not the life of the party because I get up at 4:00 and I’m not up late. What time do you go to bed?

It depends. It will also depend upon whether or not I’m in creative mode and I want to continue writing. There’s a difference between what time do I go to bed and what time do I fall asleep.

Me too. You have much in your head.

Often, my wife and I will attempt to watch a movie together before we head upstairs to bed. She might be on one couch and I’m on another and we’ll start the movie at 8:00. We watched a movie, she did. I was asleep by 8:16 I later learned. I slept for about four hours on the couch until I woke up and went upstairs to bed.

You’re like me. I have to go to bed early. I’m up working 3:30 to 4:00 sometimes too and people here think we’re nuts, but that’s when I think the best. I have the bad news and I work on my bike as well. I am with you. We have a lot of those things in common. I had much fun seeing the success, I can’t believe this is the fifth edition of Peak Your Profits. You have been successful. Congratulations on winning many speaking and other awards. Your life is inspirational to many people. I could see what a great resource you would be to many people. We’ve mentioned on and off different ways they can find information throughout the show, overall, is there some link or way they can follow you and find out more?

First, let me stress, whatever success I’ve been able to achieve has always been with the assistance of others. It never happens on your own and anyone who thinks that is foolish. That’s a bold claim on my part, but that’s important to stress. We can never attain any level of success unless we’re doing it with the support of others and that includes both our personal lives and our professional life. That’s crucial. Never think that you’re isolated because if you are, then you are. Surround yourself with people who will endorse the possibilities as opposed to being predictors of doom and gloom. To answer your question which I appreciate, the easiest thing for folks to do is they can obviously go to There, they will have a boatload of possibilities in written format, audio, videos. If they like to get The Results Report, they can sign up. They can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or let me know when they’re coming to Chicago and I’ll treat them to Chicago style hot dog. It will be my treat, Diane.

This has been much fun. It was nice of Jess Hershey to introduce us and to connect us. I have enjoyed the entire show. I wish they would open Marshall Field’s again or I might take you there. I miss that in Chicago. Thank you for being on my show. Jeff, this was fun.

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It was an absolute ball, thank you.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Jeff for being my guest. We get many great guests on the show. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Jeff Blackman

TTL 681 | Business GrowthJeff Blackman is a speaker, author, success coach, broadcast personality and lawyer. He heads Blackman & Associates—a results-producing business-growth firm in the Chicagoland area. Jeff’s clients call him, a “business-growth specialist.” His customized Referrals: Your Road to Results learning-system, helped one financial services client—generate $230 million directly from referrals, in only 23 months! For over four decades, Jeff has shared his positive and profit-producing messages with numerous; Fortune 500 companies, closely-held businesses, entrepreneurial driven organizations, solo practitioners and association audiences throughout the world.

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