What is common among visionaries is that they are willing to look beyond the horizon and start with a clear vision of the future. Leading from the future entails breaking free from cognitive biases, starting with the end in mind and walking back. Joining Dr. Diane Hamilton in this episode is Mark W. Johnson, the Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Innosight, a strategy and innovation consulting firm and the leading authority on disruptive innovation and corporate transformation. Mark shares some nuggets from his best-selling book, specifically on future-back thinking and leading from the future. For Mark, future-back thinking puts entrepreneurs in a better position to deal with a post-COVID-19 world and any other crisis that may come in the future.
What does it take to be successful in business? Suzanne Evans of Driven Inc. joins Dr. Diane Hamilton and gives her candid take on the things entrepreneurs need to do to succeed. To Suzanne, it is important for people to realize that business is not for everybody. It requires drive, persistence, risk tolerance, and many other qualities that do not come naturally to many people. Suzanne’s insights on business model development are an interesting subject for entrepreneurs out there who want to grow their business.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Mark W. Johnson and Suzanne Evans here. Mark is the Cofounder and Senior Partner at Innosight, which he Cofounded with Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen. Suzanne is the New York Times bestselling author of The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything. We are going to talk a lot about business success.
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Leading From The Future With Mark W. Johnson
I am here with Mark W. Johnson, who is Cofounder and Senior Partner of Innosight. He is also the author of Lead From The Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth. It’s nice to have you here, Mark.
Thank you, Diane. It’s great to be here.
I was looking forward to this. You have so much information out there on things that I’m fascinated by. I love reinventing business models and transformation and all the stuff that I’ve seen you talk about. I know that you’ve authored a McKinsey award-winning Harvard Business Review article, Reinventing Your Business Model, and you’ve written other books and things. I’m impressed by your background. A lot of people might not know you as well as I might. If you can give a little bit of background on how you reached this level of success and what you do exactly, that would help a lot to start.
Thank you for that, Diane. I sometimes wonder how I got to where I ended up in Cofounding and innovation for myself. I started as a guy whose dad was a Marine fighter pilot and wanted to fly airplanes, so I went to the Naval Academy. I was an aerospace engineer and wanted to fly off carriers, but my eyes didn’t sustain 20/20 vision, which meant that I couldn’t fly unless I wanted to sit in the back seat. Long story short, with all my engineering background and interest, I ended up in the Nuclear Power Program of the Navy and was in the First Gulf War. As time unfolded in the Navy, I realized there were some things where the career there didn’t make sense, but I love the management piece of leading people in the division on the ship that I was on in the First Gulf War and in the other operations we did. I thought, “I’ll take and move from the technical engineering experience to the managerial. How do I do it after getting out of the Navy?”
I ended up at Harvard Business School. That’s where I met Clay Christensen of Innovator’s Dilemma and Disruptive Innovation fame. Within a couple of years after graduating from the business school, he had a book that was written, The Innovator’s Dilemma, which came out in 1997. Long story short, a couple of years later, I approached him and suggested that there was an opportunity to do something together. We formed up Innosight and Cofounded it as a strategy and innovation consulting firm, which has advised mostly Fortune 500 corporations. We’ve also advised startups and nonprofits and even the government of Singapore. We focused as a company or as a firm on helping organizations reinvent themselves, how they create the next version of themselves, and how they create a better future for themselves and the people that are in the organization and around them. That’s the chronology of where I am running Innosight and writing books about strategy and innovation.
It’s quite an impressive transformation and journey that you’ve gone on. To run into Clay Christensen has got to be quite the experience in itself. I’m sorry to hear about the news of his loss. What was that like to work with his genius mind?
He was amazing, Diane. He changed my life, not just professionally, but personally. We were close, not just as colleagues, but as friends. He was the epitome of a big thinker, but a humble person combined with that, which was so much of the ingredients of his success. As a firm, we have often talked about learning being on the other side of innovation and humility on the other side of learning. Clay was the consummate, humble person that wanted to learn from anybody and everybody. He approached people and wants them to get their points of view. He collaborated almost all of his books after the Innovator’s Dilemma.
He had multiple co-authors on them because he wanted to collaborate in the development, share the experience, and learn from the person that was working with him. That was who he was. Even in his work of Disruptive Innovation, it evolved into a way of thinking of, how do you advance societies for the benefit of all? The idea of the epitome of Disruptive Innovation was how it enabled new market growth to create opportunities for people who are less wealthy or less skilled to have access to products and services and the usage of them that previously wasn’t there. That became the bedrock over those many years of what it meant to apply disruption as an opportunity for a company to grow. That is a reflection of who he was as a human being, not just about the way he thought.
There’s so much wonderful information he wrote and what you’ve worked on is impressive. I’m thinking a lot of the words that we’re talking about disruptive innovation, breakthrough thinking, and future thinking. All these things have got to be timely with everything that’s going on with COVID and everything else. There’s got to be many people looking to you for answers to how to be innovative. You talked about something called future-back thinking to empower leaders. I want to know what you mean by future-back thinking, what is that, and how can it help them?Being a visionary is something that can be made practical. Click To Tweet
We use future-back thinking as the opposite of what we normally do and should do. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with it, but most of us are in day-to-day present forward-thinking, which means we take what we have now in terms of our activities, routines organizationally, resources and processes, and the way the business model works. We increment off of that. We extend that orthodoxy indefinitely. We continuously make improvements or what Clay would call sustaining innovations. Future-back, in large part as it sounds, is going into the future for more than a couple of years. Get past the noise of budgets, planning, and even forecasting to a 5 to 10-year horizon for most organizations with exceptions, but this is an area of discomfort.
It’s getting into a place where you’re outside of the noise of the here and now. It’s an area where if you spend time in it, start to see the potential for various trends that could converge or be able to start to think through where core businesses could commoditize. By getting a point of view developed of that future in the way things are going to work and the assumptions behind it, put yourself in that future. Not just as a vision statement, but as a point of view of the enterprise, what the core business should look like, and what adjacency a new growth should look like in that future. That forms up a vision that can be walked back. That’s the future back piece of it to what initiatives that you would need to get done. Future-back is one, exactly as it sounds, which is to start in the end in mind and walk back. This is nothing new.
I put a whole set of pages on that in the book. The other part of it is the thinking, as opposed to what is what could be, instead of building off of answers and focus on questions. Probably the easiest way to understand it is to start with a clean sheet as opposed to building off a base and think systemically. By doing that, you can make a clean break from the past and present, and be able to envision things as the way they should be. The last thing I’ll say is if you don’t do that, then you can end up straight-lining things out into the future many times. Especially in a period with the crisis, things don’t go to the future in a straight line. It could be a transformation or a step function. The only way to understand things that way is to start out on that 5 to 10-year horizon and then work backward.
It’s such a strange time and you brought up many great things with that. I love focusing on questions since I write about curiosity. In my work, I found some of the things that inhibit curiosity. One of them was assumptions. Sometimes, we tell ourselves things and we have all of that voice in our head that we’re going to find something interesting or whatever. Sometimes, assumptions can’t always be correct. Trying to put yourself in the future for your vision and walk backward, how hard is that with the COVID situation? How have this changed things?
It’s hard. I wrote as an offshoot of the book because of the application to the crisis in the Harvard Business Review online article, which was Leaders, Do You Have a Clear Vision for the Post-Crisis Future?. We, as human beings, in the time of facing a crisis, our lenses become more narrow. We end up being more focused and be on the defense to address the fear. There’s no question that we have to respond, react, then we’re going to have to reinvent. There’s going to be a process here. There needs to be a focus on all of that because without preserving the organization and helping to sustain it through these difficult times, there’s not going to be a future. All that has to be done. What I prescribed in this online article from Harvard Business Review was spend a little bit of time, especially as a leadership team, 10% to 20% planning, being forward-looking, and carve that time out.
It’s going to be a different conversation than what is the conversation around President Ford or dealing with the immediate actions that need to be dealt with. This is a more creative piece about what could be and what should be. The only way to be productive is to carve that time out. It will be hard. How do you carve out 10% to 20% of your time when you feel like you don’t have enough time, to begin with? For leaders, that means more delegation. It’s a recognition that that time is maybe not urgent, but it is critical. It’s vital to be able to make sense about scenarios that are going to happen that need to be addressed and what planning needs to take place to deal with a post-COVID-19 world? It’s hard, but the first step is to have the discipline as teams to carve out the time and recognize it’s a different way of thinking when you’re being forward-looking and you’re planning for the future than what you need to do to manage that.
Do you think that this crisis has changed the complacency that you’ve seen? Some companies are resting on their laurels to some extent and thinking things are going to always go a certain way. Is this waking people up?
I do. I have to be honest, there have been more requests for webinars and speaking arrangements. Lead from the Future is resonating. There is a wake-up call. Honestly, without trying to cast judgment on the US government or any government or society or businesses, there are two parts about leading from the future. One is, how do you anticipate a true disruption like this pandemic? You can’t come off a trendline. It just happens and it disrupts, but to some degree, plan for it. At least say, “If it happens, here’s a minimum level of preparedness.” There’s a greater appreciation for making that real within organizations, and what are the other disruptions? It’s not only pandemics. As a number of experts say, “It could happen at a greater frequency than before.”
Cyberwarfare or terrorism leads towards certain outcomes that could disrupt the world or individual countries and industries. One is to use future-back and leading from the future to be better prepared. Also, as I put in the book, to see opportunities more readily than if you haven’t had that longer-term planning horizon. The other is, how does looking into the future gives you a better perspective about that changed world, as opposed to starting today and somehow continuing to be in react mode going into the next 12 to 24 months, to planning out from the 24-month horizon and working your way backward?
I’m thinking a lot of COVID things are coming up as far as being proactive. You start with the end in mind and the different things that we know. It’ll be interesting to see how this is going to change crisis management training and what organizations have. Did you find that many of them had good crisis management plans in place?
It’s mixed. Some have it in their DNA, their culture, or maybe it’s even in their industry that has a high degree of risk and uncertainty to be more crisis management-oriented. Others are a combination of the industry and also the lack thereof in the culture. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s one size fits all, but as a general discipline, that discipline is going to go way up in popularity.
Some companies have had a lot of good planning. They have long-term visions and things. That’s created the Amazons and Google. Some of them have a lot of great planning, but a lot of others could do more. You talk and write about some of these unicorns like Amazon, Google, Procter & Gamble, and J&J. How have they been able to get that sustained growth and have that long term planning? Do you have any success stories? How do they do this visionary planning?
As a point of note, we find this intuitive. It’s not literally because the whole intent of the book is to democratize a bit of these unicorn, visionary-led organizations. You’ll find more visionary-led in terms of the individual like Jeff Bezos or Apple with Steve Jobs or Google with its founders. More often, these unicorns are visionary-led. It’s harder to find them in managerially-led organizations. When you do, you end up seeing someone like an AG Lafley in Procter & Gamble, who I know was a visionary. When he came in, he had a vision for how to take the organization in the early 2000s from a bad place to a good place. One of the big mantras of his was, “Consumer is boss.” The first piece of this is vision is something that is real. Being visionary is something that can be made practical.
That’s what we try to do with Lead from the Future. It’s not just a 1 or 2 sentence vision statement, but a simple step one is to embrace the 5 to 10-year horizon. Don’t look at it as something that’s a fool’s errand, but that can be managed. You can put yourself in that environment, learn from it, and then manage it by placing yourself in that from a portfolio point of view. I wouldn’t say I would look at Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos and say that they prescribed all of the pieces of the future-back. It was intuitive to them. The whole point of the book was to pull from the attributes of these leaders. What they did was they did have a long-term perspective. When Steve Jobs came into Apple in 2000 and started his transformation, it was in the middle of a crisis, both the commoditization of the personal computer, especially for him as a niche computer manufacturer, but also the dot-com crash.
Even with all of that crisis, he looked out from 2000, ten years out to 2010 with his top lieutenants. Long story short, that’s how they came up with the Digital Hub vision and strategy, which then led to the actual vision of developing iPods, iPhones, and iPads ultimately along the way. What we can learn from them are leaders who one, use their right brain creatively more than their left brain analytical and are willing to look beyond the horizon. Two, we’re not encumbered by what happens to most organizations in management. It’s not that they’re not looking in the future-back. They’re stuck in the present because of cognitive biases. As we all know, the financial rewards and incentives push us further to being short term oriented. Finally, everybody’s running around with the chicken with their heads cut off with all the day-to-day they have to do. It crowds out any of this creative time in this long-range future, forward-looking time to be able to begin to think about how you develop opportunities or plant seeds for the future.
You touched on many things that I write about there. It’s fascinating because I focus on curiosity and perception. You’re talking about cognitive bias and all that. Perception, to me, is interesting in the business world and also, curiosity as to how it ties into innovation. As you mentioned, some of these big companies, I’m thinking of Google. The amount of time they let them spend on projects, whether that exists or didn’t, and the percentage of the time but the idea of letting people explore things. When you use words like creativity and innovation, how do you tie curiosity into that? Do you need curiosity to have both?
To us, the innovation process of how do you be a future-back thinker or how do you think about an innovation team that’s trying to come up with the next idea. They’re beginning to imagine that years from now, or an entrepreneur that’s starting something up. They’re implicitly looking into the future. The process is not to operate and execute. The process is this loop we call explore, envision, discover. You have to explore. That is heavy and creative to be able to come up with the right questions and to get past, you don’t know what you don’t know. Envision is a creative process because it’s not only about imagining a point solution, but many of these breakthrough growth opportunities are system-based solutions. Back to Apple, the iPod wasn’t just an iPod. It was an iTunes store. It was a different revenue model. It was a whole different business model and system.
Creativity is critical. One point I want to emphasize on this whole discussion, Diane, is we’re trying to emphasize many innovation teams are doing this and it’s wonderful. They’re carved out and independent. They have a chief innovation officer over them. The real dilemma is there’s not enough creativity. There’s not enough of these explore, envision, and discover conversations happening at the leadership team level, at the level of a team construct, where they own the resource allocation process. They’ve delegated all that creative stuff to a team to do. Because they’re not connected enough with it, they don’t align and commit behind it enough, therefore, don’t sponsor and govern the process in a way that’s going to shepherd it over. Typically, these efforts aren’t going to be for a year or two. They’re going to take a number of years to see breakthrough growth initiatives thrive.Explore, envision, discover. Click To Tweet
It’s a siloing out of different behaviors, which can be problematic. It’s fascinating to me to see some of the companies that have focused on trying to get out of that status quo to grab that sense of curiosity throughout the whole organization and not just in certain pockets. It’s something we need to focus on. I wanted to also touch back on what you were talking about cognitive bias and perception. When I was writing about some of that, it was interesting to me. To me, perception involves IQ, EQ, CQ for Cultural Quotient, and Curiosity Quotient. You can’t combine them all. It’s tough to overcome some of these cognitive biases. How much does emotional intelligence play into the ability to have empathy, put yourself in somebody else’s position, and see things from different perspectives?
It’s huge, Diane. When we mentioned the business model development process, the first piece of that process is to put yourselves in the shoes of the consumer and understand what job he or she is trying to get done in their life. If you don’t have an effort to put yourself in those consumer shoes and understand, not only what is it that they’re trying to get done, but what’s the problem that they’re trying to solve, not only from a utility or functional problem? We emphasize that it’s the emotional job and the social job they’re trying to get done as well. Empathy is huge. Being able to have that EQ to understand from that market-facing perspective, and it applies towards the enterprise vision and strategy stuff we’ve been talking about in a future-back way. You have to have the same thing about, where the consumer is going? What’s the future of the consumer based on the new circumstance of that future environment?
That takes the ability to put yourself in their shoes. It shouldn’t be doing trends work, it all comes down to where the customer or consumer is going. The final piece I would talk about in terms of EQ is this is about collaboration. Coming up with a point of view of the future is best done as a team that wrestles with that future and debates and discusses it, as the three steps forward and a step backward. All of that requires understanding different points of view and where different people are coming from. We find it because we’re not dealing as much with facts and data. People bring their past experiences and unique biases about it. The more that individuals can be empathetic, appreciative, or whatever you want to call it from other points of view is the best way that you’re going to get to a shared understanding, which is the process of future-back of being able to move forward into the future.
The work you do is helpful to many people and a lot of people are going to want to know how they can learn more, read the book Lead from the Future or contact you for consulting or speaking. I know you do many different things. Is there a website or something you’d like to share?
The main website is www.Innosight.com. We do have a specific site for the book, information about the book, and the thinking of future-back. That’s www.FutureBackLeadership.com. Those probably are the best ways. To your point about connecting and having empathy, EQ, or however you want to put it, I always feel it’s human to human interaction. If anybody wanted to email me directly, I’d love to continue the conversation and that’s at MJohnson@Innosight.com.
Thank you, Mark. This has been interesting. I was looking forward to having you on the show. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Thank you, Diane. It’s great to have them with you.
What It Takes To Be In Business With Suzanne Evans
I am here with Suzanne Evans, who went from secretary to $7 million business in record time. Her company Driven Inc. has been on the Inc 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies for five straight years. Her New York Times best-selling book The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything set hundreds of thousands of business owners on their fast path to success. You’ve probably seen her book, The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything on Amazon, but what I found out interesting about it is the subtitle of The Why of Why Your Business Isn’t Making More Money. I love that she asked questions since I’m a curiosity freak. Thank you for joining us, Suzanne.
Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.
This is going to be fun. I love anything that asks the question of why or it goes beyond saying something and asking questions. I want to ask you a little bit more about what led to your success. I know you have a lot of talks you give about being driven to quit or the digital conundrum. You’ve got this list of interesting speaking topics. How did you get to be such a success in speaking and in your business?
I simply slept my way to the top. I have the answer that anyone who is being honest and realistic will tell you. I outworked my competition. I’m a seventh-generation farm family. I’ve known my whole life that I don’t have to be the smartest, prettiest, and most connected because most people aren’t willing to work as much as I work so I can always win if I outwork them.
It’s interesting because I work hard. I see a lot of people who work hard, but they don’t work smart. They’re busy. They’re doing stuff, but they’re not accomplishing anything. How do you get out of that?
I’m not sure if I fully agree with that because people who are busy aren’t working. People know the difference. We can be on social media and we can be scrolling the internet, but that’s not working. That’s my daddy would say, “Fumbling.” It’s impossible to truly be working. What does work look like? Work looks like revenue-generating activities. Something you can be doing that the potential end of the activity is money and opportunity, a credit card, a client, or something like that. If you are doing that in a consistent way, it’s fairly impossible to fail. The interesting thing about business is that it is a volume game and science. If you can figure out a little bit of data on the numbers that you need to hit and you hit them about 80% to 90% of the time, it is impossible to fail.
Yes, there’s a lot of people who are doing busywork, but they’re not serious, committed, and they’re not working. They have more of a dream and a desire than they have made a decision to chew through the barbed wire is necessary to get to the result that they want to get. It’s a little bit like saying, “I want to have a garden.” If you read garden books, nothing’s ever going to grow. If you go out, tilled the soil, turn it over, put a seed in, and water it, you may have some problems, but something’s going to come up. Something is going to happen. Most semi-intelligent people know the difference between reading a magazine on gardening and going and planting seeds.
You bring up some important points. There are some people I’ve met who plan the plan to plan the plan. They never do anything but make a plan. We work in organizations where they have a meeting about the next meeting. We talked about the last meeting minutes and then we’re going to talk about the next meeting, and then nothing gets accomplished but discussing the minutes of the meeting. There’s more of that when you work in the corporate setting than as an entrepreneur, I agree that if you’re reading the book and not planting, nothing grows. Sometimes, you’re working for somebody else who keeps planning in these meetings and that guy who plans the plan to plan the plan. What do you do?
A couple of things. First of all, you shouldn’t be in business. People go, “All business is for everybody.” Nope. Business is not for everybody. We need employees. We need people who have jobs. Some people were built for jobs and some people are going to have a happy, lovely life not being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship and small business ownership is the hardest thing you will ever do in your lifetime. If you can do anything else besides this, that’s what you should do. People who plan to plan are not driven. They do not have a fire inside of them. The fire inside of you always has to burn brighter, bigger, and hotter than the fire outside of you and around you. If you’re planning to plan to plan, that means you need somebody to tell you what to do and that means you need a boss.
Not everybody’s cut out to be an entrepreneur. You work with a lot of people who are cut out to be entrepreneurs and you won the Stevie Business Coach of the Year. You’ve made many of these lists of different important things. I’m curious, what is it that people hire you to coach them to do the most?Business is a volume game. Click To Tweet
Everything I’m focused on is income creation and revenue generation. Certainly, when I’m focused on that and that’s what I’m teaching and training people on, mindset, marketing, and sales, and team building will fall into that. Certainly, the umbrella is building multiple 6 or 7-figure businesses. Even from the beginning of all of our programs, the first thing that we are focused on is how do we get money coming into your business. In the beginning, it’s a little bit of a trickle hopefully to a stream and waterfall. That is our primary goal because if you look up the definition of business, nowhere does it say to make people feel good or to stop people’s problems. That’s an exchange of currency. We are focused on getting people on an exchange of currency. People that want to make an impact and difference in the world, their lives and the lives of people around them are also quite a bit of our clients. You can’t make a difference without making money. People will hate hearing that, but it’s aligned.
A lot of people who are reading this might be working for the plan, the plan guy, or something where they’re not happy in their job. They’re existing and think they’d like to own their own business, but they don’t know where to begin. Do you deal with that?
Majority of the people we coach are starting from the beginning. We also coach people that are in a transition in their life and to make $40,000 or $50,000 a year is all they want. We’re not only working with people who are like, “I want to build a $1 million empire.” We work with a lot of those people, but I love working with the people that are like, “I have a pension,” or, “I have this situation in my life. This is something I love doing. Can you teach me how to make $3,000 a month doing it? I could have an amazing life if I added $4,000 or $5,000 a month to my bottom line.” It’s never about that. There is a money goal that makes you driven. It’s not about that. There is a business size goal that makes you a driven person. It’s about the life that you want and what you want your business to do for that life and then going all-in to get that, whether it’s adding a few thousand dollars a month as a side hustle or it’s building a multimillion-dollar business empire.
There’s a lot of people who would like to have some business as you said, but not be Elon Musk and have a stressor, figuring out how to run Tesla or be Bezos or that type of thing. Some people have this fear of losing money. They maybe aren’t risk-tolerant. Do you have to be risk-tolerant to have what you’re talking about?
Yes, you have to be risk-tolerant to make $2 in business. You have to be willing to risk $1 to get $2 back. If you don’t have some form of risk tolerance or at least ability, the business won’t work out for you. If you have to have a successful business, you’re going to need to take on some debt, you’re going to need to invest, and you’re going to need some capital. I stayed in a day job. When I built my business, I worked a 60-hour a week day job for two years while I built my business. I did that because I need revenue to come in and I was starting out. My day job was my business loan. You’ve got to have a business loan. Some people have credit. Some people have a day job. I watched a great Gary Vee video quickly. To be honest, I was in bed falling asleep, so you’re doing what you’re not supposed to do looking at your phone right before bed. Somebody was asking him a question on one of his shows and he said, “Do not leave your day job no matter how bad you hate it. The greatest advantage in a side hustle or a startup is that you’re not desperate and suffering while you do it.”
I always taught on the side as a great day job because you teach online courses and multiple courses. I’ve always done that to supplement because I don’t like to borrow money. I don’t like to go out and ask other people for money if I can bootstrap it myself when I start something new. I’m not trying to be Jeff Bezos either. There’s a point though where you might want to get to that next level, get seed funding, and go to the next level. Do you deal with that?
Yes, there is always a new level, new devil. Sometimes expansion requires extra capital. Sometimes, I’m helping people come up with $20,000 in credit cards so that they can get some coaching, support, a website, and the basic things that they need. Sometimes, we’re helping people leverage $200,000 or $2 million lines of credit so that they could do a massive expansion in their business or a major hiring initiative or something like that. It depends on the individual, needs, growth track, ultimate goals of the company, and the KPIs.
There’s a lot of ways to compete. I was in sales forever and thousands of business courses. It’s challenging for a lot of people who aren’t used to the sales aspect, sometimes. It’s a noisy marketing world. I noticed you gave a talk on the digital conundrum. What advice do you give people to be recognized when there’s everybody out there competing?
The main thing is people don’t spend any time sharing their opinion. The opinion is the only interesting conversation. People are trying to get it right, get it good, be seen, and make sure that their message or their ideas are in alignment and all of this stuff. I wake up every day, and I’m a reactive person. I’m like, “I’m going to look at a piece of art. I’m going to read an article. You’re going to ask me a question. What’s my reaction to that?” You need to build a reaction muscle because somebody can throw out any topic. To me, I am opinionated that I can go with that opinion. When you are able to run with an opinion, that is attention-grabbing and it’s disrupting. You must disrupt people and get their attention if you expect to get their business.
In a time where everything lasts on the internet for anything, you’ve ever said or done. People are haters and stalkers and all the things that they are online, do you ever worry about that somebody is going to pick on you that is out there forever?
We get hundreds of horrible emails and phone calls a month. I’m opinionated and crass. You cannot step into a digital world where you want to be seen as an expert and you’re going to share your opinion and not be able to have thick skin. Are we all human? Sometimes it hurts, but I’m called fat, bossy, loudmouth and I am. Also, I’m called a lot of things that I’m not. I am completely aware of the fact that my job on this planet is to trigger people because when you get triggered, you take action. Whether that action is you get your life together, get your shit together, make money, finally make a decision you need to make or need to send me a nasty email to make yourself feel better, fine. Whatever it is, I want the world in action because you can’t get anything you want by doing nothing.
A lot of people who keep saying they’re going to do something and then they never do anything because they don’t know where to start, so where do you start?
You start with a decision. First, people can spend years going, “What business am I in?” You don’t have to be super clear. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you don’t have an idea of a problem you can solve, you got to think should you be in business. You need to know that you have a problem that you can solve for people. You don’t have to have perfect languaging, the business model, the message, or even have it done in detail, but you got to go, “I’ve always been great at X. I wonder how I could turn that into a business.” It starts with understanding that you have a problem that you can solve for people, then it moves into, “If I know I have a problem I can solve, how can I monetize solving that problem for people?” You want to have a solid business model and then it goes into, “How can I get the attention of people who may have that problem so they understand that I could solve it for them?” It slowly moves from ideation to messaging to marketing to sales to scaling to leveraging. It’s a gradual process. I always tell people, “If you’re starting out, expect three years.” It takes three years to grow a business. The first year is figuring it out. The second-year is working it out. The third-year is rocking it out.
In the third year, at what level of income are most people that you’ve worked with?
We have three stages of business growth. It depends on the individual because we have people that come in with different goals. For the most part, our clients will be anywhere from 6 figures to multiple 7 figures by year three.
Are you dealing with a lot of digital products?
It’s a combination. Everyone is in service-based businesses. That is what our specialty is, although I’ve coached a lot of different people. The majority of our clients are service-based businesses. They are experts, teachers, educators, authors, chiropractors, massage therapists, coaches, consultants, and all of that stuff. Some of them have a presence online, but they don’t sell anything online. Some of them only sell online. Some of them sell their services. Some of them sell their packaged services through digital products, so it’s a combination.
I know many coaches and I do the same things that you do. I’m thinking of a guy who was on my show who did a movie about coaching. It seemed like a lot of the coaches were asking questions of people. It is almost like a psychologist. How does that make you feel rather than giving them specific advice? Do you think it’s more about asking them questions and making them come up with the answers or giving them step by step?Business is an exchange of currency. You can’t make a difference without making money. Click To Tweet
There is a philosophy within the coaching industry in the International Coach Federation that the answers are within all of us. A great question will have you get to your answer. I am more of a consultant. I certainly am a coach and consultant, but if you had all the answers, you would do it. In business, you don’t have all the answers. That’s like saying, “I have all the answers I need to have of how to climb Mount Everest.” If you’ve never climbed Mount Everest and you’re not a hiker and a mountain climber, you don’t have any of the answers. Most people come to me with a drive, passion, and excitement around business, but they do not have the business answers or the business acumen. My job is part teacher, part consultant, part coach, and part psychologist.
It is a combination of things. A lot of people want to work by themselves and have their own company. Is it possible to be successful without hiring and doing it on your own?
Anything is possible. I’ve been doing this for many years. I have seen a few people do it on their own. Even if they say they did it on their own, when you get down to it, there was someone that they model. The fastest path to a successful business is somebody who has done what you want to do and need to do, and is inspired to do, model them doing it, and have them work with you. Here’s the other thing. Not everything works for every business. You can find a tactic or a strategy online and you can try to do it, but it may not work for you because you don’t have the same skillset or experience or talent. It requires somebody to help you with strategy.
Who have you modeled?
A million different people. I came from the Broadway theater industry, so a lot of what I model comes from there. I worked for that industry for many years and in working in that industry, I learned how to put butts in seats, sell tickets, and market a show. That’s the main space that I work from. I’ve had many coaches over the years. All of them have played a role in helping with an area of my business. I try to look outside of my industry for interesting things that are working, marketed and then bring that into my industry.
Your beginnings in New York City is in the Broadway industry and all that. You’re North Carolina, right?
Yes, I’m from North Carolina and I’m living here.
You probably dealt with a lot of companies in New York. A lot of companies are struggling as everywhere else. Are people coming to you for help during this COVID crisis? Are small businesses seeking what to do next? Is this a time that’s even hard for you to come up with ideas?
No, I was built for a crisis. My specialty is burning buildings. We’ve had 3,000 new clients in a short period of time. We launched something called the More Than OK Club. Anybody can join it if they’d like at MoreThanOKClub.com. It is probably one of the most robust online coaching programs that we’ve ever delivered and it was completely free. We went in a 4 to 5-day time period and we picked up about 2,000 new clients. Since then, it’s grown to over 3,000. We are busy and delighted to be so, and to be giving ideas, direction, guidance, coaching, consulting, and support. We have everything from an open business coach to help outline. If you’re in a crisis or something shifting or changing or an opportunity comes up for you, Monday through Friday, we have an open hotline with a full team of business strategists and coaches that support you.
Our clients are doing phenomenally well through this time period. That doesn’t mean that everybody is having hiccups, mini moments of suffering, and challenges because that’s the nature of uncharted waters, but they’re doing phenomenally well. We have clients who are launching in the middle of this. Their first month out of the gate had $5,000 a month and $30,000 a month. One of the messages I’m trying to get out there is that there’s always a pandemic. This is one of the first times we’re experiencing it on a global level. Your husband walks out. Your mom dies and your kid gets sick. Your kid gets diagnosed with something or you get a cancer diagnosis. Every business owner is living through their personal pandemics all the time because life doesn’t stop while you run a business. We’ve always taught our clients to build businesses that survive any storm. This is another storm, another day, and it happens to be on a global level.
It has been an unusual time for a lot of people and they are looking for answers to feel better about what to expect. A lot of your books and your work are important for that type of guidance. Anybody reading this would want to know more. I know you shared the one website, but are there some other links on how to follow you and information you’d like to share?
Thank you. There are a couple of things. DrivenInc.com is where you can find us. MoreThanOKClub.com is a great place for you to jump in and get a lot of fast coaching and content and resources. On Instagram, where I post a lot of content is @TheDrivenInc. Facebook is TheDrivenInc. You can find us in any of those places. We would love for you to follow us and engage with us. Hopefully, we can provide you with some great business insights, strategies, and opportunities. Not only through what we’re all going through, but for forever.
It’s been fun having you on the show, Suzanne. Thank you. It sounds like you’re doing some great, helpful support for people with these tough times. I enjoyed having you on the show.
It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
I’d like to thank both Mark and Suzanne for being my guests. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can catch past episodes and you can learn more about Cracking the Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index. There’s so much information on that site. I hope you take some time to explore. I hope you enjoyed this episode and you join us for the next episode.
- The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything
- Lead From The Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth
- Reinventing Your Business Model – Article
- Disruptive Innovation
- Innovator’s Dilemma
- Leaders, Do You Have a Clear Vision for the Post-Crisis Future? – Article
- Driven Inc.
- The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything
- Amazon – The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything
- @TheDrivenInc – Instagram
- TheDrivenInc – Facebook
- Cracking the Curiosity Code
- Curiosity Code Index
About Mark W. Johnson
Mark W. Johnson is a business advisor with over 20 years experience helping companies to create new growth strategies, navigate disruptive innovation, build innovation capabilities, and manage corporate transformation. He has consulted to Global 1000 and start-up companies in a wide range of industries including healthcare, aerospace & defense, energy, automotive, and consumer packaged goods. He is the author of Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth. He is currently co-founder and senior partner of Innosight, a strategy and innovation consulting firm and the leading authority on disruptive innovation and corporate transformation, co-founded with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. Mark has keynoted and written extensively about business model innovation and strategy. Most recently, he is the author of the new book “Reinvent Your Business Model: How to Seize the White Space for Transformative Growth,” and coauthor of the book “Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future,” a blueprint for how successful companies can leverage disruptive change to fortify today’s business and create tomorrow’s growth engine.
About Suzanne Evans
Suzanne Evans went from secretary to a 7 million dollar business in record time. Her company, Driven Inc, has been on the Inc 500/5000 list of fasting growing companies for 5 straight years. Her NY Times Best Selling book, “The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything”, set hundreds of thousands of business owners on their fast path to success. Suzanne has grown her brand from humble beginnings inside a 350 square foot Manhattan apartment to a sprawling office where she works with clients around the world. She currently lives with her family in Chapel Hill, NC.
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