Find out why your self awareness is key to helping you navigate challenges and opportunities as a leader. Learn how to better understand yourself when things change as well as how to own your mess and move towards success.
Scott Miller is the author ...
Find out why your self awareness is key to helping you navigate challenges and opportunities as a leader. Learn how to better understand yourself when things change as well as how to own your mess and move towards success.
Scott Miller is the author of Management Mess to Leadership Success, available now | https://www.scottjeffreymiller.com/books/management-mess
Find Scott Miller's podcast, speaking, coaching, books and much more on his website | https://www.scottjeffreymiller.com
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Srini Rao: Welcome back to the Unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.
Hey, my honor. Thanks
Scott Miller: again for the platform. Yeah, absolutely.
Srini Rao: So we had you back here when you wrote management mess, and I believe if I remember correctly, we titled your episode, how to become the leader that people would want to follow. And you have a new book out called marketing mess, and we will talk about that of course, in a lot of detail.
But before we get into that I wanna start asking you, what did your parents do for work and how did that end up shaping and influencing the choices that you've made throughout your life and your career?
Scott Miller: And my mother was a full-time stay-at-home mom managed the household and was kind of a classic 1970s, you know, housewife and mother, very blessed that my mother was able to stay home shows to stay home and.
Raise my brother and I, my mother, my mother has never had a profession outside of the home. And I think did a decent job, great job raising my brother and I. My father was a full-time illustrator, a mid-level leader at a defense contractor, Martin Marietta. Now Lockheed Martin worked in very sort of stable classic career for better part of three decades.
And we had a very, you might say traditional seventies lifestyle, you know, raised in a middle-class family in central Florida.
Srini Rao: Yeah. I mean, what impact did that end up having on you and, and you know, what kind of advice did your parents give you about making your way in the world and then, you know, career paths and all that kind of stuff?
Scott Miller: think as I age in, and now the son to three are father to three boys, our boys are, let's see six, nine and 11. I think it had, it's increasingly evident the impact my parents upbringing had on me for good and for bad, mostly for good. Right. My parents were obsessed with stability. There wasn't a lot of flavor Dion, and there wasn't any top ramen.
It was sort of like, you know, metaphorically eat low every night. My parents were both raised in very unstable homes. My father, his dad died when he was 10 of cancer and his twin brother died of polio. My parents, my mother's parents were alcoholics. And so they, I think they went overboard a bit on stability, mostly for good, some for bad.
Not a lot of risk-taking that a lot of adventure, but like I said, a lot of stability and I think my parents taught me the value of hard work. I mean, my, my mother, although not a professional outside the home, you know, I mean managing two boys and getting creative with a budget and keeping a house clean and cooking three meals a day, and you know, all of our homework, we were never taught the value of hard work, which I have one of the best work ethics of anybody.
I know that's direct correlation to watching my parents, you know, mow the lawn and trim the bushes and wash the cars and change their own oil. Then I don't do a lot of those things now because I'm able to hire and outsource them. But there's no question their stability and hard work ethic has paid off and how I parent, but also, and maybe some of the risks that I'm willing to take.
Because they were unwilling to. So I appreciate all the good and the bad that they provided for us mostly.
Srini Rao: Well, so it's funny because I've always wanted to ask somebody, see it. So I kind of looked back at sort of being raised by Indian parents. And of course they're much like, it sounds like your parents were stability, you know, strict discipline work ethic.
And it's kind of funny because I think only now in retrospect, do I recognize that all the things that I thought were a pain in the ass about my parents and the way they raised me have been invaluable as an adult. And I wonder, what are the things that you thought were a pain in the ass about your parents that ended up being invaluable to you later on in life?
Scott Miller: You mean, it's like kind of like general life lessons.
Srini Rao: Yeah. I mean, things that they, they made you do or forced you to do that you thought were kind of a nightmare. So for example, when we were in school, my roommate had asked me once he said, did you get straight A's? And I laughed. And I said, dude, getting straight A's was kind of a rule of my parents' household.
You didn't get your report cards, but on fridges because Indian parents don't do that. That's just what they expect. And I realized now it wasn't actually about the grade. It was about developing the intrinsic motivation to actually finish something and do something. Well,
Scott Miller: gosh, these are great questions.
I've never been asked before, including the, my, by my therapist. So I got to think about that. I've been known to do that to people you know, we were not required to get straight A's. My brother did. I clearly did not. I kind of go back to my previous comment of, we just were, we were raised about the value of hard work.
My parents would we're big on saving for a rainy day. My parents were never caught off guard. And so we did not take elaborate vacations and by lever homes, we lived a nice upper-class middle middle-class family for middle-class. I might say we had everything we needed to, not everything we wanted.
And so I was taught the value of paying cash items. I mean, I, I have, you know, visceral, Emory memories of my mother putting, you know, money in banking, envelopes, power foam, water, cable, church, tithing donations, you know, the, the, the visualization of that was indelibly imprinted into me. I think my parents wanted us to have a, a normal childhood, right.
So, I mean, we, for us normal was church on Sundays and to bed by seven 30 and breakfast in the morning we read the newspaper. We. You know played sports. We had music lessons. I mean, they've worked really hard to provide us with a really what they thought was stable. Well-rounded life. We went to the museum, we went to the library vacation for us was a four day drive to Minnesota to see grandma, right.
And truly four day drive or five days. So not a lot of luxuries, but like I said, everything we needed, not everything we wanted.
Srini Rao: It's kind of funny because even having everything you needed, but not everything you wanted is a fairly privileged existence. I recognize that. Yeah. I mean, I recognize that now.
I always thought, oh, you know, my dad is a college professor. He's never going to be rich. I don't want that life. Now I look at my parents like, do you guys have a pretty damn good, good, same
Scott Miller: with my parents as well. You know, I, I look back on it now. I was at my publisher a few years ago in Miami, and that was my first book management nests.
To leadership success was launching. They flew me down there because they wanted me to educate like a 20 person sales team, social media, marketing, Google websites. And so here I am recanting my upbringing in the room. And as I was talking about my life, you could just see like draws or jaws dropping in the room, because these are people from the Bronx.
These are people from New Jersey, and these are people who are from immigrant families and Latino families. And I just thought everyone's mom stayed home. Everyone's dad worked one job from eight to four. And you know, everybody lived like I did. It was fascinating to watch what I thought was a very replicable normal middle-class upbringing, not a person in the room, not a millennial on a gen X-er.
Nobody could even relate to my life. And I thought my life was like just, you know, a normal American life from the seventies and eighties. And for me, that was a massive mindset shift because although I didn't think I lived a privileged life by any means. I lived an outrageously privileged life to those 25 people sitting around the table.
They couldn't even relate to most of what I was talking about. I wasn't riding horses in Madison square gardens or summering in the Hamptons or any of that crap, none of that. But even my life was unrecognizable to them. You know, a mother that didn't work, three jobs was privileged to them. Yeah.
Srini Rao: Well, I think you bring up an incredibly important point about context and how cognitive biases distort our perception, whether it's reading a book or writing a book, you know, we look at it from our own perspective.
You've been around the corporate world. You've, you've kind of lengthy career you've been successful. How, what have you learned about cognitive biases and you know, how we overcome them?
Scott Miller: Well, there's so many different cognitive biases, right? And there's so many unconscious biases that we have. I mean, I've.
I have learned as the curator of Franklin Covey's thought leadership for 25 years and as an author and the editor of many of our books, including one on unconscious bias is that it's not a bad thing. All your biases aren't bad. There are biases that are helpful. There's biases that are destructive there's biases that are uplifting.
And diminimous, I think just recognizing that we all have biases and that they cloud our paradigms, our mindsets, our belief systems is half the battle is recognizing that not everybody has the same path you took or had the same headstart. And once you recognize that this isn't a badge of shame, this isn't something to be ashamed of just to recognize that our cognitive biases have a massive impact on how we treat other people, how we lift or bypass other people, how we shut down other people's perspectives.
And this makes you more patient, more humble. It makes you more focused on what is right than being right. It makes you more aware of when you're arguing for your own benefit, perhaps for the benefit of others that still benefits you. So I can take that in so many directions, the more you are aware of your biases, the less you're insecure about them, the less you're needing to deny them and just embrace them, understand them, and then figure out how does that impact the decisions that I'm making and how I treat other people.
Srini Rao: Yeah, well, to, to kind of, you know, you back off of that, we're in the process of putting together a series on a cultural, personal development. People will have heard this bomb already by the time they hear your episode. And one of the things that I have noticed in my conversations with all of the guests is that from the standpoint of sort of self-improvement organizations, one of the things that goes sort of overlooked or completely ignored as context, not just on the part of the consumer, but also on the part of people who deliver this stuff, because what ends up happening is that, for example, let's just take Franklin Covey, right?
Let's just say seven habits of highly effective people. And it's kind of similar to something that my friend Benjamin Hardy wrote. It was like eight things that everyone should do before 8:00 AM. And I'm thinking to myself, there's nothing that every single person on the planet should do before 8:00 AM.
Because if you've just worked a midnight you know, a 13 hour shift at a hospital, the only damn thing you should be doing before 8:00 AM is going to sleep. And yet. People take advice, like the stuff they get from seven habits or even stuff like the thing that, you know, Ben wrote and they treated it like a map as a pustular compass.
Why did they do that? And what do they need to be aware of? And what do you think is the responsibility of people who create this stuff? I mean, you're like you said, in charge of thought leadership,
Scott Miller: well, I can only speak for the role that I've played at Franklin Covey. I, of course can't speak for other authors or thought leaders, but we like to identify principles that we think govern all human behavior.
These are immovable laws that are present in our lives, regardless of what time we do or don't start work, what our religion is, gender generation, country, you name it. So we generally like to uncover, identify principles, things like, you know, don't gossip and understand the difference between effectiveness and efficiency and urgency and importance.
Not everything is a principle, but we generally like to. Find principals that are self-evident immovable and or lasting, and then teach techniques, tools, strategies, mindset, skillsets around those. And again, you know, not everyone finds it's every book, or we thought the Sherry podcasts helpful for them. A lot of principles, a lot of governing values apply a lot of people, but you're right.
There's not a whitewash strategy for everyone, but I think I could name five or six principles that govern everyone's behavior. Yeah, that's true. And every culture, every religion for every job. Yeah,
Srini Rao: well speaking of which I think that before we get into the book, I've have one more last question about this.
And I think even talking about those principles would make a lot of sense in this context. So you mentioned that you were raised in an environment that encouraged stability. And I now realize my parents encouraged that as well. And I was thinking about, I was actually writing about this the other day.
I said, you know, all advice is just based, is observation based on personal experience, no matter who gives it. And, you know, I've the most ridiculous example that I had written about was, you know, I had the experience of dating women with small dogs, which led to the observation that they're a pain in the ass.
And the advice that you shouldn't date them. Of course, that's totally nonsense because that's my bias based on my experience. And. My parents, I realized it gave us the advice to pursue something stable based on the fact that they grew up in an environment where it was either poverty or security. And so I wonder having had that experience with your parents in which they encourage stability, what is the message you're passing on to your own children about the importance of risk?
Scott Miller: Well, I think my parents actually were low to stable because they were a very risk adverse for understandable reasons. So I've tried to balance that out. Now again, I was the beneficiary of the upside of enormous stability, right? So when it came time for college, they had saved the money. When it came time to go to pay for all of their own expenses in retirement, they're not required my brother and I to do that.
So there's massive upside to my parents' risk adversity. They never went boom or bust. Right. It was all very meatloaf fish. And I think for me and my wife, we're trying to balance it out a little bit more, a little more like, like my parents are still in the same home that they were married in 58 years ago.
Right. My wife and I have owned five homes in nine years as we were being evicted. But because we, you know, it was a business for us in some cases, right. And, you know, selling and flipping my wife and I have done extremely well. It allows us to send our children to a private school education. So for us, we're just trying to balance that, you know, we always have money for our necessities, great example.
We were in Phoenix a month ago and. A car that we own a very luxury expensive car broke down in the middle of the Arizona desert. And my oldest son watched us have access to all kinds of options, right? Fly home. If we need to rent a car, if we need to have the car towed, if we need to rent, whatever we needed to, we had, there was no stress because, you know, we had triple a, I could tow us 500 miles if we need to do so.
My boys see the value of having saved for a rainy day, but they also see the value of we're going to Italy in August, and it's going to be a very wonderful life changing event. So we try to balance out what my parents taught us with the idea of, you know, I just quit a 25 year executive level job. I, you know, in the middle of a pandemic, I left eight, seven figure job to go out and launch my own brand.
My boys know that's a big risk, right. And we're not spending. Our money, like we used to because I'm in the middle of a, three-year build of a, a brand and a strategy. So I think the boys are watching. I hope what is a nice balance of safer rainy day. Don't overextend yourself. And occasionally, if you want to make a giant leap forward, you might have to take a risk that could not pay off, but don't bet the house on it.
Srini Rao: I do want to come back to the risk, but I want to ask you one more thing about you know, raising children. How do you think about educating children? And I, this is a strange question considering I don't have any myself, but I, my dad's a college professor. We have constant arguments about, you know, the value of formal education.
Look, I think that my formal education was invaluable. I didn't realize it at the time, but I also questioned the validity of how it's structured. And so I wonder how you think about sort of educating your kids. I know they're young, but when you think about sort of, you know, higher education and you know, what you're encouraging them to do in that, that regard
Scott Miller: and a friend just yesterday, 11 year old asked me what he should be, meaning like what he should do for a job.
My response was happy. That was a choppy you should have is what makes him happy. You need to say, but damn, all my friends are picking now is the time I said, son, fifth grade is not the time to be picking what you should do. I'm 53. I don't quite know yet what I want to be. So I do think that we're trying to invest as much as we can in our sons early education's to help them uncover what are their talents?
You know, they may join the business with me. They may choose to be an author, a podcaster. And who knows what I can assure you that we'll all be on different paths. I will not be prescribing for our boys. What their career will be. They may or may not go to college. You know, increasingly college is not necessary ticket for everyone.
I know which I'm sure is probably heresy right in your family. Given what you said flat ground, my brother has. And then again
Srini Rao: like that was the negotiator.
Scott Miller: Yeah. Master's degree is phoning it in. Right. So here's a great example. My brother has an MBA and a master's in chemical engineering from MIT. I have an organizational communications degree from a college you've never heard of.
And I earned three times on my brother does, he's got a black belt, six Sigma certification. He's been the CEO of, you know, but I mean, if you qualify it by money, you know, I've earned. I earned about three times that my brother does. If you quantify, quantify, sat, score. My sat score was lower than my credit score.
I'm not kidding you. I mean, I'm literally, my sat score was lower than my credits score, so I just think it, you know, what brings you happiness? What brings you joy? What brings you self-confidence self-esteem what do you want to contribute? How do you find your value? We know that changes in your twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties.
And so I think the pressures that my boys are under aren't even they're infallible to my generation. And so I want to make sure my boys have the skills to build an income. That provides them the comfort and safety they need that they have the self confidence and the self-esteem to feel good about contributing and doing thing that matters that has meaning in the world that you know, is meaningful work and hopefully a high trust environment.
And, you know, if that means they want to become a beautician, they want to become an anesthesiologist. They want to sell bait at a bait shop. And at the end of the day, as long as they can provide for themselves at any and any responsibilities that they create to others and do so in an ethical way, that's what's most important.
Now, I don't think having a Lamborghini. It's important anymore. Yeah. So I think each boy will find different validation based on their own values, but by the way, we're saving for college. We do expect all three to go to college. But I also think it's these parents, perhaps it's yours. I don't know that you don't place expectations.
I know a lot of people that are very happy that have a lot of money that went to one semester of college. I know a lot of lawyers that are miserable in law and they regret that for years and that $200,000 debt. So I think it's just, you know, not, I'm not always does your vocation need to be your advocation?
Every child is different. Yeah. But my boys came to go become Uber drivers and then expect me to give them a dollar. No, cause I work 70 hours a week for 30 years and I heard everything I have. So I'm happy to have you drive Uber, but you're gonna be driving for 23 hours a day.
Srini Rao: Yeah. So you just mentioned that you left a seven figure job in the middle of a pandemic.
And I think that when we hear that, you know, there's a lot of advice out there about, you know, follow your passion, leap that a parachute and build one on the way down, all of which actually can be really dangerous and detrimental if you're not careful. And I can't help, but think that somebody listening to this basically says to themselves, well, yeah, of course, that's easy for Scott to say, take a risk and take a leap because you know, he has a seven figure safety net.
What do you say to that person?
Scott Miller: Well, I think there's a difference between being reckless and being fearless. I mean, let's be very clear. I, you know, I have three boys that are depend upon me. I have my wife, you know, is a stay at home mom. Like her mom was, and like my mind was so I have obligations. So I didn't just, you know, You have some of the middle finger and left?
I was very, very thoughtful about my exit. It was, you know, two years in the process and I made sure that the trust that I had built with the CEO and the president of the board of directors, I was the chief marketing officer was implicit and strong. And that I had lots of options. I mean, I spent, you know, the better part of three years thinking about my exit, but at the end of the day, I absolutely believe, you know, disrupt yourself or be disrupted act or be acted upon.
So I, you know, as careful in planning, careful and saving careful on having some runway and some options, but I'm definitely living under a different budget. Half the budget. I was nine months ago, you know, we cut our expenses by half and we thought very carefully about it and reigned in our spending in debt and such to make sure we had a three-year runway.
I'm doing some advising work in the company I left. And so I was definitely not reckless in any manner. I was fearless. Now, some people, you know, can be more reckless meaning they can quit because they don't have three children. You don't have a spouse dependent upon them. We're a one income family. So I was very deliberate.
My wife, Stephanie, and I discussed it all. There was some risk and, you know, I left, you know, the majority of my wealth on the table because my stock options had not all materialized, but you know, 25 years was enough, by the way, I am an unabashed evangelists and ambassador of the Franklin Covey company.
Couldn't find a finer group of people. I still host their podcast for them and still do a lot of work with them. But it was time for me to kind of move out of the comfort of what I knew into the discomfort of what I did it and pivot and disrupt myself before someone else decided to disrupt me. I wanted to be in control of my career and to do that.
I had to leave and explore some new options.
Srini Rao: Well, I think that, that makes a perfect segue into talking about the book. So, you know, what made you want to write this book after the previous one?
Scott Miller: Lots of things. So the first book that I wrote as you know, is management mess to leadership success, that book at extreme really well.
And so well that I kind of found it, my voice and writing. I got a book in between that called everyone deserves a great manager, was two colleagues that became a wall street journal, well bestseller, and then publisher thought this, it was a really unique voice in the leadership space. There weren't many books that talked about the underbelly of leadership and how hard leadership is.
And so they signed me to a 10 year 10 volume series in the mess of success brand because I was the chief marketing officer for eight years at a public company, almost two times. The average of that role, my next, what was obviously marketing mess to brand success at launched a couple of weeks ago, up until just a few hours ago was number one in the small business category for over a week.
My next book in that series is job nest to career success. Followed then by communication mess to influence success. So I'll write a total of 10 books in the mess to success genre, because I just think, I think that owning your mess is such a strong and necessary leadership competency because when you own your mess, you make it safe for others to own theirs.
You can teach through your message because I don't have your skills. I don't have your talents. I can't think, or speak or act like you. I can't replicate you, but I can avoid your mistakes, your bad decisions in your messages. And if you're vulnerable not to share them with me, man, that's half the battle is learning from your mistakes.
And so that's going to be my legacy in many ways, is this mess to success series. Well, I think that that actually
Srini Rao: is such a perfect frame for talking about everything that you wrote in the book. So let's, let's start, you know, at the sort of beginning where you talk about something where you say the instinct to survive and thrive internally in any culture frequently gravitates our efforts away from our client's needs.
And so how do you actually ship them back towards your client's needs? And why do people have that instinct to thrive internally and ignore their clients?
Scott Miller: The challenge one, right in marketing master brand success book is based on 30 challenges. This is called it's the customer stupid. If you read the story in the book, you'll know why I call it, that it was based on a 1992 us presidential campaign where it was called the economy.
Stupid. I think it's natural for us, right? Every organization. I don't care if you're a solopreneur or your Exxon, you're going to have this sort of gravitational pull towards your EBIT, die, your PNL, your mission. Your needs, quite frankly, your clients don't care about your mission. They don't care about your EBITDA.
They don't care about your third quarter earnings call and your price per share. They care about their EBITDA, their third quarter, their needs. So in every organization, I write about how you should monitor how much you're talking about the client versus yourself. You have to recognize that there is this irresistible gravitational pull to focus on your business.
And in many ways, marketing is responsible for being the voice of the customer. This is just a natural thing that every company goes through until they have perhaps the scamming and the discipline, the runway to be fiercely focused on their client. I once read that the best salespeople are not those that have memorized their third quarter revenue goal.
They've memorized their client's third quarter revenue goal. And that they're obsessed with their client's success. It seems like a no brainer, but in every company I've worked for, there is this sort of natural gravitational pull to focus inward when you've gotta be aware of that and focus, if not as much more outward.
Srini Rao: So one of the things that I definitely want to talk about, and as I was telling you, I think this is something that is like a curse for creatives as they think way too much like artists and not enough, like business owners, you talk about this idea of staying close to the cash. Let's go deeper into
Scott Miller: that.
This is challenged three, right? And this is really about, regardless of what role you're in. If you're G if you're out, you don't get a side hustle, we tend to do things that bring us validation. We tend to go where our strengths validate us, where we feel the most joy. And regardless of whether you're working for a fortune 5,000 or you're in an Inc 5,000, or you're a, just an upstart, you know, like I said before, person.
That owns their own business. You got to make sure that you are an integral part of the cash generating machine that what you're doing is driving cash. And if you work for someone else in a boutique firm or wherever, or that you stay close to the cash, meaning you're not hiding in innovation or hiding over behind, you know, UX design, you've got to make sure that you can consistently articulate how you are either generating revenue and profit or reducing costs or supporting someone who does at the end, end of the day, the people who build their careers are those that are closely tied to the cash generating machine.
As I think a lot of artists, creative types and right brain thinkers have probably done themselves a disservice because they've gone where they're passion is, but they're not brutally aware of what is their company's money-making model. You need to have a level of financial acumen business acumen to understand how does the organization you work for or with, or if you are the owner, how do you make money?
You can't just outsource that stop saying, I don't want to be part of that or that intimidates me. You've got to understand it. And if you want to build your career and not always be wondering if the shoe's going to drop, because the first person that goes in a company when tight cash gets tight, is the, is the artist is the creatives, is the marketers, the advertisers, the public relations people, because they're not tied closely to the CFO's mind to the money-making model.
And there are five parts of every business, cash margin, velocity, customers, and growth. And you need to understand which of those are most valued in your business. And how do you stay close to those so that when the ax comes wielding, they realize. And they usually is someone in the C suite. Oh, we can't possibly cut Tina because Tina is the brain behind this and that's providing us with life generating cash or it's reducing customer churn, or it's increasing our subscription or expansion rates do not hide behind your creativity.
You've got to stay close to the cash or you will constantly be surprised and having your career be decided by someone else.
Srini Rao: It's, it's funny you say that because I remember once somebody told me, oh, I just want to be creative and have somebody else figure out how to run the business. And I do know once we raised a round of funding, I became very, obviously I was like, that's not how it works.
You don't get to just be creative and have somebody else generate revenue off of your passion, especially if it doesn't serve anybody's needs.
Scott Miller: Yeah. I think there is. I think, I think that is irresponsible short-sighted and, and That person needs to be reminded. You know, you can think that, but don't say that, and that comes out in your behaviors and you'll give license to other people to do the same.
You have got to pay the price to learn the business side. You have to go to read a P and L by the way, you don't have to be a financial expert to be a CPA. You just have to be literate enough cause you should require that. And everyone that works with and for you.
Srini Rao: Yeah. Well, let's talk about this idea of lots of stuff that doesn't work, because I think that one of my favorite Seth Godin phrases is this might not work.
And I remember him saying, he said, before I start any project before I attempt anything I say to myself, this might not work. And I always loved that because it basically reduces your sense of expectation, which I think often is what leads to disappointment for a lot of people. But you actually broke this up into several different parses parts.
When you say, you know, reduce the compunction to save the day, minimize or eliminate frizz, as you say too often. So let's go, let's go deeper into this whole idea of the things that don't
Scott Miller: work. I think the general idea of this is to, you know, recognize as a marketer, as a, as an entrepreneur, as a creative mind, you probably have no shortage of great ideas, but there will always be more great ideas than there is capacity to execute them.
Sometimes your own creativity can be your biggest enemy. So you might need to surround yourself with people. That are good at process or linear thinkers. You might decide that if you're opening every meeting with, well, what if we did this? And what if we did that? If you're a charismatic person, you might sell all nine of your ideas, therefore all nine are going to be executed to be quality than one or two at a plus quality requires a perhaps unnatural level of self-awareness.
Sometimes you should not be throwing out 15 ideas, perhaps you should. You know, I was privileged to interview Karen Dillon on the podcast that I host called on leadership with Scott Miller. Karen Dillon is the former editor of the Harvard business review. She's become a good friend of mine and she is a co-author of the book with the late Clayton Christianson.
How will you measure your life? Phenomenal book, highly recommend this book. How will you measure your life? Well, in this book, they drew upon another colleagues research from HBR HBS, Harvard business school that said that empirically. 93% of quote, successful organizations as measured by financial success, achieve that success with what they called an emergent strategy, not their deliberate strategy, meeting that in 93% of the cases, what made this company financial success finches successful was an emergent strategy, a different strategy than the one neighbor's.
And he set out with only 7% of the time where companies successful with the original idea of the founder of be creative. What was common? 97% of the time was they had to pivot. They had to change. They had to be open to influence. They had to be willing to change their mind. Perhaps their genius idea was not the idea that was going to create success for the organization, for the entrepreneur, for the side hustle.
So I think there's this delicate balance of knowing. You know when to be creative and when to just go execute on it. Linda pivot window recognize this may not work that I might have to pivot on a dime to know your own impulses. I love to save the day. I love to be the guy that rushes in and picks up the pieces and saves the day, not at the expense of anyone else, but I like to be the guy that's recognized as saving the day.
I also work in, I'd like to work in urgency mode. I like to work in deadlines that have the dopamine and the adrenaline. The problem is I love to work in crisis mode so much that I'll cook one up. If one doesn't exist pumping to crisis level so that I get the adrenaline and therefore all elevate stupid stuff to crisis level.
And my, my family and friends and colleagues know that. So I'd give them permission to call me out. I just think it's having. Self-awareness to understand some stuff will work. Some stuff will not have the judgment of when you should pile on more stuff as you go kind of a plan B or plan C, or is your plan B, C and D inhibiting you from executing on your planning.
It's just, it's just this broad self-awareness of how much is too much.
Srini Rao: Let's briefly touch on process. Cause there's quite a few other ones that I want to get to, but it's funny because I think this is something that creatives resist a lot. And I know you wrote about this because I realized that every single thing that we produce is the here at unmistakable creative as the result of a system and a process.
And it's something that I literally am basically constantly tweaking to maximize output.
Scott Miller: So I missed your question in that.
Srini Rao: Yeah. So let's let's so, you know, process is one of those things, to your point, that creatives resist. How do people build one? Because I know that building process has been essential.
I mean, Victor Chang wrote this amazing book called extreme revenue growth, which I basically beat like a dead horse to anybody I talked to like I treat it like the Bible because he says that one of the things that he does, you know, in taking a company from a million to 25 million in revenue, a very first things he does when he goes into any organization is he has them literally document every single process for every task.
Scott Miller: It's a super book. Your recommendation is well-served. What you're speaking about right now has challenged 12 install processes to crew, to harness creative minds. Now this may or may not be a reasonable statement, but I think the majority of marketers of creative types, right? Brainers, generally load processes, they're usually more.
Spontaneous there's like me there perhaps sometimes for coaches and their thinking. And I even had a linear thought my entire life. I, I'm not very good at processes. I'm good at vision. I'm actually great at executing, but I don't always know what, what should come after B cause some as I put J after a beat, right?
So I have to have the self-awareness again, to surround myself with people that are linear thinkers that know how to get from a to B. And sometimes my creativity needs to be reigned in because I think a lot of times our unbridled creativity can interrupt. Our results can interrupt with so many ideas that we actually never land the plane.
The plane just runs around and runs out of gas. So I think all creativity needs some level of structure to safeguard. It's success because I think that the most genius creative types compliment their right brain thinking with left brain thinking, perhaps those around and to push back to harness, to focus, to put some guard rails on so that we're not just, you know, kind of running around and then running out of gas.
And it, this was not easy for me because as a creative thinker, as a CMO, I did not like people reigning me in, I was a big thinker shock and awe right. Bigger was better and everything. And so I had to recognize the balance of when. To surround myself with people who may not make my ideas smaller, but what makes sure that my plane landed safely and on time all passengers alive.
Srini Rao: Yeah. Well, speaking of shock and awe, I think this was probably my favorite quote in the entire book. And you talked about publicity stunts and you said, stunts are classic group. Think your product or service can't stand on its own. So well-intended yet inexperienced team member cooks up a plan to shock and all your way to free publicity, nearly all stunts like this fail.
They aren't either noticed or they get noticed for the wrong reasons. Rarely if ever do stunts when you, that longterm result you wanted and signed up for. And I think the reason that that struck me is because I felt that it was highly relevant to a world in which people are constantly seeking attention on social media and seeing other people get these just huge sort of like massive amounts of attention with hundreds of likes and you know, that kind of stuff, which I think we mistakenly value as useful metrics.
So. One, how do people stop doing that? But more importantly, I think it's a mindset in my mind that you start to realize that those things aren't valuable because last I checked my landlord, doesn't accept, you know, likes and retweets for rent.
Scott Miller: In fact, I have to quote that. I think I go to the book, you cannot staple brand equity to the back of your bank, deposit, slip, and fund payroll off of it.
This is a reason to buy the book alone because I think this chapter is really wise. If I, if I am ever in a meeting again, where someone says let's make a viral video and then that's just idiotic, right? By the very nature of saying it means it won't go viral. You know, I mentioned, I host a podcast.
It's now the world's largest weekly leadership podcast called on leadership with Scott Miller. I interviewed the biggest brightest minds in the world, right. People with amazing success. Rachel Hollis, Matthew McConaughey, you know, Emmanuel, Ocho, Dan damping, Seth Godin, Liz Wiseman, you name it. What they all have in common.
Was they recognized there's no such thing as overnight success. There is overnight fame that does exist. Google Lorena, Bobbitt from the nineties. Okay. Does exist. But there's no such thing. When you, when you interview all these people, general McChrystal, you know, Nellie Golan and bill gates. I mean, on and on, they had so many projects, books, episodes, movies that you never saw.
Rachel Hollis, right? I mean, Rachel Hollis wrote girl wash your face and girls stop apologizing. And 2019, she sold more books than anyone else in America. Second, only to Michelle Obama, girl wash your face and girl, stop apologizing. Nobody knows about party girl and smart girl. And the other four books that no one bought.
And so I think there's this idea of you build your influence, your credibility, your point of view, your thought leadership expertise over trial and error and over decades. And over years, I interviewed someone last week. This woman is her name is Tiffany Aliche. She has a book called get good with money.
And her book is just on fire. She's a black woman that is now, you know, kind of a challenge to Dave Ramsey, financial, financial management. She launched her podcast 13 years ago. She just wrote her first big book. And it's exploding 13 years. This woman toiled at blogs and podcasting and up and an online course, 13 years, all everybody sees is her, you know, 3000 reviews on Amazon in her, you know, 20,000 likes.
They don't recognize. The 13 years, it took her to build this brand. It took me 25 years of a corporate career of 70 hours a week of moving to the UK and moving to Chicago and moving to Utah. I knew no one and, you know, hundreds of flights and 2 million miles on Delta to 54 countries. Speaking, writing, listening, a meeting for me to build my knowledge.
So I took a bit of a tangent there, but there's no such thing as overnight success. And there's no such thing as successful stunts. I mean, look at some of the biggest videos, right? I mean, the thing with, you know, Tesla couple years ago with the sledgehammer or the rock and the window, and, you know, just be really thoughtful around that.
They're going to, they're going to implode 95% of the time. You're not going to be 90. That can be the 5% you're industrious don't want that your clients don't want that. Just go build your business. The old fashioned way, trustworthy transparency, hard work, treat your clients. Well, have a disruptive idea.
Be willing to change your mind. Be willing to pivot, treat your current clients better than you treat your prospective clients. Don't forget who brung you to the dance. These are foundational business principles that will build your success far more likely than some stunt. The problem is they're not fun.
They're not sexy, but not immediately rewarding. They don't give you dopamine in your brain. Everyone wants to go and, you know, spend $50,000 on some stunt. Cause that's fun. It's not fun to call up your 40 clients and thank them for their business and ask them how you can make sure their investment in you rewards them and access.
That's not fun. But if you ask all these business owners, this is exactly what they do. They have the patience, the deliberation, the unnatural focus to plod forward. And occasionally lightning might strike. I don't know about you. I don't know anybody who was ever struck by lightning.
Srini Rao: No, it's funny because I, you know, one of the things I always tell people to do is to go back and trace the progression of any creator you admire and look at their earliest work.
And you'll be shocked at how ridiculous it seems. You may not know this, but I had a, an assistant once put together a list of every single thing that Seth Godin had ever wrote that was on Amazon and Seth Goden, the man who we say we'd need to invent. If he didn't exist once published a book called email addresses of famous people,
which is hilarious. Like you think here's the guy who writes 17 best-selling books. And that was how, you know, that's part of his body
Scott Miller: of work. You know, you bring up a good point there. And I know it's sad, you know, I'd say very well. The guy, the guy is such a pollinator he, his he's an abundant.
Person beyond reason and so generous if he proves a principle, which is in order for people to help you, you have to ask people, can't help you if you don't ask them for it. And Seth is a great example of that is, you know, I love this idea about that. You know, email addresses of, you know, famous and successful people.
I'd say to your listeners out there, if you have a F if you have a, a celebrity crush, if you have an entrepreneur that you're fascinated with that tell you, they're all just like you and me, they all have email. They all had, you know, and watched TV last night, they all did their laundry. They've all got a bill they're paying this morning.
They've all got a kid that, you know, is nasty to them. They're just like you and I, and so do not ever hesitate to reach out to someone. Who's your, who's your idol. Who's your coach who could be a mentor to you and say, Hey, I'm doing this and I'm struggling. Could you give me 15 minutes to tell me some, give me some advice on this.
You'd be shocked at how many of these major. Major thought leaders in celebrities and successful business would love to, you know, give someone a helping hand, do not ever hesitate to ask for someone's help. They've all got an email address. They're all checking their LinkedIn. They all watched their Instagram.
They all watched their Facebook. They're all bored on a Sunday afternoon. It's raining outside and they're on their Instagram. Looking at all the adoring love they'll come across your private message. They're just like you and I, the differences they might've started sooner and they probably worked harder.
Srini Rao: Well, let's talk about three components. I think these were really interesting and I think very relevant personas the customer journey and promoters. So let's start with developing personas, cause I really liked what you said about the fact that we kind of come up with these sort of, you know, fictitious people that are just characters, characters based more on poetic writing and stock photos than facts.
So how do you actually create real ones, you know, sort of map out a customer journey and then figure out who your promoters are and leverage them.
Scott Miller: This was a bit of a controversial chapter and I don't know if you agree with my premise Senator or not, but you know, the story that I share I think is, is an answer to your question.
I, and I'll give away part of this book. It's I shared a story of a private community. I used to live in a park city, Utah, fairly affluent committee or community, very diverse. Not economically diverse, but very diverse, you know, in terms of ration and, and and paths to success. And we all got called together for an HOA meeting because the community was kind of aging out.
We were kind of, you know, getting our butts kicked in terms of new homeowners and new buyers to more progressive communities. So the community hired an outside branding agency to develop a buyer persona or so you would think this would be like, you know, this is the kind of person that we should market our community to.
So if we want to sell our homes, they will buy it. So they hired this agency at HOA meeting, but isn't this HOA meeting is full of billionaires and millionaires. And then, you know, posers like me, right. We probably own the cheapest house in the community. And this person showed a PowerPoint deck of I'm not shitting you.
A bicycle with a basket on the front and a field of lavender in the south of France with a bottle of Bordeaux, Bordeaux wine, and a baguette, and these, and they set up on the screen. This is the buyer persona of the lifestyle of our buyer. And I looked at them and I scooted my chair away from my table.
And you could hear like an audible gasp in the room because everybody's thinking, oh crap, Miller's got something to say. And I raised my hand and said, I don't know about you. I'd never been to the south of France and I'd never been in a field of lavender. And I sure as hell wasn't having a back end with a bottle of Berta.
What the hell is that? That's what up? That's what a buyer persona. A buyer persona is an anesthesiologist from Austin, Texas that works 80 hours a week and she and her partner. Ski deer valley three times a year. And they're five years from retirement. And they're looking for a home because they're tired of VRB owing, and they want to retire here and you get the point, right?
A buyer persona is a tech entrepreneur from Silicon valley that has three children and they want to get out of that hustle and bustle of the city and have a mortgage. You get the point, right? That that's a buyer persona. Now you go after YPO. Now you go off there. You know, people that are, you know, venture capitalists, you've got to, that's a buyer persona, not a, not a baguette and a bottle of her dough and a fee.
What the hell is that? So you want to just make sure you know, your lookalikes and your brutally grounded reality. And who is your ideal customer? What journey are they on? What circumstance are they in? What is their circumstance? What is their job to be done? What is it they're going to hire you to solve for them?
And this case, it was two lesbians that are highly professional in Austin, Texas. And what is the anesthesiologist? And she's on burnout and her partner or wife or husband for that matter is tired of paying four grand a night for a VRVO. And for the cost of three trips here, they can own a home and eventually retire in that's a buyer persona get really specific.
What is the ideal circumstance or circumstances that your ideal client is in and go out for the cause? I think the object is not to build your business with the most, most number of clients it's to build your business with the fewest number of clients.
Srini Rao: Yeah. Wow. So let's talk about leveraging promoters, and then I want to talk about navigating all things digital, because I think you had some really eye-opening points there that people need to hear.
But you basically, when you talk about leveraging promoters and now I'll do this in a sort of selfish way. So you know, we have some really loyal listeners who absolutely love us. I'm talking about who, why, what do we know about them? How often do we communicate with them feedback mechanism, shaping the narrative and incentives.
So we were to do that with our own, you know, biggest fans. What would that
Scott Miller: look like? I'm going to be vulnerable and, oh my mess. So I also own a career coaching business. I'm not a one-to-one career coach, but I've launched a online career coaching video based series called ignite your genius. There's 14 modules and people can subscribe to it.
That's not a pitch for the business, but the set up for my story launched about four months ago and have about a thousand people that have swipe their credit card and are going through my nine-year genius. Career coaching business, right? How to become less accidental and more deliberate with your career business?
Well, it has plateaued a bit and I'm sort of scratching my head. And so the, you know, the natural idea that comes to mind is what's go after, you know, everybody who has a career development title in corporate America and, you know, offer them the subscription to hopes that they'll buy it for their company, let's license, the intellectual property to major corporate universities that have a, you know, in-house career, you know, a thousand ideas on how to develop more business.
Isn't it odd that the most important business segment at the top of our brainstorming session, wasn't, let's go back to the thousand people. Let's check in with him. How did it go? Did you finish? What did you struggle? How can we help you? Do you have any friends or colleagues who might be interested in this?
If you were stuck at module four, is there a reason what can we do to move you forward to you have a great experience. So you become a raving fan and a referral for us. Do you have any interest in your organization for others that might like to go through it? What can we do to make sure that you got everything you did or needed out of your subscription, your $158 that you've met?
So there's a thousand people that I should be calling an email like emailing and networking with not to try and get more money out of them, just to make sure that they had a great experience with my product. But if you look at the chart pad, it's like nine things on new clients and new opportunities and, you know, five kits in the, in the mail every day that new people, no, let's go back to the thousand people that have already.
Extended some trust to me. I think this exists in every organization. We get bored with our current customers. We want to go out on the hunt cause that's more exciting. It's more exhilarating. I use some great examples of how there are some great organizations that perfected this. They just, they go where their bread is buttered.
They dance with the one who brung them. Doesn't mean you should always be having a prospecting strategy. I'm not, I was a sales executive vice-president for a decade. I know the need to balance hunting with gathering extremely well. But there is this idea of recognizing that you're building brand ambassadors.
Are you ignoring them? Here's that? There's a restaurant in salt lake city that I go to. We go every week and we spend $130 because the owner of the restaurant is there every day, welcoming us, thanking us for our business. Making sure that our boys are taken care of refilling our ice, chatting with us, thanking us for our business.
And I post about it on Instagram. We go back every week and instead of earning, you know, a hundred dollars from us once a week, he'll earn, you know, $7,000 from us all year long because he's present with his current customers. I think it's an underrated business principle that so many businesses forget about.
Srini Rao: Yeah. I mean, especially when you live in this world that is sort of obsessed with scale and hockey stick growth and unicorns, our friend Paul Jarvis, who was also a guest here wrote a book called the company of one. And then there was, I don't remember the name of it was, I know the author Bo Burlingham wrote a book that about businesses that intentionally stayed small.
Yeah, for this very reason. Well, let's wrap this up with probably the second favorite thing that I had in the book was, was about navigating all things digital. You said over deliberate don't overbuy, upfront master, and fully implement what you already have. And it made me think of an experience I had recently.
So our investors usually will send out, you know, different resources to all of the people in our portfolio at pod fund. And one of them was you know, a company that basically is helping people. Grow podcast, listenership. And, you know, they had basically been clients of the hustle, which just got acquired for like $75 million by HubSpot.
You know, I think morning brew in a bunch of really, really big properties. And so I talked to them I talked to two references and then I sent it over to our hosting provider and had them look at it. The hosting provider was the only one who said don't do this. And so I waited to see what would happen in one of our other portfolio.
You know podcasts actually did, and the results were less than stellar, which is why I think I love this chapter because it speaks to a lot of what I think is a bunch of bullshit in the online marketing world, which is everybody should do something like everybody should start a podcast. Everybody needs to be on Snapchat.
So let's talk about these three concepts over deliberate don't over buy upfront and master and fully implement what you already have.
Scott Miller: You know, it's intriguing. I'm, I'm delighted that you ended with this. I wrote a book called marketing master brand success. 30 challenges to transform your organization's brand and your own.
You would think I would have a chapter on SEO, a chapter on Google analytics, a chapter on marketing automation, a chapter on CRM. I know I didn't write a single chapter on any of that stuff. Those books have been written. They're written daily, Google that I wrote one, one chapter kind of about technology, kind of one things, chapter 27, navigate all things digital and my big advice.
So you kind of recapped here is just be really thoughtful. You know, I I've had a 30 year career. I have never met an organization who C R M was their only CRM. They always buy the wrong one first. And then your second or third CRM becomes their, you know, evergreen ongoing CRM is that there is a level of impulsivity and sort of shiny, you know, Distraction, go slow with your technology, make sure you are leveraging and implementing the first thing you bought before you buy all of the add on tools.
Because the fact of the matter is most of these vendors now are subscription based SAS models. And they're going to lure you in to have all the bells was up front. You can't possibly implement them all while still keeping your job going and your day job in the whirlwind and solve all your problems.
They want you to spend all your time in their tool. And the fact of the matter is you're not going to that doesn't mean you shouldn't maximize the investments you have with proper ad-ons. I just think don't get lured into this wall. If you don't buy by Friday, then it's going to be 50% more BS vs. Just go into your technology stack.
Really thoughtfully deliberated. I'd argue, go talk to some of your competitors. Which ones do you use and what did you overbuy? Go talk to some of their clients and say, what do I not need? W w w what is it they're telling me? I have to have, if you had to do this over, would you still go with them and what do I not need and do not fall into the trap of, if you don't buy it now, it's going to be triple 90 days from now.
That's a bunch of hogwash. They want you for the long-term and they know they're going to meet you where you need to be, or if they don't, they don't have your best interest in mind. So I know that it's a broad chapter. I just kind of teach, be really careful and deliberate about how you start over buying technology ad-ons and supplements.
Before you have really recognized, do you have the capacity to deliver and implement what you've currently bought? And have you proven to yourself the ROI for that before you start adding on or buying extension services? Yeah.
Srini Rao: Wow. You have absolutely packed this with value and it's kind of funny because I think on the surface, this is a book about marketing, but in reality, it's a book about self-awareness and the process of building a business.
Scott Miller: I'm glad to hear you say that. I think you absolutely nailed it in many ways. I think the book is going to actually do as well as sales leaders as it's going to be with marketing leaders, because I take marketing to task your job is to drive sales. Your job to your point is not to get lights and drive impressions and create brand and brand equity as part of your job.
But to quote both of us, you can't pay your rent on lights and brand equity. That's part of the job, but I really think that sales leaders are going to buy this book and hand it to their marketing counterpart and say, I need you in my boat, rowing with me in the same direction. Read Scott's book.
Srini Rao: Well, I have one final question for you, which is how we finish all of our interviews with the unmistakable creative. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable? I
Scott Miller: don't want to give to me freshmen. What is it?
Srini Rao: Well, I, it's funny because you've answered this question before and I, I didn't get a chance to go back and listen to the entire episode.
But you know, for the purposes of, of writing a book, I've always, I had to define it because I wrote a book called the unmistakable and I say, it's the thing that nobody else can do in the way that you do.
Scott Miller: Wasn't that true? I, if I had to quote one person, Jan Sincero is a famous author. She wrote the whole, you are a bad-ass series.
And I asked her why she wrote the book she'd written, I think four books in that series, eight, these books have sold nearly 6 million copies. And she said I wrote the book that I needed to read. I mean, in the book that she had written had not been written yet, I think. You may have, you may not be an original inventor.
You may be a creative type, but your, your big idea might be the twist on somebody else's idea. You don't have to be an original event. I'm not sure. I never had an original thought in my entire life. I'm an aggregator. I'm a twister. Most of all my content of books that I've done, honestly, quite well are just me taking somebody else's idea, giving them credit for it, but then twisting it and forming it in a way that works for me and works for countless thousands of others.
That didn't resonate with that idea, but they resonated with this twist on that idea. So I would say to anybody who's listening, don't let anybody tell you not to do something. If you found value in it, the odds are, there are thousands and thousands. If not millions of others, who will you just got to go find them?
Srini Rao: Amazing. Well, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and to share your story and wisdom and insights with our listeners. I absolutely love this conversation because you've packed it with not only a combination of very sort of philosophical advice, but also incredibly practical advice, which I think is so rare.
Where can people find out more about you, your book and all of the other stuff that you're up to.
Scott Miller: Hey again, thank you for the abundance and shining your light on me. I appreciate it. You can visit email@example.com. My courses, my books, my podcasts, my blogs, my ink articles are there. All the books that I author are available on anywhere, any retail or digital site on Amazon right now, the most recent book is marketing master brand success in January.
I'll be releasing job master career success in September through Harper Collins, I've written a new book called master mentors. That is basically a collection of insights from my first 30 favorite guests on the podcast. And so you can, if you just Google Scott Jeffrey Miller, my handsome mug is bound to come up
Srini Rao: amazing.
And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with that.
Scott J. Miller is Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership. Scott has been with the company for 20 years and previously served as Vice President of Business Development and Chief Marketing Officer. His role as EVP caps 12 years on the front line, working with thousands of client facilitators across many markets and countries.