Damona Hoffman: This is the I Make a Living Podcast, brought to you by FreshBooks, the number one Cloud accounting solution for small business owners and their teams. I’m your host Damona Hoffman, and I’m one of you, an entrepreneur who’s obsessed with maximizing the time I spend on my business. I always tell my clients that time is one resource that is not renewable. So, how you spend your time and who you spend it with really matters.
Damona Hoffman: But, what if time could run faster for you? What if your brain ran at super speed and you could accomplish more in each day than the average person? That seems to be the case for the guest teacher for today’s masterclass. Peter Shankman is a five-time bestselling author, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker, with three startup launches and exits under his belt, including the popular P-R platform, HARO. Peter is recognized worldwide, for radically new ways of thinking about social media, P-R, and the new neuro-diverse economy. What does that mean? You’ll find out soon, as we get to know Peter and as he answers listener questions in this special masterclass episode.
Speaker 3: Social media is not my cup of tea. I assume that my customers are going to be like me. How do I get outside of that?
Speaker 4: Yeah. People keep telling me I need a minimum viable product. How do I figure out what that should be for my business?
Speaker 5: My company is growing and I need to raise prices to sustain that growth. How do I raise my prices when I’m scared of losing customers?
Damona Hoffman: Let’s begin at the beginning. Did you set out to be an entrepreneur?
Peter Shankman: Not in the slightest. I was supposed to be taking fashion and portrait photography. I was supposed to be on a beach taking pictures in California. I had no idea how I wanted to do anything. I was an undergrad Boston University student. Journalism degree. So, I moved back to New York and I was hanging out in something called the Melrose Place TV gossip chat room on America Online back in the 90s when A-O-L was the internet and the someone in the chat room said, “Hey, my company is trying to build a newsroom. Why don’t you submit your resume?” I said, “Sure, I have no experience. This would be perfect. I have no idea what you’re doing.” I found that sarcasm didn’t translate well online. And, two weeks later I was one of three founding editors of the America Online newsroom in Vienna, Virginia.
Damona Hoffman: Oh, my gosh. That is such a crazy story, Peter. Because, people go through so much to break into rooms like that. What do you think it was just being in the right place at the right time or was it something that you said that got them to notice you?
Peter Shankman: I think, looking back on it, it’s definitely a part of my ADHD, which is that leap first and find a landing place second. My entire life, it’s no coincidence that I became a skydiver. My entire life is jumping off a cliff and hoping I can build a parachute before I hit the ground. A functioning parachute. And, I had no idea what I was doing at A-O-L.
Peter Shankman: My father told me, “Oh, that internet thing, that’s ridiculous. Get a newspaper job.” So, I, of course, didn’t do what he told me to do and yeah, it was a lot of, everything I’ve done has been just sort of, I’ll try it and see what happens. I think the best ideas in the world… the road, the highway of life is littered with ideas that never took off because someone didn’t think they’d work. Right? And, I’ve just never given a crap about whether they were. I’m going to try it and if it works, awesome. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else. One of the best quotes I ever heard, if you don’t like where you are, move, you’re not a tree.
Damona Hoffman: And, I also say if you’re not changing it, you’re choosing it. So, a lot of times when people feel that they’re stuck, it’s just the solution is on the other side of a pivot. I’m curious about failures and what happens in those moments where you’ve jumped and the parachute didn’t open up,
Peter Shankman: Fortunately in my skydiving career, that’s never happened, knock on wood.
Damona Hoffman: I meant in the figurative sense.
Peter Shankman: In the figurative sense, failure is great. I love failure. I learned from failure. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned in my life have come from failure and, I won’t hire anyone who hasn’t failed. You want to fail. I love failure. Being able to learn. What did… Einstein or someone said, “If I succeed, I win. If I lose, I learn.” Right? And, so, the lessons I’ve got, I am a phenomenal hirer now because of the people I’ve hired in the past who didn’t work. I learned from that.
Damona Hoffman: Let’s talk about hiring. Because a lot of the people who listen to the show are at that point. Where their business is growing. And, I know I’ve been through the experience as an entrepreneur of hiring the wrong person and finding out too late. What are some of the things that you look for?
Peter Shankman: The problem is, is that when you’re looking to hire someone, you’re so excited about what you’re doing that you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. And, when you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, every red flag just looks like a flag. And, the same thing can be said for marriage.
Peter Shankman: So, the thing you have to look for, your goal, is to find people who are phenomenal at the things you suck at and who are willing to push back and tell you, “Back off. I got this.” The only hire, I mean, I’ve made several hires in my life and some of them were very good and people lasted for awhile. But, hands down the best hire I ever made in my life is my assistant. She’s been with me, God, since 2008. So, 11 years now. And, she has cursed me out. She’s punched me in the face.
Peter Shankman: She has done all these things, but at the end of the day, she’s also taken away… a month into my… two months into her tenure with me, she took away write access to my calendar. And, I said, “What the hell are you doing? You’re taking, I can’t, I can’t.” She said, “Peter, you scheduled two dinners on the same night. You’re done. I’m going to do your calendar.”
Damona Hoffman: You got one chance and she just cut you off.
Peter Shankman: It’s not a big deal, two dinners in the same night. She goes, “Peter, you scheduled them on separate continents, you’re done.”
Damona Hoffman: Oh, no.
Peter Shankman: And, that was it. So, I no longer the ability to write in my calendar. If I want to put something in my calendar, I have to email it to her and she’ll determine whether or not it can happen. And, that’s great. Because you know what that does? That gets me here on time. Right. That gets me to anything I have to do.
Peter Shankman: It gets me out of the airport into the car that’s waiting for me until the… you know, the reason I hired Megan was because I booked my first international keynote in Singapore. I was so excited. Three months in advance they sent me a wire transfer. It was going to cover my… I had a book my own flights. I booked the flight. I show up at the airport. I’m like, “This is awesome. I’m going to.” My first time going to Asia, being paid in Asia. And I get there and I’m like, “This is awesome.” I go to check in, she’s like, “Hi, where are you going?” I’m like, “I’m going to Singapore.” and I hand her my confirmation number, she’s like, “Oh, Singapore.” She’s like, “You going to Singapore?” I’m like, “Yeah.”
Peter Shankman: She goes, “So, you booked a ticket to Shanghai.”
Damona Hoffman: Oh, oops.
Peter Shankman: I’m like, “Wait, I’m going to Singapore.” She’s like, “You booked a ticket to Shanghai.” I’m like, “Are they close? Can I rent a car?” She’s like, “Sir, the not close. They’re about 3000 miles away in completely different countries and one of them is an island. So, no, you cannot rent a car. Would you like me to price you and you ticket?” It was the entire fee that they were paying me went to rebook my ticket.
Damona Hoffman: And, you had to do it.
Peter Shankman: Didn’t make a penny. And, I had to do it. So, I learned a lesson. You hire people who are what you’re good at. And, who are great at what you suck at. And, you just let them go to town. Trust them. Trust they’re going to do the job. If they don’t do the job, get rid of them, but you can’t find out if they’re going to be great if you’re not letting them do their job.
Damona Hoffman: Are there specific questions that you ask in the interview process to determine if someone is the right fit for you?
Peter Shankman: Not really. I mean, I don’t hire that many people. But, one of the things I will do is I’ll always take them to lunch and I watch how they interact with the waitstaff. So, let’s go on the subway. And, I just watched their body language. I see how they move. I see how they talk to a waiter. I see how they… that will tell you more about… and, everyone’s like, “Oh, LinkedIn. Screw LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s where you’re going to be in your best behavior. I hate LinkedIn. I go and look at their Facebook profiles.
Peter Shankman: I don’t even care if they’re being on their best behavior. Every single one of their friends is an idiot or stoner or posting ridiculous conspiracy theories or whatever. You are the product of the people you hang out with. Boats don’t sink because of the water outside boats sink because the water inside, that gets in. So, if you are surrounded by people who are not of the same caliber or not of great caliber, you are going to sink. You want people who lift you up and you want to be surrounded by people who lift you up and you want the people who work for you to be surrounded by people who lift them up so they can do better for you.
Damona Hoffman: Exactly. So, let’s say we’re at the point now where we’re scaling our business. It’s more than a couple of employees. And, you’ve taken something that maybe was a hobby or a passion of yours or something that you were really good at and now you have to scale it up, scale it out. How do you switch into that mode from creator into manager?
Peter Shankman: Well, I hate being a manager. I am terrible at being a manager and I’m the first person to admit I’m terrible at being a manager. The reason I sold help report reporter out was because, if I wanted to grow it past where it was, I would’ve had a higher 15 people and manage them. And, who the hell want it? That’s bullshit. I’m don’t going to do that. I hate that stuff.
Peter Shankman: So, for me it’s a lot easier to make the decision, “Okay, I’m going to sell it, I’m going to take my money and run.” And, that was great. On the flip side, one of the things you do, again, hire people who have your vision, but understand that no one’s ever going to be as passionate about your thing as you. Ever.
Damona Hoffman: Right.
Peter Shankman: Right? And, so, you can’t hire someone and expect that same level of passion so you can just go chill on a beach. That’s not going to happen. You still have to be there with that same level of passion until the day you sell it or it gets acquired or whatever. You can take time off. You can do a little less of the day to day because you’re hiring people to do that. But you have to have that same passion. You have to keep bringing it every single day. That’ll never go away.
Damona Hoffman: To Peter, it’s essential for entrepreneurs to learn how to juggle many things at the same time. It’s just part of the job, part of the lifestyle of owning a business. This comes from the realtime experience of creating and managing a number of projects simultaneously. And, also from the guest on his podcast Faster Than Normal, about how successful people with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, manage their busy day to day lives. That’s what we mean by embracing neuro diversity and the different ways we all think.
Damona Hoffman: Do you see your ADHD as an asset?
Peter Shankman: Oh God, yes. It is the cornerstone of everything I’ve done successfully. Back when I was growing up, it didn’t exist. Back when I was growing up in the New York City public schools, ADHD was sit down, you’re disrupting the class disease. It wasn’t a real thing. And, I never could understand why I was always different why I was always speaking out in class, why I was always couldn’t pay attention. Except for the things I love.
Peter Shankman: I had to learn a different way of learning. Problem is, in the 80s New York City public schools, even today in public schools, a different way of learning isn’t necessarily acceptable. If you’re one teacher and you have 35 kids, I get it. It’s difficult. You can’t have five kids that are different. But, we have to change that. And, so, my ADHD growing up, the stuff that got me in trouble got me suspended, got me kicked out of school, got me through college by the skin of my teeth, that’s the stuff now that is making me a fortune. Not a fortune, but, that keeps me happy.
Peter Shankman: And, the premise is that I can use those talents and those things that got me called out and got me beaten up. Those are actually gifts. And, one of the greatest things about ADHD is that your mind can go from point a to point B to point X in like three seconds and you can come up with a story and connect it and it works. The greatest thing about ADHD is also that you have the ability to say, “Hey, this sounds like a great idea. Let’s see what happens.”
Peter Shankman: How it was started. I came up with the idea on a flight… as I was walking to the airport at L-A-X, when I was in the lounge, I called a guy who built websites since 2007 and I said… or, early 2007… yeah, early 2007.
Peter Shankman: And, I’m like, “Hey, I want to do this thing.” And he goes, “Yeah, I could put a framework together.” Cool. I fly from LA to Houston. I connect in Houston. Connect and Houston. I go to the lounge, I have a soda. I call the guy. I’m like, “How’s it going?” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, it’s done here. Go to this website.” I’m like, “Oh, that looks awesome.” From the flight from Houston to New York, I sent an email to a bunch of friends, “Hey, I’ve started this mailing list. If you want to get on it, [inaudible 00:11:45]”
Peter Shankman: I landed in New York. Hara was built and running.
Damona Hoffman: Wow.
Peter Shankman: Within a month we had an advertiser. It was literally, that’s how brain works. And, the downside of that is that kids are that quick. Just like I am. And, that is not necessarily what a teacher wants all the time. And, that gets you in trouble. You have to… it’s great to have a Ferrari. If you don’t know how to drive it. You’re going to crash into a tree. Have to learn how to drive your brain.
Damona Hoffman: So, you didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until you were an adult? Until much later.
Peter Shankman: I had a therapist who threw a book at me called delivered from distraction. Literally, he threw the book at me. And, he said, “Here, read this. It’ll help you with your ADHD.” I’m like, “What is ADHD?” He’s like, “Well, you obviously have ADHD. Weren’t you diagnosed?” I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “I’ve been with you for eight years. How the hell have you never been diagnosed with ADHD? You obviously have it. You’re the poster child.” I’m like, “Thanks. You’re a good therapist.”
Peter Shankman: Funny thing is he’s still my therapist. Great guy. But, yeah, it was like, here’s the thing, the diagnosis didn’t change anything. It just put a name to all that I was already doing. Everything I already had. Everything I knew I had. How my brain works, everything like that. I just had a name for it. I was like, “Oh, cool. This makes sense.” Other people have it.
Peter Shankman: Yeah. I mean I understood it changed the way I think of chemistry. A lot of things made a lot of sense. There’s a reason I skydive. When I jump out of an airplane, my dopamine and serotonin and adrenaline go to full mast. They’re never a full mast. Because, when you’re ADHD, you have 25% less monoamine inhibitors that create dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline. But, when you’re jumping out of a plane, they give you 150%. All the focus chemicals we could possibly make.
Peter Shankman: So, the nice thing about that is when you land two minutes later after the skydive, you’re still quite alive. You’re still full of those chemicals. They haven’t just disappeared. You have to dissipate them over several hours. So, I’ll bring my laptop to the drop zone. I will sit down after a jump, throw my gear in a corner and write 10,000 words in 30 minutes.
Damona Hoffman: That is so important to know where you are most effective. How to set up the working environment so that you are doing your best. I know I am not a night owl. I am a morning person.
Peter Shankman: I am a morning person.
Damona Hoffman: You get up really early.
Peter Shankman: I’m up at 3:45 in the morning. Yeah. And, I’m so excited for this plane. I’m flying to Abu Dhabi tonight and I’m so excited for that because I have probably about a hundred or so pages that I want to write. I’m working on my sixth book. And, I have, over the next two weeks, I’m in Abu Dhabi. I’m in Zurich, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, and Bangkok over the next two weeks. And, I come home in between to see my daughter. 12 hours in flight, eight hours in fight, 14 hours in flight to do nothing but write. No distractions, just write.
Damona Hoffman: How do you stay focused in situations like that? Especially having ADHD.
Peter Shankman: Well, that’s the whole point. I’m on a plane. Where the hell am I going to go?
Damona Hoffman: You can’t go anywhere.
Peter Shankman: I can’t leave right. You sit down, they give you the food. I don’t eat on the plane because the food is designed to put you to sleep. So, I’ll bring some beef jerky or bring whatever and I’ll have some water. I’ll have, maybe, a Diet Coke every hour. I’ll jump up every hour. Do squats in the galley. You bring M and Ms to the flight attendants before the flight starts and they’ll let you do whatever you want. So, you can do squats in the galley to keep your blood flowing. And, I will write, I mean, I wrote Zombie… Fast the Normal, no, Zombie Loyalists. My book on customer service. That was written… I had a year to do it.
Peter Shankman: I did all the research the first month and then forgot about it for 11 months. And, my editor at the time, my publisher called me. He’s like, “Hey, book’s due in two weeks.” I’m like, “No problem.” I hung up the phone. I booked a flight from New York to Tokyo. New York, Tokyo, leaving the next morning. I took my laptop, a power cord and a sweatshirt. I get on the plane. Headphones. I get on the plane. I wrote chapters one through five on the flight to Tokyo.
Peter Shankman: Landed in Tokyo. Went to the lounge. Took a shower, had a cup of coffee, had another cup of coffee, got back on the same plane, same seat two hours later, flew back to New York, wrote chapters six through 10, landed back at Newark 34 hours after I took off with a book. And, then, got detained by Homeland Security for five hours and never actually cleared immigration when I hit Tokyo.
Damona Hoffman: Oh, no.
Peter Shankman: But, long story short, I wrote a book. And, yeah. That works. Because, what else are you going to do? You’re on a plane using your laptop. I use a wonderful app on my Mac called OmmWriter, O-M-M writer, which shuts down all your notifications and locks the rest of your computer. All you can do is focus on the words.
Damona Hoffman: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you have to create that environment for yourself.
Peter Shankman: But, that’s where it is. It’s on a plane.
Damona Hoffman: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: I can’t do that in my office. I can do a little bit, but, I’m not going to go into that zone of focus, I call it, and get my work done.
Damona Hoffman: You move very fast. You get a lot done. And, I know a lot of entrepreneurs that when they’re starting out, they’re thinking they have to do everything. They have to do everything at once. They’re working 18 hour days.
Peter Shankman: That’s the Gary Vaynerchuk theory. And, it’s a blatant mistake. It is. It is. It is. The Gary Vaynerchuk theory is hustle, hustle, hustle until you die. And, if you have 21 hours to live or 21 hours a day and you have a kid and you only have three hours of sleep every night. Well, sleep one hour and work two more.
Peter Shankman: And, that’s a prescription to kill yourself. And it’s a mistake. I respect Gary. He’s done very well. But, I get eight hours of sleep a night and I am very successful. And, most people I meet who are very successful get eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep is the most important thing you can do to reset your brain, to give you time to build and get stronger. And, the people who aren’t doing it, you can tell who they are and how they look and they are not as successful.
Peter Shankman: I used to be like that. I used to survive on Diet Pepsi and caffeine and I dipped tea bags and Diet Pepsi, leave them overnight and then drink them.
Damona Hoffman: Oh, my.
Peter Shankman: And, it was horrible. And, I thought I was the smartest person in the world and I wasn’t. And, I was destroying myself. And, my daughter… I’m a single dad and my daughter goes down around seven. Well, I heard bedtime’s eight o’clock but until she learns how to tell time, eight o’clock is whenever the hell I say eight o’clock is.
Damona Hoffman: I love daylight savings for that reason. Like, look, it’s dark, it’s dark. Time to go to bed.
Peter Shankman: She goes to sleep at like 7:30 or whatever on the nights I have her. Which is about half a week, little more than half a week. And, I’m usually out by eight o’clock and. But the difference is I’m up at 3:45. I have automatic… my curtain, my shades, by blackout shades are automatic.
Peter Shankman: They start coming up around 3:45. My lights come on around 3:50. I’m awake. And, I sleep in my bike shorts and a pair of socks. And, I wake up, the lights are on, there come up at like sunlight, the shades are open. It’s 3:45 in the morning. It’s pretty hard to go back to sleep at that moment. So, I take two inches to my left. I get on my Peloton bike and I start riding. Sometimes I do 45 minutes, sometimes do 10 minutes, sometimes I do two hours. But, I do the workout because I need that workout to get that dopamine to make my day happen. And, I can’t do that if I’m not getting a decent night’s sleep.
Damona Hoffman: It sounds like there’s a big theme in your life of understanding who you are, understanding your body, understanding what you need.
Peter Shankman: You have to know everything about yourself. Because, if you don’t, how can you be at your best? And, that involves exercise, eating healthy. And look, I’m not perfect. I mean, my God, I live in Manhattan. If you don’t eat pizza on a regular basis, you get deported. But, you have to take care of yourself. And, you have to know yourself, know what you’re good at, know your strengths and weaknesses and you can improve. Constantly focused on improving. I mean, that’s why I love the Peloton bike so much. Every day is a chance to do better than I did yesterday. But, I need to make it clear that I’m also not on this pedestal. I also have days where I will just go eat a pizza. Not a slice of pizza, but, a pizza. Because, I don’t moderate.
Peter Shankman: I don’t have… when you’re ADHD and most of the entrepreneurs are like this, you don’t have the ability to moderate. I have two speeds. I only have two speeds in my life and that’s it. And, they are namaste and I’ll cut a bitch. And, there was no… there’s no middle ground there. There’s literally no middle ground. I don’t know how to moderate.
Peter Shankman: I quit drinking because I wouldn’t have one drink. I wasn’t going out and having 15 drinks. I wasn’t going and pillaging villages or anything like that. But, I’d have six drinks. I’d go home, I’d go to sleep. I wouldn’t wake up super early the next day. I wouldn’t work out cause I’d be a little tired. Well, I haven’t had… screw it, I haven’t had… I didn’t go work out. I might as well order two bacon egg and cheese and get the alcohol out of my system.
Peter Shankman: Well, if I did that, screw it, let’s have pizza for dinner. Nine months later. And, I tried about a bout a year and a half. I’d been dry for like three years, about a year and a half ago. I’m like, “Hey, you know what? Maybe I can. Let’s see if I’ve learned.” Had a drink. Had a couple drinks. Nine months later and 40 pounds gained, Morgan Freeman started narrating my life. In fact, Peter couldn’t moderate. And, it was just like, I learned this lesson. And, so, you have to understand yourself. And, it’s like the line from War Games, the only winning move for me is not to play. So, don’t play.
Damona Hoffman: Speaking of winning moves, in my business press drives a lot of my customers to me. So, being in this studio with the creator of HARO, a platform that is instrumental in connecting journalists to entrepreneurs, I had to take the opportunity to ask how our listeners can be more successful with their media pitches.
Damona Hoffman: People are always asking me what’s the secret? And, even with help of a reporter out there are so many different queries, and, I know as somebody that also gets queries, you get sometimes hundreds of responses. Do you have any insights either from your work at A-O-L or your work at help a reporter out for entrepreneurs that are trying to get press for their business?
Peter Shankman: Don’t focus on yourself. Focus on something you see in the industry as a trend. So, what is your business doing and how is that affecting the mass populous? So, not, “Oh, I have this business, we make widgets.” But, rather, “I have this business and there are four other companies that also have these businesses and they just projected that between the five of our companies, we are going to totally disrupt a $14 billion industry and affect one of every three people.” Don’t worry about giving your competitors press. If you’re the one bringing the store to the reporter and it’s big and they will feature you in the most. But, give them a trend story. And, you’re five times, 5,000 times more likely to get pickup than you are if you just tried to pitch yourself. No one cares what you’re doing. They care what’s going on in the world.
Damona Hoffman: We’d have a segment called tips or tools.
Peter Shankman: Okay.
Damona Hoffman: And, if you could share one tip or one tool with our audience that makes you able to live the life you lead and the business that you have, that would be helpful.
Peter Shankman: I’ll give you two. So, followupthen.com is hands down the best tool utility in the world. It is free. You send an email to any time. So, I can send an email to 6AM@followupthen.com, 4PM@followupthen.com, December21st@followupthen.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. And, in whatever amount of time that was. It’ll simply send an email back to me. So, I can blind copy email@example.com when I’m sending an email to a client and waiting on a contract. If I don’t get it, if I don’t hear from them in three days, the blind copy comes back to me.
Peter Shankman: And I say, “Oh, yeah, where the hell are they?” And, I can remind them. It is literally like it is a calendar, tickler service rolled into one. When my ex calls me and says, “Make sure that our daughter has her black shoes in her book bag because I want them for Thanksgiving tomorrow.” I know that we are leaving the house at 7:45 to get her. I’m leaving the house there at 7:45 to get to school, at 7:30 an email arrives. Put the black shoes in her book bag. It is hands down the greatest thing in the world. You parked in zone four. Send it for three days now when my flight lands. Whatever it is, it’s the greatest tool in the world.
Damona Hoffman: I have never heard of it. So, thank you.
Peter Shankman: Followupthen.com.
Damona Hoffman: Follow up then. We’ll put in the show notes.
Damona Hoffman: This is just the beginning of Peter’s valuable feedback. Because, we have been collecting questions from our listeners for this special masterclass episode. This one actually came up a few times in a few different ways at our last I make a living live event.
Speaker 3: Social media is not my cup of tea. I assume that my customers are going to be like me. How do I get outside of that? I think my customers are going to be people like me who probably don’t use social media.
Peter Shankman: What I recommend you do is you don’t worry so much about social. You can hire people who are good at it. The key to great social media is great content. And, the key great content is respecting your audience. Figure out what your audience wants to hear. And, do that by asking them.
Peter Shankman: Reach out to your audience. Ask them what they want. What excites you guys? What do you love about what I’m doing? What do you like? And, listen to them. And from that research, what kind of stuff is fascinating to post. The stuff I post on For Fast Then Normal is conversations that I’ve had with people with ADHD. It’s funny memes, it’s whatever. But, it’s things I know people will relate to. Because, having an audience is mandatory for your business so you don’t have the right to an audience. You got to earn the privilege of having an audience by delivering great content. And, coming up with new things that your audience will appreciate and enjoy and want to share.
Peter Shankman: That’s a privilege. You don’t have the right to an audience. They can go away. You start putting up crap, they’re going to go away. Make sure you focus on the audience. The stuff you’re putting up on social needs to be for the audience. And, you’ll find also that if you start doing it like that, it’s a lot easier to do.
Damona Hoffman: I find that a lot of people worry about whether they need to… they need to buy ads. Or, buy followers.
Peter Shankman: Don’t worry about followers, don’t worry about fans. Don’t want any of that crap. Instagram just hid likes, which is awesome.
Damona Hoffman: Did it?
Peter Shankman: Yeah. Now it basically just shows up liked by Emily P. and others. The only person that can see the number of people who liked your stuff is you. Oh, my God. It’s like the greatest weight off everyone’s shoulders in the world. They should’ve done it years ago. Because, you have to worry about it now. Who cares? What matters is the interaction. You want people who are looking at your stuff and commenting on it and likes don’t matter. It’s like, hey, start a conversation with these people. Respond to them. Be real.
Damona Hoffman: Okay, this one, this person actually has followed a similar path to you. She says, I had a newsletter that became so popular we turned it into a business. But, ultimately, my business partner and I wanted to go in different directions. How do you choose the right investors or business partners to work?
Peter Shankman: That’s a tough one. I never took any money for HARO. I never took any investment. I did it all on my own. I bootstrapped it. And, that was great. Because, when I sold it, they gave me a check. Or, a wire transfer. The key is, again, you find people who are great at the stuff you’re not, but, have a similarly aligned vision. And, I cannot stress enough, everything you do in terms of when you start with your business partner needs to go through a lawyer.
Peter Shankman: And, I say the same thing for marriage. Everything you do needs to go through a lawyer. It’s great that you love each other. It’s great that you’re happy. It’s great that you’re going to be together forever. It’s great you’re going to do this business. That stuff will not last. You will argue about something and that’s when you want to have it in writing.
Damona Hoffman: Yeah. And people think even if it’s a small business. It’s just a newsletter.
Peter Shankman: Oh, that won’t happen to us. No, it’s still going to happen to you.
Damona Hoffman: Well yeah, you have to deal with the problems before they’re issues. What about when you sell? We had a panelist on one of our recent I make a living live events who had an offer to buy his company and he ended up turning it down and felt like it was not a match for-
Peter Shankman: Good.
Damona Hoffman: Good. Except for they ended up going public. And, he calculated what he would’ve gotten was about 24 million. Yeah, $24 million he lost.
Peter Shankman: I will say this. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with you. And, look, $24 million certainly helps. But, how miserable are you going to be? When I sold HARO, I was able to walk away with cash and not have to be a manager. I could have kept it for 10 years and made 10 times more. I would have been… it literally would have been now and I’d still be miserable.
Peter Shankman: Instead, I was able to sell it. I was able to do a lot of stuff, have fun, and move on from there. It has to come down to how you feel. Listen to your gut, we have guts for a reason. Guts kept us from being eaten by saber tooth tigers millions of years ago. Just listen to your gut. They’re there for a reason.
Speaker 5: Yeah. People keep telling me I need a minimum viable product. How do I figure out what that should be for my business?
Peter Shankman: Number one, stop listening to people. People suck.
Peter Shankman: You need to be able to prove that your thing works. great. Just, let’s stop using terms like minimum viable product. Your stuff needs to work. If your stuff works, great. Keep making it better. As long as you just make something that works, show it to people and then improve on it. That’s it. That’s it. You don’t need to sit there and be like, “Oh, well it has to be this.” Get something out the door. Get something out the door. Get a core group of people who like it and want to use it. They will help you. They will tell you what they want to see. You know how every time Apple releases a new operating system there’s 50 million bugs? Everybody’s like, “Why didn’t they squash them beforehand?” Because, they only have X number of people working on it.
Peter Shankman: You put it out in the public, those people are going to find it.
Damona Hoffman: And they will tell you.
Peter Shankman: Let them tell you. That’s what their job is. They want to help you. Let them do it. Get something out the door, let people see it.
Damona Hoffman: Do you believe in surveying your audience?
Peter Shankman: Oh, God, yeah. I talk to them all the time. You have to. Again, ask them what they want. They will tell you. Find out how they like to get the information. Don’t assume they want texts. But, already people do. But, there are people that still want email. Email is very important. Make sure you know how they like to get their information.
Damona Hoffman: What about selling the product before you have it? I’ve also heard that as a successful strategy to see if there’s really interest for it.
Peter Shankman: I did that on a course that I sold and I sold about 50 grand worth of the course before it launched, and that was great. If you have an audience for it, great. Do that. But, again, that comes down to then you’re spending a lot more time cultivating your audience before you have the product. So, you have to question where your time is, what’s more important with your time.
Damona Hoffman: Okay. Similarly, this question comes to us from a woman who says, I started a conference using a Kickstarter and it was a success. Over 400 women attended. We have a Facebook audience of over 14,000 people. Any tips on how to grow our audience next year or convince more of our followers to attend?
Peter Shankman: Yeah, talk to the followers you have. You get the customers you want by being awesome to the customers you have. Reach out to the people you have and tell them, “Hey, you attended last year. I want to give you first dibs to get tickets this year because we’re going to sell out. And, more importantly, if you bring a friend, you get 50% off your whatever.”
Peter Shankman: Don’t start looking for new customers. That’s like better dealing the girl you bring to the prom. You don’t want to bring a girl to the prom and say, “Well, that was fun, I’m going to go off with her.” Focus on the customers you have. They will give you the customers you want. The greatest example ever is I meet you at a bar. So, you know you look amazing. But here’s the thing, I’m awesome. You should finish your drink and come home with me. I’m that good.
Peter Shankman: You know what’s going to happen? You’re going to throw your drink in my face. Go back talking to your best friend. How do I know this? I’ve done a lot of research. But, if your best friend’s sitting there and holy crap that’s Peter Shankman, I’ve heard him speak, he’s amazing. He’s a single dad. You’re a single mom. You both have cats. Oh, my God, I’m going to introduce you. The reason I’m getting your number, that comes from a solid recommended source. Reach out to the people that you’ve worked with before. Show them how much they matter. they will bring you the customers you want every time.
Damona Hoffman: That’s really key. That’s really key. Showing them that they matter. Because, I think a lot of people market from the point of view-
Peter Shankman: Of new customers. Focus on the customers you have.
Damona Hoffman: Well, they’re thinking like, this is me, this is what I do. As opposed to, this is what I do for you.
Peter Shankman: You always see these things on Facebook. Our 10,000th signup is coming soon. Our 10,000th sign up gets a whatever. Well, that’s a giant screw you to the 9,999 people who just signed up previously.
Speaker 7: How do you know when to add staff? How do you make sure the level of service is up to your standards? How do you do this without making more work for yourself?
Peter Shankman: So the customer experience is so bad in our world that I don’t need you to be awesome. I need you to be 1% better than what sucks. And, most things suck, right? So, I don’t need you to be great. Think about your last fight. I don’t need you to be awesome. What I need you to be is slightly better than everyone else. If you can handle it on your own, great. If you’re at the point where you can’t, bring someone on. But hire for empathy.
Peter Shankman: Hire people who care about people. If you hire about… if you have a forward-facing position like customer service and whoever someone’s dealing with the customers. Now, I’m not talking about a tech guy. You want to put a back end tech geek, great. He doesn’t have talked to anyone. If you’re dealing with someone who is forward-facing, hire for empathy. Because every customer that comes to you has a problem. If they can understand what a problem is and fix it, you have a great employee.
Damona Hoffman: I think a lot of our entrepreneurs that listen to this podcast, they’re in service-based businesses where they’re a graphic designer, or a coach. And, so, they only have so much time in the day to actually deliver that service. So, they’re looking for someone that also can do the same job as them at the same level.
Peter Shankman: I’m not a huge fan of businesses where you have to trade your time for money. But, I understand what people are doing. And, so, the question becomes where can you throw in another half hour where you reach out and just say hi to customers when you’re not trying to sell them anything. If you could do half an hour of that a day, you’re fine. And, if you can’t, maybe it is time to bring someone on. But, again, make sure they’re good at what you’re not and make sure they have that same level of belief in the customer as you do.
Speaker 5: My company is growing and I need to raise prices to sustain that growth. How do I raise my prices when I’m scared of losing customers?
Peter Shankman: You go to your website, you put in the new price and you click save. I can tell you right now that 99% of your listeners, without… and, this is like, fact, 99% of your listeners are not charging enough. They are charging too little. They are offering too many products. And, they are losing customers because of that. When I buy something, I buy it for value. And, if that… for the value of the product, not the value of the price. Which means that if I want to see it cost more and I know it costs more, chances are it’s better. You are not… listen to me, people listening to this podcast, you are not charging enough. Raise your prices in 2020.
Damona Hoffman: Wow, that’s scary though. That’s scary.
Peter Shankman: No, it’s not because there are people out there who will buy them. You have people who will pay those prices.
Peter Shankman: The largest keynote I ever got when I was first starting out, I typed the wrong number and didn’t notice it and they paid it and it was by a factor of four. And, they paid it within 30 seconds. And, I was like, “Well, how much money have I been leaving on the table?” understand that your audience, if they perceive there’s value, will pay. You are not charging enough.
Peter Shankman: And here’s the feather thing. If you lose two clients because they don’t want to pay that, chances are it was good to lose them. When people… I run this mastermind mostly to help people. I don’t make a lot of money from it. I don’t want to. When I was trying to build HARO, masterminds was like, “Oh, for $100,000 you can join.”
Peter Shankman: I’m like, “Well, if I had $100,000 I wouldn’t need to join your thing.” So, I charged 89 bucks a month. Or, 999 a year. And, people who tend to leave the mastermind, “Oh, I just couldn’t afford it, it’s too much money.” I look at what they did in it, chances are they did virtually nothing in the mastermind. The people who are willing to pay and pay up front and have a credit card on file, they are the most one… they are the ones who contribute the most. Make sure that you are charging what you are worth. You are an entrepreneur. Your job is to generate revenue. Do that. Charge more.
Damona Hoffman: Don’t forget to implement Peter’s great takeaways from today’s episode. Know when to ask for help. Understand who you are and take care of yourself. Find creative solutions unique to your own productivity needs. These last three episodes have been all about getting on track for this new year. Brand Pinvidic taught us that having clarity in your business concept is vital to success. Tina Essmaker guided us through big life transitions and taught us to approach each challenge with creativity. To close out this month, Peter Shankman gave us actionable tips and creative solutions to managing your time. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 2020 strong. Are you ready to tackle your goals for the new year? Check out Peter’s podcast Faster Than Normal and you can find out what else Peter is up to on his website, shankman.com. We’ll put the links in the show notes.
Damona Hoffman: This podcast was brought to you by FreshBooks, the number one Cloud accounting solution for small business owners and their teams. Want to know more about how you can save hours on accounting paperwork and focus more on your business? Head over to freshbooks.com/imal to receive an exclusive offer. That’s freshbooks.com/imal. Short for I make a living.
Damona Hoffman: Our audio engineer and composer is James Morris. Producing and direction come from Paco Arizmendi. And, I’m your host and producer Damona Hoffman. Let’s connect. I’m on all of the socials @damonahoffman Or at damonahoffman.com.
Damona Hoffman: Hey, and if you haven’t been to one of our iMac or living live events yet, we are traveling North America and the U-K. You can find out when we’ll be in your neck of the woods at imakealiving.com. And, don’t forget to celebrate what makes you unique. Because it’s your business. See you next week.