Podcast: What’s Your Business Story? Interview with David Mann

By Ryan Tansom
Published: September 20, 2018 | Last updated: September 20, 2018
Key Takeaways

Your business story should be customer-focused, not focused on your business’ history. Learn the difference in this podcast.



About the Host

Ryan is an entrepreneur, podcast host of the show Life After Business and the co-owner of Solidity Financial. Having personally experienced the hazards of selling a business, he joined up with his friend Brandon Wood to educate others on the process. Through their business (Solidity Financial), they provide a platform for entrepreneurs called Growth and Exit Planning that helps in exit planning, value building and financial management.

About the Guest

David Mann is a story specialist who teaches professional services leaders how to make impact by clarifying their message. He brings over 25 years of experience as an expert in the field, with clients ranging from sales and marketing professionals to high-stakes litigation attorneys. David uses his background as an actor and playwright as the foundation of his innovative approach. He has developed customized training seminars for businesses that range from startup to Fortune 500, and his trial advocacy training strategies have earned him a national reputation for excellence in the legal community. In addition to helping attorneys win cases with solid storytelling and delivery, David is on the adjunct faculty of Loyola School of Law and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. As a teacher, performer, and speaker, David has been featured in The New Yorker, Village Voice, The Business Journal, and Minnesota Business.


Full Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to Life After Business, the podcast where your host, Ryan Tansom, brings you all the information you need to exit your company and explore what life can be like on the other side.

Ryan Tansom: Welcome back to the Life After Business podcast. This is episode 111. If you're like 99 percent of entrepreneurs, your biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to grow your sales, have a message that stands out so your customers understand what you do, why you are the solution to their problem, and so they can become lifelong customers and tell everybody about you. On today's show, I have David Mann who has decades of experience crafting complex messages, products and services into simple stories that are emotional and delivered to an audience in ways where the audience immediately understands what the person or company or message is about, how it impacts their problems, and how that is the solution to help that person get where they want to go. And the purpose of having David on today's show is because I think all entrepreneurs and all of us business owners, the biggest problem we have is trying to stick out, grow our company, and relate to our customers so that way we have all the options that we want down the road and David's experience is so amazing because he's got a theater background. He consulted attorneys. He consults business owners about how to take these complex things and really drilled down into your customer's head to fully understand what they want and how you guys as the entrepreneur, the business owner can help deliver your message in a way where everybody understands it so you can sell more and grow faster. And how that relates to your growth and exit plan is that if you have a simple message that speaks to the hearts of your customers, it'll align all of your strategic initiatives. Understanding how you can diversify your products and services, how you can grow your revenue because your customer actually understands how you solve their problems. It'll actually speak to the whole world on what it is your company does, why it solves the problem of the customers and it'll help you rise above all the competition and the noise that's out in the marketplace to get you recognition that provides you with additional growth, potential exit options, potential buyers and also a sense of relief that you know where you're going. You know how to message and how to align all of your marketing into one theme that speaks to the person that you're trying to target. So I really hope you enjoy this interview with David. He's got amazing wisdom that really needs to be taken to heart to help accelerate your business into the path that you want it to. So without further ado, here's David Mann.

Announcer: This episode of life after business is sponsored by GEXP Collaborative. Their proven process gives you clarity on all of your exit options and how those options impact your financial success, timing and future happiness. Sell your company on your timeframe to the buyer of your choice at the price you want.


Ryan Tansom: David, what's going on?

David Mann: Hey Ryan. It's really good. How about you?


Ryan Tansom: Good. Super happy to have you on the show. You and I have met each what, almost two years ago or something like that.

David Mann: Yeah, maybe even longer.

Ryan Tansom: And um, so for the listeners that don't know anything about you, your background, and maybe even before you do that, I'll kind of tee it up that you helped me clarify what the heck we're doing here at growth and exit planning collaborative, the five principles or process. My keynote. I pretty much came to you as like I have no idea when I'm going to say in front of these 250 people. So for the listeners that don't know your background and kind of what you're doing, maybe give them a little bit of an overview.

David Mann: Well, yeah, basically… So I work with professional service businesses who have a hard time talking about what they do and, using story techniques, I helped them connect with clients and grow their business. That's the short version. Um, I came into this from the world of theater. So my background is as an actor, director, playwright, and I've worked with business professionals, mostly people who are in professional services, which like I say, are hard to explain in getting all kinds of messaging straight. So for years I was doing just like formal presentations where they have to build something and communicate a message in an hour and that has morphed into being, okay, how do we take that and zero it in on 10 seconds or the wording on a website or something and then also build the presentation that goes along with it. So it's all messaging exactly the same way, not exactly, but it's related to the same way that a theater artist has to communicate on an emotional and an intellectual level at the same time to an audience and get an instant response. In theater. You don't have a second chance. You can't like say, wait, can I just do that again? And you also can't give them like an outline ahead of time.

Ryan Tansom: Or a PowerPoint.

David Mann: There's no powerpoint. You have to do it like you know, right the first time. And so it's all about wording and how those words are put across by your delivery or the visuals or whatever you want to say. So that's how I've taken that and made, made what I've done as an art form into something that helps businesses connect with clients and grow their business. The other half of what I do is with lawyers winning cases in court. So I won't talk about that a lot here because it's not lawyers in the audience probably, but it's a, but it's the same techniques applied to, you know, winning when you have to, you have to convince a jury to go your direction at the end of the case. What are you doing? You're telling them a story and it has to be a story they can relate to and understand. And you see them on- lawyers on TV and it looks like they, it looks well that's easy. Well that's because it's an actor with a script, but in reality they usually. And so I helped them work out the mess. So it comes across as a story.

Ryan Tansom: What's so crazy and interesting. I do like even though for business owners, which we're going to get into the messaging, how it has an impact in growing the value of your company, how it ties to where you're going with the ultimate exit and all that stuff. We're going to. We're going to wrap it all into the audience and the listeners, but I think when you. When you and I chatted, it was like, it made so much sense to me because you know, and I don't know if it was… I think it was in the conversation that we're having is I was sitting in the back and I was watching David Horsager speaking on the trust edge and giving his presentation and you were given all these notes. I'm like, guy is analyzing that guy should probably know him. When you told me about the jury thing, it was like, okay, you have to say all of these facts without actually saying them. And that was like the, you know, I think a lot of sales people and entrepreneurs specifically, they story tell, which is why they end up, you know… They started, they tell the story about how they started, but then they have such a problem putting that all or making their employees say it and it doesn't translate and I think what happens is they do end up getting confused. So when I was, when you told me that, it's like, okay, this makes a ton of sense because in the 10, 15 minutes that an attorney has to explain or the theater, the actor has to explain., it's all about the emotions. And that's what actually people listened to. People remember stories versus all the crap that people get spewed of powerpoints and facts.

David Mann: Yeah. Ads for products are really, really good at this. Like when I do this as a presentation, I show a laundry detergent commercial and in 30 seconds a really clear story is told in this particular commercial about a, a young woman who's doing her laundry and her mother is kind of nagging her and saying she's not doing it right. And by the end of the commercial, the mother wants that laundry detergent. This is in 30 seconds. You've seen an external problem, dirty laundry and nagging mother, mother or mother-in-law, and uh, and by the end of it, everything is resolved and everybody's happy. Internal and external problem. We've seen this a thousand millions of times in ads, but when we, so product good product, um, people who, who are marketing a product they just know this and we're all used to it. When we get into professional services for some reason we start going, here are the features and benefits of my… or some law. If the first words out of your mouth, what you do is, well, it's complicated. You've bored them, they've now, they're now, they're now nodding and smiling to be polite and that is all because they don't care. Nobody wants it to be complicated. What I've been saying is that everybody who, who engages, um, someone in any kind of professional service wants it to be as easy to understand as laundry detergent. And it of course isn't because laundry detergent or cars or shoes or something like that. You don't have to explain what that is. You have to only explain why yours is best. But with professional services, we have to explain what we do and then tell why it relates to the client and, and why it's the best on the market. That's a lot more complicated, but it can't sound like it is or you just lose all your clients.

Ryan Tansom: Right, or you don't get any.

David Mann: You don't get any in the place they go, "What? That guy's complicated. I don't like complicated."

Ryan Tansom: There's, um, there's a lot of, a lot of stuff out there about stories now and I think it's, you know, it's kind of getting this, this momentum, but I don't think really a lot of people understand how the story relates to their messaging to the digital marketing and like literally growing their company and how like, so I think it was maybe we can break this down for the listeners in a couple of different fashions, but you know, maybe let's start with the problems and then we can dissect what is an actual story and how that messaging and then we can tie it into how that relates to where their presence is online and where, and how that affects where they're going and where they're going to potentially end up exiting the company. But what are the problem? Like why is this such a problem? And then how did, why a story getting such momentum these days?

David Mann: Well, the problem faced by any business owner or business leader is how to grow the business, right? I mean, how, how to reach clients grow the business, increase revenue. And to do that, you have to connect with people and to connect with people, you have to listen, they have to understand what you do and then, and then they have to know why it relates to them. Seriously. The only two things anybody cares about when they encounter you professionally is what do you do and how will it help me? And so that seems like obvious as could be, right? But it's like, what, what happens when you go to most websites? You know, you don't get…

Ryan Tansom: We've been in business for 50 years.

David Mann: And now you get, you get, here are the services we offer, we're passionate about getting results. These are our core values and beliefs. And then here's a list of how many employees we have and my accomplishments.

Ryan Tansom: I started the company in my garage that was broke down.

David Mann: People know, I mean, I think this thing, the word story has been thrown around the last, I dunno, five, six years as this is this, uh, you know, great big, hot thing. The thing is, in my opinion, as a professional storyteller from theater, and I didn't mention, but my focus a lot of times is one man shows, so direct storytelling, I don't think anybody has any idea what they're talking about when they say they go story is important. Yes, it's important story, yes, story. And then they don't know what that even means and it doesn't go back to doing what they were doing anyway and then say, so what I see when I go to people's websites is a lot, and this is the problem. They, they're talking about themselves way too much. The first things are that you encounter when you see a new service is me, we, our, my and and right there you're losing people because they're like, you know, I hate to break it to all you folks out there, but nobody really cares about you. Your mother does. Somebody does, but professionally, no, they only care, but we all are immersed in our own story. That's what we're carrying around all day. My story. And so if the way to break through that with clarity is to be talking about them from the word go.

Ryan Tansom: And really understanding them. And I think, you know, there's a, there's another layer of complexity that I do see to what you're saying is so many services these days are commodities, right? So whether it's insurance, banking, finance, from a consulting, digital marketing. Now what in the hell does that mean? Right? So like all these companies and these entrepreneurs that are trying to grow, so they have a sustainable business, they have zero idea how to differentiate themselves other than going back to the, here's what we do, SEO and paid ads and content writing. And so then what happens is I see like people go to the features and benefits and then therefore their survival tactic is we're really good at this shit, except they don't understand their clients and their clients' needs specifically. So I think that's kind of like, if they can't speak to that person then so how does that tie into what is a story and how do you actually go and speak to your client and then related to that, like the context of the story?

David Mann: Well here's the thing on that is that to break down this word story, as it relates to business, when you say, okay, what's the story of your business? The first thing you'd probably think is the history of your business. People go, we started in such and such a year and the owner had a passion and a vision, you know, and it's like, so we go, I go, yeah, okay. That is, that is in fact a story that is a story that has a beginning, middle and end. And it's a story you can tell and there is a time and a place for that

Ryan Tansom: And the present and the end is I'm now sitting in front of you and you should buy from me!

David Mann: Yeah, right, and now you've told me your history. And then the other end of the spectrum would be, um, a case story or you know the story of clients that we've worked with who have had an experience and all that kind of stuff. And that's a case study or a testimonial kind of a story. That's also a story. And there's a time and a place for that as well. But the thing is, is that what, what is missed the blind spot is what I call the ongoing story, the story that is still in progress, the story of right in the middle, like clients are now engaged with you. Clients will be engaged with you tomorrow and the next day customers are looking to, to someone to solve a problem. That's a story that's in progress. And so the business owner are a part of their story. And articulating that right away in clear language is the thing that makes people just perk up and go, Huh, what? I want more of that. So for instance, to kind of bring this home, what I did is I, um, I went to, uh, I, I thought I was doing a presentation on this up in Alaska a couple of weeks ago actually. And, um, I, uh, I thought before that I'm going to, I'm going to see how hard it is for. I want some examples of bad of what I'm talking about in a bad way as the first page. So I just put in, I thought, what's some professional service, well, financial services, our IT consulting or something like that and I just googled it. I'm sitting in Anchorage and I just googled like IT consulting. I thought, how long is it going to take me to find exactly the wrong thing on a, on a nice-looking webpage. I'm not talking about crappy like bottom of the, like really good, you know, it looks like good services. So it instantly, I find this I, this is the homepage. IT consulting, business and technology is our, our passion, quality support is our expertise.

Ryan Tansom: I hope our listeners are not shutting off the podcast right now.

David Mann: I'm like okay, so I know nothing about what this has to do with me. And exactly like I said, I now know about your passion but–

Ryan Tansom: You don't don't even know what they do.

David Mann: I don't care about your passion. And then I, and then I clicked uh what was this? Financial services and this is a really sweet looking picture actually, like they spent some money.

Ryan Tansom: Is it a dude in a suit?

David Mann: No, it happens to be a young Asian woman with a tablet and, and right next to a uh, like a really gorgeous skyline of some city. So you go, oh, okay. And the, the text over it is covering the full spectrum of global financial services. Great. Thank you. That's, that's great for other people because [Ryan interjects: I'm not the world.] I'm not the world. Yeah. What does it have to do with me? And then another financial assistance, a whole different place. This is now they have like a paragraph. This is. This is the first thing you see now. This is a big company. From banking and insurance to wealth management and securities distribution. Our dedicated financial services team serve all major sectors of the industry. Our work draws on more than 40 years of experience delivered by 5,700 professionals in the world's most important financial centers. Okay. So thank you. That's a lot of chest beating. That's a lot of "We are amazing!"

Ryan Tansom: Not even that, but like okay. So it's really boils down to this even funnier statuses. Like Google penalizes your website if it doesn't load in like three milliseconds. No one's gonna read that at all. And they're going to immediately go, "I don't care at all."

David Mann: I hope those people aren't listening because these are huge companies, but – And I'm not mentioning them by name – but I mean, wow. So the point I'm making with this is this is not hacks. They have, they have high level professionals working on these websites and on the marketing and everything else and they're making the most fundamental mistake which is there. It's all about them and how great they are and what they offer and what they care about. By contrast, I went to something Jimmy actually suggested. It's called 1-800 got junk. So this is this, you know, I think this is a national thing, right? Their picture is a couple kissing in front of a 1-800. Got Junk truck and blurt out in the background. Are these two guys in blue work shirts working and I'm like and the. And the text is goodbye junk, hello relief. I'm like, this is a story in a picture with four words. That's a whole story. The story is we had some junk and those guys got rid of it. We are relieved and now we're making out. You're like, I want in. I want into that story. That's a story I want to be a part of. What I'm saying here is this is the first impression of this company that otherwise they easily easily could have said we pick up trash in an efficient manner and we really care about customer service and all this stuff with a picture of like a truck or worse, trash, you know?

Ryan Tansom: So how does that. David when you like especially like, you know, the biggest thing that I think as I've grown up and had most of my career and all this stuff through services and so have you and a lot of the people that I work with and etc. Is, you know, there's products and there's intangibles and I think that's where a lot of these professionals get stuck in it. Honestly, products are the same way because that's more of a product than It is a service. It's easy to explain. Like it services or like how do you really like what is maybe working guys dive into like the construct of a story because how do you figure out how to inject yourself into that client's mindset and then understand how to really understand their problems and then where does all this fit?

David Mann: Well, I, when I work with people on this, they, they, you know, of course they have, they have a business that has a certain amount of success already and so they know they have some idea of who their customer is, but usually I don't feel that they have- they've thought about it much because in the space of like three or four hours, we get all… We uncover all kinds of layers of who this customer is. If you're, if you settle with the first thing that comes out of their mouth, it's usually the most generic customer. So I will say, all right, who is, and this is the story format, is there like you've seen in a million movies, plays and novels is there's a main character who wants something that main character is, is, is trying to get something to happen or something for themselves and to avoid some kind of failure.

David Mann: If that was the end right there, you'd have a pretty boring story. Main character wants something and then gets it and credits roll six minutes into this movie and It's already over and totally unsatisfying. So of course a good story and in the fiction world is the character wants something but is forwarded from getting it, cannot get it. There is something in the way of them getting that, a problem they can solve. And often that problem is both external and internal. So external is like they have to solve a problem of uh, that's, you know, the bomb's going to go off. And the internal problem is they are afraid they're not going to be good enough to do it so that, that mixture is really compelling and fiction. And then they usually can't solve the problem without the help of some kind of guide or mentor who comes with a plan and action steps and then that character is left on their own without the guide to either use those tools or not using those tools. We've seen that a million times in long form movies and tv shows, but also like I say in 30 second commercials, you can hit all those things in 30 seconds.

Ryan Tansom: If I could just interject for a sec because I think for the audiences like it's like the Luke Skywalker and Yoda. I mean that's one of the most. Because it's not about Yoda, it's about Luke, right? The whole story is about Luke; it's not about Yoda was Yoda as the guide or the product or the certain. You know, so that there's this thing where it's not about the person that's getting that person to where they want to go.

David Mann: The main character is the is the… We've seen it a thousand times, so we know how to identify a main character and then we know how to identify the helper, the Obi Wan Kenobi the Yoda. But in marketing ourselves, most of us, most of the people I work with are some of the examples I just gave have positioned themselves as the main character of the story with their problem to solve, which is, I want more business. I want your business. That's my problem. Will you help me with my problem by giving me your business? And most of us go "No, I don't want to help you with your problem. Why? Because I'm concerned with my problem. I've got my own problems to deal with. I don't need your problem [Ryan interjects: Plural, probably plural problems.]. So the, the, the positioning of the, of the text on the website or how you just see your own business has to be about the customer is the main character of their own story and they want something that they can't get for some reason and you have the keys, the plan, the action steps, whatever it is to relieve their frustration, tension, overwhelmed whenever it is to get them to their success. So when I work with people on this, the first thing I ask is, who's your main character?

David Mann: And I've already explained like, it's not you, you know, and then they will go, okay, well let me see, uh, and they'll start to talk about their customers. and in one case an interesting thing happened. Usually that's a human being. It's a person, like the director of ops is our main target, you know, um, or it's, it's, uh, yesterday I worked with a guy whose main target is women over 50 who have just been through a divorce or are looking at retirement. So he was really zeroed in on that. Okay, great. Then I'll usually ask them a few more questions. and in one case we actually moved away from the human being being the main character and they got into the business itself is the main character. So sometimes it's an abstraction, sometimes it's, it's like, uh, something that isn't, isn't a one person, um, but you got to really think about it and think, whose problem are we really positioned to solve the best? And then I also asked them, what is that person, what's the, what's the personality, the characteristics of that person. And they'll talk about that a little while. Then I ask them, the next question is, what does that character that is your clients see as success. And this is what's really interesting is the first answers are almost always what they see as success working with them. So they'll say, well, they would see success as a really efficient process with us and they get everything that they paid for and it's really cheap, and I'm like, no, no, no. That's not what they care about.

Ryan Tansom: Newsflash.

David Mann: They care about something that doesn't have anything to do with you. I know that it's hard to wrap your head around. Really they don't wake up thinking about you. They're thinking about some other problem. So then we get into territory like, well actually they're looking for freedom. They're looking for more choice in their life. This is the guy yesterday was that was his thing or they're looking for, in a case of businesses that are growing, they're looking for an exit that is profitable to them or they're looking for a transition to some family member or something like that. That's way down the line and we've got the tools to help you get there rather than you're only concerned with our process being good.

Ryan Tansom: Yeah, and I think it's so crazy when you think about all of the things in your business that hinge upon you understanding your client and I don't know if it's the world of the digital world that we live in where people are becoming more niche in order to really speak to that person. Because like, hello, we like people and people buy stuff and we have stuff versus like being able to describe the person and their problems in specific details is so much more common because you really have to know your customer and I don't know why that happened where these people don't necessarily know that. It's interesting because I wrote this book on Jeff Bezos and Amazon called the Amazon Store and every single time in every single meeting they have an empty chair and it's this, this is the customer. What would they think about this? We all know the customer's problems and they literally are solving problems for the customer all day long because there's a person sitting there. I just don't know why like these, these entrepreneurs because we– Everybody struggles and why is it so difficult to get into the head of your customer?

David Mann: It isn't really. I think what it is is that we, we all, we all know our customers, but sometimes we get under the illusion that there's, there's a different customer that we think we're serving or something, but when I start to really ask people like, let's just talk about real customers that you really deal with, you know, zero in on some specific thing that everybody knows who they actually work with. It's just sometimes it's a surprise that it's not who you want to be working with. It's like you go, okay, well I've got 10 customers and actually seven of them are not really who I want to be working with with these other three really are, and I go, well then let's talk about them and let's position our…

Ryan Tansom: Revenue's revenue and this and that, and people get…

David Mann: No, no, because you're going to actually be focused for the first time ever. I mean, all of us entrepreneurs, all of us are dealing with it. It's counterintuitive to think that more focused, more narrow focus is actually going to build your business, but of course it's true. It's proven all over the place that the, if you try to be everything to everybody, you're going to not be anything to anybody, you know?

Ryan Tansom: I think there's this whole, you know, like again, survival mode of people just having to list all these benefits and technical expertise that they have when realistically all people want is to be understood, right? So there's the left left brain-right brain where like, yeah, if you can do all these things but you understand the outcome that I'm trying to accomplish and I trust you and I believe that you've got the expertise, then you can go get there together. And that's, I think there's, that's almost the, the, the competitive edge is actually understanding your customer and proving to your customer that you understand them. Because, you know, we were talking, um, who was just recently where. It's all about the sales process, how people are struggling and like how many times have you been burned by someone just not delivering services to so many times? You want to know is like do you actually get me? Because if you get me then I think we'll be able to… I don't care about all the maneuver shit, really, but do you actually get me?

David Mann: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean it has to be, it has to be really quick. I'm, I'm really big on first and for the first segment of the impression, if, if too much time passes where I don't get a sense that you understand me, it's really easy for me to dismiss you and everything you do and move on to some other person who does mean we're in a world now where it's really easy to do that. I mean, how often do you see on any social media feed you see um, you see a video clips coming up all day on everything from politics to cats to Stephen Colbert or whatever. We all are, are conditioned to click that thing on and then off again within 10 seconds if it's uninteresting. So it's like, it has to grab you right away to you and it's about me. Yeah. Right, right. It's harder. It's really easy to talk about and sort of a lot harder to do, you know?

Ryan Tansom: Well, so let's do… 100 percent and I think let's take the next step of this and talk about how this applies to growing and selling a business and how that person can take this, this methodology into it because I think maybe I can speak to a couple of failures on just the tactical stuff because how many times, I guarantee you every single listener here has spent tens and tens of thousands of dollars in digital marketing and it's been a complete waste of time. They literally could have gone to Vegas and rolled the crap table and it would have been way better money spent. It's because how are you supposed to do Facebook ads, keynote presentations, webinars, blogs if you have no idea who the hell you're talking to, right? You're spending all this money all this time, you know, so there's all of those things or you spend, um, I mean, god, the entrepreneurs I've talked to where yep, I spent $10,000 in this company who's going to do telemarketing for me because they're going to magically bring in sales. That's how that works. Usually not at all. Or I'm going to hire this new salesperson who guaranteed to win me clients. So there's this terrified survival mode of how the hell do I get out into the noise? So this is literally tied to growing your company, but all of these tactics are going to fail if you don't know who the heck your customer is and who you're trying to reach. So you might as well not spend any money on any of that stuff.

David Mann: Absolutely. Absolutely. But we, you know, you feel like I want to put. I think, I think my, if I suspect, if my suspicions are correct, people, people are wary of spending money on something that doesn't sound very tangible. If you say, well, we're going to work on your messaging. Oh well that's not really. I don't know what that is and where, what do I, what can I hold in my hands? At the end of the day, what's the worst that guaranteed something's actually been done? Whereas you say, well, I'm going to work on your SEO and I'm gonna, you know, do all these bells and whistles for… That sounds really. Yeah. Yeah. And we can count it and quantify it, but the thing is, at the end of the day it was like, you're absolutely right if, if that digital marketing or whatever marketing you're doing has a blurry message, you know, something that doesn't, I can't understand what the words are, it's all corporate speak or just generalities or it's all about me or it sounds exactly like the next person would say just with different colors, then why spend any of that money? So the, the, the work has to be done on this kind of work done on the front end about messaging, simple messaging, uh, getting the, what the, the complexity of what you do down to a simple, digestible, understandable message. [Ryan interjects: Laundry detergent.]. So it feels like laundry detergent that can be infused easily into all the rest of those marketing channels. And then your money that you're spending on it actually has an ROI.

Ryan Tansom: Well and then now let's tie this and make this super clear for the listeners because how does this relate to growth and exit planning? And I was on the client's site, which I'm actually still in somewhere very nice, but I'm not outside, which I wish I was. Where you're going and why all of this stuff should reverse back into that. Right? So literally talking to this client and we're trying to figure out what's the ultimate goal? Who could you potentially sell to is an internal buyers, is it external buyers? Is your employees and that will dictate how much money the company's worth. And it'll dictate what they should actually be doing because they've got the ability to potentially pivot into a consulting company or continue launching new products and paying for more development because if they sold to a third party competitor who wants more dev, more, more employees, like that's going to change all the stuff that they do versus they switched to a consulting company. Guess what? Their buyers potentially change, the value changes. All of this stuff. So if you don't know where you're going and why. Now think about what 99 percent of the people do. They do both of those things kind of, and then they still don't know who their customer is, so then they literally just bumble around and get nowhere. But, so let's say, okay, let's say we got a software company and now we say, okay, you know what this software company now needs to be a consulting company, okay? So now thinking about the messaging and what the customer's problem is, is no longer a features and benefits of dev, but it's, we're trying to solve your HR, your service and your financial problems because they don't have actual people to solve and give them the information that they want to be able to make decisions.

David Mann: Yeah and now it's worth more.

Ryan Tansom: Right? But think about like, so now and I think let's say let's say now the customer, the, the, the, the listener, the entrepreneur knows, okay, I'm going to do these things and this is kind of the big vision of where I want to go. But like what are the different avenues that people should be… like where does your voice and your message other than the website. Explain like all the different channels that this becomes like to your point it becomes easier. It didn't. And it gets infused like you said, right? So it's not just your message, but like how does that percolate into all the different channels?

David Mann: Well, I mean I'm a big believer in maybe it's sort of old school now, but on the live presentation. So the more you can have actual contact with people in a room that uh, that can sort of see you and sense your personality and your energy and all that stuff and hear a little bit in more depth about what you have to offer by far the best way to get the message of anything across. It's counterintuitive these days because we think, well, hey, I could just put something together and press a button and it goes to 50 million people. The thing is, is 49 million 999 of them, most people are not necessarily paying attention to you. So, um, that's my first answer to that is work out a way to do some live speaking in all of the various networking breakfast groups, lunch and learns that there are and work out a presentation, whether it's 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour that is infused, that is tightly woven around a message that is easy to understand and then has a couple of applications, a couple of case studies, a couple of illustrations and stories and I… It's amazing how people will latch onto that. In a way because there's so much digital now we see a really good live presentation and we go, oh that. That's what I mean that that person's really talking to me. So that's one application, the live presentation. Of course there's all of the various applications of social media. There's a articles, blogs and and sort of more long-form sort of thought leader stuff that you can do and then of course the website and all of those should be unified around one singular message that it is all about the customer. A message that can be articulated in a few words, 30 seconds or 15 minutes or an hour and it all that does is expand the exact same message. It doesn't change it and become more cumbersome. That's ideally how it should work and that just takes a lot of, like you're saying, it takes a lot of front end work, maybe not a lot. I mean, it takes some thought, but once it's going, I got, I don't know how many clients right now that not only has it changed their marketing, it's changed the whole way they look at what they do, they themselves see what they do differently. They themselves feel more focused, their employees are more focused and therefore it's more productive.

Ryan Tansom: Well, and everything becomes easier because I think everybody or paralyzed, like when do I do blogs? When do I do webinars, when do I do presentations, what do I do a sales presentation, when do I do case studies? And they… it's so much work because you're trying to recreate a new technical thing versus like, you know, let's go. Even for me, an example. Right? So like when I met you, we didn't have GEXP Collaborative, right? So this is, you know, which really has struggled with our message because there was so much stuff out there. But you know, if you say, okay, we do growth and exit planning, so we understand how to tie your growth plan to an eventual exit that gives you options so you can engineer your ideal exit. Okay. Hopefully That's understandable and you know, it's a complex product and service, but that is an outcome. It gives you relief and gives you options, but now it's okay. There's lots problems that fit within there. So I don't know if you're doing blogs, podcasts, all these presentations, all this stuff is just going to expand that problem. So if you're. No Jimmy Fritz from the wedding shop, like so they sell bridesmaids dresses, but that's not what they do. They help the experience of the brides. So all of the content should fit within there and so therefore you're not having to redevelop these, these things that you're doing every single day which becomes so paralyzing I think for most for most entrepreneurs.

David Mann: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I'm big on getting it down to a wording that everybody can understand. So not only your customers but you. And so in the case of Jimmy and the and the wedding shop, this is a very common problem I ideal with, with my clients, which is that they are seen as a commodity deliver and they want to be what they really do and what they want to kind of ascend to is more of a service provider that's more comprehensive like you're describing and that's what they want to do and they have been seen as like the cheap dress people like get a dress, get it fast, get it cheap. And so what is that? If in the market that's a race to the bottom, whoever's got the cheapest dress winds and we worked and worked and worked and what came out of that session was the phrase, We help you own your day. So it's focused on the bride. You will own your day if you work with us. So that now it sounds like a much bigger deal than address. It's the whole service that they offer. And that phrase own your day. Just was spoken by someone at the table. And I went, we all went, oh my god, that's it. And now whenever I do that, I tell this story in presentations, I get other companies going, can we use that, too? Can we use this own your day? And another business that I work with, it was um, that's a, that works with the EOS, traction and uh, helps businesses sort of navigate that whole thing. Had no… they were so unfocused about what they're doing. And by the end of our sessions we came up, we, we, uh, make your business go further faster. So this two word thing further faster. They are in love with that. It's on everything now and they see how simple it gets and yet it is implying a much bigger service.

Ryan Tansom: Well, and what's even tie that into how you like the ultimate goal of the business. So like this company yesterday, I did it like just randomly as they were trying to think about all these… they're are service based business in my old industry, the imaging industry and it's like, you know, the reality is you help the imaging and IT services companies. You help them make more money. Okay. So in the they have tools and analytics to do that, but the reality is they literally help their customers make more money and their company's worth more money as well. What I find interesting about this Dave is, what that does too is that ties in the ability for these companies or they get the entrepreneurs too logically sell more products and services and to diversify to make their company worth more, right? So now you say, okay, we make, we help our customers make more money. Well how do you do that? Well, we have service sales and finance consulting. And by the way we use some of the top tools and so if they were to diversify and add products and services, it would make sense to you, right? Versus like why do you do all of these different things? And like my old industry… right? Because my old industry, what do you do? Copiers. Managed IT services, document service, managed IT service cloud hosting, blah blah blah. Right? Okay. So what does that mean? Well, no, we help you make your business run smoother without relying on technology hiccups. Okay. So then if they are adding products and services throughout that, the growth of the company, it makes sense why they would all of a sudden do cloud hosting while they were all of a sudden do these things because your customer's problem is going to constantly be evolving, right? I mean it's not going to send a static problem like you said.

David Mann: Right, right. And then so of course, to get to what you know, what you're the expert in, a buyer comes along and they either see a commodity service that has 15 different commodities and it doesn't make a lot of sense because no messaging has been done and no kind of umbrella idea that's, that's about business growth has been developed and now it's like a messy business, but the exact same business offering basically the exact same services wrapped up in a package that looks like a comprehensive service and worded that way and presented that way. Right? That's just now. That's worth a lot more money.

Ryan Tansom: Well, because like every private equity firm I've ever interviewed or the even these corporate strategic buyers, the first thing they do is google you. Then they go to your Facebook page and then go to your LinkedIn page, so they want to understand what you're doing. And what I think, I think it's interesting, David, is if you think about the customer's problem, so the right, so now think about, let's go back to my old industry, so trying to eliminate the technology, like literally eliminating technology friction in the work world, right? So that way people can do their jobs without having to have any problems, so that's helping people with telecom, with their computers, with their copiers, their firewalls, with their digital needs, with their smartphones. It's literally everything doesn't mean you have to do all that stuff, but with. What I find is interesting is there's a lot of providers that help that one problem, which means you could have strategic mergers with other companies that are doing those things that had the same problem. You can have human. So what happens is it allows you to look at the, the, the eventual exit in a different fashion, too, because you could see who you could potentially merge or sell to because you're solving the same problem for the customer.

David Mann: Yeah. Yeah. And you're talking about it like from the point of view of the person within the business, but also the point of view of someone potentially interested in acquiring the business. They're looking at that level of, of how that business operates.

Ryan Tansom: Right. So they're like, okay, what does an ERP system have to do with managed IT services? Well it's the same thing? They're trying to help the business run better without really without having to technology hiccups. So there's a very good chance that a ERP system could buy a cloud hosting system. They may feel like what amazon tries to do, all that are doing is they're eliminating all the friction to having me buy shit. There's stuff that just is going to float into my room so I don't have to go anywhere and so that makes sense why they're getting into automobiles, into cloud hosting, into retail, into groceries because it's just me versus the stuff that I want to consume. So everybody wondering why they're acquiring these things because they have one problem that they're solving for the customer.

David Mann: Yeah, and it's. If it can be said clearly and instantly, that's how it works. I'm looking at the EOS page is another one that I really like and I'm focusing on the webpage a little because it's the most tangible example of like… [Ryan interjects: It's the billboard, right?] I mean it's the first impression other than. Yeah, and what is he? I mean most people know a little bit about EOS and traction and how many bells and whistles really there are. They got the meetings they're going to work out for you and your right fit people and your vision and it's. There's a lot of stuff. None of which is particularly new, really. I mean it's like based on these old ideas that were all over the place. Gino Wickman comes along and puts it in this one package. Calls it traction, so it's right there. It's a… Sounds like something visceral. It's a tire that's going to grip the road and then the first sentence, you go to the website, get a grip on your business. And I go, yeah, I don't have a grip on it, but yeah, I mean, who, who, what entrepreneur feels like, yup. I got a firm grasp on the business. No. Everybody privately is like, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have any control. And so he's saying that one sentence it says you basically don't have a grip and I've got the way for you to get a grip. And it's in one sentence. And so like you're saying, now what could be a big mess of services becomes one service. It's one thing that I'm going to do for you or that we're going to, you know, help you discover. And it's a really brilliant, really clear.

Ryan Tansom: So for the, and by the way, full disclosure for the listeners is I am. This is a constant battle, right? I'm more, I'm working with you trying to figure out how to clarify my growth and exit planning to eliminate anxiety for the entrepreneurs out there. And it is a pain to try and figure this out. I mean it is like one of our mutual clients said that it's a lot of work. And so what if you were to give some feedback to the listeners and to the owners that are trying to figure out how the heck do I go from not my, my muddy world to like the clarity, you know, what's the what, what would be a couple of big takeaways that you'd give them?

David Mann: Well, you mean things to do. Like things like that.

Ryan Tansom: Yeah. What we'll do one, the first thing that they could do. The first obviously to reach out to your look at your website, which we'll get your contact information and put it in the show notes and get it at the end of the show, but maybe one thing that you… one exercise or maybe just one idea that we've talked about that you want to highlight and you want to make sure that you accentuate for the clients or the listeners or one take away…

David Mann: They should have the bare bones of the story format. I could just. I mean, this is something you can do it. It's deceptively simple, but I'll just put out the simple thing. For everybody out there, sit down with your team, whatever, and identify who your customer really is, who you actually work with where it's the best fit for you, usually something that you've done before, but do that and identify what that particular customer actually wants, not what they want from you, what they want and apart from you what they're trying- the problem they're trying to solve, and then ask yourself what's in the way of them getting what they want. What exactly is in the way and you're usually going to come up with, these are not going to have one answer. They're going to have like a list of answers and then then after you do that, you say, okay, well what do they want and what are they afraid is gonna happen? That's another thing, so success and failure, what's in the way, and then how are you uniquely qualified to solve that problem? Uniquely qualified, which means your own background and history, your expertise, and also the sort of the more intangible emotional layer of like, how are you uniquely qualified to empathize with their problem? Why do you really understand their problem? And then what of course is your plan for getting them there. if you can just make that list out, you're going to have the bones of what, uh, you've, uh, you know, that…

Ryan Tansom: You're going to have a little bit more sense of relief, I hope. And what you said David is like make a list of what's in the way of getting them what they want. So again, like you just said, you have to understand what they want, right? Then if you understand what they want, then you can write a list of all the stuff that's in the way. Guess what? There's your content. I mean those are your blogs. Those are your webinars. Those are your videos. Those are your material for your website. This is how easy all the other stuff that is normally really difficult becomes because you understand what they want and what their problems are.

David Mann: And then it can be it, the translation to those other formats then becomes, you know, a fair amount of work, but it's all guided by a message. It's all guided by some kind of clarity and actually people get excited and all this, this whole process can be done on your own, um, or of course it can be done with help and sometimes it's really useful to have the outside. I come in and say, "Uhhh BS."

Ryan Tansom: Ryan, shut up. You're making no sense.

David Mann: Because Ryan and I did this. Yeah. And he was like, I got to do all these things. And I was like, I know, I know, but I kept sort of saying some of the stuff over and over. And at that time, way back then you were like, I don't want to be called an exit planning expert or whatever because it was too much of a pigeon hole. And I went, well obviously you're way more than that. So we figured out a way to see it and what you've got now grow and exit like a pro.

Ryan Tansom: It's great. I mean that's interesting. That actually stemmed to us creating the new company and totally stepping away from the financial advice, but having that as one of the key components. So for the listeners, it guided my whole business strategy is my message, right? So it guided a new company creating new partnerships, creating new content, creating a new… Because I understood the client, right? I mean it's, it is so complicated, but then once you actually have someone sitting there and feeling that you kind of had this epiphany going, oh my god, I'm either in the wrong space or servicing the wrong customers and not saying the right thing because otherwise you're just literally stuck in this hamster wheel.

David Mann: Yeah. It's really difficult to see this stuff on your own. I sometimes I, um, I make the comparison to actors in a play. A lot of people know about actors in movies. Like the person can act in a movie and direct the movie. We've seen that all the time. Well that's because that director can act his, his or her scene and then go step behind the camera and watch. Watch the recording of what they just did. But it's on stage. You can't do that, so I, even though I'm an actor and a director can't direct myself because I can never see myself, even though I would be able to if I could sit out there. So it's the same thing with this. You are so close to your business. We're also close to our business. We need sometimes need an outside eye to really help us see the forest for the trees on this stuff and get us out of that, you know, that kind of self-centered thinking.

Ryan Tansom: So if our listeners want to know more about you, get a hold of you, what's the best way?

David Mann: Well, you can go to my website, David Mann or, you know, email, call. It's all on the. It's all printed somewhere.

Ryan Tansom: Yep. And it'll be on the show notes. So David, absolutely had a blast, man. Come on the show finally.

New Speaker: Yeah, me too. This was great.


Ryan Tansom: David's a rock star. I had a blast. I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it. I think if there's one thing that you should be doing as an entrepreneur is figure out what your customer wants. If you understand what they really want, then you will understand all of the things that are in their way and you can then speak to them about how you are set up to solve that problem and I think if there's one big takeaway is understand where you're trying to go with the eventual exit of your business because that should guide products and services you should be providing. Then it should also allow you to then craft your message around those products and services knowing that you have a very specific focus and a very specific problem that you're solving for that customer and how you fit into their journey.

What are the different preferred partners you should be partnering up with and who could be a potential strategic exit based on the same problems that you're trying to solve. and the worst case scenario. If you grow and grow because you've got the right messaging and you've got a valuable business, you might not have to sell to that strategic party, but you've got a healthy business that was fun to grow and you spoke to the customer in a way that gave you relief because you weren't trying to make stuff up every single day. I really hope you enjoy this interview with David. Go onto his website, check out more of his information, got any questions, reach out to GEXP, or go onto itunes. Give me a rating. Otherwise I will see you next week.

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Written by Ryan Tansom

Ryan Tansom

Ryan runs industry-specific podcasts on his website which pertain to mergers and acquisitions, and all the life lessons he wish he had known then. He strives to bring this knowledge to his listeners in a way that is effective and engaging by providing new material each week from industry experts.

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