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[Feature Friday] StoryBrand Guide Wes Gay on the Importance of Empathy, Clarity, and Generosity in your Business - The ROI Online Podcast Ep. 17

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Wes Gay became a StoryBrand Guide—and later Agency—after being fired from his job at a church during a leadership transition period. Though churches frequently have casualties of a turnover season, he was permanently branded with a “Scarlet Letter F” after the event. No job wanted to consider him, regardless of his skills and talent. With little more than a strong admiration of Donald Miller, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and some bananas, Wes traveled to Nashville to take the StoryBrand Marketing training when it first came out. 

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A natural on stage due to his background in the church and learning from successful pastors, Wes knew his strengths and was able to use them to help gain traction in his career. Of the lessons he’s learned, Wes has great advice to offer: 

  1. Generosity is a competitive advantage. 
  2. Show your authority rather than just talk about it. 
  3. As much as you can, put people first. 
  4. Empathy is one of the greatest skills you can practice for your business. And, 
  5. Find the right balance between the short and long term gains for your business.

One of the ways Wes got started was by being generous with his advice. He’d offer solutions to people’s problems before asking them to pay for his time or effort. Generosity allowed him to demonstrate his authority and get three clients right off the bat. 

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By putting people first, he’s able to find his customers where they are and work with people who want to listen to his advice and hear his solutions. Wes knows you have to think about your business from the lens of the consumer to be able to reach them and help them. 

Wes understands the importance of finding a balance between the short and long game of running a business, which, after growing up around peanut farming all his life, he describes as the difference between farming and running to the grocery store. Though you can always run to the store to get a bag of peanuts, and sometimes it’s necessary to bring in immediate income, you should also be planting seeds so that you can gain revenue in six, nine, or twelve months from now. A long-term healthy business knows how to do both. 

Wes’s job, as he describes it is to do for his clients “what they do for the people, which is: help them figure out the path they need to go.” He gives them an outside perspective so everyone can stick to what they’re good at and reach the level of success they’re striving for. 

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You can learn more about Wes here:
https://wesgay.com/
https://hirewayfinder.com/
https://www.facebook.com/wesgay
https://twitter.com/wesgay
https://www.linkedin.com/in/wesgay/

Learn about the ROI Online QuickStart Academy here: 
www.roionline.com/quickstart-academy

Read Don Miller’s book, Building a StoryBrand.
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Topics: Marketing, Communication, StoryBrand, Story Telling Marketing, Business Tips

Wes Gay : 

Making something simple is so much harder than making it complicated. It's so much harder. And I think at the end of the day if—unless we discipline ourselves to take the time to do the hard work and the heavy, heavy mental lifting of making it, making it succinct and really making it punchy, and catchy, it won't catch on. I think one of the great examples of this and culture regardless of where you fall in the political, religious spectrum, is a guy named Andy Stanley. He's a pastor of the church in Atlanta, Georgia. They run 35-ish thousand a weekend. More and kind of this "Coronavirus Streaming Era." And he still spends six to eight hours a week every week preparing one talk. I mean, he's spending a ton of time. When you watch him—even when he does his leadership talks because he speaks at a lot of leadership events or corporate leaders as well—he's really good at taking big ideas and packing them into memorable phrases. But that is hard, right? There's a reason that he's, he sets himself apart.

Steve Brown : 

Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI online podcast where we believe you, the courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit, and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown. And this is a place where we have great conversations with winners just like you while we laugh and learn together. All right, welcome back, everybody to the ROI Online podcast. And today I'm excited to introduce you to Wes Gay. Wes Gay is, is a gentleman that I met through the StoryBrand Buide Network—and he's actually a StoryBrand Agency now. But, this is another interview and a series of StoryBrand topics, or StoryBand Guide and Agency interviews. Wes, welcome to the ROI Online podcast.

Wes Gay : 

Thanks for having me, Steven. Glad to be here.

Steve Brown : 

Hey, you know, I was watching some of your—you've done a TEDx talk and I think you have another video on your website, PushPay, and I was really enjoying your style and your presentation. The way You seem very comfortable on stage. Where'd you learn that? Is—you just started dancing when you're a little kid?

Unknown Speaker : 

Well, I, I learned it in two really three places. The first is church. So my dad's a minister, a music minister. So I grew up in churches. And the inevitable thing is when your dad is on staff at a church, you're going to be on stage at some point. It's just—like, you're the easiest—I used to joke I got "volun-told" into a lot of things as a kid. So, you know, you wind up on stage. I started playing guitar when I was young, so I wind up being on stage and kind of leading people etc. And I—some of it was I have a knack for it. It's a strength—for the Enneagram folks, I'm a three. So threes tend to be kind of driving the settings. And then when I was in college, I was in the music department. And I don't know why, by the way, I got an undergrad degree in music. And I have no idea why. When I was in college I was in a music department and I was in a performing group for two years. We traveled a ton. And the guy who was the Dean of our department, had been the founder and kind of the head guy of a Christian music group for 35 years, probably. They traveled all over the world. And they did 10,000 shows. It was you know, a big deal. Well, that guy could command a room like nobody I've ever seen. Like, the back half of the room could be on fire, and he could make you forget your smelling smoke and make you cry about some story within 30 seconds. It was unbelievable. And so I got a masterclass in watching this guy for a very long time. And then the first-the job I had through every summer in college—and the first, it was a full time job out of college. The guy who ran that, same thing. And he could command a room. Had been on stages for 30 years. And I just watched people who did it really well, and used my natural strengths but also mimicked what I saw these people who've been doing it for longer than I've been alive at that point. Watched what they did and thought, "Okay, what can I learn?" And how do I, you know, use what I'm actually good at but also make it better by watching people who are way ahead of the game that I am.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah, you know, I think, I think that's excellent. I see that the biggest challenge for most entrepreneurs or the folks that listen to this podcast, the biggest challenge they face is how to succinctly communicate their vision to their team, the value to the prospects, and you know, where they're going next with their customers that just, we all struggle with that. And I don't know why. Maybe we've just been industrialized over time. But I think that's the that's the secret sauce to being a great leader. And—

Wes Gay : 

I agree. It's not easy either. And I think part of the reason behind that is—you and I know that Steve being in the world we're in—making something simple is so much harder than making it complicated. It's so much harder. And I think at the end of the day, if—unless we discipline ourselves to take the time to do the hard work and the heavy metal lifting of making it, making it succinct and really making it punchy, and catchy, it won't catch on. I think one of the great examples of this and culture regardless of where you fall in the political, religious spectrum, is a guy named Andy Stanley. He's a pastor of the church in Atlanta, Georgia. They run 35 ish thousand a weekend more in kind of this "Coronavirus Streaming Era." And he still spends six to eight hours a week every week preparing one talk, right? I mean, he's spending a ton of time. But when you watch him—even when he does his leadership talks because he speaks at a lot of leadership events or corporate leaders as well—he's really good at taking big ideas and packing them into memorable phrases. But that is hard, right? There's a reason that he's, he sets himself apart. And he had a great podcast conversation with Don Miller on this on the StoryBrand podcast a while back, about all the work that goes into it. In it, it's work. And I think a lot of times as leaders, we either have the tendency to think I'm too busy to do this, or I'm just going to get up and wing it. And both of those things are part of the recipe for disaster when it comes to trying to communicate to folks.

Steve Brown : 

Winging it. You know, I'm—the heroes. I feel the invisible heroes of the American economy are, are the entrepreneurs. You think about it, they're—there's so many businesses are 20 or less employees, it's more than you know, it's like 98 and a half percent of the American Economy, businesses have 20 or less employees. And so that means that that leader of that organization has to wear many hats. You can't be an expert in all those hats. So you were the your your natural tendencies are let's say three hats, but but the other ones you have to wing it. And you just have to "Alright, I'm putting a hat on, I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm supposed to be in charge. So you march in there." And I see that so often. And, and I think that, you know, when I think is the biggest lever that they could, could spend some time on and invest because they have very limited time, the messaging piece is the biggest lever that can give them the most power and wearing all those hats if they could just get the messaging clear.

Unknown Speaker : 

Mm hmm. Yeah. If you know how—I always tell people that if, if you get the words, right, if you can get the words right, everything else falls into place. So as a leader, yeah, it helps you be better at marketing better at sales, but it helps you better communicating with your team, with your customers, with vendors, with other leaders in the community, with people online. I mean, being able to communicate that—it's been, I mean it's always been valuable, but especially in the days we're in, the ability to communicate maybe the single most important skill that a leader can develop. Because you're having to do it at a relentless pace. And so doing it with your team, with your family, with your friends, with everybody we're constantly communicating with, if you can get better at communicating, you're going to be much more successful as a leader in the long run.

Steve Brown : 

Totally it's a, it's a big long road I need to hoe myself. So I was looking at at your background information. So you—you and I have a similar background. And there was—in 2016, you were talking about, you were unemployed. How'd you get there? I mean, obviously, you're very talented, and it seems like people would want to have you on their team. What was going on?

Unknown Speaker : 

But that is a that is a loaded question. So I'll keep it short. Basically, in early 2016, I was I was working in a church and the very short version is: sometimes in churches or in businesses and there might be business in there—you just, there sometimes, especially when there's somebody new in the leadership, occasionally that can be casualties as a part of that leadership transition. And the best way to describe it is I was a casualty of that of a turnover season. And it's there's frankly been other casualties since. And so what ends up happening is, in churches when you get fired, particularly with churches, probably unlike an industry, you wind up wearing the Scarlet Letter F, on your resume, on your LinkedIn, on your Facebook, on your shirt, on your job, like everywhere. If you're fired. And everybody gets allergic to it, and nobody wants to hear what happened, why it happened. They don't want details. They just assume, "Oh, because you're fired. You're skewing the store in your perspective. In your in your favor, whatever." And so, that that world: churches/nonprofits are the world. I knew kept applying. I applied in a ton of places. But again, that that Scarlet Letter F carries ahead of you before anything else. I applied for, honestly, the Dave Ramsey. I couldn't make it my second interview. I think they had trouble getting over the getting fired. And so is this just this constant challenge of, "Where do I get hired? How do I get how did you get something going?" And finally, late 2016, October 2016, I saw where Don Miller—who I've been following since the mid 2000s. I mean, I've read "Blue Like Jazz" when it came out. I read—I've got on my desk right here "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" that Don wrote, which is one of my favorite books I think I've ever read. So I followed it, I even saw "Blue Like Jazz" in theaters. I'm one of like 12 people who can say that in this country. But anyways, I finally lucked out. And I knew about StoryBrand. We had looked at it at the church I'd been on staff at, about maybe doing a live workshop the year before. And they start offering this copywriter certification. And I literally thought two things. One, I don'—nobody's gonna hire me. So what if I just hire myself until I get a real job? Was my thought. And my second thought was, "I don't exactly know what a copywriter is or does." Because I'd always been in churches, we never had them. You don't talk about them. Cuz it's just churches—there's only five churches in the country big enough to have somebody on staff. And so I thought, "I'm—I've always been a decent writer, a decent communicator." I mean, more than once in my kind of tenure, if anything in anything at work was ever—had to be communicated thta was a difficult thing to do, they called me to write it. And I remember one time working at a church, they—one of the most beloved people on staff got fired. And it was unfortunate. Everybody in the church loved him, the staff loved him. He only got fired because some old guys in the church didn't like it. That was literally the reason. Young family, whatever. And so they're like, hey, Wes, we need you to write the email explaining to the church why he got fired. I'm like, I'm like four levels deep in the org chart. Why are you calling me? But the the executive pastors, my boss literally said, "You're the only one on staff that can communicate this kind of stuff." And so I knew that kind of going in. I knew I could write I knew I could communicate ideas. I could communicate them usually pretty clearly and effectively. And so I thought, well, let me give this a shot. At the time I was talking to a church in Central Florida about being basically a part-time something. I thought, I'll do, I'll be part-time with them until they're ready to bring me full-time but in the meantime, also supplement my income with the StoryBrand thing. I mean, you were there, Steve. It was. It was the Wild West of what we were—what was going on back in those days. And so, I just—I went home, I did it on a drove to Nashville, you know, don't tell Dave Ramsey put five grand on a credit card cuz I didn't have any money. Lived in my mother in law's house, had a two-year-old and a six-month-old. Drove to Nashville from Atlanta, Georgia on Monday morning, so that I wouldn't have to spend money on a hotel Sunday night. Get there in time for the event. I mean, I literally, I'd forgotten this until about six or eight months ago. I stopped at a grocery store at some point, I forget when, and bought a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and bananas. And I literally thought I can eat bananas and have peanut butter sandwiches, if nothing else. I don't have to spend anymore money. I could spend six bucks and all that or eight bucks, whatever, as opposed to meals for two or three days. So get home on the Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning I'm like, "Great, I've got a $5,000 credit card bill now on top of everything else you're trying to do. On top of being unemployed, what do I do?" And then I just started and then it exploded pretty quickly and it's just been this kind of rocket ship ever since.

Steve Brown : 

That's amazing. It's amazing how we can't get hired because we don't fit really. And so we, we decide, alright, I'm going to step out and do it on my own. And so that's the impending event. You just described what's called the event where the hero of the story learns that the status quo will not continue and then we watch them struggle and wrestle with the new, the new reality of what's going on. Talk to us about some of your missteps.

Wes Gay : 

Yes.

Steve Brown : 

Did you have any? I'm just—

Wes Gay : 

Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah. I mean, I, one of the things I'm good at is blowing smoke. So in other words, I can I can talk a good game until I have the good game to back it up. So—and that's a skill I mean, I get it. It's it's hard to, not everybody is that way. Good and bad. It has a it has a strengths and has weaknesses. So I was able to leverage that and kind of get in and not have many issues. Especially early on, there was this, this kind of hustle of: I've just got to keep going, I got to keep moving. Every day I think about how can I get paid today? And what can I do today to help me get paid tomorrow? It was just that relentless thing for a while. And then once you know, once it kind of levels out, and once you get some, once you figure some stuff out, you're not necessarily having to be that way all the time. You still have a hunger, but your perspective changes because you're, you're a little bit smarter, you've got some experience thing, you know, the thing just just shifts over time it happens. Not a bad—it's not bad. I'd say the biggest misstep has been, like most people I know who are in marketing, is not being my own best client. Right? So I know so many people like you and we know hundreds of other folks in the StoryBrand world who do incredible work for clients. And then we forget how to speak language use language when we have to talk about ourselves. We forget how to do websites and we forget how to write content calendars. We forget how to write Instagram, like we just forget. Even though we can all day just like this for customers, for clients. So I think that's been the biggest misstep has just been not making the continual investment back in my own business from a time perspective, from a strategy perspective. You know, doing those things that help grow. And it's no excuse for it. Just as—that's probably the hardest thing about being a marketer and running an agency is doing it for doing—doing for yourself what you tell other people to do.

Steve Brown : 

Totally. There was this time where I had to really draw a line in the sand with my team. That we have to focus on our work. Our needs to be the best example of what we preach. We should be—anytime we're talking with a client, we need to go, "Here, let me show you an example." And show our work as an example. But that was a—it took maybe six to nine months to get my team to, I don't know what, do you think it's a confidence issue, where you you doubt yourself that you can do it on your own? What it is?

Wes Gay : 

I think it's that. I also think, it's the tension that so many business owners have, which is, why would I—and I think it's a subconscious thing—why would I invest, why would I spend time doing stuff for me when I could be doing stuff in more direct sales and client work that gets me paid? So I think, I think a lot of it is a revenue tension of: we may not we, we don't necessarily feel like the investment we're making from retirement and energy and sometimes a financial perspective is really going to pay off when we, when we think about all of the things we have to get done. Finish this this proposal. We got to do this for a client. We got to send this. I mean, it's, it's getting, I think it's getting clarity on: okay, maybe I need to delegate more things out, for example, so I can then go focus on this. I think it's really it's the it's the ongoing pressure that entrepreneurs face of, I've always got to do stuff that helps you know, get paid, right? The mortgage's do rent's due. Payroll's due. All that stuff. And I'm reading a book right now by a guy named Marcus Sheridan called They Ask You Answer. And he, I don't know if you've heard him heard a story about his book, but he talks about this idea or this this idea. And he used to—he got started working at a pool dealership in Roanoke, Virginia. And, anyway, they sell and install pool swimming pools. Well, in about 2008 when the market tanked, everybody, nobody was buying a swimming pool particularly in Virginia at the time. So somewhere he started hearing about HubSpot, which I know ya'll are a big partner with HubSpot. And he invest—started investing in inbound marketing, and he thought it was crazy at first. Like, why are we writing articles on our website about swimming pools, right? That seems like a crazy investment. We should be making sales calls and doing direct marketing all this. Well, over time, it has just paid off in the millions of dollars over the last decade. I mean if they can attribute literally millions of dollars to some articles they've written 10 years ago. And it's it's play, it's a—the ongoing tension I think of entrepreneurship is, excuse me, you're having to constantly shift gears in short game and long game. Investing in yourself and in your company and in content and your marketing, particularly in the ser-, in the kind of service world that we're in, knowledge work. It's a long play. And so it's having to shift gears from: what are we doing over the long term? How are we gonna survive the short term? How do we, how do we do things today that get, bring clients 3, 6, 12—9, 12 months down the road? And then how do we finish this deliverable so we could send this invoice today, right? That kind of, I mean, it's just this ongoing tension that you're constantly having to shift gears and for most small business, like you said, where everybody on the team to a degree as a generalist, that's, those switches can be exhausting, because you're constantly having to switch mode, switch perspectives, switch ideas, switch strategies, everything to go from long term, short term, and it can be relentless.

Steve Brown : 

You know, I found that my clients struggle with that same kind of same concept and, and that's one of the reasons I wrote my book, but it's, you know, you think about the accounts that you manage or the clients that you have. There's this point in in their lifecycle—and if there was a lifecycle of a business,

Wes Gay : 

Yeah.

Steve Brown : 

There's this point where you go, "I have an idea, hey, it's starting to—may have a good idea. You start to get customers clients, you get some traction.

Wes Gay : 

Yeah.

Steve Brown : 

There's this point where you have to confront: I need to take care of the short game, but I need to start investing in the long game. And in working with clients, we have to help them see the same thing. Because they're focused on immediate, immediate results. But we also need to build a foundation and in the assets that are going to carry us forward.

Wes Gay : 

Yeah.

Steve Brown : 

Which clients, talk to us about struggle in those conversations that you've had.

Wes Gay : 

Yeah, well, I would piggyback on what you just said. You know, I view it as going to the grocery store versus having a farm. So I grew up farms around farmers. My granddad was a peanut farmer in South Georgia. My, I lived, we lived in South Florida till I was nine, which has giant farms, big commercial produce farms, etc. And then we moved to South Alabama, which is known as the Peanut Capital of the world. 25% of the world's peanuts are grown within a 90-mile radius of my hometown.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah.

Wes Gay : 

See, see you never know what you're going to learn on the ROI Online Podcast. We even have a national Peanut Festival, there's a Peanut Queen. It's a whole thing.

Steve Brown : 

Right.

Wes Gay : 

School shuts down for a week there's a fair there's, I could go. Anyways. Well, the thing about farming is we're film, we're doing this, recording this in April of 2020. Usually, around March and April in the south, southeast is planting season for peanuts and cotton. Peanuts and cotton are a huge deal in the south. And so there, you have to do all this work and you you prepare the soil and you plant the seeds and you just wait. And you wait like six months, and you hope hurricane season doesn't devastate your crops. You hope you get the right rain, the right amount of rain at the right time. You hope you don't get too much but you hope you don't have a drought. You may, hope you don't have any kind of bugs or any kind of insects or any kind of disease. I mean, there's this constant. But then in October you start, you know, you you go and you till the peanuts up and you flip them upside down, is how you pick them and then you wait let them dry out for a couple days. Take a peanut combine, you pick them, and then you sell them, right? So you've, you've worked for six or eight months before you ever see a payday. I think that's, or I could go to the grocery store and buy a bag of peanuts now. I think a lot of us, and this is not a cultural thing so much as it's a business thing where it's, we're thinking about: how do I just run to the grocery store now and get that quick hit and make that money? Get, get the thing that I'm after, which is revenue? Versus, how do I take that long game approach and say, "Okay, I can't go to the grocery store, but I also need to be planting seeds now. So that in six months, I can start harvesting those returns. In 12 months, I can harvest some returns." I mean, I've, I've literally had conversations with people who said, "I, I saw you this at a year ago or year and a half ago, are you, I mean it just happened." You just never know over time. So when I say, when working with clients, it's it's getting them to realize this i- that it's, it's you've got to do both simultaneously if you want a thriving business or the long haul. You can have a, you know, a hockey stick growth quickly, but then it dives off and then you're back off the cliff again. But if you want a long term healthy business, you've got to be able to do both.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah. So talk to us some, maybe the biggest lessons that you've learned. Other than you need to invest in your your own content, so to speak. What's some other lessons that you've learned?

Wes Gay : 

Sure. Generosity is a competitive advantage. Always. I mean, we're seeing it right now in this season of Coronavirus. The most generous brands are winning. But it's, there's always that, that always rings true. Just how it plays out is a little different. How I got started, you know, I remember I had been unemployed for six months when I became a StoryBrand certified, didn't know what a copywriter was, I had no idea how to market myself. I had been a freelancer on some gigs, made a few hundred bucks here and there over the years, but nothing substantial. Nothing, I think over over over 1000 at any one time. And so I was like, how am I going to make a full time income? Well, I go to this, my thought was, "I'm just going to answer questions, right?" I'm going to, like most people, I'm going to steal advice from John Maxwell. In his, John Maxwell, one of the things he said is, "always try to bring value to people." That's a big kind of Hallmark, touchstone of his teaching. And I thought, "Okay, how can I do that?" And so there was a Slack channel at the time for alumni who'd gone to the StoryBrand workshop, and there was a group there called "peer feedback." And I'm like, well, these are my people. They understand StoryBrand. The book is a year away from being out. The podcast was brand new. If anybody's going to hire me, it's going to start here. So I thought, "I'm just going to show up and answer questions." I'm not going to say, "Hey, my name is Wes. I'm StoryBrand certified. Oh, by the way, here's how I fix it if you were my client." I just answered it. And then if the conversation went well, I'd move to a direct message say, "Hey." I give them my one liner, schedule a call, and then after, then it may or may not take off as a client. That's how I got three clients within six weeks, maybe a half dozen clients I forget now, but just generosity is always advanced. So always, so look to be, ways to be generous. Because, especially if you're in a kind of a knowledge work situation, it also helps to show to demonstrate your authority. Right? And this is something you know, well from StoryBrand is: being the guide means you are the authority. And in today's world, you can really set yourself apart by showing your authority not just talking about your authority. So get on a video and explain to me, if your realtor, why a house is priced this way. Or explained to me a mortgage process. Or just explain what's going on in the market as a financial. Just, demonstrate your authority by sharing your expertise. Never be afraid to be generous. I don't think, unless it's, you know, corporate secrets like their Coca Cola recipe, or the Chick Fil A for formula for breading their chicken, most things are not going to hurt you in the long run. Almost everything you can share, I think will help set you apart. So generosity is a competitive advantage is a big one. People First. Anything, as much as you put people first do it. Make sure you take care of yourself, right? I mean, you are a people, your family is a people. So make sure you take care of them. You know, one of the challenges, particularly in the way I'm set up where everything's remote is one of the—I want is, how do you how do you set boundaries? Like if you have an office and you've got a team and all that sometimes that structure is built in kind of baked in for you. But when you do work from home or you do work remotely or you do primarily work alone, you have control in its attention of flexibility and control. So you have control of your schedule and you have flexibility, but you also have to have the discipline to make sure you get everything done. One thing that I've been thinking a lot about lately, is I'm convinced in order to scale even more how do I, how do I quantify what I, Wes, am really good at? And that's hard to put actual language around it, and then simplify that even more to the point where it's formulaic. Or I could teach somebody else, so that I could find somebody like I was. And so here's everything. I've learned how to work with 100 StoryBrand clients. Here's everything I've learned writing 200,000 words of copy for StoryBrand projects. Like, what are the quantifiable objective pieces that I can put in place to then help me grow? And that's not a new concept. I mean, that's why McDonald's is so big is they have a franchise model. Everything's documented. Everything's formulaic. That can work in it, I think in any business, stealing from Michael Gerber and the E-myth, but I think it can, it's just in our work and more creative style work, quantifying that is hard. It's really hard but I think if, the more the, more you put—invest in that idea, I think the I think the better the better opportunity you're gonna have to scale because now you're taking what you're uniquely gifted at and able to teach others and really multiply your strengths. So you can continue hiring and delegating out your strengths and your weaknesses. So your weaknesses are covered. But you're even able to accelerate what you do really well, because you have more people involved, in what's going on.

Steve Brown : 

Most every day for the last 10 years, I've worked with business leaders such as you. And there's this common conversation that I've had over and over. That goes a little like this, "Steve, I see other brands excelling online, and I feel we need to do the same because my customers are expecting out of us. I'm not sure where to start, but I think we need to redo our website. What's the best way to approach this?" And this is why I wrote my book, The Golden Toilet, Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System that Grows Your Business. It's a book designed to empower my business leaders so that they have the words and the proper expectations, to communicate what it is they really need and get what they really need instead of something that's sold to them. It puts them in a position of confidence and clarity. And so to get this book, it's a great read. You can go to Amazon, get it there, or you can go to thegoldentoilet.com. And click on "Get Your Copy." Now, back to our conversation. Yeah, you're talking about a point in the business where you, you go through this struggle.

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm.

Steve Brown : 

Like do, who do I think I am that I could start delegating and having an expectation of others to do this stuff that that I can probably do better?

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm.

Steve Brown : 

But it's a break on your scalability. And so you have to, you have to grow in confidence, that you can delegated. And here's the communication challenge, communicate a way to do it, but also be confident enough to let them put their spin on it because you may get another flavor that you didn't expect. That's way better than the way you were doing it. That, I struggled with, I knew I needed to write a book. But here's what I didn't want to do. I didn't want to write a regurgitation of the same old dry books that are already out there.

Wes Gay : 

Yeah

Steve Brown : 

It needed to have my own unique perspective and value but it took time for me to: A) go recognize it. Have you real- Have you noticed that other people have this, this image of you or when they talk to you, they they have this expectation of you that you're more talented than you give yourself credit for? Have you had that?

Wes Gay : 

Yeah. And it's it's not new. I mean, I, you know, again, when you've been on stages, I mean, there was a stretch for probably 10 years where I was on a stage 2/3/4 times a week. I mean, there were stretches, some weeks and some months, and even years in college and after, I'd be on the stage 5/6/7 times a week. I mean, I just was constantly out there. And when you're, especially in churches and other venues, when you're in front of people doing your thing, you kind of open yourself up to everybody's—I thought, even, like, sometimes they're like, "hey, that's great." Sometimes it's, they want to correct you and they don't know they're talking about. So in some ways, I'm I was used to both sides of it. People you know, the, the criticism and the critiques and then the people, teach or, you know, compliment it, and one of the things that I've, that's helped me is by listening to the feedback people give, right? So for a long time, I had a hunch I was good on stage, but you're just you always feel insecure about it. I don't care how long you're always insecure. But I started listening to how people would respond positively to different things I did, whether it's part of my job or outside of my roles and staff into places. And I noticed that there was a almost every time people were not talking about me being on a stage, they would say things like, hey, that video you made was great. They would talk about the deliverable. The thing I did. But when it came to the things that are that are my core strengths, they were identity statements. It was: you're a great speaker. You command the stage really well. It was more about my identity, as opposed to that was a great talk or that was a great thing, that was that that thing you did was great as opposed to who you are.

Steve Brown : 

That's excellent.

Wes Gay : 

So I started listening, and I still do it, I will listen to hear how people say it. And I don't think for them, it's intentional. I think it's, I think it's just a natural response that all of us have when we see somebody in their strengths and see somebody doing what they're really good at, is how we tend to respond. So for me, it's been listening to how people say it. And then other times realizing, hearing people say, hey, they maybe have certain expectations. I also want to make sure like this, I want to kind of demystify it if I can. And by that, I mean saying, hey, well, the reason this happened, or the reason I did this was because of I also did these 12 things that you didn't see, or these 15 things that weren't commented in a slack group, or I had to read these three books, and then did this and, you know, whatever it is. And so, you know, for example, I was supposed to be the event in Tampa in March, I got pushed the 2021. And by the favor of the Lord, it is in Puerto Rico in 2021. So I totally lucked out there. But one of the things I was going to do is a one-liner workshop for the StoryBrand, which you've probably done, I'm sure ROI Online, where we help people develop a pitch. I'd never done a full, you know, hour/90 minute session on that. So I thought okay, I gotta prepare for this. So I I read a book about how movies, called Jaws In Space, and it's about how, it's written by a guy named Syd Field and it's how screen- he's guy who teaches screenwriting. In fact, his book, which I've got somewhere around here on screenwriting, is the book that the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame writers used to write Infinity War and Endgame. But anyway, they literally follow this formula. But anyways, so I've got to read that book, I'm gonna read to three other books, I'm gonna work out, like I had all this in mind as to how I was going to do all this preparation, so that when I did get in front of a room, and I taught it, it just felt spontaneous and kind of second nature. But it's, this all that is in this again, not new. The reason you see great musicians is because of all the hours and hours and hours and hours and hours they spend honing their craft and being great. So just want to make sure that there's expectation that people have of like anything. If you want to be better, if you wanna be successful, if you want to have, you want to grow your talent, you are born with a lot of it, I think, but it's also about what you do with it.

Steve Brown : 

Totally, I think I think sometimes we look for what's our purpose in life?

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm.

Steve Brown : 

And I think if we're going through that process that you're talking about, we can start to see that people recognize this value that you have, but you have to first give yourself permission to accept it and then to and then own your way into it. Or, like, do the work, I call it. There's this, there was this promotion called Be Like Mike by Gatorade. Remember that?

Wes Gay : 

Oh, yeah.

Steve Brown : 

Right? And so you drink the Gatorade and you'd be like Michael Jordan, but I think the epiphany for me is that we need to be more like Mike Rowe. And do the dirty jobs for a long time before—and that's the piece that everyone misses. You can't just walk on stage and wing it. There's all this micro, dirty work stuff that you got to do. And that's the that's the mic we need to be like.

Wes Gay : 

Yeah, absolutely. It's it's just getting in there. And I mean, I've heard many Mark Cuban say it a million times: just do the work. He said I—you can't, there's a lot of things you can't control in business and entrepreneurship, but you can absolutely control your effort and your output and the amount of inputs you put in. So, what are you doing to increase the quality? I mean, I've, I talk to guides, particularly all the time. And one of the things I've done, it just in my business, is these on-site, one day, kind of what we call them strategy sessions with clients. And I do it because for one, I like it. Two, it just fits what I'm good at. I'm good at just in the moment, feeling like I'm off the cuff, just, you know, being able to come up with stuff really, really quickly and really just keep moving. I mean, that's kind of my element. But I've talked to other guides who said, you clarified in three minutes what took me two hours to figure out. Well, I've done this, I've done a version of this kind of thing for 10 or 15 years now.

Steve Brown : 

Right.

Wes Gay : 

And so it's realizing, just you, even if you're in kind of a similar industry as somebody else in kind of a similar world, you're kind of, you may be at different stages or you have different strengths and it'ss figuring out how, how to best leverage who you are and stop trying to be somebody else. I mean, it's the compare it, nobody wins the comparison game. No, everybody's a loser in that one.

Steve Brown : 

No, that's a that's a big trap. That's a booby trap. That, so, you know, I think about the StoryBrand framework. And to be able to clarify something really quick.

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm.

Steve Brown : 

There's, there's this empathy thing that you have to have. And so if you think about, you know, in the framework you start with: all right, who's the hero? What do they want? You know, and you go this way. I like to start at the end. I like to do backwards. And that's: first identify the transformation that we're seeking. And then let's just put ourselves in their shoes. And what is it that they're insecure about? What's this hero insecure about? And then it goes: oh, it would make sense to me that I'm scared about making a bad decision and looking like an idiot in front of my superior. So, I'm going to delay this decision and then start addressing that internal thing that they would never say, but if you just put yourself in their shoes and think about it: oh! And then it starts to unfold from there for me. How about you?

Wes Gay : 

Yeah, I mean, empathy is, empathy is king. And when you, when you think about business, you think about the journey through the lens of your customer. And you start to see things through their eyes. It helps it helps clarify a lot. It shifts the focus, like we always do a client's with StoryBrand. It shifts the focus away from me and towards the customer, and thinking about: what are they dealing with? Well, you know, and well, no wonder they have this problem. No wonder they feel this way. No wonder they maybe aren't buying from us because what they actually need is this, what we're talking about is this. Empathy is one of the greatest, greatest investments, the greatest things you can figure out to do as a business in the entire journey of a customer from marketing and advertising, to sales, to customer relationships, and beyond, thinking about everything through what your customers dealing with. For example, I, I did a sales training for a company back in January of 2020. Excuse me, and they sell technology to churches. They're, they're about a billion in revenue, they're huge. And, and a lot of their team was young, and they were you know, they hadn't, this is their first kind of foray into this industry. And so one of the things I told him was, I said, "How many of you in the last year have had deals stall out in March, April, July, November or December, so five months out of the year?" And like everyone in the room raised their hand. I said, "You want to know why?" They said, "what?" I said, "Because in March and April churches are preparing for Easter. July, everybody's on vacation. November and December is crazy busy with with holidays and events, whatever." I said, "So no wonder they're not responding to you." Right? You have to see things through their lens and their eyes and their calendar and their schedule and their daily pace and their weekly pace and their quarterly pace. Because that will radically shift. One, it should limit your frustration and well no wonder that responding right now because it's, they're running 100 miles an hour with their hair on fire. No wonder they're not responding to me. You know, like if I was trying to sell to a fireworks company, just don't expect them to talk to me in June, because they're selling for Fourth of July, you know? But it's, we have to think about how, literally get that granular so that we can really empathize and one, not be frustrated, two better tailor what we do to best suit the people we're trying to reach.

Steve Brown : 

You know, I'm, I'm working on a series of blogs right now. It's about how marketing is broken. And I, I believe that there was this time when the term "consumers" became, like just weaved all in the marketing language. And it changed the mindset or or the the lack of empathy looking at consumers. Well, a "consumer" doesn't have a face, doesn't have a name, doesn't have feelings, doesn't have fears, a consumer. I like to term it as they see us as "cows with credit cards." How can I get money from that consumer? And so they they dehumanised marketing. Well, when it's dehumanized, then we don't care. And then the messaging is self-centered. We're the best. We can get the money from these cows the fastest. But this whole thing that we're talking about is what I call HEO: Human Experience Optimication, okay? Instead of SEO, which is less less design of marketing to appeal to robots, right? And so marketing is broken because people don't see people with families with dreams with hopes. And that's what you're talking about and that's why it's such a competitive advantage to get this right.

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm. It is. I love Human Experience Optimization. It's, we we live in an increasingly personalized world when it comes to marketing and sales, business, e-commerce etc. With all of the tools we have and all the data we can build. You will be a, you will always be at an advantage if you can think about how to make a, create a better experience for people. I mean, I'm a, we're big Disney fans our house. We have annual passes to Disney World that, we'll go back whenever it opens again at this point. But even the story of Disney World, or Disneyland started because Walt Disney wanted a place where he and his daughters could both have great experiences. And then, he knew that if he was that way, other parents would want to have places where both the parents and the kids could enjoy themselves. And if you know anything about the history of Disney and Disneyland, Disney World, he was, there was a meticulous attention to detail to make sure every single facet of that experience was incredible. From, I think you can't go more than 27 steps in any Disney park without there being a trash can. Because they wanted it to be clean. You never wanted to have trash in your hand and wonder where to put it. When they built Disney World they actually built Magic Kingdom on the second story, so if you've ever been to Disney World, there's a whole tunnel system underneath the Magic Kingdom, because Walt Disney didn't want a cowboy headed to adventure and walking through, you know, Tomorrowland and it just creates a bad experience. So, Disney I think is a great example if you're going to, how do we create an incredible experience that literally put you in another world for a day or a week or whatever it is? How do we take that same attention to detail in that same mindset and think of all the different ways that we can create a better experience for our customers, right? Most most places will never think about how far apart the trash cans need to be in some kind of strategy planning session, unless you're thinking about what is every single thing, a customer or a guest that our parks could deal with, that we can fix? Well, trash is a big one for restrooms, or you name it, right?

Steve Brown : 

I think that, I think that a lot of our clients, they know that. Here's the front, here's where our parking lot is. So let's make sure it's manicured and clean. There's the front door, there's the world, our open hours. When they come in, there's the counter, there's the the menu. It's clear in the physical world for the most part, above average, where people just naturally go, "Okay, we need to have things organized in aisles and put the drinks in the back so they have to walk by the chips." Those things, but when it comes to our virtual world, our online platforms, that's not really, they're not really connecting all the dots about what you're talking about. And—

Wes Gay : 

Right.

Steve Brown : 

That's what you and I do.

Wes Gay : 

Mm hmm. Yeah. Our, our job for our clients is to do for them what they do for the people, which is: help them figure out the path they need to go. And help them figure out the next steps that they need to take. And just like you said, connect those dots. We, we all need an outside perspective. We all need somebody else to say, "Hey, have you thought about it this way? Or, you're actually missing these three or five things in your planner. What if you change this?" And in making those connections because so many of us as entrepreneurs are so in the weeds of our business every day. It can be really hard to pull back and see the whole landscape and see everything from the parking lot to the front entrance to the reception desk, to the meeting space to the event space to the shelf to whatever it is.

Steve Brown : 

So folks that are listening to this, maybe they're they're interested in what you do, what are the what are the best kind of clients and what are your clients that you love to work with?

Wes Gay : 

My, we've worked, I've worked with over 100 folks in the StoryBrand world in the last three and a half years. And the best, my best clients come to me because one, they want StoryBrand. So, they have awareness of it. They say I want this done. And then the next level that we look for is: how much are they willing to let go and let us do our thing? Because I've had people who love StoryBrand, but they they are still the experts. And I'm fine if you, and I've dealt with the businesses who have really smart people on the inside like I was, there was a stretch I was with a company for about a year and a half in a variety of different roles at one point was a fractional Vice President of Product Marketing. They were about 80 or 100 million in revenue. A SASS company. And there were people who had worked at Microsoft and had been on it all running all over the world with, who's the guy, the guy who's now as CEO of Microsoft? I'm an apple guy, so I don't keep up with you yourself. This was it's not Steve, not No, it's, um, gosh, I can see his face Satya Nadella. Right? That I forget. Anyways, they were, I mean, he, this guy was personal friends with the current CEO of Microsoft. People had been top of Amazon I mean, you name it. Just brilliant people who knew more about business that I could learn in three lifetimes. But even then they would when they they looked at me and I remember one time they asked me to redo their whole pitch deck. I was sitting in a room with the Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Business Development Officer, VP of Customer Success. All of them were my parents age, VP of Sales. Director of Sales Enablement. And they're like, "Hey design a deck." We spent 10 hours over the course of a week working on this thing and every time it came to a decision point, they looked at me, like what are you? You're, we're hired you. What do you think? Right? So I love those situations where people are willing to lean on somebody else and trust what we're working on. And trust the process. If they want StoryBrand and they're willing to trust the process, that's who that's what we tend to do best with. So in terms of industry, we do basically everything but consumer packaged goods, because I don't know if you've ever run into this the consumer goods world, it's just a whole different beast. And I've done it, I've dabbled in it, we can deliver results, but it there's a, there's a skill set that I'd simply, for some reason don't have or can't break through that other people are much better at than I am. So I'll pass them on. Yeah.

Steve Brown : 

So two more questions.

Wes Gay : 

Okay.

Steve Brown : 

So if people want to want to connect with you, how do they find you, Wes?

Wes Gay : 

Sure. So check out our website. It's hire: h-i-r-e wayfinder.com. And then you can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram just Wes Gay. So Twitter I'm at Wes Gay. Instagram at Wes Gay. LinkedIn, it's linkedin.com, slash, whatever, slash whatever, slash Wes Gay. Yeah, those are the best places to find me.

Steve Brown : 

All right, excellent. So what question, Wes, have I not asked that you wish I would have asked?

Wes Gay : 

I don't think there's really any. We were all, we kind of went all over the place, but, I mean, yeah, I Well, I mean, I will say one question. And this is just something that I've just been in the weeds in a bit the last several weeks is: what should people be thinking about right now in the quarantine-Coronavirus season? I don't. I'm not a prophet. Very few people are very prophetic. But everybody is trying to be one right now to say how are we going to live and thrive in a new normal? Nobody knows what a new normal looks like. Nobody. So people can pontificate all they want, but nobody knows. The only the one thing I would say is: make sure that your business is positioned well in the minds of what consumers are dealing with. So everything you and I do, Steve, with StoryBrand, take that same approach and the empathy that we talked about, how is my audience change now? How do I need to position what I'm doing now? When we come out of this, and we're allowed to see each other again, when we can all go to our favorite Mexican restaurant have chips and salsa and for me, creamy jalapeno chewy's Tex Mex.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah.

Wes Gay : 

When we're ever doing that again, right? It'll be different but for right now, how do we better engage and reach the people that are our audience based on what they're dealing with? Marketing is written in pencil, not Sharpie. We're not brain surgeons. We're not cardiac surgeons, we're not trauma surgeons. We're this is marketing. Wo your marketing can change and it should adapt to better resonate with the people you're reaching and where they are right now. You do that consistently. I think you're going to have a really healthy business over the long haul.

Steve Brown : 

Totally agree. You know, it's just a universal principle being a parent, what, what kind of parent you needed to be for your kids when they were two-years-old is different when they're six-years-old, or when they're going through some sort of challenge. And that's the way our marketing should approach it as well. All of us have clients, all of us have people that we're advocating for. And we need to be understanding and empathetic that what we need to bring them changes in the stage that they're in. And then we totally agree. Excellent. Well, Wes, I really am. I value you, and I appreciate you and I'm so happy to have you on this conversation. This has been an excellent, excellent conversation. And thank you so much.

Wes Gay : 

Hey, Steve. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah, so that's a wrap, folks. Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast. For more, be sure to check out the show notes of this episode. And feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where we can chat, and I can help direct you to the resources you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, The Golden Toilet at, surprise, thegoldentoilet.com. I'm Steve Brown, and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast.