The Playbook for Leaders and Organizations: A Better Way to Grow


In this episode of Beyond Your WHY Podcast, we’re privileged to host Robert Glazer, a distinguished entrepreneur, author, and the Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Recognized for his contributions to performance marketing, culture-building, and leadership development, Glazer has been named #2 on Glassdoor’s list of Top CEOs of Small and Medium Companies in the US. His profound understanding of business dynamics and leadership makes this episode a must-listen for anyone aiming to elevate their personal and professional journey.

Join us and delve into:

The Importance of Core Values: Discover how these guiding principles, unique to each individual or organization, shape decisions and behaviors, and learn why it’s crucial to identify and uphold your core values.

The Impact of Overusing Strengths: Understand how over-reliance on strengths can lead to challenges, such as micromanagement or lack of delegation, and learn strategies to balance and effectively utilize your strengths.

The Intersection of Core Values and WHY: Explore the powerful connection between a person’s core values and their “why”, and how understanding this intersection can offer deep insights into behavior and motivations.

Don’t miss this chance to learn from one of the industry’s most respected leaders. Tune into the episode now to uncover valuable insights that can transform your approach to life and work.


Connect with Robert Glazer!


Websites: (Company) , (Personal)

Watch the episode here

[00:01:19] Robert Glazer’s new book.

[00:03:52] Growing your business sustainably.

[00:08:25] Leadership self-discovery and growth.

[00:10:47] Trust and building authenticity.

[00:15:01] Changing reward center mindset.

[00:19:24] Core values as guardrails.

[00:22:36] Respectful authenticity.

[00:26:59] Core values and uniqueness.

[00:29:29] Core values and discovery.

[00:34:04] Values and their combinations.

[00:36:27] Core values and organizational rewards.

[00:42:35] Psychological safety in organizations.

[00:43:38] Mental and physical health for leaders.

[00:48:12] Manifestation and Friday Forward.

[00:52:56] The best piece of advice.


Listen to the podcast here

Uncovering the Secrets of Leadership with Robert Glazer on Beyond Your WHY Podcast

In the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship and leadership, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve by learning from the best. The Beyond Your WHY Podcast, known for its insightful discussions with industry leaders, recently hosted an episode featuring Robert Glazer, a name synonymous with innovation and leadership excellence. Glazer, the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, is a celebrated author and a recognized authority in performance marketing and culture-building. His unique insights and strategies have earned him a spot as #2 on Glassdoor’s list of Top CEOs of Small and Medium Companies in the US.

The Importance of Core Values in Leadership

One of the key takeaways from this episode is the significance of core values in leadership. Glazer emphasizes that core values are not just buzzwords but guiding principles that have been true since childhood. They are the things most important to us and when violated, can cause discomfort or discord. These values are used to make decisions and should be unique to the individual or the organization. In the competitive business landscape, understanding and upholding these values can be a game-changer.

The Double-Edged Sword of Strengths

Another enlightening point Glazer brings to the table is the impact of overusing strengths. While strengths are crucial for success, over-reliance on them can lead to problems. For instance, a leader with a “better way” mindset might struggle with micromanagement or a lack of delegation. This insight underscores the importance of balance and self-awareness in leadership, reminding us that even our strengths can become weaknesses if not properly managed.

The Intersection of Core Values and Why

Perhaps one of the most profound insights from the episode is the intersection between a person’s core values and their “why”. Glazer explains that there is a strong connection between what we value most and our motivations. Understanding this intersection can offer deep insights into our behavior and motivations, ultimately leading to more effective leadership and personal growth.

This episode with Robert Glazer is a treasure trove of leadership insights and strategies. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned business leader, or someone interested in personal development, these takeaways can provide valuable guidance. Tune into the Beyond Your WHY Podcast to learn from industry leaders like Glazer and discover how to elevate your personal and professional journey.

Discover your WHY.os now for 50% off! Click here to purchase today or visit to learn more!

If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you are using. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you in the next episode.


About Robert Glazer

Robert Glazer is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, and the #1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today and international bestselling author of six books, including Elevate, Elevate Your Team, and How To Thrive In The Virtual WorkplaceHe is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast


Challenge Accepted: Breaking Boundaries in Coaching and Leadership

Brandon Mergard


Embark on an extraordinary journey of personal and professional growth in the latest episode of the podcast series. Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of Brandon Mergard, a trailblazing leader in the coaching industry. From humble beginnings in customer support to assuming the role of CEO, Brandon shares his remarkable path and the transformative power of stakeholder-centered coaching.

In this captivating conversation, Brandon unveils the evolution of coaching, highlighting the pivotal role it plays in leadership development. Discover how he revolutionized the traditional coaching model by integrating innovative strategies and implementing a culture of continuous improvement. With a keen focus on building a community of coaches, Brandon envisions a future where collaboration, research, and data-driven insights revolutionize the coaching landscape.

Gain invaluable insights as Brandon explains how Stakeholder-Centered Coaching drives impactful results. Explore the profound connection between effective leadership and the perception of others, challenging the conventional norms of coaching. Uncover the fascinating research and methodology behind Stakeholder Center Coaching and how it transforms leaders, their organizations, and their stakeholders.

Whether you’re a coach, a leader, or someone seeking personal growth, this episode is a must-listen. Brandon’s expertise and passion shine through as he shares practical advice, personal anecdotes, and a compelling vision for the future of coaching. Prepare to be inspired, empowered, and motivated to unlock your full potential and make a lasting impact in your personal and professional life.

Don’t miss this captivating episode filled with actionable insights, thought-provoking discussions, and a deep dive into the world of coaching. Tune in now to discover the keys to unleashing your potential and embark on a transformational journey of self-discovery and growth.


Connect with Brandon Mergard!

Twitter :


Watch the episode here

[00:01:41] Brandon’s WHY

[00:03:53] Living in the Pacific Northwest.

[00:08:00] Thinking Outside the Box.

[00:11:44] High school guitar obsession.

[00:17:19] Life as a session musician.

[00:19:05] Falling backwards into opportunities.

[00:24:32] Stakeholder centered coaching.

[00:26:06] Leadership perception changes.

[00:30:10] Job hunting struggles.

[00:33:21] Leadership improving family interactions.

[00:39:19] Building a culture of failure.

[00:41:03] Stakeholder-centered coaching.

[00:44:21] Generalists vs Specialists.

[00:47:58] Community coaching.

[00:51:38] Follow-up and Leadership Efficacy.

[00:56:04] Improvements of using WHY.os.

[00:58:21] Knowing your “WHY”.

Listen to the podcast here

Challenge Accepted: Breaking Boundaries in Coaching and Leadership

In the fast-paced world of professional coaching, standing out from the crowd requires a unique blend of skills, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement. In a recent episode of the Beyond Your Why podcast, we had the opportunity to delve into the journey of Brandon Mergard, a coaching industry leader who has transformed the way coaching is perceived and implemented. This blog post uncovers the key takeaways from the episode, revealing valuable insights that can empower individuals to unlock their full potential and drive success in both their personal and professional lives.

Embrace Growth Mindset: Journey towards Continuous Growth

Brandon’s story exemplifies the power of embracing a growth mindset. By constantly seeking new challenges and expanding his skill set, he elevated his career from coaching support to leading an entire certification business. This highlights the importance of ongoing learning and development to achieve personal and professional growth.

Streamlining Processes for Enhanced Efficiency

Within the coaching industry, identifying areas for improvement is crucial. Brandon’s focus on streamlining procedures and codifying processes not only improved internal efficiency but also led to the development of a systemized approach with guaranteed and measurable results. This commitment to efficiency can significantly enhance the client experience.

Stakeholder-Centered Coaching: Driving Real Results

One of the significant contributions Brandon made was introducing stakeholder-centered coaching. This approach involves involving stakeholders in the coaching process, ensuring the leaders’ growth is aligned with the perceptions of those around them. This collaborative approach leads to tangible and impactful results.

Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Experimentation
Brandon advocates for fostering a culture that embraces failure as an opportunity for growth. By encouraging experimentation and learning from mistakes, organizations and individuals can drive innovation, continuous improvement, and resilience in the face of challenges.

Authentic Leadership: Defying Expectations

Despite initial perceptions, leaders should feel empowered to lead authentically, embracing their unique qualities and approaches. Brandon’s journey highlights the importance of defying expectations and finding a leadership style that aligns with one’s true self.

Building a Community of Coaches

Collaboration and community-building are essential in the coaching industry. Brandon emphasizes the power of creating a network of coaches, fostering knowledge sharing, and mutual support. This sense of community not only benefits individual coaches but also elevates the coaching profession as a whole.
Research-Driven Approaches: Enhancing Effectiveness
Investing in research and evidence-based practices is paramount to deliver impactful coaching results. Brandon emphasizes the need for ongoing research to understand desired coaching outcomes and the active ingredients that drive success. This commitment to evidence-based coaching ensures clients receive the most effective and tailored support.

The Holistic Approach to Leadership

Leadership effectiveness extends beyond individual traits and behaviors. Brandon’s insights shed light on the importance of stakeholder perception and how it influences leadership effectiveness. A holistic approach that considers the entire ecosystem of leadership is crucial for long-term success.
Applying Personal Insights to All Aspects of Life
Discovering one’s “why” and gaining self-awareness doesn’t only benefit professional endeavors but also enriches personal relationships and overall well-being. Brandon’s personal experience highlights how understanding oneself can lead to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.

Brandon Mergard’s journey in the coaching industry offers a wealth of insights for aspiring coaches, leaders, and individuals looking to unlock their potential. By embracing growth, fostering a culture of learning, and focusing on stakeholder-centered approaches, one can achieve remarkable results. As the coaching industry continues to evolve, it is essential to prioritize research, authenticity, and collaboration to drive positive change and make a lasting impact. By applying these lessons to both personal and professional aspects of life, individuals can unlock their full potential and embark on a transformative journey of growth and success.

Discover your WHY.os now for 50% off! Click here to purchase today or visit to learn more!

If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you are using. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you in the next episode.

About Brandon Mergard

Brandon James Mergard is an internationally acclaimed business executive and leadership coach. Currently serving as the CEO to Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching®, Mergard has spent the past decade taking bold steps to drive business performance.

Since its founding in 1987, Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) has focused primarily on the US market. In the early 2010’s Mergard was brought into the then-nascent firm to establish a sustainable international business arm in 18 months. Within five years of rapid success, he grew the team of FTE’s six-fold while increasing revenue per person by 3 digits, new customers per annum from 45 to 700, and tripled his vertical’s profit margins. During the same time, his training curriculum earned the company multiple international awards for training excellence and thought leadership. He subsequently installed new teams on 5 continents to accommodate an expanding customer base in 110+ countries.

Spending so much of his career working in the field has taught him that coaching is an indispensable partnership specifically for high performers who want to fortify their competitive edge, regardless of their domain. To enact such a change, Mergard uses the Stakeholder Centered Coaching® methodology. The coaching approach leverages key stakeholders in making meaningful, sustainable changes in leadership behavior while quantifying the results. The powerful process was designed by his business partners Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s #1 leadership coach, Dr. Frank Wagner, and Christopher Coffey. The profound impact of the process is now so widespread that it has won nearly every industry award and is used by executives at 1 in 3 Fortune500 organizations. Mergard’s business acumen and domain expertise is exceeded only by his range of ambitions. He spent his early career studying guitar performance in Southern California and working as a professional musician, touring North America and Asia to perform for audiences exceeding 50k. He would later move to East Asia for a decade to study language, culture, and cooking at a half dozen universities while leading SCC’s APAC & EMEA business units. While establishing himself as the firm’s youngest executive he gained recognition as an academic researcher graduating summa cum laude with his MBA from the prestigious, triple-accredited Aston University in the UK where he would later go on to earn his Doctorate of Business Administration. For extracurriculars, Mergard is a former mixed martial artist and bodybuilder who now enjoys participating in international triathlons as well as kettlebell and steel mace competitions. The breadth of his pursuits and experiences give Mergard a uniquely competitive perspective on global business and leadership.

Beyond driving exceptional business performance, Mergard’s unique contribution to the 5,000-person team is to establish an active community for coaches to connect, collaborate, and co-create. He does this through routine member gatherings to offer a shared vision of the future and plan community initiatives which are executed under the appointed local leadership. These initiatives include upskilling the coaches through targeted skills-training, co-creating business systems for coaches, and publishing public research reports to enhance leadership intelligence without barriers to access.

Brandon James Mergard was recently recognized in the Top 200 Power List of “Biggest Voices in Leadership” by LeadersHum 2022 and is a published author with Worldwide Coaching Magazine.

“Coaching is much more than simply improving one’s work performance. It’s about intentionally designing a better human being by shaping behavior. That’s where the magic happens. Yes, teams become more cohesive and we’ll see increases in organizational performance, but we’ll also see happier, healthier individuals who have more engaged families, better relationships,
and who become more influential community leaders. It’s about making the world a better place for us all.”



The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On Society Through Speaking With Grant Baldwin

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute


Want to be part of a greater cause, but don’t know how? Learn from this episode’s guest, who is the epitome of the WHY of Contribute. Grant Baldwin, the founder of The Speaker Lab, has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. A renowned speaker himself, Grant shares his stories and experiences with his audience to contribute to their growth. In this episode, he discusses strategies and techniques for being a great speaker. He also shares stories of challenges throughout his speaking career and how it has impacted his life and the people around him, especially his family! Tune in so you can gain valuable insights and unleash the creativity you have within you.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On Society Through Speaking With Grant Baldwin

In this episode, we are going to be talking about the why of contributing. If this is your why then you want to be part of a greater cause. Something bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish success that contributes to the team’s greater good.

You see group victories as personal victories. You are often behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, and resources to add value to other people and organizations.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Grant Baldwin. He is the Founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab. He has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last several years, he has become a sought-after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur. He’s featured in Inc 500 list, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and The Huffington Post. He has committed his expertise and insight to equip others to share their meaningful message with the masses.

With a mission to motivate other leaders and entrepreneurs, he has developed a training course with The Speaker Lab completed by over 2,000 speakers and counting and created a multitude of additional resources for speakers with varying levels of experience. His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads. His favorite moments are those spent with his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and their three daughters. They live in Nashville, Tennessee, where he enjoys playing pickleball, summer days at the pool, and living the life of Chuck Norris.

Grant, welcome to the show.

Gary, thanks for letting me hang out with you. I appreciate it.

This is going to be fun. The timing of this is perfect because there are so many people that I know in particular, and many of our readers are coaches, speakers, entrepreneurs, and going to be speakers. This is great to have you on the show. Let’s go back to your life. Tell us where did you grow up, where were you born, and what were you like in high school.

I was born and raised in Springfield in Southwest Missouri. I grew up in a normal middle-class home. My dad worked for a radio for most of his career. When I was in middle school or so, he switched careers and was working in the power co-op space doing marketing and consulting for them. A bit of a freelancer that we would think about it.

That was my first foray into him working from home, having some freedom and flexibility. I was like, “That seems like a nice gig.” I wouldn’t mind doing that, and with that entrepreneurial bug. My mom has been in healthcare her entire profession. In high school, my parents split up, which had a big impact on my world. With that, I’ve got involved in my local church.

My youth pastor had a big impact on my life. That was the path I was on. I was like, “I want to do that. That seems like a rewarding and fulfilling career. If I can make the impact on others that he made in my own life, that seems interesting.” That’s the direction I was headed. I went to Bible college as a youth pastor for a little while and got a little taste of speaking but other than my parents splitting up at the time and even looking back, I felt like a normal middle-class childhood.

In high school, I was involved in my local church and had various leadership roles there. Speaking is one of those things that I had an opportunity to get on stage a few times. The bug bit me there. It was like, “I could do this. I would love to do more of this.” Even in college, I worked for a guy who was a full-time speaker. I’ve got to see a little bit behind the scenes of what that was like. There were some highs and lows to childhood and high school life but everything led to this moment. I’m happy with how things have turned out.

You went to high school in Springfield. Where did you go to college?

I went to college in Springfield. It’s a small little private college, Central Bible College and it merged with another school, so it’s not even there. That’s where it was at.

What was your first career path or job?

Strive to make a big impact in someone’s life. Click To Tweet

My first career thing was I was a youth pastor at another church. I did that for about a year and a half, which gave me a lot of opportunities to speak. I was speaking every week to students, and then from time to time, I would get to speak on the weekend at the big church. I’ve got a couple of at-bats there. It was one of those things that I enjoyed. I felt like I was decent at it. I wanted to do more of it. When my wife was pregnant with our oldest daughter, there’s nothing like bringing a kid into the world that causes you to question everything.

As a youth pastor, there were parts of it I like and didn’t like but one of the things I enjoyed was speaking. I was like, “I want to give this speaking thing a shot but I wasn’t sure. What does that even mean? What does that look like? How do you find gigs? What do you speak about? Who hires speakers? How much do you charge? How does this mysterious black box of speaking work?”

I started emailing, stalking, and harassing speakers because, at the time, there wasn’t any coaching or training, books, resources or podcasts on this. It was a DIY figured out on your own. My best effort to figure it out was emailing a bunch of speakers, pestering them, trying to get a couple of answers, piecing some stuff together, and trying to take action on it.

Being a pastor that’s even more of a legit gig than a speaker because you’ve got to do it every week. You’ve got to be different and be on. There’s a lot of pressure, I would have guessed.

One of the pros and cons of being in ministry and speaking is that you have largely the same audience every week. Most of the time, as a professional speaker, you are telling a lot of the same stories and doing a lot of the same material. Each time you tell a story, you are getting real-time feedback from that audience. When you tell it the next time, it becomes better over time.

Whereas, in ministry, when you are speaking, you have the same audience. If you tell a story that kills this week, you can’t tell the same story next week. It forces you to come up with new content. Sunday is always coming, and you’ve got to come up with new material. There were upsides to that that helped you to figure out real quick if you could keep up with this at a sustainable pace.

I have always wondered what is it like. I speak as well, and it’s the same presentation with some tweaks here and there wherever you go but to do a different one every week, there’s a lot of skill involved there.

It takes a lot of preparation. You’ve got to have a good system. If you are doing 30, 40 to 50 new talks a year, that’s a lot of stuff. Thankfully for me, if I was speaking with the students, it’s a little bit more casual. You are having more discussions and small group-type stuff. It’s not like you are having a 60-minute keynote every single week or something like that.

Even the times that I would speak on the weekends in the main services, it wasn’t like I was speaking every single week. I might speak 5 or 6 times a year. Even though I was having to be 5 or 6 new talks, it wasn’t like a week after week where you are trying to come up with something new but I always knew what my schedule was. For example, Sunday is coming in two months, and I’ve got to have something to say, “Here’s what the series or topic is.”

It also helps you to put up your radar so that I know I was speaking about being a good parent. I’m in-between points A and B. I’m looking for things that are on my radar related to parenting and illustrations, stories or things that have happened in my life or anything related to that that I could utilize or tie in. Maybe something I saw in a magazine or an article that I read, a YouTube video or whatever but having your radar up of, “Some of type new presentation has got to come together.” You don’t want to sit down the night before like, “What are we going to talk about?”

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: One of the pros and cons of being in a ministry and speaking is you have largely the same audience every week. So most of the time as a professional speaker, you’re telling a lot of the same stories.


It’s collecting those thoughts, starting to organize them into something, and having that ready a few days out. One thing I did and still would do is to spend a lot of time practicing and preparing. There’s a misconception that the best speakers in the world scribble a couple of ideas on a napkin and then hop up there, wing it and shoot from the hip. It doesn’t work like that.

They spend a lot of time practicing, preparing, and rehearsing behind the scenes. When they hop up on stage, it looks supernatural. It looks like they are shooting from the hip and talking off the cuff but that’s not the case at all. They do spend a lot of time. I try to spend a lot of time making sure that when I’ve got up there that even though it was the first time I was presenting this that I felt confident and prepared.

What would you say is the best thing that you learned from giving a different talk every week? Most of us, if not all of us, will never do that. You did that for however many years. What’s the most valuable lesson you learned from a different talk every week?

It forces you to get good at content, finding content, identifying content, and learning what works. You and I have the same 3, 4 or 5 stories that we tell over and over again. It’s easy to become complacent, lazy and be like, “I know this material works, so I keep going back to this,” versus, “If I couldn’t tell any of those five stories again, then I’ve got to find something different.”

There’s a speaker and a friend of mine who calls it the new two. Meaning every time he speaks, even though a lot of the content is the content he’s done before, he forces himself to find a new 2, 2 minutes that he has never presented before. Sometimes maybe you present those two minutes, it goes somewhere and works, then you turn it into 5 or 7 minutes, and it worked. It makes it to the cutting room floor but it forces you to be into the rhythm and routine of, “I’ve got to try new stuff,” versus resting on what’s worked and thinking that will always be the case.

When I think back to my first speaking events versus where I am, there’s this nervousness about interacting. It was all about me. When you get up there for the first time, you are like, “I hope I don’t look stupid and sound bad,” and all the things that you go through, whereas after you have done so many, you become good at interacting with the audience or crowd and being able to engage differently with that level of comfort.

One interesting thing, especially in the church world or the ministry world is when you have the same audience, they are at least familiar with you. If you do 50 events in a year and it’s 50 different clients, then every time you speak, you are trying to build rapport and connection with the audience. They have no idea who you are.

Whereas when you are speaking to the same audience on some type of consistent basis, you will at least have some type of familiarity there, so you don’t have to go into too much background of who you are and why you are here, this song and dance but for the most of the audience, you get some type of connection there because they are already familiar with you.

It’s the difference between going to a comedy club to see any comedian, whoever’s up there that’s selling jokes, versus you bought a ticket to see a specific comedian or a band versus going to a music venue because you are like, “I want to hear some live music.” There’s at least some familiarity there that makes a big difference in terms of the rapport that has already been established.

You graduated from college and then started as a pastor at a church. You then went outside the church and started doing more secular-type talks. What prompted that direction? What were you speaking about?

Spend a lot of time practicing and preparing if you want to be a great speaker. Click To Tweet

I did a lot in the education space, in high schools and colleges. Working with students was a world that I was familiar with and understood. It landed itself well to speaking in that world. There are a couple of guys that I knew that were doing some speaking in that world. I was pretty young myself. I was 24, 25 at the time. The idea of speaking to corporate CEOs or something that are like, “You could be my son.”

Early on, I worked with a similar company. They would book me to go out, speak and present their content. I would speak on time management or organization. A lot of times they would send me to environments where I was the youngest person in the room. There’s a lot of Imposter syndrome, especially early on. I’m like, “Who am I to be here? I don’t have anything to bring to the table.”

I did a lot of school assemblies and student leadership conferences. Those were environments that forced you to be a good speaker. You have a lot of adult audiences that are polite and friendly. If you are not doing a good job, they will still smile, nod, and play along but if you are talking to a group of 15, 16, and 17-year-olds that don’t want to be there, you better be good as a speaker to keep them engaged. That also helped me to become better as a speaker over time because those are unique audiences and environments.

From education, where did you end up? How did you get into coaching other speakers?

I was a full-time speaker for several years. In the 1st year, I was doing 20 to 30 events and then 40 to 50 events. Eventually, it got to a point where I was doing about 70 gigs a year. I enjoyed it. There’s a lot of fun. The nature of speaking is that it’s a high-paying manual labor job. I would get paid well to stand on stage and talk but the nature of it was I had to leave my family, get on a plane and go somewhere. It’s like a surgeon. A surgeon makes good money but like surgeries, you’ve got to show up and do surgery. I felt like I had a good job but I didn’t necessarily have a business. There’s this limited flexibility.

I was like, “Now what? What do I do from here on?” The only way to broaden your impact, reach or income is you either have to do more gigs or charge more. I was already at the upper limit of what I felt comfortable charging in that particular industry and the education space. I didn’t necessarily want to be on the road anymore.

It was 2013 and 2014 when I started noticing more podcasts, online training, and the online business world. At the time, I had a lot of people who are asking me, “I want to be a speaker. How would I go about doing that?” A lot of times, what would happen is people would use the phrase, and we have both said this phrase to other people as well, which is, “How did you get into that?”

What I decided to do is, at the time, I was doing a lot of speaking around the topic of careers, helping people think through and figure out what they wanted to do with life, especially high school and college students, so I started a podcast called How Did You Get Into That? We were interviewing interesting, unique people who had crazy careers like a guy who was a LEGO master builder, one of the top LEGO builders in the world, a guy who worked for Nike and Michael Jordan designing the Air Jordans, a guy who was an NBA mascot and a lady who was one of the top cheese experts in the world.

These types of careers where you are talking to people going like, “I don’t personally want to do that but it’s fascinating that you make a career from that. How did you get into that? What does that look like?” I did that for a little while. I had a lot of people asking me, “How did you get into that? I want to be a speaker. How would I do that?”

At that point, I started doing a little bit of coaching and teaching around that. I enjoyed it. I felt like we were creating a solution to the problem that I had when I’ve got started. There wasn’t anyone readily available. There was no podcast, coaching, training, books or resources about how do I become a speaker. We tried to create some resources that I wish I had when I’ve got started. One thing we quickly figured out is that there are a lot of people who are interested in speaking and who could do this that need some help in the next step.

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Spend a lot of time just making sure that when you got up there that even though it was the first time you were presenting something, you are confident and prepared.


When I’ve got started, I felt like I had the potential but I needed the plan. I feel like I was a decent speaker. I wasn’t the best or worst. I always knew that there was something there but I needed a plan and someone to tell me. “I can do the work. Just show me what to do. Tell me what steps I need to take. What are the action items I need to execute here?” I felt like there were a lot of people in that same spot. That’s when we started leaning into the speaker training and coaching that has evolved into what we do.

Who would be an ideal client for you? Who are you looking to connect with you? Why would they be looking for you?

There are a lot of people who are interested in speaking and people listening who have done some speaking. Maybe it’s something that fell in your lap. It was a word-of-mouth thing, a referral or something for your company. It was something that was a friend recommended you to. A lot of times it’s like this, “We enjoy speaking and want to do more of it but we don’t know what to do next. Do I sit back and wait for other people to magically find me? Do I click my heels together, close my eyes tight, and then hopefully another gig falls in my lap?”

We both understand, and everybody reading understands that that’s not a way to build a business. Rather than being reactive, we want to teach people to be proactive and understand the steps that you need to take to build and grow a speaking business. There are going to be people who are reading that’s like, “I would love to do 60, 70, 100 gigs a year and be a full-time speaker.” Other people are like, “That has zero appeal to me. I would love to do 5 or 10 gigs a year, maybe in addition to what I’m already doing in my business or within my company. Maybe in addition to my coaching or consulting. Maybe using it as lead generation for some other stuff that I’m doing.

We want to do some level of speaking but we don’t know how to get started. We don’t know what we don’t know. “How do I find gigs? What do I charge? Who hires speakers? What do I speak about? How does this mysterious black box of speaking work?” That’s who we work with. We try to demystify that and give a roadmap and framework for how you consistently be able to find and book paid gigs and also share your message with others.

This is probably crossing the minds of people reading, and it was crossing my mind. You did 70 gigs one year. Is it positive or negative? You made a lot of money and did a lot of traveling but what’s that like?

It’s a blast and fun. I will give you the highs and the lows of it. The upside is travel can be fun. I have been to 49 US states and multiple countries and seen a lot of parts of the country that most people will never see in a lifetime. That’s cool and enjoyable. The downside of the travel part is you are away from the family, sleeping in another hotel, eating hotel food or food on the road when you want a home-cooked meal. There’s certainly a lot of that.

The upside is it’s not bad. Speaking and having hundreds or thousands of people listening to you, people wanting to shake your hand, take pictures with you, ask for your autograph or give you a standing ovation. Most people don’t get applause when they do their job. To finish sharing some ideas and everybody claps for you is pretty fun. There are a lot of upsides to it.

Being a speaker, the actual speaking part is a very small part of it. You spend a lot of time waiting. You are waiting backstage, on planes, at the airport, in hotels, in rental cars, and then you do your thing, your little dog and pony show. You then go back to waiting and heading home. Doing 60, 70 gigs a year led to being on the road 80, 90 nights a year. It’s also can be a little bit cyclical over a year. You would have seasons where you were busy. You may have 4 gigs in 7 days, and you are on the road going from city to city.

December would be slow. Nobody is booking things around the holidays. You may be gone for a long, long stretch of week to week but then you may be home for a full month and not going anywhere. My wife is going like, “You’ve got a gig or something you could go do?” It comes and goes in waves but it’s enjoyable knowing that you are doing something that’s making an impact, able to travel, connect with some great people and make a difference with the work that you are doing. There are downsides but it’s also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

Who you are is more important than what you do. Click To Tweet

I was talking to a friend of mine that does a lot of speaking more than I do. In 1 year, he did 134 events. He said it was mind-numbing and was too much. He did 4 in 1 day. I don’t know how you can function that way but the high is really high.

One of the great things is that the pandemic has been good for the speaking industry. What I mean by that is that prior to COVID, virtual speaking wasn’t even a thing. Event planners and speakers weren’t taking it seriously. When COVID hit, all events come to a screeching halt, and there were no other options. Virtual speaking becomes the only game in town.

For several months there was the Wild Wild West, and everyone was figuring out what this new normal looked like from a speaking presenting standpoint but a couple of years later, hopefully, we come out of the pandemic more and more each day, we are seeing that live events have come back with a vengeance because apart, they haven’t happened for a while, so people crave being together in person. There’s nothing that compares to being together with other human beings in a room.

Even in the handful of events that I have been to in a few months that people are like, “We are back. We are together. This is awesome,” hugs, high fives, and handshakes, people crave that type of community and atmosphere that a live event can provide. What’s happened is that although live events have come back, they have not come back in replacement for virtual events. They have come back in addition.

There are a lot of virtual events that continue to exist. We have seen more events than ever because both live and virtual events exist. We are also seeing a lot of hybrid events that are taking place where a speaker may come in and speak in person but there’s a virtual audience or where speakers are speaking in person once. Maybe they are doing three months of follow-up Zoom calls, where they are going deeper on the content or helping to apply the content that was presented.

It sounds weird but the pandemic is one of the best possible things to happen to the speaking industry and has created enormous new opportunities that didn’t previously exist. All that to say, there are a lot of opportunities for people to say, “I want to be a speaker but I don’t want to be on the road that much.” That didn’t exist in 2020. There are a lot of speakers who are killing and doing it while staying home. There are pros and cons and trade-offs to virtual speaking versus in-person speaking but the point is, there are a lot more opportunities and options that exist with virtual speaking that didn’t previously exist.

What have you noticed to be the difference between virtual speaking and live speaking?

It doesn’t compare to being together in person. One of the best parts of speaking is being able to feed off the energy of the audience and see people nodding, taking notes, laughing, smiling, elbow in their neighbor or anything like that. You lose all of that with virtual. As you and I are talking, we are each sitting in our rooms and talking to ourselves via a screen. It’s a different atmosphere and environment.

It’s not that it’s bad. It still works and is effective. By giving a virtual presentation, you are able to give multiple presentations on the same day to multiple states, audiences or countries. You can have attendees from all over the world. It opens up opportunities that physically and geographically are not possible whenever it comes to physical in-person speaking. There are pros and cons to it but there’s nothing that compares to being together live in person with an audience.

Have you noticed that the presentation has to be different for a virtual audience versus a live audience?

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: You have a lot of adult audiences that are polite and friendly, and if you’re not doing a good job, they’ll still smile and nod and play along.


Yes. Just because someone is a good in-person speaker, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good virtual speaker. What a lot of speakers found out early on in the pandemic is that some stuff that may work in person doesn’t translate online and vice versa. We have to figure out how do you engage an audience and keep an audience with you because the other thing that’s difficult in a virtual environment is all the audience is watching on a screen, where you are also going to be competing with other tabs, their email, text message, TV, Slack and other notifications that may be popping up.

Whereas when you are in person, you may still have some of those things but it’s a little bit harder for them to be massively distracted when you are sitting there right in front of them in person talking. When you are just a talking head on a screen, they can turn off their camera, muted it, and not necessarily have to talk. It’s a little bit easier for them to get distracted. You’ve got to be aware of that and make sure that you are looking for other opportunities and ways to keep them engaged.

Have you got any tips or secrets for us that can help us keep people engaged in a virtual presentation?

Some of it depends on the nature of the presentation, how long it is and how big are the audiences but one thing that you can do is utilize the chat. Simple things like every few minutes, these pattern interrupts, “If you are with me, type in with you. Tell me in the chat where you are from. If this has ever happened to you, type I in the chat.”

Anything like that where normally you might be like, “How many of you have ever experienced this? Raise your hand.” People would physically raise their hands. “Turn to your neighbor and say this. Nod your head if you have had this experience.” Some of those interactive experiences that we would do in person, we can still do virtually.

Chat is a good way to do that to force people to re-engage and lock in. Also, utilizing slides can be helpful and effective, so it’s not just a talking head but it’s giving us something to look at. If you are going through slides quickly, it keeps them engaged in the same way that you are watching a TV show or sitcom. They are changing scenes and camera angles every few seconds because they know that people’s attention span is going to start to wane, lose interest, and be distracted. You’ve got to keep people on their toes and keep mixing it up.

Also, the length of a presentation. If you are talking with a potential client and they said, “We want to do three hours on Zoom,” that sounds like a disaster. Zoom fatigue is a real thing. None of us want to do that. Keep it short, concise, and half the length of what an in-person would be. If you were going to do 3 hours, try to keep it to 1 and a half or 1 hour and tighten up everything. Even 1 and a half or 1 hour is a long time staring at a Zoom screen. It’s things that you want to be aware of. You can also do a Q&A, mix it up with that or do some type of breakout groups. There are a lot of good breakout room options within Zoom that you can do to mix up the formatting of a presentation.

When you would speak on stage, did you typically speak with a presentation deck or without one?

As far as slides, I typically have not used slides. There are pros and cons to slides. Slides can be beneficial for keeping an audience engaged but can also be a big distraction for speakers. What we always tell speakers is, “If you are going to use slides, you want to use them as an enhancement, not a replacement to your presentation.”

Here’s what I think about this. I remember a few years ago, my wife was attending a conference, and she texted me. She was in a session and said that the presenter was there. They said that they couldn’t give their talk because their slides wouldn’t work. A good litmus test would be, let’s say, you have slides, and five minutes before you are going to go up, the projector fails, the computer crashes or something happens, and you can’t give your presentation with the slides. The presentation should still be able to stand on its own. It should still be solid.

If we're great speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, business owners or coaches or consultants, but we dropped the bomb as husbands, dads, moms, wives as if we are the shell of a human being, then we've really missed the point. Click To Tweet

What happens oftentimes is that slides become a crutch and cue cards for a speaker. That takes away from the presentation. If you are going to use it, pop-up slides with tacks on them and read off everything that’s on there, then just play a video. You don’t have to be there. There’s nothing wrong with slides. Slides can be powerful and effective but they should be an enhancement and not a replacement for your talk.

It takes a better speaker to speak without slides because the focus is 100% on you. There is no getting around that one. You can’t show something funny or throw something up that’s interesting. It’s got to be all about you. It feels that way. What’s your take on that?

You’ve got to be a solid speaker. You can use a crutch in a couple of different ways like, “I’m going to put up some stuff, and the image is going to capture people’s attention. It means that I can be less engaging for a few moments there while people are looking at the image, watching a video or something like that.” When you have nothing up on the screen that people can look at, you’ve got to be good on stage. The other thing is when speakers use their slides as cue cards and go like, “I’m trying to remember what comes next, so next slide,” it can become a cop-out, and you become lazy.

I remember at a conference a couple of years ago that I was speaking at, I was backstage and talking with a speaker who was getting ready to go on. He was obsessed with his slides. I was like, “What about the talk? That’s what people are here for.” There’s nothing wrong with slides, I’m not saying it is but they should be an enhancement, not a replacement of the presentation.

How many talks do you think you’ve given in your life so far?

Live in-person over 1,000 presentations and talks, threw in virtual in there. We are in a day and age where everyone’s definition of what a presentation is looks different. Is this a presentation, webinars, podcasts, interviews, Facebook lives or anything like that versus what we typically standardly think of as a presentation like, “I was hired to do a keynote or a workshop and break out in front of this audience?” A lot of times, for sure.

The reason I’m asking you that is because I’m curious what percentage of the time when you show up to do a speaking event, let’s say live. Is there a tech glitch or something doesn’t work? How often does that happen?

Not often but it happens. I will give you a couple of thoughts. One is those moments help you to become a better speaker because something happened outside the norm, and so you’ve got to be able to roll with it. I would rarely use slides. That was one less variable that I could control that wasn’t going to be an issue but there were times, especially when I was doing a lot of speaking in high schools when it hasn’t had a great sound setup, sound system or anything like that. It wasn’t uncommon for a mic to fail or be staticky.

I remember one time I was in a gymnasium with over 1,000 students, and the mic goes down. I was looking for some help with some backup batteries or a new mic, and no one was doing anything. I was like, “Screw it.” I put the mic down, yell, project and make it work. The show must go on. When those moments happen that are outside the norm, a speaker can utilize and lean into that. Everyone loves an inside joke, and you had to be there. When something happens that is not scripted and not supposed to happen, it creates this moment that we can all laugh about.

A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference center, and a dog comes running in, zipping around the room. That’s not planned, and it was not my dog. I don’t know whose dog that was or how it got into the building but it creates this raw, real moment of like, “You had to be there. We can all laugh and joke about it,” then you move on. As a speaker, when those moments happen, it’s a good chance to build this rapport with the audience but make some humor and also realize, “This happened outside of my control. How do I address it?” Deal with it, do whatever, move on and continue the presentation.

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: If you’re talking to a group of 15, 16, 17 year olds that don’t want to be there, you better be good as a speaker to keep them engaged.


It seemed like for a while, every single event that I spoke at had different setups and attachments. Everything was different. There was no standardization of anything. Half the time, it would work, and half the time, it wouldn’t work with a Mac. Sometimes I’m putting it on a thumb drive and stick it into their computers. The screens would go out or something would happen but it ended up being something good because I almost expect it to happen and when it does, so what? It’s not a big deal.

That speaks to how important it is to do some type of test run with the AV team. Even if I wasn’t using any slides, one of the things I would always make sure is I can get some type of tech run-through so I could get a sense of like, “What’s the lighting going to be like? Where’s the audience going to be? If there are going to be cameras, where are those cameras going to be? Which microphone? Am I going to be using the handheld? Is it going to have a wire or cord to it? Am I going to use a lapel that sits on my shirt? Am I going to use more of a Countryman that fits over my ear?”

There are all these different nuances and variables. You want to be prepared for all those things. If I’m using sides, I want to plug it into my computer, hook it up and see those slides on the screen. I want to see if the orientation is correct or if something looks skewed in any way that I want to make sure we get that fixed. You are not trying to scramble and adjust those things on the fly but like, “No, I have shown up and prepared. Make sure all the variables are correct and where they need to be.”

It’s part of being a professional. Part of doing a good job is not just what you do on stage but also how you work offstage. “Were you on time? Were you nice to the tech crew? Did you make sure that you had your ducks in a row and your slides look good?” All of those little nuance things add and contribute to you as an overall presenter, whether or not people want to work with you.

Are you saying that being a professional speaker is more than taking a couple of shots of tequila, running up on stage, and talking?

Yes, 1,000%. Part of being a great speaker is what happens on stage but a big part of it is what happens offstage. You think about it from an event planners’ perspective. The speaker at an event is an important part of the event but it’s 1 of 100, if not 1,000, moving pieces that they are trying to handle, think through, and be prepared for. The easier you can be to work with, the simpler that you can make things on them, the better you can make their life, the less of a pain in the butt you are, the more likely they are going to want to work with you, refer you, recommend you and bring you back.

This isn’t exclusive to speakers. This is any type of vendor. If you were hiring someone to mow your grass and made the grass look amazing but they don’t show up on time, charge you weird, don’t do what they said they are going to do, reschedule for you, they are a pain in the butt, not like a diva or a prima donna. They are dropping the ball on simple things. Do what you say you are going to do. If you can’t do what you said you are going to do, communicate with the event planner. If you do those things and you are average on stage, you can be successful as a speaker.

Last question, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever gotten or given?

The thing that I tell our team regularly is something I used to speak about was, “Who you are is more important than what you do.” If we are great speakers, authors, entrepreneurs or business owners, coaches, and consultants but we dropped the bomb as husbands, dads, moms, and wives, as if we are the shell of human beings, then we have missed the point. I love talking about speaking. I love being an entrepreneur and business owner. I love making a little dent in the world but my most important roles on this planet are being a good husband and dad.

I’ve got married to my high school sweetheart. We’ve got three beautiful daughters. It’s me in a house full of women. It’s the absolute best. Those four ladies are the most important responsibility in my world. I love all this other business nonsense we get to play around with and this sandbox we get to play in but those things are the important thing. I try to remind people and keep it top of mind that who you are is more important than what you do.

If there are people that are reading this who want to connect with you, learn to be better speakers, and get into the speaking game, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

I would encourage you to check The Speaker Lab Podcast. We’ve got nearly 400 episodes. They are all different subjects or topics related to anything and everything about speaking. That’s a great resource. Everything else we do is over at We’ve got a lot of free resources and articles over there. We have a Speaking Fee Calculator there.

When people ask, “How much should I charge as a speaker?” The answer is it depends. There are a lot of variables that go into it. We have put together a calculator. It’s free. Answer a couple of questions, and it will spit out several what you should be charging. You can also find that directly over We try to do anything that we can to support speakers as they build and grow their businesses.

Grant, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time. I look forward to staying in touch as we go along our paths.

Gary, thanks for the time. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much for reading this episode with Grant Baldwin. If you have not yet discovered your why, then go to You can use the code PODCAST50 to discover your why at half price. If you love our show, please don’t forget to subscribe, leave us a review, and rating on whatever platform you are using. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you next time.


Important Links


About Grant Baldwin

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of ContributeAs founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab, Grant Baldwin has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last 15 years Grant has become a sought after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur.
Featured on the Inc. 5000 list, Forbes, Inc. Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, he has committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their meaningful message with the masses.With a mission to motivate other leaders and entrepreneurs, Grant has developed a training course with The Speaker Lab, completed by over 2,000 speakers (and counting), and created a multitude of additional resources for speakers with varying levels of experience!
His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads. Grant’s favorite moments are those spent with his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and their three daughters. They live in Nashville, Tennessee where Grant enjoys playing pickleball, summer days at the pool, and living life like Chuck Norris.

WHY Of Better Way With Robert Glazer: Why It Works And When It Doesn’t

BYW S4 21 | Better Way

No one starts as a successful entrepreneur, and the journey to the top isn’t always smooth. Here to share his experience is Robert Glazer, the founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners. Robert joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to share his career and business journey and how he grew his business by innovating the industry. Now, they are the largest agency globally in a specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. The two also dissect Robert’s WHY of Better Way and how it paved the way for his success while also discussing when it works against his favor and how he mitigates it. Tune in for an interesting discussion and gain business insight and honest advice to help accelerate your journey.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

WHY of Better Way with Robert Glazer: Why It Works and When It Doesn’t

We are going to be talking about the why of better way. If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator. You are constantly seeking better ways to do everything. You find yourself wanting to improve virtually anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvement with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased but never satisfied.” You are excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another, always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

I have got a great guest for you. You are going to love this. His name is Robert Glazer. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency, and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row.

He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward. He is the number one Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and international bestselling author of five books, Elevate, Friday Forward, How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace, Moving to Outcomes, and Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. Robert, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Gary.

I’m looking forward to this. This is going to be fun.

We are talking about the best why.

Let our audience get to know you a little bit. Where were you born? What were you like in high school? Take us back to that time frame.

I was born outside of Boston. I have a speech that I will give. When I gave that speech, I showed a lot of my report cards. My parents were moving out of the family house and brought them over. I went through them, and they were all on the scene. They were like, “He is capable but we can’t seem to motivate him.” I was very entrepreneurial in marketing or creative. None of that is typically rewarded in the normal education course. I was pretty bored and always told that I was underachieving. I know that has a direct impact on a lot of my why and other why.

It wasn’t until I’ve got to college that I’ve got through the standard core curriculum. I started realizing that I loved business and marketing. I liked learning. I was bored with everything that I was learning before. I was always tinkering with stuff. My mom would tell you. She would ask me to clean my room, and I would rearrange my entire room. I remember one time. I was 9 or 10 years old. I like playing electronics and thought, “I could take my battery-powered game. I could hook a plug up to it and run it.” That exploded in my hands when I did that.

Those were all the things outside the classroom. Those are maybe more now or maybe in a Montessori environment. Those were things more where it was like, “Color in the lines. Stop messing with that stuff and follow this stuff.” To this day, I ended up being diagnosed with ADD later on. I can’t pretend to be interested in something. It doesn’t work for me.

A student, B student or C student, what were you?

B student.

Off to college, did you have any idea what you wanted to do when you went to college?

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer because my dad was a lawyer. I liked the concept of it. I interned at a couple of law firms. I hated the experience and got exposed to the business. I was always running little business things. I remember I had this Now and Later. It was this candy that was super hot in our school. I was ten years old. I figured out how to take the train, buy and resell them for twice as much money. My grandmother found out about the operation. She was like, “You can shut it down or I will tell your mom.”

The things that I was doing that were entrepreneurial were negative in context. I realized that I loved business and marketing. My thinking outside of the box was like, “I’m not the guy you put in the box. I’m the guy you put to destroy the box.” It was interesting. I went abroad. I’ve got done with the core curriculum. I was getting Bs again. Once I started taking the classes I wanted, it didn’t matter how hard it was. I’ve got A’s in almost everything in my junior and senior years. My GPA was 3.0, and now that would be failing. Everyone is at 3.9. It was crazy for the first two years. It was at 3.9 in the second 2 years.

I’m not the guy you put in the box. I’m the guy that you put to destroy the box. Click To Tweet

What did you end up majoring in? Where did you go to college?

I went to Penn. Going abroad for me was a big transition point. I’m opening my mind and understanding that I love business and marketing. These are things that I can learn and get better at. This won’t be surprising to you. None of the majors I liked, so I applied to create my own major within the Individualized Major Department. It’s very on-brand. It was Business and Industrial Psychology. It allowed me to take the Business courses in Wharton with a lot of the Industrial Psychology people stuff. Running a professional organization now for over a decade has probably been the highest thing that I have used.

What was that moment when you realized it? I struggled with that myself. I went off to colleges in undeclared majors and kept that as long as I could. What was the moment that you knew, “Now, I know what I want to do?”

It was after I worked in a couple of those law firms. Honestly, I never like tests. I wasn’t good at the notion of having to study for the LSAT and more school. Also, I learn by experience. I learn more outside of the classroom. I thought about them like, “I don’t think I want to do that. I like this business, marketing, and people stuff.” That was the transition. I encourage everyone. We idolize some things like, “You should do them.” I worked in a law firm pretty terribly. One was okay. The other was terrible. I was like, “I don’t want to do this,” but it seemed fun from the outside.

I thought that was all negotiations and arguing with people. I was pretty good on my feet, and I didn’t even realize. My dad was a lawyer. He did Real Estate Law. He has never even seen a courtroom. Going abroad and being in another country, I was in Prague right after they were dealing with this restitution where they gave families back their businesses, and they didn’t know how to run them. We were doing some cool stuff like working with a brewery. I was like, “This stuff is fun. I love this.” You parachute into a situation. You don’t know what is going on. You’ve got to figure it out. That’s the stuff that makes people crazy but it’s the stuff that I like.

What was your first business? Did you start working for somebody?

I progressively worked for smaller and smaller firms until our firm was growing. The consulting firm I worked for abroad made me an offer, Arthur D Little. I went into strategy consulting for a couple of years. I worked at an incubator during the internet bubble and then a venture firm because I liked being around this company creation. I learned that early on. I liked these fast-growing companies. I was doing a lot of work for other people. I hadn’t figured out the angle I wanted to be around. Eventually, I worked for a startup. I came in outside the founding team.

I came in and made it better. I was like, “Why am I doing this for other people? I ended up finding myself in a very marginalized position helping founders make their businesses better.” I decided, “I would start a business and work with those businesses but I would own my business.” There are also bad cultures in a lot of these high-growth startups. I found a way to expose myself to that type of work but insulate myself from those cultures. That ended up being the better way culture aspect of it.

How do you feel about building something versus maintaining something?

I get bored in the maintenance mode. I’m not your maintenance person. I’m the guy who comes in. I even stepped down as the CEO of my own company because we were getting to a size. The way I explained it, I had a president who was my number two for almost a decade. When you are smaller, the R&D department is the company.

Now, the R&D department is a small piece. Keeping the trains on the track is a big piece, and that’s the CEO’s job now. I even realized, “I want to stay running the R&D department.” I moved into managing new products and services. I’m leading all of our M&A and the stuff that is new. As soon as it becomes monotonous, I’m not interested.

Tell us about your company.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: We are the largest agency globally in a field called specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. We help some of the biggest brands in the world build digital marketing programs that are made out of partnerships rather than buying clicks and impressions.

Our company is Acceleration Partners. We are the largest agency globally in a specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. We help some of the biggest brands in the world to build digital marketing programs that are made out of partnerships rather than buying clicks and impressions.

What got you into that? That’s a different angle that people don’t typically talk about. You don’t even hear about it that much unless you happen to be in that world.

It’s a win-win industry. It’s marketing. It’s a partnership, which I was drawn to. I fell into it a little bit by accident because I helped a company build its program that was incredibly successful. It grew to $300 million and sold. People went to all the other companies and called and said, “Can you come to help us do that?” I haven’t met anyone who started an agency intentionally yet. They solve a problem. They hire some people. When people ask them to do more, they hire some more, and then soon they are running an agency.

I do remember being at a conference in our industry and reading this. It was my epiphany moment. As I think about it, it’s a better way. There was a catalog of all these ads of people that could help you with your affiliate programs in it. They were the worst ads that I have ever seen. It looked like they were drawn in crayons. I was like, “If these are the people that are hiring to do marketing for them and their marketing is so terrible, we should be able to crush this.” That was my go-for-it moment because I was horrified at the quality of marketing from people who were being hired to do marketing.

It’s interesting the way you said that because that’s something I say all the time. I’m like, “If that person over there can do it like that, I can do it way better than that.”

In fact, what frustrates me the most is we were talking about a situation like this in the management team. When there’s a company in the right place at the right time, and they seem to do everything wrong, they are still doing well because something endemic to me wants to believe that you have to do it well and good to do well. We try to do everything well and improve. It’s harder to be an agency than it is to be a hot software company sometimes.

People come to you when they want to expand their reach using partnerships versus going out and buying a ton of media.

We use software to build partner programs so that you can have 1,000 partners talking about promoting your product digitally and putting in things. The difference is they get paid only on a performance basis. In some ways, it’s a better way to do marketing. Rather than paying for a click or an impression, you are paying for an outcome or a sale.

If I said to you, Gary, like, “You are trying to get good guests for your podcast. I have the best guest podcast site in the world. I will promote people and send them to you. As you accept them, will you pay me $100 per lead?” You go, “That’s great. That’s much better than the PR service I’m using because I pay them upfront, and I have no idea what I will get.”

If you are a business owner and you have spent any kind of money marketing, it’s an amazingly frustrating experience. You have no idea what you are going to get for the amount of money.

You hear all your friends who have built their business on social media, digital marketing or paid search. If you think there’s inflation in gas and your housing, the inflation in digital marketing and the prices has gotten to the point where it’s very hard to make money unless you are a large player with sophisticated tools.

It’s a massive auction, and the whole world is buying. Auctions don’t tend to benefit the buyers. They tend to benefit the sellers. I always say a little bit about what we do. It’s SEO versus paid search. You need to do the work, put it in, and build a moat. You reap longer-term rewards. It’s not as instantly gratifying but because of that, it tends to be much more sustainable.

It’s really hard to build a competitive, sustainable advantage. Click To Tweet

How were you able to build all these partnerships? You are starting your company fresh. Maybe you already had some connections, and then you put them together and said, “How about if I connect you with someone?”

There’s a known group of people in the industry. They are called professional affiliates. There are people who are known to do this. Part of our thing is building that Rolodex and how to figure out someone who we worked with the one-part program and why they would be good for another program that’s not competitive. There’s a known group of people in this place. We are like matchmakers. There are people looking to date on both sides. Half the group has content, and half the group has the stuff to sell. We are bringing them together.

Are you always adding new partners and products? How does that work?

I’m always adding new clients and partners. Growing our partner Rolodex is a key asset for our business.

To me, from another better-way guy, that sounds like so much fun. It’s connecting people, connecting things, and finding a better, “This would be better if you did it this way.”

The model is like, “Who has figured out Snapchat? Who has figured out mobile marketing? Who has figured out TikTok marketing? How do we go get them and bring them into partnership with a retail brand?” The essence is like sales. We’ve got to find who is new, interesting, and doing something fun.

You have also written five books.

I wrote it all over five years because I’m not good at not doing stuff.

What was the first book? Take us through the sequence of your books.

I had this note that I sent to my team called Friday Forward, that I started years ago. That ended up going outside of our company, reaching a couple of hundred thousand people across the world every week. This is an inspirational and thought-provoking note. I decided to turn that into a book or compilation of the 52 best Friday Forwards. I pitched that to a bunch of places, and they said, “We love your writing but no one buys compilations.” I ran into one agent who said, “I love your writing. These are amazing. No one buys compilations but you have a book here. What is the story of these stories?”

I went back and deconstructed, “What is the framework of this into this thing called? It’s capacity.” I spent a couple of years reworking that into, “Why did Friday Forward work? What had changed my life? What was the whole thing?” I came up with this framework of capacity building. That was the basis of my second book, Elevate, which has still been the most popular. The first book I wrote was called Performance Partnerships to try to explain to the world why our industry was a better way effectively and convince people they misunderstood affiliate marketing and what it could be. That was real like, “We are going to try to turn the industry our way.”

That book has become a default training book in organizations. It was the first book written on the industry, and then there was Elevate. After Elevate, it was a huge success. I ended up going back in writing and publishing that Friday Forward book. Once I had an audience, I held on to it. We were an all-remote firm for over a decade, and COVID hit. We had been doing this for a while, and people started asking us all kinds of questions. I was giving speeches. Every time I give the speech, I would take the questions they ask and tweak them.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: There are people on both sides and half the group has content and half the group has stuff to sell, and we’re just bringing them together.

I have always said like, “My purpose is to share ideas that help people and organizations grow.” I also hate the monotony, as we talked about. I was like, “Why don’t I turn this into a book so I can stop giving the same presentation over and over again and I can answer all the things?” With my publisher, 90 days later, we’ve got it down to an eBook. I doubled and released it as a full book six months later. That was the number-one New York Times, USA Today, and WSJ bestseller.

Which one was that?

That was How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace.

You had one after that even.

That’s called Moving to Outcomes. That’s my second marketing book. It’s the sequel to Performance Partnerships five years later.

Tell us about Moving to Outcomes.

The first book was meant to explain the affiliate opportunity in the industry and what companies were missing. This is a little more of the shift that I was talking about. It’s about why people are holistically moving to partnerships and why the marketing is moving to direct marketing if you are not a brand. If you are spending marketing directly when you want to do it on an outcome basis, it’s not a click or impression basis. It’s all these reasons in digital marketing that companies need to think about what is next once the Facebook-Amazon gravy train runs its course a little more.

From where it was a few years ago to now, it’s a different animal.

It’s hard to build a competitive and sustainable advantage. You can spend a lot of money. You can get started but it’s hard, particularly as a little guy, to fight a war. You are fighting with BB guns while people have cannons, airplanes, and things that they can do to get better yield. If you think about a stock portfolio, I’m not going to get rich on Tesla, Apple, and Microsoft over the next decade. They are so big that they are not going to 10X. I need to find what is the next company. For a lot of these channels, they have reached the maturity where they are a bond now. They don’t sell your bonds but you are not going to get your huge growth off of your bond.

In this mastermind that I’m in, one of the guys spends the most money of anybody in the world on YouTube ads. It’s fascinating how often stuff changes for him, and he gets shut down.

I’m sure he could tell you it has gotten twice as expensive to buy the same thing.

Within your company, you have utilized the why with your team.

Every strength at 105 or 110 degrees is a weakness. Click To Tweet

I was exposed to this. It’s your framework through a facilitator. It was life-changing for me. I remember he was walking through the example at a conference. Jamie and I had very similar origin stories around this. It’s around how he is coaching a husband and a wife. They were going on their anniversary. She had planned every day of the trip out, and then he tried to figure out how to make every day better. It turns out I’m better way in my wife’s right way. We are the most combustible of the why from a marriage side.

It was game-changing for me and my business. I’m looking at it also for my wife, the family and me. We use the language. She will say like, “We are going to the thing tonight. Please don’t try to make this better.” When she and my son, who are both right-way and can’t pick to see if their life is pizza versus Chinese food on a Friday night, they go back to the store and come back with everything because they can’t decide or nothing. I will be like, “Make a decision. There’s no wrong choice here.”

It’s one of the things I have seen that’s interesting. I have a lot of right-way personalities in my life in the company. While that is potentially very combustible, the problem is they are the people you want to pull the plug to make a great decision but they can’t dumb down that decision-making apparatus to simple decisions. They are paralyzed by pizza or Chinese food but they would be the first person to know whether you should pull the plug or not pull the plug in a life-threatening situation.

That’s interesting what you are saying there because what I found in working with lots of companies is the missing piece for most of them is not having somebody with the right way on their team.

They frustrate the heck out of you but they will slow you down. Our team has a lot of makes-sense people, too. When you throw a big harebrained idea on them and don’t understand what it is, they get so frustrated. I know that we have something good when I’m able to make it clear enough where they are like, “That makes sense. We should do that.” In our leadership team, we joke about these archetypes. We see them all the time. They are the most powerful thing that I have seen in interpersonal communication.

I told you a guy on our team for years. His visceral reaction was like, “I don’t buy this whole thing because you can’t put in the archetype.” Everything he says, “Is it right or not fundamentally?” We have worn him down at this point. He admits it. Even admitting it for right people that you can put people in the archetypes for them, sometimes they don’t think that’s right.

Do you have anybody on your team with the why of challenge?

It’s not on my leadership team. They don’t tend to survive in the company for more than a couple of years. We had one. We are still friends with him. We talked about it. He would throw a grenade into things every six months. We have talked about this openly. It was funny. They can’t help themselves. We have another person now who is challenged. He is challenged and great. He was the one in the session who was like, “This whole thing is BS in this why thing.”

I found that to challenge people. A lot of them almost have to end up working for themselves because they will throw a grenade into a situation if they are hired on that thing. We have another one in sales. He is phenomenal but he does not like to follow the playbook or do what he is told. We learned like, “Telling me can’t do something. There’s no way you could sell in Eastern Europe.” He gets all over it. He works for the right way person. They have to figure that out a little bit.

It was interesting because you were speaking my language. You were saying the things that I say. You have noticed the things that not a lot of people notice but you did notice them. You articulated them in a way that I completely get. It’s neat to have somebody with your why to have a conversation with because you are speaking the same language.

The most powerful thing and why we teach this to our emerging leaders on the core values is interpersonal. More than any other tests, StrengthsFinder and Kolbe, this gets to the root tension between people and their understanding of that. My understanding of what a makes-sense needs, what a right way needs or what people need is the ultimate team thing.

We don’t use the language that someone is like, “That was a very deep thing to say.” What is fascinating with the makes-sense people is they say it all the time. They end sentences with, “That makes sense.” You hear it everywhere. I can tell you where people are going to struggle or do well interpersonally based on what their why is and where there are going to be natural conflicts.

You also hit on something a little bit ago that is what I have been saying about myself and about other people with the why of better way. We don’t necessarily make a good long-term CEO. We’ve got to get somebody else to replace us. We can build. This is what I have found, and maybe this will be even helpful for you. The best why that I know of for the CEO after it has been built is the why of contribute because they are now about everybody else and making everybody else better.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: The most important thing you can do early in your career is work for extraordinary leaders, go to companies with extraordinary training programs, focus on learning.

You were about, “How am I going to get this sucker to where I needed to be? Who do I get to put in place to make that happen?” If you can put somebody with the why of contribute in the CEO position, then it’s going to be phenomenal for them. They are going to love you. Your team is going to love it. Everybody is going to love it. I don’t know what the why is of the person.

He is a makes-sense. We are all very high. He probably contributes as our whats or hows. In our team, there’s a high level of contribution, trying to make people better and improve them. That’s endemic in our culture. I will tell you one of the things is self-prospection. I’m sure that I have had to learn as a better way is that every strength at 105 or 110 degrees is a weakness. I tend to exhaust myself, my team, and my family.

One of the things I have coached people on in their whys or other whys is, “If I want to improve everything in the company, I can frustrate people to the point where nothing gets improved.” I have had to learn to pick my spots of, “I’m going to make this thing better. I can’t make everything better or nothing will get better.” I do it to myself, and I know I exhaust my wife with it. At times, I’m doing family with it. It’s being aware of that. That, to me, is the biggest exhaustion.

Even we bought an investment place for a living, I’m constantly ordering extra batteries from Amazon, so we have them. I’m moving that picture on the wall, and people are like, “How come you can’t sit down and enjoy the play?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I was still stuffed this week.” I go on vacation, and I’m working half the time. It’s not work. It’s on moving stuff around or hanging this picture. It’s an optimization, both a blessing and a disease.

Here is an interesting question. Are you ever satisfied?

It’s probably not, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a hard time being present. I have always done these renovation projects. Once I had a new one, I never thought about the old one again. When looking at it, it’s almost like I need a new thing to turn my sights on to close off the old one. That’s the way I mentally detach myself. It’s not necessarily a healthy thing but it is what it is at this point.

Are you able to celebrate wins?

Our whole team is not good at that. We joke, “We are all Gen X leadership team by parents that were not effusive in praise like parents are now.” The pro side of that is we get over difficulties quickly. We don’t linger on it but we are not great at celebrating the upside. That is both my personality and very endemic. We talked about all the childhood upbringing of Gen X versus Gen Y and Z.

I wonder if that’s what it is because I feel the same way. Luckily, I have people on my team that point things out to me. Otherwise, I would be like, “We did this. Now, what is next?”

That is criticism, and we hear that. It’s both our team but also cultures that are changing. You are talking about generations that have grown up with an extreme amount of praise for, in some cases, mediocre effort. We have to be aware of that. It’s tough. We talk about it. We are a high-performance culture. People generally need more of that open praise but we also want to be careful. We probably shouldn’t hire people that want praise for mediocre effort because that doesn’t align with our culture like, “You tried hard.”

I went to my kid’s invention convention. I loved that when I was a kid, not surprisingly. Everyone got an honorable mention. People had theoretical projects that their parents did. I was like, “This is ridiculous. What the heck is this teaching?” I remember the guy who won my year. He figured out how to straw up his bike, and you could drink out of it. He won a prize. Now, everyone gets an honorable mention. Clearly, either the parents did the projects themselves, or it was a theoretical thing like, “This is a food shrinker, and I point a gun at it.” I’m like, “I don’t understand. This is supposed to be kids doing the work.”

What is next for you, Robert? Where are you headed next?

You can’t make everything better or nothing will get better. Click To Tweet

What we are talking about is I’m trying to self-identify and solve a problem. I have been 70/30 for a few years. I have been the CEO of the company. Also, I have a great team. I have been writing books and doing stuff outside the company. The issue is it has been 130% and not 70/30. I physically and mentally exhausted myself. It’s capped off by the global pandemic and doing a big deal with a private equity partner.

I realized I wanted to get down to 70/30. I will turn over the CEO role. I will continue doing the stuff that I love. I will continue writing the books but I’m not going to do it on the weekends. I’m not going to do it at night. I have got some golden years with my kids. Part of the restructure was to give me some space to think and be in the R&D department but also to practice being more present.

Initially, after the transition with new partners in the role, I tried to throw myself into new things, and then I realized like, “I can’t do this. I need to step back and recover physically and mentally from a ten-year marathon of never stopping.” A lot of that was some awareness of what I was likely to do. I’m not letting myself get into fundamentally any major new thing for a while. I’m very invested in my business. I’m continuing a different role but I’m not looking to start anything new or do anything majorly now.

I’m interested to see how that goes because that’s me as well 100%, “Let’s go.” I have not figured out or been able to not do that. I feel like I’m wasting time if I do that.

A twelve-hour day, I have nothing. I’m not bored at all. I’m learning how to do M&A for our business. I have joined some boards. I’m filling in with macro-things. I have recognized I have run myself a little too hard. I’m trying to do all of these things. I’m trying to run a company, write books and speak all this stuff. Dialing it down, it has been healthy.

I don’t think it’s a long-term solution but in some ways, it’s a little meta. I don’t want a second act now. My kids are all in high school and going to college. I want these years. If I don’t give myself some space, I will not figure out some cool things that I could do in 5 or 10 years. I need the space to figure out what that is for a few years but I’m not in any rush to do it now.

I’m going to be very interested in watching you.

You either learn something. You will say, “I told you that’s not going to work.”

It’s how we are wired.

Have you ever exhausted yourself?

For sure. I have exhausted people around me. It will be fun to watch. The last question for you, what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given or the best piece of advice you have ever given?

It’s a little bit of both. I would say this under the context of all the people shifting careers and thinking about something new otherwise. There are good and bad reasons to do that. I see a lot of people in their twenties chasing $500, $1,000 or $5,000 more irrespective of what that situation is or otherwise. The most important thing you can do early in your career is work for extraordinary leaders and go to companies with extraordinary training programs. Focus on learning. You are always underpaid in your twenties.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: You’re setting yourself up for what comes next by working for the right companies, the right leaders, and being in an incredible training program.

The difference to me of people who worked for great leaders, got great training, and focused on making themselves the best they could get, that $5,000 or $10,000 more that the other job offered you is irrelevant. When you turn 30, you start to be an expert in something. I would focus on the environments where you have the most learning and work for incredible leaders. Frankly, learn on someone else’s dime. Everyone is so eager in their twenties to get somewhere and get to the end. I was always underpaid in my twenties, no matter how good of the work that I was doing.

You are setting yourself up for what comes next by working for the right companies and the right leaders and being in an incredible training program. You probably know the amount of sales leaders I know who worked at Cutco. As a simple example, some of the best salespeople in the world went through this Cutco training when they were twenty. That’s what you want to do. That’s the best training and preparation that you could have.

I would add to that because there’s a common theme for many of the people I have had on the show who have done amazing things. When I pointed back to, “What was that turning moment,” a lot of them would say, “It’s when I’ve got into personal growth.”

For me, I joined a lot of people. It could be any of these organizations, whether EO or YPO. When I joined EO, I jumped into this exponential learning. It was like drugs. It was incredible. The only thing I would caution that I found myself going down this road is if you are married or in a partnership, be very careful going down that road without bringing your partner along with you.

That is why groups like EO and YPO have these spousal and partner things around trying to create that same experience. Sometimes you go to these conferences. You are going to this learning like, “In this why thing, my wife was with me there in Buenos Aires, Argentina.” These are the things that either happen together or they happen apart. I have seen it do amazing things for relationships and pull relationships apart.

If there are people that want to connect with you, follow you, see what you are up to, and maybe want to work with Acceleration Partners, what would be the best way for them to connect with you?

They can learn about Acceleration Partners. It’s easier to google it than to spell it, so just google Acceleration Partners. We are doing our job. We should come up with number one. In terms of me, I have everything under one place now, You can sign up for that free Friday Forward note. The books are listed there. I have got a course on helping to discover your personal core values, which goes well with the why stuff, and I have seen a lot of overlap. Speaking and other stuff is all on that page.

Thank you so much for being here. I was looking forward to this because we have got a lot of people in common that we know, and you have utilized the why so much. I’m going to follow you now because I want to see what happens with this little test you are doing.

You are checking the little wedding clock.

Thanks so much for being here.

Important links

About Robert Glazer

BYW S4 21 | Better WayRobert Glazer is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row.

He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, and the #1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today and international bestselling author of five books: ElevateFriday Forward, How To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace, Moving To Outcomes and Performance Partnerships.  He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast.


When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose

Not knowing who you are will hinder your growth. But when you focus on your purpose, amazing things start to happen. Paul Epstein is the bestselling author of The Power of Playing Offense and the Chief Impact Officer of PurposePoint. A consultancy company focusing on leadership and culture development. Join in the conversation as Paul shares with Dr. Gary Sanchez how knowing his WHY of Contribute brings out the best in him. He believes that the most powerful things you can learn about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different. Tune in!

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

We go beyond talking about your why, helping you discover and live your why. If you are a regular reader, you know that in every episode, we talk about 1 of the 9 whys, and we bring on somebody with that why. You can see how their why has played out in their life. In this episode, we are going to be talking about the Why of Contribute.

If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You do not necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you love to contribute in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish the success that contributes to the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories.

You are off and behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations. I have got a great guest for you. His name is Paul Epstein.

Paul believes there are two types of people in this world, those who play defense and those who play offense. These insights are around purpose, performance, and impact were gathered over a fifteen-year run as a professional sports executive, where Paul successfully steered business teams that executed billion-dollar NFL campaigns, broke Super Bowl revenue records, and generated league-leading sales results for seller dweller NBA clubs.

Paul’s proudest moment was when he was internally known as the Why Coach at the San Francisco 49ers, coaching others to find their why and act on it. Paul has curated the most actionable ways into leader’s playbooks of how he and his team produced this impact in these hypercompetitive environments. He calls it playing offense.

He is the Chief Impact Officer for PurposePoint and the Chief Purpose Advisor for the WHY Institute. Paul is a proud father of PJ, married his best friend on the field of Levi’s Stadium, and has a slight obsession with bacon, just do not make it too crispy. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Epstein. Thanks for being here.

I’m fired up to be here. If you have any bacon, it is going to be an even better conversation.

Tell me about that. I can’t bypass that one. What is the story with the bacon?

I had some early childhood holidays down in Mexico. My mom is a proud Mexican descent, so we would normally cruise down there and spend some time with the grand folks. For my fourth Christmas, I’ve got a box. When they handed it to me, it was shaking and I see a little black wet nose coming out of it. In there are two puppies.

As a youngster, you think this is a normal Christmas. You get animals. You get pets. When the time came around before my fifth Christmas, they said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want a pig.” Of course, I’ve never got the pig. They looked at me like I was crazy and that is only half true but needless to say, I have been a massive fan. As much as I’m a 49ers fan, I am a bacon fan. Those two things have stood, tried, and true.

Paul, tell everybody where you are from. Take us through your journey. You have done some amazing things at a very young age. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school? Let’s start back there.

I mentioned the roots in Mexico. That was very easy to take a four-hour drive because I’m from Los Angeles. My sports career had me visit a ton of different markets and spend years of my life outside of SoCal. The humidity, the cold, and the polar vortex, go West. We are going to come back to that because I have some fun stories about being in Angeleno in cold weather.

I will call myself the little softy there but I was born and raised in LA with my two amazing parents. I was an only child. My dad was an educator. My mom stayed at home to watch me like a hawk. She was one of those parents that were the president of the PTA, the Parent-Teacher Association. That was her way of making sure that I was doing the right thing and getting good grades.

Thank goodness because, A) Having a dad that is an educator, and B) Having a mom that I may not like at the moment but I now am a proud parent of a one-year-old, so we are very new in the journey but I get, see, feel and understand it. It took me three decades to get here. I kept my head on straight. I was an athlete throughout. Football, basketball, and baseball had my stints and I have always loved sports. I’m one of those classics go to the backyard, throw the ball with your pops kind of a guy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
The Power of Playing Offense: A Leader’s Playbook for Personal and Team Transformation –

If you want to talk about childhood, my childhood was amazing. Teenagers were amazing, but then something very tragic happened. This is very important in my story because it all connects to why I do what I do and who I am even now. I went to USC. I was not ready to fly too far away from the nest. I’ve got into some amazing schools but with the parents I have, I had to apply to fifteen schools.

Imagine how many essays that are. It was at Northwestern that I had to write four. Let’s say an average is 2, so 30 essays later, I’m at USC. It was the finals of my freshman year. I’m nineteen years old and I get a call that changed my life forever. It was a call that after decades of my dad struggling through diabetes, he finally had his final day.

It was a moment where instantly you feel you went from a boy to a man. You, as an only child, look at your one-standing parent being my mom. She goes from a parent to a partner. I drive home. It is a 10 to 15-minute drive. In some ways, I still remember like it was yesterday seeing my mom. We will get to my purpose, my why, my values, and how they have changed my life throughout this conversation.

One of the ways that I have been able to pull, reflect and apply a lot of those things in my life is because it all has an origin story, and one of my core values is courage. I’ve got that value of courage because of how I saw my mom that day and the next. She breathed courage into me. The Latin definition of inspire is to breathe life into. She breathed and inspired courage, and it is never left.

I will share a story if you would like at a later point in the conversation about my dad and the way he has been able to impact my life even more after the day he passed than when he was alive. That is the early years through the college years. A couple of years later was when I broke into sports. I’m happy to go there if you would like but I will kick it back to you.

She breathed it into you. What do you mean by that? There are going to be people reading this who are having their own trauma and stuff going on. What was that like?

Oftentimes, when fear or risk is highest, you could think of it on a small level. It is a setback, hurdle or obstacle. There is another level like a global pandemic and maybe a loss that happened, whether a person, place, job, or industry. It is the loss of being able to build a community and hang out with the people you want to hang out with whenever you want, those types of things.

At the highest level, maybe there is something that is terminal on a medical front. There is something where you lose 1 of the 2 most important people in your life at an age that you are not ready to lose them. I was nineteen. I had this thought in my head that this was supposed to be the end of the world. My dad died and I’m not even twenty years. I not only saw her strength. More importantly, I felt her strength.

When I wanted to crumble, she did not let me. She is the rock star in my life, the rock in my life if you will, so when you ask the question of, “How did she breathe life into me?” it is the same way that I measure people, action. She could have told me, “Stay strong, be strong.” If I saw weakness, if she did not show up strong or say the right things but did not do the right things, I do not know how I would have processed that experience. That is what I mean. Life is about how you show up. If it is not in action, it does not count.

You were at USC. What did you major in and how did you get into the whole sports world?

I was a business guy. Interestingly, in some of the other conversations that we have had, you always talk about the way you were raised. My family always told me growing up, “This kid can talk.” I would not shut up. They said, “You are going to be a lawyer or in sales. There are only two options.” That is not exactly why I’ve got into business school but I knew that I had a passion for not only speaking but more importantly, connecting with people.

I am not the cubicle guy. I am the guy that needs to feel there is a partnership. In my playing offense terminology, I say, “Meet me at the 50.” That is when two people have the same amount of energy and level of resources that they are bringing to the table. You are meeting at the 50 as partners. The way I like to think about it is, “I’m not just going to run through the wall for you. I do not want you to run through the wall for me. Let’s lock arms and run through the wall together.”

That is my philosophy on life, business, and partnership. That is why I’ve got into sales because I saw an opportunity to do that, so I go to school. Business, sales, and marketing were the background. I did not get into sports until a year after. I worked for Philip Morris. Now they are called Altria. For those that do not know, that is the pairing company of Marlboro cigarettes amongst other brands.

I had friends that worked at the company and they recruited me. I was like, “This is pretty badass. I’m 19 to 20 years old working for a Fortune 10 company. I do not even care what the product or service is. Do you know how amazing that is on a resume? That is how we think at a certain point. I’m a summer sales intern. I end up being a recruiting ambassador, meeting those tents in the middle of campus at a career fair.

To inspire is to breathe life into others. Click To Tweet

I’m the guy representing Philip Morris under one of those tents. I’m trying to tell people to join me in this army of Philip Morris folks. It went fine at USC and it was very pleasant in LA, then they sent me to the Bay Area at a school called Berkeley. For those that know the brand of Berkeley, there are some different cats up there. By the way, my wife went there as an undergrad. I’ve got to say, “Go, Bears!” just to stay married. Let me put that out there.

I’m at a Berkeley career fair. As I’m approaching with all of my materials, I see a flock of people that is a couple of hundred feet in front of me. I’m thinking, “What is going on? Is it a protest or what is this?” I creep up and they are right in front of the Philip Morris booth. Within five minutes to the start of the career fair, I had security on both sides of me. People are holding up signs in front of me. There were two signs that I will never forget. One said, “You work for the devil.” Another one said, “You sell cancer.”

You want to talk about putting things in perspective. All of a sudden, that Fortune 10, the brand, and the resume did not matter. You’ve got to think about tribes and values that you stand for, that are attracted to, and what repels you. That moment taught me that there are many superficial reasons to do things in life. Work for the big brand or go for the supermodel but you can’t even have a conversation with them.

There are all these things or places that we engage with for reflecting back on the wrong reasons but you’ve got to go through some life experience for it. That was my Berkeley experience. This is the break into the sport, and then I will kick it back to you. For those sports fans, there is a guy named Mel Kiper. He is a college football draft guru. He is a high-energy guy like the fire, the burn, and all that good stuff.

I’m driving in my Philip Morris van and I’m graduated. It is not too far from that Berkeley Career Fair. I’m on ESPN Radio. All of a sudden, Mel comes on, “Have you ever wanted to work in sports? Have you ever dreamt of working for your favorite MLB and NBA team?” I’m speeding down the road like, “Yes.” His call to action was, “Call 1877-SMWW.” SMWW stands for Sports Management Worldwide. Eight weeks later, I graduated from an online program. The deal was if you are a good student and can turn some heads with the professors, they will plug you into their network. That was my break-in.

They said, “Where do you want to be?” I said, “LA.” They said, “We have an opportunity at the Clippers.” The Clippers, at that time, were Lakers with Kobe and Shaq. Clippers were the redheaded stepchild here from a brand perspective. When I first started with them, ESPN called us the worst brand in sports. Sports Illustrated doubled down a year later and said, “You are the worst franchise in sports history,” so I had to sell that. That is my break into sports.

What was it like working for the Clippers in those days? I remember living out in LA. It was hard to get anybody to go to a Clipper game and it is almost embarrassing to show up at a Clipper game. You do not want to go to that.

Imagine you are entertaining clients. You are trying to paint this facade that it is a sold-out arena, push urgency that they are the last seats in the house, and there are 10,000 open seats around them. You say, “Maybe they are a little late to the game.” That’s what it was like. Here is the reality and this is good advice for life and something that I learned at a very young career stage.

You’ve got to control the controllable. I know it sounds a cliché. We have all heard it but, do you actually do that? There is a very short list of things that both, you either fully control or do not control. The majority of things fall in the middle. I call it the land of influence. Most things in life are gray. You influence them. The things you do not control are things like the weather or the economy if adversity enters your life.

I already shared a few of my stories and will flip the script. What do you control? It is all within you. It is things like your mindset, actions, attitude, and energy level, my actions, my attitudes, my reactions, my energy level, and not the selfish my but the self-awareness my or the perspective my. Working at the Clippers, if you listen to all of the outside noise that is so uncontrollable, whether the media, an annoyed fan or whatever it is, you are going to lose.

I was in a twelve-person recruiting class. I was the only person to make it to the second month on the job because they only wanted the glitz and glamor of getting into sports. I was doing it because I was on a mission to sell as much of the unsellable as possible. I would argue that early in my career, I do not want to work for the market leader. I want to work for the underdog.

What was that like trying to sell the Clippers and how did you eventually sell the Clippers?

I know we will get to the why process in a bit but it is not too different where there is a why and sometimes there is a why under the why. We would always call it single-game buyers. I would call folks that came to a Clipper versus Lakers game because they are locals. You remove a lot of the barriers and objections are out. Lakers’ seats are so tough to get and they are expensive. I’m already winning some of those battles before I even pick up the phone.

I start to understand why they come to games. I know they are Laker games but why and who do you come with? What is that memory and event that you are never going to forget and how have sports been a part of your life? You like coming with your son, daughter or better half. What is the coolest event that you have ever been to? What transpired because of that moment? It’s because of that, it forged a greater relationship.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: Think about values that attract you and you stand for.


I get very deep under the surface and into why they love the game itself, who their favorite players are, and all of these different logistics and details. I say, “What if you could be a handful of rows off the court, which does not exist with the Lakers, and you could have these amazing experiences with your family?” You hear them incremental yes. Let’s get this done. It is almost like they said yes to so many things that were important to them, they forgot that it was Clippers. I sold the NBA, family, and what I could control because I can’t control if the Clippers win games or not.

How did you learn to do that?

I will be humble when I say this. Some of this is a gift. I do know that but that is not all it is. I refuse to answer in a way that, “Some of us are gifted at whatever.” I’m humbled to say I know a lot of great performers, whether professional athletes or folks that are in the entertainment world. They did not get there overnight, and just because of their gifts.

I know for a fact spending fifteen years in sports, countless people have gifts, very few apply them. That is my fundamental belief because I was not the most talented. I believe I was talented. I am too humble to ever say I was the most talented but I had this hard hat mentality. When I say control the controllables and even when I became the sales manager a few years later, I managed the room that I once started in as an entry-level sales guy.

I always told folks when I was recruiting that my job as a hiring manager is to hire the best talent. Do not worry about whether you think you are amazing at sales. That is my judgment to make in this interview process. What I need you to do in our contract is I need three things. I need your work ethic, positivity, and coachability. That’s the lunch pill. Those are the non-negotiables. You give me those three things. I will take care of you for the rest of your career.

That is how I inspired and motivated teams to forget about the noise and the negativity of the market and start focusing on what they truly wanted and that deeper burn, that igniting of passion. I found that when you can understand what is important to other people, it is that Zig Ziglar thing. You help enough people get what they want and life tends to reward you, too.

I do not do that strategically. I do not take score or give with the expectation of getting. I just give. I’m a contributor. I always have been. I didn’t always know that because I did not take this wonderful assessment but reflecting back, that is how I inspired others and that is the same pep talk that I had to have with myself when I was on the front lines in a producing role.

You were in the Clippers for how long and what was the next step?

I was selling for about a year and change, and then I ended up managing the team. That was about a two-year run. In my two years as a Manager, the first year, we finished 28th in revenue. In the second year, we finished second in revenue. How did we do that? The Clippers won no more games in that second year than the first. When you said seller-dwelling MBA clubs when you were introducing me, this is what we are referring to.

How do you take bottom and league revenue to second next to the top? It was a partnership agreement that I figured out. Let me back up. I’m going to give tremendous credit to one of my guys. His name is Eddie. Eddie was the only person in the room that by age was older than me. Technically, he reported to me but I never viewed it that way. I believed that I learned more from Eddie than he could have ever learned from me.

He had already run his own real estate businesses. His family has given him the blessing to come in at a $7 an hour entry-level job with no other benefits and no bonus potential. He got that blessing and ended up being one of the biggest blessings in my life. Six months into that two-year run at the Clippers, Eddie and I go out for a bite. I say, “Eddie, I look around the room and I feel we have got this amazing locker room. There is such good talent. I’m so fired up but the scoreboard does not reflect that. Our sales revenue sucks. What is going on?”

He said, “Paul, what are we doing?” I said, “I do not know. We are hanging out and having lunch.” He goes, “Is it fair to say we are breaking bread?” I said, “Sure.” He hit me. He said, “When was the last time you did this with anybody else on the team?“ It was a very simple, yet profound message that I needed to hear because I basically was managing people the way I was managed, not leading because there is a difference.

I’m not going to claim that early in my sales career, I had amazing coaching or mentorship. I’m not knocking the guys. In the sports industry, there was a little bit of a transactional feel inside the front office. That is how it was. I’m not going to BS about it. You asked how I became a lot of it. I could probably owe 2 people like my parents and 2 others. Sometimes you need to extract life lessons and apply them to your business if you do not have all the right resources in your business roof. That is a reality of life.

Eddie woke me up. Relationships are the secret sauce of life and the currency of business. Trust is one of those things that you need to form within a team. Those sounds are so simple and fundamental but I was blind as an entry-level manager. Thanks to Eddie, I woke up. That is how you go from number 28 to number 2 in revenue. I know the people, the culture, and the leadership game. When I started to realize that that should be put ahead of goals, metrics, key performance indicators, and all this quantitative stuff, that is when the game changed.

Forget about the noise and negativity and focus on igniting your passion. Click To Tweet

Was it about the team or the culture? What made the biggest difference to take you from 28th to 2nd?

We had something called the constitution. It was a whiteboard in the room and this program of sales was called inside sales. It was designed to be 6 to 9 months. Let’s say you were hired on January 1st. That means that between July 1st and September, that is your window of getting promoted if you are a top producer. That is the environment.

Remember those three non-negotiables, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I connected with everybody and I said, “You give me those three things. I do not care how poor your sales performance is because that’s on me. That means I did not see a lack of a gift, talent, skill or ability in the recruiting process. I will own that. You will not be fired for lack of revenue but you will lose your seats if you do not have the work ethic, positivity, and coachability, and not most of the time, all of the time. This is not a 90% Rule. It is a 100% Rule.”

I created a constitution, made it sound very formal and said, “I will hereby,” and I put the three elements of the constitution, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I would write the dates of their 6 to 9-month window next to their name. I would sign it and have them sign it. Let’s say, Susie, I would say, “Susie, you do these three things. In this three-month window, I will not only take care of you then. I will take care of you for the rest of your life.” That is what got people.

I treated them not as an employee or even as a team member but as a family member. That family workaround in business is way too much. Ninety percent of the time, you do coaching and consulting, Gary. Do you go in and you are like, “This does not feel like a family but you all say you are a family.” It is situations like that. Some would say, “Paul, you are overcommitting yourself. Why would you ever put yourself on the line?” I’m like, “How could I not?” It is because I essentially had to become the leader that I never had.

Amazingly, you were able to do that at a young age. You were in your early twenties, right?

Yes, probably at that time mid-ish twenties.

Where did you go next? Keep us going on the journey.

I had to fly away from the nest. The way it works in sports is you either wait for your boss to leave or you’ve got to go external. For me, at this time, you are feeling yourself because you are riding some mojo and you get second in the league in the NBA. I had a lot of opportunities but the one that I ended up landing and that felt right was going out to New Orleans, from Hollywood Boulevard to Bourbon Street, if you will.

That was crazy. Mardi Gras is a real thing. What was even scarier is that it is almost 365 but it was a heck of a time. Here is what I learned in New Orleans. I’m not knocking the folks I was working with. I’m simply saying that a void in my life to that point was, I was still looking for that business leader that I would do anything for. I was still looking for the mentor that I would dedicate my life. I wanted it but I was not going to force it. You can’t force anybody’s leadership style.

I went to New Orleans because I fell in love with my fellow leaders. When I look to my left and right, I’m like, “This is thunder buddies for life. This is awesome.” What made it even more interesting was that eventually, there is a little bit of sadness and tragedy in this story too but it leads to purpose. The NBA team in New Orleans is called the Pelicans but they are called the Hornets at that time. Their Owner, Mr. Shinn, became very ill with cancer. He had to give up the operations of the team, so the late Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, comes in.

He has a group of people, which still exists in the NBA. They are called TMBO, which is Team Marketing & Business Operations. Think of them as the superwomen and supermen of the teams that get promoted to the league. They fly in with capes and fix things, whether it is your sales, marketing, game day or operation.

Whatever gaps you have, they accumulate best practices throughout the league and give you the playbook. In a case like this, because they took stewardship of the franchise, it was not giving us a playbook. They were locking arms and executing with us. If you want to talk about that void I had of working for amazing people with amazing gifts and talents, I stumbled into it by being in New Orleans at the right place at the right time.

Commissioner Stern was a little bit of a bulldog. He studied the books of the franchise and we were the worst. We were the least viable, in economic terms, franchise in the NBA. On the books, there is no team that you would rather own less for finance reasons than the Hornets. He gave us an ultimatum. “Sell 10,000 season tickets, which is the gold standard in the NBA or you are going to lose the franchise.”

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: The three non-negotiables are work ethic, positivity, coachability.

We had a buckle down. Thankfully, we had a lot of support but it was a scary proposition because if I could be real with you and everybody reading, the South is a football part of the country. Basketball was an afterthought. I can take it at the Clippers. I love you. I hate you. I can have those conversations. What I can’t do anything about is apathy.

What do you do when somebody does not care? I can’t make you care. If you do not care about basketball, how do I inspire you to join this movement that is going to save the franchise? What if you do not care about that franchise? We went back to the drawing board. We said, “If they do not care about basketball, what do they care about?”

For those that are either in New Orleans, from New Orleans or have been in New Orleans, Nolans as they say, you know that people are passionate. They have pride, whether it is the jazz, the food, the drinks, or the parades, they love themselves some knowledge. That is what they love. There is a tremendous amount of identity, whereas where I’m from, LA, there are not a lot of identities. There are a lot of transplants, a melting pot or whatever but not the best identity. Identity lives in New Orleans.

We captured that magic and said, “Let’s build a case around what it would mean if we lost the franchise and how it would be the scarlet letter on the identity of your city.” We started this campaign called “I’m In.” We pulled in all these influencers from the World’s Top Chefs and politicians, people that call New Orleans home. We said, “Host events in your home because that is authentic. Pull people into your living rooms. Invite them in and rally them to be in. If they are in, here are the benefits to the city that you care so much about.“

We made it bigger than basketball. That was my first lesson about organizational purpose. Even if you do not love the product or service, if you love the purpose, why you do what you do, and you feel you are a part of something bigger than yourself, whether as an employee or as a customer, the power of purpose is real. Thankfully, there is a happy ending to the story. We’ve got to the number without purpose. I 100% know we do not even come close.

You were there for a couple of years. Where did you go next?

I was in Sacramento Kings, and that was my quick one-year-ish stop. There was an NBA lockout. I was in charge of company culture during an NBA lockout. I do not think anything in life is impossible but that is pretty close to it because your livelihood is taken away. I can laugh about it but that was a tough chapter. My next up is New York and we will go there in a second. Remember that relationship lesson from Eddie.

In New Orleans, I befriended in a very human and authentic way, not because I wanted them to take care of me. I fell in love with that NBA crew that I referenced earlier. Some lifelong friendships organically came out of it. How did I end up in Sacramento? One of those NBA folks was helping the Kings and said, “Paul, can you come help?”

How did I end up in New York? The same guy said, “I’m with an agency, Legends, owned by Yankees and Cowboys. We are based in New York. We’ve got some clubs out. There is a little soccer, football, baseball. We would love to plugin. Do you want to join us?” “I do.” I was not following the place. I was following the people because I finally found my people. I found folks that I could align with on a deeper level, bigger than a career. I genuinely felt we synced.

That is what led me to New York. It was not that I ran away from the Sacramento adversity. We were throwing paper airplanes in an office, which for somebody that wants to contribute and make an impact, throwing paper airplanes, while it sounds fun, gets old after about a day. You want to go back and make a difference in the world. That is what took me to New York and how I’ve got into the sports consulting space. That is what led me to the NFL League Office where I ran a national sales campaign.

We ended up breaking an all-time revenue record for that game, which was a tremendous accomplishment. My heart was always in football. I loved all these pit stops in the NBA but I always wished that I could get into that granddaddy of them, the NFL. My agency had some connects at the NFL League Office. I’ve got to have strategy sessions with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was a tremendous experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.

You went into the NFL League. Did you end up with the 49ers?

Yes. You will notice the trend here. I say this from a very humble place but out of fifteen years, I will give you two stats and they are almost oxymorons of each other. For anybody reading, if you are a sports fan, let’s say you root for the “fill in the blank” team for fifteen years, what are the odds that they are going to make the playoffs?

You would say 1/3 of the time, 1/2 of the time or 2/3 of the time. You are not going to be it every year but you are also going to make it sometimes. I worked fifteen years in sports. The teams I worked for made it to the playoffs once, 1 out of 15 years. Here is the second step. Out of the fifteen years, we hit goal 14 out of 15 times. This is not necessarily your job on the line but more about, this is how you get rewarded, recognized and how your career grows.

If you love why you do what you do, you’ll feel you're a part of something bigger than yourself. Click To Tweet

Imagine you are consistently achieving success. We break a revenue record in the NFL. The Super Bowl was a project. It was full-time at the moment but it was a nine-month sprint. My agency was brought in. I was the point guard and the leader of that national sales campaign. There were 50 people spread throughout the country but I was the only person with boots on the ground in headquarters in 345 Park Ave.

We did the impossible and it turned a lot of heads. One of those heads was then the COO, now President of the San Francisco 49ers, Al Guido, who is a dear friend and an amazing leader. Al comes calling and says, “How would you like to come back to Cali? We are opening up Levi stadium.” Essentially, they created a role for me. They were doing well. They were on pace but they wanted to level it up. I had some relationships in common with Al. He believed in me through the people that he referenced. All of a sudden, I’ve got out of the polar vortex world and I made it back to California.

What was your position with the 49ers and what was that working for them?

It was the best job I have ever had, the best place I have ever worked, and the best leaders I have ever worked with and for. Had I not found my why? I would hope that I would still be at the 49ers. It was like a family to me. The magic question is, “Why would you ever leave a place that you describe like that?” My role was Head of Sales and Biz Dev.

Think of 70,000 people in the stadium. The sales team is responsible for putting the butts in the seats. Who calls Levi’s to eventually become Levi’s Stadium and all those corporate sponsors? Who sells all those luxury boxes and the premium hospitality? You need a sales team. There is a lot of outbound effort that needs to happen to monetize what this sport is.

Do not get me wrong. There is a lot of incoming interest as well. To close the gap, fill the place, and maximize revenue, that is where the sales team comes in. It is not because sports can’t sell themselves but if you price it aggressively, you are going to need some muscle for that. We were the muscle. My role there was to recreate what was an old revenue model of, “You have ten games and maybe we have some concerts and a soccer match here and there.”

At 365, we light up the building 20 times and the other 345 are dark, AKA you do not make money versus our president and our owner wanted to monetize it year-round. To do that, from things having restaurants on-site, to stay stadium tours year-round, to private banquet events, Facebook did a holiday party for 20,000 people in the stadium. There were weddings. One might have been mine, full disclosure. We had weddings at Levi’s Stadium. You are not going to believe this, Gary. It was her idea, not mine.

You married, right?

I did. I converted to a Raider fan. That is even better.

It is not easy.

That was my role there. It was awesome. There was a retreat in year 3 of 4 of my journey with the 49ers that eventually led to my Jerry Maguire leap from them.

It seems like being in a great spot is going to take something big for you to want to leave. What happened?

What happened is, in August 2016, there was a two-day offsite retreat that changed my life. I found my why. It was led by Simon Sinek. I know you know him and you have been very kind about your relationship with him and his team. They led the experience. This was after he had done a keynote. The message of why was permeating throughout the organization, even ahead of that.

A small group of us got offsite and tapped into our why. We all walk away with a why statement and identifying our core values. I knew that something special had happened. I did not know what was going to come and what was going to follow but I knew that life was different. Fast forward, I get back in the office. I’m radiating this extra level of energy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different.

Folks are like, “What was in the punch? What did you drink at that retreat? Paul, you have already got too much juice. You are at another level. You are at a ten. We need you at a two.” That is how I shot out of a cannon back into the front office. I shared what happened at the retreat, and that was the end of that conversation.

The next day, one person that I shared it with came up to me on the side and said, “Paul, that thing you did at the retreat, do you think you could coach me through the same process?“ The next day, another person. 1, 2, 5, 10 to nearly 50 led, and all water-cooler buzz that started on the business side eventually made its way to the football side of the organization. That is how I became known as the Why Coach of the San Francisco 49ers. It was a passion project that I was paying the gift of purpose forward. I found why. It felt like a special thing and I could not contain it to keep it inside of me.

That is very much my story as well. Did you get to work with many of the players?

Toward the tail end of that 50, yes. It started almost exclusively on the business side because those are the folks who I knew best and was around with every day. It happened in the offseason but we’ve got into the season and they were around. We share a cafeteria. If you ask what the number one thing I miss about sports is, I miss the freaking 49ers player cafeteria. It is a tremendous place.

When you share a cafeteria, you are going to be sitting at the table with the who’s who of the NFL and the 49ers. You drum up some relationships. I do not say it lightly but there was a water-cooler buzz. There was, “This guy has got a little bit of the potion. This guy can get you to your why. I was probably having 2 to 3 hours of sit-downs and that is about the time it was taking me to get them from start to finish. At 6:00 AM, we were showing up, in the evenings, and on weekends. This is a side hustle.

This was not a part of the day job but what is interesting is that HR caught wind of it. I get a cryptic email that you never want from HR. They say into the head of the HR’s office. I’m like, “Is this my last day? What is going on?” It is quite the opposite. They said, “Paul, we heard through the grapevine what you are doing. We think it is phenomenal and tremendous. What are your thoughts on integrating it into the recruiting or onboarding process here at the 49ers?”

I’m not a list guy. I do not know if that is a top 5 or top 10 but if you could say the proudest moments in life, that has got to be close to the top. It was having that resonates deeply in a community I cared so much about, they saw the value in it, and they wanted the why to become a part of the fabric of the company.

You are at an amazing team and culture. You love everybody there. You are getting to do what you want to do, and then you leave.

Part of the challenge of finding your Why is when it inspires you, it becomes an obsession, and you almost need to follow it. Forget almost. In my case, I had to follow it. I felt called to do this work. I then started to do internal introspection. My why is the start of it. That has my North Star elements and what gets me out of bed.

The parts I was able to apply more actively in my life on Monday morning were my core values. My core values, in no particular order, are belief, growth, authenticity, impact, and courage. Those are my five core values. I started to assess how I made decisions in life. Am I being congruent with those values in my why? Am I aligned? Is how I show up connected to what I believe and to who I am? Is there alignment there? When I train this, those are the three layers of our identity from the inside out, who we are, what we stand for, and how we show up. Are those connected?

If you are not in alignment, you are not being true to your purpose and you are not living your why. When I gave myself that stress test, I realized that I was not living true to my purpose. I was doing a good job, not a great job. I had some gaps. I started to tear through the muscle. I still order to implement. I found that when you apply one value, it can help you overcome a deficiency in another area. I leveraged my value of courage to make tough decisions.

When I was afraid and knew there was a risk, I’m like, “Paul, are you a man of courage or not?” I would almost have that locker room talk with myself. When I was like, “Express courage.” It helped me make other decisions. I told myself, “Paul, think of something you said you would never do but maybe you would reconsider.”

One of those things was going back to school. The school was fine. I took high school seriously because of my folks. College was a party, I passed and did not see the need. In business and sports, you do not need the three letters, MBA. In some industries, you need it. In that one, you do not. I tore through the muscle and I committed to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. They had a Los Angeles cohort satellite program.

It was this perfect, once a month. I had no anticipation of leaving sports at the time but here is what it led to. This is the lineage and here is how I want to connect to the audience here. When you follow your why, these inexplicable connections start to happen. You reflect back and say, “If A) Did not happen, B) Does not happen, then C) Does not happen.”

When you stay true to your purpose, amazing things happen. Click To Tweet

You do not know that if you forecast forward. You need to take action. If you are being true to your purpose and letting your why to be your operating system, in this case, that is when the amazing things happen. I went back to school. The best ROI on the school was not in the classroom. For the first time in my life, I had an executive coach.

I remembered going back to my sports days. I always wanted that leader. Sometimes it is different when they work in your industry. What if they know your boss better than you? It is a weird thing but an executive coach is an executive coach. They are neutral, unbiased, and just there to serve you, with no outside agenda. Her name was Sue Ann. I talk about her tremendously in my book, The Power of Playing Offense. She was a life changer.

Sue Ann said, “Paul, I know what you do. You are the Head of Sales for the 49ers. What do you love and hate about it? What do you tolerate?” I answered all three, and she said, “Go deeper on that love bucket.” I said, “I love the people side of the business. I love building a culture, rallying a team, motivating, inspiring, and coaching.” She said, “On a good day, what percentage of your time do you do that?” I started to slouch in my chair because I knew I would not love the answer. I plus it up.

The truth was probably 10%. I told her 20%, so I would feel better about myself. She said, “Paul, if I was to wave a wand and you become your boss, does that number 20% go up, down or sideways?” I said, “More strategy, fewer people, so down.” She said, “What about your boss’s boss?” I said, “The same.” This was the question. She said, “What are you after?”

It is so simple, Gary. There is nothing magical about the question, “What are you after?” Shame on me that I had never thought about that. My NFL boss told me, and apparently, I did not listen. He said, “In life, the easiest thing to do is to stay on the treadmill you are on.” He told me that, and it did not register but now I can connect the dots and say, “That was tremendous advice.” That is where she was bringing me.

The easy thing to do was stay on the treadmill I was on. As I realized how I felt about my day-to-day, I loved the industry and the organization. I fell out of love with what I did every day. That is the juice and the fuel. Mentally, as I processed the answer to that question, I knew I was going to leave. It took about 2 to 3 months to make the call because I had to figure out what I was going to do and where I was going to go. I knew mentally that I had to follow my calling and passion. I based it on a value, which is impact. That is my number one value by far. I asked myself, “Can I create more effect inside the walls of this industry or beyond?” When I framed it like that, it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made.

Tell everybody a little bit about PurposePoint.

That is a new partnership and a new family for me. I will give a quick backstory. I was in sports until the end of 2017. I joined the same company that helped and facilitate Simon’s team, and facilitate my why discovery at the 49ers. I joined that Leadership Institute and spent 2018 and 2019 with him. I treated it like a leadership laboratory. I was such a geek of the space, the people side of the business. I just fell in love and wanted a stress test. It is the things that I thought to be true after fifteen years in sports. Are they industry-agnostic?

It became an experiment for me. I’m coaching C-Suite at one of the top airlines and I’m coaching Navy SEALs. I’m in these environments I never would have been in had I stayed in sports. It is exercising my core values of growth and belief. How much do I believe in what I do? All of these core values are this wonderful melting pot.

I’ve got to fully express them over a two-year journey with this Leadership Institute. That took me to 2019. I started to realize this ecosystem of thought leadership. It is one that you are and it is one that I’m in. A lot of your coaches are in as well. I thought, “What if I could permanently change industries from the sports industry to the leadership development industry to the people industry? How does that feel to me?

It started to excite me more by the day. I started to think about the how. How do I execute this? I know the why behind the spirit, mission, calling, and cause. How do I want to show up and what differentiates me? I’ve got to wrestle with that. I said, “What do I do? How do I express this?” The answer and the one gap I had was my old company was not massively into keynote speaking, and I love keynote speaking. I have been doing it since I was in sports.

If there are 5,000 people I speak to and 50 ways to talk to you after, those 50 people prove to you that there is impact. They prove to you that it was the right message at the right time and they were transformed. You feel like, “What if they pay this forward?” How tremendous of a scalable impact of genuine, compassionate reasons do you have?

Keynoting was this portal for a contribution for me. That is when I bet on myself. I do not have a great crystal ball because I started my own live event/speaking company in January of 2020. It was a fantastic two and a half months but everything that has happened since March of 2020 while it was certainly not easy in the beginning, I will not sugarcoat it.

I probably am not an author if I did not have months in quarantine or would not have been a proud member of PurposePoint. The way PurposePoint came to me was when I started my own company. It almost reminds me of the WHY Institute’s mantra of getting clear and playing bigger. I thought about it like, “Is there a bigger, faster, stronger version of Purpose Labs out there?” I met them in 2021 and they became PurposePoint. I’m Chief Impact Officer. Again, that core value, my number one value is impact. I’m there to make a difference. This is a beautiful message. It is why I was so drawn to it, why I was drawn to them as people, and equally as important, their mission.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you come from a place of abundance, you’re happy to help however you can.


Every company starts with a point of purpose. They invite people to join them on the journey. As the journey evolves, you start to create a process, measure performance, and eventually, calculate profits. There are a lot of Ps going on. I have seen that over time. The further away you get from that foundation, there is a drift away from that origin and purpose point. You start to care more about performance, profit, and process more than the people and the purpose. Those other three Ps are critical. They are necessary. Otherwise, there is no business to run but the order matters, and the harmony amongst all those Ps matters.

Most companies we see are over-flexing the performance, profit, and process. They are neglecting the people and the purpose. The outcome is you have this thing called a global pandemic, and voila, there is a Great Resignation. Why? It is because people fell out of touch with their why and purpose. They had a time-out forced by the world to look within themselves. I think of the Great Resignation as the Great Awakening. When I heard PurposePoint speak about this awakening, it drew me in and I decided to join a bigger, faster, and stronger tribe. That is why we are here.

I would love to finish with one last question for you because you have taken us on the journey. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, a lot of lessons you have learned, a lot of places you have been things, and things you have done. What is the best piece of advice you have ever given or gotten?

This one is going to hit close to home because it is right up the alley of what you are preaching every day. The best piece of advice that I have given is because I was not told this and it led to a lot of angst and maybe not loving the early stages of my career, even though it was very fun. It is because I was over-focused on the What.

I was solely focused on what I was doing. They would bring in trainers to try to help you how to do it but nobody ever told me to focus on why I do what I do. They never asked me questions about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become. I was playing the doing game when there was a sequence to it. Doing is great but you must first know who you are being, who you are, and why.

Those two are the most powerful things you can know about yourself. The how, whether through a five-minute discovery or life experience, if you are passionate about something, you will figure out the how but you’ve got to first be a believer in the why, and the what you do becomes so much more of a blue ocean.

I used to think I had this singular purpose in life. If I do not do X, it puts so much pressure on you, and you feel like you have this one North Star. That is BS. I can do 20, 30 or 50 different things I should not because of bandwidth but I can. That was an empowering feeling. I’ve got my freedom back when I started to apply my why and live on purpose. That is what perspective I would share with everybody.

What is next for Paul? I know you are going to be doing some great stuff with us. We are looking forward to that. Let’s talk for a minute about that.

WHY Institute and Paul Epstein are meeting at the 50 to touch and inspire a billion lives. That is what’s next. The part I feel the most excited about is I’m in the earliest stages of writing my second book, which is called On Purpose. The big question I’m trying to tackle is, “Are you living your life on purpose or is life just happening to you?” My process, my how, and the system I will introduce in this playbook are when you can align your head to your heart to your hands, that is when you are living on purpose.

I have been ideating this thing that I’m calling the Triple H Equation, Head plus Heart equals Hands. If you are going to take action, make sure that your mindset and your heart are onboard because otherwise, you will fall out of purpose. You will still live but in six months, you wonder, “Why am I no longer fulfilled? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I not have a deeper burn?”

Maybe there is a self-limiting belief that is preventing you from taking action. That is the point. It is the green, yellow, red light philosophy. The Head is in, the heart is in, green light. If only 1 of the 2 is in, yellow light, then proceed with caution. If it is 0 for 2, your head and your heart are out, stop. That is a red light. This book is about living on purpose. The flip side is, it is to get people to stop running red lights in their life.

There is a company I’m going to introduce you to. That sparked something in me. I want to connect you with a girl named Liz Ellis because she was the CEO of a big production company, and she changed her position to Chief Heart Officer. It is right up your alley. She said, “I’m going to put somebody else as the CEO because I can find people to do the thinking or the head part. We do not have anybody to do the heart part, and that is my specialty. If we have got lots of hands and brains, we need the heart.” It is fascinating. You will love it.

That is the beauty of these types of conversations. We are all connecting and expanding our tribe. I would have never known a Chief Heart Officer if it was not for this conversation. When you are living your calling, and everything is coming from not only the heart but the head, and you are taking purposeful action, that is what life is all about.

If people want to get ahold of you, Paul, what is the best way for them to connect with you? How do they follow you and learn from you? What would be the best way to communicate with you?

The most powerful things you can know about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. Click To Tweet is the best way. That is the home of all things. As far as, not only where to find me but I’m somebody that I get intimate with the folks in my community, in the sense of it is me engaging and responding because that is a core value of mine. There is no pedestal here to me. I mean everything I have shared already but if you ask me why am I writing the second book, it is to democratize purpose because we all deserve to be in that space. Find me at Paul Epstein Speaks and shoot me a note. Follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram at @PaulEpsteinSpeaks. You can find me very easily and know that it is 100% me connecting with you to meet you at the 50.

Paul, thank you so much for being here. I loved our conversation, more listening for me, which is exactly what I wanted, so you did awesome.

Thanks, Gary. I’m fired up for the journey ahead.

It is going to be fun. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you.

It is time for our last segment, which is Guess Their Why. Since we talk sports, I want to use Aaron Rodgers. He is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He is one of the most successful. He has won MVP awards and is also very controversial. He had that whole thing around the COVID being immunized versus having the vaccine. I would love to know what do you think Aaron Rodgers’s why is?

I have a really good sense. I happened to listen to him a little bit more. He has been on different podcasts and various television shows. I believe that Aaron Rodgers’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. He is not somebody that wants to follow the rules and draw inside the lines. He wants to do it his way. He has his whole life. He has got his little man bun now. He didn’t talk about following traditional medicine. He wanted to do it his own way and get “immunized.”

If you have been reading the show and you love what you are reading, please give us a review on whatever platform you are using and bring this to more people. Our goal is to impact one billion people in the next five years. The show is going a long way toward doing that. I look forward to having you on the next episode. Thank you so much for reading.

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About Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your PurposePaul Epstein became the go-to fixer for NBA teams, NFL franchises, and league executive offices because he’s mastered the come-from-behind win. He recognizes that victory comes from the inside, and requires an All-In culture empowered by a growth mindset and a belief that we all have unlimited potential – when we double down on our strengths, gifts, talents, and passions.

Today, people and organizations everywhere are struggling. Maybe you’ve lost sight of the fuel that motivates, inspires, and pushes you forward— or maybe you never found it. It’s purpose, and the feeling of leading with purpose is more thrilling than you can imagine.

Maybe your lack of purpose is manifesting in terms of traditional achievement— you’ve fallen behind in sales, your culture is a mess, or your growth has stalled out. Maybe you just can’t seem to turn your vision and goals into momentum and purpose. You know the What, but you just can’t seem to find the Why.


Finding A Better Way: Joe Maez Discusses Leadership, Mentoring And Mindset For Success

BYW S4 7 | Better Way

Finding a better way is what drives human success. To be able to find a better way, we need leadership, mentoring and the right mindset. In this episode, Dr. Gary Sanchez sits down for an insightful discussion with Joe Maez, real estate agent and founder of The Maez Group. Joe is an armed forces combat veteran who has leveraged the training, mindset and mentoring of many to get to where he is today, despite coming from a challenged community. Learn great insights from Joe and Dr. Sanchez by tuning in to this episode.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Finding A Better Way: Joe Maez Discusses Leadership, Mentoring And Mindset For Success

Welcome to the show, where we go beyond just talking about your why and actually helping you discover and live your why. If you’re a regular reader, you know that every week, we talk about one of the nine why’s and then bring on somebody with that why so you can see how their why has played out in their life. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of a better way.

If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator. You are constantly seeking better ways to do everything. You find yourself wanting to improve virtually anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvement with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased but never satisfied.” You were excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Joseph Maez. He was born and raised in Northern New Mexico. Joe is not afraid to go the extra mile. He’s a graduate of UNM Anderson School of Management, a US Army combat veteran and the first New Mexico broker on record to close over 100 million in residential real estate in a single year.

He’s recognized as being amongst the leading real estate professionals in the country selling thousands of homes in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho metro areas. Armed with a unique and extensive knowledge of local markets coupled with unparalleled marketing and negotiation skills and discipline, Joe brings a true passion to every real estate transaction. Joe is a sales coach and consultant to many public and private companies. Joe, welcome to the show.

It's not about what you say. It's about what you do. People can say things, but it's about what they do that is worth more. Click To Tweet

Thanks for having me, Gary.

This is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to this. Tell everybody a little bit about your background. Take us back to where were you born? When you went to UNM, how did you get into the military and then how did you get into real estate? Let’s go down that path.

I was born in Española, New Mexico, a little Northern New Mexico town up in Rio Arriba County. I went to school in Cuba, New Mexico, until I was in third grade. At that point, my father got a job up in Chama, so he moved us up to Abiquiu. That’s pretty much where I grew up. My graduating class was eighteen people, Gary, in Coronado High School.

Most people reading this will not know what Española is like, what kind of reputation it has and what it is known for. Give people a sense of where that is and what that is like.

To me, it’s a beautiful place. It doesn’t have the best of reputations. It was known as being the low rider capital of the world and the heroin capital of the world which we’re trying to change. There’s a lot of amazing people that come out of the Española Valley area. It’s a beautiful country, too. For people that are reading that never experienced it, it’s a challenging location. It’s a challenging community. More specifically, where I graduated from was a place called Gallina, New Mexico, which is where the Coronado Leopards are. It was a consolidated school.

I rode the bus for 45 minutes in the morning to get to school. It was neat because I took my daughter on a little trip and I hadn’t been back to that school in twenty years. The campus gates happened to be open on a Sunday afternoon and I took my daughter through there. I said, “That’s where your daddy went to school.” She’s like, “No way.” My kids are going to some great schools. I want them to go to school where it’s cool to be smart because when I was growing up, it wasn’t cool to be smart. MPC had to do things a little bit differently. I graduated from that school.

I did the delayed entry program for the Army Reserves. Both my grandfathers are Vietnam veterans. I always wanted to be like those guys. Those are my gold standard. That’s what a man should be. Just studying what you’re studying and doing what you’re doing. A lot of things are learned. We want to be like the people before us. I have great mentors. I was the only person from my generation to go and join the military. As soon as I possibly could, I even told my recruiter, “I was laid down.” Normally people just hold out for a bonus or something like that, but I joined up right away.

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: Going to war is super humbling because you never realize how good you have it until you don’t have it.


I was a combat engineer. The good thing that my parents did is they always programmed us. They said, “You’re going to college.” That was awesome. My first major was sports medicine because I was super into sports and always liked to run, lift weights and do all that stuff. We didn’t have enough kids for the football team at the school that I went to, so that was a bummer. If you’re going to play basketball, you have to run fast. You had to be faster than everybody else, which helps me out in my industry right now. You have to be faster than everybody else.

You got to be resourceful.

I joined the Reserves and then I got a business degree. When I was going to college, mom and dad said, “You got to go to college.” I was going to NMSU down at New Mexico State and then one day I woke up, I said, “What’s going on with you?” I used to sell my artwork in the old town. I did stuff for the Spanish market when I was growing up. My father-in-law taught me how to carve crosses in Spanish colonial furniture and things like that.

One day, I was like, “I’m not going to be in people’s feet for the rest of my life,” and then I said, “I’m going to business school.” I left NMSU and went back to Anderson because I have a strong business school and that was that. Halfway through my graduating semester, I was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. That was in 2003 when we invaded Iraq. That was an eye-opener.

Both my grandfathers were war vets. My dad’s a war vet. This was part of me going into that role. When you’re in your twenties, you don’t think that war is a bad thing. As sick as it sounds, you’re excited to go to war. When you get around that in my life, there’s not a lot of good that comes from war but I can tell you that great experience came to me from war.

Going to war is humbling because you never realize how good you have it until you don’t have it. That’s always been a saying. Sometimes people get tired and they don’t know what that means until they experience it. Even going to school, certain relationships that you’ve had, advice that your father or your mother and advice that mentors gave you, a lot of times, we take that for granted. Taking running water for granted and taking a shower in cold water or things like that. What was supposed to be a four-month deployment turned into thirteen months, so that changes your perspective on life.

What was that like?

Nobody ever likes to admit their shortcomings but I was the kid growing up that going to college was checking the box for me because if you didn’t go to college in our family, everybody gave you the guilt trip because all our fathers and mothers had done it. My grandmother was the first valedictorian in the family line, which was great to move the needle forward. I didn’t even buy books in college. I just went, listened, and passed every test with A’s, B’s, and the occasional C.

When I got back from Iraq, I got straight A’s because, unfortunately, Anderson didn’t give me any credit, not even a partial credit, but it was fine. I got down into it. I finished off when I graduated with straight As in my last semester, which never happened. I was in the books and I was reading, and I was like, “I’ll never take education for granted like that,” or opportunities for that matter. That was neat. I needed that.

10% of what you're going to learn is in the classroom. The other 10% is reading in a book, but 80% is actually rolling up your sleeves and doing it. Click To Tweet

Going to war for me was an eye-opener. I was a hell of a soldier. When you’re in your twenties, that’s a great time to be a soldier when you don’t need to have any kids or worry back at home. In my 40s, I’d probably be a different soldier than when I was then because I was one of the youngest NCOs, which is a Non-Commissioned Officer. I got out as an E-6 after eight years of being in which I was always a fast tracker. I always max my PT test and all the educational stuff. I was good at it. I always excelled.

I had soldiers that reported to me that were twice my age which was another learning lesson because I didn’t have enough miles to empathize with them about what was going on back at home because it was hard for some of these guys to be far away from their families. I couldn’t empathize. It takes time to get that kind of experience.

Now, I’m a pretty decent communicator because people always say, “You’re only 40 years old,” and I’ll tell them, “I’m 40 years old, but I got a lot of miles on me.” Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump because there are many things. Forty is young and I still had a lot of life experience. When I was coming back from Iraq, my wife started looking for homes for us because where I come from, everybody does.

That’s the way a lot of people think about things. They say, “This is the path of life that people need to take.” It’s like, “You go to school, then you go to college. After you go to college, you get a job. You worked that job for as long as it takes to retire. You contribute to whatever your retirement account it is. When you retire, you get a hobby.” The way that you throw and get married, have kids and buy a house. There are these paint-by-numbers things for your life and that’s all learned.

When I came back from Iraq, I told my wife, “I had some good money saved because number one, when I was there, there wasn’t anywhere to spend that money.” These poor guys come back in debt because they have access to the internet. I did not touch that money, so I had a pretty good amount of money saved when I came back. I said, “Time to check that box and buy a house.”

Rosie started looking around for a house and then when I finally was able to talk to her when I came back into town, she’s like, “You would be a good real estate agent.” I said, “What’s a real estate agent?” She’s like, “They help people find houses. They make a lot of money, too.” I was like, “I like money.” At that time, I was bartending at my family’s bar in college and I did pretty good bartending.

Bartending is listening to people and making sure their drinks are full. They’re not waiting on you for that matter. Being a good listening ear but also remembering them, knowing what they like when they show back up again. I was a great bartender. She said, “You love helping and listening to people.” I said, “Real estate. How’s that work?” She said, “It’s a 100% commission paid.” Where I come from, you get a paycheck on the 1st and the 15th. I said, “I will listen.”

I went to career night with her and I listened to the guys that were putting on the career night. They are super awesome guys. They totally put on a good show and sold me on it, but when they told me 100% commission paid, I still had those limiting beliefs in my mind about, “Could I do it?” We both agreed that we’re going to get our licenses. Rosie got her license and went with the brokerage here in town.

At that time, Pulte Homes was doing a lot of college recruiting. They’re on campus and it was in real estate. They advertise a $55,000 a year salary with benefits. I was like, “Great. There’s the security.” I went with it. I interviewed and I got the job. It was a fun process. There’s a lot of time we probably don’t have to talk about that but it was neat. My military service got me in the door there. I would have never gotten in the door if I didn’t have my degree because they’re only looking for college grads.

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: When any company rolls out a CRM, they lose so many people because people just don’t like change.


Number two, it was when war veterans were coming back from Iraq. I was one of the first people to come back and that was exciting. They hired me pretty quickly, which was great. I started with this company and it was awesome. Their sales training program was phenomenal. I didn’t know that at the time but my mentor’s name is Brian Fink and he used to tell me, “If you want, I’ll give you extra training. Meet me in my office at 5:00 AM.” He offered that to the whole sales staff. I was one of the only ones that showed up and he took a major liking to me.

Before that, this is where I got recognized. The company had rolled out a CRM. It was a national initiative. Pulte is a Fortune 147 company. You know how that is, Gary. We’re both better way guys. Sometimes when any company rolls out a CRM, you lose so many people because people don’t like change. I’m like, “Give me change. I love change.” That’s what I realized about myself. I’m an intern at this time. I’m low on the totem pole, which is great. I’m learning.

All of a sudden, corporate flies into town. Nobody even knows who I am. They said, “We’re looking for a Joseph Maez.” That’s before I started going by Joe. I remember my VP’s assistant was like, “That’s our young guy. He’s working down in the South Valley.” My VP says, “If he did something wrong, we could assure you he’s new,” or whatever. They said, “No. He’s the number one user of SalesLogix in the country. We want to talk to him because we noticed the sales in his community have gone through the roof.”

This was a platform at that time in 2004, 2005. That was the first year I started to see mass emails and things like that were going out. I was using it because I had to network with the brokers in the community. The rest was history, Gary. I used that system and then they had me teach it. For seven years, I was with Pulte. In my last two years with that company, I was the number one salesperson in the entire nation, which was awesome. It all came with great training. Pulte had an amazing training program.

Ryan did a good job of investing in me and he’s an integral part and mentor. He was inspirational to me. I’ll go cool stuff development-wise, so I learned a lot about construction and finance. There’s so much that goes into it. It was like a Master’s degree in real estate. Towards the end, they started laying off people. Pulte changed in general because it was in the downturn. A lot of the people that I looked up to were getting cut and let go for the right reasons. The company could not sustain that type of overhead anymore.

To me, I’ve never seen anything like that so it was hard for me to take even though I was a great revenue generator. At that point, I was untouchable. You got a 25, 26-year-old guy making $500,000 a year. It was amazing. I was at the top of my game. My wife was on the resale side and I’m on the new construction side. We’re doing great.

My little boy was two at the time and Rosie was pregnant with our little girl and then this lady came into town. She was from Pulte corporate. After they started laying off the executives, they came to depend on me. I knew I wasn’t going to get touched because I was a revenue generator. The last person you’re going to touch is the revenue generator.

When she came to town, she’s like, “You’re Joe Maez?” I said, “Yes.” She’s like, “I hear you get whatever you want around here.” I was like, “Where’s this coming from?” She said, “Starting next year, we’re going to cut your commission. The reason we’re going to do that is because we know you’re used to making a certain amount of money and you’ll work harder to make that same amount of money.” I was like, “It’s the cold-blooded killer.”

Nothing replaces experience. You have to have good quality experience. You have to get somebody to mentor you. Click To Tweet

She was hired to do that. She’s honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me because I had been toying about going out on my own for a couple of years at that point but I didn’t do it. I have second-level limiting beliefs. I knew I could do it. A lot of agents and marquee brokers in town were like, “Joe, you got to make people just come to you.”

I didn’t have anything to do with the sale. I was an order taker. I’m listening to that and I’m like, “All this stuff is adding up,” but I knew I was an X-factor. I always make things happen. It’s funny when I was younger, I never thought algebra would come in handy. I solve for X every day. I’m always solving for X, whether it’s figuring out a problem or finding out a better way to do things.

At this point, I’m on the top of my career. One day, I was at a company picnic and our new division president was there. He and I got along well. Six months had passed since that lady had that conversation with me and I’m forever grateful for her. She said, “What’s going on, Joe?” I said, “I’ve never done this before. I’m going to give you guys my two weeks.” I don’t have anything lined up, Gary. He’s like, “What is it? Is it about that conversation you had with someone?” I said, “No, it’s not that.”

In fact, I’m glad that happened because this company is amazing. Up to this day, it is one of the best companies out there because they always stood behind its product. It didn’t matter how much it costs. They always warrantied stuff. It’s seriously a great place to learn. I got to prove to myself that I’m not what they say, that I’m not just an order taker out there. They’re like, “If you ever want to come back, the door’s always open.” I appreciate that but I told them that I wouldn’t be back.

In my first year, I went to the same brokerage that my wife was with because the owners and I are good friends. Out of 550 brokers, I’ve placed number four in my first year. That was awesome. I knew I always wanted to be number one. Meaning, top in units and volume. The only way I could do that was by having a team because I was doing it all by myself.

At this point, my wife was taking care of the kids and taking care of me full-time, which is a hard job and taking care of our household. I would not want that job. Supporting us is the hardest job in the Maez family. That was good that she got to stay at home and she got to do all that. Here, I hit the ground. At this point, I started shopping for companies that I could have a team. They had teams here in Albuquerque, but they weren’t a real team. I would kill myself from stress and exhaustion if I was going to work as hard as I was my first year in residential resale.

I looked at RE/MAX and Keller Williams. I went with Keller Williams because they have a great philosophy in how they approach doing business with people, win-win or no deal, which I love. It’s got to be a win-win. By the way, financially, it made a lot of sense from a team perspective. That way, my team members can make decent money as well because I can’t be making all the money. We did that and grew that company. Keller Williams blew up. That was when I broke the $100 million mark and took the number one spot in Albuquerque. It’s been a documented thing for years.

A few years ago, I left Keller Williams and said, “At this point, the buck stops with me.” I started The Maez Group. We closed $149 million in production for 425 units, which is my all-time best. It’s a small brokerage. We have about eight brokers here. Most of them are new, so I specialize in training newer agents. The only difference was when I was with Keller Williams, I would lose my experienced brokers to the company. You got to get it. People want to make more money. Who am I to tell a broker that’s been with me for a certain amount of time like, “I can’t give you a raise.”

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: Never take education for granted, or opportunities for that matter.


The Maez Group is like the boot camp for newer brokers and if they want to stay long term, they can. The Maez Group is a training ground. It’s where you learn how the real world in real estate works. Everybody has all these cool classes but the real world is a real world. What I provide is real-world experience. There’s a separate brokerage that I own which is called AI, which stands for All In.

These are people that are all-in. They’re not doing this. They’re not doing that. They don’t have one foot over here. They don’t have one foot there. They’re all-in in real estate and they’ve been vetted by me. They’ve been trained by me. They have no criminal record. These are people that you can trust in your home with your family and stuff like that. That’s a new launch.

There’s OP which stands for On Purpose. OP is for people that went through The Maez Group and couldn’t do AI because it’s a lot of work. Now they realize that real estate isn’t as easy as everybody says it is. They worked hard for their license and they still have a lot of contacts. Through OP, they don’t have to be members of the board of realtors with all the fees, but they can refer people to The Maez Group and they can get paid a referral fee on that.

It’s like a triangle of companies. I own a title company as well called Signature Title and it’s been years since we’ve opened it. It’s super successful. It’s doing good business. It’s great. That’s where we’re at. I have an amazing staff. We discovered our why’s with you, but as a better way person, it’s nice to see that because The Maez Group does what it does because we did find a better way.

A little flashback that I had when Gary was when my mentor was around telling him, “We’d sell away more houses if we had somebody to do our paperwork. It seems like every time I’m writing up a contract in the sales office, somebody is coming in wanting to buy, but I’m face to face with somebody writing him up on a deal.” He’s like, “When you’re the boss one day, you could do things how you want to do.” I said, “Noted.”

Now, you do.

My salespeople do not write their own purchase agreements. We have an experienced contract writer that writes all of our contracts. My claim to fame is over 3,000 transactions, Gary, and I’ve never been in a courtroom. The money is great, but having a great reputation is even better. If an attorney would go and say, “You have a pattern of behavior,” the pattern of behavior would be a success and doing things right. Also, creating a business model that people know that when they’re doing business with us, it’s getting done right. We spend money on the processes to make sure that they don’t have to worry about. That’s why people hire brokers to give themselves some insulation from liability.

Question for you then, you said that you’re the guy that makes things happen, what do you attribute to your ability to make things happen?

A lot of that is a combination of a lot of things. Number one, my mom. I’d always say, “I can’t do that.” She would quickly say, “You can and you will.” That was instilled in us at such a young age. My parents were always the candid type of people. In the military, I remember it’s been ingrained in you over time. One of the things that I always would remember was no excuse. If a drill sergeant or a higher up came up to you and say, “What’s this all about?” I’d say, “No excuse and we’d fix it.” We never make excuses and we always would complete the mission. Thinking back, we never had a failed mission because we always never gave up. Looking at things differently, there’s a lot of tenacity that goes into it and the can and the mindset.

Enjoy the process of learning and learn well, because if you skip a step, you might not be able to survive if something really serious. Click To Tweet

One of my favorite sayings was by Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.” That is a huge mindset. There were things that we’ve done here that everybody said, “You can never do that,” but we did it. It’s a mindset that if we know that we can do things, we can get it done. That’s the answer to your question. It’s a mindset more than anything.

When you work with new brokers, what are some of the things that you work with them on so that they can get over these fears? There’s a lot of fear jumping into a commission-only kind of situation.

I learned from these guys, too. I’m a mentor and I’ve mentored some great people in fact, but they mentored me, too. They didn’t even know it but they’ve been helping me out as well. I’m putting myself in their shoes. One thing that I know that we do differently is a real-life experience. I’m an audiobook type of guy, so this show is great. I’ve listened to some of the podcasts and it’s great for a guy like me because I’m not a pick-up-a-book-and-read type of guy.

One of the things I listened to in a book was, “10% of what you’re going to learn is in the classroom. The other 10% is reading in a book, but the 80% is rolling up your sleeves and doing it.” That’s the approach that I love for the newer agents. For me, it’s maybe not the best analogy, but as a wolf would teach the pups how to hunt, that’s how I teach people how to do things. It’s roll with me. We do it, they do it, so do it. If you’re watching me do it, you’re going to be way more comfortable than if you read it in a book or some guy that was teaching in class that’s never even done it. He’s just qualified to do teach the class. This is a real-world experience.

When any of my brokers come out of my camp, if they give me two years, I would put them up against any seasoned broker out there, just from how to get things done. They’re hearing that a seller calls me upset about a low offer or me negotiating that. They hear firsthand the negotiations on offer and how you get the highest price for a seller. They hear firsthand deals are going to miss closing and both the buyer and seller have scheduled moving trucks and everybody’s up in arms about that.

That’s a real-life experience you will not learn in a book or any class by somebody that’s teaching a class that’s probably not even qualified to teach a class. This is real-world stuff, so they’re seeing it for real. You’d be surprised, Gary, some agents will never sell a house because they don’t know how to write the contract. They’ve never made a single contract but once they’ve made that first contract, it’s all good. Now, they did it.

It’s almost like rites of passage. It’s like, “I’ve done that. I’m not afraid of it anymore.” Like a lot of things in our life. The first time somebody skydives, they’re probably freaked out. The second time, probably not so much. If they come back, then they’re probably not afraid of it. It’s the same deal. What I do is get people past that threshold sooner.

I remember there was a broker that I used to see in the office all the time when I was back at Keller Williams. I always remember these stories. Keller Williams is one of the best training companies there is. They do a lot of classroom training. She was going to those classes. I have probably been there for about eight months. I saw her in the hallway and said, “You sold anything yet?” She says, “No, I haven’t sold anything yet.” I said, “I’m going on a listing appointment. Come with me.”

She jumped in the car with me and she watched me list the house. When I was driving back with her to the office, I got a call from one of my buyers. There was a house that we emailed them because we have automatic trips and they wanted to see it. I said, “I’ll have one of my brokers open the house for you.” I said, “You’re going to go open the house and after you go open the house, we’re going to write it up.” She said, “Really?” I said, “Yup.”

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, try hiring an amateur.


That was her first transaction. I said, “Have the buyers call me from the house.” They called me from the house. I ran payments with them over the phone. I told them about how the process works. She’s listening and watching it. It’s probably something that she had been in those classes for sixteen months and never even experienced. I had her write up the deal for me. I showed her how to write up the deal. She’s not on my team, but she’s a producing broker out in society right now. I know that was the spark that lit the flame. That’s what I do.

The other thing about me is that I’m a man of abundance. I never think about, “That’s my competition,” because it’s not. There’s so much business, Gary. For me, I noticed that it changed her life. It changed my life, too because it reinforced my beliefs that I love helping people. As Rosie said years ago, “You’d be a good real estate agent. You like helping people.” Why would I be good at anything? Because I love helping people.

What was the spark that set you from the guy who didn’t know anything to off and running?

This is going to sound pretty weird, but I grew up doing hard labor and doing stuff where I was even thinking back about my military careers. I was an NCO, but I had all the credits to be an officer. I always did things the hard way. When I realized how much I could do and what a living I could make with using this, that’s where things took off. It was a dream come true. A lot of people will say, “Joe got lucky.” I got lucky to find my niche and my niche is I can take things that are in bad shape and I can make them shine.

One of the hardest things for me, Gary was when I reached what I felt was the pinnacle of my career. A lot of people will probably never reach that spot but I was fortunate to reach it. It’s a breaking point. I don’t know if you can identify with this. I’m pretty sure you can because you’re a winner. I reached a point where I’m like, “I’m the number one guy. I’m selling all this stuff. I’m selling all these houses,” and then you’re like, “I’ve climbed to the top of this mountain. Now what?”

It seemed like I’ve always been in the military, I climbed that mountain. I did that. I went to Pulte, I climbed that mountain. I was done there. It seems like a seven-year cycle. It’s eight years in the military and 7 or 8 years in new home sales. Now I’m at this 7 and 8-year mark in residential resale and I’m at the top of my game, and then you started thinking, “What now?” It’s like the Rocky series. He was like, “Now, what?”

I took a year off and I let the company do its own thing. It still did well, but I realized how much I missed the interaction of being with people. It’s crazy but saving people’s lives. When you sell sometimes, there are situations where you’re saving somebody’s life in this. I’m able to help people in situations where I know another broker might not be able to do it.

For instance, I got a deal that’s closing. We sold their house. Everybody sees my sales and they see this one that’s sold for $2.7 million. They see all these big deals that close, but we sell everything. This house that I am selling on the outskirts of Los Lunas is a $149,000 property. We get it under contract and the seller doesn’t have the money to make all the repairs that have come upon this house. They’re already under contract in another property, so they have to close.

Sales is not a bad word. Sales is helping people. It's getting people to decide on something that's good for them. Click To Tweet

There’s the foundation on this mobile home that needs repairs but they don’t have it. There’s the septic that failed on this house and needs to be replaced but they don’t have the money. The neighbor next door has been living in this house and four people are using this well. The neighbor refuses to sign a Shared Well Agreement, even though these people have been living there for eight years and they’ve been paying the electricity down as well. She won’t sign a Shared Well Agreement. The buyer’s lender will not sell that property unless there’s a Shared Well Agreement or they have their own well.

Guess who drilled the well? I drilled the well for $20,000. I replaced the septic for $55,000 and I did the foundation for probably about $1,500. I don’t have to tell you but the commissionable event in that was maybe $5,100, but I can’t. They have enough proceeds coming out of the sale to where they signed something saying they’ll pay me back at closing. I’m able to do that. I know I can get it done. It’s neat to be in a position like that where you can bridge the gap. There was like, “How did you sell 425 homes?” I found a way to get it done because I’ve been fortunate to be good at what I’m doing. I’m able to help way more people because I’m able to bridge the gap.

There’s a lot of great real estate agents out there and we both know a lot of them. What is it that makes you good? What is the mindset? What is that X factor? What is that thing that somebody who’s reading to this who are thinking, “I’m considering getting into real estate. I am in real estate and I’m trying to figure out how do I go from beginner to expert? How do I go from survival to abundance?” What is it?

The answer to that for me is nothing replaces experience. You have to have a good quality experience. You have to get a great mentor, somebody to mentor you. It’s crazy to see real estate agents coming out and they get into it because they say, “There’s this guy and he’s got this and he’s got that. He doesn’t even speak good English.” The truth is if I can do it, they can do it. What they’re missing is the years of failure that come in there and learning the hard way, too.

When I mentor people, my goal is to save them like my dad and my mom used to give me all this great advice that I never took. My goal is that I get them to take my advice and save them some steps that I had to take that they shouldn’t have to take. That’s where it’s at. It’s been mentored. There are many agents coming into any industry. I know that when you’re a dentist, you don’t just start working on people’s teeth. It took time. You had to watch somebody that had crazy experience perform things and that made you a better person.

There are people in this industry and I have my qualms with this industry because number one, they just let anybody get into it, which is sad. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, try hiring an amateur. A lot of people don’t realize that until they have to call me up. They’ve spent double or whatever.

Electricians have an apprentice and journeyman program. That’s what people need to do. They need not to cheat the system. I mentor young ones at a couple of colleges in the summer. They said, “What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to somebody younger like me?” I said, “Enjoy the process of learning and learn well because if you skip a step, you might not be able to survive something serious.”

I deal with millions of dollars of production. What happens if you make a mistake? Are you able to make it right? If you’re a true professional, you have to be able to make it right. That’s why to work with a true professional costs money, but a true professional should pay for themselves. I always tell myself, “You want to get to the point where your experiences were so much that when people hire me, it’s almost like getting me for free because I pay for myself during the transaction.” From the advice that I’m able to give people. I always say it’s experience.

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: It’s not just about the real estate process. It’s about knowing your product too.


I have an autographed picture here in my office of Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura. Nolan Ryan has Robin Ventura in a headlock. I have a signed copy of that picture right here. I have it in my office for a reason and I named that picture, Experience, because Nolan Ryan was at the end of his career and probably one of the best pitchers of all time. He’s a Hall of Famer. There’s this young guy who steps up to the plate. Robin Ventura was a pretty big guy and a hotshot back then and Nolan beat him.

Nobody knew that Robin was going to charge. Robin acts like he’s taking the basics and watching them on YouTube and all that stuff, and then halfway, he decides he wants to charge Nolan. Everybody thinks, “Nolan wasn’t afraid.” “You’re talking about a veteran pitcher. Do you think he’s been charged before?” “Maybe once or twice.” He walked towards Robin Ventura and not one bit of fright, he went for it. What that all went down to me was an experience. The man had been in his fair share of scraps. He knew how it was going to turn out. He knew how to handle the situation. That’s what happened but he couldn’t have done that.

Having your mentor when you first started, how much of a benefit was that

It was a huge benefit. I didn’t know that at the time because I was young. You don’t have to be young. I’m talking about being young in the profession. When you’re learning a new trade, so to speak, you don’t know it at the time but you realize later down the road how valuable certain mentors were. My mentor, Brian, taught me the critical path of sales and we never skipped a step. I have my way of doing things right now but my way couldn’t have been my way without his way. Everything from how you greet somebody to how you get a commitment.

Sales is not a bad word. To me, sales are helping people. It’s getting people to decide on something good for them, not what’s good for me. I approached sales in a way that I’m helping somebody and I’m solving a problem. He went a lot deeper. A lot of real estate brokers help people find houses. He taught me how to know money well. Knowing the mortgage side, knowing the different programs and being knowledgeable about all the ways.

If somebody’s a doctor, a lot of people don’t know that there are zero-down programs for physicians with no mortgage insurance. They’ll say, “Call this lender and get back to me.” I’m like, “Nobody’s ever going to call that thing.” They’re almost afraid of going to a lender as much as they’re afraid of going to the dentist. That’s the reality. That’s human psychology and human nature. I always knew the money side. He taught me the value of learning the money side. It’s not just about the real estate process. It’s about knowing your product, too. That’s where the construction knowledge came into play. How does that work?

I remember one of the first things when I was selling houses in the southwest, a guy came in and he was on Sandi Pressley’s team. He was the buyer’s agent for Sandi Pressley, Arny Katz. He is one of the better buyer brokers out there and I’m brand new. I’m the new kid on the block. Arny wants to show his client a spec on a standing piece of inventory out there and the guy comes in and said, “What kind of roof is this?” This was years ago. I said, “I don’t know but I’ll get that answer for you.” He says, “What kind of windows are these?” “I don’t know but I’ll get that answer for you.” “What kind of air conditioning is this?” “I don’t know.” “What the hell do you know?” “I don’t know but I’ll get that answer for you.”

The cheap way of doing things ends up costing you the most. You get what you pay for. Never go to the lowest bidder. Click To Tweet

That was one of those defining moments in my life where I said, “I will never be in that position again.” I pulled Antonio, who was our project manager at the time out there. I said, “Antonio, I want to learn everything about construction, from permitting to the CO. Use me,” and they did. Antonio and his team taught me well about how the construction process works. When I show up to an appointment, I’m not just some other realtor.

I know about PSI in slabs. I know about the different types of slabs. I know about windows. I know more about somebody’s house than they know about their house when I show up and that’s great because I’m an expert. I’m not just anybody else. We are experts. On the money side, if I’m representing a buyer or seller, they can get their mortgage lender on the phone.

They call me the lender’s broker because I’m super low maintenance and by the time I give them somebody to talk to, they’re already qualified. I just need them to pull credit. I’ve already talked to the people about it. I already run numbers. I have already set expectations. It’s pretty easy for them. I know how to ask the questions. I know about the different programs and the reality of all that. That came with time and experience and being a student of the craft.

You said something important there that I wanted to touch on. You said you helped people make a decision. That seems like a big difference between helping them buy a house or helping them in the other areas. When I’m trying to buy something, that’s the hardest part. How do I make a decision? If you can help me do that, you’re my guy.

Here’s the thing about you, Gary, you do what you do, which is what you do and that’s great. You stay in your lane and that’s all fine and good. When you come into my domain and into my universe, that’s my universe, so my job is to be of value to you. You don’t know the market the way I do. Chances are, if you’d give me 5 to 10 minutes to talk with you and you casually tell me because I’m going to be asking you a lot of great open-ended questions to have you open up to me, I’m going to know where that property is. It might not even be on the market but I’m going to know where it’s at. I’m going to know that financially it meets your needs, it’s not going to put you in hardship and it’s going to meet a timeframe that’s comfortable for you.

By the way, unless you’re paying cash, I probably know about a program that you don’t know about that’s going to put a smile on your face. That’s what it is. I’ve seen people that have told me while we’re looking within the next twelve months to move, but after maybe a 30-minute conversation with me, they’re moving and it’s for the better. It’s not that I sold them something. I just showed them something that they didn’t know about.

I always tell my brokers, “Tell our clients something that they don’t already know.” There’s a reason why Zillow, and those types of platforms exist. They are a disruption. The disruption is the fact that people aren’t creating the value that they should. When Zillow is doing the job for you, if the buyer or the seller knows more than you do, then he fails. That’s the way I see it. Technology shouldn’t replace brokers like me because we’re valuable. Anybody else that I train, I want them to build in their value that they never have to be intimidated by some app that’s going to be created. People will always do business when they know there’s value.

BYW S4 7 | Better Way
Better Way: People will always do business when they know there’s value.


The last question and I know you’ve talked about a lot of great advice and given a lot of great advice. What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or you’ve ever given?

I receive a lot of great advice. There was a Spanish saying, and it says, “Lo barato cuesta caro,” which means the cheap will end up cost. The cheap way of doing things ends up costing you the most. I’ve learned that you get what you pay for in most cases. Never go to the lowest bidder. That’s one of the better advice and that’s in everything, too.

It goes all the way around. If you’re going to go about something the easy way, it doesn’t have to be about money. It could be about taking the easy way out versus putting in the work. That saying can mean so much on many different levels. Don’t ever cheat yourself. You got to put in the work to get what you deserve if you want it.

As far as advice that I give, that’s a tough question, Gary. I give a lot of advice but the advice that I give is by my actions and watching what I do and that’s how I do things right. Having kids, I’ve learned that it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. People are watching you and they’re watching how you deliver. That’s the best example because a lot of people can say things but it’s about what they do that is worth more.

Joe, I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re busy. Thank you for being here. I’m glad we got a chance to do this finally. I know we get to see each other from time to time, but we haven’t had a chance to sit down and learn about you. It’s fascinating how you’ve gone from where you came from to where you are now. There are a lot of great lessons there. Thank you so much for spending the time. If there are people that are reading that want to connect with you, want to learn more about you and maybe want to work with you in buying or selling a house or being mentored by you, how should they get ahold of you?

The best way to do it is to go to my website. It’s and they can inquire. They could fill in an inquiry and we’ll get with them.

Joe, Thanks again. I’ll see you on the golf course.

Thank you.

I want to wrap it up with our Guess Their Why. I want us to use somebody popular and that would be from the TV series, Ted Lasso. What do you think Roy Kent’s why is? If you watch Ted Lasso, you know exactly who Roy Kent is. He’s one of the favorite characters. He says whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it and the way he wants to say it. He’s serious, direct and to the point, no fluff, just right at it.

I’m going to guess that Roy Kent’s why is to simplify because he doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t worry if he hurt your feelings. He says it how it is. He’s nothing fancy. Just right to it. If you like that, you know what you’re getting. There is no extra fluff or candy that goes with it, then that is Roy Kent. What do you think Roy Kent’s why is?

I want to thank you for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at You can use the code PODCAST50 and get it for half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe or leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you’re using so that you can help us impact one billion people in the next few years by helping them discover their why, how and what. It’s what we call your Why.os. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you next episode.


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How The Why Of Contribute Bleeds Through Leadership That Rocks With Jim Knight

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks


Jim Knight has upheld a passion for contributing in any way he can, anywhere he can. How does that bleed through and influence his work? Jim is a keynote speaker, coach, and author of Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results. He spearheaded Global Training for Hard Rock International for two decades and now teaches organizations how to attain their own rockstar status. In this episode, he joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to share how he’s morphed his passion for serving with his experience in HR. Jim talks about leadership and its relation to culture in his latest work. Tune in as he gives tidbits of insights from his book and more on creating a culture that attracts rockstars!

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

How The Why Of Contribute Bleeds Through Leadership That Rocks With Jim Knight

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of contribute. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish the success that contributors make for the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories. You are often found behind the scenes, looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate, and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations.

Now I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Jim Knight. He teaches organizations of all sizes how to attain their own rockstar status. Although his illustrious career started at Gatorland Zoo in Florida and he has the scars to prove it, he cut his teeth in the hospitality training industry and eventually led Global Training for Hard Rock International for decades. His customized programs show how to amp up organizational culture, deliver world-class differentiated service and build rockstar teams and leaders.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results

He’s known for signature spiky hair. He is the bestselling author of Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture. It was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the five books that will help you transform how you do business. His new book Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results launched in May of 2021. A portion of his book sales, podcast revenue, speaking fees, and training programs proceeds go to No Kid Hungry and Cannonball Kids’ Cancer. Jim, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much, Gary. I appreciate it. I don’t know that I gave you the long bio. That was quite an introduction, but you touched on a couple of things that are probably going to fit into our conversation. First and foremost, I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you.

First of all, you can’t see Jim’s hair so I’m going to try to describe it. It looks to be about 5 to 6 inches tall, perfectly straight up, and multi-level, multi-colors. How the heck did that come about and how do you do it?

I probably have always been known for my hair and since I’ve been an adult. Once I started to work on my music degree and for 21 years, I was at Hard Rock International. We had a chance to look, be, say and do whatever. I worked with The Island of Misfit Toys. Believe me, this hairstyle is safe compared to a lot of my rock and roll friends with piercings, colored hair, bollocks and the whole thing. I used to have long hair. I had a mullet and I could sit on my hair about 2.5 feet at one point, then I decided several years ago to grow up a little bit and started speaking professionally. I went up so it’s got some spikes in there.

To answer the second half of your question, it is multilayered. I have somebody who does the hair once a month. She uses razors instead of scissors and that’s the first secret. The second is I use this product called Got2b Glued. I’m sure a lot of people in your audience probably have seen this before at CVS, Walgreens or Walmart. It’s in a yellow tube. It’s the same look, smell, feel, and consistency as Elmer’s Glue. I throw that stuff in there a little dollop and 30 seconds later, this is what you get. It’s like Sonic The Hedgehog all day long. This thing is hurricane-proof in Florida.

You go to bed looking like this. What do you look like in the morning?

It’s almost the same. I took a shower in the morning but if I go to sleep like this and I was laying on one side, it might get a little bit matted. You can throw some water in there and it reconstitutes the glue. If I wanted to, I could not wash my hair for 3 to 4 days and it would still be spiky like this. I’ve lived pretty well on Survivor for about 3 to 4 days. After that, it’s sad and it gets weak and flat. Water is my nemesis. If I jump on a pool, it’s game over.

Take us back to when you were a kid. Where did you grow up? How did you get into hospitality? Take us through the quick version of your life back when you were in high school.

At the heart, culture is about people. Click To Tweet

My quick version is I wanted to be a musician. When I was in middle school and high school, I started thinking about wanting to perform. I did a bunch of community theater. I did go to school and have my Music Degree in Associate of Arts, Music, and Education. My first job was at Gatorland Zoo. I live in Central Florida so I live in the land of theme parks, Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. There are like 27 theme parks here in Gatorland. It’s one of the best-kept secrets. That was my first job. While I was doing that in the summertime, I started to go to college. While I was at university to make a living, I found out that being a musician, you had to be good, so I changed careers.

They say those that can’t do, teach. I became a middle school teacher and did that for six years. I’m a product of public education and I’m happy to have taught in that. Eventually, I needed to make some money in the summertime. As you can imagine, teachers don’t make any money in the summer. I take a little summer gig at Hard Rock International. The Hard Rock Cafe at that time was the new thing in Orlando. It’s the busiest restaurant in the world. I was a host deceiving people. I did that for a year. I became a trainer. They paid me to start traveling and opening up Hard Rocks around the world, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris. I got to hang out in London.

I traveled the world as a kid. A couple of years later, I became a manager and was running shifts for that building, which does anywhere between $42 million and $45 million a year, which is unheard of in hospitality. Your skills get sharp. Your head and ego get big. You’re hanging out listening to 90 decibels of Zeppelin and meeting rockstars left and right. It was a gas to do that. Within a year, I went over to the Corporate Sports Center and ran training and development for them. That’s the long answer. The short answer was several years ago. I decided I wanted to have a little bit of a louder voice and I wanted to contribute more to society.

I still pull the levers of music, education and hospitality. I put all of that together to make this edutainment in the programs, whether it’s something as a writer, eLearning and certainly as a keynote speaker. Several years ago, I left. Instead of being in hospitality, I wanted to go vertical. Now I speak in front of bankers, insurance agents, clowns, and funeral directors. If there’s an association and they’re looking for a speaker, I want to go out there and talk about culture, service, building teams, and those types of things. Leadership is hot and heavy right now.

What did you notice that Hard Rock did better, different and unique that allowed them to scale to $40 million to $50 million per restaurant?

I would say that’s probably three. You usually would take New York and Los Angeles. Las Vegas was probably one of those, as well as Orlando. Those four would do those types of numbers. Everybody else is between $7 million and $20 million, depending on the market. You had to be in a big A-location. That was what Hard Rock started with. They’re now in a lot of C markets. They’ve decided that there’s a lot of earth where they can plant their flag.

They’ll bring the Hard Rock brand to a country or a market because some people in these countries aren’t ever going to travel to Western Europe or the US, which is predominantly where the Hard Rock is. Their future is all franchise cafes. Although a lot of people still go, “Hasn’t that thing been around for 50 years?” They have and they’re still opening up properties, but the future for that brand is hotels and casinos for sure. That’s where all the money is.

Particularly, a casino will do what ten hotels do. That’ll do what twenty cafes will do. You’re limited on where you can do that in the world. To answer your question, Hard Rock is cool as I thought it was. To me, it’s still one of the awesome, great brands in the world. The product is fantastic. I love the environment, the music, the memorabilia, the retail, all of that stuff is cool. None of the buildings are the same. There’s no cookie-cutter. They build pyramids, inherit castles, and they put a bar on the side. It’s crazy. It’s always about the people.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If you were to keep all of your awesome people, but change everything, logo, font, corporate sports center, tools, process, employee handbook, e-learning, whatever it is. If you change all of that, but keep the people, you wouldn’t make a huge dent in the culture.


The silver bullet for them is, I’m going to find the most unique people I can find because unique people bring some unique experiences to the party. They’re also going to make sure that these people have tremendous work ethic. It’s not just because they’re freaky people and they look different, which by the way, you see more companies starting to do that now. I’m thankful that I worked for a company for two decades that was doing that before it was popular, allowing tattoos to be seen, crazy colored hair, being on a first-name base with the boss, pushing back, challenging the status quo, and not having any fear of something happening to them. All of that stuff mattered. When you can do that, do you know what you get with the team members? They stick around and that’s loyalty.

Hanging out with that interesting collection of humans, and the value orientation that the company had were the two things that kept me going. I’d say it’s a tag team. It’s the unique people they went and found, but also the values like save the planet, take time to be kind, and all as one. These were emblazoned on the walls for no other reason but to keep us all honest. That allowed me to want to stick around a little bit longer and invite my buddies to come and work with me.

How did they go about finding all these unique people? What was their process or thinking behind that? Was this something that came about randomly? Was it a strategic thing that they thought or you thought about? At one point, you were running one of them. How did you do it?

I was running shifts in the mid-‘90s but I ran global training for the whole brand. I wasn’t running all of the individual properties. I came in in the early ‘90s. The thing started in 1971. There were two Americans that were hanging out in Great Britain and they had two issues. They couldn’t find a great burger. They wanted to make sure they had a little bit of some of that greasy Tennessee Truck Stop, Southern-style food that you couldn’t get in the UK at that time.

There was also not a big middle-class in the United Kingdom. You were either very rich or very poor. The fact that there were two lines for people, if you were rich, you stood in this line, if you didn’t have any money, you stood over here this line, they didn’t like that. That was red meat for some civil rights activists people that were coming out of the ‘60s. You know what was going on in our country. Those were the two reasons I did it.

To answer your question, it was extremely strategic. They will have the best food, shakes, environment, they’re going to put music in there, but their real goal was, “Let’s go find some people that were unique.” Ironically, they didn’t go youthful. Every single 1 of the 42 original servers had to be over 30 years old and they had to be women. A lot of them were redheads. It was funny to think you got this group of older redheaded women who are slinging food around and they’re going to push back a little bit.

It was a little irreverent and unpredictable but then even as time went on, their goal was, “Where can we go find some rockstars? Maybe it’s outside of the usual. Maybe it isn’t going to be another restaurant. Maybe I will go find somebody in tattoo parlors or concert halls. Could I go and find some in a retail location that had no food and beverage background at all.” They wanted people to have some experience but they certainly wanted to populate it with unique humans that had killer personalities. I almost think of the old TV show, Alice. If you think about that and you think of flow, some of your audience members may be old enough to remember. It was chewing gum and pushing back on everybody.

If you could find that person somewhere in your sphere when you went out to eat, drink, shop, stay, play or do whatever, coerce them, convince them, and pay them probably a little bit more to come work for you. All of a sudden, you’ve got a rockstar. You got a diamond in the rough who is probably going to create some unforgettable memories. That was their goal. It was completely strategic. I hope the brand is still doing that. I haven’t been there for years. That would be a miss if they stopped hiring some interesting humans.

“You want to have a fantastic, awesome culture?” Number one, you got to go find some rock stars. That's got to be your absolute focus more than anything. Click To Tweet

It worked awfully well for them. You were there for two decades.

I started in April of 1991. I left in April of 2012.

What was it like for you to leave that comfort and start speaking? The middle school teacher gone culture, spiked-hair guy is now going to go speak to who?

I was crazy nervous. I had a little bit of some tricks up my sleeve. Part of it was the last several years before I left Hard Rock while I was the Senior Director for training and development, I had a great team of nine people. I started speaking on the side at that time. The very first one, like almost every speaker out there, we do it for free. Somebody asked me to come to do a little mini-orientation at Hard Rock. It had nothing to do with what I talk about now. No leadership, services or any of that stuff. They just wanted to have somebody do the Hard Rock story because they lived in a state in the US where there wasn’t property. I was like, “I’ll go do that. I’m not going to send my team.”

What happens is what happens with everybody. I went and spoke and somebody in the back of the room came up afterward and said, “That was awesome. Can you come to do it for my company? How much do you charge?” That’s when the light bulb went off. I started charging people, but here’s the cool part. I never took any money. I gave the brand. I gave Hard Rock all of the money because I wanted it to be above reproach. I never wanted my boss, the CEO or anybody to ever challenge me and say, “He’s having fun doing his side job than doing the regular day-to-day stuff.” It did allow me to feed the beast, get my sea legs, and get a lot better at platform speaking.

I was sharing stuff that I loved. I was impacting and influencing audiences to check out Hard Rock. Maybe they didn’t even know about the brand. Everybody wonders, don’t I actually get paid? I just put it into my budget. In training people, we spend money. To be a revenue-generating initiative was great. I never went over budget. My boss always loved it. What you probably would imagine did happen to me was I started loving that gig a lot more than the details of the day-to-day making the donuts.

I’ve decided to jump off since I was already doing it. I was doing about one a month. I had a couple that was ready to go when I jumped off. I was scared to death thinking, “I’ve got a cool job. I traveled the world. I’m getting paid well and looking at all the benefits. Am I going to leave all that because I think somebody will pay me maybe the same amount? I’d be happy if it would’ve been the same amount. Am I going to do that for a living?” It was crazy. I jumped off the deep end and I’ve never looked back. It’s been fantastic for me.

The platform that you started speaking on was culture.

It was the Hard Rock culture. If I got to be honest, I was pulling the lever of the brand. I tried to immerse people in the spirit of rock and roll. That’s where I probably got my focus more than anything else. It was on culture, which then led into some of those other things, service, leadership, building rockstar teams, that type of stuff. I’ll probably forever be known as the Culture Guy, and that’s cool.

What is it that makes a good culture and why is a good culture important?

We alluded to this already. If I was ever going to write or talk about it, I do define exactly what culture is right upfront. If you and I did a survey of your audience members or even if I asked you right now, “What do you think it is?” I will probably agree with you. I’m in the everything is culture camp. They can be all of the stuff that I mentioned before. At the heart, it is about the people.

Let’s say you’re a legacy brand. You’ve been around for 15, 20, 40 or 100 years. It doesn’t matter. If I were to have held on to the exact group of people that started the thing in the first place, you’re the founder, the president, the CEO, you’ve been doing it for 40 to 50 years, you could have held onto that group. You’d have the exact culture that you want. If you fast forward a couple of decades, it doesn’t work like that because people come and go.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: The more that you can be open-minded to change, and you can put more arrows in your quiver, you’re more likely to look somebody in the eye and go, “This is what it will take with this person right now to rock their face-off.”


I know that if I was to keep all of my awesome people but change everything like logo, font, corporate sports center, tools, process, employee handbook, eLearning or whatever it is, but I kept my people, I wouldn’t make a huge dent in the culture. I’d have exactly what I want. Let’s say that I love all of that infrastructure. I keep all of that stuff but I kick everybody out in the organization and replace them with a bunch of other people. I’ve completely revolutionized the culture

I will talk about a lot of nitty-gritty details but I can’t emphasize enough when I’m in front of an audience saying, “Do you want to have a fantastic, awesome culture? You got to go find some rockstars.” That’s got to be your absolute focus more than anything else because the rest of the stuff is you being a good manager but you’re not thinking like a business owner, entrepreneur, big brand. You’ve got to love on them. You’ve got to do everything in your power not to muscle the result and manage the threats, punishment and fear, which I still see out there in a couple of industries.

If you can throw your arm around people, teach them, and have a little bit of a heart-centered mindset, they stay with you longer. There’s a direct correlation between turnover and top-line sales. It’s not just in hospitality. I’m starting to see that in almost any industry. I know that’s a long answer but it’s always about the people. Do I want to focus on all the other stuff? Totally, but those are the little rocks. The big thing that makes a difference is I got to populate the thing with people who can slake it. They’re showing up going, “I’m in the memory-making business now.” They show up and do that every day, “I’m going to put Herculean results.”

When you’re leading the team and you’re trying to love on them, but you’re not getting the result you want. How do you handle that? I’m sure there are people reading that are dealing with this. Their key person isn’t quite doing it like they were, could or you wanted. How do you love on them yet get results?

First, I’d look in the mirror. Maybe the common denominator is the leader. Sometimes, I’ve got to change their tactics or they’ve been doing it the same way. They’re banging their head against the wall going, “How come they’re not responding to me?” This is why you go to conferences. You read books and listen to podcasts because the more that you can be open-minded to change and you can put more arrows in your quiver, you’re more likely to look somebody in the eye and go, “This is what it will take with this person right now that rock their face-off.” I would say that anyway from an end-user, a guest or a customer but we have to think the same way from an employee.

These associates and team members have different needs. For some of them, it might be a tiny little bit more money. Others need you to spend a little bit of time with them, look them in the eye, care about them, and ask them about their family and what did they do this weekend. Others want development. “Put me on a fast track. Give me a program so I can start hitting some things to ultimately become promotable.” It doesn’t guarantee me the job but it’s less likely that you’re going to go to the outside if I’ve been on the AAA Ball Club and I’m ready to be called up.

There are a variety of things. It could be surprising them with small little things, whether it’s buying sometimes a lot of tickets, stopping and getting an Icee or a Slurpee on the way. Sometimes it’s doing contests and having fun when you’re at work. Maybe it’s dressed down day. Maybe you’re allowed to have a company dog or you change the benefits in favor of them where it doesn’t cost you a lot of money. There are many things.

I have an entire chapter dedicated sometimes with all of these ideas bullet-pointed. I freely admit and go, “Please don’t do all of these. It’s ridiculous, but pick and choose the ones that would make sense from a tactical standpoint.” If leaders just sat back and thought, “I need to say thank you a little bit more. I need to tell people they rock. I need to care about them as a whole person and let them be seen.” Have discussions that if something is not working, don’t be freaked out about it. Come to me and let’s figure that stuff out.

It isn't about competence anymore. It's not just about character. You need all three Cs: competence, character, and culture fit. Click To Tweet

Sometimes it’s the easy and free things that would make a difference. This could be a whole episode discussion for me talking about how to keep employee engagement going and loving on people. When I say love on them, it isn’t just throwing your arms around them and going, “Come on, guy or girl.” It’s not about that. When people feel like this person does care about me, and there’s a relationship and trust factor, I’m willing to follow that leader off the edge of the cliff. When they do leave the company, I’m going with them.

What’s interesting is your perspective on this is right in line with the why of contribute. You look at it from the perspective of, how can I help you? How can I make your time here more fun, better and more productive? How can I be part of your success? Not every why sees it that way. It’s interesting to see leaders from how they think. It would make sense to somebody who’s why is contribute. Of course, I would do it that way but somebody else would look at it and say, “That seems like a lot of extra effort for trying to get them to do what I paid them to do.”

This is why your show is great because I love the idea that you take in these different tenets and you look at these and go, “Let’s dissect it. Let’s talk about each one.” If you take any of these personality assessments, DISC, Colors, Myers-Briggs, Franklin Covey, you name it. Everybody realizes there have to be different types of people on the team. If all of us were wise, there would be a lot of kumbaya and we’d be giving a lot, and nobody would get stuff done. I realized that but it’s been part of my DNA. I’ve always been like that because of my parents. Probably a little bit because of religion and going to church early on.

It’s certainly working for a brand that did not have a single marketing initiative that didn’t have some type of philanthropic charitable component. A lot of people don’t know that and they never wanted to scream from the top of their lungs but I knew. My Hard Rock buddies all knew and that’s part of the reason we stuck around. I love the idea of giving back if for no other reason but propping other people up because I know that it’s in my interest. Sometimes they’re not a part of my inner circle. It’s just I want people to succeed. By the way, I’m a consumer. I personally am an experiential starved consumer.

When I go out in shop land, I care about the store, the restaurant, the hotel or the place I’m going. It doesn’t matter. I want to be around awesome people. There are some small ways that I can give back, whether that’s a nugget of information, advice or some real mentorship. I’m all about that. Sometimes, it’s money too. I don’t mind helping people out. That’s how I’m wired and I get it. You’re right. There are going to be some that are like, “Not my bag. It’s not my gig.” That’s okay. I sign up for that. I’m the one who volunteered to say, “Put me in that role.”

It is what we were talking about the why of contribute. You use your time, your money, your energy, your connections to push other people forward. That’s the essence of how you view the world, which is awesome why for what you do. Let’s transition that a little bit into leadership. What is leadership from your perspective and what makes a great leader?

It’s probably like culture. These are both esoteric and nebulous words. Everybody’s got a different opinion about it. I’ve taken the slice of leadership from creating, maintaining or even completely changing and revolutionizing a culture. I had to start with that because that was a little bit of my background. I have been to many courses and I’ve seen many things. You talk about the difference between a manager and a leader. There are many important elements that come out of that.

Probably the number one characteristic that I see more than anything else is somebody who is trustworthy. If you trust that person, they’ve got a good shot of having some leadership. You’re trustworthy. Therefore, I trust you and all the other awesomeness in our relationships happens from there. The book that I wrote and the things I talk about are trying to dissect several of those. What does critical decision-making look like when you get to a point and you’ve got to make a decision?

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If you trust that person, they’ve got a good shot of having some leadership. You’re trustworthy. Therefore, I trust you. All the other awesomeness in our relationships happens from there.


Is it time for me to be quiet, subtle, cool and humble? Is it time for me to be loud, over the top, grandiose, and bring the thunder? It’s different for different moments. Can I be heart-centered? Can I still get things done? Could I still marshal the resources that I need but do it in a caring, loving and kind way where it’s the carrot versus the stick? I remember back in the ‘80s. You can push people uphill and you can muscle the result. Those days are long gone.

Gen Z or even if you still go back to the Millennials, they’ll laugh at you because a rockstar can always get another gig. As employers, we need them a whole lot more than they need us. Sometimes, the way that you treat people is the linchpin. They’ll go, “I’m out of here.” They’ll go right up the street and probably work for your competitor. I think about that from a leadership standpoint. I think about mentorship. I’ve gotten to the point that I almost dissect that into five different areas. You could be an internal, external, peer, public mentor. You could even be a reverse mentor. You can learn a lot from somebody that you’re mentoring. I have somebody who’s 25 years my younger and I learned from that person all the time.

Even having an unparalleled work ethic, which I know some people are going to throw certain generations under the bus. I don’t want to do that. I liked being extremely positive and also probably contribute to my contribute. I do think that there have been some things that have been lost. Sometimes, having a little bit of a pep in your step, a sense of urgency, attention to detail has been lost a little bit. I know it’s not always taught by parents. It isn’t being taught anymore in public education. If you’re not in charter, private school and in public school, I don’t know where you get that.

I used to think I was a good trainer. I cannot train people to have a personality and I can’t train you to smile. Either you have it or you don’t. If the juice isn’t running through your veins, you’re going to be impaired. You’re going to not be of use to me unless there’s a place for you in the back where no one will ever see you, which is highly unlikely. I need people to have a little bit of this work ethic mentality.

I have a good friend of mine who runs a frozen dessert concept in Chicago and it’s populated all with Gen Z employees. They’re young and they don’t have a lot of these skills. She has to make the decision to go, “There’s no way I’m going to hire you. I’ll move on to somebody else or I see something. I see the personality a little bit. They might be a diamond in the rough. Maybe I’m going to be their first and best job. Maybe they’re going to always think favorably. Maybe when they finish college, they want to come back to be a manager.” She’s made a cognizant decision from a work ethic standpoint. If they didn’t get to somewhere else, let me be that person. She almost probably has the same mentality. I bet her why might be contribute as well.

I think about those things, how can you be a catalyst for change? I talk a lot about change because times are changing. Changes are coming. You can either freak out about it. You can run away from it. You can lean into it. You can be a part of the change, or you can prepare the team for it. I spent a lot of time talking about that stuff. I don’t know if I rattled off 4, 5 or 6 things, but I try and chunk it down. If I’ve got time, an hour keynote, a three-hour workshop or somebody is flipping through the book, at the very least, they go, “I get it.” It’s in the sphere of culture but around work ethic, a heart-centered mindset, or critical decision-making. Could I be a catalyst for change? Can I enlist in some mentorship because maybe my company doesn’t have that? How can I go to the outside and make that happen? Can I think about everything that happens to me be a personal culture shift? Things are happening to me or things are happening for me.

You use the analogy of Shrek. Life is like an onion. There are layers in there and every time something happens to you, you can either be mad or you can be like, “This sucks but it’s okay. I’m going to use this to my advantage. How can I get better? How can I make sure I don’t make any more mistakes?” I ran off on a tangent there, but leadership is the number one characteristic. If I can trust you, then I’m willing to follow you. Now I’m more open-minded to doing the things you need that I might not have done on my own.

What part of being a great leader comes back to who you hire? Is it you can take anybody and lead well?

I’ve always been to the camp that there are three types of people. There are people who don’t know, can’t do, and don’t care. If it’s a don’t know, you can train about anybody. It’s a knowledge dump and there are many different ways to do that. Somebody might be visual versus auditory. Maybe they need a little bit more time, whatever it is. The don’t knows, I can deal with.

All the best training in the world isn't going to help a bad hire. Click To Tweet

The can’t dos is where leaders tend to get a little bit frustrated because you try. Maybe you are somebody who gives somebody 2, 3 or 4 opportunities but they can’t do the gig. A lot of them are willing to cut ties and move on. I would see if there’s a place for them somewhere on the bus. Do they maybe have a skill? It’s the old Marcus Buckingham Gallup approach. Can I focus only on their strengths instead of pointing out their weaknesses because everybody’s got strengths? Do I need that on the team?

The can’t dos is tough. You might have to cut ties with them, but there’s also a whole bunch of don’t cares out there. I have no love for them. As a leader, if somebody were smart enough to think, “I’m going to focus on every area of the employee life cycle but at the very least, I’m going to focus on the front end. How I recruit, interview, what’s my stereotypical employee, how do I hire, and how do I train? Before I step back and go, “They’re an employee. I don’t have to watch them anymore.”

There’s a lot of things that go into place from recruiting collateral, non-negotiable interviewing standards. Do you know what you’re looking for? Because it isn’t about competence anymore. It’s not about character, although those two C’s I care about a lot. Now, I didn’t think about culture fit. You need all three, competence, character, and culture fit. If the leader is smart enough that they’ll go and find great people, then all the other stuff falls into place.

If you’re asking me, could I be a great leader and still do it through the product being first to the market, keeping everything clean? Is it just a physical building? How do I handle stuff when it’s online or on the phone? Regardless of what the product or the industry is, there are certainly a lot of things that I would do. I do care about the 997 things that somebody should be focusing on if they’re in a position of power. If I can’t get some end-user to think about the last three questions that always show up on a survey, “Are you coming back? Are you spending more money? Are you going to talk about me positively?” If I can’t get them to say yes to those three, I haven’t created a memory. I haven’t created some incentive for them to come back.

That’s another long answer. There’s a lot that somebody could do. I am now a firm believer, and I study and love many brands that I have huge crushes on. I have fallen madly in love with some great cultures out there who now swear that the only reason they are the way they are and their cultures is because of their people. You can steal all the rest of this stuff but if you can’t get my people, you’re never going to be able to replicate what we do.

Here’s a great example, Southwest Airlines. I cannot understand why every airline has not copied their onboarding and their departure processes. How they bring people on because they’re still number one in departures, landings and arrival. They’re still the most profitable airline out there. They have some fun when they’re doing safety announcements in their uniforms and all that stuff. Just the fact that they have no fees for baggage and they can onboard everybody quickly. Nobody else can figure that out. I go, “Why haven’t they done that?”

Let’s say they did do all that. They can do every one of those. If they can’t take the Southwest employees, all you’re doing is moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. All you’re doing is changing and swapping systems. You’re not focusing on human behaviors, which are all learned human behavior. They’ve done a fantastic job getting the right people and that’s why I’m a fan of their still.

The next question I was going to ask you led right into that. Do people have it or don’t have it? Maybe you answered that with the three types of people but I’m wandering back to training. How much training do these organizations do? Let’s take Southwest Airlines. How much training do their team go through before they meet a customer? Is it a little or a lot? Do they hire somebody who already got those skills? How does that work?

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If the leader is smart enough that they’ll go and find great people, then all the other stuff falls into place.


They do a lot. When you’re looking at travel, you’re going to spend a lot more time because of the safety requirements that are in there. It’s probably even more than whatever the stuff is. My knowledge base is way more around retail, hospitality and theme parks. That’s what I learned and I sat on the certification governing board of the National Restaurant Association. I have to say the long way because if I just say NRA, they’re thinking of the other NRA. When I think about the work that organization does and I’ve seen about all of these statistics, the average restaurant day one orientation is around two hours. The good ones are around three hours.

At Hard Rock, because we had much more, food, beverage, retail, local marketing, group sales, dealing with celebrities, live music and all this other stuff, we spend an entire day. I thought that was short. I wish we had two days, but it’s one-day orientation and then you started training the next day. When I hear most restaurants are doing two hours, it blows my mind. When I think about a company like Chick-fil-A, this is a fast-food chicken place. They do no training until day three. It is two days of orientation. Their story, values, vision, mission, they dunk you in the culture. When you come up out of it on day three, you’re either all in or you’re not. It starts to prove that the awesome companies out there are spending a little bit more time.

The first part of your question was, “Do you just have it?” I’m a firm believer now that you don’t. You learn everything. You and I and your entire audience are not the way we are because we were born that way. It’s the difference between us and the rest of the animal kingdom. You learn everything. You learn it from your parents, school, friends, playground, religion, lack of religion. By the time you come to me as some 18, 19 to 20-year-old kid, you either got it or you don’t. You either have the smile. You’ve got the amp to want to be around people or you don’t.

People can fake it for a while and then you become unmasked. You fall back into your natural disposition. Training and leadership help. There are some things that I can do not to fake and coerce people into doing the things I want because as a leader, most companies aren’t going to have the boss micromanaging over their shoulder. At some point, you’ve got to step away and hope that they know what they’re doing, and they can represent the company, the brand very well. I do think you ought to do all these things, train, develop, communicate, reward, recognize, and all of that stuff.

On the front end, if you don’t have people who are coming to the party with some of that oomph as you said, it’s going to be a slog. You’re going to be pushing people uphill. I still think there are people that just because of their environment, they have the ability to wing it. They can shoot from the hip. They certainly like to gab. Even those things, you got that from somebody from somewhere.

I do believe and I’m such a huge fan that everything is learned human behavior. When I’m in front of an audience, I have to go, “You’re all recruiters now. You’ve got to put on your human resources hat.” If I was honest with myself and I had a time machine, instead of being a training and development guy because I had no say in how people came onboard or how they left, I can train the best that I can with what you give me but all the best training in the world isn’t going to help a bad hire. I would push people.

I would go back in time to be a recruiter because, at the very least, I felt like I got my finger on the pulse of what I needed. I will hand them off to the training guy or girl and they’ll be in a much better place. If they don’t have that DNA, it’s going to be tough. I don’t believe that you’re naturally born with it because I’m sure it’s controversial for some people too.

I’ve got a baseball team for you to follow. Follow the Washington State baseball team. The coach, Brian Green, had taken over the worst team in the NCAA, which was the New Mexico State Aggies. He turned it around to being five winning seasons in a row. Multiple players picked it to the Major League Baseball and then he got hired away to Washington State. I’m not sure if this is correct but I think his first twelve days of practice, they don’t touch a ball. It’s all culture. That’ll be a perfect example for you as well because it’s all about the culture. That’s what’s changed the game for many of them. He speaks on that now. I’d be curious to hear what are some other good companies that you’ve fallen in love with that have a great culture. I heard Chick-fil-A, Hard Rock, Southwest Airlines. What are some others that you like?

A single person with a great idea can start a revolution. Click To Tweet

This is where I’m always stretching to do more outside of hospitality because I could probably name a lot of those. Your readers will probably know Zappos. They are amazing to me. They only sell shoes and do it online. They don’t even sell their own shoes. They don’t even have their own branded shoes. They sell other people’s shoes. When I see brand health studies, they’re always in the top ten. It blows my mind that their founder, the late Tony Hsieh, decided they’re going to have the best culture and customer service regardless of what they do. They sell online shoes. They get propped up quite a bit.

There’s a computer server company called Rackspace. A lot of people will not know who that is. These are tech people and IT people. They set up infrastructure companies, but yet they internally have one of the greatest cultures to the extent that some of their employees get the Rackspace tattoo on their shoulders and on their calf muscles. That blows my mind. Harley Davidson still does a great job out there. Some of my music roots, Fender and Gibson have their own unique cultures.

There are a couple of places that I love that are restaurants here locally in Central Florida. Yellow Dog Eats is one of those. I talk about them quite a bit. It’s mostly because of the executive chef, the founder. He is one wild, interesting guy. The food is great and the atmosphere is fantastic but this guy has no filter. Every time he’s in the building, he creates memories. People have discovered him when they’re out and about.

Hotel-wise, I know people will talk about the Ritz-Carlton, but I’m a fan of Kimpton Hotels. From a culture standpoint, they’re fantastic. I got to still prop up Hard Rock. A lot of people don’t even know there are Hard Rock Hotels and there’s something like 30 of those on the planet now. It’s got some of these unique people you don’t normally see in the hotel space. Those are ones that I think of right out of the gate.

I spent a lot of time with the US Air Force now. I do some stuff up at Andrews Air Force Base up in DC which is where the presidential aircraft go off. I spend time with the Brigadier Generals, all the new ones that come on board. They have a fantastic culture. If you’re probably in any of the Armed Forces in the US, they will say that there’s a distinct, specific culture. I’ve met a Colonel at that time. She’s a Brigadier General now who works over at the Pentagon Space Force. She was at Andrews and on her own started to change what was going on at that airlift because it was not top-down like, “You will do it this way or else.” We probably think about the military. It was like, “Let me love on you. Be a little bit more kind. I want to hear feedback from you.” They are very open-minded and they cared about what happens to you and your families. Realizing you’re not just serving but the whole family is serving. I love that approach.

I almost hate using the words kinder and gentler armed services. To some degree in our country, at least, when you’ve got an all-volunteer military, you have to go there now for some of these young kids that are going in. You can’t go out there and be wrapping knuckles. That doesn’t work anymore. That’s 5 or 6. I’m trying to think outside of hospitality but my book will certainly list a whole bunch more, especially in this last one because I’ve talked about leadership. My next one is Service That Rocks. I want to want to highlight that. I wonder if I could get Brian Green in there from an employee standpoint for my 2023. It’ll be Engagement That Rocks and that’s all about some of the discussions that we had upfront. Let me check out Washington State. I think that’d be cool.

You’re going to love him. Last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

In my podcast, Thoughts That Rock, that’s the only question we ask on all of our people on there, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? You turn the tables on us a couple of times. I like it. I’ll give you two. My father who was instrumental for me passed away of cancer. He always said, “You need to start small and crush those things.” What happens is when you get the win, somebody recognizes that. They invite you to the party and you get promoted. You take on more responsibility. I probably needed a little bit of a refresher. My first real corporate boss when I got over to Hard Rock said the same thing. Between my first real good Hard Rock boss and my dad was a real big step for me.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: You still can make a difference. At some point, when you put your ideas on the table and you get recognized for that, you’re going to get more responsibilities


I teach people now my mantra. My main piece of advice is and I still believe this. I think a single person with a great idea can start a revolution. That’s how dictator-led countries were overthrown. That’s how philanthropic movements are started. That’s how cultures get perpetuated for all times. Even if you’re a new up and coming, maybe a middle manager and you think, “I don’t have a lot of responsibilities. I barely have a staff. I got a small budget,” I don’t care if you’re making widgets. You still can make a difference.

At some point, when you put your ideas on the table and you get recognized for that, you’re going to get more responsibilities. The things that used to be in your circle of concern that you cared about, but you couldn’t do anything about, now they’re in your circle of influence. Now you have a bigger influence, which is what my driving force has been forever. I want to allow their voice, “How can I contribute to the world a little bit more in my own unique way?”

If there are people that are reading, and they want to connect with you, follow you, and get your book, where do they go? What’s the best way to connect with you?

The best place is my website. All roads lead to that. It’s my last name You’ll see the podcast, my books, and the programs that I do. I’ve got a book marketing company and some fun little apps out there. We help people discover their next great read. There are a lot of things that I play in. I love the format of your show and I appreciate you having me on this. This meant a lot to me to be invited because I’ve seen some of the people that are on your show. It means a lot.

I am glad we got to talk and I’ve got three pages of notes here on what you talked about. Culture is something that I think about all the time. It’s something that we’re working on all the time and we’ll continue to work on it. That was helpful for me. I’m sure it was for the people that are reading. Thank you so much for being here. I look forward to staying in touch as we go on our journeys.

You got it. We’ll talk soon. Rock on.


It’s time for our new segment, Guess The Why. I want to do somebody that everybody knows, at least they think they do and that is Simon Cowell from American Idol. What do you think Simon’s why is? Let’s think about him for a minute. Every time you saw him on American Idol, what was he wearing? He was always wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and who knows, maybe tennis shoes. They weren’t perfectly starched, but he was always wearing a white T-shirt. I think at one point, he changed to a black T-shirt. Now everybody has a big to-do about he switched from a white T-shirt to a black T-shirt and what does it mean?

Every time he gives advice to people or has feedback, he is very direct to the point. Don’t give him the fluff, just tell him what it is. Based on that, I would say that Simon Cowell’s why is to simplify. To make things simple, direct to the point, and don’t give him the fluff. Tell it like it is and don’t beat around the bush. He simplifies things to the point where people can do them, use them, and be effective with them because it’s simple. I believe Simon Cowell’s why is to simplify.

What do you think? Let us know what you think. I want to thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at Use the code Podcast50. You can get it at half price. All of our interviews will be much more valuable for you if you know your why. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you’re using so that we can help spread the word. Thank you very much. I will see you next time.

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About Jim Knight

Jim Knight teaches organizations of all sizes how to attain their own “rock star” status. Although his illustrious career started at Gatorland Zoo in Florida (he has scars to prove it), Jim cut his teeth in the hospitality training industry and eventually led Global Training for Hard Rock International for two decades. His customized programs show how to amp up organizational culture, deliver world-class differentiated service, and build rockstar teams and leaders.

Known for his signature spikey hair, Jim is the best-selling author of Culture ThatRocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture was featured in EntrepreneurMagazine as one of the “5 Books That Will Help You Transform How You DoBusiness”.

His new book, Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results, launched in May 2021. A portion of Jim’s book sales, podcast revenue, speaking fees, and training program proceeds goes to No Kid Hungry and Cannonball Kids’ Cancer.


What It Takes To Be A Good Coach: On Leadership And Culture With Jamy Bechler

BYW 34 | Good Coach


Jamy Bechler believes that it is a coach’s responsibility to help and inspire their people to be the best they can be. They can only do that when they learn how to step outside of themselves and see where others are coming from. This separates the good coach and leader from the rest. An author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular “Success is a Choice” podcast, Jamy fulfills his why of “makes sense” by seeking to find better ways to solve problems and get something that makes sense and useful.

With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. In this episode, he joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to discuss what he sees are the differences between winning and losing programs. He shares his understanding of what a good coach and leader are, all the while highlighting the importance of leadership, culture, and teamwork.

If you’re looking to step up your game as a coach as well as uplift others and build that bond with them, then join in on this conversation and allow Jamy’s insights and process to guide you.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

What It Takes To Be A Good Coach: On Leadership And Culture With Jamy Bechler

If you’re a regular reader, you know that we talk about 1 of the 9 why’s and then we bring on somebody with that why so we can see how their why has played out in their life. We are going to be talking about the why of makes sense. If this is your why, you are driven to solve problems and resolve challenging or complex situations, you have an uncanny ability to take in lots of data and information, observe situations and circumstances around you, and sort through them in order to create order. You consider factors, problems, concepts, and organize them into solutions that are sensible and easy to implement.

It is not even that you enjoy problem-solving necessarily. You simply can’t help yourself. It is the lens through which you view the world. Interestingly, it is not necessary for you to share your solutions on a continuous basis. It is sufficient that you yourself have solved the problem or resolve the complexity of the situation. Often you are viewed as an expert because of your unique ability to find solutions quickly. You also have a gift for articulating a solution and summarizing it clearly in understandable language for your benefit and the benefit of others. You believe that many people are stuck. If they could make sense out of their situation, they could find a simple solution and move forward. You help them understand and see their way through.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Jamy Bechler. He is an author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular Success is a Choice podcast. With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. He is recognized as an expert in leadership, culture, and teamwork.

Jamy, welcome to the show.

That was a mouthful. I appreciate the great introduction, Gary. Thanks for having me. I listened to that why and I’m like, “That’s a lot to live up to. Someone that’s solving stuff or make sense of the world that we live in sometimes.” As a motivational speaker, I’m not sure I motivate all the time. Saying a motivational speaker, that’s like someone introducing you as a comedian. “Say something funny, funny guy.”

Jamy, take us through your life. How did you get into coaching? Were you an athlete yourself? Did you play sports? Give us a little bit of a tour of your life.

I was a stereotypical kid athlete that played every sport. I went to camps. I did every sport possible because we didn’t have iPhones. We had a black and white TV until probably I was in high school, which is crazy with the three channels and then PBS. Younger people don’t even know what I’m talking about. We had to stay outside, so we played sports all the time.

There's always a baseline of competence in talent. Click To Tweet

Where’d you grow up?

I grew up in Michigan. Even in the wintertime, we’re shoveling snow off the cement in front of our house to shoot hoops. Eventually, my dad built this pole barn and he put this basketball rim in there. It was a little bit shorter. It was only 9’6”. A lot of us were able to dunk on that. All winter long, we’d be inside with this little space heater but it was great. We’d shoot. You had to know the right angle to shoot the ball, so it didn’t get stuck in the rafters. It wasn’t a big enough barn where you could put a lot of arc on it. The point is, we were always playing sports. We were always doing something. I’ve read this book in seventh grade.

Before getting into high school, at seventh grade, I’m in English class and my dreaded English teacher, Mrs. Shannon, who I thought was the devil, did one good thing in my life. She had this library in the corner of her room and we could check out books. There was a John Wooden book, the great legendary basketball coach from UCLA. There was this book called They Call Me Coach. I read this book as a seventh-grader. I would love to say that I was this mature seventh-grader that said, “One day, I want to be a coach like John Wooden. I want to be the guy that helps people. It doesn’t matter if you’re a benchwarmer or you’re a star player. I’m going to be the coach that loves you.”

I wasn’t that mature but I read it. I was like, “I want to have a coach like that.” I recognize that there are good coaches and there are bad coaches. I want a coach like John Wooden that loves me, even if I make a turnover or a shot. That was the first time I thought that there was a difference between coaches that there was good coaches and bad coaches, good qualities and bad qualities. I got a little bit older. I realized I probably wasn’t going to go to the NBA. I started thinking more about coaching.

As I got into college, I went from being a star athlete in high school to my best friend who was the water cooler and the athletic trainer. I started to look at basketball a little bit differently. I started to look at the whole forest and not just my tree because I wasn’t playing very much. A lot of people will be bitter, be mad, or be a victim. I started looking at it from the perspective of, “I’m not playing much but I want to be a coach. I know my career is not to play, so I want to be a coach. I want to soak in as much of this as possible.” I was a good athlete and a bad athlete at times.

I became a coach for about twenty years. I was Coach of the Year. I was a good coach. I was also fired. I also had losing seasons. I also have some players that hate my guts. I also have players that we still keep in touch with. I had some ups and downs as a coach is. We’ll get into what I’m doing in a little bit. That’s helped me because I’ve traveled by plane. I’ve traveled first class. I’ve had programs with big budgets. I’ve coached at all different levels. I’ve also driven fifteen-passenger vans after losses where you eat sack lunches from the cafeteria. You put your own peanut butter and jelly on. You put your ham and mustard on.

I’ve seen all these different perspectives, which has helped me in my consulting with sports teams because I’ve been where they’ve been at, whether they’ve been successful or terrible. Knowing what it’s like to struggle through a season, whether it’s your fault or not, you’ve struggled through that season. I’ve lived it all and been an athletic director as well. For years, I’ve been on my own. I’ve been self-employed or unemployed depending on the day as an entrepreneur.

We don't step out of ourselves sometimes and see from other people’s perspectives and where they are coming from. Click To Tweet

Where did you play basketball? Where did you coach basketball?

I played basketball in college at a place called Hiram College in Ohio. I was the epitome of mediocrity. Not only did I play basketball, I went to play basketball there but I also played some football and ran track. There are only two types of people that play multiple sports in college. One is the absolute maniac people that are amazing, the Bo Jacksons, the Deion Sanders. The other is the people that aren’t any good at any of the sports. The coaches are okay with sharing you because you don’t help them out anyways. I was fell in that category where the coaches didn’t care about me as much.

Where did you coach?

I coached a lot of schools, mainly in the South but I did start off at Kent State University in Ohio as a graduate assistant. I went to Anderson University in Indiana, LeTourneau University in Texas, Newberry College in South Carolina, Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga, Bryan College in Tennessee, and then Martin Methodist College in Tennessee was my last coaching stop. I was an Athletic Director at Marion High School in Indiana. The fifth largest gym in the world for high school. Nobody’s won more boys basketball state titles than that school had. That was a fun place to go to be an Athletic Director since I was a basketball guy.

That is a lot of interesting experience that you had. You didn’t just stay at one system and saw one thing. You got to see a whole lot of different organizations and leadership styles. What did you see was the difference between the winning programs and the losing programs?

Certainly, there’s always a baseline talent. No matter what we’re talking about, there’s always a baseline of competence in talent. Putting that to the side, the number one thing was the buy-in, the ownership of the players, and the coaches for a common goal. Are we bought-in to what we’re trying to accomplish? We can call this culture. Culture is a buzzword. Culture is something I talk about all the time. Ultimately, that culture is a buy-in tour. We’re all going to try to get to the same place together and in the same way. Sometimes we want to get to the same place but we don’t all want to go the same way or the same route. It’s having buy-in from, if not everybody, most of the people. That’s coaches and players.

Sometimes, the players and the coaches are on different pages. They’re not even in the same book. They have completely different agendas and selfish motives. You see this in businesses too, a lot. When I’ve consulted with a lot of businesses and I’m sure you’ve seen this as well, it’s the upper management, CEO level, or supervisory level. They’ll be like, “Come in and fix these.” We’re all part of the problem and the solution at the same time. It’s not us versus them.

I get that a lot with coaching. Coaches think, “It’s not my fault. Jamy is doing this, Jamy missed that shot, or Jamie didn’t know what he was doing.” It might not be your fault but it’s 100% your responsibility to help Jamy to know what he’s supposed to do, to help make Jamy the best he possibly can be, or to help have Jamy be inspired. That’s a big thing. We see this all the time with coaches. “These players are this. These players are that. They’re bored in practice or they don’t pay attention.” You don’t give them a reason because you don’t engage with them. You don’t inspire them.

It’s the same with businesses. “Our employees don’t want to be here.” It’s because you don’t make it fun. “I pay them a lot.” That doesn’t matter. How much you pay them doesn’t matter when they’re in that job doing it. That only matters on Saturday and Sunday, the days off, or on their vacation. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how much you’re paying them. You have to inspire them in other ways if you want more out of them. Everybody being on the same page going together, it’s our team. It’s our goals. It’s not, “Gary is the boss, so it’s Gary’s team. It’s Gary’s goals. We’re trying to accomplish what Gary wants.” It’s not that. It’s, “We’re all going together. We’re all going to celebrate success together. We’re all going to overcome challenges together. We’re going to win and lose together.”

How do you teach somebody to get buy-in?

BYW 34 | Good Coach
They Call Me Coach

It’s a two-prong approach. In my case, I work primarily with sports teams. I certainly work with businesses but sport is my bread and butter. That’s my lane for the most part. You’re working with students but you’re also working with the coaches at the same time. With the students, you’re trying to find out what makes them tick. You’re trying to find out what their hopes and dreams are, what some of their challenges are, and understanding them. Also, trying to get them to understand the coaches, what the coaches are going through, and what the coaches are trying to get at. All of this comes back to trying to get everybody to see the whole forest and not just see their own tree. We’re trying to get them to understand as much as possible not to be understood.

A Stephen Covey’s great book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of those habits is seek first to understand then to be understood. A lot of us don’t ever do that. We want to be understood. “You’re not seeing where I’m coming from.” That might be true but you haven’t even seen where I’m coming from. It’s one of these things. As coaches, we don’t understand what a sixteen-year-old is going through or what a sophomore in college is going through. We can’t understand that as a 40-year-old, as a 50-year-old, we don’t understand them and they certainly don’t understand us. The thing is our sixteen-year-old self probably wouldn’t understand the sixteen-year-olds now in a lot of ways.

We don’t step out of ourselves sometimes, see where other people are coming from and see their perspectives. That’s one of the very first things we will do when we work with any team. It’s gotten them to see other perspectives. We have a lot of little activities we’ll do that are fun that blows people’s minds and different things like that of understanding in perspective. We talk a lot about seeing things from a different viewpoint, from a different lens because you’re never going to get common ground. It can’t be, “Gary disagrees with me on this. Gary has this opinion. I have my opinion and so we’re done.” You got to work with each other. We’ve got to figure out a way to how can, “I can do what Gary can’t do. Gary can do what I can’t do.” Together we’re going to fill in gaps. Together we’re going to complement one another. We’re going to play our roles to the best of our ability.

One of the things I talk about a lot is cars. I don’t know much about cars but with teamwork, with filling gaps and stuff, we’ll talk to kids, “What’s your favorite kind of car?” They’ll give this expensive $100,000 car. I’ll show them this little $5 spark plug. First of all, most kids don’t even know what this is but I’ll show them this spark plug. I’ll be like, “This $5, $10 spark plug can keep your $100,000 car from driving. It can sideline your car. This $5 spark plug can also make your car be $100,000, be cool, and work effectively.” Roles are important. Every role and person has value. We need to see the value and see what other people can bring to the table, whatever that is. Understanding in perspective is one of the very first things needed in order for everybody to come together.

What popped into my mind when you were saying that is tell us how you felt about that kind of a conversation when you were sitting on the bench as the player in college wanting to be the star but finding yourself next to the water cooler.

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem. Click To Tweet

Most players that are in my situation would have hated it. I hated it because you’re embarrassed. As a college athlete, maybe you spent 18, 19 years of your life, depending on what the sport is preparing to be a college athlete and then you’re a failure. Your whole life, you’ve been successful. Your whole life, you’ve got up at 4:00 in the morning. You’ve grinded, rise, and grind type of stuff. You sacrifice. How many tens of thousands of dollars have you paid out or your parents have paid out to go to travel ball? You don’t expect to sit. It’s embarrassing, especially in a team sport.

Team sport is a little bit different than individual. In team sport, there’s a difference of opinion. There’s interpretation. It’s not just that, “I’m better than Gary.” We can’t prove that. Maybe I’m better than Gary at one-on-one or a better shooter but the team needs what Gary can offer more. In track, if I’m not on that four-person relay, it’s because I’m slower than those other four people. There’s some objective. Not that makes it easier but it’s less blame. There are more things that I can do personally to make myself better or to change the situation. In a team sport, most people sitting at the end of the bench are most people that don’t have a role that they don’t like. They’re not going to act the right way about that. They’re sometimes going to make the problem worse.

I love a quote from one of the greatest literary scholars of all time, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. He talks about the problems not the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem. The problem is not that I’m sitting on the bench. The problem is my attitude towards sitting on the bench. Coming back around to answering your question specifically, what you have to do with a young person or with anyone, an employee. You have to connect with them and you have to develop a strong connection, a strong bond that you can have some difficult conversations with them.

We try to have tough love. “I’m keeping it real with you, Jamy. I’m telling you what you need to improve on.” We have these tough conversations but we don’t have a strong bond. “I don’t trust that person. I don’t trust Coach Sanchez when he’s trying to tell me something because we haven’t developed this bond. I don’t trust him that he has my best interest. I don’t care if he has the other people’s best interests. I want him to have my best interest. If he’s looking at me as a commodity or this is a transactional relationship, I’m not going to believe in what he’s saying.” As managers, as leaders, or anyone in a position of leadership, we do that all the time.

We try to have a conversation with someone without having a bond or any kind of connection. You have to have that so you can figure out what makes me as the athlete tick, what’s important to me. You also have to ask a lot of questions. Ask me questions. Find out where I’m at. Find out what’s important to me. Find out as much as you can about me as the person so that you know what buttons to push as well. There’s also one major thing that leaders don’t do very well is they don’t find a way to utilize me as an employee, to utilize my strengths, to add value to me, or to catch me being good. However, that is, they don’t utilize me. Going back to the basketball analogy, how many times is there a blowout in a game? “Maybe you leave the starters in an extra five minutes longer than maybe you should have. You could have utilized me in that game a little bit more. Maybe I’m a great shooter and the team was playing a zone. You could have used me to shoot the ball a little bit more.”

Have you always been a good problem solver?

BYW 34 | Good Coach
Good Coach: It doesn’t matter how much you’re paying your employees. You have to inspire them in other ways if you want more out of them.


I don’t know. I understand that why and I understand I do like making things better. Saying I’m a good problem solver, I don’t know that. My wife might say I’m not a very good problem solver sometimes. I like making things better, whatever that is. I will go into a fast-food restaurant. I can’t help it. I will see ways that they could be better at things, especially if I’ve gone into a Chick-fil-A and then I go somewhere. I’m like, “Why can’t everybody copy the way Chick-fil-A does their drive-through?” I’ll fly a different airline in Southwest. I tend to be a Southwest snob. I’ll fly Southwest Airlines all the time.

It’s only a problem when there’s a problem. If there’s a problem with your airline or with your flight, Southwest will try to work with you a lot more than another airline will. When you have a customer support issue or customer service, you see the culture of an organization. I do see things like that. How can we make things better? You always want to be improving. Probably the answer would be yes. I’ve always tried to make things better. I’ve always tried to make myself better in whatever way I can. You call it problem-solving. That’s great.

My wife, that’s one of her strengths. When she’s interviewed for jobs and stuff, she says, “I love to solve problems.” She comes at it from more of a puzzle standpoint. She’s also a person on our Kindle or on our tablet who’ll do puzzles. She loves to solve those kinds of problems. I never do any of those things. Life has enough issues and problems to solve. She likes it from almost a game standpoint. I see it as how we can always get better.

You’re the head coach. You’ve got a lot of pieces moving. You’ve got a lot of challenges that you’re looking at. Are you somebody that enjoys having a lot of things coming at you at once and trying to figure out what to do?

I wouldn’t say I enjoy it but it doesn’t intimidate me. It’s not something that I get stressed about it. I understand I’m juggling a lot of balls. If something’s going to mess up and I’m going to lose those 3, 4, or 5 balls, I’m going to make sure I catch 1 or 2 of those balls. 1 or 2 of those is more important than the others. You’re always going to focus a little bit more on a couple of things. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it but I certainly don’t have a problem with it. It’s something that I can take in multiple information. Let’s see a lot of different perspectives. One of the problems with that is sometimes I would be a little slower with making a decision. I have an athletic director who is one of the best athletic directors I’ve ever worked for. He would be somebody that says, “We may not make the best decision but we’re going to make a quick, good decision.” I’m not saying that was good or bad but it worked for him. I thought he was a great athletic director.

Take care of people the way they want to be taken care of. Click To Tweet

I tend not necessarily to be paralyzed, paralysis by analysis but I do tend to, “Can we find a better solution? We come up with this one but can we come up with a little bit better?” It’s one of those tinkering type of things where I tinker a little bit too much sometimes. Not necessarily drag my feet or that could be looked at. I’m not a procrastinator but sometimes I will wait a little bit longer to make a decision because I want to get a little bit, “Can we see this perspective a little bit differently? How can we look at this problem a little bit more so that we’re making the right decision as opposed to a good decision?”

When you walk into a sandwich shop that you’ve never been before and there are 30 choices of sandwiches on the menu, is it easy for you to figure out which one you want to order or does it take you a while to make a decision? If it does, how do you then make a decision?

Did my wife tell you to ask me that? I tend to go last, all under the disguise of, “I’ve got to pay for it,” so I’ll go last. Everyone can go before me. If I go into a new sandwich shop, it would be because I’ve heard that they make this good sandwich or they have this reputation for something. If it’s one of those, Gary that you’re like, “Let’s go to this shop,” I’m going to ask you, first of all, what are they known for? I’m probably going to look for do they have that little icon or little logo next to one of their sandwiches that’s the chef’s special or this thing that they’re known for? I know I’m going too deep into the details.

A hole in a wall sandwich shop, they’re known for something. That grandpa started that shop many years ago because he made one sandwich good for the family and then it became something else. I want to do what they’re known for. I want to experience that. If that’s not the issue, then I’m going to go with it. “I love Reuben’s. Do they have a Reuben something like that?” I’m going to try to find what do they have and then compare it to other sandwiches that I’ve had in the past. If none of that works, I’m going with, “I’ll take the club. Do you have a club?”

Here’s a question I have for you. Do you feel more successful when you’re able to make things understandable or when you’re able to find a better way?

I love the process part of it. I love working through the process. That’s not 100% answering your question. I would rather be having a good process and the result wasn’t quite what we wanted. The result will be there but the process wasn’t good. It’s not repeatable. It’s not something that we can rely on. I love process type of stuff. I love knowing that what we did was probably the right thing. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Here’s why I’m asking you this. I’m sure the readers that read a lot will know. As you’re answering questions, it sounds like your why might be to find a better way versus to make sense of the complex and challenging. However, what I’m thinking is your why is to make sense of the complex and challenging. How you do that is by looking for better ways. Your process is about finding better ways but your ultimate result is to get something that makes sense, useful, usable, and we can do something with it.

I want actionable. I want things, “How is this practical? What can we do with this information?” I wouldn’t call myself the best student ever. I was a good student but not a great student. I don’t want just academic stuff or theory. What can we do with the practicalness of it? What you say makes sense. Isn’t that the why part of what makes sense? We’re back to that.

That’s what I think your why is make sense but your how is a better way. How you do it as you’re in search of a better way? Ultimately, what you bring is something we can still explore so that we know, “What is that thing that Jamy brings?” Every time he speaks, coaches, and interacts with people, there’s something that you bring that you deliver. We can continue to work on that. While we’re thinking about that, Jamy, what is culture? How do you define culture?

Culture is the identity that your group takes on, to put it in the simplest way. I also think that identity is intentional. A lot of people will argue with that, they’ll debate that, or they’ll disagree with that saying, “The culture that we have isn’t what I wanted.” That might be true but you were very intentional about allowing your culture to be what it is. “I didn’t want it to be like this.” We make choices every day and you make choices, maybe as a leader. Your group made choices along the way to choose to do or to prioritize something over here, as opposed to something here. This got you to where you are. We’re always intentional about, “I’m choosing something over something else.”

BYW 34 | Good Coach
Good Coach: Culture is the identity that your group takes on.


Those choices don’t happen accidentally. What happens is the result ends up being something that we didn’t want sometimes. The culture is the identity of your group. I do believe it’s intentional because the choices we make every day lead into that. Our actions, our behaviors, and our thoughts that become actions, the standards, and the things that we allow or emphasized will end up being our culture. Sometimes as leaders, we don’t like that. We’ll say, “We don’t have a culture.” It’s like, “You do have a culture. You just might not like it.” If you don’t know what your culture is, then it’s probably not a healthy, strong culture.

Everything that you do should be geared toward where you do want to end up. Almost reverse engineer it backwards. How are we going to get there? What are the day-to-day things that we can do to help in that culture? When I was an Athletic Director, I was tasked with changing the culture. If I had $1 for every time somebody said change the culture, we’d be rich. Everybody talks about changing the culture and they don’t even know what they’re talking about half the time. I was tasked with changing the culture.

One of the first things I did is not necessarily to change the culture but we redid our whole athletic department offices. We put on fresh new paint, put new posters up, and did all this stuff. We also changed stationary, all this trivial skin deep type of stuff. None of that came close to mattering as much as how I treated my secretary. I could put out the best emails, put up the best posters on the wall, and have the best staff meetings but if I treated my secretary poorly and our interactions that caused her to maybe not be happy or inspired, she’s going to interact with hundreds of people that one day, either on the phone or the people that come into the office. She’s going to be the first face that they see.

I can do more for our culture, good or bad, based on one interaction with my secretary each morning. With your salesmen, with your HR people, or your billing people, you can do more for your culture than any memo you’re going to send out. Your culture isn’t your posters on the wall, your fancy slogans, your billboards, or your website. Your culture is what’s going on around the water cooler. When Gary and Jamy are talking at the water cooler or in the break room at 9:15 break in the morning, that’s your culture. If you want to know what your culture is, it’s what those employees or your team members are doing when you’re not around. That’s your true culture. That’s either by what you emphasize, what you reinforce, or what you allow.

Businesses are so different. For example, our company got team members in Austin, Denver, New York, India, and all over the place. How do you build a culture with more of the virtual type of companies?

It’s even more intentional at that point. COVID has introduced us to Zoom. It introduced us to a virtual type of stuff. Not working at the office, not having touchpoints, and not being in-person. That means that you have to be even more intentional about, “How I’m going to reinforce and emphasize the certain culture that we want. I don’t see Gary every day. We can’t high-five each other. We can’t hang out and watch the game together as easily. We can’t have casual Fridays.” Every Friday could be casual because we’re at home. We have to be more intentional about it. Some businesses have fallen way behind in their culture because they haven’t been intentional and proactive. They’ve been reactive.

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They’ve been reacting to everything that happens. They’ve almost been shaking their head saying, “We can’t do this.” Instead of saying, “What can we do?” Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do like some of the best companies, best teams, even. I work with sports teams a lot. I’ve had a lot of sports teams that I’ve been consulting with that have been in quarantine. I’ll give you one example. There are countless of these that I’ve dealt with. You’re in quarantine, whatever that reason is. One of your kids tested positive or you played a team that tested positive. You’re in fourteen-day quarantine.

You’re in a basketball team and the coach says, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “Have you had Zoom meetings?” “They’re all zoomed out.” I’m like, “What would you be doing every day with practice? What we’d have in practice? What time would you be having practice?” “3:00.” “You don’t think they’re all practiced out. You don’t think they hate to practice. They don’t like practice. You still do it, though. You need to do Zoom meetings.” “I know but they’re so boring. What do we do?” I say, “You don’t have to do it for your two hours but every day at 3:00, you need to touch base with them on Zoom or whatever platform you use. Don’t call it a Zoom meeting.”

Put lipstick on a pig. Call it something different like motivational Monday. “We’re going to have Monday Motivation at 3:00. We’re going to have a guest speaker. We’re going to talk about something inspirational. On Wednesday, we’re going to have Wacky Wednesday and we’re going to have fun. We’re going to have Tuesday Chalk Talk.” I know that’s not alliteration. It’s going to be X’s and O’s. Every single day of your fourteen weeks, you’re still going to have practice. You’re going to have it for 30 minutes at the normal time so you can touch base with them but you’re going to do something different every single day. You’re getting on Zoom but you’re never going to call it a Zoom meeting. You’re going to call it something different.

You’ve got three assistant coaches. They can come up with stuff and idea but you’re going to do something every day and you’re going to touch base with some of your athletes and some of your team members. You’re going to have them come up with some ideas as well. It’s not going to be all Jamy Bechler because Jamy Bechler is not smart enough. It’s not going to be all Gary Sanchez. Even though we’re smart as coaches, we’re not smart enough to come up with something creative every day for 16-year-olds or 21-year-olds.

We’re going to talk to some of our key leaders. Get them to come up with some ideas and have them have ownership in what we’re going to do. That’s one specific example. We walked through a lot of ways that they could execute that effectively. Essentially, what it’s doing is not looking at what you can’t do but what we can do. You can have Wacky Wednesday, karaoke night. They’re all there. They’re all singing the same song on Zoom being stupid. They can all have their phones go on and making social media of that. We’re all seeing the screen. We’re all having fun. You can watch a movie together. There are so many things that you can do.

The internet is full of Google, what you can do during COVID on Zoom calls. As a coach or as an employer, you’re not going to do quite that much as an employer but you’re going to figure out, “What can we do to make it a little bit more creative?” Gary, you as the leader, “What can I do to bring Jamy into this where Jamy’s all the way across the country? We can connect on Zoom but how can I make him want to be more engaged and want to make sure that he’s not checking his phone so often or not disengaged from this Zoom call?” It’s no different than when we have in-person meetings. If you have a boring in-person meeting, then your people are going to be disengaged. You’re not going to inspire them. You’re not going to have the culture that you want, ultimately. It’s finding solutions. How can you put lipstick on a pig?

Last question I got for you, Jamy. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received I wished that I had always lived up to is, take care of people the way they want to be taken care of. We can get into nuances about different things but we talk sometimes about, treat people the way you want to be treated. Sometimes we project. I don’t like birthdays at all. I’m not a birthday guy or whatsoever. If nobody wished me a happy birthday ever, I would be fine with that. I project that onto others. I forget people’s birthdays or I don’t make it a big deal but it might be a huge deal to you, Gary.

Saying take care of people the way you want to be taken care of or treat people the way you want to be treated sometimes doesn’t go far enough. I 100% get the sentiment. It’s better than treating people terribly. Ultimately, you want to treat people the way they want to be treated. You want to find a way to inspire them. It’s about them. You need to understand them. No matter what business we’re in, we’re in the people business, ultimately. We need to treat people the way that they want to be treated whenever possible. There are some nuances to that and there are some dynamics. You can’t 100% do that in every situation but if you follow that road, it’s going to get you to a good place eventually.

Jamy, thank you so much for taking time out to be here. I appreciate it. If people are reading and they say, “I would love to have Jamy come talk to our group. I’d love to meet with him,” how can people get ahold of you?

The best way is if they’re on Twitter, they can follow me. My direct messages are open. That’s, @CoachBechler. In my website, they can get ahold of me, see my books, the podcast, and all the free stuff that we have. That’s at, Those are the two best places. I’m on the other social media platforms as well but Twitter is the best place to get me if you’re on social media.

Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.

I appreciate the work you’re doing as well. This is a great show. Keep it up. Thanks for having me.

It’s time again for our new segment, which is Guess the Why. We’re going to look at the why of Kanye West. If you had to take a stab at it knowing the nine whys, what do you think Kanye why is? I think his why is to challenge the status quo and think differently, think outside the box, do things differently, not follow a traditional path, and do it his own way. He’s done that in the way he does his music. He’s done that in the way that he’s changed the direction of his life. He’s still married. I don’t know if that’s going to be the same thing when this show comes out.

I would guess that his why is to challenge the status quo. What do you think it is? Put it in wherever on your social media. Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at You can use the code Podcast50 and you’ll get it at half price. If you love the Beyond Your Why show, please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us. It helps us gain more readers so that we can bring the why to the world and reach our goal of helping one billion people discover, make choices, and live based on their why. Have a great week. We’ll talk to you next time.

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About Jamy Bechler

BYW 34 | Good CoachJamy Bechler is an author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular “Success is a Choice” podcast. With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. He is recognized as an expert in leadership, culture, and teamwork.